Colossians 1:15

"He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation". ESV

1 Peter 2:24

"He himself bore our sins in his body".

If a coin has someone's head on it the actual person's head is not an image but the "real thing". When is Christ an image and when the "real thing"? e.g. in 1 Peter 2:24 when He "bore our sins in his body" is His body "an image", the "real thing" or both? If the image element is present here what is being imaged?

Is every aspect of who Jesus is/was part of this "image", or are there aspects to Jesus where He is representing Himself and not His Father?

  • 1
    It's unclear why you cited 1 Peter 2:24 in a question that only appears to be about Colossians 1.15. Could you please either delete the reference to 1 Peter or expand on its bearing on the question?
    – Robert
    Commented Sep 17, 2022 at 3:52
  • @Robert If a coin has someone's head on it the actual person's head is not an image but the "real thing". When is Christ an image and when the "real thing"? e.g. In 1 Peter 2:24 when he "bore our sins in his body" is his body an image, the "real thing" or both? If the image element is present here what is being imaged?
    – C. Stroud
    Commented Sep 20, 2022 at 14:21
  • Well, go ahead and update the question to clarify what you mean.
    – Robert
    Commented Sep 20, 2022 at 15:07
  • The image on the coin is an image, not the real person. The question is misguided opinion of distorting the meaning of exact image, shadow, radiance, the figures used to describe Jesus.
    – Michael16
    Commented Sep 23, 2022 at 3:17

7 Answers 7


The answer comes from comparing the first mention of the man Adam being created in God's image with what is later shown about the second Man, Christ (also called the last Adam) being the image of God.

Genesis has a creation account (or, rather, two creation accounts) that hint at the pre-incarnate Christ both at work in that creation, and as to come in the future to do what Adam failed to do. Paul speaks of this here:

"And so it is written [in Genesis 2:7] The first man Adam was made a living soul; the last Adam was made a quickening spirit. Howbeit that was not first which is spiritual, but that which is natural; and afterward that which is spiritual. The first man is of the earth, earthy; the second man is the Lord from heaven. As is the earthy, such are they also that are earthy: and as is the heavenly, such are they also that are heavenly. And as we have born the image of the earthy, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly" (1 Corinthians 15:45-49).

Image is here connected to the first man, to all humanity, to the Lord from heaven, and to those who shall bear the image of the heavenly (which won't be all humanity). It is highly significant that there is a first Adam and a last Adam; a first man and a second Man.

The first Adam only came into existence when God created him, in God's own image and likeness. He was created out of the elements of the ground but it wasn't until God breathed into his nostrils the breath of life that the man came to be a living soul. This first man was totally dependent on his Maker for existence and for his life to be sustained. He was in communion with God his Maker and all was well, until he began to look away from God for life, to see if he could take into himself something that would give him a better, divine life, which the woman had been deceived into thinking was there for the picking. The image was marred.

In contra-distinction to that, the last Adam is "the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature" (Colossians 2:15). He came down from heaven to be made of a woman, made under law, made of the seed of David according to the flesh (Galatians 4:4). But just as he had not been created prior to becoming man, he was not created as a man. He was the one who was with God in the beginning, was God, and made everything that was made (John 1:1-3 & 14). He made Adam. Adam bore the image of Christ as God, and then he marred it. Christ came to restore to perfection that which Adam had ruined. That is why it can be said that "God was in Christ reconciling the world unto himself (2 Corinthians 5:19). Further, Christ "has life in himself" (John 5:26), unlike Adam who had no life in and of himself. Thus, "Great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifest in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen of angels, preached unto the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up into glory" (1 Timothy 3:16).

Now we can see why "It pleased the Father that in [Christ] should all fulness dwell... yet now hath he reconciled. In the body of his flesh through death, to present you holy and unblameable and unreproveable in his sight" (Colossians 1:19-22). It is because the uncreated Son is the image of the invisible God, that all who are reconciled to God through Christ will discover that purity of the image of God themselves. The mystery is beyond explanation; only the words already given us in the holy scriptures can be quoted to stop us in our tracks so as to bend our knees in Jesus' name, to the glory of God.

The answer to the question, "What does image mean with regard to Christ being the image of God?" will be understood fully in the glory by those who have been reconciled to God. For now we have been given glimpses in the scriptures as to this awesome mystery; found in Genesis, visions of Isaiah, Ezekiel and the apostle John, and explanations of the apostle Paul.

The answer to the question, "Are there aspects to Jesus where He is representing Himself and not His Father?" is "No". Jesus said he could neither do nor say anything apart from his Father - John 5:19. Also, "God was in Christ reconciling the world unto himself (2 Corinthians 5:19).


