The Trinity Doctrine developed over several centuries. The Nicene Creed of the year 325 was not yet a Trinitarian document. The Cappadocian Fathers gave form to this doctrine only in the years 360-380 and it was clearly stated when Emperor Theodosius, in AD 380, made the Trinitarian version of Christianity the only official religion of the Roman Empire. The practice within the church to worship the Son was one of the key drivers in the development of the Trinity Doctrine.
Only God may be worshiped.
The Bible teaches that only God may be worshiped (Exo 34:14; Deut 8:19; Matt 4:10; Luke 4:8; Rev 14:7). Similarly, in Revelation, John twice fell down to worship an angel, and both times the angel prevented him, saying:
“Do not do that; I am a fellow servant of yours and your brethren … worship God” (Rev 19:10; cf. 22:9).
But the Son is worshiped together with the Father.
In Revelation 5, which describes the Son’s enthronement after His ascension, the creatures in God’s throne room praise “the Lamb” (Jesus) together with “Him who sits on the throne” (the Father). For example:
“The four living creatures and the twenty-four elders
fell down before the Lamb” (Rev 5:8).
“Every created thing” praises both “Him who sits on the throne, AND … the Lamb” (Rev 5:13).
Then “the elders fell down and worshiped” (Rev 5:14).
Does this mean that the Son is God?
To respond to this question, this article discusses the following:
1. Whether Revelation presents Jesus as the Almighty God – Is Jesus the One who exists without a cause; the Ultimate Reality?
2. The difference between the English word “worship” and the word that is sometimes translated as “worship” (proskuneó)
3. Philippians 2 describes the same event as Revelation 5, namely, what happens in heaven when Jesus arrives after His ascension. That chapter helps to explain the worship in Revelation 5.
4. Whether the worship of Jesus means that He is God.
The end-time crisis will be about worship.
The question of worship is important. Revelation 13 and 14, describing the end-time crisis, emphasize worship:
The word “worship” appears several times. People worship the dragon (Rev 13:4) and the beast (Rev 13:4, 8, 12; 20:4) as well as the image of the beast (Rev 13:15; 16:2; 19:20).
In the context of that end-time persecution, the only direct command God gives to His people is to “worship Him who made the heaven and the earth and sea and springs of waters” (Rev 14:7).
The proposal is that the end-time crisis will be about WHO we worship.
Is Jesus God?
Revelation does not teach that Jesus is God.
For example, the book begins with the following words:
“The Revelation of Jesus Christ,
which God gave Him” (Rev 1:1).
Firstly, this phrase MAKES A DISTINCTION between Jesus and God, implying that Jesus is not God. If we read on, we will see that the book of Revelation NEVER refers to Jesus as God but ALWAYS maintains a clear distinction between Jesus and God (e.g., Rev 1:2, 9; 5:9-10; 7:10, 17; 12:5; 12:10, 17; 14:4, 12; 20:4-5; 21:22; 22:1, 3). It reserves the title “God” for the Father ONLY. For further discussion, see – Does the book of Revelation present Jesus as God Almighty?
Revelation presents Christ as eternal and divine but also as subordinate to His Father.
Secondly, since Jesus received this revelation from God, it implies that He is SUBORDINATE to God. Revelation does refer to Christ as “the first and the last,” “the beginning and the end” and “the Alpha and the Omega” (Rev 1:17; 22:12-13), implying that He has always existed. It also describes Him as “He who searches the minds and hearts” (Rev 2:23). He has, therefore, received some of the Father’s divine attributes. Nevertheless, Revelation presents Christ as subordinate to His Father. For example:
Revelation refers to the Father as Jesus’ God (Rev 1:6; 3:2, 12).
One of the frequent titles for the Father in Revelation is “Him who sits on the throne” (Rev 3:21; 4:2; 5:7; 5:13-14; 7:10; 12:5; 19:4). The Father, therefore, is the ultimate Ruler.
The Son is also ontologically subordinate.
In defense against indications in the Bible that the Son is subordinate to the Father, some people propose a distinction between different types of subordination:
They say that Jesus is functionally (in terms of His role) subordinate to the Father but
ontologically (in terms of His substance or being) equal to God. In other words, they say that Jesus is also the Almighty; the One who exists without a cause; the Ultimate Reality.
In contrast, Revelation presents the Son as ontologically subordinate to the Father:
The Father alone is Almighty.
Firstly, Revelation (and the entire New Testament) NEVER refers to Jesus as the Almighty but maintains an explicit distinction between Jesus and the Almighty. For example:
“The Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb are its temple” (Rev 21:22; cf. Rev 19:15).
Revelation identifies “God” as the “Almighty” (Rev 1:8; 4:8; 11:17; 15:3; 16:7, 14; 19:6), and “God” refers to the Father ONLY. For further discussion, see – Is Jesus the Almighty?
The Father alone is inherently immortal.
