Written By Thomas Perez. August 16, 2010 at 9:30pm. Copyright 2010.
New Testament Explanations: Acts to Revelation
1. Question and Doubt # 1
The Right Hand of God
Numerous passages in the New Testament tell us Jesus sits at the right hand of God (Acts 2:34, Psa 110:1). According to Acts 7:55, Stephen looked up into the heavens while being stoned to death and “saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing on the right hand of God.“ What does this phrase mean? Does this mean that there are two physical or spiritual manifestations of God in Heaven, God and Jesus, with the latter perpetually stationed on the right hand of the former? Is this what Stephen saw?
A physical interpretation of “the right hand of God” is incorrect. First, no man has seen God at any time, nor can a human see Him (John 1:18, I Tim 6:16, I John 4:12). God is a Spirit and as such He is Invisible (I Tim 1;17). He does not have a physical right hand unless He chooses to manifest Himself in a human form. We know Stephen did not literally see God apart from Jesus. If he saw two persons, why would he ignore one of them, praying only to Jesus? (Acts 7:59-60). If he saw separate physical manifestations of the Father and the Son, why did he not see the Holy Spirit as a 3rd person?
A careful reading of Acts 7:55 will support the statement that Stephen did not see God apart from Jesus. Verse 55 does not say Stephen saw the Spirit of God, but tells us that he saw “the glory of God” and Jesus. In verse 56 Stephen said, Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of Man standing on the right hand of God.” The only visual image or person Stephen actually saw was Jesus Christ.
Other problems arise if we take “the right hand of God” in a physical sense. Is Jesus sitting on the right hand of God as recorded in Acts 2:34, or is Jesus standing on the right hand of God as recorded in Acts 7:55-56? Is Jesus sitting on top of God’s outstretched right hand or is Jesus sitting next to God’s right hand? Is Jesus in the Father’s bosom? (John 1:18). What about Rev 4:2, which describes one throne in Heaven and One who sits on that throne? Does the Father sit on the one throne and does Jesus sit beside it? What about the fact that Jesus is the One seated on the throne? (Rev 4:2, 8 with 1:8, 18).
Obviously, then, the description of Jesus on the right hand of God must be figurative or symbolic. Indeed, this is evident from numerous references throughout the Bible to the right hand of God. In Psalms 16:8 Davis wrote, “I have set the Lord always before m: because He is at my right hand, I shall not be moved.” Does this mean the Lord was always bodily present at David’s right hand? Psalms 77:10 says, “I will remember the years of the right hand of the most High.” Did the Psalmist promise to remember the number of years God had a right hand? Psalms 98:1 declares of the Lord, “His right hand and His holy arm hath gotten Him the victory.” Does this mean God defeated His enemies by holding back His left hand and crushing them with a physical right hand? Psalms 109:31 states that the Lord “shall stand at the right hand of the poor.” Does He physically station Himself next to the poor people all the time? The Lord declared in Isaiah 48:13, “My right hand hath spanned the heavens,” and in Isaiah 62:8 the Lord swore by His right hand. Did God reach out a giant hand and literally cover the sky, or did God put His left on hand on His right hand and swear by it? Jesus cast out devils by the finger of God (Luke 11:20). Did He pull down a giant finger from heaven an punch devils out of people?
Of course, the answer to all these questions is “no.” Therefore, we must understand “right hand of God” as figurative, symbolic, or poetic sense and not a physical, bodily sense. This being so, what does the term signify?
In the Bible, the right hand signifies strength, power, importance, and pre-eminence just as it does in the English phrases, “He is my right hand man” and “I would give my right arm for this.” Trinitarian scholar, ‘Bernard Ramm’ puts it best, “God’s almightiness is spoken of in terms of a right arm because among men, the right arm is the symbol of strength or power. Pre-eminence is spoken of as sitting at God’s right hand because in human social affairs, the right hand position with reference to the host was the place of greatest honor.” Some Biblical example’s to show this association of the right hand with power are given in (Ex 15:6, Psa 98:1, 110:1, Matt 26:64, Mark 14:62, Like 22:69, Eph 1:20-22, I Pet 3:22, Acts 5:31).
