Jesus is the firstborn of all creation – Colossians 1:15

Jesus Christ is “the firstborn of all creation” (Col. 1:15).  The purpose of this article is to determine what this means.

1. Summary of this article

1.1 Jesus is part of Creation.

That Jesus Christ is “the firstborn of all creation” means that He is part of creation. 

Since “by Him all things were created,” it is possible to argue that Jesus is not a created being, but that does not necessarily follow.  Absolute phrases, such as “all things,” are sometimes qualified by their contexts:  Technically, Jesus is included in “all things,” but He did not create Himself. Similarly, in verse 17, Jesus is before “all things,” but Jesus was not before Himself.  In this context Jesus is excluded from “all things.” Consequently, to say that Jesus created “all things” does not prove that Jesus is not part of “creation.”

It is proposed here that Jesus is part of creation, but not a created being; for He was “born;” not created.  Born and created are sometimes used as synonyms, but John emphasized that Jesus was begotten by the Father, while all other things were created.  He is the “only begotten from the Father” (John 1:14, 18; 3:16, 18; 1 John 4:7).  What this means is beyond human understanding, for it is hidden in the infinity of God. 

1.2 Firstborn means Jesus was the first to exist.

Firstborn” in Colossians 1:15 means that Jesus was the first in time to exist.  This conclusion is justified as follows:

Firstborn” literally means the one born first. 

Firstborn” is also occasionally used figuratively in the Old Testament, meaning ‘first in importance’, but the dominant meaning is the one literally born first.

In the New Testament “firstborn” always means literally first in time.

Twice “firstborn” is used literally for people born first (Luke 2:7; Heb. 11:28).

Twice Jesus is called “the firstborn from the dead” (Col. 1:18; Rev. 1:5), which means that He was the first in time to be resurrected to eternal life.

God brought “the firstborn (Jesus) into the world” (Heb. 1:6; cf. 1:1), which refers to Jesus becoming a human being.  In this verse “firstborn” describes Jesus’ prior to His incarnation, and therefore implies that He was first is time. 

God sent “His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh” (Rom. 8:3) to set the creation free “into the freedom of the glory of the children of God” (v21).  In this way Jesus became “the firstborn among many brethren” (v29). He literally was the first Son of God.

Jesus is the Old Testament Wisdom.

God brought Wisdom forth in the beginning. Wisdom worked with God in establishing all things (Pro. 8:22-31). The closest and most commonly accepted background for Colossians 1:15-16a is this Old Testament Wisdom. This implies that “the firstborn of all creation” refers to Jesus being “brought forth” “in the beginning.” In other words, Jesus is “firstborn” because He was first in time. 

The immediate context defines “firstborn” as first in time.

The phrase “the firstborn of all creation” must be interpreted in the immediate context:

He is … the firstborn of all creation,
for by Him all things were created…
He is before all things.” (1:15-17 NASB).

From this the following conclusions are possible:

Firstly, the word “for” means that Jesus is the firstborn because by Him all things were created. In other words, He is “firstborn” because He is before all things; literally first in time. 

Secondly, verses 15 to 17 form a unit, expressing a single thought.  Then the phrase “He is … the firstborn of all creation” can be understood as equivalent to “He is before all things;” literally first to exist.

Thirdly, “all things” include time itself.  This means that there was no time or object or thing before God “brought forth” His Son, and created “all things” through His Son.

The beginning of the creation

Revelation 3:14 contains a very similar statement:

The firstborn of all creation” (Col. 1:15);
The beginning of the creation of God” (Rev. 3:14);

The similarity implies that the “firstborn” is equivalent to the “beginning,” which again implies that Jesus was the first to exist. 

1.3 All things have been created “in” Jesus.

The second word of Colossians 1:16 is the Greek word “en.”  This means “in Him all things were created.” It is difficult to explain how the universe can be created “in” (within) the Only Begotten Son of God.  But it is equally difficult to understand how “in Him all things hold together” (v17):  These things are beyond human understanding.

What we learn from the fact that “in Him all things were created” is that an unexplainable, but close relationship exists between the Only Begotten Son and the creation.  God “brought forth” (Proverbs 8:24, 25) the Son to bring forth the universe. 

The message of the Colossian false teachers was that Jesus is great, but He is only one of many great ones.  To conclude, as the Jehovah Witness do, that Jesus is “a god,” is consistent with the Colossian heresy.  Jesus is not one of many; He is the Only Begotten Son of God.  God has begotten Him to bring the creation into existence through and in Him.

This concludes the summary. The points above will now be explained in more detail:

2. Prōtotokos

Prototokos

Firstborn” is translated from the Greek word prōtotokos (protos = first; tokos = born).  Literally, it means the one born first.  For example, Mary “brought forth her firstborn son” (Luke 2:7), namely Jesus.

The firstborn son, in the Jewish tradition, also received certain rights and privileges:

“In Jewish society the rights and responsibilities of being a firstborn son resulted in considerable prestige and status. The firstborn son, for example, received twice as much in inheritance as any other offspring.” [J.P. Louw and E.A. Nida, Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament: Based on Semantic Domains, Second Edition, 2 Volumes (New York: United Bible Societies, 1988), 1:10:43.]

Due to the prestige and status of the firstborn son, the term “firstborn” over time also came to be used figuratively as a designation of preeminence—one that stands out above his peers—for example:

► Manasseh was born to Joseph first, but Ephraim, his younger brother, was “firstborn” due to his position as given by their father Jacob (Gen. 48:13–20, Jer. 31:9).  Exodus 4:22 similarly speaks of Israel as God’s firstborn. Israel (Jacob) and Ephraim in these verses represent the nation of Israel.  The meaning would be that Israel has an exalted position among the nations.  It is as if the nations were all children and Israel was the firstborn among them: The one most highly esteemed in the eyes of God.

► David was the youngest son of Jesse, but God promised, “I also shall make him My firstborn, The highest of the kings of the earth.” (Psalm 89:27).  Here “firstborn” is explained by the phrase “the highest of the kings of the earth.”

► In Job 18:13 we read of a disease that is “the first-born of death.”

► Isaiah 14:30 refers to “the first-born of the poor,” meaning the poorest of the poor.

3. Part of Creation

firstborn

As already stated, prototokos may mean first in time or first in importance, but in both cases the firstborn is part of the group, for instance:



► The firstborn son is literally the first son, but part of the group of children.
► Jesus is literally “the firstborn from the dead” (Col. 1:18; Rev. 1:5). He is part of the group that is literally resurrected from death.
► Jesus is literally “firstborn among many brethren” (Rom. 8:29), which means that He is one of the brethren.
► David is figuratively God’s “firstborn,” but remains one of “the kings of the earth.”

Therefore, since Jesus is “firstborn of all creation,” He is part of creation.

Some argue that “firstborn” must not be understood literally as first in time, but figuratively; as first in importance.  But even then the “firstborn” remains part of creation.

Since “by Him all things were created,” some argue that Jesus is not part of creation, and that Jesus Himself was therefore not created.  Another statement that makes such a distinction between Jesus and all created things is Revelation 5:13, where “every created thing” worship “Him who sits on the throne, and … the Lamb (Jesus).”

But in these verses “all things” is qualified by the context. Technically, Jesus is part of “all things,” but He did not create Himself. In verse 17 Jesus is before “all things,” but Jesus was not before Himself.  He Himself is therefore excluded from “all things.”  Other examples of this principle are:

The phrase “all things,” without qualification, includes God, but obviously God is here excluded from “all things.”
1 Corinthians 15:27 reads, “All things are put in subjection,” but then continues, “it is evident that He is excepted who put all things in subjection to Him”. 
► The Septuagint version of Genesis 3:20 says that Eve is “the mother of all living.” But Eve was not the mother of Adam and herself.  The context of this statement excludes them from “all living.”

So, when we read that “by Him all things were created” (Col. 1:16), that logically excludes God and Jesus.  In other words, this phrase says nothing about them. It cannot be used to prove that Jesus is not part of creation.

Since verse 15 explicitly states that Jesus is part of creation, some argue that He is a created being; the first being ever created.  That proposal is not accepted here, for He was “born;” not created. This is reflected by the term “born” in “first-born”.  The article Only Begotten argues that His Son was not created, but eternally begotten by the Father.  He is the “only begotten from the Father” (John 1:14, 18; 3:16, 18; 1 John 4:7).  “Begotten” must be understood different from created.  He was not born like a human child is born, but God brought forth His Son.  What this means is difficult to imagine, for it is hidden in the infinity of God.  For a further discussion, see Only Begotten.

4. Jesus was the first to exist.

The word “firstborn” in Colossians 1:15 may be understood, either:

Literally, namely that Jesus was the first to exist, or
Figuratively, namely that Jesus is the most important.

Most non-literal translations render the phrase “firstborn of all creation” as meaning that He is superior over all creation, for instance:

Firstborn over all creation” (NIV);
Preeminent over all creation” (New Heart English Bible).

It is proposed here that “firstborn” in Colossians 1:15 means that Jesus was the first in time to exist.  This conclusion is justified as follows:

4.1 “Firstborn” in the Old Testament

Firstborn” is occasionally used figuratively in the Old Testament, meaning first in importance, but the dominant use is literally as the one born first.

4.2 “Firstborn” in the New Testament.

According to Biblehub the word prototokos (firstborn – Strong’s #4416) occurs 8 times in the New Testament.  One of those is Colossians 1:15; “the firstborn of all creation.”  This section analyzes the other 7 instances to establish the meaning of “firstborn” in Colossians 1:15. 

Twice Literal

Twice “firstborn” is used literally for people born first:

1 Mary “brought forth her firstborn son” (Luke 2:7) Jesus.
2 Moses “kept the Passover and the sprinkling of the blood, so that he who destroyed the firstborn would not touch them” (Heb. 11:28).  This refers back to the exodus from Egypt.

Firstborn from the dead

Resurrection of the Dead

Parallel to Jesus being the “firstborn of all creation” (Col. 1:15), He is also twice called “the firstborn from the dead” (Col. 1:18; Rev. 1:5).  He is “the first fruits of those who are asleep” (1 Corinthians 15:20).

