When you picture God in your mind, what does He look like? What is His ethnicity? What’s the color of His hair and skin? Does God even have a body in the sense that we do?
Even though we know God isn’t human, we tend to think of His appearance in human terms. After all, we were created in His image:
- “Then God said, ‘Let Us make man in Our image, after Our likeness, to rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, and over all the earth itself and every creature that crawls upon it.’
So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.” (Genesis 1:26-27)
If God is spirit, how could we be created in His image? Part of being made in His image is having authority over nature. Adam and Eve had that. Adam named all the animals. God created Adam and Eve to rule over the animals and even the earth itself. An aspect of that authority was lost when Adam and Eve sinned, and nature was cursed:
- “And to Adam He said: ‘Because you have listened to the voice of your wife and have eaten from the tree of which I commanded you not to eat, cursed is the ground because of you; through toil you will eat of it all the days of your life.
Both thorns and thistles it will yield for you, and you will eat the plants of the field. By the sweat of your brow you will eat your bread’” (Genesis 3:17-19).
We’re also made in God’s image in the sense of personhood. God isn’t a vague, impersonal power. He has emotions, a will, and a mind. Like Him, we have purpose, we have feelings, we can make plans for the future and consider our pasts and be introspective. We can speak and write using sophisticated language, use complex reasoning to solve problems and build intricate things like computers and spaceships.
But beyond all of this, even though God is spirit, the Bible also describes Him in the books of Isaiah, Ezekiel, and Revelation as having human appearance and seated on a throne. We’ll explore that a bit more later. But the Bible does speak of His head, His face, His eyes, His hands, and other parts of His body. So, in a sense, we were created in His physical image as well.
Does the Bible say what color God is?
For most of us, the image we have in our minds of what God looks like is based on Renaissance paintings, like Michelangelo’s fresco of the “Creation of Adam” on the Sistine Chapel’s ceiling. In that portrait, both God and Adam are portrayed as white men. Michelangelo painted God with white hair and skin, although the angels behind Him have more olive-colored skin. Adam is portrayed with light olive-colored skin, and slightly-wavy medium-brown hair. Basically, Michelangelo painted God and Adam to look like the men around him in Italy.
It’s highly unlikely Adam had white skin. He carried the DNA that would populate the entire human race, with its variety of skin color, hair color, hair texture, facial shape, and eye color. Adam most likely looked like a mixed-race individual – not white, black, or Asian, but somewhere in between.
- “He made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth” (Acts 17:26)
But what about God? Does the Bible say what color His skin is? Well, that would depend on being able to see God with our human eyes. Although Jesus had a physical body, the Bible says God is invisible:
- “The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation.” (Colossians 1:15)
What ethnicity is God?
God transcends ethnicity. Since He isn’t human, He isn’t a particular race.
And, for that matter, is ethnicity even a thing? Some say that the concept of race is a social construct. Since we all descended from Adam and Eve, physical differences are mostly attributable to migration, isolation, and adapting to the environment.
Adam and Eve carried within their DNA the genetic possibility for hair color ranging from black to blond, eye color ranging from brown to green, and variations in skin color, height, hair texture, and facial characteristics.
People within the same “ethnic” group can vary widely in appearance. For instance, people classified as “white” can have black, red, brown, or blond hair. They can have blue eyes, green eyes, grey eyes, or brown eyes. Their skin tone can vary from pale white with lots of freckles to light brown. Their hair can be curly or straight, and they can be very tall or quite short. So, if we use criteria like skin tone or hair color to define “race,” it all becomes quite ambiguous.
It wasn’t until the late 1700’s that people began classifying humans according to race. The Bible doesn’t really mention race; instead, it talks about nations. Back in the 1800’s, evolutionist Charles Darwin (and many others) believed people of African descent weren’t fully evolved from apes, and thus, since they weren’t quite people, it was okay to enslave them. Trying to categorize people by ethnicity and determine their worth by that criteria is ignoring everything God has to say about the inestimable worth of all people.
