The Likeness of God

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The Likeness of God

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In Genesis 1:26 Genesis 1:26And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.
American King James Version×
, God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness”—the plural “Us” and “Our” denoting both God the Father and the Word who would later be born in the flesh as Jesus Christ (John 1:1-14 John 1:1-14 1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 The same was in the beginning with God. 3 All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made. 4 In him was life; and the life was the light of men. 5 And the light shines in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not. 6 There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. 7 The same came for a witness, to bear witness of the Light, that all men through him might believe. 8 He was not that Light, but was sent to bear witness of that Light. 9 That was the true Light, which lights every man that comes into the world. 10 He was in the world, and the world was made by him, and the world knew him not. 11 He came to his own, and his own received him not. 12 But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name: 13 Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God. 14 And the Word was made flesh, and dwelled among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.
American King James Version×
). What is meant by God’s image and likeness here?

Most importantly, God made us like Him in qualities of mind, such as abstract thought, emotion, creativity and planning. But the underlying Hebrew words used here concern actual form and appearance. The word tselem (“image”) has the sense of a statue, while demuwth (“likeness”) refers to physical resemblance.

Yet, as John 4:24 John 4:24God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.
American King James Version×
tells us, “God is spirit.” The Greek word translated “spirit” here and elsewhere in the New Testament is pneuma. In the Old Testament, the Hebrew word translated “spirit” is ruach.

Both these terms can also mean “wind.” Because wind is formless, some argue that immaterial spirit cannot have form and shape. Yet in many places in Scripture God and angelic spirits are described as having bodily form. Thus it is apparent that spirit must be able to have form and shape—and God the Father and Christ have the same form and shape as the human beings who are patterned after Them on a lesser, material level.

The “wind” comparison comes from the fact that spirit is invisible to human eyes unless physically manifested. Also, spirit can exist in a formless state, such as God’s Holy Spirit being everywhere, filling the entire universe (Jeremiah 23:24 Jeremiah 23:24Can any hide himself in secret places that I shall not see him? said the LORD. Do not I fill heaven and earth? said the LORD.
American King James Version×
).