The implication is that believers will be resurrected because He was resurrected first.  Jesus triumphantly said, “I am the first and the last, and the living One; and I was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of death and of Hades” (Rev. 1:17-18). 

Some people were raised from death before Jesus was, but to our knowledge they all died again.  Jesus is “the firstborn from the dead” in the resurrection to eternal life: “So also is the resurrection of the dead. It is sown a perishable body, it is raised an imperishable body” (1 Cor. 15:42).

Firstborn from the dead” must therefore be understood as first in time.  He is “the firstborn from the dead” because He was the first to be raised to eternal life.  There is also a causal relationship: Just as He was brought forth and all others created through Him, Jesus was resurrected and others are resurrected through Him (1Th. 4:16).  

Hebrews

The word firstborn is also twice used by the unknown writer of Hebrews.  God brought “the firstborn (Jesus) into the world” (Heb. 1:6; cf. 1:1), which refers to Jesus becoming a human being.  “Firstborn” here refers to Jesus’ existence prior to His incarnation, and therefore probably refers to the fact that He is first is time.   The second time “firstborn” is used in Hebrew is:

You have come to Mount Zion and to … the heavenly Jerusalem, and … to the general assembly and church of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven” (Heb. 12:22-23).

Since the phrase “church of the firstborn” appears in the same letter, and since “firstborn” is never used for Christians in the New Testament, “firstborn” in this phrase is understood to have the same meaning as in 1:6, namely as a reference to Jesus, and therefore of Jesus as first in time.

8:29 Firstborn among many brethren

Those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren” (Romans 8:29).

Verse 3 of the same chapter refers to God “sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh.”  This means that He was God’ “own Son” before He became a human being.  He sent His Son so that “the creation itself also will be set free from its slavery to corruption into the freedom of the glory of the children of God” (v21).  Verses 14 to 23 refer to Christians as “sons of God” or “children of God” about six times.  The “brethren” in verse 29 therefore consist of:

(A) Jesus, who was God’s “own Son” already before He became a human being, and 
(B) Christians, who became the “sons of God” through Jesus. 

This suggests that Jesus was “firstborn” in the sense of first in time.

Only Begotten Son

We have now discussed all 7 occurrences of “firstborn” in the New Testament—apart from Colossians 1:15—and we have discovered that in every instance it means first in time; not first in importance.  “Firstborn” is occasionally used figuratively in the Old Testament as meaning ‘most important’, but never in the New Testament. It uses this word only in the literal sense of being first in time.

We also notice that “firstborn” is twice used for people, but six times for Jesus.  It is surprising how often this term is applied to Jesus.   “Firstborn,” used for Jesus, may be a synonym for the phrase which John elsewhere uses for Jesus, namely the “only begotten from the Father.”  He is not only born first; He is the only One born of God.

4.3 Proverbs 8

Another way to think about Colossians 1:15 is to find its background in the Old Testament:

“The closest and most commonly accepted background for the description in Colossians 1:15-16a is the OT picture of personified female Wisdom, the image of God’s goodness (Wisdom 7:26) who worked with God in establishing all other things (Pro. 3:19), that Wisdom was created by God in the beginning (Pro. 8:22; Sirach 24:9).” [Raymond E. Brown, “An Introduction to the New Testament,” The Anchor Bible Reference Library (New York: Doubleday, 1997), 803-804. 27 Burney, 173. 28 Ibid., 173-174.]

Proverbs 8 speaks about Wisdom that was “brought forth” (vv. 24-25) “from everlasting … from the beginning” (v22).  The Greek translation of the Old Testament, that was used by the apostles, and from which they most often quoted (the LXX or Septuagint), translates “brought forth” in these verses as “born.” 

If Paul thought of Jesus as the Wisdom of Proverbs 8, and if “the firstborn of all creation” is Paul’s interpretation of Proverbs 8, then Paul, when he referred to Jesus as “firstborn,” spoke of Jesus’ preexistence (His existence before He became a human being).  This supports the conclusion above that “firstborn” in Colossians 1:15 identifies Jesus as first in time.

4.4 The Immediate Context

The phrase “the firstborn of all creation” must be understood in the immediate context, summarized as follows:

He is … the firstborn of all creation,
for by Him all things were created…
He is before all things.” (1:15-17 NASB)

Firstly, “by Him all things were created” refers to the creation event; the beginning of time. The first word in verse 16 is “because” or “for.”  This word means that Jesus is “the firstborn of all creation” because “by Him all things were created,” including time.  In other words, He is “firstborn” because He is before all things; literally first in time.

Secondly, verses 15 to 17 form a unit, expressing a single thought.  Then the phrase “He is … the firstborn of all creation” can be understood as equivalent to “He is before all things;” literally first to exist.

Thirdly, since “all things” include time itself, there was no time or object or thing before God “brought forth” His Son, and created “all things” through His Son.

4.5 The beginning of the creation of God (Rev. 3:14)

Revelation 3:14 contains a very similar statement:

The firstborn of all creation” (Col. 1:15);
The beginning of the creation of God” (Rev. 3:14);

The similarity implies that the “firstborn” is equivalent to the “beginning,” which again implies that Jesus was the first to exist.  There are, however, some dispute about the translation of the word arché as “the beginning.

One view interprets arché as that Jesus is the “Origin or Source” of creation (e.g. the Berean Study Bible.  However, the phrase “the beginning of creation of God” makes a distinction between God and Jesus. (It means that the creation belongs to God and Jesus is the Beginning of the creation.) God is therefore the Originator and Source of the creation; not Jesus.  This is also clear from the definition of God as the One “out of whom are all things” (1Cor. 8:6, literal).  

Another view, provided by the NIV, finds Jesus to be “the ruler of God’s creation.”  But, just taking the first 8 translations of this verse on Biblehub, it shows that the NIV translations is fairly unique:

New International Version – the ruler of God’s creation;
New Living Translation – the beginning of God’s new creation;
English Standard Version – the beginning of God’s creation;
Berean Study Bible – the Originator of God’s creation;
Berean Literal Bible – the Beginning of God’s creation;
New American Standard Bible – the Beginning of the creation of God;
King James Bible – beginning of the creation of God;
Christian Standard Bible – the originator of God’s creation:

Thayer’s Greek Lexicon gives 5 meanings of arché:

(1) the beginning of all things or of something specific,
(2) the first in a series of persons or things,
(3) the active cause of something,
(4) the extremity of a thing, or
(5) that which holds the first place, such as a ruler

For the following reasons it is proposed here that arché in Revelation 3:14 is correctly translated as “the beginning,” namely as a reference to time, meaning that Jesus was the first in time:

Out of the 56 occurrences in the New Testament, the NASB translates arché 38 times (68%) as “beginning” and 7 times (13%) as rulers or rule or principalities, as originator of an action.  The dominant meaning of arché is “the beginning.”

█ The New Testament never uses arché for the singular ruler.  Another word (archon) is used for “ruler.” For instance, Jesus is the “ruler (archon) of the kings of the earth” (Rev. 1:5)

3The expression “the beginning of God’s creation” (Rev. 3:14) is probably an allusion to Proverbs 8:22: “The LORD possessed me at the beginning of His way.”  If this is true, then arché in the phrase “the beginning of the creation of God” (Rev. 3:14) means first in time; not ruler or origin or source.

4.6 Summary

In this section the following reasons were provided to support the conclusion that “firstborn” in Colossians 1:15 means that Jesus was the first to exist:

4.1 In the Old Testament the dominant meaning of “firstborn” is literally as the one born first.
4.2 In the New Testament “firstborn” always means first in time.
4.3 Jesus is Wisdom, whom God “brought forth” “in the beginning,” and
who worked with God to create all things.
4.4 The immediate context identifies the “Firstborn of all creation” as “before all things” because “by Him all things were created.”
4.5The firstborn of all creation” is very similar to “the beginning of the creation of God” (Rev. 3:14), which implies that “firstborn” is equivalent to “beginning.”

In conclusion, the Son is “firstbornin terms of time. The meaning of ‘preeminent over’ cannot be found in the phrase “the firstborn from the dead.”

All things have been created “in” Jesus.

The second word of Colossians 1:16 is the Greek word “en.”  The NASB translates en here as “by”, but perhaps this is not the best translation:

█ The primary meaning of en is “in.”
█ “En” appears twice more in verses 16 and 17 (“in the heavens” and “in Him”), and in both instances the NASB translates it as “in.” 

So “in Him all things were created” could have been an alternative translation.  This is how the NIV, ESV and many other translations read.

By him” can be misunderstood as meaning that Jesus is the source of creation.  Rather, Jesus is the means by which God creates, as indicated later in that same verse: “All things have been created through Him.” See God created all things through His Son.

It is difficult to explain how the universe can be created “in” (within) the Only Begotten Son of God: 

█ Some propose that the Only Begotten Son is the pattern after which the universe has been created.
█ Others propose that the creation came forth from Him.  In other words, God begat (symbolically) the Only Begotten Son, and the universe came forth from within the Son.

But it is equally difficult to understand how “in Him all things hold together” (v17):  These things humans are not able to understand, for God is beyond understanding.  We cannot explain why God exists.  We cannot explain how the universe can be infinite.  Nor are we able to understand how He created.  Therefore, let us be content to interpret the Bible literally on this point, and confess our ignorance.

What we learn from the phrase “in Him all things were created” is that an unexplainable, but close relationship exists between the Only Begotten Son and the creation.  God “brought forth” (Proverbs 8:24, 25) the Son to bring forth the universe.   

The phrase analyzed by this article is found in the letter to the Colossians. The apostle Paul penned this letter to refute what is generically known as the Colossian heresy.  In general, the false teachers in Colossae argued that Jesus is great, but He is only one of many great ones.  This is perhaps similar to the Jehovah Witness understanding of Jesus as “a god.”  To conclude, as the Jehovah Witness do, that Jesus is “a god,” is to be consistent with the Colossian heresy.  As argued above, Jesus is not one of many; He is the Only Begotten Son of God.  God has begotten Him to bring the creation into existence through Him.  He is that which exists.  All else came forth from Him.

Articles in the Christology series: Is Jesus God?

