The Image of God

The Bible makes the startling claim in Genesis 1: 26 and 27 (and Genesis 9: 6) that human beings were created in the “image of God.” That’s what the reference says, but what does it mean to be created in God’s image? By basic definition “image” means a “representation of something.” We know from many passages in the Bible that God is invisible. How can humans be a representation of some One Who is invisible?

To have been created in God’s image means that human beings are visible representations of the invisible God. That’s what the Bible means when it states that we human beings have been created in the image of God. Are there other beings on earth or in the universe who have been created in the image of God, too? The Bible does not answer that question, but I don’t feel we can rule out such a possibility. Only time to come and our future arrival in the state of being called eternity can answer that question.

If the above statement that human beings are visible representations of the invisible God is true, would you agree that something has happened to “cloud,” distort, or mar God’s image in humankind? I don’t know about you, but I don’t feel I’m a very distinct, unobscured visible image of the invisible God. I don’t feel I represent God very clearly; perhaps you feel you do, but I don’t feel that I do. Something has marred God’s image in me. His image in me is fuzzy, dim, blemished, obscure, unclear, cloudy, marred, and unfocused.

God’s Image In Us Has Been Marred

Because I’ve covered the matter in other teachings on this web site, I won’t go into any detail in this teaching about the following matter: sin has marred God’s image in all human beings. Yes, sin has blemished God’s image in us; sin has clouded God’s image in us. Sin has caused each of us to be an unclear, visible representation of the invisible God.  But that’s not the end of the story. God is in the process of restoring his image in every human being so it is once again clear, focused, unmarred, and uncloudy. There will come a time when we will once again be totally clear, visible representations of the invisible God.

What is that process of restoration like? How is it occurring? Let’s begin by stating that Jesus, God the Son, is the exact, clear, unclouded, perfect visible image of the invisible God. Let’s look at some biblical references that teach that truth.  First, in John 14: 9, Jesus stated that anyone who had seen Him had seen the Father. That same thought is carried in John 12: 45. Yes, Jesus is the clear, exact image of the invisible God. Jesus is exactly what God “looks” like in human flesh, for Jesus was God in human flesh. The great God Who is “larger” than all of his creation “downsized” Himself and revealed Himself through Jesus, who remained God while being completely human. How did God do that? I haven’t a clue. But the Bible is clear that the One True and Living God came “down” and lived among us for 33 years as a genuine human being. Do I understand that? No. But I believe it to be fact.

That same teaching is taught and amplified in 2 Corinthians 4: 4, Colossians 1: 15, and Hebrews 1: 3. Those references state clearly that Jesus is the express, visible image of the invisible God, the brightness of God’s glory. If we want to “see” God, He is seen with absolute clarity in Jesus, God the Son, God in human flesh. The Bible teaches elsewhere that no human can ever “see” God and live, but we can see the God-man, Jesus, Who is the specific image of Almighty God.

 Among many other things that Jesus is and does for us, He is the only clear, unclouded visible representation of the invisible God. We can look at Jesus and see what we will be like when God finishes restoring us into his image. 1 John 3: 2 and 3 speaks to that matter; there will come a time when we will be “like” Jesus—and He is “like” God.  I hasten to caution you, however, don’t ever fall into the New Age, secular humanist, or eastern religious mysticism “trap” that teaches we are gods or will become gods! No, we will never be gods, but we will be like Jesus in many aspects and in many respects—”godlike,” so to speak. God will always and ever be the one true and living God, Creator God, and we will always remain part of his creation.

Romans 8: 29 teaches us that God has purposed ahead of time that we will be “conformed to the image of his Son, Jesus.” It’s a “done deal”; it will happen. There will come a time when we will be in the image of Jesus Who is the express image of God. God is inexorably re-shaping, re-conforming, and re-storing us into the image of Jesus. That process is taking place in the “now” of each of our lives, but it will also continue to take place in the future until the process is complete.  And, of course, that inexorable process was implemented and is made possible by the virgin birth, sinless life, cruel death, resurrection of Jesus, and his return to heaven where He is now vitally engaged in that process in his unbodied Person of Holy Spirit whom God has dispatched here to planet earth to fully reside in each Jesus-believer.

Jesus’ “Unbodied Other Self”

Holy Spirit (Jesus in his “unbodied” Spirit form) Who resides permanently within us is in the lifelong process of helping transform and restore us back into God’s clear image in us. That process of transformation is encapsulated and summarized in Romans 12: 1 and 2. By our minds being renewed, we are slowly, inexorably being transformed back into the clear image of God. I teach about that process in much more detail in another teaching on this web site titled: Whole In One.

