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Red-Letter Revelation

  

Red-letter Bibles can be both a blessing and a curse – a blessing because they highlight the important words of our Lord Jesus, but a curse to the uninformed reader because occasionally the words highlighted in red are not actually the words of Jesus! One influential example of this may be found in the book of Revelation. In the New American Standard Bible, Revelation 1:8 is highlighted in red, Cheap Jerseys free shipping suggesting that the following words are the words of Jesus. This verse reads “I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.” This red-letter emphasis conveys the idea that Jesus is the Lord God, the Almighty. However, a careful reader of the book of Revelation will question the accuracy of this red-letter emphasis, which is an editorial interpretation and not of the authoritative inspiration of God.

There are many commentaries that lend support the notion that the speaker in Revelation 1:8 is Jesus, the view put forth by the editors of the New American Standard Bible. The commentary titled Revelation, Four Views: A Parallel Commentary recognizes that “the expression who is and who was and who is to come has previously been used of God the Father,” citing verse four of Revelation, but believes that “the expression fits equally well when applied to Christ.”[1] The editor believes that expressions which are clearly applied to God the Father, like “Alpha and the Omega” and “the Beginning and the End,” seem to refer to Jesus in Revelation 22:13. Therefore, he asserts, that Jesus may be called the “Almighty” in verse eight, because Revelation “attributes to Jesus Christ titles uniquely attributed to the LORD in the Old Testament.” The Matthew Henry’s Commentary, with even less justification, writes simply that verse eight of Revelation refers to Jesus: “Here our Lord Jesus justly challenges the same honour and power that is ascribed to the Father, Rev. 1:4. He is the beginning and the end; all things are from him and for him; he is the Almighty; he is the same eternal and unchangeable one.”[2]

However, there are many other commentators which would disagree with the interpretation put forth by the Revelation, Four Views: Parallel Commentary and the Matthew Henry’s Commentary. Some, Like the Tyndale New Testament Commentary: Revelation of St. John, believe that the speaker of Revelation 1:8 is the Father. The author, Reverend Canon Leon Morris, writes “The Lord is most often used in the New Testament of Jesus, a usage which is found in Revelation (xi. 8, xxii. 20 etc.). But more often it refers in this book to the Father, as it does here.”[3] The Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible states the following about verse eight:

“him which is . . . was . . . is to come–a periphrasis for the incommunicable name JEHOVAH, the self-existing One, unchangeable. In Greek the indeclinability of the designation here implies His unchangeableness. Perhaps the reason why “He which is to come” is used, instead of “He that shall be,” is because the grand theme of Revelation is the Lord’s coming (Revelation 1:7). Still it is THE FATHER as distinguished from “Jesus Christ” (Revelation 1:5) who is here meant. But so one are the Father and Son that the designation, “which is to come,” more immediately applicable to Christ, is used here of the Father.”[4]

Clearly it may be seen here that there are a number of commentators who would disagree with the red-letter highlighting applied to Revelation 1:8 by the editors of the New American Standard Bible.

Unsurprisingly, there are still other commentators who at such a loss over the identity of the speaker in Revelation 1:8, that they are unable to make any sort of positive identification. The authors of Revelation Commentary, write the following:

“1. The use of the phrase, “who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty” has led to a debate. Is God the Father or God the Son referred to in verse 8? In the parallel passages of Rev. 1:17; 21:6; 22:1, Christ is equated with Almighty God. Yet, the Father is consistently identified with the same titles. Trying to decide which member of the Godhead is identified in verse 8 is impossible.”[5]

In the end, the commentators conclude that “It is as if both members are speaking at the same time. This may be closer to the truth John intends. This prophecy stands as the unanimous consent of God the Father and God the Son.”[6]

With all of the conflicting interpretations and explanations that are floating around the theological world, one must ask the question: What is the truth, who is the speaker of Revelation 1:8? The magnitude of this question must not be understated, for the answer impacts our understanding of the nature and identity of the Lord God, the Almighty. Tradition and Greek philosophy have taken a great toll on Christian “orthodoxy,” but there is still truth to be found through careful study of the authoritative words of the Scriptures. The controversy over the speaker of Revelation 1:8 may be easily cleared up if the Bible is allowed to speak for itself, without the bias of tradition and philosophy that has corrupted the doctrine of the church.

