In the Genesis account of creation, the Bible says that God made man in his image and after his likeness. But what exactly is the image of God? And what is his likeness? The Bible describes the person of God in intricate details – we know his name, his attributes, and his ways. But does it say anything about his physical appearance or lack thereof?
It is hard to describe God because even the few people who saw a vision of God’s throne were too overwhelmed with the glory on the throne to describe him well. However, both Ezekiel and John agree that God has a man-like appearance.
We will get to that in a minute but first, let’s discuss whether it is actually possible to see God.
No one can see God
In case you are wondering what God looks like, you are not the first. Moses also had a similar curiosity. In Exodus 33, Moses asked God to show him his glory. To this God responded that Moses couldn’t see his face because no one could see God and live. As a consequence, God hid Moses until he had passed and then he unhid Moses thereby allowing him to only see his back (Exodus 33:20-23).
Apostle John corroborates the experience of Moses by saying that no one has ever seen God.
No one has ever seen God. God’s only Son, the one who is closest to the Father’s heart, has made him known. John 1:18
It is interesting to note that John was the Apostle who taught the unity of the trinity by emphasizing statements like “I and the Father are one” (John 10:30) which illustrated that God the Father and God the Son were one. This is significant because John had seen Jesus the son of God who was part of the Godhead. When writing his first epistle, John makes it clear that the message he was preaching was based on what he had and saw from Jesus in his public ministry (1 John 1:1-3). So when he stated that no one can see God, he must have been referring to God the Father. However, John also clarified that even though no one had seen God, Jesus had made him known.
To make known means to reveal. So, even though it is accurate that no one has seen God, it is also true that God has revealed his appearance (or some semblance of it) in scripture. We may not get a full description of how God looks like but we can piece together a couple of passages in the scriptures and get a rough idea of how God looks like.
A revelation of God’s likeness
The first hint of how God looks is found in Genesis chapter 1.
Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.”
This scripture means that man was created to resemble God. The word image means a direct replica. In Hebrews, Jesus is described as the express image of the Father (Hebrews 3:1). This is perhaps the reason why Jesus told Philip that anyone who had seen him had seen the Father (John 14:9).
Since God made man in his image, it is safe to infer that our physical features represent how God looks. By piercing several scriptures together, we can also see a picture of a God that has physical attributes that are somewhat similar to that of man. Scripture describes God as having a face that is complete with eyes, nose, mouth, and other human-like facial characteristics (Exodus 33:11; Proverbs 15:3; Psalm 18:8). Similarly, God is described as having arms, hands, and fingers just like we do (Isaiah 40:10; Psalm 110:1; Exodus 31:18). Scripture also describes God’s feet (1 Corinthians 15:25, Pslams 110:1, 1 King 5:3). The bottomline is, by piercing several scriptures together, the image of God – in which mankind was made, begins to reveal itself.
In one of Ezekeil’s visions, he saw God seated on his throne in heaven. Ezekiel gives the following description of God;
Above the expanse over their heads was what looked like a throne of sapphire, and high above on the throne was a figure like that of a man. I saw that from what appeared to be his waist up he looked like glowing metal, as if full of fire, and that from there down he looked like fire; and brilliant light surrounded him. Like the appearance of a rainbow in the clouds on a rainy day, so was the radiance around him. Ezekiel 1:26-28
Ezekiel’s vision confirms that God has a “man-like” appearance. He even describes God as having a waist. It is worth noting that Ezekiel describes the throne of God in painstaking detail but doesn’t offer much detail on the appearance of God. This could be because Ezekiel really didn’t see God but rather, His likeness. This would be consistent with what God told Moses in Exodus when he said that no one could see him and live.
Another person who had a vision of God is John the Revelator. John describes God this way:
His head and hair were white like wool, as white as snow, and his eyes were like blazing fire. His feet were like bronze glowing in a furnace, and his voice was like the sound of rushing waters. In his right hand he held seven stars, and out of his mouth came a sharp double-edged sword. His face was like the sun shining in all its brilliance. Revelation 1:14-16
John seems to give a more detailed description of God’s appearance. He describes the appearance of God’s hair which was white as wool or snow, his eyes that were like fire, his feet that were like glowing bronze, his right hand, and his mouth. As we can see from John’s description, the image he saw of God is somewhat similar to what Ezekiel saw.
When the scripture says no one can see God’s face and live, it means it is not really possible to see God in his fullness. However, as we have seen from scripture, both Ezekiel and John saw God on his throne. Even though they didn’t see everything, they saw enough to reveal that God has a man-like appearance. This explains what Genesis means when it says man was made in God’s image and likeness.