For an overview of the articles, the reader may next read the summary, which is the 13th article, also called Jesus is not God, but He is God.

  1.    The three views of the Son 
  2.    Jesus existed prior to His birth in the form of God. 
  3.    Jesus in Colossians
  4.    Jesus in Philippians: Did He empty Himself of equality with God? 
  5.    Who is the Word in John 1:1?
  6.    Jesus is not God.  
  7.    God is the Head of Christ
  8.    Jesus is called God. 
  9.    He is the Only Begotten Son of God. 
 10.  God created all things through His Son. 
 11.  Jesus is worshiped.  Does that mean that He is God?  
       Worship verses in the New Testament   
 12.  Jesus has equality with God. 
 13. 
Who is Jesus? – Summary of the series of articles 
 14.  Where do we find Jesus in the Old Testament?



Does the book of Revelation present Jesus as God?

John 1:1

The writer of Revelation wrote in John 1:1 as follows:

(a) In the beginning was the Word,
(b) and the Word was with God,
(c) and the Word was God.

John 1:14 identifies “the Word” as Jesus.  In John 1:1(b) “God” refers to the Father.  The statement that “the Word was with God,” makes a distinction between God and Jesus, as if Jesus is not God.  But this seems to be contradicted by the statement in (c) that “the Word was God.”  Different people explain this apparent contradiction differently.

Theos

The Greek word translated “God” is theos.  There are at least three possible ways in which theos is used:

(1) As a common noun (group name) for exalted beings;
(2) As a common noun (group name) for the Trinity;
(3) As a proper noun (a name identifying one specific Being), namely the Father;

The question is in what way or ways theos is used in John 1:1.  These three possible uses of theos, and their implications, may be explained as follows:

Theos as an exalted being

The Jehovah Witnesses propose that Jesus is a created being; the first created being that created all other beings; nevertheless, a created being.  Their New World Translation therefore renders John 1:1(c) as, “the Word was a god.”  They find support for this interpretation in the following:

Firstly, the Greeks used theos for their multitude of gods.  The deities that the ancient Greeks believed were hardly anything at all like the God of the Bible. Instead, they were essentially just immortal, glorified humans with supernatural powers.  Theos may therefore be used for any real or factitious being that is exalted above others.  The New Testament sometimes uses theos in this sense.  It several times uses theos for “gods made with hands” (Acts 19:26), and even once for Satan, as “the god of this world” (2 Cor. 4:4).

Secondly, the original Greek text of the New Testament does not differentiate between upper and lower case letters.  Theos may therefore be translated either as “God” or as “god.”

Thirdly, the Greek language has a definite article (the).  Theos in (b) has the definite article, and literary translated reads “the God.” Theos in (c) does not have the definite article, and could therefore literally be translated “a god.”

The translation “the Word was a god” implies that Jesus is one of perhaps many similar created but exalted beings.

Theos as group name for the Trinity

When we say “Peter is a human,” then “Peter” is a name that identifies a specific being (WHO he is).  “Human,” on the other hand, is a common noun that explains WHAT Peter is.  Similarly, when we say “Jesus is God,” then “Jesus” is a name that identifies one specific being.  “God” is a common noun that explains WHAT Jesus is.

The Jehovah Witnesses understand theos in John 1:1(c) as a common noun for exalted beings.  An alternative understanding of theos is that it adopts a more specific meaning in the New Testament.  Specifically, some propose that theos is used in the New Testament as a common noun (a group name) for the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.  If that is the true, then theos in John 1:1(b), which refers to the Father, and theos in John 1:1(c), which refers to the Son, have exactly the same meaning.  Then theos in these statements describe both the Father and the Son as “Godhead,” a term which we can borrow from Colossians 2:8.  With this understanding of theos it is concluded that Jesus is co-equal with the Father; two Persons, but one divine Being.

Theos as a proper name for the Father exclusively

Others propose that theos in the New Testament adopts an even more specific meaning, namely that theos is used as a proper noun (a name) for the Father exclusively.  It is then proposed that John 1:1 uses theos in two ways:

In John 1:1(b) theos is used as a proper noun (a name) for the Father exclusively.

In John 1:1(c) theos is used as a common noun to describe Jesus as the Christian God; the One whom Christians worship, admire and obey.  The Greeks who worshiped Zeus and Apollos and many other gods, but Christians worship Jesus.

Purpose

This is a huge topic, which is discussed in a series of articles on this website.  One of the considerations, to decide between these alternatives, is how the New Testament uses the term theos.  The purpose of this article is particularly to determine how the book of Revelation uses theos:

Is theos used as a common noun or as a name?  Stated differently, is theos used as a name for one specific being (a proper noun), or for group of beings (a common noun)?

Specifically, is Jesus described as theos (God), or is theos only used for the Father?

Theos is used about 100 times in Revelation.  Most instances do not provide further identification, for instance:

The great wine press of the wrath of God” (14:19), or
The wrath of God” (15:1).

This article only considers uses of theos in Revelation that provide further identification that help us to understand who is intended.

Jesus is distinct from God.

(1) Revelation opens with the words,

The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave Him …” (1:1).

This immediately makes a distinction between God and Jesus, which means that theos (God) is used for the Father exclusively.  The following further examples show that Revelation consistently and clearly makes a distinction between God and Jesus:

(2) In the next verse John testifies of “the word of God and to the testimony of Jesus Christ” (1:2).  There are many similar phrases in Revelation, making a distinction between God and Jesus:

the word of God and the testimony of Jesus” (1:9);
the commandments of God and … the testimony of Jesus” (12:17);
the commandments of God and their faith in Jesus” (14:12);
their testimony of Jesus and because of the word of God” (20:4).

(3) Speaking about Jesus, John wrote “He has made us to be a kingdom, priests to His God and Father” (1:6).

(4) Jesus similarly refers to God as “My God.” He said, for instance, “He who overcomes, I will make him a pillar in the temple of My God” (3:12, 13; cf. 3:2;).

(5) In Revelation 5 Jesus appears in the throne room as a Lamb.  Then “they sang a new song, saying … You were slain, and purchased for God with Your blood men from every tribe” (4:9-10).

(6)a great multitude … standing before the throne and before the Lamb, … and they cry out with a loud voice, saying, “Salvation to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb” (7:9-10).

(7) The woman of Revelation 12 “gave birth to a son … and her child was caught up to God and to His throne” (12:5).  (To see that this Child is Jesus, compare this verse with 19:15.)

(8) After Michael won the victory over Satan, “I heard a loud voice in heaven, saying, ‘Now the salvation, and the power, and the kingdom of our God and the authority of His Christ have come’” (12:10).

(9) The 144000 “have been purchased from among men as first fruits to God and to the Lamb” (14:4).

(10) Those who have “a part in the first resurrection … will be priests of God and of Christ” (20:6).

(11) John was given a vision of the New Jerusalem.  He “saw no temple in it, for the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb are its temple” (21:22).  Similarly, “the glory of God has illumined it, and its lamp is the Lamb” (21:23).

(12) John saw “a river of the water of life …coming from the throne of God and of the Lamb” (22:1).  “The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it (the New Jerusalem)” (22:3).

These examples show clearly that Revelation consistently makes a distinction between God and Jesus.  Theos is used about 100 times in Revelation.  The 12 points above show that in about 17 instances theos (God) refers to the Father exclusively.  In not a single instance in Revelation is theos used for Jesus.  This means that when we read of “God” in Revelation, we must always assume that the writer refers to the Father specifically.

God and Jesus are often mentioned together.  God communicates with the Church through Jesus (1:1).  Jesus make us priests to His God (1:6), but they become priests of both God and of Christ (20:6).  Jesus purchased for God with His blood men from every tribe (4:9-10).  Together God and Jesus are the temple and the light of the New Jerusalem (21:22, 23).  Together they will rule over the New Jerusalem (22:1, 3).  (The throne is a symbol of the right to rule.)  They are even worshiped together at the end of Revelation 5, but they are distinct.

Conclusion: Theos (God) is used in Revelation as a name (proper noun) for the Father exclusively.  Theos is not used for Jesus.

Him who sits on the throne

Further examples of the distinction between God and Jesus can be found if we recognize:

(1) That “Him who sits on the throne” is God, and
(2) That Jesus is presented as distinct from “Him who sits on the throne.”

The word “throne” is found about 100 times in the Bible.  Fifty of those are in Revelation.  The throne is therefore a central concept in Revelation.  Much happen “around the throne” (4:3, 6; 5:11; 7:11, etc.), “before the throne” (4:5, 6, 10; 7:9, 11, etc.) and comes “from the throne” (4:5; 16:17; 22:1; etc.).

Revelation 4 may be called the throne room chapter.  The word “throne” appears at least 10 times in that one chapter alone.  Jesus is absent from this chapter; He will only appear in chapter 5.  The description of God in Revelation 4 therefore refers to the Father only.  In that chapter John saw:

A throne was standing in heaven, and One sitting on the throne. And He who was sitting was like a jasper stone and a sardius in appearance; and there was a rainbow around the throne, like an emerald in appearance” (4:2-3)

This is not a very specific description, but then we must remember that John also wrote that “No one has seen God at any time” (John 1:18).  God certainly manifests Himself in different forms at different times, for instance in this vision, but God Himself cannot be seen, for He exists beyond the physical realm. “God is spirit” (John 4:24).

After the introduction of “One sitting on the throne,” He is often called “Him who sits on the throne” (4:9, 10; 5:1, 7, 13; 6:16).

Him who sits on the throne” is God:

This already clear from the context in Revelation 4, where “Him who sits on the throne” (4:10) is called “God” (4:8, 11).  This is confirmed by the following:

The “great multitude” “cry out with a loud voice, saying, ‘Salvation to our God who sits on the throne’” (7:9-10). 

A few verses later it says that the “great multitude” “are before the throne of God” (7:15).

The son of the woman of Revelation 12 “was caught up to God and to His throne” (12:5).

The twenty-four elders and the four living creatures fell down and worshiped God who sits on the throne” (19:4).

Jesus is distinct from “Him who sits on the throne.