Secondly, Jesus is “alive forevermore” (Rev 1:18) and “will reign forever” (Rev 11:15), but Revelation identifies the Father as “Him who lives forever and ever” (Rev 4:9-10; 15:7). This means that not even the Son “lives forever and ever.” As Paul stated, the Father “alone possesses immortality” (1 Tim 6:16). As the only begotten Son of God, Jesus RECEIVED His eternal existence and divine nature from the Father. But, the Father, as the Unbegotten Source of all things, alone exists without cause and has inherent (essential) immortality.
Therefore, the Son is ontologically subordinate.
If the Father ALONE is the Almighty and ALONE has inherent immortal, then the Son is also ontologically subordinate to the Father. The Son, therefore, is not God (understood as the Ultimate Reality – the One who exits without cause), nor equal with God.
The question remains, if Jesus is not God, but subordinate to God, why is He worshiped? To explain this, consider the word “worship:”
No word in ancient Greek is fully equivalent to the modern English word “worship.” The word translated as “worship” in Revelation 5:14 is proskuneó and means “to do reverence to.” While the word “worship” generally implies that the one worshiped is a god, proskuneó is also used when people “do reverence to” an exalted person such as a king (Matt 18:26; Rev 3:7-9; Acts 10:25). For example, in Revelation 3:9, Jesus promises that those who “say that they are Jews and are not” will proskuneó before God’s overcomes. Proskuneó merely means to show extreme respect to another being, typically, by bowing down.
When somebody proskuneó before God or an idol, “worship” is an appropriate translation. But when somebody proskuneó other beings, “bow down” or “do reverence” would be more appropriate translations. For example, Revelation 3:9 is translated as Jesus saying, “I will make them come and bow down at your feet.” “Bow down,” here, translates proskuneó.
In the New Testament, people proskuneó Jesus 13 times. In all instances, the KJV translates this as “worship” but in six instances, where it is clear from the context that Jesus was not worshiped, the NASB translates this as “bow down.” For example:
“A leper came to Him and bowed down before Him” (Matt 8:2).
“A synagogue official came and bowed down before Him” (Matt 9:18; cf. (Matt 15:25; 20:20; Mark 5:6; 5:9; 15:19).
For further discussion, see – If Jesus is not God, why must we worship Him?
In conclusion, the word translated as “worship” (proskuneó) simply means to show extreme respect to an exalted being, such as a king. That beings proskuneó Jesus does not mean that He is God.
Therefore, when our Bibles translate proskuneó as “worship” when Jesus receives proskuneó, it is not because of anything in the word itself; in such instances, the translators have assumed the Trinity Doctrine in which Jesus is God Almighty; it does not prove that Jesus is God or that He is equal to His Father.
Revelation 5 does not say that beings worship Jesus.
Revelation 5:14 says that the elders worship but it does not say WHO they worship. Another article analyses the worship passages in Revelation and concludes that the elders in 5:14 only worship God, the Father.
This chapter describes the same event as Revelation 5.
Revelation 5 describes what happens in heaven when Jesus arrives after His ascension. In particular, it describes His enthronement at His Father’s right hand. Philippians 2:6-11 describes that very same event and EXPLAINS WHY the Son is worshiped in Revelation 5. In that passage:
1) We worship Jesus BECAUSE God exalted Him.
Jesus is worshiped by the entire creation (“every knee will bow”) BECAUSE God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name” (Phil 2:9-11). This makes a distinction between God and Jesus. It also means that we worship Jesus because God wants us to (cf. Heb 1:6).
2) We worship Him to the glory of God.
Furthermore, He is worshiped “to the glory of God the Father” (Phil 2:11); not independent from or co-equal with God. This relationship between the worship of the Father and the Son is also indicated by the statement:
“He who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent Him” (John 5:23).
In other words, by honoring the Son, we honor the Father.
3) We confess Jesus as Lord; not as God.
“Every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord;” i.e., they do NOT confess Him as God.
This explains what we see in Revelation 5:13-14 where the entire universe praises “the Lamb” together with “Him who sits on the throne.” For a discussion, see the article on Philippians 2.
We must worship Jesus.
We must only worship God – the Ultimate Reality – and Jesus is not God but subordinate to Him. Nevertheless, for reasons such as the following, I propose that we must “worship” Jesus:
We can never experience God. Created beings simply cannot see God (1 Tim 1:17) because He exists outside the physical universe. In Christ, we experience God. “He is the image of the invisible God” (Col 1:15). In Christ “all the fullness of Deity dwells in bodily form” (Col 2:9), because “it was the Father’s good pleasure for all the fullness to dwell in Him” (Col 1:19).
God created all things through His Son (John 1:3; Col 1:16-17; Heb 1:2-3; 1 Cor 8:6). That makes the Son our Creator.
“Just as the Father has life in Himself, even so He gave to the Son also to have life in Himself” (John 5:26). This seems to say that only two beings have “life in Himself.”
His unique Son has received “all authority” from God (Matt 28:18). The Father is the Judge but He “has given all judgment to the Son” (John 5:22, 27).
“God highly exalted Him … so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow” (Phil 2:9-10). “All will honor the Son even as they honor the Father” (John 5:23).
The point is that God is the uncaused Cause of all things, but His Son is the Intermediary between God and the universe. The Son represents God. For that reason, to worship the Son, is to worship God.
For further discussion, also see the articles on: