Nearly every religion on earth has an idea of what God looks like physically. If you travel anywhere in this world, you will be sure to find temples, statues, idols, and pictures depicting what gods or goddesses look like within that culture. But does the God of the Bible have a physical body?
Does God have a physical body? The Bible tells us that God is spirit and has no body. Within the Trinity, both God the Father and God the Holy Spirit have no body. However, Jesus, the God the Son, does have a physical body, as He took on flesh to be both fully God and fully man. In the Old Testament, there are written accounts of God visibly manifesting Himself to man in physical form, which is meant to reveal who God is and point to the pre-incarnate Christ was has now come.
In this blog, we will look at how scripture answers the question, does God have a physical body?
God is Spirit
God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.John 4:24 ESV
If God had a physical body, He would be limited in what He can do.
Because God is uncreated, His must be infinite, existing forever and having no end to Himself.
I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.”Revelation 1:8 ESV
As finite human beings, this can be hard to grasp in our minds because we do have a beginning and an end—from the day of conception to the day when we die.
However, the Bible clearly tells us God is spirit and that He has always existed, is existing, and will always exist for all of eternity.
Throughout the Bible, however, we also see references to the finger of God, the hand of God, the eyes of God, the feet of God, and the heart of God.
If God is spirit, how can He have these physical characteristics of a human body?
Whenever the Bible refers to a physical aspect of God, it is meant to use what we know from experience to help us understand God in terms that we can connect with.
God is also not limited in appearing to humans in physical form.
For example, when the Bible says, “Behold, the LORD’s hand is not shortened, that it cannot save, or His ear dull, that it cannot hear” (Isaiah 59:1 ESV), we understand that God’s reach to save the lost is limitless and able to do anything to bring people to Himself.
We also understand that God hears us when we call to Him at all times because He is omnipresent—being everywhere at the same time—yet very near to us to know and understand the details of our hearts and lives.
This is the beauty and wonder of just one of the attributes of who God is.
To the King of the ages, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.1 Timothy 1:17 ESV
Has Anyone Seen God?
No one has ever seen God, but the one and only Son, who is Himself God and is at the Father’s side, has made Him known.John 1:18
The Bible tells us that no one has ever seen God the Father but the Son of God, who is Jesus Christ.
However, throughout the Bible, we read of many characters who do interact with God in different forms, such as Abraham conversing with an angel of the Lord before He destroys Sodom and Gomorrah (Genesis 18), or a strong man wrestling with Jacob during the night (Genesis 32:22-32), a burning bush speaking to Moses (Exodus 3-4:17), and pillars of fire and cloud going before the Israelites in the wilderness (Exodus 13:21-22).
However, some passages can be confusing. If God is spirit, then why are there written accounts of Him speaking face to face with people (Exodus 33:11), or writing on the wall with His finger (Daniel 5:5-6, 24)?
For example, in Exodus we read of the Lord speaking to Moses face to face in the door of the tabernacle.
Thus the Lord used to speak to Moses face to face, as a man speaks to his friend.Exodus 33:11 ESV
Interestingly, however, in a few verses below this account, we read of Moses asking the Lord to let him see His full glory. The Lord replies,
You cannot see My face, for man shall not see Me and live.Exodus 33:20 ESV
Why does the Bible tell us that the Lord and Moses were talking face to face and then tell us that if anyone saw God’s face, they would die?
Often in the Old Testament, God would also come down in a cloud and talk with people such as in Exodus 33:9; 34:5, Numbers 11:25; 12:5. Although Moses did not see the Lord’s face or His full glory, he still knew His presence and voice.
This account tells us that God and Moses had very close communion with one another. They could talk with each other as a man would talk to a friend.
This particular passage also shows us that God’s glory and His face are identified as the same in the text. Because people cannot see God in all of the fullness of His glory and live, God veils His glory so that He can interact with them on earth.
If anyone was to see God in His full unveiled glory, they would instantly fall down on their face dead. That is how wonderful our God is.
His glory cannot be comprehended by our finite knowledge of understanding. This is why He has revealed Himself through His Son, Jesus.
He alone is immortal and dwells in unapproachable light. No one has ever seen Him, nor can anyone see Him. To Him be honor and eternal dominion! Amen.1 Timothy 6:16
God Appearing in Physical Form in the Old Testament
In the Old Testament, there are several instances where God appears to people in a physical form. These accounts are often referred to as theophanies.
