The Voice of God
Forerunner, "Ready Answer," August 1999
We imagine that we would personally like to hear the powerful voice of God the Father and the mighty voice of Jesus Christ. What do they sound like? The Bible gives us an idea:
» Like the sound of many waters (Ezekiel 43:2; Revelation 1:15; 14:2; 19:6).
» Like the sound of very loud thunder (Job 40:9; Psalm 29:3; 77:18; 104:7, Revelation 14:2).
» Like the sound of harps (Isaiah 30:31-32; Revelation 14:2).
» Like the sound of trumpets (Exodus 19:16, 19; Hebrews 12:19; Revelation 1:10; 4:1).
Down through man's history, a few people have indeed heard God's voice. God spoke directly to Adam and Eve (Genesis 3:8), to Cain (Genesis 4:6), to Abraham (Genesis 12:1-3; 17:1-2), to Jacob (Genesis 28:13-15; 32:26-29), to Moses (Exodus 3:4; 19:19), to Elijah (I Kings 19:9, 11-12) and others. In almost every case, Old Testament and New, it was the voice of Jesus Christ—the Logos, the Spokesman, the Word of God—that they heard.
Almost? Were there any instances when a human being heard the voice of God the Father? Did not Jesus say, "And the Father himself, who sent Me, has testified of me. You have neither heard His voice at any time, nor seen His form" (John 5:37)?
Yes, He did. Well, then, that seems quite clear! If Jesus says no one has ever heard the voice of God the Father, I may as well close this article right here. But wait! Does this scripture really say that? Does Jesus actually mean that the Father's voice has never been heard by human ears?
We need to take a closer look at this subject of God's voice, specifically the voice of God the Father. Let us determine if the Bible really shows that no human being has ever heard the sound of the Father's voice in the past, and whether we have any promise of hearing it in the future.
Examining John 5:37
Let's consider John 5:37 a bit more carefully:
"And the Father Himself, who sent Me, has testified of me. You have neither heard His voice at any time, nor seen His form."
Who is Jesus addressing in this context? To whom does He refer as "You"? Verses 16 and 18 give the answer:
For this reason the Jews persecuted Jesus, and sought to kill Him, because He had done these things on the Sabbath. . . . Therefore the Jews sought all the more to kill Him, because He not only broke the Sabbath, but also said that God was His Father, making Himself equal with God.
Jesus is not talking to or about mankind in general. Nor is He talking to His disciples, friends and followers, though undoubtedly some of them are with Him. He is addressing a gathering of Jews, some of whom are trying to kill Him because He had called God His Father.
Throughout His discourse, Jesus is actually introducing and revealing God the Father to them. The Jews had not known God the Father previously. They and their forefathers knew Yahweh to some limited extent, but not God the Father. All of their dealings with God had been through the Logos, who became Jesus Christ. They had never seen the Father, and they had never heard His voice.
Notice that Jesus does not say, "No man has ever heard my Father's voice, nor ever will." Taking this verse at its face value, all it says is that the Jews had had no experience with the Father. If they would believe the Son's words, however, they could have a relationship with the Father (verse 38; 8:19; 14:6-7, 20-23; 16:27; 17:20-26).
Who Heard the Father's Voice?
In the three gospel accounts of the transfiguration of Jesus in Matthew 17, Mark 9, and Luke 9, Peter, James and John heard a voice say, "This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. Hear him!" (Matthew 17:5). Simple logic tells us that this was the voice of God the Father. It could not have been an angel, or the words would be a lie!
Although we can accept these gospel accounts as accurate records of what happened, Matthew, Mark and Luke were not present during the transfiguration. For a firsthand account we must look to Peter, who, along with James and John, was actually there:
For we did not follow cunningly devised fables when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of His majesty. For He received from God the Father honor and glory when such a voice came to Him from the Excellent Glory: "This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased." And we heard this voice which came from heaven when we were with Him on the holy mountain. (II Peter 1:16-18)
Although Peter wrote these words around AD 66 or 67—almost forty years after the transfiguration occurred—his excitement about the experience was not dampened at all. But what did he, James and John see, a glorified Jesus conversing with the ghosts of Moses and Elijah? No. What they saw was a vision of the future. They saw a vision of Jesus Christ in His glorified state in His Kingdom along with two of His resurrected servants, Moses and Elijah.
