No man has seen God at any time (John 1:18; 1 John 4:12). However, Moses said the Lord spoke to him “face to face, as a man speaks to his friend” (Ex. 33:11). Please explain.
Words and phrases are used in different senses in Scripture. Jesus “was God” (John 1:1), yet also “became flesh and dwelt among us” (v. 14). Man saw God when they saw Jesus…but not in God’s true spiritual image because Jesus took on the “likeness of man” (John 4:24; Phil. 2:6-7). When Moses saw God “face to face,” he was seeing only a manifestation of God and only part of his glory (Ex. 33:18-12).
The terms “face” and “face to face” are used in different senses in Scripture. God spoke to Moses “face to face” (Ex. 33:11)…but nine verses later says, “You cannot see my face, for no man shall see me and live.” This not a contradiction because Numbers 12:6-8 shows us the difference, namely, that “face to face” means to speak “plainly,” directly, “not in riddles” (v. 8). “Face to face” is a figure of speech, like “side by side” or “eye to eye.”