The Face of God
By David K. Bernard
“Take heed that ye despise not one of these little ones; for I say unto you, That in heaven their angels do always behold the face of my Father which is in heaven” (Matthew 18:10).
Based on Matthew 18:10, some suppose that one person of God resided in heaven while Jesus was a second person on earth. Yet the Bible teaches that God is absolutely one. (See Deuteronomy 6:4.) What, then, is the meaning of the “face” of God?
God’s “face” is not a physical entity or image, for God is an omnipresent, invisible Spirit. (See Isaiah 66:1; John 1:18; 4:24.) While Jesus Christ walked on earth as God manifested in the flesh, the Spirit of God still filled the universe and ruled from heaven. While the complete personality of God was incarnate in Christ (Colossians 2:9), His Spirit could not be confined to any physical location. This fact does not mean that God consists of two or more personalities or centers of consciousness, however.
God is not a physical being of flesh, blood, and bones (Matthew 16:17; Luke 24:39). Various physical descriptions of God in the Bible are not meant in a grossly literal way but speak of His attributes in terms that we can easily understand. For example God’s “heart” is the seat of His reason and emotions, not a blood- pumping organ. The “finger of God” and “the blast of thy nostrils” speak of His miraculous power, not physical body parts (Exodus 8:19; 15:8). It would be a mistake to interpret God’s “face” to refer to a physical body apart from Christ.
In the Bible, “face” is often used as a metaphor for someone’s attention, favor, and presence. Jacob fled “from the face of Esau” his brother (Genesis 35:1). The Lord destroyed the enemies of the Israelites before their face (Deuteronomy 8:20; 9:3). God said He would hide His face from Israel because of their sins (Deuteronomy 31:17). When King Jeroboam requested that a prophet pray for his healing, he said, “Entreat now the face of the LORD thy God” (I Kings 13:6). The psalmist prayed, “God be merciful unto us, and bless us; and cause his face to shine upon us” (Psalm 67:1). (See also II Chronicles 30:9; Psalm 10:11; 27:9; 80:3, 7, 19; Isaiah 59:2; Jeremiah 44:11; Ezekiel 39:29; Daniel 9:17.)
As Vine’s Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words notes, prosopon, the Greek word translated “face” in Matthew 18:10 often refers to “the presence of a person, the face being the noblest part.” For instance, Acts 3:13 says that the Jewish rulers denied Jesus “in the presence [prosopon] of Pilate.” In Acts 5:41, the disciples “departed from the presence [prosopon] of the council.”
The angels are spirit beings and do not need to perceive God in a physical fashion. It is impossible for us to know how they discern, relate to, and communicate with God in the spiritual realm. When the Bible says they behold His face, it does not refer to human senses, but it uses human terms to describe their spiritual interaction.
Matthew 18: 1 0 does not mean that the angels are stationed eternally in a physical location in front of a physical image of God. If they were, how could they assist God’s children on earth, as the passage implies? As The Tyndale New Testament Commentaries explains, Matthew 18:10 simply means that the angels “have access at all times to the Father’s presence.”
Brother Bernard is the associate editor in the Editorial Division and pastor of New Life United Pentecostal Church of Austin, Texas. This article was adopted from The Oneness View of Jesus Christ, published by Word Aflame Press.
THE ABOVE MATERIAL WAS PUBLISHED BY THE PENTECOSTAL HERALD, DECEMBER 1995, PAGES 2, 4. THIS MATERIAL IS COPYRIGHTED AND MAY BE USED FOR STUDY & RESEARCH