Theophany is defined as a visible manifestation of God to mankind. It is the appearance of God that is visible to the human senses, most often in human form but not always, and we see this happen a lot in the Old Testament.
One example of a theophany is found in Genesis 18:1-33 when Abraham receives three visitors at his tent’s door. He recognizes that one of the men is the Lord, and he bows down to the earth and asks Him to stay and rest awhile.
He also prepares a meal for them and asks them to dine with him.
After the three men had finished the meal, two of the men who were angels went on their way to Sodom where Lot and his family lived, but the Lord stayed and talked to Abraham like a friend about His plan to burn Sodom down to the ground.
The Lord said, “Shall I hide from Abraham what I am about to do, seeing that Abraham shall surely become a great and mighty nation, and all the nations of the earth shall be blessed in him?
For I have chosen him, that he may command his children and his household after him to keep the way of the Lord by doing righteousness and justice, so that the Lord may bring to Abraham what He has promised him.”Genesis 18:17-19 ESV
Some people believe that whenever an angel of the Lord showed up in scripture that this was indeed the pre-incarnate Christ, taking on a physical form to interact with His creation.
Other people believe these were just angels who appeared to people who were sent by God.
While the Bible does not make it clear who in the Trinity was taking on physical form in the Old Testament, the important matter, in this case, is we can always recognize that it is a foreshadowing of the incarnation, where God desired to be with us and willingly took on flesh to live among us as Immanuel, God with us.
Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel” (which means, God with us).Matthew 1:23 ESV
God in the Flesh
God the Father and God the Holy Spirit is spirit, but God the Son took on human flesh to live among His creation.
Jesus’s purpose in coming down to earth was to live in human flesh so we could know God by knowing Him.
Jesus humbled Himself by being born as a baby and living in human flesh as fully God and fully man in the flesh.
He never gave up His divinity, but instead showed us the true character and nature of God and His desire to be in close fellowship with His creation.
And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.John 1:14 NKJV
This is great news!
The New Testament is full of supporting evidence to show us that Jesus was and still is alive and in physical bodily form.
For example, after His death and resurrection, He reveals Himself to His disciples by walking into a locked room. As you can imagine, they were awestruck and terrified. Jesus said to them,
Behold My hands and My feet, that it is I Myself. Handle Me and see, for a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see I have.”Luke 24:39 NKJV
How wonderful is our God! There is no other in heaven or on earth who is like our God, for He came down to be with us and be like His creation so that we could know Him.
Not only that, but the book of Revelation also tells us what Jesus looks like right now. He still has a physical body after having ascended into heaven to sit at the right hand of God the Father, interceding for us and waiting for the day when He will return for His pure and spotless Bride.
Then I turned to see the voice that spoke with me. And having turned I saw seven golden lampstands, and in the midst of the seven lampstands One like the Son of Man, clothed with a garment down to the feet and girded about the chest with a golden band.
His head and hair were white like wool, as white as snow, and His eyes like a flame of fire; His feet were like fine brass, as if refined in a furnace, and His voice as the sound of many waters; He had in His right hand seven stars, out of His mouth went a sharp two-edged sword, and His countenance was like the sun shining in its strength.
And when I saw Him, I fell at His feet as dead. But He laid His right hand on me, saying to me, “Do not be afraid; I am the First and the Last. I am He who lives, and was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore. Amen.Revelation 1:12-18 NKJV
Why Is This Important?
Remember the verse at the beginning of this article?
God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.John 4:24 ESV
How we view God affects how we worship Him. Because God is spirit, this means that when we worship God, our praise and adoration should be from the heart.
In other cultures, people worship their gods through rituals and religious ceremonies because they believe their deities require some form of physical or material worship.
As Christians, we believe that we are to know and worship God by spending time with Him so that He can be made known to others. Our lives are meant to be worshipful to God.
Also, because Jesus had a physical body here on earth, we can be comforted that Jesus knows exactly what we are going through.
Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.
Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.Hebrews 4:14-16 ESV
We as Christians ought to also look forward with hope to the day when our bodies shall be glorified like Jesus’s body in heaven.
Just as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the Man of heaven.1 Corinthians 15:49 ESV
One day we will get to live forever with Jesus and we shall physically see Him face to face in all the fullness of His glory.
But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like His glorious body, by the power that enables Him even to subject all things to Himself.Philippians 3:20-21 ESV