Seeing the unseen God –
Addressing a typical JW objection to the Deity of Christ Pt. 1
This is another objection of the Jehovah’s Witnesses used by Muslims, which we have decided to refute here for the benefit of those who have this argument raised against their witness to the Deity of the Lord Jesus Christ. Unless noted otherwise, all scriptural quotations taken from the 2013 revised edition of the New World Translation.
One of the arguments that the Watchtower Society raises against Jesus being God in the flesh is the fact that the Holy Bible teaches that God cannot be seen, whereas Jesus was seen:
Is Jesus God?
“No man has seen God at any time.”—John 1:18.
WHAT PEOPLE SAY
Many people believe that Jesus is not God. Still, others point to Bible verses that supposedly indicate that Jesus is equal to God.
WHAT THE BIBLE SAYS
The Bible does not portray Jesus as being Almighty God or equal to God. On the contrary, it clearly teaches that Jesus is inferior to God. For example, the Bible records Jesus’ own words: “The Father is greater than I am.” (John 14:28) The Bible also says: “No man has seen God at any time.” (John 1:18) Jesus cannot be God because many people did in fact see Jesus.
Jesus’ early followers did not claim that he was God. For example, the Gospel writer John said concerning the things he recorded: “These have been written down that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ the Son of God.”—John 20:31. (AWAKE! DECEMBER 2013)
John 1:18 isn’t the only text which says that God cannot and has not been seen:
“But he added: ‘You cannot see my face, for no man can see me and live.’” Exodus 33:18-20
“which the happy and only Potentate will show in its own appointed times. He is the King of those who rule as kings and Lord of those who rule as lords, the one alone having immortality, who dwells in unapproachable light, whom no man has seen or can see. To him be honor and eternal might. Amen.” 1 Timothy 6:15-16*
“No one has seen God at any time. If we continue loving one another, God remains in us and his love is made perfect in us.” 1 John 4:12
Yet this right away introduces a major problem since the Scriptures are quite clear that many have in fact seen Jehovah God, especially during the OT period. Case in point:
“Moses and Aaron, Na′dab and A·bi′hu, and 70 of the elders of Israel went up, and they saw the God of Israel. Under HIS FEET was what seemed like a sapphire pavement, and it was as pure as the heavens themselves. He did not harm the distinguished men of Israel, and they saw a vision of the true God and ate and drank.” Exodus 24:9-11
The phrase “a vision of” is not found in the inspired Hebrew text, which simply reads “also they saw the God” (wayyehezu 'et-ha'elohim). This fact can be easily seen from the very Bible versions which the Society makes available in their free JW Library Application, since none of them read the way the NWT does:
“Then went up Moses, and Aaron, Nadab, and Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel: and they saw the God of Israel: and there was under his feet as it were a paved work of a sapphire stone, and as it were the body of heaven in his clearness. And upon the nobles of the children of Israel he laid not his hand: also they saw God, and did eat and drink.” Authorized King James Version (AV)
“Then went up Moses, and Aaron, Nadab, and Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel. And they saw the God of Israel; and there was under his feet as it were a paved work of sapphire stone, and as it were the very heaven for clearness. And upon the nobles of the children of Israel he laid not his hand: and they beheld God, and did eat and drink.” American Standard Version (ASV)
“And Moses and Aaron, Nadab and Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel, went up, and they saw the God of Israel; and he had under his feet something like a sapphire tiling, like the very sky for purity; and to the representatives of the sons of Israel he did not put out his hand; and they gazed on God and ate and drank.” Steven Byington’s Bible in Living English (BYINGTON)
In fact, Jehovah himself stated that his servant Moses was given the privilege of actually seeing his form or similitude:
“He then said: ‘Hear my words, please. If there was a prophet of Jehovah among you, I would make myself known to him in a vision, and I would speak to him in a dream. But it is not that way with my servant Moses! He is being entrusted with all my house. Face-to-face I speak to him, openly, not by riddles; and the appearance of Jehovah is what he sees. Why, then, did you not fear to speak against my servant, against Moses?’” Numbers 12:6-8
Besides, the Bible citations quoted by the Society do not say that no one can see God unless it is in a vision. Therefore, to try and argue that these individuals were seeing Jehovah in a vision doesn’t solve the problem since the texts quite clearly state that God cannot be seen whatsoever (at least according to the way the JWs’ understand and use these texts)!
