What did the accuser of our brethren say, and what evidence did Christ provide?

The arguments of the accuser of our brethren is beyond human understanding, but perhaps include allegations that God is demanding, that His law is selfish and that His judgments are unjust.

This is the fifth article on the War in Heaven.

The first article identified the role-players in this war:
● The Male Child, who was caught up to God,
● His mother, who existed both before and after Christ, and
● The Dragon, that stood ready to devour the Child as soon as He is born.
● Michael, who wages war in heaven with the Dragon.

The second article analyzed the chronological sequence of the major events:
● The war in heaven,
● The ascension of the Male Child,
● The victory in the war,
● Satan cast down to earth and
● The woman hiding in wilderness.

The third article explains how Michael overcame the accuser of our brethren.  Satan deceives and accuses.  To explain how “the blood of the Lamb and … the word of their testimony” were able to overcome Satan’s accusations, this article explains the origin of evil, God’s judgment of evil, and how evil defends itself against God.

The previous article concluded that Christ’s death defeated the accuser of our brethren, but verse 11 adds that they overcame him because of “their testimony.”  The fourth article asks who they are, and why was their testimony required to expel Satan from heaven?

The accuser of our brethren and Jesus’ evidence

Satan specifically accused God’s people (Rev. 12:10).  A previous article argued that Satan effectively accused God of bad judgment.  The accuser of our brethren claimed that God is unfair when He forgives people their sins, but condemns Satan and his angels.  To refute Satan’s charges, God required evidence, and Christ’s death showed that God is just when He justifies sinners.

But exactly what did the accuser of our brethren say, and what evidence did Christ provide?  The answer to this question is beyond human understanding, and is not clearly revealed in Scriptures.  The following are some of the evidence which Jesus possibly provided:

The serpent said to the woman, “You surely will not die!  For God knows that in the day you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil” (Gen. 3:4-5).  In other words, Satan said that God did not tell the full truth.  If Satan did this with Eve, then we conclude that one of Satan’s basic strategies is to tell lies to about God.
However, Jesus is the exact representation of God’s nature (Heb. 1:3); “the image of the invisible God” (Col 1:15), and He revealed the truth about God.

The cruelty of the accuser of our brethren, as displayed in his malicious persecution of the only begotten Son of God, demonstrated Satan’s nature and the consequences of his principles.

Jesus became a human being, and as a man He overcame by faith.  In this way He demonstrated that human beings are able to obey God’s law perfectly.  In other words, He showed that there is nothing wrong with God’s law.

God justifies sinners “by grace … through faith” (Eph. 2:8), but the accuser of our brethren argued that God is unjust when He justifies sinners by grace.  Jesus showed that faith is a valid basis for justification, thereby validating God’s grace.

The conflict between Jesus and Satan, after Jesus became a human being, therefore reveals much about God, about the accuser of our brethren, about God’s law, about God’s redemption and about many other things.  This will probably be our main subject of study in the ages ahead, and not something which we can comprehend in this life, even after a lifetime of study.

Some of the concepts above require clarification:

Jesus overcame by faith.

Romans 3:25 indicates that Jesus’ death was a public display of God’s righteousness “through faith.”  This is understood as saying that His death demonstrated faith.  People do not like to say that Jesus displayed faith in God because they think of Jesus as God Himself.  But a series of articles on this website shows that the New Testament maintains a clear distinction between God and Jesus.  For example:

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

God made the worldthrough” His Son (Heb. 1:2), which means that God is the Source and Power of all things.

Only two beings have “life in Himself,” namely the Father and the Son, but the Father “gave to the Son also to have life in Himself” (John 5:26).

Like the “LORD of hosts” Jesus could say “I am the first and the last” (Rev. 1:17; cf. Is 44:6).  This is understood to mean that there was no time that the Son did not exist.  Nevertheless, He is not the Ultimate Source of all things.

Before He became a human being, Jesus existed in the form of God and had equity with God (Phil. 2:5).  This also shows how the NT makes a distinction between God and Jesus.  This verse shows this distinction before Jesus became a human being.  But Jesus “emptied Himself” (v7) of the form of God.  He became fully and only a human being, and had to exercise faith.  When He hanged on the Cross, and cried out, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me,” He did not act in knowledge, but in faith.

Jesus validated God’s grace.

The accuser of our brethren argued that grace is not just.

Christ Jesus; whom God displayed publicly … in His blood … to demonstrate His righteousness, because in the forbearance of God He passed over the sins previously committed … so that He would be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.” (Rom. 3:25-26)

Over the centuries theologians explained this passage as that God’s righteousness demanded that sins cannot be forgiven; that someone had to pay.  But it is proposed here that God had to demonstrate His righteousness because His righteousness was questioned.  This is actually explicitly stated in the text, for it tells us why He had to demonstrate His righteousness, namely “because in the forbearance of God He passed over the sins.” In other words, He forgave sinners their sins: He justified them “as a gift by His grace” (Rom. 3:24); “by grace … through faith” (Eph. 2:8; cf. Rom. 4:16).  Romans 3:25-26 could be understood as saying that the accuser of our brethren accused God of being unjust when God, through grace, forgives sinners merely on the basis of their faith.  Due to Satan’s extremely sophisticated arguments, the heavenly beings were not all convinced that God is just, and God had to demonstrate His righteousness

The standard theory of atonement today also questions God’s grace.  It says that God cannot forgive sins, that somebody has to pay, and Jesus paid that price.  If Jesus paid for our sins, then our sins were not forgiven, for to forgive a debt is to cancel it without payment.  We do not support the standard theory of atonement, for God is love (1 John 4:8), and love ”does not take into account a wrong suffered” (1 Cor. 13:5).  In other words, God does not keep our sins against us.

Jesus showed that grace is just.

Accused

Our brethren … overcame him … because of the word of their testimony” (Rev. 12:10-11).  These verses do not use the word “faith,” but testimony is another word for faith.  Faith is not just a nice feeling; it is what you are; it permeates the entire being; the thoughts, the desires, the words and the deeds.  However, they remained sinners. “Through one man sin entered into the world” (Rom. 5:12). Therefore “all have sinned” (Rom. 3:23).  Over the centuries many people have overcome Satan’s temptations, but the accuser of our brethren was always able to point out sins in them.  The testimony of His people was powerless against Satan’s accusations.

All have sinned,” but Jesus never sinned.  It is therefore assumed that He was born without the human tendency to sin.  He did not inherit our inclination to evil.  Somehow our predisposition to sin is carried forward from generation to generation, but the Son of God was not Mary’s natural child.  Mary was only His surrogate mother.

He was a sinless man in a corrupted world, and had to resist the maximum possible provocation and temptation, but never sinned.  “He humbled Himself by becoming obedient (without sin – Heb. 4:25) to the point of death” (Phil. 2:8).

God’s people overcame, but always remained sinners.  Jesus, through faith, overcame and never sinned.  It is possible that Jesus thereby validated the faith of “our brethren” as a sufficient basis for justification; that God is therefore just when He justifies sinners “as a gift by His grace” (Rom. 3:24, 26).  Perhaps Christ demonstrated that God’s people will remain free from sin, once God restored them, and they no longer have this lust for sin.

See the article on Romans 3:23-26 for more information. on those verses

Through Jesus’ life

People are “justified … through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus” (Rom. 3:24).  The next verse explains this redemption by saying that Jesus was “displayed publicly … in His blood.”  Similarly, in Revelation 12:11 the accuser of our brethren was overcome “because of the blood of the Lamb.”  These are reference to His death.

However, the evidence was not provided by Jesus’ death, but by His life.  If Jesus sinned anywhere in His life, His death would have been without value.  His entire life was a test.  At the beginning of His ministry, “Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil” (Mt. 4:1).  The Bible emphasizes on His death because the days and hours before He died was the highest test which He had to pass, and because His death was the end of His test.  “He said, ‘It is finished!’ And He bowed His head and gave up His spirit” (John 19:30).

Summary

Satan specifically accused God’s people. A previous article explained that Satan effectively accused God of bad judgment, but that Christ’s death showed that God is just when He justifies sinners.  These matters are beyond human understanding, for it has been the subject of dispute for many millennia, by intelligences much larger than ours.  This article proposes that what Christ revealed includes God’s love, Satan’s cruelty, the benevolence of God’s law and the justness of God’s grace.  These and related matters will be the subject of our study in the ages to come.

