The Bible reveals who God is and how He related to people. There are a lot of Scriptures that describe what God is like, His character. But there are also a few places in the Bible that have a description of God’s actual appearance. And these descriptions are quite similar throughout the Bible.
What does God look like? There are several people in the Bible who saw God and lived to tell about it. They describe God’s appearance as a brilliant light and a consuming fire. They also describe the details around His throne. All this reveals who God is and how He relates to people.
The Bible describes God’s appearance as a brilliant light because there is no darkness in Him at all (1 John 1:5). This describes God’s beauty, holiness, and purity. God is completely good and pure in His dealings with mankind.
This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all.1 John 1:5 (ESV)
God’s appearance is also described as fire because of His fiery desire and burning passion (Heb. 12:29). God is not an emotionless being or an impersonal spirit. The consuming fire speaks of His passion for His people and His fiery zeal for justice.
For our God is a consuming fire.Heb. 12:29 (ESV)
People who saw God also describe His throne. God is the creator and ruler over everything.
People also mention the rainbow that surrounds God’s throne. The rainbow speaks of God’s mercy and faithfulness. This is a reassurance that all God’s dealings with mankind are surrounded by His mercy.
There are other descriptions of God in the Bible, but these are the most common and significant ones. When we put all these pieces together, we get a stunning picture of who God is.
It’s important to note that God is all these, not just one. He is light, but He is also a consuming fire. He has a deep desire and love for His people, but this also means that He will remove all that gets in the way of that love. He will also make a way for people to come to Him and He is patient in all His ways.
How is God described in the Bible?
God is beautiful, pure, and good. He is also full of desire and passion for His people. This passion means that He will remove anything that hinders love. God sits on a throne that is above every other throne but He still deals with mankind in mercy and compassion.
What does this mean for you? God reveals these things about Himself in the Bible throughout human history so you can know how He feels about you and what He has done for a hurting and broken world.
The descriptions of God’s appearance point us to who He is and His character. These insights into what God looks like is not just for trivia, but to strengthen God’s people through every struggle that they face.
The descriptions above are from encounters with God over a period of about 1,500 years, from Moses to the Apostle John. Others, like Ezekiel, Daniel, and Isaiah also saw God and their descriptions are quite similar. Let’s look at some of these God-encounters in more detail and we’ll also look at some of the other Bible verses describing God.
The picture that the Bible paints really brings out the beauty and majesty of God. We’ll start with the encounter John records in the book of Revelation. John was the last person in the Bible to see God. And he gives the fullest description of God.
John shares what God looks like in revelation to encourage people who are being persecuted for their faith. You are meant to live in that reality of God right now. The Bible explains God’s appearance so that as you gaze on God’s beauty and majesty, you’ll be strengthened and encouraged in your faith.
What Does God Look Like in Revelation?
John, a disciple of Jesus Christ, had an encounter with God that is recorded in the book of Revelation. He was imprisoned on the Island of Patmos for his faith. Revelation is the last book of the Bible and a fitting conclusion and a summary of the Bible. John also records a physical description of God in Revelation.
The book of Revelation shows the leadership of Jesus at the end of this age. God’s physical description fits in well with how He relates to the world. I’ll explain this in more detail after we look at God’s appearance.
First, let’s look at the text and then we’ll look at some of the descriptions in more detail.
At once I was in the Spirit, and behold, a throne stood in heaven, with one seated on the throne. And he who sat there had the appearance of jasper and carnelian, and around the throne was a rainbow that had the appearance of an emerald. Around the throne were twenty-four thrones, and seated on the thrones were twenty-four elders, clothed in white garments, with golden crowns on their heads. From the throne came flashes of lightning, and rumblings and peals of thunder, and before the throne were burning seven torches of fire, which are the seven spirits of God, and before the throne there was as it were a sea of glass, like crystal.Rev. 4:2-6 (ESV)
God is Light
What is God’s appearance like? John describes God’s appearance as jasper, a precious stone (Rev. 4:3).
Jasper is a stone, like a diamond, that shines brightly when light goes through it. John is highlighting the radiance and clarity of God’s appearance. It speaks of God’s dazzling purity. There’s no darkness in Him at all. Rev. 21:11 describes jasper as a precious stone that is as clear as crystal.
Having the glory of God, its radiance like a most rare jewel, like a jasper, clear as crystal.Rev. 21:11 (ESV)
John also describes in another book of the Bible that God is light.
This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all.1 John 1:5 (ESV)
Those who encounter God often experience the light that surrounds Him (Dan. 10; Eze. 10:4; Rev. 4). Paul explains that God dwells in unapproachable light (1 Tim. 6:16). Psalm 104:2 describes God as having light as a garment that surrounds Him. He is crystal clear and brilliant in His purity and He wraps Himself with light.