Note the deliberate irony in the phrase: "image of the invisible ...". This is literally impossible. So what does it mean?

The simplest answer is given by the simple but profound statement found in:

John 1:18 - No one has seen God at any time; the only begotten God who is in the bosom of the Father, He has revealed Him.

Note the semantic parallels with Col 1:15 -

  • The Father is invisible = no one has seen the Father
  • Jesus has revealed the Father = Jesus is the image God.

However, I believe that much more is intended here by Col 1:15 and the text itself shows this. That is, the image of the invisible God is actually tabulated in what follows. Col 1:15-20 can be read as follows:

Jesus is the image of the invisible God:

  • the firstborn over all creation.
  • For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities;
  • all things have been created through him and for him.
  • He is before all things,
  • and in him all things hold together.
  • And he is the head of the body, the church;
  • he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead,
  • so that in everything he might have the supremacy.
  • For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him,
  • and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.

Thus, the image of God can be considered the sum of the ten things that follow as listed above. That is, Jesus was the greatest revelation of divinity that could possibly be given - in Jesus we have the best way of understanding the nature, character and love of God (1 John 4:8, 16), including the way He works.

  • Well noted, +1.
    – Cork88
    Commented Feb 10, 2022 at 7:00
  • @Dottard + A notion of the deliberate irony here is intriguing. Commented Feb 12, 2022 at 18:00
  • @ Dottard If God the Father is invisible now to humans, the image of the invisible might be the image of what we see when we see His face as in Rev 22:4. Possible do you think?
    – C. Stroud
    Commented Mar 26, 2022 at 20:01
  • @C.Stroud - I have explained what I believe this means in the answer - the sum of the 10 things listed in the text. That is, Jesus does the work of God in creating, sustaining, ruling the church, etc.
    – Dottard
    Commented Mar 26, 2022 at 21:19

If the word image is given the OT context then, it refers to a representation, representative, or in modern terms an ambassador.

When God made man in His image, it meant that man would represent God on the earth. This is made clear when God continues to give dominion to man over all things on the earth. God rules in the heavens and man, the imager or the image or the representative ruled on the earth.

“Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.”” ‭‭Genesis‬ ‭1:26‬ ‭

Idols were also images. Granted unlike living men, these were inanimate objects that represented the deity and these images were as sacred as the deity himself. A desecration of the image was equivalent to an attack on the deity himself.

“Then all the people of the land went to the house of Baal and tore it down; his altars and his images they broke in pieces, and they killed Mattan the priest of Baal before the altars. And the priest posted watchmen over the house of the Lord.” ‭‭2 Kings‬ ‭11:18‬ ‭

The dragon in Revelation would likewise have a representative or an image

“And it was allowed to give breath to the image of the beast, so that the image of the beast might even speak and might cause those who would not worship the image of the beast to be slain.” ‭‭Revelation‬ ‭13:15‬ ‭

“He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation.” ‭‭Colossians‬ ‭1:15‬ ‭

Jesus is the representative, or the image or the imager or the ambassador of the invisible God. He is also the archon/first/leader of all Creation.

This speaks nothing to who He is in His entirety, who He was or shall be. It merely says that He currently, at a minimum, represents the invisible God, as the supreme leader/archon of all Creation.

  • 2
    I think this is a good answer as well. +1.
    – Dottard
    Commented Feb 10, 2022 at 22:12

When the scriptures say "image", they mean likeness. This can be considered in personality, attitude, thinking, goodness.

The disciples said "Show up the Father and that will be enough", then Jesus said "Have I been with you this whole time and you still don't know the Father? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father."

Jesus drove the money-changers out of the temple. In the same way, God in the old covenant hated his holy temple being defiled.

Jesus agreed with scripture and used it to drive off Satan's temptations int he wilderness.

Jesus said in the gospel of John "The Father loves the Son and shows him everything He does" and "the Son can do nothing except what the Father does."

That is Jesus was conceived of the Holy Spirit, and had the personality, attributes, nature and heart of God.

If you play video games, it's like you play as a character in the game. The Ais in the game don't see the player, but they see the player's character. The player is an unseen entity in a video game, but the character in the game is what is seen, a "representative" or "image" of the player.

Now, the living God has no physical body, He is the "Father of Spirits". The Angel of the Lord in the old testament are often called Christophanies. You saw a representation of God.

See in Revelation there is the phrase, Rev 4:2 "At once I was in the Spirit, and I saw a throne standing in heaven, with someone seated on it. 3. The One seated there looked like jasper and carnelian, and a rainbow that gleamed like an emerald encircled the throne." But Rev 5:6 says "Then I saw a Lamb, looking as if it had been slain, standing at the center of the throne, encircled by the four living creatures and the elders. The Lamb had seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven spirits of God sent out into all the earth."

