God And Jesus In Revelation (Part 1)

In this study we will survey the book of Revelation to determine if it teaches or supports, in any way, the doctrines of the Trinity and the deity of Jesus. My plan is to do this in two parts. In this first part we will examine all verses which describe the persons of God and of Jesus and which show a clear distinction between the person of God and the person of Jesus. In Part 2 we will examine all the verses in the book of Revelation typically used as support for either the Trinity or the deity of Christ.

The God

The Revelation uses several specific designations for God which clearly differentiate him from Jesus. First, and most obvious is the God. In every case where the word God (Gr. theos) is used in Revelation, it is accompanied by the definite article (Gr. ho). This was the typical way that NT authors differentiated the use of theos with reference to the true God from it’s use with reference to other than the true God. When the NT authors, all Jews, speak of ho theos they mean the God of their fathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, Yahweh {Ex. 3:15}. The very first occurrence of ho theos in Revelation is in verse one and clearly and explicitly distinguishes the God from Jesus:

The revelation of Jesus Christ, which the God gave him . . .

Here we see that the God is said to have given a revelation to someone and that someone is Jesus Christ

Now here is where the trinitarian apologist will play a trick on you. Although the trinitarian believes that God is a three person being, he will rarely, if ever, acknowledge that any single occurrence of ho theos in the NT is actually a reference to this three person being. Instead, they will insist that nearly every occurrence of ho theos is actually a reference to only one of the three persons, namely the Father. Why is this? Because to read ho theos as the Trinity itself would, in most instances, result in an unsatisfactory reading of the text. Take the above verse, for example. If ho theos there were to be taken as the Trinity, then you would end up with this absurdity, from a trinitarian perspective:

The revelation of Jesus Christ, which the Triune God gave him . . .

This would be unacceptable to a trinitarian, since in their view Jesus is supposed to be a member of the Triune God, and this verse would be distinguishing Jesus as a completely different being from the Triune God. Therefore the trinitarian is forced by his presupposition to understand ho theos as something other than the Trinity. Since ho theos in this verse is distinguished from Jesus Christ then there can be only  two other candidates for who ho theos could be, the Father or the Holy Spirit. Now for some reason, trinitarians never seem to insist that ho theos ever is referring to the Holy Spirit. So then we are left with ho theos being a reference  to the Father only, in nearly every occurrence.

Now I agree that ho theos, in nearly every one of it’s occurrences, is indeed a reference to the Father, but I do so for entirely different reasons. I do so because this is explicitly stated in the NT, e.g.

  • John 17:3 –  “. . . that they may know you (Father), the only true God . . .”
  • 1 Cor. 8:6 –  “. . . yet for us (believers) there is but one God, the Father . . .”
  • Eph. 4:6 –  “. . . one God and Father of all, who is over all . . . “
  • Eph. 1:17 –  “. . . [asking] that the God . . . the Father of glory . . .”
  • John 20:17 –  “I am going to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.”
  • Also every letter of Paul has a salutation which announces a blessing upon the church from “God, our Father” or “God, the Father”

So this is why I understand God in Rev. 1:1 to be the Father, and that this God, who is the Father, is a distinct being from Jesus Christ, to whom this God gives the revelation. Now we see why the trinitarian has to take God here as the Father only, as distinct from the other persons of the Trinity, because there is such a clear distinction being made in the verse between God and Jesus Christ. The trinitarian is in a position where he has to arbitrarily read ho theos as the Father, thereby rendering the clear distinction being made in the verse a distinction between persons within the Trinity, rather than, as the text explicitly presents, a distinction between the being of the God and the being of Jesus Christ.

The next way that the God is identified in this book is by the phrase, found for the first time in 1:4, ‘the one who is, and who was, and who is to come.’ This identifying phrase is found four more times in this book, with variation, at 1:8, 4:8, 11:17 and 16:5 (v.7). In each of it’s occurrences, except for 1:4, it is used in conjunction with another designation for the God, namely ‘the Lord God Almighty.’ Many see the phrase as a sort of paraphrase of the divine name YHWH,  and as expressing eternal self-existence. While it may be probable that the phrase is an interpretation of the name YHWH it is not at all certain that the thought here is of eternal self-existence. The Hebrew mind, as revealed through the Hebrew scriptures, does not appear to have thought of God in such categories as ontology and eternality. Instead, God was portrayed in terms of function and performance within the covenant relationship with his people. When God said “I will be what I will be” (this is likely a better translation of ehyeh asher ehyeh, from Ex. 3:14, rather than the traditional “I am who I am”) it is more probable that he was declaring that he would be to his people whatever the covenant required him to be, rather than making a statement about eternal self-existence. So if  ‘the one who is, and who was, and who is to come‘ is taken to be a restatement of the name YHWH, then we should understand it as saying that he always was, is, and will always be what the covenant promises require him to be.

