Revelation 1:17

Revelation 1:17

Here I am going to respond to selections of Kel’s article.  The selections I have chosen are the ones I regard as embodying Kel’s main arguments; I have left out what I regard as repetitious or off the point.  If I have missed or misunderstood Kel’s arguments, anyone who reads this – including Kel – is welcome to bring that to my attention.

. . .

In Isaiah 44:6, it is written “Thus says the Lord, the King of Israel and his Redeemer, the Lord of hosts: I am the first and I am the last, And there is no God besides Me.” (see also Isaiah 48:12, where God also says he is the first and the last).

In Revelation 1:17-28, the risen Jesus appeared to the apostle John, who said “When I saw Him, I fell at His feet like a dead man. And He placed His right hand on me, saying, ‘Do not be afraid; I am the first and the last, and the living One; and I [l]was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of death and of Hades.’” – NASB

Since God Himself said that He is the first and the last, and Jesus said that He is the first and the last, we Trinitarians see this as evidence that Jesus is God.

Kel tries to overcome this argument in a number of ways, one of which is to assert that identifying the Father and the Son (and the Spirit) as God is somehow self-contradictory.  He begins his argument this way:

Argument:

“Trinitarians claim that Jesus is identifying himself as Yahweh because Yahweh is identified as “the First and the Last” in the Book of Isaiah and Jesus identifies himself as “the First and the Last.”

The Claim vs. The Facts

The Scriptural facts show that the risen Jesus is the First and the Last because he, God’s Word, is where the new creation of God begins.”

Response:

If Jesus is a created being who is merely the beginning of God’s new creation rather than its beginner, then Jesus is not really the “first” but the “second” – for God the Father is the only origin of the new creation.  And if Jesus is merely a glorified man but not the same God as God the Father, then neither is Jesus the “last” but only at best the “second to last,” for as the Scripture informs us,

“For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all will be made alive. But each in his own order: Christ the first fruits, after that those who are Christ’s at His coming, then comes the end, when He hands over the kingdom to the God and Father, when He has abolished all rule and all authority and power. For He must reign until He has put all His enemies under His feet. The last enemy that will be abolished is death. For He has put all things in subjection under His feet. But when He says, “All things are put in subjection,” it is evident that He is excepted who put all things in subjection to Him. When all things are subjected to Him, then the Son Himself also will be subjected to the One who subjected all things to Him, so that God may be all in all.” – 1 Corinthians 15:22-28, NASB

In essence, Kel’s claim is that when Jesus said “I am the first and the last,” he really means that he is the second first and the second to last last of the new creation only, not of the old.  A created Jesus would not be the origin even of the new creation; God the Father would.  Nor would Jesus be the goal of the new creation.  Unless Jesus is in some way one and the same God as his Father, he could not be the first and the last at all, not even in the new creation only.

I must add here a point I have made in other places, namely, saying that the Son is subject to the Father is not the same as saying that the Son is an inferior being to the Father.  Within God, there is order and rank, which is why order and rank also appear in creation, which mirrors the Creator.

A case can be made that since Jesus is called the firstborn from among the dead, that his resurrection body is in that sense the “first” of the new creation.  But he did not merely say he was the first, but the first and the last.  Jesus’ resurrection body is not the last of the new creation; in no passage of Scripture does it say that Jesus’ body will be created again at the end of the new creation; instead, he now has an eternal body that will never die.

To me the most likely meaning of “first and last” is “origin and goal.”  The only one who can say “I am the first and I am the last” without qualification is God.

Argument:

“In the doctrine of the Trinity, Jesus is not the Father and Jesus is not the Triune God (or that would be saying Jesus is a three-person-being). Conversely, the same is true. In the doctrine of the Trinity, the Father is not Jesus and the Triune God is not Jesus. So WHO is the speaker at Isaiah 44:6 and Isaiah 48:12? If the Trinitarian claims it is the Triune God speaking, then it is not Jesus, because the Triune God is not Jesus and Jesus is not the Triune God in their own doctrine. And if the Trinitarian claims it is the Father speaking, then it is not Jesus, because the Father is not Jesus and Jesus is not the Father in their own doctrine. And if the Trinitarian claims it is Jesus speaking, then it is not the Father, because Jesus is not the Father and the Father is not Jesus in their own doctrine. And if the Trinitarian claims it is Jesus speaking, then it is not the Triune God, because Jesus is not the Triune God and the Triune God is not Jesus in their own doctrine. No matter how you look at it, they aren’t making any sense and they are incoherently contradicting themselves. WHO exactly is the speaker?”

Response:

In this case I fail to see the problem.  If all three Persons of the Trinity originated everything else and all of them are the goal of everything, then all of them are together are the first and the last. Whether one is speaking for all or all are speaking as one makes no difference.  There would only be a problem if, say, the claim was made that Jesus is the first and the last apart from the Father.  But nothing in the Trinity doctrine asserts anything like this.

