Who is the Holy Spirit?
By: David K. Bernard
WHO IS THE HOLY SPIRIT?
Since Pentecostals are identified by a strong emphasis on the Holy Spirit, the question arises, What or who is the Holy Spirit? Various groups have defined the Holy Spirit as an abstract principle, an impersonal force, a fluidlike substance, an angel, a subordinate divine being, or the third person in a triune Godhead. But what does the Bible say?
God in Spiritual Activity
God is “the Holy One” (Isaiah 54:5). Only God is holy in Himself; all other holy beings derive their holiness from Him. Furthermore, God is Spirit (John 4:24), and there is only one Spirit of God(Ephesians 4:4) “The title of Holy Spirit describes the funadamental character of God’s nature, for holiness forms the basis of His moral attributes while spirituality forms the basis of His nonmoral attributes. Thus it describes God Himself, the one Holy Spirit.
For example, Peter told Ananias and Sapphira that they had lied to “to the Holy Ghost” and then said they had lied “unto God” (Acts 5:3-4). Similarly Paul wrote, “Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?” and then, “What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost?” (I Corinthians 3:16; 6:19).
The Bible calls the Holy Spirit “the Spirit of the LORD (Jehovah),”my (Jehovah’s) spirit;’ “the Spirit of God” and “his (God’s) holy Spirit” (Isaiah 40:13; Joel 2:28; Romans 8:9; I Thessalonians 4:8). These phrases show that the Spirit is not distinct from God but rather pertains to God or is God Himself in spiritual essence. For example, when we speak of the spirit of a man, we do not refer to another person but to the inward nature of spirit and vice versa.
The Bible compares a man and his spirit to God and His Spirit: “For what man knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of man which is in him? even so the things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God” (1 Corinthians 2:11). The former is not two persons, and neither is the latter. We speak of a man’s spirit in order to refer to his thoughts, character, or nature, but we do not thereby mean that his spirit is a different person from him or is any less than the total personality. Nor does speaking of God and His Spirit introduce a personal distinction or plurality in Him.
If the Holy Spirit is God Himself, why is this additional designation needed? What distinction of meaning is intended? The title specifically refers to God in spiritual activity, particularly as He works in ways that only a Spirit can.
The first biblical mention of the Spirit is a good example. Genesis 1:1, speaking in general terms, says, “God created the heaven and the earth:’ Genesis 1:2, focusing on a specific act of God, says, “And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters,” Important spiritual activities of God are regenerating, indwelling, sanctifying, and anointing humanity; thus we usually speak of the Holy Spirit in connection with them. (See Acts 1:5-8.)
The roles of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are necessary to God’s plan of redemption for fallen humanity. In order to save us, God had to provide a sinless Man who could die in our place-the Son. In begetting the Son and in relating to humanity, God is the Father. And in working in our lives to transform and empower us, God is the Holy Spirit.
We should note that the titles “Holy Ghost” and “Holy Spirit” are interchangeable; both are translations of the same Greek phrase. The King James Version uses the former more frequently, but it also uses the latter. (See Luke 11:13; Ephesians 1:13; 4:30.) The latter is usually more understandable to modern English speakers, especially those unfamiliar with the Bible. Frequently, the Bible simply speaks of “the Spirit.”
The Spirit of the Father
The Bible identifies the Father and the Holy Spirit as one and the same being. The title of Holy Spirit simply describes what the Father is. There is only one God (Deuteronomy 6:4). The “only true God” is the Father (John 17:3), and He is Spirit (John 4:24).
The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of the Father, not a different person from the Father. For example, Jesus said that in times of persecution God would give us proper words to say, “for it is not ye that speak, but the Spirit of your Father which speaketh in you” (Matthew 10:20). Jesus spoke of God as our Father in terms of personal relationship, but with reference to supernatural indwelling and anointing Jesus spoke of God as the Holy Spirit.
By definition, the one who begets (causes conception) is the father of the one begotten. The Holy Spirit is literally the Father of Jesus, for Jesus was conceived by the Holy Spirit (Matthew 1:18, 20). If the Father and the Holy Spirit were two persons, then Jesus would have two fathers. When the Bible speaks of the man Christ Jesus in relationship to God it uses the title of Father, but when it speaks of God’s action in causing the baby Jesus to be conceived it uses the title of Holy Ghost so that there will be no mistake about the supernatural, spiritual nature of this work.