So this lamb on the throne is the same as the character in Rev 4:2. It's Jesus. It's not two thrones and a bird perch, one for the Father, one for the Son and one for the Holy Spirit who is a dove. It's just One Throne, One Jesus who is the only visible representation of God.

Now about him "Bearing our sins in His body", Isaiah has a scripture "Sacrifices and burnt offerings you were not pleased with so a body thou hast prepared for me" and Psalm 40:6-8 "Sacrifice and offering You did not desire, but my ears You have opened. Burnt offerings and sin offerings You did not require. 7. Then I said, “Here I am, I have come— it is written about me in the scroll: 8. I delight to do Your will, O my God; Your law is within my heart."

(Ears opening could mean hearing, but rather in this context anyone in the old testament knows that when a slave wants to serve his master for live, they punch a hole in his ear on the doorpost. So this is a statement of being a servant of servants.)

And also, about Jesus bearing sins: Romans 8:3-4 "3. For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, 3. he condemned sin in the flesh, 4. in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit."

So basically, Jesus became a man to represent God to us, who couldn't see God, and also to die. To become a sacrifice that would eliminate the need for animal sacrifice.

And two more things about Jesus becoming a man. He had to become a man 1. to experience our suffering so he could empathize with our weakness. And 2. In order to become a priest for us. because priests for humans are humans that represent other humans before God. And priests speak to humans on behalf of God. So Jesus could not be a priest for us unless he became a man. Here's the supporting scripture in Hebrews 4:14-15: "14. Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to what we profess. 15. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who was tempted in every way that we are, yet was without sin."

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    – agarza
    Commented Feb 10, 2022 at 22:28

Jesus is said to be the image (eikōn, εἰκὼν) of the invisible God. This means He is the exact same image as God Himself. Genesis 1:26 on the other hand is Man being made/created (na·‘ă·śeh) in God’s image & likeness.

The difference here with Jesus in Colossians 1:15 is that He is not being referred as created in God’s image, but instead, He IS God’s image. Or to speak scripture, “He is the image of the invisible God”. (Col 1:15). This is a statement of deity & eternality by Paul.

He represents God in such an exact way that He is God Himself. (He is not the Father, but One with Him; John 10:30)

The way He doesn’t represent His Father is in being made a man, entering a human body in time & space: “So when he came into the world, he said, “Sacrifice and offering you did not desire, but a body you prepared for me.” ‭‭Hebrews‬ ‭10:5‬

Appendage: A commentator noted 1 Corinthians 11:7 which says:

“For a man should not have his head covered, since he is the image and glory of God. But the woman is the glory of the man.” ‭‭1 Corinthians‬ ‭11:7‬

This may seem troubling at first when comparing 1 Cor 11:7 with Col 1:15, but reading the context we get an idea of the stark contrast between Jesus being the image of the invisible God & Man being the image & glory of God.

However, the context defines that just because Man is also identified as “the image and glory of God”, this does not mean that Man is on an equal footing with Jesus.

Paul continues:

“For man did not come from woman, but woman from man. Neither was man created for the sake of woman, but woman for man.” ‭‭1 Corinthians‬ ‭11:8-9‬

Paul asserts that Man was created in the verses after 1 Cor 11:7. On the flip side, Jesus is nowhere to be addressed as a created being in Scripture.

Paul then continues his discourse disclosing the identity, nature, & creative work of Christ in the following points:

  • All things were created by & for Him, visible & invisible. ‭‭Colossians‬ ‭1:16‬ {Note: it doesn’t say He created all other things, but ALL things, this again is affirmation of deity, creator, & eternality.}
  • He is before all things & He holds all things together. Colossians 1:17
  • He is the Head of the body/church, also the beginning, firstborn from the dead, so that He might be first in all things. Colossians 1:18 {Note: Jesus being the firstborn from the dead means He was the first to resurrect from the Dead by His own power, see: John 2:19-22}
  • “For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in the Son” ‭‭Colossians‬ ‭1:19‬ ‭{Another affirmation of Jesus’ deity}
  • Jesus blood reconciles those in heaven & earth to Himself, Colossians 1:20 {this verse I will have to meditate & take time to study more!}

Also when Colossians 1:15 says He is the firstborn over all creation, this term doesn’t represent a beginning or a created aspect of Jesus. Rather, “firstborn over all creation” means first in rank or possessing a preeminent position. See also: (Exodus 4:22, Jeremiah 31:9, Hebrews 1:2, Revelation 5:1-7,13)

So in the end, 1 Cor 11:7 vs Colossians 1:15 are not on an equal footing with respect to “being the image & glory of God”.