The first act of God as Creator was to call light into being and separate it from the darkness. It reflects who He is.
Then God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light. And God saw the light, that it was good; and God divided the light from the darkness.Gen. 1:3-4 (ESV)
Why Does It Matter That God Is Light?
God is light and He is surrounded by light. This speaks of His beauty, holiness, and purity. God is good and He related to mankind in His goodness and purity. There is not even a hint of evil or wickedness in Him.
- God is light, so you can know that every good and perfect gift comes from Him.
James describes God as the Father of lights (James. 1:17). Because God is the Father of lights, He is pure and constant in His goodness and purity. He is not 99.99% pure. There is no evil in Him at all.
Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.James 1:17 (ESV)
- God wants you to live in His light. God relates to us in the manifestation of His light. The greatest blessing is to have the light from God’s face shine on you. This is part of the blessing that Aaron the priest would pray over the people of Israel in the Old Testament.
The LORD make His face shine upon you, And be gracious to you.Numbers 6:25
- In the age to come, we will live in the light of God (Rev. 22:5; 21:23). The book of Revelation ends with God’s people living in His light. There is no night there and there’s no need for a light source like the sun because God Himself is their light.
God Is a Consuming Fire
John describes God’s appearance as sardius (Rev. 4:3), deep red . Carnelian is the modern term. It’s a stone with a deep red color. Some also say that it could be like a ruby.
This speaks of God’s fiery desire and burning passion. The Bible talks about the zeal of God, His great energy and enthusiasm. God has a great desire for His people.
This also speaks of God’s zeal for justice. There is zeal to remove all that is not holy.
John sees the God of sardius-like passion upon His throne. One of the first direct descriptions of God in the Bible is that He is a consuming fire. This means that He is calling for absolute loyalty to Him.
For the Lord your God is a consuming fire, a jealous God.Deut. 4:24 (ESV)
God had just delivered the people of Israel out of Egypt where they were oppressed as slaves. God tells them that He wants them to be His people. He wants all the nations to be blessed. He calls His people to live in righteousness and justice.
Being jealous has a negative side to it when it’s fleshly, but when it’s applied to God, it speaks of His zeal, fervor, and passion.
Not only does God’s appearance resemble light and fire, holy fire surrounds His throne. There are also seven lamps of fire and seraphim (spiritual/angelic beings whose names literally mean burning ones) burn before it. There is also a sea of glass which is ablaze before the throne of God.
Whenever people encounter God’s glory in the Bible, they also see the manifestations of fire: clouds, lightnings, thunderings. Moses saw God on Mt. Horeb and saw His glory in the burning bush (Exo. 3:2, 6). Moses learned that God is holy, separate. Isaiah saw Seraphim, the burning ones, that worship around the throne of God (Isa. 6:2). Daniel saw the throne of God a fiery flame (Dan. 7:9).
Why does it matter that God has sadius-like passion and zeal? God is not only light, purity, and goodness. He is focused on the ones that He loves and this zeal desires exclusivity in the relationship.
Jesus said that the first and greatest commandment is to “love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind (Matt. 22:37).
Desire implies want, but not lack. Jesus lacks nothing but still wants us. The jealousy of God is essential to His moral character. It causes worship and confidence in His people, and fear in all who come against that fiery love (Heb. 12:28-29).
God Is on a Throne Surrounded by a Rainbow
People who saw God in the Bible also describe His throne and the rainbow that surrounds it.
The throne represents God’s rule and reign. We have rulers and governors over nations and regions. There is a throne that is high above every throne. This throne is completely pure and just. There’s no wickedness or injustice with God, the Judge upon His throne.
Ezekiel saw the same things that John later saw in Revelation. He saw God, the light all around Him and the sea of glass beneath the throne. Ezekiel also saw the throne and the rainbow around it (Eze. 1:26-28; 1:22).
Isaiah and Daniel also saw God’s throne, although they don’t mention the rainbow around the throne (Isa. 6:1-8; Dan. 7:9-10). Isaiah also mentions the seraphim, the burning-ones that John later saw.
What’s the importance of what all these people saw? First of all, there is a throne. There is one who sits upon it. On the throne, there is a King and He is also the Judge. Life is different when this is true.
The throne shows that God’s throne and His Kingdom are above every other throne and government. He is patient so that people will have time to turn to Him. But ultimately, God will bring justice on the earth. He has to punish the evil that is on the earth, otherwise, He would not be a just judge. His purity and justice require it.
The good news is that there is a rainbow around His throne. All of His dealings with mankind is tempered by His mercy. The rainbow speaks of God’s mercy, patience, and faithfulness. This is great news because otherwise, no one would be in His Kingdom.