The Spirit of Jesus Christ
In Jesus Christ dwells all the fulness of the Godhead bodily (Colossians 2:9). Thus the Holy Spirit is literally the Spirit that was in the man Jesus Christ.
All of Christendom confesses that Jesus is Lord, and II Corinthians 3:17 plainly identifies the Lord as the Spirit: “Now the Lord is that Spirit: and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.” The Bible also describes the Holy Spirit as “the Spirit of Christ,” “the Spirit of his (God’s) Son,” and “the Spirit of Jesus Christ” (Romans 8:9; Galatians 4:6; Philippians 1:19). The way that Christ dwells in our hearts is as the Holy Spirit (Romans 8:9-11; Ephesians 3:14-17).
Trinitarians often point to John 14:16 as evidence that the Holy Spirit is a distinct person: “I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever.” But the context reveals that Jesus was speaking of Himself in another form-in Spirit rather than in flesh.
In the next verse He identified the Comforter as someone who already dwelt with the disciples: “Even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you” (John 14:17). Jesus was the One whom they knew and who dwelt with them. The difference was that the Comforter would soon come in them, in a new relationship of spiritual indwelling rather than physical accompaniment.
And in the following verse Jesus plainly identified Himself as the Comforter: “I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you” (John 14:18).
Some trinitarians try to avoid this clear designation by saying Jesus was speaking of His physical return, either by the Resurrection or the Second Coming, but both explanations ignore the immediate context. Moreover, the Resurrection would have fulfilled the promise only for forty days, while the Second Coming would not have fulfilled the promise for many centuries, long after the listeners’ deaths. Clearly, Jesus spoke of coming and abiding in Spirit, as parallel promises show: “Where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them” (Matthew 18:20); I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world” (Matthew 28:20).
“He Shall Not Speak of Himself”
Trinitarians also point to John 16:13 as evidence for an independent personality of the Holy Spirit: “Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come.” The Greek text literally says, “He will not speak from Himself;’ meaning, He will not speak on His own authority” (NKJV).
A trinitarian explanation of the verse is inadequate, however, for the third person would be in a very subordinate role and possibly would not even be omniscient, contrary to the trinitarian doctrine of co-equality. He would not be able to say or know anything except what he received from another person. How then could this third person be God and have the power of God? In fact, this verse says the Spirit does not have independent authority or identity. He does not come under another name but in Jesus’ name (John 14:26).
In actuality, Jesus was describing the baptism of the Holy Spirit and the working of the Spirit in the believer. (See John 16:7.) It seems that He was trying to counter the tendency that sometimes arises among Spirit-filled people to think that they have some kind of supernatural authority in their own right. In other words, people who receive the Holy Spirit do not thereby have authority to establish any doctrine or teaching of their own. Though they may exercise the gifts of prophecy, tongues, and interpretation of tongues, the Spirit within them will not speak as a separate entity residing within them. Rather, the Spirit in them will only speak what is communicated by the mind of God-what is consistent with the Word of God.
To that extent, John 16:13 makes a conceptual (but not personal) distinction between God as Father, Lord, and Omniscient Mind and God in action, operation, or indwelling. The distinction is similar to that in Romans 8:26-27 and I Corinthians 2:10-16. The latter passage says we can know the mind of God by having the Spirit of God in us, for the Spirit of God knows the things of God. But, as we have already seen, the passage clearly does not envisage a personal distinction in the Godhead, for it compares God and His Spirit to a man and his spirit.
Romans 8:26-27 says, “The Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. And he that searcheth the hearts knoweth what is the mind of the Spirit,because he maketh intercession for the saints according to the will of God.” In other words, when the Spirit prompts us and speaks through us in intercessory prayer, we can have confidence that our prayers are in God’s will. The Spirit of God will certainly make intercession in accordance with the will of God, for the Spirit is God Himself working in our lives. God will act in harmony with Himself as He first motivates our prayers and then hears and answers our prayers.
Pentecostals are sometimes accused of glorifying the Holy Spirit at the expense of Jesus Christ. Oneness Pentecostals are certainly not guilty of this charge, for we recognize that God is one Spirit and that the Holy Spirit is the Spirit of the risen, living Christ. Receiving the Holy Spirit is the way we receive Jesus Christ into our lives.
We do not have two or three divine spirits in our hearts, nor can we identify distinct religious experiences with each of three divine persons. Both the Bible and personal experience tell us
that there is one Spirit, the Spirit of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. As our Father, God has told us how to live; in the Son God has shown us how to live and provided an atonement for our sins; and as the indwelling Holy Spirit God enables us to live for Him every day.