Your part and my part in that process is to cooperate with Holy Spirit as He empowers us (from within where He lives in our spirits) to change our minds moment by moment, hour by hour, day by day, week by week, month by month, year after year—until the restoration process is completed.

My next statement is controversial, but I believe it to be true: Changing my mind (putting on the mind of Jesus) year after year—and on into Jesus’ Kingdom and then into the eternal state of the freshly restored universe and earth—is how I will ultimately be fully restored into God’s image in Jesus. It is a lifelong process—and beyond.

Just as we humans fully bear the image of Adam, our primal forefather, we will also fully bear the image of Jesus, the Last Adam, the heavenly Man, the New Man. (1 Corinthians 15: 49). Let us replace our fear with faith and our resistance with compliance as we cooperate with God the Holy Spirit in making all the changes necessary to finally transform us and conform us into the image of that heavenly Man.

In some ways, being transformed into Jesus’ image is like stepping before our bathroom mirror each morning, looking at ourselves, and asking ourselves these types of questions: “How is the process coming along? How are Holy Spirit and I doing this morning? Am I transformed a little more into Jesus’ image this morning than I was yesterday morning? What do I need to do today to cooperate with Holy Spirit in the process of my transformation? Do I “look” a little more like Jesus this morning than I did yesterday morning?” That scenario is hinted at in 2 Corinthians 3: 18.

Colossians 3: 9 and 10 inform us a little about that lifelong process of transforming us into the image of Jesus. There it speaks of a process of “putting off the old nature” and “putting on the new nature”—being renewed in Jesus’ image.  God will restore you . . . God will restore me . . . fully into his image as seen in Jesus! It may take our lifetimes and beyond, but it will happen. We will once again be created in the image of God. We will once again be perfected, visible representations of the invisible God!

The Bible teaches that God “lives” in such bright, intense, radiant light that if someone were to actually “see” Him, they would immediately be incinerated. No human can look at God (or be in God’s immediate Presence, so to speak) and live. Remember the incident where Moses asked to see God’s “face.” God told Moses to hide in the fissure of a rock and God would pass by, but Moses was permitted to see only God’s “divine afterglow” as He passed by. If he had “seen” God in all his glory, it would have killed him instantly. (Exodus 33: 18 – 23)

Another one of my teachings titled “Let There Be Light,” addresses the issue of the process God is using to transform us—metamorphosize us—back into his clear, unblemished image.  No human will ever be permitted to “see” God in all his ineffable brightness and fulness. If we were allowed to, we would instantly be incinerated. I have a very vivid imagination, but it’s difficult for me to write what I “see” in my imagination. Nevertheless, let me try to share with you a biblically based scenario I “see” in my creative imagination . . .

                   “The long ages and eons of time have ended. Jesus’ Kingdom has been fully consummated. God has freshly restored the entire universe and the earth. His throne is eternally established in the New Jerusalem. As a member of the Royal Household—a king and a priest unto our God—I am summoned to God’s throne room (as is every other human in an absolutely simultaneous scenario, but an individual scenario for each of us). With humility in God’s full presence, I stride through the golden doors and see God on his throne and Jesus seated at his right hand. They are “high and lifted up.” Around them, innumerable angels are crying, ‘Holy, Holy, Holy is the God of hosts; the universe and earth are full of his glory!’

           As I approach nearer the Throne, I humble myself, fall to my knees, and cry out: ‘Jesus, I confess You as my Lord and Master to the glory of God the Father, now and throughout the eternal Realms where You rule and reign absolutely supreme. You have given me a crown of righteousness and LIFE; I cast my crown at your feet in acknowledgement of your absolute sovereignty over all creation. I proclaim You are my All in all!’

           Jesus stands to his feet, reaches for my hand, and draws me to stand to my feet. To my wonderment, He exclaims to me: ‘Bill, you are now fully restored and re-created into the image of God as seen in Me. Go, and be the visible representation of the invisible God throughout the entirety of our vast, limitless creation. I commission you as one of our emissaries and ambassadors to the entire universe; all created beings will see Us visibly represented in you!’

          Holy Spirit—and an innumerable company of fully redeemed ones who are fully restored into God’s image—call to a waiting universe: ‘Come, anyone who is listening. Come, anyone who is thirsty. Come, drink from the river of the Water of Life. Come, be healed by the Tree of Life on each side of that river. Be fully restored. Come!'”

Bill Boylan
Revised and Updated February 2023

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