Other examples of people seeing Jehovah visibly include the following:
“Mi·cai′ah then said: ‘Therefore, hear the word of Jehovah: I saw Jehovah sitting on his throne and all the army of the heavens standing by him, to his right and to his left. Jehovah then said, “Who will fool A′hab, so that he will go up and fall at Ra′moth-gil′e·ad?” And one was saying one thing while another said something else. Then a spirit came forward and stood before Jehovah and said, ‘I will fool him.’ Jehovah asked him, “How will you do it?” He replied, “I will go out and become a deceptive spirit in the mouth of all his prophets.” So he said, “You will fool him, and what is more, you will be successful. Go out and do that.” And now Jehovah has put a deceptive spirit in the mouth of all these prophets of yours, but Jehovah has declared calamity for you.’” 1 Kings 22:19-23 – cf. 2 Chronicles 18:18-22
“In the year that King Uz·zi′ah died, I saw Jehovah sitting on a lofty and elevated throne, and the skirts of HIS ROBE filled the temple. Seraphs were standing above him; each had six wings. Each covered his face with two and covered his feet with two, and each of them would fly about with two. And one called to the other: ‘Holy, holy, holy is Jehovah of armies. The whole earth is filled with his glory.’ And the pivots of the thresholds quivered at the sound of the shouting, and the house was filled with smoke. Then I said: ‘Woe to me! I am as good as dead, For I am a man of unclean lips, And I live among a people of unclean lips; For my eyes have seen the King, Jehovah of armies himself!’ At that, one of the seraphs flew to me, and in his hand was a glowing coal that he had taken with tongs from the altar. He touched my mouth and said: ‘Look! This has touched your lips. Your guilt is removed, And your sin is atoned for.’ Then I heard the voice of Jehovah saying: ‘Whom shall I send, and who will go for US?’ And I said: ‘Here I am! Send me!’ And he replied, ‘Go, and say to this people: “You will hear again and again, But you will not understand; You will see again and again, But you will not get any knowledge.” Make the heart of this people unreceptive, Make their ears unresponsive, And paste their eyes together, So that they may not see with their eyes And hear with their ears, So that their heart may not understand And they may not turn back and be healed.’” Isaiah 6:1-10
“There was a voice above the expanse over their heads. (When they stood still, they would let their wings down.) Above the expanse that was over their heads was what looked like a sapphire stone, and it resembled a throne. Sitting on the throne up above was someone whose appearance resembled that of a human. I saw something glowing like electrum that was like a fire radiating from what appeared to be his waist and upward; and from his waist down, I saw something that resembled fire. There was a brilliance all around him like that of a rainbow in a cloud on a rainy day. That was how the surrounding brilliant light appeared. It was like the appearance of the glory of Jehovah. When I saw it, I fell facedown and began to hear the voice of someone speaking. He then said to me: ‘Son of man, stand up on your feet that I may speak with you.’ When he spoke to me, spirit came into me and made me stand up on my feet so that I could hear the One speaking to me. He went on to say to me: ‘Son of man, I am sending you to the people of Israel, to rebellious nations that have rebelled against me. They and their forefathers have transgressed against me down to this very day. I am sending you to sons who are defiant and hardhearted, and you must say to them, “This is what the Sovereign Lord Jehovah says.” As for them, whether they listen or refuse to listen—for they are a rebellious house—they will certainly know that a prophet was among them.’” Ezekiel 1:25-28, 2:1-5
“I saw Jehovah stationed above the altar, and he said: ‘Strike the head of the pillar, and the thresholds will shake. Cut them off at the head, and I will kill the last of them with the sword. No one who flees will get away, and no one trying to escape will succeed.’” Amos 9:1
We have one more example to look at in the next part of our discussion.
