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How could Moses see God and live?

The LORD would speak to Moses face to face, as one speaks to a friend. Then Moses would return to the camp, but his young aide Joshua son of Nun did not leave the tent. Exodus 33:11

Then Moses said, “Now show me your glory.” And the LORD said, “I will cause all my goodness to pass in front of you, and I will proclaim my name, the LORD, in your presence. I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion. But,” he said, “you cannot see my face, for no one may see me and live.” Then the LORD said, “There is a place near me where you may stand on a rock. When my glory passes by, I will put you in a cleft in the rock and cover you with my hand until I have passed by. Then I will remove my hand and you will see my back; but my face must not be seen.” Exodus 33:18-23

No one has ever seen God, but the one and only Son, who is himself God and is in closest relationship with the Father, has made him known. John 1:18

Seeing God is a traumatic experience. The power of God radiates heat and energy that can affect skin tissue. When Moses came down from the mountain, his face reflected that energy. Jesus previewed that radiance on the mount of transfiguration when he rolled back his skin costume and showed what was really underneath.

Seeing God is convicting. When Isaiah saw God, he fell to his knees. The experience humbled him, saying he came undone. Revelation speaks of a time when every knee (the forgiven and unforgiven) will realize their imperfection before a perfect, holy God.

But prophets like Isaiah, Daniel and the apostle John had visions of God, not actual, physical encounters with God. The Bible says God spoke to Moses “face-to-face” then it says no one can see the Lord and live. How is that so?

The expression could mean Moses saw God more clearly than anyone else saw him before. It was more of a “face-to-face” encounter than others had.

Also, God could have preserved Moses during the experience and protected him. He shielded Moses (“cover you with my hand”) from getting a full-on view of God himself.

The Bible says Moses only saw parts of God, the after-trail. The Israelites saw God represented in others things – a pillar of smoke and fire. Moses saw God in a burning bush. They didn’t see God, but God reflected in something else.

When we die, we will see God, but it will be impossible for us to die again.