Acts 5:31 reveals that the right hand of God or the arm of God sometimes specifically refers to God’s power in salvation. Many other verses of scripture speak of the right hand of God as representing the deliverance and victory God gives to His people (Psa 44:3). Isaiah 59:16 says, “His arm brought salvation.” It appears, therefore, that the description of Jesus on the right hand of God connotes that Jesus is the expression of God’s saving power. This concept harmonizes with the association of the position of Jesus on the right hand of God with His mediatorial role, particularly His work as our intercessor and High Priest (Rom 8:34,Heb 8:1).
2. Question and Doubt # 2
When examined carefully, this verse is saying that Jesus had nature of God, that He was God Himself. God has no equal (Isa 40:25, 46:5, 9). The only way Jesus can be equal with God is for Him to be God in the first place. So, Jesus was equal with (the same as) God in the sense that He was God. However, He (God) did not consider His prerogatives as God something to be held or retained at all costs, but He was willing to lay these aside and assume a human nature so that He could save mankind. He willingly became a humble obedient servant and even submitted Himself to death on the cross where He shed His own blood (Acts 20:28).
Thus, in His divinity, He is truly equal to or identical to God. The word ‘equal’ here means that the divine nature of Jesus was the very nature of God our Father. Jesus did not strip Himself of the attributes of Deity, but rather stripped Himself of His dignity and rightful prerogatives as God while He dwelt among men as a human. The Spirit of Jesus, which was God Himself, never lost any of His omniscience, omnipresence, or omnipotence, as indicated earlier in Part 1 of this study. This verse only refers to the limitations Jesus (God) imposed on Himself when He became flesh.
What saith the Greek? Many Trinitarians use the Greek word ‘kenosis’ which means ‘to empty,’ this word comes from the Greek word ‘kenoo’ most versions do not choose this meaning. Here are three renderings of ‘kenoo’ Phil 2:7 “made Himself no reputation” (KJV), “made Himself nothing” (NIV), and “stripped Himself (of all privileges and rightful dignity)” (TAB).
As the three translations quoted above indicate, the ‘kenosis’ of Christ consisted of a voluntary surrender of glory and dignity, rather than a surrender of His nature as God. As a man, Christ did not receive the honor that was due to Him as God. Instead of acting in His rightful role as King of mankind, He became a ministering servant to mankind. As a man, He submitted to death on the cross. He did not die as God. But, “wait,” one may object and quote what I said earlier. “that God shed His own blood,” this indicates death! To answer this paradox, we must consider that in the very veins of Christ was divine eternal blood, not human because the Scripture’s reveal that God was incarnate in flesh, born without sin. Any blood that Jesus inherited was from the creation of the Spirit of God as conceived in the womb of the virgin. To indicate that the blood was interwoven with that of man’s (in this case Mary, His earthly mother) is to contaminate it with the disease of sin, similar to a virus. Mary, herself, declared her need for a Saviour, when she said in Luke 1:46-47, “I rejoice in God my Saviour.”
Some may claim the case that since it was divine blood, “Jesus was never really 100% man, like He was 100% God.” This not a strong case. When we consider what the Apostle Paul said in I Cor 15:45 “Jesus is the second Adam.” Since that is the case, we need only to look back at Genesis where God said “all was perfect,” including the creation of man (Adam), thus indicating that at one point, the blood of all flesh was clean and sin free. Furthermore, I have not yet met one individual that would claim that Adam was less of a man because he was clean and sin free before the fall. If this was true for Adam, it is also true for Christ. For the Christ was fully God and fully man at the same time (Col 2:9). As a man, He (Jesus) suffered temptation, trials, tribulation, and death, but they came from without, tempting Him from within, as if trying to invade. To even suggest that His temptations came from something within Him is to reckon Christ with a fleshly sinful nature. As James teaches us “temptations comes to us when we are drawn away by our own desires and lust.” Therefore, Christ (being the second Adam was made perfect), all this was done on our behalf! Christ corrected the wrong that Adam committed in the Garden. As God, He (Jesus) had to shed that divine blood to make the sin offering effective! Perfect blood, like the symbol of the young lambs sacrificed without blemish back in the Old Testament times.