Articles on Revelation 12’s War in Heaven:

1. Who are the Male Child, His mother, the Dragon and Michael?
2. When was Satan Defeated?
3. How did Michael overcome Satan?
4. Who are they who overcame Satan because of “their testimony?”
5. What evidence did Christ provide that refuted Satan’s accusations? (Current)
6. Why did God not make an end of evil immediately after the Cross? (Next)

Philippians 2: Jesus had equality with God, but emptied Himself of it.

It is not conceivable that God can empty Himself of equality with God, but Jesus did.  This implies that Jesus is not God.  But Philippians 2 also says that every knee will bow to Jesus.  Why do we worship Jesus if He is not God?

Philippians mapPhilippians 2:5-11 contains a profound statement of the nature and being of Christ.  It describes Jesus through four chronological stages:

1. Pre-existence

Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped” (2:5-6).

Firstly, this confirms that Jesus existed before He became a human being.  Some Unitarians (as opposed to Trinitarians) deny His pre-existence.

Secondly, He existed in the form of God:  Isaiah saw “the Lord sitting on a throne, lofty and exalted, with the train of His robe filling the temple. Seraphim stood above Him, each having six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew” (Is. 6:1-4).  Since Jesus, before He became a human being, existed in the form of God, this could have been a vision of Jesus.

2. Incarnation

Jesus Christ … emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men” (2:7)

What did He empty Himself of? 

Since Christ “did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself,” we infer that He emptied Himself of “equality with God.”  He also “emptied Himself” of “the form of God,” for He took on “the form of a bond-servant … being made in the likeness of men” (2:6-7).

He humbled Himself.

Adam attempted to seize equality with God (Gen. 3:5 – “You will be like God”).  Christ did the opposite: “He had to be made like his brothers in all things” (Heb. 2:17).  He emptied Himself of His powers and knowledge, starting His human life as a vulnerable baby (Luke 2:7; Gal. 4:4).  He performed many miracles, but only because “God anointed Him with the Holy Spirit and with power” (Acts 10:38).  “Our Lord Jesus Christ … though He was rich, yet for your sake He became poor” (2 Cor. 8:9).  He voluntarily descended to the realm where He was “despised and forsaken of men, a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief” (Isaiah 53:3).

Jesus is the visible image of the invisible God (Col. 1:15).  Jesus therefore said, “He who has seen Me has seen the Father” (John 14:9).  That Jesus emptied Himself, when He became a human being, tells us what God is like; how much God loves His enemies.  “God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son” (John 3:16).

He became a real human being. 

Just like us, He had to grow in wisdom and stature (Luke 2:52).  “Although He was a Son, He learned obedience from the things which He suffered” (Heb. 5:8).  He became weary (John 4:6), thirsty (John 19:28) and hungry (Mt. 4:2).  He marveled at the faith of the centurion (Matthew 8:10) and experienced sorrow when Lazarus died (John 11:35).  In Gethsemane He grieved deeply, to the point of death (Mt. 26:38).  The next day He died (Mark 15:37).  Jesus did not just look like a man; He was truly and fully human.

How is it possible?

How it was possible for Jesus, through whom God created all things, and who “upholds all things by the word of His power” (Heb. 1:3), to be transformed into a human embryo, we cannot begin to understand, and we will not even try.  “The secret things belong to the LORD our God” (Deut. 29:29).

Who is Jesus eternally? 

What we want to learn through the current series of articles is who Jesus really is; not only who He was as a human being.  He said, “I can do nothing on My own initiative” (John 5:30).  Since He emptied Himself of equality with God, and was emptied of the powers which He had prior to His birth, we must always ask whether such statements are also true of His eternal being.

3. Death

Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross” (2:8)

He suffered a cruel death.

He remained “obedient to the point of death.”  The important matter is not His death, but His obedience.  His entire life was a test, namely to see whether He would remain obedient in all circumstances.  Satan was allowed to test Jesus, even “to the point of death.”  But Jesus remained faithful, “that through death He might render powerless him who had the power of death, that is, the devil” (Heb. 2:14).  For a further discussion, see Why Jesus had to die.

4. Exaltation

For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus EVERY KNEE WILL BOW, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (2:9-11)

This means that Jesus is worshiped.  The Bible commands us to worship only God, but we must also worship Jesus.  Does this mean that Jesus is God?

The Father is God.

The reader might perhaps find this surprising, but this passage in Philippians 2 shows that the New Testament reserves the title “God” for the Father only, as can be seen in the following:

1. He existed in the form of God (2:6).

Before Jesus became a human being, He existed in the form of God and had equality with God.  If an angel appears in the form of a man, he is still an angel and not a man.  Similarly, that Jesus existed in the form of God does not mean that He is God.  To the contrary, that Jesus existed in the form of God and that He had equality with God mean He was distinct from God.

2. He emptied Himself of equality with God (2:7). 

If Jesus is God, it would be impossible for Him to empty Himself of His divine nature.  He would only be able to empty Himself of His divine form and glory.  However, our text also states that He emptied Himself of equality with God.  It is not conceivable that God could do this.  Since Jesus was able to empty Himself of equality with God, it is implied that He is not God, given the way that the New Testament uses the word “God.”

Jesus said He did not know the hour or the day of His second coming, “but the Father alone” (Matthew 24:36; cf. Mark 13:26-27, 32).  Those who hold that Jesus is God, and who argue that He only emptied Himself of His divine form and glory, sometimes attempt to explain this lack of knowledge by arguing that He was two beings in one; a divine and a human person.  They propose that His divine side knew all things, but His human side knew not.  This view of Jesus we reject.  He is a single Being.

3. God highly exalted Him (2:9). 

God did this after Jesus’ death on the Cross, His resurrection and ascension.  This statement confirms that Jesus is distinct from God.

4. Taught all over the New Testament.

That Jesus is distinct from God, is taught everywhere in the New Testament.  See The NT reserves the title “God” for the Father.  Examples from this article include the following:

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).

There is but one God, the Father … and one Lord, Jesus Christ” (1 Cor. 8:6).

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

Jesus “spent the whole night in prayer to God” (Luke 6:12).

The title God

It needs to be added that the word “God” does not appear in the ancient Hebrew or Greek text of the Bible.  In modern English we use “God” as a name (a proper noun) for one specific Being.  The Bible uses the words elohim and theos as general nouns, equivalent to our words “gods” and “god,” and used for all gods.  Since the Bible is a book about God, it uses theos almost always for the Father.  But a number of times theos is also used for other beings, including for false gods, the devil and for appetite and even for people that are mandated by God.

For example, when Jesus said “I and the Father are one,” the Jews became very angry.  They were ready to stone Him, “because You, being a man, make Yourself out to be God” (John 10:33).  In His defense Jesus referred to Psalms 82:6, which reads:

Rescue the weak and needy … I have said, ‘You are gods (Elohim); you are all sons of the Most High.’

Jesus explained, “If he called them gods, to whom the word of God came” (John 10:34-35).  This is one example of where the Bible uses elohim and theos in the general sense of the word, indicating someone exalted above others.

Therefore, when translators interpret a passage, that contains the word theos, as referring to the Most High, they translate it as “God.”  In other instances they might translate it as “god.”  The point is that we should not focus too much on the name “God.”  What is more important is who and what Jesus is.  For a further discussion, see the article The Meanings of the Word THEOS.

Jesus is subordinate to God.

Philippians 2 also presents Jesus as subordinate to God, for it teaches that “God” highly exalted Jesus (2:9). As discussed in the article Subordinate to God, this is also taught all over the New Testament.  For instance:

The most frequent quote in the New Testament, from the Old Testament, is that Jesus today sits at the right hand of God (e.g. Acts 2:33).  This both shows that He is distinct from and subordinate to God.

Years after Jesus’ ascension, Paul wrote, “Christ is the head of every man, and … and God is the head of Christ” (1 Cor. 11:3).  This was therefore not only true when Jesus lived as a man on earth,

All will honor the Son even as they honor the Father” (John 5:23) because the Father “has given all judgment to the Son.” (v22; note the “so that.”)

The article Subordinate to God, shows that the Bible teaches that everything which Jesus has, He received from His Father.  This includes His ability to raise the dead, His authority to judge, His teachings, His works and His disciples.  He even received the Fullness of Deity from God.

Jesus said, “My food is doing the will of him who sent me and finishing the work he has given me” (John 4:34; Phillips).  This confirms that Jesus was subordinate to the Father even before He became a human being.

Jesus referred to God as His God.  He said, “I ascend to … My God” (John 20:17).

These verses also confirm that the Most High is the Great Source of all things and that the title “God” is reserved for the Most High.  Jesus is not the Source; He is the Means through which the Most High created (and still upholds) all things.  But we worship Jesus:

Every knee will bow.