(The above material appeared in a June, 1989 issue of Pentecostal Herald.)
THE ALMIGHTY GOD AS A HUMBLE SERVANT
The central truth of Scripture is the marvelous revelation that God came in the flesh as Jesus Christ to be our Savior.
The very name of Jesus describes who He is and what He did for us, for it literally means “Jehovah-Savior.” Although others have borne that name, Jesus Christ of Nazareth is the only one who truly personifies it. In other words, Jesus is actually the one God of the Old Testament who came in flesh to be our Savior. Thus the name of Jesus fulfills the prophecy of Isaiah that the Son would be called Emmanuel, which means “God with us” (Matthew 1:21-23).
Jesus Christ was miraculously conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of the virgin Mary. He was thereby the human Son of God (Luke 1:35) and actually God manifest in the flesh (1 Timothy 3:16). He was truly God, and He was also truly man. In order to provide the way of salvation for us, He did not insist upon His privileges as God, but He lived a humble human life, served human needs, and submitted to death on the cross.
One of the most profound passages relative to the life and ministry of Jesus Christ is Philippians 2:5-11. Unfortunately, it has been greatly misinterpreted by trinitarians. Let us look at it afresh to uncover its truths.
“Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus; who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a sevant, and was made in the likeness of men: and being found in fashion as a man, he humbled hinself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name: that at the name of Jesus every knee shall bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Philippians 2:5-11).
The Mind of Christ Jesus
First of all, it is important to understand the context of this passage, which refers to Christ’s human life and earthly ministry. Verse 5 introduces the subject by saying, “Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus.” The focus is not on the transcendent nature of God, which we humans cannot duplicate, but on the attitude and conduct of the man Christ Jesus, which we can imitate. The passage recognizes Christ’s identity as the almighty God incarnate but emphasizes His human role as a lowly servant.
Verse 6 reminds us that Christ is the true God in order to point out that He had every right to live in this world as a conquering king instead of a humble servant. Nevertheless, as verses 7-8 describe, Jesus did not hold on to His divine prerogatives but relinquished them, living a simple life and enduring a humiliating death. He could have displayed His divine glory to the world and demanded luxury, obeisance, and submission, but instead He voluntarily laid aside these prerogatives in order to atone for our sins.
The New International Version (NIV) translates verses 6-8 as follows: “Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man he humbled himself and became obedient to death-even death on a cross.”
Equality with God
Trinitarians interpret this passage to mean that a second divine person (the eternal Son) existed; he was equal to but distinct from the Father, and he became incarnate. But this view destroys ithe numerical oneness of God as taught in Scripture (Deuteronomy 6:4; Galatians 3:20).
As we have seen, this passage draws attention not to the eternal nature of God but to the historical person of Jesus Christ. Verse 6 speaks of One who is both God and man and says that by right He was “equal with God.” In other words, Jesus, as God incarnate, was fully equal in every way to God before the Incarnation. God incarnate is the same as God reincarnate. In the Incarnation, God did not lose any of His nature or attributes, which makes the servant role of Jesus all the more amazing.
The use of “equal” does not require Jesus to be a second person. If it did, the Bibie would have a contradiction, for God has no equal and there is none like Him (Isaiah 46:5, 9). Moreover, if “equal with” indicated a distinct person, then Jesus would not merely be a distinct person from the Father, as trinitarians teach, but a distinct person from God altogether, which they deny; for verse 6 does not say “equal with the Father” but “equal with God.” If God were a trinity and if equality implied a personal distinction, then Jesus would be equal to the whole trinity yet a distinct person from the trinity.
The proper understanding of “equal with” in this context is “the same as; “identical to” Acts 11:17 provides a similar example in which the same Greek word (isos) is translated as “the like,” meaning the same.” In John 5:18 some Jewish leaders accused Jesus of making himself equal with God.” They were not accusing Jesus of calling Himself a member of a trinity, for such a concept was completely foreign to them. As John 10:33 shows, they accused Jesus of claiming to be the one God Himself: “Thou, being a man, makest thyself God.” They understood His assertion, but they erred in rejecting it.
Being in the Form of God
Philippians 2:5-6 refers to “Christ Jesus” namely to the divine-human person after the Incarnation took place, not to a second divine person before the Incarnation. Some trinitarians say that the word being (Greek, huparchon) in verse 6 means “originally being, eternally being, preexisting” and thus speaks of an eternal Son before the Incarnation. But the simple meaning of “being” is more appropriate, as all major translations and Greek dictionaries recognize.