Describing God: What does God look like?
God took on human form when He walked this earth as Jesus. However, there were other times when God took on human form in the Old Testament. God and two angels visited Abraham looking like human men (Genesis 18). Abraham didn’t seem to realize who they were at first, but he respectfully invited them to rest while he washed their feet and prepared a meal, which they ate. Later, Abraham did realize he was walking and talking with God and interceded for the city of Sodom. However, this passage doesn’t say what God looked like other than a man.
God revealed Himself to Jacob as a man and wrestled with him at night (Genesis 32:24-30) but left Jacob as the sun rose. Jacob finally realized He was God but couldn’t really see Him in the dark. God appeared to Joshua as a warrior, and Joshua thought He was human until God introduced Himself as the Commander of the Lord’s Armies. Joshua worshiped Him, but the passage doesn’t say what God looked like (Joshua 5:13-15).
But what does God look like when He isn’t in human form? He actually has a “human appearance.” In Ezekiel 1, the prophet describes his vision:
- “Now above the expanse that was over their heads there was something resembling a throne, like lapis lazuli in appearance; and on that which resembled a throne, high up, was a figure with the appearance of a man.
Then I noticed from the appearance of His waist and upward something like gleaming metal that looked like fire all around within it, and from the appearance of His waist and downward I saw something like fire; and there was a radiance around Him. Like the appearance of the rainbow in the clouds on a rainy day, so was the appearance of the surrounding radiance. Such was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the LORD.” (Ezekiel 1:26-28)
When Moses begged God to “see His glory,” God allowed Moses to see His back, but not His face. (Exodus 33:18-33). Although God is ordinarily invisible to the human eye, when He chooses to reveal Himself, He had bodily characteristics, like a waist, a face, and a back. The Bible speaks of God’s hands and His feet.
In Revelation, John described his vision of God, similar to that of Ezekiel of a radiant Person on a throne (Revelation 4). The Bible speaks of God’s hands in Revelation 5. Isaiah 6 also describes a vision of God seated on a throne with the train of His robe filling the temple.
From these visions, we can glean that God does have a form like a person, but extremely, mind-blowingly glorified! Notice nothing is said about ethnicity in any of these visions. He’s like fire and a rainbow and glowing metal!
God is spirit
- “God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.” (John 4:24)
How can God be spirit but also have a human-like appearance on heaven’s throne?
God is not limited to a physical body like we are. He can be on His throne, high and lifted up, but at the same time be everywhere at once. He is omnipresent.
- “Where shall I go from your Spirit? Or where shall I flee from your presence? If I ascend to heaven, you are there! If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there! If I take the wings of the morning and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me” (Psalm 139:7-10).
That’s why Jesus told the Samaritan woman God was spirit in John 4:23-24. She was asking him about the proper place to worship God, and Jesus was telling her anywhere, because that’s where God is!
God is not limited to space or time.
What does the Bible say about race?
God created all races and loves all people in the world. Although God chose Abraham to be the father of a special race (the Israelites), the reason was so He could bless all races through Abraham and his descendants.