As a result of this God has highly exalted the person of Jesus Christ (God manifested in the flesh). Jesus has a name given that is above every name – a name that represents all that God is. Let us remember that at the name of Jesus, every knee shall bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth: And that every tongue shall confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (Phil 2:9-11)
3. Question and Doubt # 3
Colossians 1:15-17 The Image of the Invisible God? The First Born?
This type of Question and doubt was explained in Part 2: Question and Doubt # 10, under Difficulty # 4
4. Question and Doubt # 4
This type of Question and Doubt was explained in Part 2: Question and Doubt # 7
5. Question and Doubt # 5
“The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave unto Him.” Here we find a distinction between the eternal Spirit of God and the man Jesus Christ. Only the Spirit could give the revelation of the events of the end times. The humanity of Christ could not know these things (Mark 13:32), so Jesus Christ knew them only through the Spirit. In addition this school of thought was explained in reference to Jesus’ omniscience under Part 1: Question and Doubt # 6. Furthermore, the Deity of Jesus Christ was not a product of His humanity, but the divine human union was a product of the Deity.
6. Question and Doubt # 6
The Lamb of God Revelation 5
Revelation 5:1 describes the One on the throne in Heaven with a book (scroll) in His right hand. Then verses 6-7 depict a Lamb who comes and take the book out of the right hand of the one that sits on the throne. Does this mean there are two persons of God? No. We must remember that the book of Revelation is highly symbolic. In fact, we know the passage in question is symbolic. First, John did not see the invisible Spirit of God, because John himself said no man has ever done that (John 1:18, I John 4:12). In fact, no man can see God (I Tim 6:16). Revelation 5:5 says a ‘Lion’ would open the book, but in verse 6 John saw a ‘Lamb’ instead. Verse 6 says the Lamb was slain but yet it moved. It had seven eyes, which symbolize the seven spirits of God or the sevenfold Spirit of God (verse 6) and the omniscience of God (Pro 15:3). Moreover, the Lamb had seven horns, which signify the fullness of God’s power or God’s omnipotence, because horns in the Bible usually symbolize power (Zech 1:18-19, Rev 17:12-17). All of the description of this scene demonstrates the symbolic nature of the passage. To understand it we must find out who the One on the throne is and who the Lamb is.
Revelation 4;2 and 8 describe the One on the throne as the “Lord God Almighty, which was, and is, and is to come.” Yet, in Revelation 1:8 Jesus describes Himself as “the Lord, which was, and is, and which is to come, the Almighty.” (See Rev 1:11-18 and 22:12-16 for further proof that Jesus is the speaker of Rev 1:8). Also, the One on the throne is the Judge (Rev 20:11-12), and we know that Jesus will be the Judge of all (John 5:22, 27, Rom 2:16, 14:10-11). Therefore, we can conclude that the One on the throne is Jesus in all His power and Deity.
Many prominent Trinitarian scholars agree that Revelation 5 is symbolic and does not describe God the Father on the throne and God the Son standing by the throne. ’The Pulpit Commentary” identifies the One on the throne as the Triune God (a term Trinitarians use), and the Lamb as the Christ in His human capacity. It states, “The Son in His human capacity, as indicated by His sacrificial form of the Lamb, can take and reveal the mysteries of the eternal Godhead in which He, as God, has part” (29).
Therefore, we can conclude that the vision in Revelation 5 symbolically depicts the two natures and two roles of Jesus Christ. As Father, Judge, Creator and King, He sits upon the throne; for in His Deity He is the Lord God Almighty. As the Son, He appears as a slain Lamb; for in His humanity He is the sacrifice slain for our sins. John saw Jesus on the throne in His role as God and as a Lamb in His role as the Son of God sacrificed for sin.
If a Jehovah Witness insists upon literalizing this demonstrably symbolic passage, then they would need to conclude that John still did not see two persons of God, but rather that he saw God on the throne and a real Lamb near the throne. This is NOT logical, but it reveals the attempts of separate individuals (one inferior to the other).
