Thank you, my dear friend, for this great question! The short answer is that when one sees Christ, one has seen God. I believe that to fully expand on this short response, we must first understand the concept of the Trinity. As you know, there is One God, but the Godhead is composed of three separate persons – the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.  These separate persons of the Godhead are co-equal, all possessing all the attributes of God. It is God the Father whom men may not look upon because He dwells in unapproachable light. In the verse that I believe you may be referencing, John 1:18, we read that: “No man hath seen God at any time, the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, He hath declared Him”. God is Spirit, and thus invisible to man (John 4:24); and as we see in John 1:18, Christ has declared Him.  All we know about the Father, we see manifest in the Son, who is both true God and true Man, Emmanuel, “God with us.” In John 10:30, the Lord Jesus said, “I and the Father are One.”  Thus, to look upon Jesus is to see God. Furthermore, we read in Hebrews 1:3, regarding the Lord Jesus being true God, and a full representation of the Father to men: ”Who being the brightness of His glory, and the express image of His person, and upholding all things by the word of His power, when He had by Himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high…”.

Now, as you mentioned, it is true that man cannot look upon God the Father and live. So when we read in Exodus 33:18 that Moses requested to see God’s glory, God responded in verses 20-23: “And He said, Thou canst not see My face: for there shall no man see Me, and live…And it shall come to pass, while My glory passeth by, that I will put thee in a cleft of the rock, and will cover thee with My hand while I pass by: And I will take away Mine hand, and thou shalt see My back parts: but My face shall not be seen”. In this case, God shielded Moses’ eyes from a direct view of His glory by hiding him in a cleft of a rock and covering him with His hand. In this way, Moses caught a glimpse of God’s glory, though he was quite sheltered, if you will, from the full impact.

Now, there are several places in the Old Testament where God reveals Himself to men, and I’ll cite two of these as examples, though there are many others. You’ll find that when God reveals Himself to man in the Scriptures, He presents Himself in a form that man can survive, such as an angel, or a man (pre-incarnate Christ Himself), or even just a voice as out of the burning bush. My first example is found in

Isaiah 6:1-5 where we read: “In the year that king Uzziah died I saw also the LORD sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up, and his train filled the temple…Then said I, Woe is me! for I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips: for mine eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts”. Isaiah was upset when he beheld this glorious vision, because he actually felt that he was viewing the very face of God the Father, and therefore would die. But now, if you look at John 12:37-41, it seems very clear that what Isaiah saw was in fact the pre-incarnate Christ, Jesus, who is God and who was ever with the Father.  In other words, the King that Isaiah saw with his eyes was in fact the Lord Jesus Christ. John 12:38-41 says, “That the saying of Esaias the prophet might be fulfilled, which he spake, Lord, who hath believed our report? and to whom hath the arm of the Lord been revealed? (Note: This portion is Isaiah 53 and clearly refers to Christ Himself. (Therefore they could not believe, because that Esaias said again, He hath blinded their eyes, and hardened their heart; that they should not see with their eyes, nor understand with their heart, and be converted, and I should heal them. These things said Esaias, when he saw His glory, and spake of Him,”

My other example is from Genesis 28:12-15 where we read, “And he dreamed, and behold a ladder set up on the earth, and the top of it reached to heaven: and behold the angels of God ascending and descending on it.  And, behold, the LORD stood above it, and said, I am the LORD God of Abraham thy father, and the God of Isaac…”. Now, check out John 1:51, where the Lord Jesus speaks to Nathanael,  “And he saith unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Hereafter ye shall see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of man”.

Thus, given the above, what can we say about Stephen’s vision in Acts 7:55-56 (NKJV), “But he, being full of the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God, and said, “Look! I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God,”? What I believe that Stephen saw was the risen and glorified Christ, true man and true God, standing in his brilliant glory, at the Throne of the Majesty on high. Stephen would not be able to look directly at the face of God the Father, as He is veiled from the eyes of man by glory. But man can see God’s Son, Emmanuel, who is true God as well as true man in the glory. In fact, we read in Revelation 22:4 that the saved, when in heaven, “shall see His face…”.

May the Lord bless His Word to your heart! (SF)  (495.6)