Again, man is created (Gen 1:26), & Jesus created all things & is described as the following:

“And He is the radiance of His{God’s} glory and the exact representation of His nature, and upholds all things by the word of His power. When He had made purification of sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high,”

‭‭Hebrews‬ ‭1:3‬ ‭

Furthermore, Jesus being the “image” of the invisible God doesn’t mean He is a mere “image”, as in a painting, logo(decal/sticker) or some other vain object; Paul is obviously using anthropomorphic language (human words) to say that Jesus is God.

The definition of (eikōn, εἰκὼν) is: a material image, likeness, effigy, a representation, exact image, resemblance. Gloss: image, likeness, portrait.

  • Jesus is no longer human. So I’m not sure your last paragraph applies as written. We shall no longer be humans at the resurrection either. Commented Feb 10, 2022 at 0:14
  • 3
    @Nihil Sine Deo I differ with respect to that statement you made, I believe the following texts show Jesus had a glorified human body on top of His divine nature, see: {Luke 24:38-39, John 20:24-29, Matthew 28:5-6, Matthew 28:11-15}. Acts also testifies that Jesus’ body didn’t suffer decay (rotting of the flesh): “because you will not leave my soul in Hades, nor permit your Holy One to experience decay.” ‭‭Acts‬ ‭2:27‬ ‭NET‬‬. After reading such references it’s obvious Jesus’ human body was glorified, didn’t suffer decay, and is now in Heaven.
    – Cork88
    Commented Feb 10, 2022 at 1:39
  • Let us continue this discussion in chat.
    – Cork88
    Commented Feb 11, 2022 at 22:47

The word image in Col 1:15 does not refer to a picture or a cutout of paper or other material. Consider how, when we say a son is the “spitting image” of his father, we do not mean that the son is not a real person in his own right. Likewise, Jesus is at once always a real person and always the image of God. These two aspects are not mutually exclusive.

Jesus said, “the one who sees Me sees Him who sent Me” (Jn 12:45). Jesus is not the image of God in a visible or physical sense, for God is Spirit (Jn 4:24). Jesus makes Him visible in the sense that he makes God known and understood. One way to approach the OP’s question is from the perspective of the gospel of John, which details the way in which Jesus makes the Father “visible.”

No one has seen God at any time; God the only Son, who is in the arms of the Father, He has explained Him. – Jn 1:18

Jesus came to fulfill the Father’s will.

For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me. – Jn 6:38

Everything that Jesus says and does reveals the words and works of the Father.

The words that I say to you I do not speak on My own, but the Father, as He remains in Me, does His works. – John 14:10

Even Jesus dying for our sins (1 Pet 2:24) is to demonstrate the Father’s love. Though no one has seen God, Jesus makes Him known: His will, His works, and ultimately, His love.

But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. – Rom 5:8


He is the eternal image of the Father, the image meaning here the expression of the very reality of the Father, for Father's reality as that of the Father is in having His Offspring or Son. In this sense the eternal image of God-the-Father, the Image of the Invisible God, is also God. Just an analogy: the image of a boxer, qua boxer, is his punch, for it is exactly in punch(es) that his boxer-ship is expressed. Similarly, all activities of the Father qua God are and can be expressed only through and in the Son, who is His Image in this sense.

The Philippians 2:6-11 leaves no doubt on this account, for here the Lord is said to be equal to God in His pre-incarnate state and "in the form" of God, and after the Incarnation, he was already also "in the form of" man, and as the last expression implies that He assumed manhood 100%, so the parallel structure of the sentence and semantics of the word "form" necessarily implies that He, Jesus Christ is 100% God for being "in form of God", just as He is 100% man for being "in form of man".

Thus, the Lord Jesus Christ, being the God-Father's eternal image after His Incarnation bears also, or represents the image of man. And this is something that Father does not have at all and as man the Lord Jesus Christ has also activities and features befitting to Him alone, as to a man, and not to the Father: eating, sleeping, getting tired, crying, sighing, undergoing pain and sufferings (both bodily and psychic), and death according to his body. In this he differs completely from the Father who does not possess any of that features.

  • Is your boxer's punch like truth and reality arriving in the physical realm? i.e. Jesus' body was/is real and so Truth was established in the physical. Truth in one realm being an image of Truth in every realm.
    – C. Stroud
    Commented Feb 10, 2022 at 13:52
  • 1
    @C. Stroud The Logos of God is the eternal Image of God even before His (Logos) adopting human nature; and, yes, when He got incarnate, the very Truth became man; the Inspirer of prophets became man; and henceforth Father cannot do and does not anything but through the man Jesus Christ who is also His co-eternal Logos and God. But Christ has also human activity that Father does not have. Commented Feb 11, 2022 at 1:17

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