Philippians 2 teaches that the New Testament reserves the title “God” for the Father, and that Jesus is subordinate to God, but it also teaches that Jesus must be worshiped.  God highly exalted Him so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord (2:9-11).  As we read elsewhere, “All will honor the Son even as they honor the Father” (John 5:23).  In Revelation 5 heavenly beings fell down before the Lamb with the prayers of the saints and give honor to both Him who sits on the throne (the Father), and to the Lamb.  God commanded all angels to worship His Son (Heb. 1:6).  We must honor Jesus as we honor the Father.

On the other hand, the Bible teaches that only God may be worshiped: “You shall worship the Lord your God and serve Him only” (Luke 4:8).  The question is therefore, why do we worship Jesus, if He is not God?

We worship Jesus to the glory of God. 

Many Christians argue that Jesus is worshiped because He is co-equal with the Father, but we already noted that Jesus is subordinate to God.  Philippians 2:9-11 also explains why Jesus is worshiped:

God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus EVERY KNEE WILL BOW … and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Firstly, every knee will bow to Jesus because God exalted Him and gave Him a name “which is above every name.”  That God gave Him this name means that God elevated Jesus above all else.  God is the great Source of power and authority.  Jesus received everything from God; also such an exalted position that it is right and proper for created beings to worship Him.  This agrees with Hebrews 1:6, which says that God commanded all angels to worship His Son.

Secondly, the beings of the universe do not confess Jesus as God; they confess that “Jesus Christ is Lord.”  The article Jesus in Colossians shows that Jesus is never called God; He is always called Lord.  This is the consistent pattern of the New Testament; Jesus is Lord and to the Father is God.

Thirdly, all will confess that He is Lord “to the glory of God the Father.”  In other words, Jesus is not worshiped independently of God the Father (cf. Rev. 5).  By giving glory to Jesus, the universe gives glory to God.  The worship of the universe flows through Jesus to the Father.  Jesus is the visible image of the invisible God (Col. 1:15), appearing in the form of God.  Through Him we worship God, who exists outside space, time and matter.

These are the reasons we find in Philippians 2, but this is not to say that we worship a created being.  Jesus is not created, but the Only Begotten Son of God.

John 1:1

Philippians 2 helps us to understand John 1:1.  Both passages make a distinction between God and Jesus, but both also describe Jesus as divine.  John 1:1 reads:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

The Word is Jesus.  Some deny this, saying that “the Word” is God’s creative power or that Jesus pre-existed only as God’s plan, and that Jesus did not literally exist before He came to exist in Mary’s womb.  A number of articles have been published on this website on the translation of John 1:1.  One of these identifies the Word of John 1:1 as Jesus.

The Word was with God.

This phrase in John 1:1b makes a distinction between God and Jesus, consistent with what we find Philippians 2 and everywhere else in the New Testament.

Angel Gabriel said to Mary that Jesus will be called the Son of the Most High (Luke 1:26-32).  The Most High is therefore Jesus’ Father.  Jesus generally referred to the Most High as “Father.” In the phrase “the Word was with God,” the title “God” therefore refers to the Father, who is “the Most High.

Therefore, in the way that the New Testament uses the title “God,” Jesus is not God.  But then John 1:1 continues to say:

The Word was theos.

In most Bibles this is translated as, “the Word was God.”  For many Christians this is the best proof that Jesus is God.

This phrase is one of the few exceptions where the New Testament uses the title theos not for the Most High.

As explained above, there is an important difference between the titles “God” and theos.  With further identification in the context, theos may be translated as “God,” but theos has a range of other possible meanings, including:

False gods, for example, “there are many gods and many lords, yet for us there is but one God, the Father” (1 Co. 8:5-6);
Real things that oppose God, such as “the god of this world” (1 Cor. 4:4) and “whose god is their appetite” (Phil. 3:19);
Beings mandated by God, for instance “the LORD said to Moses, ‘See, I make you as God to Pharaoh’” (Ex. 7:1), and those “to whom the word of God came” (John 10:35), also mentioned above;
Qualitatively, e.g. “divine” or “Godlike.”  We can describe our local sport hero as a god, referring to his or her near superhuman abilities.

Given these possible meanings, and since the previous phrase and the entire New Testament makes a distinction between God and Jesus, it is proposed that the phrase “the Word was theos” does not identify Jesus as identical to “the only true God” to whom Jesus prayed (John 17:3).

One of the articles on John 1:1 argues that The Word was God is not the correct translation because theos is used in John 1:1c with a qualitative sense.  In other words, the title theos in John 1:1 describes Jesus as Godlike.  That Jesus “was theos” can therefore be understood as equivalent to the statements in Philippians 2 that Jesus exists in the form of God, has equality with God and “at the name of Jesus every knee will bow” (v10).  A similar statement is:

In Him all the fullness of Deity dwells in bodily form” (Col. 2:9).

This is often used to argue that Jesus is co-equal with the Father, but it was the Father who gave “all the fullness to dwell in Him” (Col. 1:19).

It is proposed, in summary, when theos is used for the Most High, that it identifies the Invisible God, who is the uncaused Cause of the universe and everything inside of it.  But when John 1:1 applies the title “God” to Jesus, it is not a definite (God) or an indefinite (a god) use of the noun, but a qualitative use, describing Jesus as equal to the Most High in the esteem and affections of the created universe.

Is Jesus called God?

Above it is repeatedly said that the New Testament only refers to the Father as God.  However, out of the more than 1300 times that theos appears in the New Testament, there are about seven instances where theos possibly refers to Jesus.  These instances are discussed in the article Is Jesus called God?  It is shown that in every instance there is either uncertainty with respect to:

The Source Text, for instance, the manuscripts of John 1:18 with the widest distribution do not describe Jesus as theos.  See Is Jesus called God in John 1:18?
The punctuation, for instance, in Romans 9:5 it is all a matter of punctuation, and all punctuation in the Bible is interpretation.  See Is Jesus called God in Romans?
The interpretation, for instance John 1:1.  See The Word was God.

Who is Jesus?

After the wonderful Christ-events of the first century the church had to make sense of what just happened.  On the one hand, the church originated as a sect of Judaism (see Jerusalem Phase of the Early Church), with its strong emphasis on monotheism.  On the other hand, Jesus appeared as a human being, but is worshiped and declared to be “the first and the last” (Rev. 1:17; 2:8).  Various theories about Christ developed and were tolerated over the next 200 years.

But when the church, in the fourth century, became the official religion of the Roman Empire, Caesar Constantine sought to ensure unity in his empire.  To reduce conflict, he forced the church to formulate a majority position.  This was done in the year 325 in what is known as the Nicene Creed.  This creed did not yet contain the idea of a Trinity, namely three Persons in one Being.  The emphasis in this creed was to declare Jesus as God and of the same substance as the Father.  A new invention in the creed was to condemn or curse all Christians who do not agree with the creed.  This non-tolerance reflects the culture of the Roman Empire which controlled the church at the time.

After the year 325 differing views remained, and various alternative creeds were proposed.  In the year 344, for instance, the Eastern church issued the Creed of the Long Lines as an alternative to the Nicene Creed.  And in the year 381 the Nicene Creed was adjusted as shown in Wikipedia’s page on the Nicene Creed.

As said above, this website opposes this view that Jesus is of the same substance as God.  So what view of Christ does this website prefer?  It may be fair to say that this website represents the LOGOS theories that dominated in the second century.

God always works through Jesus.

This concept is critical for understanding who Jesus is:

God created and upholds all things through Jesus: All things have been created through Him (Jesus) and for Him.  He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together” (Col 1:16-17).  “There is but one God, the Father, from whom are all things and we exist for Him; and one Lord, Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we exist through Him” (1 Cor. 8:6).

God communicates to the universe through Jesus:  “No one has seen God at any time; the only begotten God who is in the bosom of the Father, He has explained Him” (John 1:18).  “His name is called The Word of God” (Rev. 19:13).

God reconciled all things to Himself through Jesus:  “For it was the Father’s good pleasure for all the fullness to dwell in Him, and through Him to reconcile all things to Himself” (Col. 1:19-20).  “For there is one God, and one mediator also between God and men, the man Christ Jesus” (1 Tim 2:5).

In other words, everything which God does, He does through His Son.

Jesus is equal to God.

In addition to what we read in Philippians 2, we read of many things that elevate Jesus to the level of God:

Jesus said, “All things that the Father has are Mine” (John 16:15).

All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me” (Matthew 28:18).

No one knows the Son except the Father; nor does anyone know the Father except the Son” (Mt. 11:27; cf. Luke 10:22).  This is an amazing statement of equality.