Once again, as with the title ho theos, the first occurrence of this phrase (1:4) makes a clear distinction between this one and Jesus Christ:

Grace and peace to you from the one who is, and who was, and who is to come . . . and from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth.

It is clear that Jesus Christ is not ‘the one who is . . . ‘, but is distinct from this one. As noted earlier, the next four appearances of this phrase occur in conjunction with this Greek phrase, kyrios ho theos ho pantokrator, which translates literally as Lord, the God, the Almighty. This clearly equates ‘the one who is . . .‘ with ho theos, establishing them as the same being in this book, and distinguishing this one from Jesus Christ.

While the trinitarians’ arbitrary defining of ho theos as God the Father, in distinction from God the Son and God the Holy Spirit, is somewhat understandable, it is hard to see how kyrios ho theos ho pantokrator would not denote the Triune God in their mind. But again, because this one is distinguished from Jesus Christ throughout the book they are forced to see this very full designation for God as referring simply to the Father. This is even harder to understand when we consider the trinitarian penchant for seeing allusions to the Trinity in any appearance of a triple grouping. This appellative phrase contains three titles: kurios, which likely is used here as a stand-in for YHWHho theos = the God; and ho pantokrator = the Almighty. This phrase also appears at 4:8 in connection with the thrice repeated “Holy“. Now most commentators, following the lead of early church fathers, have been wont to see the triple ‘holy’ of Is. 6:3 as an OT allusion to the Trinity, but the same commentators are apparently reluctant to draw the same inference with Rev 4:8. Because the Revelation so clearly distinguishes Lord the God the Almighty from Jesus Christ, the trinitarian is unable to capitalize on the three-fold title and repetition of ‘holy.’

* * *  A word of note here about Rev. 1:8 – There are red-letter editions of some English versions which have these words in red, which tells the reader to take these words as the words of Jesus Christ. But this is completely wrong, as the connection with v. 4 shows. In fact, the verse itself tells us who spoke the words, “I am the Alpha and the Omega.” It does not identify the speaker as Jesus Christ but as ‘Lord the God, the one who is, and who was, and who is to come, the Almighty.’ We have already seen that Jesus Christ is distinguished from this one. To put these words in red is surely a sign of translation bias.

* * *  As to the meaning of ‘Alpha and Omega‘ and whether or not this appellation is ever applied to Jesus Christ in this book, I will address later in this article.

Him Who Sits On The Throne

In chapter four, the Revelation further identifies the God, the one who was, and who is, and who is to come, by another distinctive phrase. John is given a vision of:

. . . a throne in heaven with someone sitting on it. And the one who sat there had the appearance of jasper and carnelian.     vv, 2-3

John sees other beings around the throne, twenty-four elders, on thrones of their own, and four living creatures, who never stop saying day and night:

Holy, holy, holy is Lord (Yahweh) the God, the Almighty, the one who was, and is , and is to come.   v. 8

We are then told that:

Whenever the living creatures give glory, honor and thanks to him who sits on the throne and who lives for ever and ever, the twenty-four elders fall down before him who sits on the throne and worship him who lives for ever and ever.   vv.9-10

Here we see that the one who sits on the throne is identified as ‘ho theos, the one who was . . .’  The anarthrous use of kurios (Lord) in connection with ho theos, in this verse and in 1:8, 11:17 and 16:7, most likely signifies that kurios is being used as a substitute for the tetragrammaton, i.e. YHWH. Therefore, we have the one sitting on the throne identified as Yahweh, the God, the Almighty one, the one who was , and who is, and who is to come. A further descriptor of this one is found in 4:9-10, “the one who lives into the ages of the ages.” The Revelation gives additional information concerning this one who sits on the throne, who is identified as the God, Yahweh. In v. 11, the twenty-four elders are heard to declare:

Worthy are you our Lord and God to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and because of your will they were existing and were created.

So we are getting a fuller portrait of this one as the book progresses. Now we know that this one is the Creator of all things, this one who sits upon the throne.