Where else did a rainbow appear in the Bible? After God sent the flood in Noah’s time, God gives the rainbow as a sign of His ongoing mercy and patience from that point on (Gen. 9:12-16).
What this means is that God is pure and just, but He relates to you in His mercy. Everyone has turned away from God’s design and pursued life apart from God. But God makes a way out and gives people time to turn to Him.
The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.2 Pet. 3:9 (ESV)
God’s justice will catch up with the earth, but He is patient and merciful to make a way out and gives people time to turn to Him.
Jesus Is the Fullness of the Glory of God
Looking at what the Bible says about God’s appearance wouldn’t be complete without looking at Jesus Christ, the Son of God.
John describes Jesus as the light that has come into the world (John 1:4-5). There was a time when Jesus revealed His glory to His disciples and they saw His face shining like the sun (Matt. 17:1-2). And Jesus says in John 8:12 (ESV): “I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life.”
Colossians 2:9 (ESV) explains that in Jesus, the “whole fullness of deity dwells bodily.”
This means that when people saw Jesus, they saw God (John 14:9). That’s one of the reasons Jesus came to earth, to reveal God’s true nature to mankind. People had wrong ideas and religions about what God is like. Jesus removes the blinders.
One amazing thing is that we are created in God’s image (Gen. 1:27). God created you to look like Him and not like any other animal or creature. God became a man and dwelt among us (John 1:14).
And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.John 1:14 (ESV)
When you look at Jesus, you can see the love of God, His justice and His mercy. The way Jesus, the Son of God, relates to people in the Bible is how God relates to you. Jesus laid down His life on the cross to pay the penalty of our sin. The cross is where love and justice meet. God’s justice is satisfied through Christ’s death and His love is extended to you.
Jesus is fierce in His judgment against religious people who hinder others from coming to God. He goes into the temple in Jerusalem and flips over all their tables where people were trying to make money in the house of prayer (Matt. 21:13). But Jesus is tender-hearted and gentle with the hurting and broken.
Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.Matt. 11:28-30 (ESV)
We Will See God’s Face
Some people might wonder whether it’s even necessary or proper for people to be curious about what God looks like. Shouldn’t it be enough that you believe in Him?
One thing to note about studying God’s appearance is that people can’t see the fullness of God’s glory yet. It would be too much in this life (Exo. 33:20).
You can’t stare at the sun directly for long without damaging your eyes. If you see the fullness of the sun, you might never see anything else again! And the sun is millions of miles away. With God, we’re not just talking about physical intensity, but One who is perfect and holy in being.
Although you can’t see Him fully, the Bible repeatedly reveals different aspects of what God looks like. God reveals Himself. And what He does is meant to bless you.
Why does the Bible show how God looks? So that you will be fascinated in your spirit and heart (Psa. 27:4). Also to strengthen and sustain you to endure through hardships and difficulties.
God does the same for you. He reveals His beauty and majesty to you so you can trust Him, know that He is good, and His justice will triumph. The descriptions of God’s appearance from the Bible is meant to produce something in you. It releases a spirit of wisdom (Eph. 1:17-21) to know God so that your love and loyalty will be stirred up.
Right now, you might only see Him dimly (1 Cor. 13:12) but Revelation 22:4 says that you will ultimately get to see the face of God. Right now, you might not know the shape of His face or how tall He looks. But, you can know things about Him that are real and significant.
The human heart longs to be fascinated. You were created by God to draw near to Him and reflect His glory in your life (2 Cor. 3:18). Every other craving in life will leave you empty until they are satisfied in God.
And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.John 17:3 (ESV)
Does your view of God give you strength to endure and press in to know this beautiful God? That requires a higher vision. The knowledge of God ruins us for status quo Christanity. You cannot stop at anything less than the knowledge of this living God.
This has just been an introduction to the beauty and majesty of God’s appearance in the Bible. I hope it’ll encourage you to press in to know God more. Not just as a curiosity, but as something that is meant and given by God in the Bible to exhilarate your spirit.
One thing have I asked of the Lord,Psalm 27:4 (ESV)
that will I seek after:
that I may dwell in the house of the Lord
all the days of my life,
to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord
and to inquire in his temple.
“What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us.”A. W. Tozer (The Knowledge of the Holy)
Also, you might be interested in this article where I explore what the Bible says about heaven and uncover the 5 most commonly held myths and misconceptions: 5 Surprising Truths About Heaven in the Bible: What Is Heaven Like? [link opens in a new window]
And lastly, I wrote an article about 11 Ways to Study the Bible [link opens in a new window]. I want to encourage you to take one of those methods and go deeper in your pursuit of God through His Word.
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