God not only created all things through His Son; “in Him (Jesus) all things hold together” (Col. 1:17; cf. Heb. 1:3).

Jesus is not a created being; He is the Only Begotten Son of God (John 3:18, 16).

Hypothesis

To reconcile the competing ideas in the New Testament, this website puts forward the following hypothesis:

By begetting His Son, God made all things.  It is proposed that this is what it means when we read that God created all things through Jesus.  The implication would be that the Son always existed, for God also created time by begetting His Son.

God does not exist in time.  Rather, time, together with the space and matter of the universe, exists somewhere inside God.  God is not subject to time.

Jesus is the link between the universe and God. Through Jesus all creative and sustaining power flows from God to the universe, and through Jesus all thanksgiving and praise flow from the intelligent beings back to God.  “Every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Jesus is the God of the Old Testament.  Every visible and personal appearance of God in the Old Testament is an appearance of Jesus, in the form of God.  See Jesus in the Old Testament.

The reader may regard this hypothesis as mere speculation, and that is what it is, for these matters are necessarily beyond human understanding.  It is simply the writer’s personal present understanding of the facts that Jesus is described as distinct from God, and as subordinate to God, but is also described in the most exalted terms.  (This website does not represent the views of any particular denomination.)

To the current writer it is abundantly clear that the view that Jesus is God, co-equal to the Father, which dominated the church over the centuries, must be nuanced, for in the form in which it is often expressed, it contradicts the Bible.

As discussed above, in the centuries after Christ the church struggled to explain who Jesus is.  The current writer suspects that it is sin to go beyond what the Bible teaches about Jesus, for we are dealing with infinity, and infinity by definition will always remain an infinity, even after we have lived for a hundred thousand million years.  There are things we just cannot understand..  The efforts to explains the Father, Son and Holy Spirit as a Trinity may therefore be sin, for it goes beyond what the Bible teaches.  And my own hypothesis may be sin.

Articles in the 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.    Did Jesus empty Himself of equality with God?  Current article
5.    Who is the Word in John 1:1?
6.    Jesus is not God.
7.    God is the Head of Christ.
8.    In the Bible Jesus is called God.
9.    He is the Only Begotten Son of God.
10.  God created all things through His Son.
11.  We must worship Jesus.
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?

Why Jesus had to die

Why did Jesus have to die to save people? What problem was solved by His death? Did He die to pacify an angry God? How did His death reconcile all things to God?

Summary of this article

The Qur’an teaches that some Israelites conspired to kill Jesus, but Allah rescued Jesus.  In other words, Jesus never died.  The Bible, on the other hand, teaches that people are saved to eternal life only through the death of the Son of God.  If Jesus was not killed, then the entire Christian faith is in vain.  The purpose of this article is to explain why Jesus had to die.

Both the Qur’an and the Bible teach that God is one.  The Bible clearly distinguishes between God and Jesus and depicts Jesus as completely dependent on God.  But the Bible also teaches that God created all things through Jesus and still upholds all things through Jesus.  Jesus has all the fullness of Deity in bodily form, is the Judge, has life in Himself and gives life to whom He wishes.  This apparent contradiction is discussed in a series of articles on this website. 

A Muslim would disagree with the notion that God would allow His Son to be killed.  However, one of the fundamental principles of the Christian religion is self-sacrifice for the benefit of others.  This is a Christian principle because that is how God is.  When we see Jesus, we see God, and Jesus humiliated Himself to become a human being, and even humiliate Himself to die in the hands of evil man (Phil. 2). 

Christians agree that Jesus had to die, but disagree on how His death saves us.  His death was the solution to a problem.  To understand why Jesus had to die, we need to know what the problem was.  The typical Christian understanding of the problem is that our sins made God angry, and that Jesus died to placate His anger.  But the Bible is clear that it was God who sent Jesus, and that God did this because of His love for the world.  This article therefore explains the problem as follows:

1 Sin originated in heaven as a rebellion against God. This rebellion later spilled over to earth.

2 God allowed sin to developed because He created His intelligent beings with the ability to choose against Him, for the only worship which He accepts is the worship of love. He therefore grants His creatures full freedom, which is freedom without fear of retribution.

3 Sin caused terrible conflict in heaven. To defend himself against God’s judgment, Satan argued that God’s laws are deficient; that it is not possible to comply with His laws in all circumstances, and that it is therefore unfair of God to forgive some (human) sinners but condemn other sinners.

God was not able to prove conclusively to the heavenly beings that Satan’s accusations were false. He therefore had to allow Satan to continue until Satan’s character and purpose were fully revealed.

5 To protect the creation, God must destroy sin and sinners.  God wishes to make an end of rebellion once and for all.  However, since God is accused of unfair judgment, rebellion would erupt again in the future if sin and sinners are destroyed before His intelligent creatures fully understand the nature of the rebellion.  

The problem is therefore much larger than simply human sin.  The problem affects the entire universe.  Christ’s death, which is the solution to this problem, similarly has much wider consequences than merely for this earth.  The Son of God became a human being to make an end to the war in heaven.  Christ’s life demonstrated:

(a) That it is possible to comply with God’s law in all circumstances.  In other words, there is nothing wrong with God’s law.
(b) Satan’s cruel nature; and
(c) The self-sacrificing nature of the Son of God, and therefore of God.

These thoughts will now be explained in more detail.

Pakmamin Wrote:

Picture of the Qu'ranThe Qur’an tells us that some of the Israelites rejected Jesus, and conspired to kill him, but Allah (God) rescued Jesus and raised him to Himself by swapping him.  Allah says in Qur’an that they neither killed Jesus nor crucified him, but it was made to appear so unto them.

Muslims believe that Allah changed the face of the person who betrayed Jesus to a face resembling Jesus.  So, they crucified that betrayer instead of Jesus.

Response:

Since this article responds to a comment by a Muslim, it does not provide full Biblical evidence for the concepts discussed, but explains certain very complex Christian concepts as briefly and as clearly as possible.

The Bible teaches that people are saved to eternal life only through the death of the Son of God.  If Jesus was not killed, as claimed by the Qur’an, then the entire Christian faith is futile. 

A Muslim would object to a number of issues in the Christian viewpoint.

Is Jesus God?

The Bible teaches that God is One.A Muslin would not agree that Jesus is God.  The Bible teaches that God is one (Deut. 6:4-5; Mark 12:28-30; James 2:19) and clearly distinguishes between God and Jesus (e.g. John 17:3; 1 Timothy 2:5).  The Bible, on the other hand, also refers to Jesus as “God” (e.g. John 1:1).  

The Bible describes Jesus as completely dependent on God.  On the other hand, Jesus existed before He became a human being, has all the fullness of Deity in bodily form, has authority over all flesh, has life in Himself, gives life to whom He wishes and must be worshiped as we worship God.  God created and still upholds all things through Jesus.  How do we understand these things?

Firstly we have to say is that humans are unable to understand God.  He exists outside time, space and matter.  He is simultaneously in all places and in all times; past, present and future.  He exists without cause.  In fact, He is that which exists.  Things exist because God exists.  As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are His ways higher than our ways, and His thoughts higher than our thoughts.  It is our privilege to study about Him, but we must do it with humility, for “the secret things belong to the LORD our God” (Deut. 29:29).

The universe, consisting of time, space and matter, was brought into being by the Father’s will.  God the Father is therefore not limited or defined by time, space and matter.   He is everywhere in the universe, but also everywhere outside the universe.  Humans are not able to conceive of something that exists outside the universe, but the Intelligence and Power that created the universe exists outside the universe.

God created and still maintains all things through Jesus.  We do not have the faintest idea what this may mean.  Therefore, please forgive me for speculating.  Jesus is “the Beginning“ of time, space and matter.  He is the immense explosion of Energy of the “big bang” that brought this universe into being and still maintains it.   

This speculation may be completely wrong.  It is simply the best sense I am able to make out of the data in the Bible.  During the millions of years ahead of us, we will continually learn more about God.  But since He is infinite, we will never be able to understand Him fully.  

Would God allow His Son to be killed?

The Cross of ChristA Muslim would also disagree that God would allow His Son to be killed.  However, that is one of the fundamental principles of the Christian religion, for it is consistent with God’s character that He would humiliate Himself to become a human being, and even humiliate Himself to die in the hands of evil man.  Paul wrote to the Philippians that Christ Jesus “existed in the form of God”, but “emptied Himself … being made in the likeness of men” and further “humbled Himself … to … death on a cross” (Phil. 2:5-8).