Now I want to follow this descriptor in it’s subsequent appearances, which will clearly show a distinction between this one and Jesus Christ. In chapter five we see:

 . . . in the right hand of him who sat on the throne, a scroll with writing on both sides and sealed with seven seals.    v.1

In v. 4 John weeps because no one is found worthy to open the scroll. But then John is told to stop weeping for :

The Lion of the tribe of Judah, the root of David, has triumphed. He is able to open the scroll and it’s seven seals.

In the very next verse this one is portrayed as “. . . a lamb, as if it had been slain.” That this lamb is identical to Jesus Christ in the Revelation is not doubted by any trinitarian commentator or apologist that I know of, and is verified by 22:16:

I, Jesus, . . . am the root . . . of David . . .

So now, having established that Jesus Christ is the one presented under the image of the lamb, let’s see how he is presented in relation to the one who sits upon the throne.

  1. 5:7 – The lamb comes to the one who sits on the throne and takes the scroll from his right hand, thus establishing these two figures as separate and distinct beings.
  2. 5:9 –  The lamb is said to have purchased men for the God by his blood, therefore he cannot be the God.
  3. 5:13b – The lamb is again differentiated from him who sits on the throne.
  4. 6:16 –  The lamb is distinct from the one on the throne.
  5. 7:10 –  The lamb is distinguished from the one on the throne.

We should also note a fact that has seemed to escape the notice of many readers of the Revelation, specifically, that no where in the book is Jesus Christ a.k.a. the Lamb, ever described as him who sits on the throne. As the above passages show he is always someone other than he ‘who sits on the throne.’ Yet a Google search for sermons – The lamb on the throne, does not fail to find a number of sermons and articles with this title. The lyrics of two popular worship songs  by Hillsongs, ‘Lord of Lord’s’ and ‘Worthy is the Lamb’ declare that it is the Lamb who is seated on the throne. This shows the degree of indoctrination that has occurred within the Christian world, for although there is a close relationship between the Lamb and the one who sits on the throne in the Revelation, the plain fact is, the Lamb is never portrayed as the one who is sitting on the throne.

Further Distinctions

Other passages in the book continue to show a differentiation between the God and Jesus Christ. At 11:15 we are told that great voices were heard in heaven saying:

The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord (i.e. the God) and of his Christ (i.e. Jesus), and he will reign for ever and ever.

We will come back to this verse shortly, but for now I just want to point out the clear distinction between the God and Jesus Christ. Here the kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of two individuals, the God, denominated here as our Lord, and this Lord’s Christ (Gr. christos = Heb. mashiach = anointed one). This recalls the OT precedent of God’s kingdom being ruled by the God, the ultimate, supreme King, in and through his anointed one, the human ruler appointed to represent him on the throne of Israel {see Ps. 2; Ps. 45; Ps. 89:20-29; 1 Chron. 28:5-7; 29:23; 2 Chron. 9:8; 13:4-8}. The language is clear – the anointed king (i.e. the mashiach) belonged to the God, and as his servant he ruled by God’s will. Note the personal possessive pronoun in our verse and in Ps. 2:2 & 6 (his anointed one; my king). It is instructive to see how the apostles understood this concept of Jesus as the Lord’s Messiah. In Acts 4:24-30, in a prayer offered to the God, after quoting Ps 2:1-2, they speak of “your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed.” That Jesus belongs to the God as his servant surely communicates the fact of a clear numerical distinction between them. 

And in the same vein as this verse is 12:10:

Now have come the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God, and the authority of his Christ.

Other verses which establish a clear distinction between the God and Jesus are 14:4, 12; 19:15; 20:4, 6; 21:22, 23; 22:1, 3, 21. As noted earlier, the trinitarian must arbitrarily assign to the God the meaning of the Father and never the meaning the Trinity, because to do so would wreak havoc on his system. So then the trinitarian ends up with a situation where none of the appellations of the Deity in this book ever refer to the Triune being but always to only one of the persons of the Triune being, namely the Father.

Having seen, that from the trinitarian’s perspective, the God can only refer to the Father, we find that the trinitarian then encounters another problem. Throughout the book different created beings refer to this one, who must be the Father alone, as our God. Here is the breakdown:

  • 4:11 – the twenty-four elders
  • 5:10 –  the twenty-four elders and the four living creatures
  • 7:3 –  four angels
  • 7:10 –  a great multitude of people
  • 7:12 –  all the angels
  • 12:10 (2x) –  an unidentified voice in heaven, probably an angel
  • 19:1, 5, 6 –  a great multitude in heaven

Now it is a curious thing that all of these created beings refer to this one, who must be the Father alone, as our God. This would seem to suggest that the God of these created beings is the Father only and not the Triune God. The trinitarian will object and argue that the fact that these beings refer to the Father as our God does not imply that Jesus also is not their God. Now of course, this is just arguing in the absence of any evidence, for no where in this book is Jesus ever referred to as our God by any created being. The objection is based solely on the trinitarian’s presupposition that Jesus is God along with the Father. Not only do all these created beings refer to the Father as their God, but so does Jesus himself in 3:2 & 12:

. . . I have not found your deeds complete in the sight of my God . . . Him who overcomes I will make a pillar in the temple of my God . . . I will write on him the name of my God and the name of the city of my God . . . which is coming down out of heaven from my God.

John also refers to the Father as Jesus’ God at 1:6. In the context of the Revelation this would seem to place Jesus on the creature side of the Creator/creature divide. On top of this, the God himself, who can only be the Father, declares himself to be the God of his people i.e. the overcoming believers. So then, in the Revelation, the Father alone would seem to be the God of believers and Jesus is never said to be the God of the believers.

Finally, it must be stated emphatically that none of the identifying descriptors used in this book to designate the God, including the God itself, is ever used of Jesus Christ. He is never called the God, the Almighty, the one who is, who was, and who is to come, the one who sits on the throne, or Lord God Almighty. While this is true, there are at least a couple of titles which Jesus shares along with the God, which we need to examine.

Shared Titles

Lord

The first shared title we will examine is ‘Lord’ (Gr. kurios). Here is where the trinitarian believes he has solid ground for thinking of Jesus, in the Revelation, and indeed in the rest of the NT, as being God, along with the Father. Their confidence is based on the fact that kurios is the word used in the LXX to translate the tetragrammaton. The NT’s quotations of the OT also use kurios in this way. This, in their mind, amounts to Jesus being explicitly called Yahweh. Therefore, the trinitarian believes he has a rock solid case to regard Jesus as Yahweh, the God, yet as distinct from the Father, who is also Yahweh, the God. Is this reasoning valid? When trinitarian apologists make this case they usually neglect to inform their audience of all the relevant facts, whether purposely or by oversight I do not know. While it is certainly true that kurios is used in both the LXX and the NT as a surrogate word for YHWH, it is merely an assumption on the trinitarians’ part that the application of this title to Jesus in the NT is also being used in that same way.

The misapprehension of the trinitarian apologists is that kurios is used in the NT primarily to denote the divine name. But this is easily shown to be fallacious. Besides being used as a surrogate for YHWH and as a title given to Jesus, kurios, in the NT, as well as in the LXX, is regularly used of men. The use of this word is ambiguous and has a wide range of application. The word denotes one who, having some level of authority, due to status or rank or ownership, is worthy of respect, honor and obedience, in accord with his station. It applied, in both the OT and NT, to husbands, heads of households, land owners, owners of slaves, government officials, kings, agents acting on behalf of a superior, angels, and prophets. Some specific individuals who were so designated include  Abraham, Joseph, Moses, Saul, David, Elijah, and Elisha. In the NT to kurio (the lord) is applied to the Emperor Nero, at Acts 25:26, by the Roman governor of Judea Felix. Different forms of kurios and ho kurios are used in the NT and are translated, according to context, as lord, Lord, the lord, and the Lord. The word ‘lord‘ is typically capitalized when used of God and Jesus and left lower case when referring to others.

Now kurios, when applied to God in the NT,  is often simply a substitute for YHWH, but not always. In some cases it is being used as the translation of the Hebrew word adon or adonai, as the title Lord applied to God. It is always a translation for adon when used of men, and so, it is my contention, that it is never meant as a substitute for YHWH when used of Jesus, but rather simply as the title Lord.

Now lets see how the word kurios is applied to both God and Jesus in the Revelation. It occurs 24 times in the book; 14x it is applied to God, 6x to Jesus, and one ambiguous use (either God or Jesus). Besides these occurrences it is applied 2x to rulers and once to an angel. Now when it is applied to God it is being done so in accordance with established OT designations for God. Since we have no extant manuscripts of the Revelation prior to the middle of the 3rd century we have no way of knowing if the original contained the divine name YHWH or not. The tetragram was still in use in Greek manuscripts of the OT up until the middle of the 2nd century. After this point nearly all LXX manuscripts have substitutions for YHWH. Many believe that because all OT quotations in the NT have kurios in place of YHWH, that this was done because of the LXX reading that way. But the  manuscripts of the LXX that existed at the time the NT was being written did contain the tetragram YHWH, written either in old Hebrew or paleo-Hebrew or in Greek transliteration. So is it possible that at least some of the original NT autographs contained the tetragrammaton? We can’t be certain, but it seems clear that the designations for God in the Revelation are using established substitutions for YHWH, whether these were original to the author or made by later copyists. The best way to determine how kurios is being used is to translate the Greek back into Hebrew. I am taking kurios without the definite article to be a substitute for YHWH (this makes sense because YHWH is God’s personal name and never occurs in the OT with the definite article), and with the article, a translation of adonai. Here is how I see the use of kurios in the Revelation when used of God:

  1. 1:8  – Eng. –  Lord God;  Gr. – kurios ho theos;  Heb. – YHWH elohim – see Gen 2:2-22; 3:3-23; Ps. 68:18; 72:18; 84:11; 1 Chron. 17:16-17; 29:1; Jonah 4:6
  2. 4:8 – Eng. – Lord God Almighty;  Gr. – kurios ho theos ho pantokrator;  Heb. – YHWH eloh(e)(im) seboath – see 2 Sam. 5:10; 1 Kings 19:10, 14; Ps. 59:5; 80:4, 19; 84:8; 89:8; Jer. 5:14; 15:16; 35:17; 38:17; 44:7; Hosea 12:5; Amos 3:13; 4:13; 5:14-16; 6:8, 14
  3. 4:11 – Eng. – our Lord and our God;  Gr. – ho kurios kai ho theos hemon;  Heb. -adownenu welohenu –  see Nehemiah 10:29; 1 Chron. 13:3; 29:13; 2 Chron. 20:7, 12; Neh. 9:32; Dan. 9:15
  4. 11:4 – Eng. – the Lord of the earth;  Gr. – tou kuriou tes ges;  Heb. – adon ha-ares – see Josh. 3:11; Zech. 4:14; Ps. 97:5
  5. 11:15 – Eng. – our Lord;  Gr. – tou kuriou hemon;  Heb. – adownenu – see Ps. 8:1, 9; 147:5
  6. 11:17 – same as 2.
  7. 15:3 –  same as 2.
  8. 15:4 – Eng. – O Lord;  Gr. – kurie;  Heb. – YHWH or adonai
  9. 16:7 –  same as 2.
  10. 18:8 – same as 1.
  11. 19:6 – Eng. – our Lord God Almighty;  Gr. – kurios ho theos hemon ho pantokrator;  Heb. – YHWH elohenu seboath – no precise OT match
  12. 21:22 – Eng. – the Lord God Almighty;  Gr. – ho kurios ho theos ho pantokrator;  Heb. – ha – adon (or adonai) YHWH seboath  –  see Is. 3:1, 15; 10:33; 19:4; 22:5, 12, 14, 15; 28:22;  Jer. 46:10; 49:5; 50:31
  13. 22:5 – same as 1.
  14. 22:6 – Eng. –  the Lord the God … ;  Gr. – ho kurios ho theos;  Heb. – ha-adown (or adonai) elohe –  Num. 16:22; 1 Sam. 17:45; Jer. 32:27

Now here is how I see the use of kurios in relation to Jesus:

  1. 1:10 – Eng. – the day of the Lord;  Gr. – te kuriake hemera;  Heb. – hayyowm ha-adon
  2. 11:8 – Eng. – their Lord;  Gr. – ho kurios auton;  Heb. – adonehem
  3. 17:14 – Eng. – Lord of lords;  Gr. – kurios kurion;  Heb. – adone ha-adonim
  4. 19:16 – same as 3.
  5. 22:20 – Eng. – Come Lord Jesus;  Gr. – erchou kurie Iesou;  Heb. – bow adon Yeshua
  6. 22:21 – Eng. – the Lord Jesus Christ;  Gr. –  tou kuriou Iesou Christou;  Heb. – adon Yeshua hammashiach

The final occurrence of kurios in connection with God or Jesus is at 14:3, which could refer to either. If to God, it should probably be regarded as a surrogate for YHWH; if to Jesus, then in the sense of the Hebrew adon.

*** One final occurrence is at 7:14 and refers to one of the elders before the throne:  Eng. – my lord;  Gr. – kurie mou;  Heb. – adoni.

So what do we learn from this data? We find that when kurios refers to the God it is only sometimes used as a substitute for YHWH; at other times it translates the OT title adon or adonai (adon= lord; adonai is the intensive plural of adoni= my lord). This use is seen in the scriptures referenced under the numbers 3,4,5,12 and 14. We also find that when kurios refers to Jesus it is always a translation of the title adon, used in the OT of kings and rulers, as well as of God. There is never an instance, in the six occurrences of kurios applied to Jesus, where it could be regarded as a substitute for YHWH:

  1. 1:10 – The article before kurios makes it unlikely to be a surrogate for YHWH. The Lord’s day refers either to Sunday, the day the Lord Jesus rose from the dead, or to the day of the Lord Jesus – see 1 Cor. 1:8; 2 Cor. 1:14
  2. 11:8 – Here kurios cannot be a surrogate for YHWH because of the possessive pronoun, i.e. their Lord. In the OT, YHWH, which is the proper name of God, never occurs with a possessive pronoun suffix.
  3. 17:14 – Because the two appearances of kurios are parallel to the two uses of basileus (king) then kurios kurion cannot mean YHWH of lords, but must mean the Lord of lords.
  4. 19:16 – same as above
  5. 22:20 – Come YHWH Jesus would simply not make sense, therefore kurios is simply the title Lord used of Jesus.
  6. 22:21 – same as above

So we find that the divine name YHWH is never applicable to Jesus in the Revelation. But what of the fact that Jesus and the God have the title ‘Lord’ ( adon in the OT) in common; does this necessitate a belief that they are the same being or share the same nature? Absolutely not! The title ‘Lord’ should not be regarded as a divine title that only God can bear. Rather this title, like other titles which God applies to himself, such as king, master, savior, redeemer, father, judge, shepherd and the like, are actually titles common among men. God deigns to take these titles upon himself in order that his covenant people might better understand how he has chosen to relate to them; it is a revelation of the ways he has promised to function or perform toward them in covenant relationship. Of course, when these titles are applied to God they are to be taken in the supreme sense, e.g. he is the supreme Lord and King, the supreme Savior and Redeemer, the supreme Father and Judge, etc.

That Jesus is ‘Lord’ in a lesser sense than the God can be seen in the Revelation by a number of statements predicated of him. In 1:1 God gives the revelation to Jesus. Why could not Jesus simply make these things known to John, through his messenger? Why was it necessary that he first receive the revelation from another, unless the other is his superior, at whose will he serves. At 2:27 Jesus says that he will give to the overcomers authority over the nations, just as his Father (the God) gave him authority. To be given authority to rule implies that the one from whom that authority was received is the greater. Just as Jesus is superior to the overcomers whom he gives authority to, so too must the God be superior to Jesus, to whom he grants authority to rule. So as the overcomers will rule at the behest of their Lord Jesus, so Jesus rules at the behest of his Lord, the God. This same idea is also present at 3:21. In 5:1-8 the God is described as ‘the one who sat on the throne.’ To this one on the throne, Jesus, under the figure of a lamb having been slaughtered, approaches to receive from his hand the seven sealed scroll. This again shows the superiority of the God over Jesus; it is clear that Jesus is in the subordinate position throughout the scene. In 12:10 the relationship between the God and Jesus is expressed in this way:

Now have come the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God, and the authority of his Christ.

Here Jesus is portrayed as the Christ (i.e. the anointed one) of the God. This is a clear reference to Ps. 2:2 where we read of Yahweh and his anointed one. This anointed one is seen in v.6 to be Yahweh’s appointed king, installed on Zion to rule on his behalf. This clearly places Jesus in the subordinate place under the God Yahweh. The commentary notes on Ps. 2:7 from the Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible explains it well:

Kings in David’s genealogical line also held their kingship by divine adoption, celebrated on the coronation day in Ps. 2. The adoption metaphor in Israel was rooted in the special covenant relationship between Yahweh and the Davidic kings, which used terminology similar to that found in other ancient Near Eastern treaties (cf. 89:3-4, 26-27; 2 Sam. 7:14). The great king was designated as “father” and the vassal king was his “son.” In this way of thinking, the Davidic king was the “son” of the great King, Yahweh, who was the “father” (see note on 45:6).

The Alpha And The Omega – The First And The Last

It is claimed by trinitarians that Jesus should be understood, in the Revelation, to be God along with the God who sits on the throne, because they both bear the titles ‘the Alpha and the Omega’ and ‘the First and the Last.’ The assertion is that these are titles of deity, titles only God can bear. From the trinitarian perspective these titles denote eternal existence, which only God has; and so if Jesus bears these titles then he must be regarded as eternal and hence as God.

The flaw in the trinitarian interpretation of these titles is that Scripture itself never defines these titles in that way, so that it is only an assumption on their part that these titles denote eternality. It may sound reasonable but is it true?  Before we look at the proper way to define what these titles mean, I want to point out something else first.

