Will we see God in Heaven?


Dr. John Hoole – May 10, 2015



A four-year-old lad attended a prayer meeting with his parents.  That night when he knelt to say his prayers before going to bed, he prayed, “Dear Lord, we had a good time at church tonight.  I wish you could have been there.”


This young lad was not being critical of the church as being godless.  He was merely expressing a childlike literalism concerning the presence of God.  To be present to a child is to be seen, touched and heard.


Even an amateur theologian could quickly set the child straight and point to the reality of things which are not seen.  We could point to many promises of God, like, “where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I in their midst.”


We could turn to Psalm 139:7-10  (KJV), where David writes that there is nowhere to escape God’s presence.


         Whither shall I go from thy spirit?  Or whither shall I flee from thy presence?

         If I ascend up into heaven, thou are there; if I make my bed in hell, behold thou art there.

         If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea;

         Even there shall thy hand lead me, and thy right hand shall hold me.


What a contrast that Passage is to the conclusion reached by Jean Paul Richter, .the German skeptic of 2 centuries ago, who wrote:


“There is no God.  I have traversed the worlds.  I have risen to the suns, I have passed across the great waste places of the sky.  There is no God.  I have descended to the place where the very shadow casts by a Being dies out and ends.  I have gazed into the gulf beyond and cried “Where art thou, Father?”  But no answer came, save the sound of the storm which rages uncontrolled.  We are orphans, you and I – every soul in this great corpse – trench of the universe is utterly alone.”


Here is a man who experienced the real absence of God as deeply as believers experience the real presence of God.  To some God is nowhere present.  To others, God is everywhere present.


Ralph Cushman could write:


I met God in the morning

   When my day was at its best,

And His presence came like sunrise,

   Like a glory in my breast.

All day long the Presence lingered,

   All day long He stayed with me,

And we sailed in perfect calmness

   O’er a very troubled sea.


There is an obvious conflict of experience.  The child and the skeptic experienced the absence of God Whereas, the saint and poet experienced the presence of God.


I want you to ponder something.  Is the childlike statement of actually wanting to see God, not the ideal dream of every believer today.  We believers recognize that today, in this world, we live by faith and not by sight.  But isn’t the ideal to one day see that which we cannot see here and now, including actually seeing God.  Isn’t that what Moses desired in Exodus 33, when Moses wanted to see God and His glory.


Isn’t that what Job said, in Job 19:25-26  (NIV).


25 I know that my Redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand upon the earth.  

26 And after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I will see God;


Before we can draw any conclusions, we must take into consideration the fact that Jesus was fully God while being fully human here on earth.


Colossians 1:15 says that Christ is “the image of the invisible God.”


         Hebrews 1:3 tells us He is the “express image of His very person.”


                            That is why Jesus could tell Philip, “he who has seen me has seen the Father.” (John 14:9)


So, now the question becomes,…..




I don’t think there is any doubt that we will see Jesus Christ with our eyes.  The disciples were able to see him following His resurrection, and He continues today to have the same body.


I know that as we attempt to answer this question, there will be some who feel strongly about this issue.  Some will strongly believe we will be able to see God visibly, while others will say we will see Him only in a spiritual sense, not literally.


Moses provides  us with an excellent illustration of the complexity of this issue.  We are told in Exodus 33:11;   “And the LORD spoke unto Moses face to face, as a man speaks to his friend.”   In the same chapter, Moses asked the Lord to see His glory.  The Lord accommodated Moses but told him in verse 20“No man can see Me and live.”  God passed by Moses and showed him His “back” but not His face.  Therefore, the expression “face to face” in verse 11 did not mean that Moses actually saw the face of God.  So, even in the Old Testament times, when people “saw” God, it was in a veiled, indirect way.


It is clear from a number of references that mortal man cannot, and has not, actually seen the literal face of God.


1 Timothy 6:16  (NIV) speaks of God…..


16     …who alone is immortal and who lives in unapproachable light, whom no one has seen or can see. To him be honor and might forever. Amen.


As long as we are tainted by sin, we cannot see God.  To view such perfect righteousness in our present state would destroy us.


1 John 4:12 NKJV


12     No one has seen God at any time. If we love one another, God abides in us, and His love has been perfected in us.


John 5:37  (NIV)


37     And the Father who sent me has himself testified concerning me. You have never heard his voice nor seen his form,


At this point, the question we are addressing – “Will we see God in Heaven?” might take on another form?"


A moment ago, I said, “it is clear from a number of references that mortal man cannot and has not actually seen the literal face of God.  But, now the question might be;  “While we cannot visibly see God in our natural bodies, will we be able to see Him in our glorified bodies?


To say it in a different manner, “When Christ came to earth in a physical body, we were able to see God with our physical eyes,.  He agreed to lower himself so as to communicate with mankind face to face.  When we are raised into the heavenly realm, and are given glorified eyes, will we then be able to see God bodily?