*Ironically, the Society interprets this text in reference to Christ, which means that he is the One whom the passage says no one has seen or can see!
What basis is there for saying that such phrases as “the one alone having immortality” and the one “whom not one of men has seen or can see” refer to Jesus rather than to Jehovah God?
The apostle Paul wrote: “This manifestation the happy and only Potentate will show in its own appointed times, he the King of those who rule as kings and Lord of those who rule as lords, the one alone having immortality, who dwells in unapproachable light, whom not one of men has seen or can see.”—1 Timothy 6:15, 16.
Bible commentators generally reason: ‘How could such phrases as “the one alone having immortality,” the “only Potentate,” and the one “whom not one of men has seen or can see” point to anyone other than the Almighty?’ ADMITTEDLY, such terms could be used TO DESCRIBE JEHOVAH. However, the context indicates that at 1 Timothy 6:15, 16, Paul WAS SPECIFICALLY REFERRING TO JESUS.
At the end of verse 14, Paul mentions “the manifestation of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1 Timothy 6:14) Hence, when Paul writes in 1Ti 6 verse 15 that “this manifestation the happy and only Potentate will show in its own appointed times,” he is referring to a manifestation of Jesus, not of Jehovah God. Who, then, is the “only Potentate”? It seems reasonable to conclude that Jesus is the Potentate referred to by Paul. Why? The context makes it evident that Paul is comparing Jesus with human rulers. Jesus truly is, as Paul wrote, “King of those [humans] who rule as kings and Lord of those [humans] who rule as lords.”* Yes, compared to them, Jesus is the “only Potentate.” Jesus has been given “rulership and dignity and kingdom, that the peoples, national groups and languages should all serve even him.” (Daniel 7:14) No human potentate can make that claim! (Watchtower, September 1, 2005, Questions From Readers, p. 27; capital and underline emphasis ours)
How can Jesus be “the one alone having immortality”?
The first one described in the Bible as rewarded with the gift of immortality is Jesus Christ. That he did not possess immortality before his resurrection by God is seen from the inspired apostle’s words at Romans 6:9: “Christ, now that he has been raised up from the dead, dies no more; death is master over him no more.” (Compare Re 1:17, 18.) For this reason, when describing him as “the King of those who rule as kings and Lord of those who rule as lords,” 1 Timothy 6:15, 16 shows that Jesus is distinct from all such other kings and lords in that he is “the one alone having immortality.” The other kings and lords, because of being mortal, die, even as did also the high priests of Israel. The glorified Jesus, God’s appointed High Priest after the order of Melchizedek, however, has “an indestructible life.”—Heb 7:15-17, 23-25.
The word “indestructible” here translates the Greek term a·ka·ta′ly·tos, meaning, literally, “indissoluble.” (Heb 7:16, ftn) The word is a compound of the negative prefix a joined to other words relating to a “loosening down,” as in Jesus’ statement regarding the loosening down or throwing down of the stones of the temple at Jerusalem (Mt 24:1, 2), as well as in Paul’s reference to the loosening down of the earthly “tent” of Christians, that is, the dissolving of their earthly life in human bodies. (2Cor 5:1) Thus, the immortal life granted Jesus upon his resurrection is not merely endless but is beyond deterioration or dissolution and is beyond destruction. (Insight on the Scriptures, Volume 1, Immortality, pp. 1189-1190; underline emphasis ours)
This only reinforces the fact that Jesus is God Incarnate since what is said about people’s inability to behold God is stated in regards to Christ as well!
However, since many did see the Lord this means that the texts which speak of not seeing God should not be interpreted in such a way as to not allow for the fact of God appearing in a visible manner on many occasions, as expressly stated in the inspired Scriptures.