This is already shown by Revelation 4, where Jesus is absent, and where “Him who sits on the throne” is worshiped.  The following confirm the distinction between Jesus and “Him who sits on the throne:”

In Revelation 5 Jesus appears as a Lamb.  “He came and took the book out of the right hand of Him who sat on the throne” (5:7).

At the end of Revelation 5 “every created thing … I heard saying, To Him who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb” (5:13).

At the return of Christ, the lost masses cry, “Fall on us and hide us from the presence of Him who sits on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb” (6:16).

The saved “great multitude,” in contrast, stands “before the throne and before the Lamb.”  They “cry out with a loud voice, saying, ‘Salvation to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.’” (7:9-10).  (Jesus is called “the Lamb” about 30 times in Revelation.)

If “Him who sits on the throne” is God, and if Jesus is distinct from “Him who sits on the throne,” then Jesus is distinct from God, which means that Revelation uses theos (God) to refer to the Father exclusively.

Revelation 22 refers to “the throne of God and of the Lamb” (22:1, 3).  This again makes a distinction between God and Jesus, but now it is the throne also of Jesus.  Revelation 3:21 explains why: Jesus said, “I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne” (3:21).  This is consistent with the frequent message in the New Testament that Jesus sits “at the right hand of God” (e.g. 1 Peter 1:22).  It therefore remains the Father’s throne.

Titles unique for the Father

Revelation 4 introduces the throne room.  In this chapter Jesus is absent.  He only enters the throne room in Revelation 5.  Revelation 4 therefore describes the Father.  In it we find the following description of Him:

4:8 … the four living creatures … day and night they do not cease to say, “HOLY, HOLY, HOLY is THE LORD GOD, THE ALMIGHTY, WHO WAS AND WHO IS AND WHO IS TO COME.” 4:9 And when the living creatures give glory and honor and thanks to Him who sits on the throne, to Him who lives forever and ever, 4:10 the twenty-four elders will fall down before Him who sits on the throne (cf. 4:2; 5:1, 13; 6:16; 7:10), and will worship Him who lives forever and ever, and will cast their crowns before the throne, saying, 4:11 “Worthy are You, our Lord and our God, to receive glory and honor and power; for You created all things, and because of Your will they existed, and were created.”

This quote describes this Being as theos (God) and twice as “Him who sits on the throne.”  This confirms that this quote describes the Father, in distinction to Jesus.  But this quote provides additional descriptions of the Father, namely as:

Who Was and Who Is and Who Is to Come,
The Almighty,
“Him who lives forever and ever” (twice), and
“You created all things

These descriptions are discussed below.

Who Was and Who Is and Who Is to Come

The context in which this title is found in Revelation 2 implies that this refers to the Father, as distinct from Jesus.  The following is further proof:  

Firstly, in Revelation’s introduction, John brings wishes of grace and peace to the seven churches from the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit (1:4-5).  In these verses the Father is called, “Him who is and who was and who is to come.”

Secondly, Him “who is and who was and who is to come” is also called”Lord God” (1:8; 11:17).  Since it was already shown above that Revelation applies theos (God) exclusively to the Father, the phrase “Lord God” means that this is the Father speaking.  

In 11:17, since the kingdom of the world has already become the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ, the “to come” is omitted, and the Father is only called, “who are and who were.”

It is proposed here that the title “who are and who were” may be understood as the “I AM WHO I AM” of Exodus 3, where YHVH (Yahweh or Jehovah) identified Himself:

I AM WHO I AM … Thus you shall say to the sons of Israel, ‘I AM has sent me to you. … Thus you shall say to the sons of Israel, ‘The LORD (YHVH).’ This is My name forever” (Ex. 3:14-15)

LORD” in the Old Testament, in capital letters, translates God’s proper name YHVH.  These verse from Exodus explains the meaning of the name YHVH as “I AM WHO I AM.”  This may be understood to mean the One who exists without cause, but Who is the Cause of everything that exists.

Personal note: It always scares me to think about why things exists.  Why is there not nothing?  The answer is that all things exist because God exists.  In fact, He is that which exists.  Everything that exists came from within Him.  But these thoughts scare me.  My entire existence depends on Him.  But then I thank Him for the revelation which He gave of Himself through Jesus Christ.

The Almighty

Almighty” is used about 27 times in the Bible.  It is found 4 times in the Pentateuch, 9 times in Job and also 9 times in Revelation.  This is therefore also an important term in Revelation.  In Revelation this title is never used for Jesus; only for the Father, as is confirmed by the following:

I saw no temple in it, for the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb are its temple” (21:22).

This verse makes a distinction between God and the Lamb.  It also identifies God as “the Almighty,” which means that Jesus is not “the Almighty.” 

We already saw that the contents of the book of Revelation was created by God, and given to Jesus (1:1).  The title “Father” also means that He is the ultimate Source of all things.  As stated above, Jesus referred to the Father as “My God”  (e.g. 3:2).

Further proof that “the Almighty” refers to the Father only is that the title “Him who is and who was and who is to come” and “God.” both of which have already been identified as the Father, are often combined “the Almighty”:

I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty” (1:8).

And the four living creatures… do not cease to say, ‘Holy, Holy, Holy is The Lord God, The Almighty, Who Was and Who Is and Who Is To Come.’” (4:8)

And the twenty-four elders … worshiped God, saying, “We give You thanks, O Lord God, the Almighty, who are and who were” (11:16-17).

Those who had been victorious over the beast … sang … saying, “Great and marvelous are Your works, O Lord God, the Almighty” (15:2-3)

I heard the altar saying, ‘Yes, O Lord God, the Almighty, true and righteous are Your judgments’” (16:7).

The war of the great day of God, the Almighty” (16:14)

I heard something like the voice of a great multitude … saying, “Hallelujah! For the Lord our God, the Almighty, reigns” (19:6).

The Word of God … treads the wine press of the fierce wrath of God, the Almighty” (19:13-15).

I saw no temple in it (the New Jerusalem), for the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb are its temple” (Rev. 21:22).

Him who lives forever and ever

This title is used of the Father in 4:9, in 4:10 and in 10:6.  In 7:2 He similarly is “the living God.”  He is specifically called “God, who lives forever and ever” in 15:7.  Revelation always uses “God” for the Father exclusively.

In Revelation 1 Jesus says “I was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore” (1:18).  “The Son also gives life to whom He wishes” (John 5:21), but we must always remember that “just as the Father has life in Himself, even so He gave to the Son also to have life in Himself” (John 5:26).  The Father is the ultimate Source of life, but that life flows through the Son to other beings.

 

Creator

It is said of the Father, “You created all things, and because of Your will they existed, and were created” (4:10-11).  Later we hear:

The angel …  swore by Him who lives forever and ever, Who created heaven and the things in it, and the earth and the things in it, and the sea and the things in it” (10:5-6)

“Fear God, and give Him glory, because the hour of His judgment has come; worship Him who made the heaven and the earth and sea and springs of waters” (14:7)

The Father created all things, but again, God created all things through His Son.  Jesus is the Mediator between us and God in all things:

There is one God, and one mediator also between God and men, the man Christ Jesus” (1 Tit. 2:5).

Worship

Worship” is another of Revelation’s key words.  This word is found about 150 times in the NASB translation of the entire Bible, of which more than 20 are in Revelation.  What we experience today a war for the minds of the people.  While “all who dwell on the earth will worship” the beast (13:8; 14:9), a strong message goes out world-wide: “Fear God, and give Him glory … worship Him who made the heaven and the earth and sea and springs of waters” (14:7).  The Creator alone must be worshiped.  

In Revelation 4—the throne room chapter—“Him who sits on the throne” is worshiped.  Similarly, during the seven last plagues, it is announced:

O Lord God, the Almighty … all the nations will come and worship before you.” (15:3-4)

Twice John fell down before the angel to worship him and twice the angel prevented him from doing so:

Do not do that; I am a fellow servant of yours and your brethren who hold the testimony of Jesus; worship God” (19:10; cf. 22:9).

Since Revelation reserves the title “God” for the Father, these are instructions to worship the Father only:

The twenty-four elders and the four living creatures fell down and worshiped God who sits on the throne” (19:4).

All the angels … fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God” (7:11).

The twenty-four elders, who sit on their thrones before God, fell on their faces and worshiped God” (11:16).

But in Revelation 5 Jesus is also worshiped:

When He had taken the book, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each one holding a harp and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints” (5:8).

In Revelation 5 “every created thing” worships “Him who sits on the throne, and … the Lamb” (5:13-14).

In the article Jesus is worshiped.  Does that mean that He is God? it is argued that Jesus is not worshiped independent or co-equal with God, but that He is worshiped:

  • Because God instructed the angels to worship Him (Heb. 1:6);
  • Because God gave Him “the name which is above every name” (Phil. 2:9);
  • To the glory of God the Father” (Phil. 2:11).

Conclusion

In Revelation “Jesus Christ” (1:5) is many times called the “Lamb.”  He is also called “Lord of lords and King of kings” (17:14), “Ruler of the kings of the earth” (1:5), “Faithful witness” (1:5), “Faithful and True” (19:11), “Firstborn of the dead” (1:5), “the first and the last” (1:17; 2:8), “One like a son of man” (1:13) and “the Son of God” (2:18).   “His name is called the Word of God” (19:13).

The Word was a god

Jehovah Witnesses point out that Jesus is also called “the Beginning of the creation of God” (3:14), and propose that this means that He is a created being.  But the same John, who wrote Revelation, also wrote that Jesus is “the only begotten from the Father” (e.g. John 1:14).  If He was begotten from the Father, then He was not created.  See Only Begotten Son of God.  John is also clear that,

All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being” (John 1:3)

If He created all things, then He Himself is not created.  In any case, it is clear from Revelation that Jesus is worshiped with God.  Jesus also said,

All will honor the Son even as they honor the Father. He who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent Him” (John 5:23).

Furthermore, Jesus “has the seven Spirits of God” (3:1; cf. 5:6).  “He has a name written on Him which no one knows except Himself” (19:12).  For these reasons the New World Translation of John 1:1(c) as “the Word was a god” is not accepted. 

Co-equal

It is, on the other hand, also clear that theos (God) is used exclusively for the Father.