The Bible does not reveal God as an authoritarian.  He does set laws and He does execute judgment, but always His motive is love.  He so loved the world that He gave His only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.

Jesus was genuinely humble. On one occasion, He washed the feet of His disciples, a service usually performed by a lowly servant.

Why Jesus Had to Die

Christians generally agree that the Son of God had to die to save people to eternal life, but they do not agree on HOW the death of the Son of God saves people.  His death is the solution to a problem.  To understand why Jesus had to die, one needs to know what the problem was.

Many Christians define the problem as that our sin made God angry, and that He needed a sacrifice to placate His anger.  This principle is often stated as that the righteousness of God required death as a penalty for sin, and Jesus became a human being so that He Himself would die in our stead, so that our sins can be forgiven.

This website objects to this teaching.  God does not demand penalty for sin.  Rather, the purpose of His laws is to protect His creatures.   God does punish people for their sins, but the purpose of such punishment is to teach them.  His punishment is forward-looking; to ensure a better future.

God is Love - His every motive is loveThis website also objects to the idea that God is angry.  That seems to be a horrible distortion of the Bible message.  Throughout the Bible we find evidence that it was the Father who loved the world and sent His Son to die for us, that we may live (John 3:16).

The following is a different explanation for why Jesus had to die for people to be saved to eternal life, based on a different definition of the problem.

1. Sin originated in heaven.

Sin originated in heaven in a large rebellion against God, with Satan as the leader of the rebellion.  This rebellion did not originate on earth, but later expanded to earth by the tempting our first parents into sin (Gen. 3)The Bible is essentially a history book of events on earth, written by many different authors over thousands of years.  The Bible therefore gives very little information about events in heaven.  But sprinkled throughout the Bible one finds evidence of the heavenly source of evil, for instance:

Our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against … the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places“ (Eph. 6:12).

God made peace with things in heaven, by the blood of his cross (Col. 1:20). 

Please refer to the article Origin of Evil for a discussion of the evidence from the Bible. 

Sin is defined here as anything that harms the well-being of God’s creation.  Since God’s laws are designed to ensure the happiness of His creation, one can also define sin as disobedience to God’s law.  

2. Sin results from freedom.

Some think that God decides who will be saved irrespective of what the person is or wantsGod, who has all power and all knowledge, allowed sin to develop in heaven, and allowed the rebellion to spread to earth because He grants His intelligent creatures full freedom, which is freedom without the fear that God will punish sinners. He created them with the ability to choose against Him, for the only worship that He accepts is the worship of love.  That is why He did not destroy sinners immediately and why He even allowed Satan access to Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden.

Many Christians would object to this idea.  They believe that God decides who will be saved and who will be lost.  In their view God controls the minds of people, and that people (and angels) have no real freedom.  But if God controls intelligent beings in that manner, then it also follows that God created evil; that sin was God’s invention, and this we cannot accept.

Lucifer understood that full freedom means freedom without fear of punishment.  He had a very high position in God’s kingdom.  He was God’s main spokesperson to His creatures, and he knew that God will not punish His creatures for their sin.

If that is so, why do we find the warnings of punishment in the Bible?  Why did God say to Adam and Eve that, if they eat of the tree, they would die?  It is proposed here that that was not a threat, limiting their freedom, but a warning, intended to protect their freedom.  As already stated, God’s laws are not arbitrary, but designed to ensure the happiness of His creatures.  Created beings have the freedom to act contrary to His laws, but there are natural consequences.  The cruelty, sickness and death that we see around us today are not God’s punishment for disobedience, but the natural consequence of acting contrary to His commands.  God therefore warned Adam and Eve against the natural consequences of sin.

3. Satan accused God of unfair judgment.

The rebellion caused war in heaven, represented in Revelation as Michael and his angels at war against Satan and his angels (Rev. 12:7 ff.).  This was a terrible war, not fought with physical weapons, but with much more terrible weapons than we can imagine.

But what was the war about?  I do not think human beings are fully able to understand what the angels disagreed about.  It was a being of wonderful power and glory that had set himself against God.  The Lord says of Lucifer, “You had the seal of perfection, Full of wisdom and perfect in beauty” (Ezekiel 28:12).  He was “the anointed cherub who covers” (v14), which means that he stood in the light of God’s immediate presence.  He was the highest of all created beings.  He was the one who taught the universe about God.  How could we hope to understand the arguments which Satan presented to the angels?

However, we have some indications in the Bible of what the war was about.  In Revelation 12 Satan is called the accuser of the brethren.  In Zechariah 3 he stands next to the high priest to accuse him.  It is therefore implied that there was disagreement about God’s judgments.   God judged Satan and his angels as guilty, but forgave certain sinners, such as Moses.  Therefore, the once mighty angel Lucifer, now called Satan, accused God of inconsistent and unrighteous judgment.  He seems to argue that the sins of God’s people cannot be forgiven; that mercy was inconsistent with justice; and if God should cancel the punishment of sin, He would not be a God of truth and justice.  Please see the article Disarmed the rulers and authorities for more information.

There are also indications in the Bible that Satan argued that it is impossible for created beings to always and fully comply with God’s laws:

The oldest book in the Bible tells the story of a man named Job.  He was a “blameless and upright man fearing God and turning away from evil”, but Satan said to God “touch all that he has; he will surely curse You to Your face”.  God then allowed Satan to destroy everything that Job owned, even his children, but Job remained faithful.  Then Satan went back to God and said “put forth Your hand now, and touch his bone and his flesh; he will curse You to Your face.”  Satan obtained permission from God and “smote Job with sore boils.”  Satan also incited Job’s wife to say to Job, “Curse God and die.”  This is what Satan hoped Job would do.  Satan also sent Job’s friends to him to tell him that God has rejected him (Job).  The purpose of this message was to sever the link of faith and trust that joined Job to his Creator.  But “in all this Job did not sin with his lips”.  Satan’s purpose with this test was to show that, given the right circumstances, everybody will lose his hold on God and sin against God.

That was also the purpose of the test which Adam failed.  When Adam defied the will of God, Satan exulted.  It was proved, he declared, that the law could not be obeyed, and since man cannot be forgiven, that the human race must be forever shut out from God’s favor.

Two of Satan’s arguments were therefore:

● That God’s laws are deficient;
● For that reason that it is impossible for created beings to always and fully comply with God’s laws.
● That it is therefore unfair of God to forgive some sinners but condemn others.

In conclusion, the War in Heaven is about God’s judgments.

4. God was not able to prove conclusively to the heavenly beings that Satan’s accusations were false.  He therefore had to allow Satan to continue until Satan’s character and purpose were fully revealed.

The book sealed with seven sealsAs already stated, God does not force His beings to accept His judgment.  But neither was He able to conclusively convince the loyal angels of the error in the accusations of the super-brilliant accuser.  This was a terrible time in heaven.  It seemed as if Satan had the upper hand, and as if evil would exist forever.  In the last book of the Bible the inability to understand these things is symbolized by a closed book which nobody was able to open.  See the discussion of the Introduction to the Seven Seals for more information. 

If God destroyed Satan and his host at that point in time, before Satan’s character and purpose was fully revealed. it would not have been apparent to heavenly beings that the destruction of Satan and his host was the inevitable result of sin.  Doubt of God’s goodness would have remained in their minds as evil seed, and the rebellion would arise again in the future.  Satan claimed that his principles are superior to God’s principles.  Since God’s purpose is to secure the eternal safety of the universe, He had to allow Satan time to continue until the principles of his system of government has been fully developed, that they might be seen by all the universe. 

5. To protect the creation God must destroy sin and sinners, but since God is accused of unfairness, if sin and sinners are destroyed before His intelligent creatures fully understand the truth, rebellion would erupt again in the future.  God wishes to make an end of rebellion once and for all.

God will eventually destroy sin, including every creature that is permanently corrupted by sin, but not as retribution or penalty for sin.  He will destroy sin to protect His creation.    As stated in Revelation, He will make all things new.

However, even though sin destroys, and even though God can very easily destroy Satan and his followers, God cannot destroy sin and sinners unilaterally because God never forces anybody to agree with Him.  To compel opposition is found only under Satan’s government.  The Lord’s authority rests upon principles such as truth, goodness, mercy, and love.  These are the means by which the Lord overcomes evil.  The Lord can only destroy sin if His intelligent creatures, in full freedom, agree with Him and ask Him to do it.