God appeared in human form to a few people in the Old Testament (Genesis 18:1-33 Genesis 18:1-33 1 And the LORD appeared to him in the plains of Mamre: and he sat in the tent door in the heat of the day; 2 And he lift up his eyes and looked, and, see, three men stood by him: and when he saw them, he ran to meet them from the tent door, and bowed himself toward the ground, 3 And said, My LORD, if now I have found favor in your sight, pass not away, I pray you, from your servant: 4 Let a little water, I pray you, be fetched, and wash your feet, and rest yourselves under the tree: 5 And I will fetch a morsel of bread, and comfort you your hearts; after that you shall pass on: for therefore are you come to your servant. And they said, So do, as you have said. 6 And Abraham hastened into the tent to Sarah, and said, Make ready quickly three measures of fine meal, knead it, and make cakes on the hearth. 7 And Abraham ran to the herd, and fetched a calf tender and good, and gave it to a young man; and he hurried to dress it. 8 And he took butter, and milk, and the calf which he had dressed, and set it before them; and he stood by them under the tree, and they did eat. 9 And they said to him, Where is Sarah your wife? And he said, Behold, in the tent. 10 And he said, I will certainly return to you according to the time of life; and, see, Sarah your wife shall have a son. And Sarah heard it in the tent door, which was behind him. 11 Now Abraham and Sarah were old and well stricken in age; and it ceased to be with Sarah after the manner of women. 12 Therefore Sarah laughed within herself, saying, After I am waxed old shall I have pleasure, my lord being old also? 13 And the LORD said to Abraham, Why did Sarah laugh, saying, Shall I of a surety bear a child, which am old? 14 Is any thing too hard for the LORD? At the time appointed I will return to you, according to the time of life, and Sarah shall have a son. 15 Then Sarah denied, saying, I laughed not; for she was afraid. And he said, No; but you did laugh. 16 And the men rose up from there, and looked toward Sodom: and Abraham went with them to bring them on the way. 17 And the LORD said, Shall I hide from Abraham that thing which I do; 18 Seeing that Abraham shall surely become a great and mighty nation, and all the nations of the earth shall be blessed in him? 19 For I know him, that he will command his children and his household after him, and they shall keep the way of the LORD, to do justice and judgment; that the LORD may bring on Abraham that which he has spoken of him. 20 And the LORD said, Because the cry of Sodom and Gomorrah is great, and because their sin is very grievous; 21 I will go down now, and see whether they have done altogether according to the cry of it, which is come to me; and if not, I will know. 22 And the men turned their faces from there, and went toward Sodom: but Abraham stood yet before the LORD. 23 And Abraham drew near, and said, Will you also destroy the righteous with the wicked? 24 Peradventure there be fifty righteous within the city: will you also destroy and not spare the place for the fifty righteous that are therein? 25 That be far from you to do after this manner, to slay the righteous with the wicked: and that the righteous should be as the wicked, that be far from you: Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right? 26 And the LORD said, If I find in Sodom fifty righteous within the city, then I will spare all the place for their sakes. 27 And Abraham answered and said, Behold now, I have taken on me to speak to the LORD, which am but dust and ashes: 28 Peradventure there shall lack five of the fifty righteous: will you destroy all the city for lack of five? And he said, If I find there forty and five, I will not destroy it. 29 And he spoke to him yet again, and said, Peradventure there shall be forty found there. And he said, I will not do it for forty’s sake. 30 And he said to him, Oh let not the LORD be angry, and I will speak: Peradventure there shall thirty be found there. And he said, I will not do it, if I find thirty there. 31 And he said, Behold now, I have taken on me to speak to the LORD: Peradventure there shall be twenty found there. And he said, I will not destroy it for twenty’s sake. 32 And he said, Oh let not the LORD be angry, and I will speak yet but this once: Peradventure ten shall be found there. And he said, I will not destroy it for ten’s sake. 33 And the LORD went his way, as soon as he had left communing with Abraham: and Abraham returned to his place.
American King James Version×
; Genesis 32:24-30 Genesis 32:24-30 24 And Jacob was left alone; and there wrestled a man with him until the breaking of the day. 25 And when he saw that he prevailed not against him, he touched the hollow of his thigh; and the hollow of Jacob’s thigh was out of joint, as he wrestled with him. 26 And he said, Let me go, for the day breaks. And he said, I will not let you go, except you bless me. 27 And he said to him, What is your name? And he said, Jacob. 28 And he said, Your name shall be called no more Jacob, but Israel: for as a prince have you power with God and with men, and have prevailed. 29 And Jacob asked him, and said, Tell me, I pray you, your name. And he said, Why is it that you do ask after my name? And he blessed him there. 30 And Jacob called the name of the place Peniel: for I have seen God face to face, and my life is preserved.
American King James Version×
; Exodus 24:9-10 Exodus 24:9-10 9 Then went up Moses, and Aaron, Nadab, and Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel: 10 And they saw the God of Israel: and there was under his feet as it were a paved work of a sapphire stone, and as it were the body of heaven in his clearness.
American King James Version×
; Joshua 5:13-15 Joshua 5:13-15 13 And it came to pass, when Joshua was by Jericho, that he lifted up his eyes and looked, and, behold, there stood a man over against him with his sword drawn in his hand: and Joshua went to him, and said to him, Are you for us, or for our adversaries? 14 And he said, No; but as captain of the host of the LORD am I now come. And Joshua fell on his face to the earth, and did worship, and said to him, What said my Lord to his servant? 15 And the captain of the LORD’s host said to Joshua, Loose your shoe from off your foot; for the place where on you stand is holy. And Joshua did so.
American King James Version×
). In these manifestations, though, God did not reveal His full, shining glory because the intensity would have been unbearable. As God told Moses, “You cannot see My face; for no man shall see Me and live” (Exodus 33:20 Exodus 33:20And he said, You can not see my face: for there shall no man see me, and live.
American King James Version×
). Yet Moses, shielded by God’s power, was allowed to see God’s radiant form from the back (Exodus 33:23 Exodus 33:23And I will take away my hand, and you shall see my back parts: but my face shall not be seen.
American King James Version×
).