Of the about 100 times that theos is used in Revelation, about 17 instances provide further information that help us to determine who is intended.  In all 17 instances theos is not used as a group name for the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, but used to refer to the Father exclusively. 

The letter to the Colossians was also analyzed to see how that letter uses theos.  See Is Jesus God? – A study of the letter to the Colossians.  That articles shows that God created all things through Jesus, that Jesus holds all creation together and that Jesus rules over all.  But Colossians also presents Jesus as distinct from God.

Theos is used about 1300 times in the New Testament.  The article Jesus is not God shows many clear examples from the other books of the New Testament that theos is used as a name for the Father only.  Therefore, when we encounter theos (God) in the New Testament, we must assume it refers to the Father exclusively. 

However, in about 7 instances the New Testament refers to Jesus as God, of which John 1:1(c) is the best known.  It is proposed that, in those seven instances, theos is used is a different way, namely to say that Jesus is the One Whom Christians worship and obey. The Greeks who worshiped Zeus and Apollos and many other gods, but Christians worship Jesus.  This does not make Him co-equal with the Father.  The Father alone is God; the Source of all things.  The article Jesus is subordinate to God shows that Jesus was subordinate to God both prior to His birth and after His ascension.  Nevertheless, Jesus is our God, for He is the One whom we worship and admire.

Articles in the Christology series:
Is Jesus God?

  1.    The three views of the Son 
  2.    Jesus existed prior to His birth in the form of God. 
  3.    Jesus in Colossians
  4.    Jesus in Philippians: Did He empty Himself of equality with God? 
  5.    Who is the Word in John 1:1?
  6.    Jesus is not God.  
  7.    God is the Head of Christ
  8.    Jesus is called God. 
  9.    He is the Only Begotten Son of God. 
 10.  God created all things through His Son. 
 11.  Jesus is worshiped.  Does that mean that He is God?  
       Worship verses in the New Testament   
 12.  Jesus has equality with God. 
 13. 
Who is Jesus? – Summary of the series of articles 
 14.  Where do we find Jesus in the Old Testament?

 


	

Where do we find Jesus in the Old Testament?

Jesus has always existed.  In fact, God created all things through Him.  Therefore, the question arises: Where do we find Jesus in the Old Testament? God is invisible, but was seen in the Old Testament.  To solve this apparent contradiction, this article finds evidence in the Old Testament of two distinct divine beings.

Purpose

Before AbrahamJesus was “before Abraham” (John 8:58).  He existed “before all things” (Col. 1:17).  He is “from the days of eternity” (Micah 5:2).  “He was “in the beginning with God” (John 1:2).  God created all things through Him (John 1:3).  Before He became a human being, Jesus existed in the form of God and had equality with God (Phil. 2:6).  (See Jesus existed prior to His birth in the form of God.)

The question in this series of articles is therefore: Where do we find Jesus in the Old Testament?

Jesus was accurately predicted in the Old Testament.  He was also represented by many symbols and types.  He said that the books of the Old Testament “testify about Me” (John 5:39), and that Moses “wrote about Me” (John 5:46).  After His resurrection, He met two disciples on their way to Emmaus.  ”Beginning with Moses and with all the prophets, He explained to them the things concerning Himself in all the Scriptures” (Luke 24:27; cf. v45; 1 Peter 1:10-12).  But the purpose of this article is not to discuss the predictions or types.  The purpose is to search for His visible appearances in the Old Testament.

Theophany

A visible or audible manifestation of God is called a theophany.  This is a combination of two Greek words; theos (god) and epiphaneia (an appearance).  An appearance of Christ in Old Testament times is similarly called a Christophany.

This article examines some of the appearances God in the Old Testament to discern which ones are actually appearances of Christ.  Dr. John Walvoord, in his book Jesus Christ Our Lord, says, “It is safe to assume that every visible manifestation of God in bodily form in the Old Testament is to be identified with the Lord Jesus Christ” (Walvoord, 54).  God sometimes only speaks.  Other times He appears in visions and dreams, or He appears as a blinding light on in the form of fire.  Walvoord used the words “visible” and “bodily” to exclude visions, dreams and non-bodily appearances.  But that does not mean that Jesus did not appear in visions, dreams, or in other non-bodily forms, such as a pillar of fire.  In Daniel 7 the Son of Man (Jesus), was seen in a vision.

Is the God of the Old Testament severe?

The FloodMany think of the God of the Old Testament is harsh.  He, for example, expelled Adam from the Garden of Eden for eating the forbidden fruit, destroyed the earth with a flood, sent plagues on ancient Egypt, instructed Israel to kill all inhabitants in Canaan and punished Israel through captivity by foreign nations.

Jesus, on the other hand, is merciful.  He taught love towards enemies.  He healed multitudes, held children in His arms and voluntary gave His life to save us.

But if it can be shown that Jesus is the God of the Old Testament, who destroyed almost the entire human population through the flood, then we must reconsider our views of the God of the Old Testament.

YHVH and Elohim

In this study the words YHVH and Elohim are important.

God’s Name is YHVH.

YHVH (pronounced Yahweh or Jehovah or Yhovah) is the most common transliteration of the Hebrew name of God.  It is the proper name of the God of Israel, similar to the names Peter, John and James.

The name YHVH appears 6,668 times in the Hebrew Scriptures.  Most English translations render YHVH as “the LORD” — all capital letters.  But “lord,” in normal English, is not a name; it is a title.  To translate God’s name as “LORD” distorts its meaning.  For instance, consider the following statement:

 “I am the LORD; and I appeared to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, as God Almighty, but by My name, LORD, I did not make Myself known to them” (Ex. 6:2-3).

This statement says that the LORD revealed His name to Moses. But it is not clear what His name is.  However, if we replace “the LORD” with “YHVH,” then it reads,

I am the YHVH; and I appeared to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, as God Almighty, but by My name, YHVH, I did not make Myself known to them” (Ex. 6:2-3).

Now it is clear what God’s name is: It is YHVH.  As standard practice, this article uses the NASB, but all instances of “the LORD” have been replaced with “YHVH.”  For instance:

Thus says God YHVH, Who created the heavens … Who spread out the earth … Who gives breath to the people on it … ‘I am YHVH … I will also hold You by the hand and watch over You, …  I am YHVH, that is My name‘”(Is. 42:5-8).

God’s name YHVH never appears in the New Testament.

God’s Title

Elohim (gods) is the plural form of el (god).  False gods are also described as el or elohim, but false gods are never called YHVH.  Although Elohim is plural, when referring to the true God, it is commonly translated as “God” (singular).

God is invisible.

John revealed something which must have been a surprise to the first Jewish believers:

No one has seen God at any time” (John 1:18; 1 John 4:12).

Not that anyone has seen the Father, except the One who is from God; He has seen the Father” (John 6:46).

 image of the invisible GodNote that the title “God” is used here for the Father only, and excludes Jesus.  Paul confirmed that the only God is invisible:

The King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God” (1 Tim. 1:17)

who alone possesses immortality and dwells in inapproachable light whom no man has seen or can see” (1 Timothy 6:16).

Jesus “is the image of the invisible God” (Col. 1:15).

God not only has never been seen; He is “invisible” (Col. 1:15).  He cannot be seen (1 Tim. 6:16).  He exists outside space, time and matter.

These statements draw a distinction between God, who is invisible, and Jesus, who is visible.  For a discussion of this challenge to the divinity of Christ, see Jesus is not the same Person as God.

Face to face

But then, how are we to explain the numerous Old Testament Scriptures that God spoke face-to-face with humans?

YHVH used to speak to Moses face to face, just as a man speaks to his friend” (Ex. 33:11).  But still Moses found it necessary to ask God, “I pray You, show me Your glory!” (v18).  To which YHVH responded, “You cannot see My face, for no man can see Me and live” (v20).

Moses said to Israel, “YHVH spoke to you face to face at the mountain from the midst of the fire” (Deut. 5:4).  But he also said “YHVH spoke to you from the midst of the fire; you heard the sound of words, but you saw no form—only a voice” (Deut. 4:12).  “Moses went up with Aaron, Nadab and Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel, and they saw the God of Israel … they saw God … at a distance” (Ex. 24:9-11).

Face to face” therefore does not mean literally face to face. It must rather be understood in a sense of a direct interaction.

Similarly, in Numbers 14:14, we read, “You, YHVH, are seen eye to eye, while Your cloud stands over them; and You go before them in a pillar of cloud by day and in a pillar of fire by night”.  In this verse the expression “eye to eye” means that Israel saw the cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night.  There was no literal “eye to eye” interaction with God.

But God was seen.

The claim of the apostles, that God is invisible, would have been a surprise to the first Jewish Christians because they knew that God was seen.

Adam and Eve

They heard the sound of YHVH God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of YHVH God among the trees” (Gen. 3:8).

It does not explicitly say that they saw Him, but that is a fair assumption.

Abraham in Genesis 18

In Genesis 18 YHVH appeared to Abraham.  Verse 1 serves as introduction, and simply says that “Now YHVH appeared to him by the oaks of Mamre, while he was sitting at the tent door in the heat of the day.

Abraham's three visitorsVerses 2 to 8 elaborates to tell the story of how three men appeared to Abraham.  He welcomed them and served them food, and “they ate” (v8).  These verses do not specifically mention YHVH, but verses 13 to 22 identify one of the three men as YHVH (vv 13, 17, 19, 20, 22).  This means that YHVH looked like and ate like a human being.

YHVH promised Abraham that Sarah will have a son (vv9-15 ).   He also said, referring to Abraham, “I have chosen him” (v19).  This confirms that this is God speaking.

In verse 22 “the men turned away from there and went toward Sodom, while Abraham was still standing before YHVH.”  Since “two angels came to Sodom in the evening” (19:1), “the men” in 18:22 were “two angels.

In verses 23 to 33 Abraham negotiates with YHVH about “Sodom and Gomorrah” (v20).  In this section the writer of Genesis twice refers to the One speaking with Abraham as YHVH (vv 26, 33).  Once Abraham refers to Him as the “Judge of all the earth” (v25).