Furthermore, other verses of Scripture make it clear that the Lamb is not a separate person from God. In particular, Revelation 22:1 and 3 speak of “the throne of God and the Lamb,” referring to the one throne of 4:2 and 5:1. After mentioning “God and the Lamb,” Revelation 22:3 goes on to talk about “His servants,” and verse 4 refers to “His face” and His name.” The Lamb and the glory of God light the New Jerusalem (Rev 21:23). Yet the Lord God is the light (Rev 22:5). So, “God and the Lamb” is one being. The phrase refers to Jesus Christ and designates His dual nature. For this is how He reveals Himself as our Kinsman Redeemer (See Leviticus 25:25, 47-49).
7. Question and Doubt # 7
Other References of Apparent Confusion
A. Ephesians 3:14-17 uses the following to describe God: “The Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,” “His Spirit,” and “Christ.” Interestingly, this passage actually stress one God with no distinctions of persons. Here Paul describes the Father (who is the only Lord, ) as being the manifestation of the only Lord Jesus Christ (I Cor 8:6) by His Spirit (Jesus), to dwell in the inner man.
B. Ephesians 4: 4-6 states there is one Spirit, one Lord, and one God and Father. Again this proves the oneness of God. The one God is Spirit, and He is Lord of all. This thought is restated in two other different ways. Verse 4 connects the one Spirit with the assertion that there is one body, reminding us that the one Spirit of God baptizes us into one body (I Cor 12:13). Verse 5 groups “One Lord” with “one faith” and “one baptism.” Therefore, the emphasis is on the oneness between the roles and manifestations of the one God.
C. Hebrews 9:14 Christ offered Himself through the eternal Spirit of God. The subject of this verse is the blood of Christ, so obviously the verse speaks of the human, mediatoral role of Christ. How did Christ make His great sacrifice? He did so through His divine nature – the eternal Spirit – which is none other than the Father. Jesus (as a man) prayed to the Father in Gethsemane and received strength from Him to endure the crucifixion. This verse simply teaches that Christ was able to offer up His human body to God through the help of the Spirit of God.
D. I Peter 3:18 says Christ was put to death in the flesh but quickened (made alive) by the Spirit so that He might bring us to God. We know that Jesus resurrected Himself from the dead by His own divine Spirit (John 2:19-21, Rom 8:9-11). In other places, the Bible says God raised Jesus from the dead (Acts 2:32). So, we have the man Christ raised from the dead by the Spirit of God – the divine nature of Christ – in order to reconcile mankind to God.
E. I Peter 1:2 mentions the foreknowledge of God the Father, the sanctification of the Spirit, and the blood of Jesus. This verse simply describes different aspects of God in relation to our salvation. First, foreknowledge is part of God’s omniscience, and He had it before the incarnation and before the latter – day outpouring of the Spirit. Thus, it is natural for us to associate it with God’s role as Father. Secondly, God does not have blood except through the man Jesus, so it is more natural to say the blood of Jesus rather than the blood of God or the blood of the Spirit (although, the interlocking with humanity and Deity explained this in Acts 20:28). Finally, we are sanctified, or set apart from sin, by the power of the indwelling presence of God, so Peter naturally spoke of sanctification by the Spirit. As with II Corinthians 13:14, the Bible uses the most logical way to describe these attributes or works of God, namely by associating them with the roles, names or titles God uses and has.
Jude 20-21 is another verse of Scripture. It speaks of prayer in the Holy Spirit, the love of God, and the mercy of Jesus. As before, we can understand this easily as denoting different workings of God’s by using roles most closely associated with those workings.
8. Question and Doubt # 8
Greetings and Apostolic Benedictions in the Epistles
Rom 1:7, I Cor 1:3, 13:14 and others like them do not indicate superiority over the other. This type of question and doubt can be answered the same way as indicated in “Question and Doubt # 7.”