- “I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great; And you shall be a blessing . . . and in you all the families of the earth will be blessed.” (Genesis 12:2-3)
God meant the Israelite people to be a missionary nation to all people. Moses spoke about this just before the Israelites entered the promised land and how they needed to obey God’s law to be a good testimony before the other nations around them:
- “See, I have taught you statutes and ordinances just as the LORD my God has commanded me, so that you may follow them in the land that you are about to enter and possess. Observe them carefully, for this will show your wisdom and understanding in the sight of the peoples, who will hear of all these statutes and say, ‘Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people.’” (Deuteronomy 4:5-6)
When King Solomon built the first temple in Jerusalem, it was not just a temple for the Jews, but for all the people of the earth, as he acknowledged in his prayer of dedication:
- “And as for the foreigner who is not of Your people Israel but has come from a distant land because of Your great name and Your mighty hand and outstretched arm—when he comes and prays toward this temple, then may You hear from heaven, Your dwelling place, and do according to all for which the foreigner calls to You. Then all the peoples of the earth will know Your name and fear You, as do Your people Israel, and they will know that this house I have built is called by Your Name.” (2 Chronicles 6:32-33)
The early church was multi-ethnic from the very beginning, made up of Asians, Africans, and Europeans. Acts 2:9-10 speaks of people from Libya, Egypt, Arabia, Iran, Iraq, Turkey, and Rome. God sent Philip on a special mission to share the Gospel with an Ethiopian man (Acts 8). Acts 13 tells us that among the prophets and teachers in Antioch (in Syria) was “Simeon, who was called Niger” and “Lucius of Cyrene.” Niger means “black color,” so Simeon must have had dark skin. Cyrene is in Libya. Both these early church leaders were undoubtedly African.
God’s vision for all the nations was that all become one in Christ. Our identity is no longer our ethnicity or our nationality:
- “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for His possession, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of the One having called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.” (1 Peter 2:9)
John shared his vision of the future when the believers who have passed through the great tribulation are standing before God’s throne, representing all ethnicities:
- “After this I looked and saw a multitude too large to count, from every nation and tribe and people and tongue, standing before the throne and before the Lamb.” (Revelation 7:9)
Was Jesus white or black?
Neither. In His earthly body, Jesus was Asian. He lived in western Asia. His earthly mother was Mary, who descended from the royal Israelite tribe of Judah. The Israelites descended from Abraham, who was born in southern Iraq (Ur). Jesus would have looked like Middle Easterners today, such as the Arabs, Jordanians, Palestinians, Lebanese, and Iraqis. His skin would have been brown or olive-colored. He likely had curly black or dark-brown hair and brown eyes.
In his vision, John described in the book of Revelation what Jesus looks like now:
- “In the middle of the lampstands I saw one like a son of man, clothed in a robe reaching to the feet, and wrapped around the chest with a golden sash. His head and His hair were white like white wool, like snow; and His eyes were like a flame of fire. His feet were like burnished bronze when it has been heated to a glow in a furnace, and His voice was like the sound of many waters. In His right hand He held seven stars, and out of His mouth came a sharp two-edged sword; and His face was like the sun shining in its strength.” (Revelation 1:13-16)
Do you know God?
Not only is God more radiant than the sun, not only is He high and lifted up on heaven’s throne, and not only is He everywhere at once, but He wants you to know Him! He wants you to enter into a relationship with Him.
- “Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and will dine with him, and he with Me.” (Revelation 3:20)
- “that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death.” (Philippians 3:10)
Entering into relationship with God brings breathtaking privileges. He has spectacular blessings waiting to pour over you. He wants to radically change your life. Jesus left heaven’s glories and came to the earth to live as a human so He could take your sins, your judgement, and your punishment on His body. He loves you with an incomprehensible love.
When you receive Christ as your Lord and Savior, His Spirit comes to indwell you and control you (Romans 8:9, 11). The same God who is high and lifted up in glory on heaven’s throne can live inside you, giving you power over sin and to live a life of goodness and fruitfulness. His Spirit joins with your spirit to affirm that you are God’s child, and you can call Him “Abba” (Daddy). (Romans 8:15-16)
If you don’t yet have a relationship with God, now is the time to know Him!
- “If you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.” (Romans 10:10)
- “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved!” (Acts 16:31)
If you know Jesus as your Lord and Savior, remember that He is always there. He is always with you, no matter where you go and what you’re going through. You can pray to Him and worship Him as if He were right there next to you, because that’s where He is!
Remember that when you become a child of God, you enter into a new identity – into a chosen race.
- “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for His possession, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of the One having called you out of darkness into His marvelous light” (1 Peter 2:9).