In the book of Revelation, God and Jesus are portrayed as two separate individuals, capable of interacting with each other. In Revelation 5, John records the scene of the opening of the book sealed with the seven seals. John sees the book “in the right hand of Him who sat on the throne” and is greatly upset when “no one in heaven or on the earth or under the earth was able to open the book or look into it” (Rev 5:1,3). However, he is reassured that “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” (Rev 5:5). And he looks and sees a “Lamb standing, as if slain” between the throne and the elders…who “came and took the book out of the right hand of Him who sat on the throne” (Rev 5:5-7). This passage demonstrates that the person on the throne is someone other than Jesus, the Lamb who was slain. Revelation 7:10 leaves no doubt in the mind of the reader who it is who sits on the throne: “…Salvation to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb” (Rev 7:10). Clearly, it may be seen that Revelation makes a definite distinction between God, who sits on the throne, and Jesus, which would dispel any notion that God is a single person expressing Himself in three “modes.”

It has been proved that Jesus is identified in the book of Revelation as an individual who is separate from, and capable of interacting with, God. But does Revelation demonstrate that Jesus is God, perhaps the second member of the “Godhead?” There are several passages that would suggest that both Jesus and John thought otherwise. In Revelation 1:6, John writes that he, speaking of Jesus, “…has made us to be a kingdom, priests to his God and Father…” (Rev 1:6). So apparently, John though that Jesus had a God, whom he identified as the Father! But what did Jesus think; did he ever make any claims to be God? On the contrary! In fact, Jesus claimed that he had a God, not once, but five times! In Revelation 3:2, he sternly warns the church at Sardis: “Wake up, and strengthen the things that remain, which were about to die; for I have not found your deeds completed in the sight of My God” (Rev 3:2). Ten verses later, Jesus encourages the church at Philadelphia, saying “He who overcomes, I will make him a pillar in the temple of My God, and he will not go out from it anymore; and I will write on him the name of My God, and the name of the city of My God, the new Jerusalem, which comes down out of heaven from My God, and My new name” (Rev 3:12). Clearly, Jesus is not God, for one cannot be the Almighty God while having a God!

All of this evidence suggests that Revelation 1:8 cannot possibly be referring to Jesus, because it identifies the speaker as the “Lord God,” the “Almighty.” A reading of this verse in its original context will confirm the fact that the speaker of Revelation is in fact not Jesus, but God the Father. John starts off his message to the seven churches with the following greeting:

“John to the seven churches that are in Asia: Grace to you and peace, from Him who is and who was and who is to come, and from the seven Spirits who are before His throne, and from Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth. To Him who loves us and released us from our sins by His blood— and He has made us to be a kingdom, priests to His God and Father—to Him be the glory and the dominion forever and ever. Amen. Behold, He is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see Him, even those who pierced Him; and all the tribes of the earth will mourn over Him. So it is to be. Amen” (Rev 1:4-7).

In this greeting, the one “who is and who was and who is to come” is the one who sits on the throne. This individual has been identified in Revelation 7:10 as God. Jesus is mentioned here separately from God, and is said to have a God, the Father. So God, the Father, is the individual on the throne who is identified as the one “who is and who was and who is to come.” Immediately following John’s greeting is the controversial verse, which states “I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty” (Rev 1:8). God the Father, the one who is identified in verse four as the one “who is and who was and who is to come,” is identified by the same expression in verse eight. The book of Revelation lends itself to no other possibilities – the Father is the Lord God, the Almighty, the only true God.

Revelation is not presenting any new theology or Christology, and the conclusion that has been drawn is consistent with the rest of the Bible. The Bible presents the Father as the only true God and Jesus as His uniquely born human son. The Shema of Deuteronomy 6:4, Israel’s monotheistic creed, states “Hear O Israel, Yahweh is our God; Yahweh is One” (Deuteronomy 6:4). The book of Isaiah clearly demonstrates that Yahweh is the Father and the only God: “… you, Yahweh, are our Father, ‘Our Redeemer’ is your name from of old” and “I am Yahweh, and there is no other; there is no God but Me” (Isaiah 63:16b; Isaiah 45:5). The New Testament reaffirms this information. In his prayer addressed to the Father in John 17, Jesus says: “This is eternal life: that they may know You, the only true God, and the One You have sent–Jesus Christ” (John 17:3). It could not be any more obvious: Jesus believes that the Father is the only true God and that he himself is the one whom God the Father has sent, the Messiah. Paul reiterates this same concept in 1 Timothy 2:5: “For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the manChrist Jesus” (1 Timothy 2:5). For Paul, the Father was the only true God and Jesus was his human son, who was the appointed Messiah, the future king of Israel. Clearly, it may be seen that the red-letter highlighting of Revelation 1:8 is incorrect; perhaps a mistake or possibly evidence of a Trinitarian bias on the part of the editors. In any case, it should serve as a warning to every Bible student to not rely on the editors of their Bibles, and rather to carefully test and examine the Scriptures to seek truth.