The five points above are the proposed definition of the problem which Christ’s death had to solve.  The problem is therefore much bigger than simply that human beings sin.  The problem affects the entire universe; not only this microscopic planet.  Christ’s death, which is the solution to the problem, similarly has a much wider impact than only this earth:

The Son of God became a human being to make an end to the war in heaven.  Christ’s life demonstrated that it is possible to comply with God’s law in all circumstances.  In other words, there is nothing wrong with God’s law.  His death was the full demonstration of this fact, and also revealed Satan’s cruel nature and the self-sacrificing nature of the Son of God.

Jesus as human babyWith the war of accusations in heaven still raging heavily, God sent His Son as a human being to this planet, which Satan claimed as his own; as a vulnerable baby in a world controlled by Satan. 

At first Satan did everything in his power to physically destroy the little One, but God protected His Son. 

Then Satan changed His tactics; he tried, in every possible way, to lead Jesus into sin, to discourage Him, to get Jesus to act selfishly; to get Jesus to use His power or position to benefit Himself.  The Bible records an incident where Satan tempted Jesus: 

After fasting for forty days Jesus was very hungry, and Satan tempted Him to use His power to turn stones into bread, but Jesus refused. 

Then Satan tempted Him to throw Himself off the pinnacle of the temple to prove that He is the Son of God, but Jesus refused. 

Lastly Satan offered Him all the kingdoms of the world if He would fall down and worship Satan, but again Jesus refused. 

This was simply one example of Satan’s strategy throughout the earthly life of the Son of God.  The cross was the ultimate test.

The story of Job helps us to understand why Jesus had to die to end the war in heaven.  Perhaps Satan similarly went to God and said that, if you allow me full access to Jesus, including to His life, I will show you that Your Son will “curse You to Your face”.  We know from the Bible that God did give Satan full and unlimited access to Christ; including to kill Him.  God’s Holy Spirit was always close to Jesus, but on the Cross Jesus cried out, My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?  During His last days God withdrew His protection and support from Jesus.  The “rulers and authorities” (Col. 2:15), elsewhere called the powers of darkness, assembled around the cross, bombarding Christ with thoughts of unbelief, resulting in cruel depression and despair.  Just like God, on the basis of His principle of freedom, allowed Satan access to Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden as a test, God allowed Satan full access to the Son of God.

This was a test.  Could one sin be found in Christ, had He in one particular yielded to Satan to escape the terrible torture, the enemy of God and man would have triumphed.  But in spite of the physical, emotional and spiritual agony, Jesus did not use His power to relieve His agony.  Satan was allowed to use every means available to him, but Jesus did not sin in a word or a deed or a thought.  The more mercilessly Satan’s wrath fell upon Him, the more firmly did the Son of God clung to the hand of His Father, and press on in His bloodstained path.  All heaven was filled with wonder when Christ prayed in the midst of His terrible suffering,–“Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34).  Christ revealed God to the universe. 

We have been made a spectacle to the whole universe, to angels as well as to human beings” (1 Cor. 4:9 NIV).  All heaven witnessed the controversy with intense interest.  They watched the Son of God enter the garden of Gethsemane, His soul bowed down with a great darkness.  They heard His bitter cry, “My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me” (Matt. 26:39).  As the Father’s presence withdrew from Him, they saw Him filled with a sorrow that is worse than the last great struggle with death, causing bloody sweat to fell in drops to the ground.  Heaven saw Satan’s frenzied work, and his power over the hearts of men, causing them to deride, torment, condemn, and crucify the Son of God, while the daughters of Jerusalem wept and the mob jeered. 

Satan was defeated.  The evidence which Jesus gave through His life and death brought an end to the war in heaven (See War in Heaven).   There-after the consensus of the loyal angels was that Satan is wrong and God is right, and they requested God to banish Satan from heaven. 

Christ’s life, including the Cross, which was the highest test which Jesus had to go through, but still only one of a continuum of tests during His life, revealed at least three things:

It showed that this human being (Jesus) would remain faithful to God’s principles in all circumstances, showing thereby that it is possible for human beings (and angels) to comply fully with God’s law in the most agonizing circumstances.  In other words, there is nothing wrong with God’s laws

Christ’s death revealed the cruel nature of Satan and his evil angels.  Not until the death of Christ was the character of Satan clearly revealed to the heavenly beings.  The exalted position which he had gave him power to deceive.  Satan had so clothed himself with deception that even holy beings could not understand his principles or the nature of his rebellion.  But the Cross torn away his disguise.  His administration was laid open before the heavenly universe.  He had revealed himself as a murderer.  By shedding the blood of the Son of God, he lost any remaining sympathy he still received from the heavenly beings. 

Lastly, His life and death revealed the character of the Son of God.  When nothing else was able to end the war in heaven, He was willing to humiliate Himself to becoming a human being, and to run the risk of eternal loss through a torturous death to save sinners.  Throughout His life His concern always was with the people around Him.  These things revealed His true character.

It was for this purpose that He became a human being and this is why Jesus had to die; not only a normal death, but a voluntary slow death through torture.  His death was voluntary, for if He gave the command, legions of angels would have come to His aid.

But Satan also had another argument, namely that God is unfair when He forgives one sinner but condemn another.  Jesus’ death did not fully answer all of Satan’s accusations.  For that reason God has not yet made an end to sin.  There is more to be revealed.  For the sake of the future happiness of the universe, Satan was allowed to continue his work, but only on earth (Revelation 12).  Man as well as angels must see the contrast between the Prince of light and the prince of darkness.

In Conclusion

Sin caused terrible conflict in heaven.  Satan, the highest of all created beings, used the sins of people—their inability to keep God’s law—as evidence to prove that God’s intelligent creatures are unable to fully keep God’s law, arguing that God is therefore inconsistent and unfair when some of His sinning creatures, such as Adam and Moses, are forgiven while other people and sinful angels are condemned.  Even the loyal heavenly beings could not conclusively answer Satan’s accusations against God.  The problem is therefore much bigger than simply that human beings sin.  The problem affects the entire universe; not only this microscopic planet. 

Christ’s came to the earth to validate God’s judgments.  Jesus, as fully human, showed that human beings (and angels) are able to comply with the Law of God in all circumstances.  If Jesus did not really die, as the Qur’an maintains, then we have no hope.

God’s Children

So, who are God’s children?  To call yourself a Christian does not make one His child:

The person that views God as an authoritarian tyrant, and is pleased with that view of God, will himself be an authoritarian tyrant, and is therefore not a child of God. 

God’s people are those that admire God’s willingness to suffer for His creatures.  They find joy in the thought that God so loved the world that He gave His only Son to become a human being to suffer for our benefit.  God’s people are those that want to be as humble as God, and those that want to serve other people, particularly lesser people.  They find joy in the concept of freedom, and they grant other people freedom to differ from them.  They do not act selfishly, but are willing to suffer for the benefit of others. 

God will judge each person according to his circumstances.  To be saved by the blood (death) of Christ does not require one to know His name.  Even a person that rejects Christ, but accepts His principles, is one of His people.  God does not belong to Christianity.   There is only one true God, and He loves and talks to all peoples, through His written word, through nature, through other people and through His supernatural communication with each human being.  Each of us will be judged relative to what we have received.  From the one that has received much, much will be expected. 

TO: General Table of Contents

What book is this?

In Revelation 5 Jesus receives from God a book that is sealed with seven seals. What book is this? When did He receive it? Why is only Jesus able to open the book?  Why did He not immediately open the book?

Unless otherwise indicated, all quotes are from the NASB translation of the book of Revelation.  Italics are used for quotes; not for emphasis.

Summary of this article

The seven seals – in Revelation 4 to 7 – is the second of the seven main divisions of the book of Revelation.

Revelation 4

In Revelation 4 John is called up to heaven, where he saw God’s throne. The throne is a symbol of God’s authority to rule.  God is described in rather vague terms becauseno man has seen or can seeGod (1 Tim. 6:16).

Around God’s throne 24 elders sit on 24 thrones.  They are interpreted in this article as human beings.  Their task is to judge.

Seven lamps, “which are the seven Spirits of God,” burn before the throne (4:5).  The number seven symbolizes time; more specifically all time; from the beginning to the end.  The seven Spirits mean that, through His Spirit, God is always with us.

Revelation 4 shows the joyous worship of the four living beings and the 24 elders.

Revelation 5

While Revelation 4 presents a continuous state, Revelation 5 presents a special event in which “every created thing” (5:13) is gathered around God’s throne to watch the Lamb take the sealed book.  A sealed book symbolizes concealed information.  This caused much sorrow in heaven.  But then Jesus arrives at the Father’s throne and it is announced that He “overcome so as to open the book” (5:5), causing much joy.