A few supernatural visions in Scripture do give us glimpses into the awesome appearance of God in His supreme splendor. The prophet Ezekiel recorded what he saw:

“There was a form with the appearance of a human on the throne high above. From what seemed to be His waist up, I saw a gleam like amber, with what looked like fire enclosing it all around. From what seemed to be His waist down, I also saw what looked like fire. There was a brilliant light all around Him. The appearance of the brilliant light all around was like that of a rainbow in a cloud on a rainy day. This was the appearance of the form of the Lord’s glory” (Ezekiel 1:26-28 Ezekiel 1:26-28 26 And above the firmament that was over their heads was the likeness of a throne, as the appearance of a sapphire stone: and on the likeness of the throne was the likeness as the appearance of a man above on it. 27 And I saw as the color of amber, as the appearance of fire round about within it, from the appearance of his loins even upward, and from the appearance of his loins even downward, I saw as it were the appearance of fire, and it had brightness round about. 28 As the appearance of the bow that is in the cloud in the day of rain, so was the appearance of the brightness round about. This was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the LORD. And when I saw it, I fell on my face, and I heard a voice of one that spoke.
American King James Version×
, Holman Christian Standard Bible).

The Old Testament appearances of God were not of God the Father, since John 1:18 John 1:18No man has seen God at any time, the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he has declared him.
American King James Version×
says of Him, “No one has seen God at any time” and Jesus said, “You have neither heard His voice at any time, nor seen His form” (John 5:37 John 5:37And the Father himself, which has sent me, has borne witness of me. You have neither heard his voice at any time, nor seen his shape.
American King James Version×
). Rather, these were appearances of Jesus Christ before His human life. Again, though, the Father and Christ share the same image and likeness.

In the New Testament book of Revelation, the apostle John saw the glorified Jesus Christ as “someone ‘like a son of man,’ dressed in a robe reaching down to his feet and with a golden sash around his chest. His head and hair were white like wool, as white as snow, and his eyes were like blazing fire. His feet were like bronze glowing in a furnace, and his voice was like the sound of rushing waters … His face was like the sun shining in all its brilliance” (Revelation 1:13-16 Revelation 1:13-16 13 And in the middle of the seven candlesticks one like to the Son of man, clothed with a garment down to the foot, and girt about the breasts with a golden girdle. 14 His head and his hairs were white like wool, as white as snow; and his eyes were as a flame of fire; 15 And his feet like to fine brass, as if they burned in a furnace; and his voice as the sound of many waters. 16 And he had in his right hand seven stars: and out of his mouth went a sharp two edged sword: and his countenance was as the sun shines in his strength.
American King James Version×
, New International Version).

This is a limited description of the likeness of God that human beings will also have in full when they are glorified at the resurrection to eternal life—when “those who are wise shall shine like the brightness of the sky, and those who lead many to righteousness, like the stars forever and ever” (Daniel 12:2-3 Daniel 12:2-3 2 And many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt. 3 And they that be wise shall shine as the brightness of the firmament; and they that turn many to righteousness as the stars for ever and ever.
American King James Version×
, New Revised Standard Version). Then, fully in God’s likeness, we will be able to fulfill our awesome responsibility of exercising dominion over—of assisting Him in managing—the vastness of His creation. This is the future God has planned for you, your destiny, if you embrace it fully with an obedient heart and remain a dedicated and faithful follower of God and His teachings as revealed in the Holy Scriptures!