[1]Gregg, Steve. Revelation, Four Views: A Parallel Commentary. Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1997.

[2] Henry, Matthew. Revelation. Matthew Henry Commentary on the Whole Bible (Complete).  1706. http://www.biblestudytools.com/commentaries/matthew-henry-complete/revelation/ (accessed May 5, 2013).

[3] Morris, Rev. Canon Leon . Tyndale New Testament Commentaries: The Revelation of St. John. Grand Rapids, Michigan: William B. Eerdsmans Publishing Company, 1969, p. 50.

[4] Jamieson, Robert, A. R. Fausset, and David Brown. Revelation. Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible. 1871. http://www.biblestudytools.com/commentaries/jamieson-fausset-brown/revelation/revelation-1.html (accessed May 5, 2013).

[5] Van Kampen, Robert, Lee-Warner, Rev. Bill, Cooper, Rev. Charles, & Vaterlaus, Gary. “Chapter One: Prologue.” Revelation Commentary. http://www.revelationcommentary.org/index.html (accessed May 3, 2013).

[6] Ibid

5 Responses to “Red-Letter Revelation”

  1. on 09 May 2013 at 10:55 amFrank D

    Since I am a follower of Jesus, I choose to worship the God Jesus worshiped:Yahweh, our Father, ‘Our Redeemer’, My God and your God, my Father and your Father.

  2. on 09 May 2013 at 6:08 pmDoubting Thomas

    Hi Frank D,
    I’ve never noticed you posting before. So welcome to KR!!! I personally like to refer to myself as a “Student of Christ”. I don’t consider myself to be a teacher. I also worship the God that Y’shua (Jesus) worshiped. I don’t believe that Y’shua and his disciples had ever heard of a Trinitarian God. The idea of the Trinity would have seemed like pagan Polytheism to them…

  3. on 10 May 2013 at 10:58 amFrank D

    Thanks, DT, but been here for years, reading often, posting seldom.

  4. on 18 Oct 2013 at 8:50 amsez

    Latreuo, when used of the True God, is a Greek word denoting service given to the Lord God Almighty. Some have said that since Jesus is never given latreuo, He cannot be God. Besides being an argument from silence, Scripture explicitly disagrees with this position.Revelation 22:3 – And there shall be no more curse, but the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it, and His servants shall serve Him.I want to note that the word translated “serve” is latreuo. The object of latreuois the pronoun “Him.” In language, the antecedent of a pronoun is generally the closest noun that agree with the pronoun in gender and number. In this case, the closest antecedent is “the Lamb.” Some would consider “God” to be the antecedent.But John takes pains to show the unity the Almighty and the Lamb. Just a few verses earlier John writes:Revelation 21:22 – But I saw no temple in it, for the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple.The word translated “are” is NOT the plural form of the “to be” verb here. Instead, it is the singular form of the verb. In a literal translation, Revelation21:22 would say:Revelation 21:22 “for the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb is its temple.” (literal)Grammatically, John indicates the most intimate unity of the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb with a singular verb.So whether one would argue that the antecedent of “serve Him” in Revelation22:3 is God or the Lamb, John has already indicated their unity. Even if one were to say that God is the one who receives latreuo, service would also be done to the Lamb by virtue of their unity expressed just a few verses earlier.That is the language of the New Testament, and it is clear and explicit. I affirm that the Lamb is God and the Lamb receives latreuo. Those who deny Jesus’ divinity disagree. In doing so, they disagree with Scripture. Could those who deny Jesus’ divinity please explain how you disagree with the clear language of Scripture?

  5. on 24 Mar 2016 at 9:54 pmjereb

    Sez… I’m not sure your idea of “clear language” is the same as most. If doctrines were decreed upon the plainess of the concepts expressed throughout Scripture…any idea of a triune gods would be dead in the water and monotheism would continue on as it had for thousands of years. BUT. Lucifer has all the doctrine making privilages in this world and all its churches. He created the wide and spacious road leading to damnation ( trinity ) and it’s actually one of the only roads not leading to rome… Though it is from rome. Jesus will be called a Mighty god, but never Almighty God! My God and His faithful Witness as my witnesses. Peace.

  

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