And what did the three amazed disciples hear? They heard the voice "from the Excellent Glory" (some translations render this phrase "the voice of majestic glory," or better, "the voice of supreme glory"). This was not the voice of an angel but that of God the Father! Was it really the Father's voice? Yes, this was the voice of supreme glory, a title that can apply only to the Sovereign God the Father. As stated before, since the voice refers to Jesus as "My Son," it must have been Jesus' heavenly Father speaking.
In Christ's Final Days
The apostle John writes of another time when human beings heard the voice of God the Father:
"Now My soul is troubled, and what shall I say? ‘Father, save Me from this hour'? But for this purpose I came to this hour. Father, glorify Your name." Then a voice came from heaven, saying, "I have both glorified it, and will glorify it again." Therefore the people who stood by and heard it said that it had thundered. Others said, "An angel has spoken to him." Jesus answered and said, "This voice did not come because of Me, but for your sake." (John 12:27-30)
In this example, taking place shortly before Jesus' suffering and death, a gathering of Greek visitors and probably some of His disciples are present (see verses 20-22). They all hear the voice. Jesus says the thunderous voice was made audible for the sake of His visitors. At such a troubled time, it was no doubt encouraging for Him as well.
Jesus speaks to His Father in the presence of the Greek visitors, and His Father audibly answers Him. Some compare the voice to the sound of thunder. Others think an angel has spoken to Jesus. Could it have been an angel speaking? No. The voice says that the Speaker had glorified His own name, so if it were any other being than the Father, this declaration would be false. Surely, the Father would not delegate the duty of glorifying His name even to an angel, especially at such a pivotal time.
In the Future
In the book of Revelation, we find many instances of voices of spirit beings during the end time. These examples include the voices of angels, of resurrected saints, of Jesus Christ, and of God the Father. For example:
Then I looked, and behold, a Lamb standing on Mount Zion, and with Him one hundred and forty-four thousand, having His Father's name written on their foreheads. And I heard a voice from heaven, like the voice of many waters, and like the voice of loud thunder. And I heard the sound of harpists playing their harps. (Revelation 14:1-2)
Although it does not specifically say so, the wording strongly indicates that the voice mentioned here is that of the Father speaking at another pivotal time in world history: the day His Firstborn stands upon Mount Zion to meet His newly changed brothers and sisters. At the time this voice from heaven is heard, Jesus Christ—the Word of God and the Lord or Yahweh of the Old Testament—is on earth on Mount Zion.
Other biblical passages describe the voice of God in remarkably similar language to Revelation 14:2. Notice this verse in comparison to Ezekiel 43:2 and Revelation 1:15:
» And behold, the glory of the God of Israel came from the way of the east. His voice was like the sound of many waters. . . .
» His feet were like fine brass, as if refined in a furnace, and His voice as the sound of many waters. . . .
Now consider Job 40:9, Psalm 29:3, 77:18 and 104:7:
» Have you an arm like God? Or can you thunder with a voice like His?
» The voice of the LORD is over the waters; the God of glory thunders. . . .
» The voice of Your thunder was in the whirlwind. . . .
» At Your rebuke they fled; at the voice of Your thunder they hastened away.
Finally, note Isaiah 30:31-32:
For through the voice of the LORD Assyria will be beaten down. . . . It will be with tambourines and harps. . . .
These proofs seem fairly conclusive that it is the Father's voice described in Revelation 14:2.
Hearing God's Word
What can we conclude from these examples? First, although infrequent, God the Father has spoken audibly and allowed humans to hear His voice. Second, when God the Father does allow human beings to hear His voice, a very important event is taking place. Third, although, His humanly audible words are very few, they have great and very significant meaning.
Most importantly, however, are we hearing His voice? As far as we know, none of us have audibly heard the Father's voice, but if He has called us, we have heard it spiritually (John 6:44). He speaks to us through His Son (John 8:28, 38, 40; 12:49-50; 17:8), as well as through His ministers (Acts 20:27; Romans 10:14-17; II Corinthians 2:17; II Timothy 4:2).
Are we hearing the truth? Are we following it? Answering "Yes!" to these questions is far more important to our salvation than hearing God's voice with our ears. Jesus says in John 10:27, the verse Church of the Great God has chosen to place on its logo: "My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me." As His disciples, this scripture should describe us.
The great voice of God! We can indeed look forward to the time when He moves His throne and headquarters to this earth—when we will probably hear His voice more frequently. We also excitedly anticipate the time—1,000 or perhaps 1,100 years sooner—when we will meet Jesus Christ on Mount Zion and hear for the very first time the mighty voice of God the Father! And even now, we can hear His voice in His Word and respond with love and obedience in preparation for those times.