Further, Kel’s reasoning seems contrary to Scripture itself.  In Scripture, groups of people sometimes  speak in the first person singular or are spoken of in the singular.  In Isaiah 49:21, Zion, a group of people, say “I was left alone.”  In Jeremiah 30:7 Jacob is spoken of in singular form although it is the children of Jacob that are actually being spoken of: “Alas! for that day is great, There is none like it; And it is the time of Jacob’s distress, But he will be saved from it.” – NASB

Let’s take the first example where a group of people called Zion say “I was left alone.”  The clear sense of Scripture is that all of Zion says I was left alone, and every individual in Zion said I was left alone.  According to Kel this should be impossible.

Surely no one would say that if the entire group called Zion say “I was left alone,” that would mean that no individual person in the group says it.  Yet that is exactly the reasoning Kel uses when he claims that if all three Persons of the Trinity say “I am the first and the last” then it cannot be Jesus saying it.  And no one would say that if one person in Zion said “I was left alone” then no other person in Zion could have said the same thing.  Yet that is exactly the same reasoning Kel uses when he claims that if the Father said “I am the first and the last” that it cannot be Jesus who also said he is the first and the last.  And no one would say that if one individual in Zion said “I was left alone” then the whole group called Zion could not have said it.  Yet that is what Kel is reasoning when he asserts that if Jesus said I am the first and the last, then it is not the Triune God who said it.

The unity of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit is surely more profound than the unity of any group of humans.  So if mere humans can speak this way, why not God?  It seems to me that since God Himself inspired the Sacred Scriptures, we should pay careful attention to the way that He uses words.  We cannot see God but we can see human beings, and we can only ascertain the possible meaning of words when they are applied to something we can see.  If man was created in God’s image, and the Holy Scriptures are known to speak of multiple human persons with terms like “I” and “he,” it is quite reasonable to suppose that when the Scripture uses these terms of God, that fact does not preclude a plurality of Persons within God.

Argument:

“And their contradictory situation is even worse. They claim Isaiah 44:6 refers to Yahweh and Yahweh’s Redeemer Jesus. In other words, they are suggesting it refers to Yahweh the Father and Jesus, or perhaps the Yahweh the Triune God and Jesus. So if it is either the Triune God or the Father speaking, then it isn’t Jesus because the Father is not Jesus in their own doctrine and the Triune God is not Jesus in their own doctrine. Again, they are found contradicting themselves. The bottom line, is that they are admitting the speaker is NOT Jesus at Isaiah 44:6 when they interpret the verse to refer to Yahweh speaking about his Redeemer whom they identify as Jesus.

Note: See the Isaiah 44:6 article on the main page to see why “his Redeemer” means that Yahweh is Israel’s Redeemer.”

Response:

Kel is wrong in several ways here.  First, it is not a specifically Trinitarian claim that “”his redeemer” in Isaiah 44:6 must mean Jesus. “His” here could mean Israel.  Second, even if “his redeemer” does refer to Jesus, Jesus could be saying “I am the first and I am the last” along with God the Father.  This fact seems to completely escape our non-Trinitarian friend, for over and over he repeats this argument.  Third, I don’t understand what he means by the claim that if the Triune God (which is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) speaks, then Jesus (the Son) cannot be speaking.  This claim does not seem to have a rational basis.

Argument:

“And their situation gets even worse. At Isaiah 48:11, God says he will not give his glory to another. We all know how they interpret these words. Jesus won’t give his glory to anyone else? Does that leave the Father and the Holy Spirit out of the equation? How about the Triune God? Let the reader see how Trinitarians are completely blind to the implications of their claims and how they contradict themselves.”

Response:

The Trinitarian situation was not bad to start with and has gotten no worse in spite of Kel’s words to the contrary.  In Trinitarian theology, if God the Father says “I will not give my glory to another,” that at least could mean He will not give His glory to another God; it does not necessarily mean He will not give His glory to another Person who is the same God as He is.  The fact that Kel thinks he sees a self-contradiction in this demonstrates to me that he really does not understand the Trinitarian doctrine he says he once believed himself.

Whether or not Isaiah 48:11 means God will not give his glory to another nation (than Israel) or whether it means He will not give His glory to another God not does not concern us here, since we are speaking of alleged self-contradictions in Trinitarian doctrine.  (Why couldn’t it mean both)?  As J. Alec Motyer says in The Prophecy of Isaiah,

“To another would be Israel, if their sinfulness overcame his purposes of grace and glory, or the gods of Babylon, if they succeeded in keeping Israel captive and the nation ultimately drowned in the surrounding culture.  Over both sin and Babylon the Lord must win the victory.” (Motyer, p. 379).

Argument:

“So who is the speaker at Isaiah 44:6? It is the same identity who is speaking at Isaiah 44:24.

Thus says Yahweh, your Redeemer, and the one who formed you from the womb, “I, Yahweh, am the maker of all things, Stretching out the heavens by Myself And spreading out the earth all alone.