As another example, Luke 16:23 uses the same Greek word to describe a rich man in hades as “being in torments.” Clearly he was not in torment originally, eternally, or by preexistence. Similarly, 1 Corinthians 11:7 uses the same Greek word to teach that man “is the image and glory of God”; it does not speak of an eternal, preexistent state or merely of man’s original state, but primarily of his present state.
Many commentators say that the word form (Greek, morphe) refers to a visible form or an external appearance. While morphe has this general meaning, the context establishes its precise meaning here. Verse 7 uses morphe again (“the form of a servant”), and verse 8 uses a synonym, schema (“found in fashion as a man”). Both Lightfoot and Trench assert that here morphe connotes what is intrinsic and essential while schema connotes what is outward and accidental.
The main subject of the entire passage is the mind of Christ, not His body. “The form of a servant” refers primarily to the nature or character of a servant, not to the physical appearance of a
servant. Likewise, since God is an invisible Spirit who does not have a physical body apart from the Incarnation (John 1:18; 4:24), it seems that “the form of God” refers primariiy to God’s nature or character, not to a visible manifestation, much less a second divine person. Thus, Jesus being “in the form of God” means that He was “in very nature God,” as the NIV renders. From eter-, nity the Spirit of Jesus was God Himself, and from birth Jesus was the one true God incarnate and not some lesser being.
If “the form of God” means a visible image, then it refers to Jesus after the Incarnation, for it is as the begotten Son, who was “made of a woman;’ that He is the “image of the invisible God” and the “express image” of God’s nature. (See John 1:18; Galatians 4:4; Colossians 1:15; Hebrews 1:3.) At any time in His earthly life Jesus could have appeared in His divine glory, as in the transfiguration and in the post ascension appearances to Stephen and John. But instead He veiled His glory and displayed an ordinary human appearance, revealing His true identity only to those who had the eyes of faith.
Philippians 2:7 says that Jesus “made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant.” Again, this verse does not focus on the act of incarnation, but upon the total human life
and ministry of Jesus Christ. Certainly the phrase “was made in the likeness of men” has the act of incarnation in view, but the phrase being found in fashion as a man” includes the whole scope of His life. Moreover, verse 8 shows that the culminating act in this process was not the Incarnation but the Crucifixion: “he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.”
The Greek word translated as “made of no reputation” is kenoo, which has the general meaning of “to make empty.” Consequently, many trinitarians say that their second divine person surrendered
mean Jesus was merely a demigod on earth. How could Jesus have lacked divine attributes
and still have been God? How could God divest Himself of His essential nature?
The Scriptures reveal that in His Spirit Jesus was everywhere present, knew all things, and had all divine power (Matthew 18:20; 28:18; Mark 2:5-12; John 1:4-8; 3:13). The King James Version and the New International Version convey the correct meaning here: Jesus did not surrender His attributes but His privileges. As Bauer, Arndt, and Gingrich translate, “He emptied himself, divested himself of his privileges.”
Isaiah 53:12 shows that the supreme act of “emptying” occurred at Christ’s death. “He hath poured out his soul unto death: and he was numbered with the transgressors; and he bare the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.” As a man, Christ was completely submissive to the indwelling Spirit of God. He was obedient to God’s plan even to the point of death.
As the result of Christ’s humble, obedient life and sacrificial death, God has highly exalted Him and given Him the name above every name (Philippians 2:9). By implication, if we adopt the same humble, obedient attitude, we can also expect to be exalted (although not in the same measure). (See Matthew 23:12; James 4:10; I Peter 5:6.)
The emphasis here is first on Christ’s humanity, for only as a man could Christ be exalted. As to His deity, Jesus always was the Lord, but by virtue of His human life, death, resurrection, and ascension He conquered sin, death, hell, and the devil. (See Acts 2:32-36; Colossians 2:15; Hebrews 2:14; Revelation 1:18). He thus openly declared His lordship and earned the right to be called Lord as to His glorified humanity. He is not only the King of eternity but also the human Messiah and Savior.
If this passage taught that one divine person exalted another, the first person would have to be greater than not equal with the second person in order to exalt him.
And if the second person were preexistent and coequal, why would he need to be exalted?
Moreover, if he lost his exalted status in the Incarnation, how could he still be deity?