Jacob

Jacob wrestled all night with “a man” (Genesis 32:24-25), but the following indicate that this “man” was actually God, appearing in the form of a man:

(A)  Just before daybreak the “Man” finally disabled Jacob.  He told Jacob “Your name shall no longer be Jacob, but Israel; for you have striven with God and with men and have prevailed” (verse 28).  The next morning Jacob understood that it was God Himself whom he had wrestled: “So Jacob named the place Peniel, for he said, ‘I have seen God face to face, yet my life has been preserved’” (v30).

(B)  While still wrestling, Jacob asked the “Man,” “Please tell me your name.”  The “Man” said, “Why is it that you ask my name?” (v29).  Many years later YHVH said to Moses, “I am YHVH; and I appeared to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, as God Almighty, but by My name, YHVH, I did not make Myself known to them” (Ex. 6:2-3).

(C)  Hosea 12 reflected on to this incident as follows: “In his maturity he contended with God. Yes, he wrestled with the angel and prevailed”.  (“The angel” probably refers to the angel of YHVH, discussed below.”

Moses

If there is a prophet among you, I, YHVH, shall make Myself known to him in a vision. I shall speak with him in a dream. Not so, with My servant Moses … he beholds the form of YHVH.”  (Numbers 12:6)

To explain this statement, it is proposed that the appearances of God be divided into at least three categories:

Daniel the prophet
Daniel the prophet

Visions: Sometimes God is seen in visions and dreams.  Isaiahsaw the Lord sitting on a throne” (Is. 6:1), but only in vision (Is. 1:1).  Ezekiel saw “something resembling a throne … and on that which resembled a throne, high up, was a figure with the appearance of a man” (1:26), but only in “visions” (1:1).  Daniel saw “the Ancient of Days” (7:9), but only in a dream (7:1).  John saw “One sitting on the throne” (Rev. 4:2), but only “in the Spirit” (1:10).  In these cases God gave images directly to the brains of the individuals; by-passing their physical eyes.

Human form: Sometimes YHVH appears in human form, visible to physical eyes, for instance to Adam, to Abraham and to Isaac.

Form of YHVH: Sometimes God appears in the form of God, but visible to physical eyes.  However, according to Numbers 12:6, Moses was the only one who ever saw YHVH with His physical eyes.  YHVH made it a specific point of not letting other people see any form of Him.  But even Moses, “cannot see My face, for no man can see Me and live” (Ex. 33:20).  Moses only saw a form.

Conclusion

Adam and Eve saw YHVH God.  YHVH appeared to Abraham in the form of a man.  Jacob wrestled all night with God, appearing in the form of a man.  Moses saw YHVH, appearing in the form of God.  But the NT tells us that “No one has seen God at any time” (John 1:18).  Even Moses did not see God, because God cannot be seen.  Who then appeared to Adam, Abraham, Isaac and Moses?  Was Jesus the YHVH of the Old Testament?  Jesus existed in the form of God (Phil. 2:6).  Was that the form which Moses saw?

Two divine beings

To solve this apparent contradiction, that God is invisible, but was seen, we note that the Old Testament implies two distinct divine beings.

Let Us make man.

Let Us make ManThe Book of Genesis contains three passages in which “Us” and “Our” are used in reference to God, implying more than one divine being:

And God said, ‘Let Us make man in Our image, after Our likeness’” (Gen. 1:26).

And YHVH God said, ‘Behold, the man has become like one of Us, to decide good and evil’” (Gen. 3:22).

And YHVH said … ‘Come, let Us go down and there confuse their language…’” (Gen. 11:6-7).

The title “God” in these verses translates Elohim, which literally means “gods” (plural).

Angels

Some explain the plural pronouns (Us and Our) as the Deity conferring with his angels; a single God and His angelic host.  However, angels do not have the power to create, took no part in man’s creation, and were therefore not part of the “Us” of Genesis 1:26.

Figure of speech

Others claim that such plural pronouns for God are only a figure of speech.  But what justification do we have for taking the text as symbolic?  In Genesis 11:4 the men of Babel said, “let us build us a city … let us establish a name.”  If that was literal, why would YHVH’s invitation, just three verses later, “let Us go down,” be symbolic?  As a general rule of interpretation, when a word or term is used more than once by the same writer in the same context, it should be interpreted in a parallel manner.

Plural of majesty

A third theory is that the “Us” passages of Genesis, and the use of the plural Elohim for God, are examples of the plural of majesty; a royal style of speech.  It is argued that the plural is used for the singular to show honor to God.  However, one of the keys to Bible interpretation is that we must allow the New Testament to interpret the Older Testament:

Jesus Created: John and Paul made it clear that God created all things through Jesus Christ (Col. 1:16; John 1:3; Heb. 1:2; 1 Cor. 8:6).  This is strong evidence that the Father and the Son were the “Us” who created Genesis 1:26.

Jesus spoke of God and Himself as “Us”:  In John 17 Jesus seems to explain the “Us” of Genesis.  Here Christ prays the Father to bless His disciples; “that they also may be in Us” (John 17:20-21).  If Jesus was not who He said He was, this would have been a most arrogant statement; to talk about the Father and Himself as “Us”.

Conclusion: When God said, Let Us make man in Our image” (Gen 1:26), He included the One who later became the man Jesus.

Zechariah

ZechariahThis conclusion is supported by Zechariah’s visions.  In these visions we find two distinct Beings, namely:

YHVH of hosts: To simplify the narrative below, He is referred to as YHVH.

The Angel of YHVH: The word “angel” translates the Hebrew word malak, which means “messenger.”  To simplify the narrative below, He is referred to as “the Messenger”.

In Zechariah’s visions the Messenger is called YHVH, and He acts as Judge, but He is subordinate to YHVH:

Zechariah “saw at night, and behold, a man was riding on a red horse, and he was standing among the myrtle trees which were in the ravine, with red, sorrel and white horses behind him” (Zech. 1:8).

This “man” is identified as the Messenger (the Angel of YHVH) in verse 11.  The patrol reports back to the Messenger, saying, “we have patrolled the earth, and behold, all the earth is peaceful and quiet” (1:11).  The Messenger is therefore the captain of this supernatural patrol.

The Messenger then asks YHVH, “how long will You have no compassion for Jerusalem and the cities of Judah, with which You have been indignant these seventy years” (v12)?  This implies that the Messenger is subordinate to YHVH.  YHVH is the One that makes the decisions.

In another vision Zechariah saw “Joshua the high priest standing before the angel of YHVH, and Satan standing at his right hand to accuse him” (3:1).  Now it becomes clear that this Messenger is no normal angel, for He is called “YHVH” (3:2).  He acts as Judge, rebukes Satan and forgives Joshua his sins (3:2-3).

The Messenger then conveys a message from YHVH (3:6-7).  This confirms the distinction between the Messenger and YHVH.  It also confirms that, although the Messenger is called YHVH, He is subordinate to YHVH.  This is also indicated by His title; Messenger of YHVH.

Conclusion:  These visions confirm that there are two distinct divine beings.  What Zechariah adds are the following:

(1) To identify them as the angel of YHVH (the Messenger) and YHVH of hosts (YHVH);
(2) That the angel of YHVH is subordinate to YHVH of hosts.

It will later be argued, when we address the question, Where do we find Jesus in the Old Testament in more detail,  that the Messenger of YHVH is the One who John called “the Word” (John 1:1) or “the Word of God” (Rev. 19:13).

Psalm 110

Psalm 110:1 reads:

YHVH says to my Lord (Adonay): ‘Sit at My right hand Until I make Your enemies a footstool for Your feet.’

Verse 5 of Psalm 110 continues,

The Lord (Adonay) is at Your right hand; He will shatter kings in the day of His wrath.

However, verse 5, as originally written, did not read Adonay.  The monotheistic scribes anciently altered the word from YHVH to Adonay.  Appendix 32 of the Companion Bible lists the 134 passages where the scribes altered YHVH to Adonay.  This includes Psalm 110:5.  They probably did this probably for the following reasons:

(1) It does not seem right that there are two called YHVH.
(2) The relevant individual was called Adonay (Lord) in verse 1.

Strangely enough, even although modern translators know that the text was changed, they still keep to the revised text.

Conclusion: Psalm 110:5 originally had YHVH at the right hand of YHVH, implying two that are called YHVH.  The YHVH sitting “at My right hand” is subordinate to the other.

Malachi 3

In Malachi 3:1 YHVH of hosts says, “the Lord (Adon), whom you seek, will suddenly come to His temple; and the messenger of the covenant, in whom you delight, behold, He is coming.

This “Lord” is also YHVH, for the following reasons:

(1) The title “Lord” occurs eight times in the Old Testament with the definite article, but always, except here, with YHVH following it (Ex. 23:17; 34:23; Is. 1:24; 3:1; 10:16; 10:33; 19:4.

(2) He comes “to his temple.”  But the temple is God’s.

(3) In the previous verse the people asked, “Where is the God of justice?” (2:17)  As also indicated by the first word “behold,” 3:1 responds to this question by saying “the Lord whom you seek, will suddenly come to His temple.

Conclusions:
(A)
There are two divine beings, namely YHVH of hosts and the Adon who “will suddenly come to His temple.
(C)Messenger” is the same word malak that is translated “angel” in the phrase “angel of YHVH.”  It is therefore proposed that “the messenger of the covenant” (Mal. 3:1) is the angel of YHVH.
(B) Since He is called a “messenger,” He is not the source of the message, but subordinate to YHVH of hosts.

Summary of the article

Jesus always existed.  In fact, God created all things through Him.  Therefore, the question arises: Where do we find Jesus in the Old Testament?

God is invisible, but was seen in the Old Testament.  To respond to this apparent contradiction, this article finds evidence in the Old Testament of two distinct divine beings.  For instance:

God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, after Our likeness” (Gen. 1:26).

In Zechariah’s visionthe angel of YHVH” is called YHVH, which is the personal name of God.  He also does God’s work, for He acts as Judge, rebukes Satan and forgives Joshua his sins.  But He is subordinate to “YHVH of hosts,” for He puts a question to “YHVH of hosts” and brings a message from “YHVH of hosts.

Psalm 110, in the original text, had one YHVH sitting at the right hand of another YHVH.  But the YHVH sitting “at My right hand” is logically subordinate to the other.