Enthronement

This event, when Jesus received the sealed book, was when He was exalted or glorified at His father’s right hand at His ascension, about 40 days after the Cross.  This is indicated by the following:

  1. The New Testament often mentions that Jesus, at His ascension, was exalted at the Father’s right hand, and in Revelation 5 He took the sealed book from God’s right hand.
  2. Jesus appears as a slain Lamb.
  3. Jesus appeared “in the midst of the throne” (5:6 KJV).
  4. He became worthy to open the book because He overcame.  “Overcame” is what He did during His life on earth.  According to 3:21 He sat down with His Father on His Father’s throne after He overcame.
  5. In Revelation 4 the Holy Spirit is seen before the throne. But when Jesus appears in Revelation 5, His Holy Spirit has been “sent out into all the earth” (5:6), apparently a reference to the outpouring of the Holy Spirit in Acts 2.

In the dispensational approach Revelation 4:1 is the rapture, which would mean that Revelation 5 refers to an event after the rapture.  According to the arguments above, this view is not correct.

Jesus did not open the scroll immediately.

The Cross gave Christ the authority to open the book, and He received the book immediately after His ascension, but He did not open the book immediately. The Cross did not open the book.  Revelation 6 describes what happens when the Lamb breaks open the seals.  This relates to the question why God has not yet made an end of sin.

The Book of Life

The sealed book is the book of life.  This book indicates who will live and who will die.  This conclusion is supported by the following:

1. Revelation 5:9 indicates that Jesus purchased for God with His blood men from every nation and consequently became worthy to open the sealed book. The sealed book is therefore about redemption.

2. The book of life is called “the book of life of the Lamb who has been slain” (13:8) and “the Lamb’s book of life” (21:27), linking it directly to Revelation 5, where a slain Lamb receives a book (5:6, 9).

3. The sixth seal will be opened at “the great day of their wrath” (6:17; 8:1), which is the return of Christ, which means that one seal remains to be opened even after the return of Christ. The book of life will similarly only be opened in the final great judgment (20:12)—one thousand years after the return of Christ (20:7).  Both books are therefore opened after the return of Christ.

Series of articles

This is the first article in a series on the seven seals.  These articles, which will also explain the relationship of the seals to other parts of Revelation, are:

  1. Introduction (this article), which identifies the book and defines the historical starting point of the seals;
  2. The sixth seal, identified as the same as the seventh plague and as the great day of God’s wrath at the return of Christ;
  3. The fifth seal identifies the plagues as the revenge requested by the souls under the altar.
  4. The sealing of the 144000; who are they, when are they sealed and for what purpose?
  5. The first four seals, identified as the experience of God’s people;
  6. Why questions; asking why was the book sealed?  Why was Jesus not “worthy” before the cross to open the book?  Why is the book only opened 1000 years after Christ’s return?
  7. Summary

Main Divisions of Revelation

The main divisions of Revelation are:

  1. The seven letters in chapters 1 to 3;
  2. The seven seals in chapters 4 to 7 including 8:1;
  3. The seven trumpets in chapters 8 to 11;
  4. The seven wars in chapters 12 to 14;
  5. The seven plagues in chapters 15 to 19 (*);
  6. The millennium in chapter 20;
  7. The new heaven and new earth in the last two chapters;

(*) Babylon receives God’s fierce wrath in the seventh trumpet at the end of Revelation 16 (16:17-19).  Revelation 17, 18 and 19:1-10 are an interlude that explains the origin, nature and end of Babylon.  The return of Christ is described in the latter half of Revelation 19 (19:11-20:3), and therefore chronologically follows immediately after the plagues of Revelation 16.  Stated differently, the plagues conclude with the return of Christ.  For more information about the relationship of the plagues to the return of Christ, see Return of Christ in the book of Revelation.

Revelation 4

The first three chapters of Revelation focus on the church on earth, but in 4:1 John saw “a door standing open in heaven”, and hears the invitation:

Come up here, and I will show you what must take place after these things.

God’s throne 

This shifts the focus away from earth to heaven and away from John’s time to a different time.  In heaven John saw God’s throne.  A throne is a symbol of authority.  God’s throne symbolizes His authority to rule the universe. God’s throne is mentioned many times in Revelation—in 16 of the 22 chapters.  In Revelation 4 everything is described relative to the throne:

24 elders sit on 24 thrones around the throne (4:4).
Out from the throne come lightning, sounds and thunder (4:5).
Before the throne there was something like a sea of glass (4:6).
In the center and around the throne are four living creatures (4:6).

In Revelation the throne often signifies God.  For instance, “a loud voice … from the throne” (16:17) means that God speaks, and to stand “before the throne” (7:9) means to stand before God.

God

Jesus is described in much detail in Revelation 1:13-18, but God is described rather vaguely in Revelation 4:3.  God has created everything that can be seen and cannot be described in terms of things that can be seen.  God does not exist somewhere in the universe.  The universe exists somewhere within God:

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

24 elders 

John also saw 24 elders sitting on 24 thrones around the throne, clothed in white and with golden crowns on their heads (4:4).  Some believe these elders are a special class of angels, but for the following reasons it is proposed here that they are humans:

  • The title “elder” is never used in the Bible for angels—only for humans.
  • The Bible never says that angels will sit on God’s throne, but does say that humans will (3:21).
  • The elders have stephanos-crowns on their heads, which is used in Revelation as the crown of the overcomer—which is the crown of life (9:7; 2:10; 3:11; 12:1; 4:4; 6:2; 12:1; 14:14).
  • The number 24 is derived from the number 12, which is the number of God’s people. The New Jerusalem has 12 gates with the names of the 12 tribes of Israel written on them (21:12).  It also has 12 foundations with the names of the 12 apostles written on them (21:14).  The number of the sealed is 144000 (7:4), which is equal to 12 x 12 x 1000.

For these reasons the 24 elders probably are human beings.  They might be the beings to whom the responsibility for judgment is given in Daniel 7:9, 10, 26 and in Revelation 20:4.

The number seven

Seven lamps—“which are the seven Spirits of God”—burn before the throne (4:5).  God does not literally have seven Spirits.  The number seven must be interpreted symbolically.  It originates from the seven days of the week, is mentioned may (56) times in Revelation, and is interpreted as a symbol for ‘the full period’.  Many of the sevens in Revelation are different from the other numbers in Revelation in the sense that the seven stands in chronological sequence to each other—the second follows after the first—the third after the second, and so forth, with the seventh as the last or end.  The same cannot be said of the other important numbers in Revelation, such as 4, 10 and 12.  The number seven therefore has to do with time, and should be understood as completion or perfection of time—the full period.  The seven Spirits of God therefore perhaps symbolize that He is present from the beginning to the end.

Worship

Before the throne is a sea of glass (4:6).  In the center and around the throne are four living creatures; full of eyes in front and behind (4:6-7).  They ceaselessly say (4:8):

Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God, the Almighty, Who was and Who is and Who is to come.

One may think that continual worship is boring, but to be in the presence of God is an extremely emotional experience, because God is the most emotional Being in the universe.  To be in His presence is the highest joy possible.

When the living creatures give glory to Him who lives forever and ever (4:9), the 24 elders fall down and worship Him, saying (4:10-11):

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.

Revelation 5

Specific EventWhile Revelation 4 presents a continuous state, Revelation 5 presents a special event in which “every created thing” (5:13) is gathered around God’s throne to watch the Lamb take the sealed book.

Sealed book –  John saw, in the right hand of God, a book written inside and on the back, sealed up with seven seals (5:1).  This is not a real literal book.  A book is a symbol of knowledge and a sealed book is a symbol of concealed information—something that is not understood.  Daniel was similarly told “seal up the book until the end of time” (Daniel 12:4) and “these words are concealed and sealed up until the end time” (v9).

Sorrow in heaven At first nobody is “worthy” to open the book (5:2-3), and John began to weep greatly because no one was found worthy to open the book (5:4).  John’s tears symbolize the sorrow of the entire universe.  We see the universal nature of the sorrow when Jesus arrives at God’s throne and, by taking the book, converts the sorrow to joy throughout the universe (5:8-14).  The sorrow therefore represents the time before the Cross, when no one was able to open the book.

Worthy – John saw a “Lamb …  as if slain” (5:6), and heard “one of the elders” say that Jesus “overcome so as to open the book” (5:5).  Then John saw millions and millions of angels around the throne (5:11), saying with a loud voice (5:12):

Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power and riches and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing.

Then John heard every created being say (5:13):

To Him who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb, be blessing and honor and glory and dominion forever and ever.