Furthermore, if the salutations and benedictions do not indicate superiority over the other of persons in a Godhead, what do they mean? By referring to the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, the writers were emphasizing two roles of God and the importance of accepting Him in both roles. Not only must we believe in God as our Creator and Father, but we must accept Him as manifested in the flesh through Jesus Christ. Everyone must acknowledge that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh and that He is both Lord and Christ (Messiah). Consequently, the salutations and benedictions emphasize belief not only in God, which the Jews and many pagans accepted, but also in God as revealed through Christ, thus robed in flesh!
In summary, what we can say about God? We know there is one invisible God (Deut 6:4). God is Spirit (John 4:24) and therefore invisible to man (John 1:18, I Tim 6:16). He is omnipresent, omniscient, and omnipotent (Psa 139, Rev 19:6). In the Old Testament, God manifested Himself many times in visible ways (Gen 18:1, Ex 33:22-23). These temporary, visible manifestations are called Theophanous. In the New Testament, God manifested Himself in human flesh as Jesus Christ, the Son of God (John 1:1, 14, I Tim 3:16).
In the Old Testament God revealed Himself as ‘Elohim,’ which simply means God; the Self Existing One or the Eternal One. The New Testament often describes the one God as the Father. This title emphasizes His role as Creator and Father of all (Mal 2:10), as Father of the born – again believers (Rom 8:14-16), and as Father of the only begotten Son (John 3:16).
In addition, the Bible uses the term Holy Spirit to refer to the one God. This describes what God is and emphasizes God in activity Genesis 1:2 (not an active force, as Jehovah Witnesses call Him), particularly in activity related to man such as regenerating, baptizing, filling, and anointing (Acts 1:4-8, 2:1-4). The Bible also uses the term “Word” to refer to the one God, particularly to the thought, plan, or expression of God (John 1:1, 14, Col 1:15).
One can safely conclude that Jesus Christ is the Son of God – God in the flesh (Matt 1:21-23). He has a dual nature – human and divine, or flesh and Spirit. In other words, two complete natures are united inseparably in the person of Jesus Christ. In His human nature Jesus is the son of Mary. In His divine nature He is the one God Himself (II Cor 5:19, Col 2:9, I Tim 3:16). Jesus is the Father (Isa 9:6, John 10:30, 14:6-11), Jehovah (Jere 23:6), the Word (John 1:1, 14), and the Holy Spirit ( II Cor 3:17, Gal 4:6, Eph 3:16-17).
The Bible clearly teaches the doctrine of the oneness of God and the absolute Deity of Jesus Christ. The early Christians believed this great truth, and many people have adhered to it throughout history. Although in the course of history Trinitarianism became the predominant doctrine in Christendom, the Scriptures do not teach it. In fact, the Bible nowhere mentions or alludes to the word ’Trinity,’ the phrase “three persons in one substance,” or the phrase “three persons in one God.” The closest verse found in the Scriptures that can indicate a Trinitarian point of view would be I John 5:7, but even that verse does not indicate 3 persons, but rather a validity of record (or a testimony) within the manifestations of God. Also, it is interesting to note that the term or phrase “the Son” does not appear in this verse, rather the term “the Word” is used instead by John. Moreover, many earlier manuscripts, according to some scholars, omit this verse. But this is debatable.
Again, I must emphasize that I do not contend that those who uphold the doctrine of the Trinity are necessarily in error, but as a Oneness believer, I do contend that the doctrine of the Trinity contradicts and detracts from the important Biblical teaching in reference to the fullness of Christ when sharing the doctrine of the deity of Jesus Christ with Jehovah Witnesses and others that hold to the same view. On the other hand, Trinitarians may cite the claim that those who try to understand the Trinity can not, because it is a mystery, only to be accepted by faith. But I beg to defer with my brothers and sisters in Christ, the mystery is not “God in three persons,” but the true mystery is that the One God became flesh and dwelt among us. This thought is emphasized in I Tim 3:16, where Paul writes, “Great is the mystery of Godliness, God was manifested in the flesh.”
It is appropriate that I close this study with the book of Colossians 2:8-10. A great passage of warning, instruction, and inspiration with regard to the precious truth of the oneness of God and the deity of Jesus Christ: “Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ. For in Him dwelleth all the fullness of the Godhead bodily. And ye are complete in Him, which is the head of all principality and power.”