It is not even certain that Jesus is ever referred to as ‘the Alpha and Omega‘ (A-O), though it is clear that he is called ‘the First and the Last‘ (F-L). A-O occurs three times in most English bibles, at 1:8; 21:6; 22:13, and a fourth time in the KJV and a couple of other lesser used versions, at 1:11. The passage at 1:11 is not included in most modern versions simply because of the manuscript evidence in favor of it’s non-inclusion. 1:8 is applying the title to the  “Lord God (i.e. Yahweh elohim), the one who is , who was, and who is to come, the Almighty.” We have seen that this one is always differentiated from Jesus in the Revelation. In 21:6 the one speaking is “he who was seated on the throne,” who is the same as the God and is never Jesus. This leaves us with 22:13. Most commentators take this to be the words of Jesus but the context is ambiguous. The speaker within the narrative keeps changing suddenly, sometime without notice. From 22:1-5, John, the narrator, is the speaker. Then in v. 6 the angel who had been showing John the vision speaks. Verse 7 could be taken as the words of the God or perhaps Jesus, but the speaker is not identified. Just because he says, “Behold I am coming soon” does not necessitate that Jesus be the speaker; God ‘coming’ in retributive judgment is a recurring theme in the OT {see 1 Chron. 16:33; Job 37:22; Ps. 50:3; 96:13; 98:9; Is. 30:27; 35:4; 40:10; 62:11; Hosea 10:12; Micah 1:3} and in the Revelation he is repeatedly said to be the one “who is to come.” Next, in v. 8, John identifies himself as the speaker and then the angel as the speaker in vv. 9-11. Then v. 12 repeats the earlier “Behold I am coming soon,” without any indication of a change of speaker. I think we can take vv. 12-15 as spoken by the God, along with v. 7. Verse 16 begins, “I Jesus” in order to identify a new speaker, Jesus. The whole passage could easily and reasonably be interpreted in this way, which would eliminate Jesus from ever being referred to as A-O.

The next point to consider is whether or not A-O and F-L are synonymous. I see no reason to assume a difference in these titles (along with ‘the Beginning and the End‘ in v. 13); I think it can just be taken as a repetition of thought using different words. Jesus is plainly referred to as F-L in 1:17 and 2:8 and this appellation is used of Yahweh in Is. 41:4; 44:6 and 48:12. The fact that Jesus’ sharing of this epithet with Yahweh does not demand that Jesus be ontologically equal to Yahweh is seen in the true meaning of the phrase.

Again, the trinitarians have asserted that the phrase bespeaks eternality, yet when we examine it’s use in the Isaiah passages this meaning is not at all evident. It’s first occurrence is a little different from the two subsequent occurrences, and reads “I am Yahweh, the first and with the last, I am He.” This is said in response to the question “Who has done this and accomplished it, summoning the generations from the beginning.” In this context eternality has nothing to do with the phrase. The things that God has accomplished are set forth in vv. 2-3 and are done within the generations of time. The phrase seems to imply that no one else but Yahweh has done these things; he stands alone as the source of these things.

In v. 44:6 we read, “This is what Yahweh says . . . “I am the first and I am the last, and there is no God except me.”  This idea that Yahweh is the only God is prominent throughout Is. 40-48, along with the theme of Yahweh’s uniqueness as Creator {see 40:18, 25-28; 42:5; 43:1, 7, 10-11; 44:6-7, 24; 45:5, 12, 18, 21-22; 46:9; 48:13}. In 48:12-13 the phrase occurs in connection with Yahweh being the Creator. This may seem at first to imply that the title denotes deity, but a little thought into the matter may reveal an alternative interpretation. One clue is found in 43:10, “Before Me no god was formed nor will there be after me.”  Could this be what the epithet means – God is the first because no god was before him, and he is the last because no god comes after him. In other words he is alone in his category; he is utterly unique in his class. So then ‘the first and the last‘ could be a statement of uniqueness in one’s category. For Yahweh this means that he alone is God, the Creator. One is ‘the first and the last‘ if there is no one else in his category, if none came before or after him.

