God gave the prophet Ezekiel an amazing vision of His glory.

Now above the expanse that was over their heads there was something resembling a throne, like lapis lazuli in appearance; and on that which resembled a throne, high up, was a figure with the appearance of a man. Then I noticed from the appearance of His loins and upward something like glowing metal that looked like fire all around within it, and from the appearance of His loins and downward I saw something like fire; and there was a radiance around Him. As the appearance of the rainbow in the clouds on a rainy day, so was the appearance of the surrounding radiance. Such was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the LORD. And when I saw it, I fell on my face and heard a voice speaking. Then He said to me, “Son of man, stand on your feet that I may speak with you!” As He spoke to me the Spirit entered me and set me on my feet; and I heard Him speaking to me. Then He said to me, “Son of man, I am sending you to the sons of Israel, to a rebellious people who have rebelled against Me, they and their fathers have transgressed against Me to this very day….” Ezekiel 1: 26 – 2: 3

In this vision Ezekiel saw the figure of a man, and the man spoke and said things that only God could say (“I am sending you to the sons of Israel, to a rebellious people who have rebelled against Me…). In other words, Ezekiel saw and heard God.

“Theophany” is the term used to describe a physical manifestation of God. This passage in Ezekiel is not the only Old Testament account of a theophany – Jacob wrestled with God and his grandfather Abraham encountered God at the oaks of Mamre. Yet despite multiple Old Testament accounts of God manifesting in physical form, a theophany is a puzzling thing, because God Himself instructed Moses that no one can see God and live.

Then Moses said, “I pray You, show me Your glory!” And He said, “I Myself will make all My goodness pass before you, and will proclaim the name of the LORD before you; and I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show compassion on whom I will show compassion.” But He said, “You cannot see My face, for no man can see Me and live!” Exodus 33: 18 – 20

So on the one hand, God says no one can see His face and live. On the other hand, people had physical encounters with God and lived. This paradox is ultimately resolved by the doctrine of the Trinity, a teaching clearly derived from the New Testament and even seen in the Old. For it becomes clear, in hindsight, that an Old Testament theophany, such as the appearance of the man to Ezekiel, was an appearance of Jesus, the second person of the Trinity. People can behold the face of Jesus and live, although the fullness of the Father’s glory has never been made known to man. The fullness of God’s glory is too great for man to comprehend, so God condescends via theophany, most notably in the incarnation of Christ, where the second person of the Trinity took on flesh, not only for His ministry on earth two thousand years ago, but forever. In Christ, man could finally behold God’s face and live.

God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways, in these last days has spoken to us in His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the world. And He is the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His nature, and upholds all things by the word of His power. Hebrews 1: 1 – 3

No one has seen God at any time; the only begotten God who is in the bosom of the Father, He has explained Him. John 1: 18

…Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. Philippians 2: 5 – 11

There are many today who want to “see God’s glory”. They want miracles, they want signs and wonders, they want ecstatic spiritual experiences. They want to have visions of God just like Ezekiel, where there is dazzling radiance, rainbows, a holy throne and a booming voice. Such desires are foolish, for the New Testament teaches that Jesus Christ is the final Word of God spoken to men. To behold Christ is to behold the Father, for He has explained the Father. The author of Hebrews tells us that Jesus “is the radiance of His (the Father) glory and the exact representation of His nature”.

Until Jesus returns, and we behold His actual face, we have no need to see Jesus in divine visions like the one Ezekiel had. Those days are past. We have Scripture, which speaks of Christ. We have Scripture, which speaks of God’s will for our life. We don’t need visions – we need people to expound God’s written word.

Whenever that occurs, whenever Scripture is taught accurately, we see Christ and we see God. In one sense, the revelation of Christ given to us in Scripture exceeds the glory of the vision of Ezekiel, for we are able to read about the great work that Christ has done, and all that He has accomplished and all that He is waiting to accomplish. There is no such assurance that Ezekiel learned in great detail anything about the plans of God to reconcile the world to Himself through Jesus. His encounters with God were real and significant, but, as Hebrews says, were but a portion of the whole.


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