Philippians 2:9-11 again affirms that Jesus is truly God and not merely a man. The indwelling Spirit of God resurrected, glorified, and exalted the humanity. As a result, all creation will one day meet God in the person of Jesus Christ and acknowledge that Jesus Christ is the Lord of the universe. In doing so, they will glorify the Father, for the Father chose the Incarnation and the name of Jesus to reveal Himself to the world.
The creation will not confess Jesus as a second divine person, but as the one true God of the Old Testament revealed in flesh. Philippians 2:9-11 fulfills Isaiah 45:23, in which Jehovah (“the LORD”) declared, “Unto me every knee shall bow, every tongue shall swear.” All will confess Jesus as the incarnation of Jehovah, who is the rather (Isaiah 63:16).
Jesus, the Supreme Name
Philippians 2:9-11 shows that Jesus is the supreme name by which the one God has revealed Himself to the world. Many trinitarian scholars say that the supreme name described in verse 9 is Lord. That is, God has given the man Jesus the supreme title of Lord. Although Jesus was openly and miraculously declared to be Lord by the resurrection and ascension, this declaration does not detract from the supremacy of Jesus as the personal name of God incarnate. The title of Lord serves to magnify the name of Jesus and underscore its true meaning.
As an analogy, the highest political office and title in the United States is that of president. George Bush is presently the president and thus has the highest title; nevertheless, his unique name-the name that embodies his legal identity, power, and authority-is still George Bush. He cannot merely sign documents as “Mr. President”; he must sign them as “George Bush” in order for his signature to be effective.
Philippians 2:10 specifically states that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow. Verses 10-1l do not merely say that everyone will acknowledge the existence of a supreme Lord, for many unsaved people already do that; the significance is that everyone will acknowledge that Jesus is the one Lord. As Bauer, Arndt, and Gingrich translate, “when the name of Jesus is mentioned” every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord.
( The above material appeared in a December 1989 issue of Pentecostal Herald.)
WHOM WILL WE SEE IN HEAVEN?
“If god is a trinity, how many thrones are there in heaven, and whom will we see there?” asked a curious student in the religion class.
“You know, I’ve never thought about that. The Bible doesn’t really say,” replied the lecturer, an ordained denominational minister.
I could not believe my ears! An acknowledged theological expert was confessing his ignorance of a basic Bible fact about his God. I raised my hand to respond, and in my response I read John’s inspired words in Revelation 4:2: “And immediately I was in the spirit: and, behold, a throne was set in heaven, and one sat on the throne.”
“The Bible does give us the answer. There is only one throne in heaven, and those who go there will see only one God on the throne,” I concluded.
“Well, you’ve offered powerful support for your position,” the teacher conceded as the class period ended.
Such confusion about the God they expect to see in heaven is by no means unusual among trinitarians. Bernard Ramm, a leading evangelical theologian, side-stepped the issue in his Protestant
Biblical Interpretation: “Many are the questions asked about heaven. . . . Will we see the Trinity or just the Son? . . . Where Scripture has not spoken, we are wisest to remain silent” (p. 171).
Trinitarians try to resolve the tension between the many scriptural assertions of God’s absolute oneness and their affirmation of plurality in the Godhead by reciting that God is “three in one.” When accused of tritheism, they indignantly insist, “Oh no! We believe in one God.” When asked if Jesus is the incarnation of all the Godhead, however, they maintain that He is not, for their “one” God exists mysteriously as three distinct persons.
While the concept of “three in one” may be a convenient philosophical concept on earth, it does not provide much help in answering the question “Whom will we see in heaven?” The answer “three in one” is unsatisfactory, for how can anyone see “three in one”?
If a trinitarian answers that he will see three, then he is a tritheist-a believer in three separate and distinct Gods-despite his protestations to the contrary. If there is a trinity of persons with separate bodies, each of whom can interact with us individually, then they are not one God in any meaningful sense.
On the other hand, if a trinitarian answers that he will see only one God, then the next question is “Who will He be?” A study of Scripture shows that the One we will see is Jesus Christ, and once a person agrees to that proposition he has essentially adopted the Oneness position.
Revelation 4:8 describes the One on the throne as “holy, holy,
holy,Lord God Almighty, which was, and is, and is to come.” This Lord is our Lord Jesus Christ, for Revelation 1 describes Jesus in identical terms:
“Behold, he cometh with clouds; and every eye shall see him, and they also which pierced him: and all kindreds of the earth shall wail because of him. Even so, Amen. I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the ending, saith the Lord, which is, and which was, and which is to come, the Almighty. . . . I am Alpha and Omega, the first and the last. . . . I am the first and the last: I am he that liveth, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive for evermore” (Revelation 1:7-8, 11, 17-18).
