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Seeing and Hearing God

In the first chapter of the Bible, God is making His creation and seven times sees that it was good. In the process God makes Adam and Eve and has a personal and intimate relationship with them. The serpent arrives on the scene and tempts Eve, she and Adam eat the fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. As you know this changed the course of history for man in ways we cannot fully understand.

Immediately after the Fall, Adam and Eve hid themselves as they knew they were naked. While hiding, God calls out to Adam saying:

“Where are you?” Adam replied, “I heard you in the garden…”

Genesis 3:9-10

Look at what happened. Before the Fall, God, Adam and Eve where in close fellowship. They saw each other, face to face. Eve even saw that the fruit was good for food. Then after the Fall, Adam heard God. Adam didn’t see God coming in the Garden, he heard Him. The change from seeing to hearing is subtle but it’s there. The irony is that the Bible says after they ate the fruit that their eyes were opened. Their eyes were opened… to see and experience sin and death. But quickly thereafter their eyes were closed to Eden and God.

Now for the following thousands of years, we as fallen humans have heard God’s voice, but we haven’t seen Him. Yes, there have been a few prophets along the way that have had heavenly visions of God on His throne, but by and large we hear God’s voice… and that is only happening when one earnestly seeks Him with their whole heart.  (Let me take a moment for a caveat and comment on something Jesus said. He said in John 14:9 that, “he who has seen Me has seen the Father.” For a brief yet monumental time in history, a select group of people saw the icon of God through His son Jesus. Jesus brought a slice of Heaven to earth by His presence, being the perfect representation of God… enough to make the claim that those who had seen Him had seen the Father.)

Scripture makes the point of hearing instead of seeing quite clear. John writes in a couple of different books that,

No one has seen God…

John 1:18, 1 John 4:12

That’s pretty clear-cut. And the well-known verse of Romans says:

So faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.

Romans 10:17

Jesus also says in John that,

My sheep hear My voice, I know them and they follow Me. 

John 10:27

Today we don’t see God… we hear from Him and of Him. That’s faith. Seeing is not believing.

Now fast forward to the book of Revelation.

In the book of Revelation, there are two times when John first gets information by hearing about something, then gets the fuller revelation by seeing it. The two things are related each time, and each time what he hears as a partial revelation is made clear by what he sees. Here’s the first one, hearing:

Then I began to weep greatly because no one was found worthy to open the book or to look into it; and one of the elders said to me, “Stop weeping; behold, the Lion that is from the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has overcome so as to open the book and its seven seals.”

Revelation 5:4-5

Now here’s seeing:

And I saw between the throne (with the four living creatures) and the elders a Lamb standing, as if slain, having seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven Spirits of God, sent out into all the earth. And He came and took the book out of the right hand of Him who sat on the throne.

Revelation 5:6-7

In these verses, John hears from an elder that the lion from the tribe of Judah, also called the root of David, can open the book. But when he sees what the elder just mentioned, he doesn’t see a powerful lion or a military commander in the lineage of David. He sees Jesus in the form of a slain yet living lamb, the One who conquered His enemies through His own death and resurrection.  

Here’s the next one, hearing:

And I heard the number of those who were sealed, one hundred and forty-four thousand sealed from every tribe of the sons of Israel…

Revelation 7:4

Now here’s seeing:

After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude which no one could count, from every nation and all tribes and peoples and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, and palm branches were in their hands.

Revelation 7:9

In these verses, John hears about the sealing of 144,000 people from the 12 tribes of Israel. But what he sees is an innumerable, or uncountable, number of people from all across the earth, standing before the Lamb, Jesus. 

In these two examples, what John hears is notably different than what he sees. He’s getting a partial understanding from God unto something bigger. Then the fuller picture of understanding is obtained when God reveals complete information through imagery. You’ll note in both examples, what John sees includes God… that is, the Lamb, Jesus.

Examine the biblical meaning of the words hearing and seeing.

  • Hearing means to perceive, to understand, to attend to something or obey.

This is why the Jewish leaders plugged their ears when Stephen was preaching in chapter seven of the book of Acts… they didn’t want to perceive the truth and attend to what he was saying, so they killed him.

  • Seeing means to discern, to know, or to experience something.

In the book of Revelation, John sees many more times than he hears, and in doing so gains great knowledge that he shares in this disclosure of truth, his revelation. John also reports that the Lamb has seven eyes (Revelation 5:6). These eyes are seeing and thus knowing, and the number seven implies complete knowing, or all knowing.

Paul says at the end of 1 Corinthians 13:

For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I shall know just as I also am known.

1 Corinthians 13:12

Seeing through glass darkly is like our discourse on hearing… there isn’t full revelation in this context. But in the end, we will see God face to face for all of eternity, experiencing and knowing Him in a restored relationship of intimate fellowship… as it was in the beginning in the garden of Eden.