Malachi 3:1 promises that “the Lord” “will suddenly come to His temple.”  He is therefore God, but it is “YHVH of hosts” who makes this promise.  This implies two who are called YHVH.  But the promised Lord is called the “messenger of the covenant,” which means He is subordinate to YHVH of hosts.

Zechariah identified the two divine beings as “the angel of YHVH” and “YHVH of hosts.”  The next article discusses “the angel of YHVH,” and provides further evidence that He is God.

Who is Jesus? Jesus is not God, but He is God.

There are at least two sides to this argument.  On the one hand, this article shows that:

Jesus always existed.
God created all things through Jesus.
Jesus, as the Only Begotten Son, is God’s true family.
Jesus is equal with God.
We must worship Jesus.
The Bible refers to Jesus as “God.”

On the other hand, the New Testament consistently distinguishes between God and Jesus.  The Bible also indicates that Jesus is subordinate to God.  In others words, the New Testament reserves the title “God” for the Father.  This article seeks a solution which will satisfy these seemingly contradictory statements.

The current article is a summary of the articles on this website about the nature of Christ.

Unless otherwise indicated, all quotations are from the New American Standard Bible (NASB).

The three views

Some propose that Jesus is a created being; the first created being, who created all other things, yet still a created being.  Others propose that He always existed; co-equal with the Father.  A third view is that He was neither created nor always co-equal with the Father, but that He was eternally generated by God the Father; that He came forth from the being of God; begotten, not made.  This is what the Fathers of the Christian church proposed in the Nicene creed.  The purpose of this article is to valuate these alternative views.  For a further discussion, see The three views of the Son.

This subject requires humility, for humans are not able to understand God.  We need to accept this inability with joy, for then we will also appreciate a little of His greatness.

God created all things; through Jesus.

God created all things: “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth” (Gen. 1:1; cf. Isaiah 44:24; cf. 42:5; 45:18; Mt 19:4-6).  But God created all things through Jesus:

God spoke to Jesus, in His pre-human existence, saying “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness” (Genesis 1:26).

In the beginning was the Word … All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being” (John 1:1-3; cf. Col. 1:16-17 and Heb. 1:2).  “The Word” is Jesus (see John 1:14).

Paul concluded as follows of the different roles of God and Jesus in creation: “There is but one God, the Father, from whom are all things … and one Lord, Jesus Christ, by whom are all things” (1 Cor. 8:6).

God is the Source of all creative power and wisdom, but He creates all things through “His Son.”  He also sustains all things through His Son (Col. 1:17; Heb. 1:3).  For a further discussion, see God created all things through His Son.

Jesus Himself is not a created being.

Jesus is “the first-born of all creation” (Col. 1:15-16).  Revelation 3:14 similarly describes Him as “the Beginning of the creation of God.”  For some this is evidence that Jesus is a created being; God’s first creation.

First in importance

The phrase “first-born,” in the Jewish system, came to mean “the most important.”  David, for example, the youngest son of Jesse, was named “firstborn” (Psalm 89:20–27).  This interpretation is supported by Colossians 1:18 and Revelation 1:5, where Jesus is also the “firstborn from the dead.”  He was not the first person to be raised from death, but He was the most important person ever to be resurrected from death.  It is therefore often proposed that Jesus is “the first-born of all creation” because He is the most important being in the universe.

First in time

Colossians reads, “He is … the firstborn of all creation, for by Him all things were created” (Col. 1:15-16).  The word “for” implies that Jesus is “the firstborn of all creation” because by Him God created all things.  Verse 17 concludes that, “He is before all things.”  It is therefore proposed here that, in Colossians 1, “firstborn” is a reference to time; not to importance.  In other words, “firstborn of all creation” has the same meaning as “He is before all things.”  What the writer meant, is that Jesus was the first to exist.

But this does not mean that He is a created being:

Firstly, since God created “all things” through Him (Col. 1:16-17).

Secondly, He is not the first created, but is the “firstborn.”  Since He was “begotten,” He was not created.  “Born” here is symbolic language.  What it means for Jesus to have been born of God we should not speculate.  But certainly it should not be literally interpreted.  As stated above, the Fathers of the Christian church proposed that He was eternally generated by God the Father; that He came forth from the being of God; begotten, not made.

Thirdly, “every created thing” give glory “to Him who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb” (Rev. 5:13).

See the article Jesus in Colossians for a further discussion.

Conclusion: God created all things through Jesus, but Jesus Himself was not created.

Jesus always existed. 

He was before John the Baptist, “before Abraham,” “before the world was” and “before all things.”  He is “from the days of eternity;” from “the beginning.”  (John 1:1, 29; 8:58; 17:5; Col. 1:17; Micah 5:2)   Since God created all things through Jesus, and because time is integral to this universe, Jesus even created time itself.  In other words, there never was a time when the Son did not exist.  For a further discussion, see Jesus always existed.

Jesus appears in the form of God.

Before He became a human being, Jesus existed in “the form of God” (Phil 2:5-6).  In Where do we find Jesus in the Old Testament? it is argued that all visible, bodily appearances of God, recorded in the Old Testament, were appearances of Jesus.  This would, for instance, include the appearance of YHVH in human form to Abraham (Gen. 18:1).  It might also include Isaiah’s vision: “I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, lofty and exalted, with the train of His robe filling the temple” (Is 6:1).  For a further discussion, see Jesus in Philippians.

That article proposes that Jesus is the God of the Old Testament.  Consistent with this proposal, Jesus claimed God’s Old Testament Names for Himself:

God identified Himself as, “I AM has sent me to you … This is My Name for ever” (Ex. 3:15-18).  Jesus claimed this name.  He said, “Before Abraham was, I AM” (John 8:24, 58).  When the soldiers came to capture Him, Jesus said to them, “I am,” and the soldiers “drew back and fell to the ground” (John 18:6 – “He” was added by the translators.)

The seventh day is the Sabbath of the LORD your God” (Exodus 20:10).  But Jesus claimed to be “the Lord of the Sabbath” (Mark 2:28).

The apostles also claimed for Jesus names that are used in the Old Testament for God:

The LORD” (YHVH) said “there is no savior besides Me” (Isaiah 43:11).  But Jesus is the “source of eternal salvation” (Hebrews 5:9), being “able to save forever those who draw near to God through Him” (Heb. 7:25).

Both “the LORD” (YHVH) and Jesus are “the first and … the last,” “the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End” (Isaiah 44:6; 48:12; Rev. 1:8, 17-18; 21:6 22:13).

Both the One “whom no man has seen or can see” and Jesus are called “King of kings and Lord of lords” (1 Tim. 6:14-16; Rev. 17:14 & 19:16).

Conclusion: Jesus appeared as God to the Old Testament people.

Jesus is equal to God.

Jesus had “equality with God” before He became human (Phil. 2:5-6).  If He had equality with God prior to His birth, He today again has equality with God.  We see other profound statements of equality in the New Testament:

Every knee will bow to Both: God said, “to Me every knee will bow” (Isaiah 45:23), but Paul wrote that to “Jesus every knee should bow” (Phil. 2: 10-11).

They receive equal honor: “All will honor the Son even as they honor the Father. He who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent Him” (John 5:23).

Only the Father knows the Son: “No one knows the Son except the Father; nor does anyone know the Father except the Son” (Mt. 11:27).

The Father shows the Son all things: “The Father loves the Son, and shows Him all things that He Himself is doing” (John 5:19-20).

The equality of Jesus to God is also seen in the fact that God and Jesus are always together:

Together in the beginning: “In the beginning was the Word … was with God” (John 1:1).

Together in believers: “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our abode with him (John 14:23).

Created together: God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness” (Gen. 1:26; John 1:3).

Own all things together:All things that the Father has are Mine” (John 16:15; cf. 17:10).

Glorified together: Jesus prayed, “Father, glorify Me together with Yourself, with the glory which I had with You before the world was” (John 17:5).

Work together: Jesus said, “My Father is working until now, and I Myself am working” (John 5:17).

Judge together: “My judgment is true; for I am not alone in it, but I and the Father who sent Me” (John.8:16).

Protect believers together: “My sheep hear My voice … and no one will snatch them out of My hand. My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand” (John 10:27-29).

The equality of Jesus to God is lastly evidenced by the fact that Jesus has God’s attributes:

Wisdom and knowledge: Jesus said, “I am the way and the truth and the life” (John 14:6).  In Jesus Christ “are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (Colossians 2:3).

Omnipresence: “Where two or three have gathered together in My name, I am there in their midst” (Matthew 18:20).  “I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20; cf. Acts 18:9-10)

Deity: “All the fullness of Deity dwells in Christ in bodily form” (Col. 2:9).

Conclusion: Jesus is equal to God.  Jesus said, “I and the Father are one” (John 10:30).  For a further discussion, see Jesus in Philippians and I and the Father are One.

Jesus became a human being.

God so loved the world, that He sent His only begotten Son.  Jesus came forth from the Father.  He “descended from heaven,” “from God;” “from the Father.” (John 3:13; 6:33-38, 62; 8:23;16:28).  He “emptied Himself” of the “form of God” and of “equality with God.”  He took on “the form of a bond-servant … being made in the likeness of men” (Phil. 2:6-7).  He descended from heaven and became a mere human baby, without any knowledge or wisdom.

Jesus is distinct from God.

So far it has been argued:

That God created all things through Jesus,
That Jesus Himself was not created,
That the never was a time when Jesus did not exist,
That Jesus appears in the form of God, and
That Jesus is equal to God.

But the New Testament also consistently and clearly distinguishes between God and Jesus.  For instance:

Paul introduced His letters with statements such as, “Peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ” (Philemon 1:3; Eph. 1:2).

In both the Old and New Testament we find statements that there is but one God, for instance, “there is no God besides Me” (Is 44:6).  But then we read categorical statements that Jesus is distinct from that one true God, for instance, “there is one God and one mediator between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus” (1 Tim. 2:5).

The book of Revelation several times distinguishes between Christ and God.  For example, “these have been purchased from among men as first fruits to God and to the Lamb” (Rev. 14:4).

Do not let your heart be troubled; believe in God, believe also in Me” (John 14:1).