As evidence of two separate divine persons in heaven, trinitarians often point to Revelation 5, which describes the One on the throne and the Lamb. “The Lion of the tribe of Juda” appeared to John as a Lamb and this lamb took a book from the right hand of the One on the throne. This vision is clearly symbolic; no one expects to see a literal lion or lamb in heaven. John’s vision of the Lamb was a symbolic depiction of the Incarnation and the Atonement. The Lamb represented to the Son of God, particularly His sacrificial role (John 1:29). The Lamb was not a second divine person but simply the humanity of Jesus Christ, for the Lamb was slain, and only humanity-not deity-can die.
The Pulpit Commentary, although written by trinitarians, concedes this point. It identifies the One on the throne as the Triune God, and it identifies the Lamb as Christ in His human capacity only (vol. 22, pp. 162, 165). Thus it does not interpret this vision of the Lamb to mean a separate divine person.
The Lamb had “seven eyes, which are the seven Spirits of God.” Seven is the number of perfection and completion, so the seven eyes represent the fulness of the Holy Spirit. Thus the Holy Spirit is not a third person, separate from the Lamb, but is the Spirit dwelling in the Lamb that He “sent forth into all the earth” (Revelation 5:6).
The passage reveals that the Lamb was not a separate person from the One on the throne; but that the Lamb actually came out of the throne. “And I beheld, and, lo, in the midst of the throne, and of the four beasts, and in the midst of the elders, stood a Lamb” (Revelation 5:6). Some translations by trinitarians say merely that the Lamb was in front of the throne, but the lexicon of Bauer, Arndt, and Gingrich, the most widely used and respected dictionary of New Testament Greek, says the Lamb stood “on the center of the throne and among the four living creatures” (p. 507). Other translations also show that the Lamb was actually on the throne: “Then, I saw a Lamb . . . standing in the center of the throne, encircled by the four living creatures and the elders” (NIV). “Then, standing in the very center of the throne and of the four living creatures and of the Elders, I saw a Lamb” (Phillips).
Revelation 7:17 describes the Lamb as sitting on the throne: “the Lamb which is in the midst of the throne” (KJV); “the Lamb at the center of the throne” (NIV); “the Lamb who is in the center of the throne” (Phillips).
Again, Bauer et al. are very clear as to the meaning of the Greek: “the lamb who is (seated) on the center of the throne” (p. 507).
A beautiful truth emerges: the one God who sits on the throne became the Lamb. Our Creator became our Savior. Our Father is our Redeemer (Isaiah 63:16). God did not demonstrate His great love for us by sending someone else; instead, He came Himself and He gave of Himself. “To wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself” (II Corinthians 5:19).
The Lamb is the one God incarnate, not the incarnation of a second person in the Godhead. Revelation 21:22 says that “the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are the temple” of the New Jerusalem. In the Greek, the verb is singular, literally saying, “the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb is the temple,” Revelation 22:3-4 speaks of “the throne singular) of God and of the Lamb.” It clearly refers to one throne and one being, not one throne and two beings and not two thrones, for it uses a singular pronoun for God and the Lamb.” And his servants shall serve him: and they shall see his face; and his name shall be in their foreheads.”
Who is this One called both God and the Lamb? Only one being is both sovereign and sacrifice, both deity and humanity-Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God at any time except by
manifestation or incarnation (1 John 4:12), so what face will we see? The face of Jesus Christ, the express image of the invisible God (Colossians 1:15; Hebrews 1:3). And whose name will we bear? The only saving name, the highest name ever given, the name at which every knee shall bow and every tongue shall confess-Jesus Christ (Acts 4:12; Philippians 2:9-11).
When we arrive in heaven we will see one God on the throne-Jesus Christ. We will recognize Him as rather, Savior, and Holy Spirit, for “in him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily” (Colossians 2:9). If someone expects or desires to see other divine persons, he should ponder Christ’s words to Philip: “He that hath seen me hath seen the Father; and how sayest thou then, Shew us the Father?” (John 14:9).
We do not have to be confused about whom we pray to, whom we worship, and whom we will meet in heaven. In the words of Titus 2:13, let us look for “the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ.”
(The original publisher of the above material is unknown.)
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