No one has seen God at any time. The only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has declared Him (John 1:18).
Recently I was teaching a class on soteriology online and a thought hit me. Is it possible that the Lord Jesus Christ appeared to at least one person on earth in every generation from Adam until the last minor prophet (circa 400 BC)?
John tells us that every appearance of God in bodily form is the Lord Jesus Christ. That is, every theophany is a Christophany.
There are scores of recorded incidents in the OT of the Lord Jesus meeting with people face to face, starting in the Garden of Eden.
Adam and Eve met with Him daily until they sinned: “And they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God among the trees of the garden” (Gen 3:8).
That was around 4,200 BC, assuming a young earth creation.
Before Cain killed Abel, the Lord met with him and counseled him to get his anger in check (Gen 4:6-7). After he killed Abel, the Lord met with him again (Gen 4:9-15).
Around 2,400 BC, the Lord Jesus met with Noah and told him that he was going to destroy the earth and commanded him to build a huge ark.
We don’t know the exact date of Job, but most think he lived just before Abraham, around 2,100 BC. He tells us in his book that he met with the Lord (Job 38:1–42:8). Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar also saw and heard Him (Job 42:7-8).
Abraham (ca. 2,000 BC) met the Lord on many occasions (Genesis 12, 14, 17, 18). When he offered up Isaac, both he and his son saw the preincarnate Lord Jesus Christ (Gen 22:11-18).
Hagar, Abraham’s Egyptian concubine, met the Lord Jesus as well (Gen 16:7-13; 21:17ff.).
The Lord even appeared to King Abimelech, a Philistine ruler (Gen 20:3-7), again around 2,000 BC.
Rebekah met with the Lord around 1,900 BC (Gen 25:23ff).
Her son, Jacob, met with the Lord on multiple occasions, including when he saw a ladder coming down from heaven to earth (Genesis 28) and when he wrestled with God at Peniel: “For I have seen God face to face, and my life is persevered” (Gen 32:30).
Around 1,400 BC, Moses met the Lord Jesus often, at the burning bush, at Mt. Sinai when the Lord Jesus wrote the ten commandments with His own finger, and many times in the Tabernacle (so much so that Moses’ face glowed every time he left his meeting with the Lord).
Also during that time Balaam and his donkey met the Lord God (Numbers 22).
Moses’ successor, Joshua, met the Lord as well (Josh 5:3-15).
During the time of the judges, Gideon met the Lord around 1,150 BC (Judges 6-7) and Manoah, Samson’s father, met the Lord Jesus around 1,000 BC (Judges 13).
Isaiah met with the Lord Jesus on many occasions (e.g., Isa 6:1-13) around 740 BC.
Between 590 and 570 BC, Ezekiel also met face to face with the Lord.
Around 570 BC, the Lord Jesus joined the three Jewish young men in the fiery furnace: “I see four men loose, walking in the midst of the fire; and they are not hurt, and the form of the fourth is like the Son of God” (Dan 3:25).
Most likely all of the minor prophets met the Lord as well, from Hosea to Malachi.
We do not know if the Lord Jesus appeared to anyone in the 400 silent years when there were no prophets in Israel. But we do know that He appeared often during the 3,800 years prior to then.i
I doubt if there was a century that went by in which the Lord did not appear to at least one person. More likely, He appeared to people in every generation up until 400 BC.
We should not think of OT people as ignorant of the Messiah. Not only did they have many prophets that told them about Him, they also had many people who met Him face to face. Surely everyone who saw the Lord told their children, their grandchildren, their great grandchildren and all of their family and friends about Him. Some of those reports found their way into Scripture. But those are surely just the tip of the iceberg.
We’ve never seen or spoken with the Lord Jesus. We don’t know anyone who has. (The reports we have are from people who lived 2,000 or more years ago.) But that was not the case prior to Jesus’ incarnation. He appeared often to many people.
Hebrews 11 is even easier to understand in light of the many appearance of the Lord Jesus. Similarly, Jesus’ remark that “Abraham rejoiced to see My day” (John 8:56) is much more understandable of light of the many times that the Lord Jesus spoke with Him directly.
Have you ever considered that it might have been easier to come to faith in Christ for everlasting life before He ascended to heaven? I’d have to say that at the very least, it was no harder then than it is now. There has always been the witness of the creation, the drawing of the Holy Spirit, the Lord Jesus’ direct intervention, and people who came to faith in Him telling others the promise of Life. And starting around 2,100 BC, God gave the written Scriptures as well.
i Of course, we do not know if He ever identified Himself as Yeshua (= Joshua). He might have done that a lot, a little, or never. But He did appear in bodily form hundreds of times and on some of those occasions He proclaimed the message of everlasting life (e.g., Gen 3:15; 15:1-6).