God is invisible, for instance, “no one has seen God at any time” (1 John 4:12).  But Jesus is visible, and therefore distinct from God.

Jesus prayed, “This is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent” (John 17:3).

In Gethsemane Jesus “fell on His face and prayed, saying, ’My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; yet not as I will, but as You will’” (Mt. 26:39).  This indicates that the Father and the Son have separate and distinct wills.

As stated above, Jesus has “equality with God” and was in “the form of God” before He became a human being.  This also means that He is distinct from God.

Conclusion: These are only a few of many statement in the New Testament that make a distinction between God and Jesus.  For a further discussion, see Jesus is distinct from God.

Jesus is subordinate to God.

As stated, In the view of many, Jesus always was co-equal with the Father.  But the mere fact that He is the Son already implies that He is subordinate to the Father.  Other such indications of this include the following:

Jesus said, “the Father is greater than I.

Jesus refers to God as “My God,” for instance “I ascend to My Father and to your Father, to My God and to your God” (John 20:17).  And He prayed to God, for instance, “He offered up both prayers … to the One able to save Him from death” (Heb. 5:7; cf. Mt. 26:39).

God sent the Son into the world (e.g. John 3:16).

Jesus did not know all things (Mt. 24:36).

Everything which His Son has, He received from His Father.  The Holy Spirit, the ability to raise the dead, the authority to judge, “what to say and what to speak,” His works and disciples, “all authority in heaven and on earth” and even the fullness of Deity He received from the Father. (Mt. 28:18; Luke 10:22; John 1:32-34; 5:22, 36, 26-29; John 6:44;12:49; 17:1-2; Col. 1:19; 2:9).

That Jesus is subordinate to God emphasizes the fact that Jesus is distinct from God.  In others words, the New Testament reserves the title “God” for the Father exclusively.

Jesus is always subordinate to God.

Defenders of Christ’s deity often argue that He was subordinate to God only when He became a human being, when He emptied Himself of the form of God and of equality with God.  However, the following indicates that He was subordinate to God before He became a human being:

God sent His only begotten Son into this world (John 3:18) and gave Him what to say and what to do (John 12:49).

The following indicates that Jesus is also still subordinate to God after His ascension

He is seated today “at the right hand of the throne of God” (Heb. 12:2).  Jesus “was received up into heaven and sat down at the right hand of God” (Mark 16:19).  This is the position of power over the entire universe, subject only to God, but confirms that Jesus is still both distinct from God and subordinate to God.

According to the Bible there is only one God; “Hear, O Israel, God is One.”  Paul, writing after Jesus’ ascension, defined Jesus as distinct from the “one God”:

There is one God and one mediator between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus” (1 Tim. 2:5).

There is but one God, the Father, from whom are all things … and one Lord, Jesus Christ, by whom are all things” (1 Cor. 8:6).

Paul categorically stated that “God is the head of Christ.

The general understanding in the Church, that Jesus is co-equal to the Father, therefore cannot be correct.  For a further discussion, see Jesus is subordinate to God.

“God” is used for the Father exclusively.

Since the New Testament makes a distinction between God and Jesus, we conclude that “God” is used for the Father exclusively.

The angel Gabriel said to Mary:

You will conceive … and bear a son, and you shall name Him Jesus. He … will be called the Son of the Most High … The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; and for that reason the holy Child shall be called the Son of God (Luke 1:30-35)

Gabriel therefore referred to Jesus both as “the Son of God” and “the Son of the Most High.”  Gabriel therefore identified the “Most High” as “God.”  When the Bible makes statements such as that God is invisible (Col. 1:15), or that Jesus sits at the right hand of God (Mark 16:19), or “there is one God and one mediator between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus” (1 Tim. 2:5) then the Bible uses the title “God” exclusively for the Most High.

Since Jesus is “the Son of the Most High,” Jesus often referred to the Most High as “Father.”  The “Father” is therefore called “God.”  This is confirmed by the following:

Jesus said: “I ascend to My Father and to your Father, to My God and to your God” (John 20:17).

Jesus said that He has come “from God” (John 8:42), but at another time He said that He has come “from the Father” (John 16:28).

Paul similarly wrote “Do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father” (Col 3:17).  Or, “there is but one God, the Father … and one Lord, Jesus Christ” (1 Cor. 8:6; cf. 1 Cor. 15:24).

Worship Jesus. 

Only God may be worshiped.  For instance, Jesus quoted the Ten Commandments, “you shall worship the Lord your God, and serve Him only” (Luke 4:8).  And when John worshiped the angel, the angel prevented him from doing so, instructing him to “worship God” (Rev. 19:10).  Defenders of Christ’s deity then point out that Jesus is worshiped in the New Testament.

In the King James translation of the New Testament there are 13 verses in which Jesus is worshiped.  The Greek word translated “worship” in the New Testament is proskuneó.  But “worship” is not always a good translation for proskuneó: “Worship” implies that God or a god is worshiped, while proskuneó often simply means to show respect to another created being:

This can be seen in how proskuneó is used in the New Testament.  For instance, “Then came to him the mother of Zebedee’s children with her sons, worshipping him, and desiring a certain thing of him” (Mt. 20:20; KJV).

This is also confirmed by the dictionary definitions of the Greek word proskuneó, for instance, “to kiss the ground when prostrating before a superior.”

Therefore, the fact that people and angels proskuneó Jesus does not prove that He is God.  But there is real proof in the New Testament that Jesus is worshiped.  A good example is Revelation 5.  Another example is, “all will honor the Son even as they honor the Father. He who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent Him” (John 5:23).  Jesus must be worshiped.  Jesus has equality with God in our esteem and affections.

But Jesus is not worshiped because He is God, but because:

(1) It was God who gave Jesus “the name which is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus EVERY KNEE WILL BOW” (Phil. 2:9-11).
It was God who instructed the angels to worship Jesus (Heb. 1:6).

(2) To worship Jesus is to worship God: “at the name of Jesus EVERY KNEE WILL BOW … to the glory of God the Father” (Phil. 2:9-11).  See Jesus in Philippians for an explanation of this text.

Jesus is therefore not worshiped independent of or co-equal to God.  When we worship Jesus, we worship to the glory of God the Father” (Phil. 2:9-11).  Our worship flows through Jesus to God.

This is an important principle, namely that God always work with the creation through Jesus.  God creates through Jesus, God redeems through Jesus, and God is worshiped through Jesus.  For a further discussion, see Jesus is worshiped.  Does that mean that He is God?

Only Begotten Son.

Another argument used by defenders of Christ’s deity is that Jesus is God’s Only Begotten Son (John 1:14; 1:18; 3:16, 18; 1 John 4:9), and just like the son of a human father is also a human, the Son of God must also be God.

It is true that Jesus, as God’s Only Begotten Son, is God’s true family.  “Only begotten” translates the Greek word monogenēs.  Monogenēs combines two words, namely monos (alone) and génos (family, offspring).  “Only begotten” is symbolic language, but it means that He is God’s true family.  Believers are adopted as sons of God, but Jesus is God’s real family.

However, “Only Begotten Son” is symbolic language.  It reflects in human language something which is beyond human comprehension.  It must not be understood literally, as if Jesus is of the same substance as God.  We cannot use this symbolic phrase to counter the clear and consistent evidence of the New Testament that Jesus is distinct from God.  For a further discussion, see Only Begotten Son of God.

Jesus is called God.

This is a summary of the article Jesus is called God.

The Question – It was shown above that Jesus has always existed, that God created all things through Jesus, that Jesus has equality with God, that Jesus is God’s only true family and that we must worship Jesus to the glory of God.  But it was also found that “God” is a name for the Father exclusively.  Then Jesus is not God.  But in the New Testament Jesus is called God.  Does that mean that Jesus is God?

Old Testament – In the Hebrew Old Testament, the God of Israel has a unique name that is not used for any other being.  That name is YHVH, pronounced as Jehovah or Yahweh.  “God” (elohim), in contrast, is used both for the true God and for false gods.  Therefore, the Old Testament uses various techniques to be specific when the true God is intended.  Often the title “God” is combined with YHVH, for instance, “the LORD God” or “the LORD his God.” In other instances, YHVH is used in the immediately context.  In other words, the term “God” is not a unique identifier or a name for the God of the Bible.

New Testament – The Hebrew name YHVH is found all over the Old Testament, but does not appear at all in the New Testament.  Instead, the NT uses the term “God” (theos) as a name for the One True God, with no further identification.  However, theos is a common noun that is also applied to false gods and to some created beings.  The term “God” is therefore used in two ways.  In most instances it is a name for the true God.  But occasionally it is used as a common noun for false gods and even people.

Jesus is called God – The New Testament uses theos (God) more than 1000 times.  In seven instances theos refers explicitly to Jesus.   This does not prove that Jesus is the same as or equal to the Only True and invisible God, because in the vast majority of instances the NT makes a distinction between God and Jesus.  Stated differently, the New Testament reserves “God” as a name for the Father exclusively.  Furthermore, “god” is also used for false gods and for exalted created beings.

John 1:1 – This principle may be illustrated by means of John 1:1:

This verse starts by saying, “the Word was with God.”  “God” in this phrase is used as a name for the Father, similar to the name YHVH, to uniquely identify the Father.  This implies that Jesus is distinct from God and therefore not God.

The verse continues to say “and the Word was God.”  Here John uses to the common meaning of the word “god” to describe Jesus as our God.  Other people have other gods, but Jesus is our God.

This does not mean that Jesus is God, for the title “God” is reserved for the Father, “who alone possesses immortality and dwells in unapproachable light, whom no man has seen or can see” (1 Tim. 6:16).

Jesus is our God because He was in the beginning with God and God created all things through Him.  Everything may perish, but Jesus will always remain the same.  He is “over all” and He is our “Savior” who “gave Himself for us to redeem us.”

Bad Question – Since the word theos is used in two ways the question, whether Jesus is God, is a bad question.  The New Testament uses “God” as a name for the uncaused Cause of all things, who cannot be seen.  Then Jesus is not God.  But theos is also used for the one that a person worships and obey.  Then Jesus is the Christian God.   “All will honor the Son even as they honor the Father.”