At His Ascension

Revelation 5 depicts a special and critically important heavenly meeting, as indicated by the millions and millions of angels looking on (5:11) and by the interest of “every created thing” (5:12).  They are gathered to see Jesus receive the sealed book from God.  For the reasons provided below, this was when Jesus was exalted at His Father’s right hand at His ascension (12:5), about 40 days after the Cross:

FIRST: He appears as a slain Lamb, which implies that the event described by Revelation 5 followed immediately after He was slain.

Jesus is described as a “Lamb, as if slain” (5:6) and the beings in heaven said to Him, “Worthy are You to take the book and to break its seals; for You were slain” (5:8-9). 

SECOND: He earned the right to open the book because He overcame, and therefore logically received the book immediately after He overcame.

In Revelation 5 Jesus is declared worthy to receive and open the book because He overcame (5:5):

Stop weeping; behold, the Lion that is from the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has overcome so as to open the book and its seven seals.

The “the Lion that is from the tribe of Judah, the Root of David” is Jesus.  He overcame on earth, as a human being (3:21).  Since He overcame during His earthly life, He logically received the book immediately after the end if His earthly life.

THIRD: He appears on God’s throne; on God’s right hand, which the New Testament indicates happened at His ascension.

The New Testament frequently mentions that Jesus was glorified at the Father’s right hand at His ascension to heaven, for instance:

when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority“ (Eph. 1:20-22; cf. Acts 2:32-36; Rom. 8:34; Hebr.  8:1; Acts 5:30-31; Phil 2:6-11; Col 3:1; Hebr. 1:3; 10:12; 12:2; 1 Pet 3:21-22; Rev. 3:21). 

In Revelation 5 we see Jesus at the Father’s “right hand”:

The NASB reads that the book is in the Father’s right hand (5:1), but this can also be translated as “on” (epi Strong G1909) God’s right hand.  The point is that, to receive the book, Jesus had to take up His position at the right hand of God. 

In Revelation 5 we also see Him sitting on the Father’s throne:

Jesus appears “in the midst of the throne and of the four beasts” (5:6 KJV).  The four living beings are “in the center and around the throne” (4:6).  Jesus therefore appears at the center of the throne. 

In Revelation 5 Jesus is furthermore glorified.  He is—along with God—praised by “every created thing which is in heaven and on the earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all things in them” (5:13).

Revelation 5 is therefore very similar to the statements elsewhere in the New Testament, that Jesus was glorified and seated at the Father’s right hand when He ascended to heaven.

FOURTH: His appearance on God’s throne sent out the Spirit of God into all the earth as His eyes (5:6), which the New Testament indicates happened at His ascension.

The New Testament links Jesus’s glorification at the Father’s right hand to the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, about ten days after His ascension:

for the Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified” (John 7:39).

Therefore having been exalted to the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, He has poured forth this which you both see and hear” (Acts 2:33).

In Revelation 4 “the seven Spirits of God” are “seven lamps of fire burning before the throne” (4:5).  But in Revelation 5, when the Lamb appears on the throne, “the seven Spirits of God” are said to have been “sent out into all the earth” (5:6), apparently a reference to the outpouring of the Holy Spirit in Acts 2.  This links the outpouring of the Spirit to the event described by Revelation 5.

In summary, for the following reasons the event described in Revelation 5 is Christ’s enthronement at His ascension to heaven:

  • He appears as a slain Lamb, which implies that the event described by Revelation 5 followed immediately after He was slain.
  • He earned the right to open the book because He overcame, and therefore logically received the book immediately after He overcame.
  • He appears on God’s throne; on God’s right hand, which the New Testament indicates happened at His ascension.
  • His appearance on God’s throne sent out the Spirit of God into all the earth as His eyes (5:6), which the New Testament indicates happened at His ascension.

Rapture – In the dispensational approach 4:1 is the rapture, and Revelation 5 therefore refers to an event after the rapture.  This seems to do an injustice to the text, and cannot be supported by Revelation 5.  The following are some further reasons for not agreeing with the view that 4:1 is the rapture:

  • The interpretation of 4:1, where John is called “Come up here”, as the rapture of the Church, rests on very slender evidence. It is much more likely that 11:12, where the two witnesses are also called “Come up here“, represents the rapture of the church. 
  • The purpose of John’s ascension to heaven in 4:1 is not to rescue the church from tribulation, but, as explicitly stated, to show John “what must take place after these things” (4:1).
  • In 10:1 John sees an angel coming down from heaven. He therefore is again or still on earth.  John represents the church when he receives the little book (Revelation 10).  The church is therefore still on earth in Revelation 10.

Judgment at Christ’s return – Many understand Revelation 5 as the judgment prior to Christ’s return to the earth, as in Daniel 7, but:

  • No books are opened in Revelation 5, as in Daniel 7:16. Jesus is praised for taking the book, but He does not open it in Revelation 5.  The books are only opened in 20:12.
  • We find no typical judgment language (judge, avenge) in Revelation 5. Such language we only find in the second half of Revelation (except for the fifth seal—but this is only a request for judgment).
  • If Revelation 5 was the judgment before Christ’s return, then Revelation 6 would have been His return, but, as discussed below, the first five seals represent the history of the Church.

Still sealed – The Cross gave Christ the authority to open the book, and He received the book immediately after His ascension, but He did not open the book immediately. The Cross did not open the book.  Revelation 6 describes what happens when the Lamb breaks open the seals.

The Book of Life

Many books will be opened in the last judgment, one thousand years after the return of Christ (19:11-20:12).  The book of life is one of these books (20:12).  It contains the names of the saved (Ps. 69:28; Ph. 4:3; Rev 3:5; 13:8; 17:8; 20:15; 21:27).  It indicates who will live and who will die (21:2, 27; 20:14-15):

and nothing unclean, and no one who practices abomination and lying, shall ever come into it (the holy city, new Jerusalem), but only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life.

And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.   This is the second death, the lake of fire.

A fundamental concept, which will greatly influence the interpretation of the seals, is that the sealed book, which Jesus receives in Revelation 5, is the book of life.  This statement is justified as follows:

Both the sealed book and the book of life are about redemption. God’s Lamb was slain, with two consequences.  The first is that He purchased for God with His blood men from every tribe and tongue and people and nation (5:9).  The second and subsequent consequence is that He is considered worthy to open the sealed book (5:9).  This context indicates that the sealed book is about redemption, and therefore could easily be the book of life, which contains the names of God’s redeemed people (20:15).

The book of life is called “the book of life of the Lamb who has been slain” (13:8) and “the Lamb’s book of life” (21:27), linking it directly to Revelation 5, where a slain Lamb receives a book (5:6, 9).

The book’s sixth seal will only be opened at “the great day of their wrath” (6:17), which is the return of Christ, which means that even then one seal remains to be opened. The book of life will also only be opened in the final great judgment (20:12)—one thousand years after the return of Christ, which is described in Revelation 19:11 and following.  Both books are therefore opened after the return of Christ.

Conclusion

In Revelation 5 we read about sadness in heaven due to a sealed book, which nobody is able to open.  A sealed book symbolizes concealed information.  It was concluded above that the sealed book is the book of life.  The concealed information is therefore the names of the people that will receive eternal life (20:14-15).  The questions remain, why was this information concealed, and why did the fact that it was sealed cause so much sorrow?

After the sorrow was mentioned, Christ appears on the Father’s throne in the form of a slain Lamb (5:6), and we are told that He “has overcome” (5:5).  It was concluded above that the heavenly meeting in Revelation 5 describes what happened when He ascended to heaven, 40 days after the Cross.  As Jesus said “I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne” (3:21).  He was slain when He died on the Cross.  The sorrow therefore refers to the time prior to the Cross.  He overcame Satan’s temptation by being faithful to God, even to death.  In this way he purchased men from all nations for God (5:9).  These things are not new to us, but we would like to ask: How did His faithfulness purchase men for God?  Why was it necessary for Him to die?

What Revelation 5 further adds is that, because Jesus overcame, and because He was slain and purchased men for God with His blood, He became worthy to open the sealed book (5:5, 9).  We might have expected Him to open the book immediately, but He does not open the book in Revelation 5.  The seven seals are things that prevent the book from being read, and they are only broken in Revelation 6.  This is a bit strange, for it means that, although He bought people for God with His blood, something else must still happen before it will be known who those people are.  We may also ask what things prevent the book from being read, and why was He not worthy to open the book before He was slain?  The seven seals are broken by the happenings described in Revelation 6.  Only after those things happened will we know the names of the saved.  We will next investigate Revelation 6 with these questions in mind.

TO: General Table of Contents