In Revelation, F-L is applied to Jesus twice, at 1:17 and 2:8 (I am excluding 22:13 because of the ambiguity of who the speaker is and the likelihood that it is the God). In these two passages there is a common theme linked to the epithet which enlightens us as to what the title means for Jesus:

I am the first and the last. I am the living one; I was dead, and behold I am alive for ever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and Hades.     1:17-18

These are the words of him who is the first and the last, who died and came to life again.     2:8

Here we see the category in which Jesus is said to be ‘the first and the last‘ – he is the only man to have died and been raised to immortality, i.e. he is the firstborn from the dead {1:5}. Now someone might object that while he is the first to be raised immortal he is most certainly not the last, for many will follow. But the distinctiveness of Jesus is that he is the firstborn from the dead,  i.e. he has been raised from the dead in an exclusive event, in which no other shared. This was part of the mystery of Messiah not understood by the Jews, that he would die and then be the first to be raised to immortality, separate from the future resurrection of the righteous ones. This event puts Jesus in a class by himself and gives him the place of preeminence over all others, making him the pattern to which all others must be conformed {Rom. 8:29; Col. 1:18; 1 Cor. 15:21-22, 48-49}.

Another possible way to understand the epithet in relation to Jesus is that of his unique role within humanity. He is the first of the new race of immortalized humans, the progenitor of the new creation. He is also the last man to occupy a place of federal headship, into which the rest of humanity is subsumed. Adam was the first human to represent humanity and all in him die. Jesus is the second and last man to represent humanity and all in him will live in immortality. He is the last in that, unlike Adam, Jesus will never be superseded by another federal head.

So then the epithet ‘the first and the last‘ does not denote deity or eternal existence as the trinitarian asserts and so is no indication that Jesus is treated as an eternal and divine being in the Revelation.

King Of Kings And Lord Of Lords

Jesus is given this epithet in 17:14 and 19:16.  It is asserted that this title, which Jesus shares with the God, marks him out as YHWH himself. As for the epithet ‘king of kings’, it is never applied to the God in the Revelation nor to YHWH in the Hebrew scriptures. It is applied to the God once, by Paul, in 1 Tim. 6:15. ‘Lord of lords’ is never applied to the God in the Revelation but is in two OT passages, Deut. 10:17 and Ps. 136:3, as well as in 1 Tim. 6:15. Based on this evidence it is asserted that the epithet applied to Jesus marks him out as Yahweh himself. Is this conclusion inevitable? Only if one’s presuppositions are driving their exegesis.

What we have here are titles which were common among men being applied to the God, but obviously in a supreme sense, as noted earlier. Regarding ‘king of kings’ :

In imperial propaganda, the emperor fancied himself ruler of all the other kings of the earth. Babylonian and Persian kings (Ezra 7:12; Ezek. 26:7; Dan. 2:37) used the title “King of kings” and it remained the title of the Parthian ruler in John’s day.
Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible comment on Rev. 17:14

The same work, commenting on the title ‘Lord of lords’ in Deut. 10:17 says:

The title “Lord of kings” appears in a Philistine letter to Pharaoh and also is found as a title in Phoenicia. The exact title “Lord of lords” is present in Assyrian texts, usually occurring before the late kings of Assyria.

These titles were used of kings who expanded their territories and their dominion over other kings, who then became subservient to them. Jesus will indeed be the King and Lord over all other kings and lords of the earth. The titles are applied to the God in the most ultimate sense. We should also pay attention to the fact that in Deut. 10:17 the ‘Lord of lords’ title, when applied to Yahweh, occurs in conjunction with ‘God of gods’ rather than with ‘King of kings.’ Now I find it significant that this ‘God of gods’ title was not employed in the Revelation in reference to Jesus, which the author could have done if he had wanted his readers to understand Jesus to be the God.

In part 2 we will go chapter by chapter and examine all of the passages usually asserted by trinitarians to be proofs of the Trinity and the deity of Jesus.

 

Author: Troy Salinger

I am 55 yrs. old. I live with my wife of 32 yrs. in Picayune MS. I have been a believer in the Lord Jesus since August of 1981. I have no formal theological education, but have been an ardent student of Scripture for 36 yrs. I am a biblical Unitarian i.e. I believe the Father is the only true God (John 17:3) and Jesus is His human Son, the Messiah.

2 thoughts on “God And Jesus In Revelation (Part 1)”

    1. Hi Danielle! Thanks for reading the article, and I pray it was of benefit to you. About 5:9, I am not sure what specifically you might want clarification on. The verse is speaking of the worthiness of Jesus to open the seven sealed scroll being based on the fact that he was slain and by his death purchased men for God. That Jesus would be accounted worthy because of this shows that his death was a voluntary act of obedience to God – see Phil 2:8-9. To my mind the passage offers no challenge to my biblical unitarian stance.

      Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s