John 1:18  (NIV) adds;


18     No one has ever seen God, but God the One and Only, who is at the Father's side, has made him known.


There are a few verses that indicate there will be a time when men and women will see God.  To be consistent with the scriptures we have read up to this point, which stated we cannot see God in our current natural bodies, see if the following references are speaking of men and women in the immortal state, when reference is made to our seeing God.


Let me read again what Job said, in Job 19:25-26  (NIV).


25 I know that my Redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand upon the earth.  

26 And after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I will see God;


It is strongly implied here that Job expects his body to be resurrected, after which he is expecting to literally see God.



1 John 3:2 (NIV)


2       Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when he appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.


1 Corinthians 13:12 (NIV)

12     Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.


Psalms 17:15  (NIV)


15     And I — In righteousness I will see your face; when I awake, I will be satisfied with seeing your likeness.


David knew every station in life, from that of a lowly shepherd, to the honor of being a great warrior, to the status of being king.  He tasted every earthly pleasure.  He knew his ultimate satisfaction would come only when he could see the face of God and be like him in holiness.


All five of the reference we just read are without a doubt speaking of when we have been taken to heaven in our glorified bodies.


On several occasion over the past few weeks, I have made statements like:


                     •  Every good and godly thing on earth is but a small preview of what Heaven will be like.


                     •  The five senses we have will be greatly enhanced in Heaven.


                     •  The lights, the sounds, the colors will far exceed anything we experience here.


•  Even the presence of God which we long for here, will be a much greater reality when we have our glorified bodies.


         Will that not be true of what we can literally see in our new eternal bodies?


Revelation 21:3 (NKJV) says:


3       And I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, "Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God.


God purposely mentions that He will tabernacle with – live with – us in the New Jerusalem.  The expressions “with them” or “with men” occurs here three times.  And the word used speak of God’s intimate presence.  This is something different than His omnipresence.  God will, so to speak, pitch his tent among men and dwell with them.  One of the glories of heaven is that believers will forever enjoy the pleasure of God’s company.


Some might ask, could this not be speaking of Christ Himself, and not the Father?


Revelation 22:3 NKJV, adds:


3       And there shall be no more curse, but the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it, and His servants shall serve Him.


                   The throne of both the Father and the Son will be in the New Jerusalem.


God and the Lamb are mentioned together in 4 different verses in these last two chapters of Revelation We just read one of them.  Here are the remaining three.


In Revelation 21:22, the “Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are the temple” in the New Jerusalem.


In Revelation 21:23, there is no need for the sun, because the glory of God gives it light, and the Lamb is its lamp (Isaiah 60:19-20; 1 John 1:5).


In Revelation 22:1, the “river of the water of life” flows from the throne of God and of the Lamb.


So, I don’t think there is any doubt that the Father and the Son will both be resident in the New Jerusalem.


If our five senses (sight, touch, smell, taste & hearing) will be greatly enhanced in Heaven, as I believe they will, and if our relationship with God here is only a foretaste of what it will be there, and if God purposely decides to live among us in the New Jerusalem will we not then be able to bodily see God?


Today, we see God through the eyes of faith.  Here we long for, and glory in, those moments of very close communion with God.  But, won’t that which is now by faith, become a reality in Heaven?


If in heaven we continue to see God only through the eyes of faith, then what has changed between now and then?  And for what reason has He moved from His present home to the New Jerusalem?  If we are still unable to see Him, could He not do all He wants to from above?


The mystics of Eastern Religions believes the ideal is to be caught up in a trance, where he senses his oneness with God or some higher power.  Shouldn’t the ideal for the redeemed people of the Living and True God be much higher than having a strong sense of the presence of God.


I know, as we read earlier, the Bible says that no man can see God and live  (Exodus 33:20)  But didn’t that all change when Jesus came in the flesh?  We were now able to see God.


Didn’t John express in his gospel, “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld his glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.”(John 1:14)


Do any of you here today have any disagreement to the statement, “when we get to heaven, we will personally and literally see Christ with our new eyes?”


1 John 3:2 NKJV


2       Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is.




In John 4:24, Christ taught that God the Father is “spirit.”  And, of course, the Holy Spirit is spirit as well.  Jesus, God the Son, however has a body.


In Luke 24:39 (NAS), appearing to His disciples after His resurrection, Jesus said, “See my hands and my feet, that it is I myself.  Touch me, and see.  For a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.”


Later, Jesus ascended bodily into heaven (Acts 1:9)So, God the Father, who is spirit, does not have flesh and bones, and neither does the Holy Spirit.  They are, therefore, invisible to our eyes as they now exist.  In contrast, Jesus is visible.  Colossians 1:15 (NIV) says “The Son is the image of the invisible God.”


Will Christ essentially be the same as when he was here and therefore, because others saw Him here, we should have no trouble seeing Him there.


Earlier, we read where John said he and others saw in Jesus “the glory of the only begotten of the Father, full and grace and truth.(John 1:14)


Keep that verse in mind as we now read from John 17.  This entire chapter is often referred to as the High Priestly prayer of Jesus.  Others refer to it as the real Lord’s Prayer.


Now let’s looks at John 17:24 (NIV).


24     Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, and to see my glory, the glory you have given me because you loved me before the creation of the world.


Jesus is here requesting the Father to return to Him the glory He had before the foundation of the world.  This has to be a greater glory than He had here on earth.  He wants us, his followers, to see this greater glory, which implies the glory that was seen in John 1 wasn’t the full glory.


When Moses asked to see the glory of God, he was allowed only to see a small portion of it.  But won’t we, along with Moses, have a much more extensive sight of God in heaven?  In Heaven, since we will be free from sin, we will see God’s glory unveiled in its fullness.  That will be a more pleasing, spectacular sight than anything we have known or even imagined on earth.


It is probably obvious that my theology leans in the direction of believing we will actually see God.  I didn’t always have this view.  Over time, as I learned more of God’s Word, I came to the realization the Bible didn’t support the idea of never seeing God.


What I came to realize is that in God’s Word, we find that man has always had a desire to see God.


Psalm 42:1-2 NKJV


1       As the deer pants for the water brooks, So pants my soul for You, O God.

2       My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When shall I come and appear before God?


The RSV translates it, “When shall I come and behold the face of God?”  The Psalmist wanted to see God.


On another occasion, in Psalm 27:4 (NIV), the Psalmist’s prayer was “That I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD….”


Phillip, speaking for all the disciples said to Jesus: “Show us the Father.” (John 14:8)


People down through history have wanted to see God. And whereas we are unable to see God in our natural eyes, I believe we will see him in glorified bodies. As Christians, our highest satisfaction will come when we see our God and His Son.


We can begin to understand why Peter, after seeing only a faint glimpse of the glory of God, wanted to make a camp on the Mount of Transfiguration and stay there permanently!  (Matthew 17:4)Peter saw and felt something there that was different from anything he had seen up to then.


It could be that, in our resurrected, glorified bodies, we will be able to see what is now invisible to us.  Perhaps our “eyes will be opened” as were those of Elisha’s servant (2 Kings 6:17), and we will be able to see the Father and the Spirit.


1 Corinthians 13:12 says, “For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face.”  As we have read earlier, both David and Job were confident that they would see God.  Their hope was based on the fact of resurrection.


Matthew 5:8 (NIV)


         8       Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.


This will be more true in heaven than here.  The word “see” (Greek= Horao) in this verse is in the future continuous tense, meaning this will be real in an ongoing sense.


In Heaven, we will continually be seeing God.  Kings generally seclude themselves from direct contact with their people.  It is a rare privilege to have an audience with a king.  But believers in heaven will forever have perfect, unbroken fellowship with the King of kings.


Matthew 18:1 (NIV)


10     See that you do not look down on one of these little ones. For I tell you that their angels in heaven always see the face of my Father in heaven.  


If angels, which are also created beings, continually see the face of God, it seems likely that his own children will as well.


Revelation 22:3-4  (NIV)


3       No longer will there be any curse. The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the city, and his servants will serve him.

4       They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads.




Heaven will be the furthest thing from dull!  When we see God as he is, in all his glory, worship will never be monotonous.  We will overflow with joy as we explore the depths of who God truly is.  Those in Heaven now and for all eternity are full of life.  There are no dead worshipers there.  Absent in all Heaven are dull, cold hearts that do not respond to the praise that surrounds them.


Have you ever – in prayer or in corporate worship or during a walk on the beach, even for a few moments experienced the very presence of God?  Those are glorious moments, but too often they disappear fairly quickly because of the hurried pace of our everyday lives.


What will it be like to behold God’s face and never be distracted by lesser things again?  And what will it be like when all lesser things point our attention back to our Creator.  There is nothing boring in Heaven.  Seeing God will be dynamic, not static.  It will mean exploring new beauties forever.


Will we always be engaged in worship in Heaven?  I think the answer is yes and no.  It depends upon your view of worship here.  If we have a narrow view of worship, the answer is no.  But if we have the broad view of worship, the answer is yes.


I agree with theologian Cornelis Venema that worship in heaven will be all-encompassing.


“No legitimate activity of life – whether marriage, family, business, play, friendship, education, politics, et. – escapes the claims of Christ’s kingship …. Certainly those who live and reign with Christ forever will find the diversity and complexity of their worship of God too less, but richer, in the life to come.  Every activity of new creaturely life will be included within the life of worship of God’s people”


This certainly is an echo of what the apostle Paul said in 1 Corinthians 10.


1 Corinthians 10:31 NKJV


31     Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.