Trinitarians must insist the speaker here is the Triune God, Him, or they will refute their own doctrine. But the Triune God is not Jesus and Jesus is not the Triune God. Hence, since this identity is not Jesus in their own doctrine, Jesus is not the one who said these words in verse 24 and this shows he isn’t the one saying “I am the first and the last” at verse 6 either.”

Response:

Kel continues to demonstrate a lack of comprehension of the doctrine.  When the Triune God speaks, all the Persons speak.  How can Kel think that when the Triune God – the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit – speak, the Son must therefore not be speaking?  This claim is nonsensical.  One time in church the congregation recited in unison, “Lord, be merciful unto me: heal my soul; for I have sinned against thee” – Psalm 41:4.  According to Kel this must be impossible, because only one person at a time can say “I.”

Later, the claim is made that there is “one other significant verse is usually ignored by Trinitarians . . . “To the angel of the church in Laodicea write: The Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of the creation of God, says this…. Revelation 3:14.

I think this is wrong because Trinitarians are familiar with this verse and they believe it refers to the fact that Jesus began God’s creation.  Jehovah’s Witnesses interpret this verse as meaning that Jesus is the first thing God created, and Kel interprets it to mean that Jesus is the first new thing God created, or as he puts it “the beginning of God’s new creation.”  But why Kel thinks Trinitarians ignore this passage is a mystery to me.

Argument:

“The First and the Last was Dead: Yahweh was DEAD?

An insurmountable problem for Trinitarians is that that the first and the last indicates he was dead. Observe what Jesus says at Revelation 1:17ff.

17 When I saw him, I fell at His feet like a dead man. And he placed his right hand on me, saying, “Do not be afraid; I am the first and the last, and the living One; and I was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of death and of Hades.

He has the keys of death and of Hades. God is not a God of the dead but of the living. However, Jesus is Lord of the living and the dead because he overcame death and conquered death.

Now if “the first and the last” is a title for Yahweh, then Yahweh was dead. However, the Bible tells us this is impossible. Yahweh is intrinsically immortal (see 1 Tim 6:16; compare 2 Cor 13:4). When you are immortal it means you cannot die and cannot be dead. If you died and are dead it means you are dead because you are mortal and not immortal. However, Yahweh is immortal. The first and the last at Revelation 1:17 was dead. Yahweh is immortal and cannot die or be dead. Therefore, it is quite impossible to identify the first and the last as Yahweh or vice versa. The Trinitarian claim is thereby proven false.”

Response:

This is a huge problem for so many, Kel included.  But you have to assume that Trinitarians think that Jesus was only God in order to make it unsurmountable.  If you believe that Jesus was both God and man – which is in fact what Trinitarians really believe – the problem becomes much easier to deal with.  Obviously whatever is intrinsically immortal cannot die, but an all-powerful God could add a mortal nature to His immortal nature if He chose to.  If the mortal nature which God had added to His immortal nature died, then God would be able to experience death through it.  God as a man had died on the cross in the sense that He left His body, but God as God could never be dead, and He raised His body just like He had said, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up” – John 2:19.

Argument:

In his next section, Kel urges his readers to “follow the speaker” and seems to be saying that in the book of Revelation the angel through which Jesus delivered the revelation to John was in fact Jesus himself.  But it is not completely clear to me that this is what Kel means because he doesn’t exactly say this; rather, he seems to be asking his readers to come to that conclusion on their own.

Response:

Such an argument derives its strength from the fact that in the original Greek there were no quotation marks to indicate who is speaking.  In Revelation we have three regular speakers – John, the angel, and Jesus.  Sometimes one may begin speaking and another might continue, yet the transition from one speaker to another is not clearly evident.

I do not accept the idea that Jesus himself was the angel who told John not to worship him because this same Jesus accepted worship on earth.  Also, there is strong biblical precedent for an angel or angels to be present when God is present, delivering the words God gives them to say.

In Acts 7:53 Stephen spoke of “you who received the law as ordained by angels, and yet did not keep it.”

In Hebrews 2 we read, “For this reason we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away from it. For if the word spoken through angels proved unalterable, and every transgression and disobedience received a just penalty, how will we escape if we neglect so great a salvation? After it was at the first spoken through the Lord, it was confirmed to us by those who heard, God also testifying with them, both by signs and wonders and by various miracles and by gifts of the Holy Spirit according to His own will..” – NASB

Here is clear scriptural evidence that the Law was delivered through angels.  And yet, look at the first commandments in the Law:

“Then God spoke all these words, saying, I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. You shall have no other gods before Me. You shall not make for yourself an idol, or any likeness of what is in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the water under the earth. You shall not worship them or serve them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children, on the third and the fourth generations of those who hate Me, but showing lovingkindness to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments.” – Exodus 20:

How, then, can it also be true that these words were spoken by angels?  The answer must be that God spoke the words to the angels and then had the angels speak them to Moses.  Based on this evidence there is no need to confuse Jesus with the angel through which Jesus gave the Revelation to John; as it says in the very first verse of that book, “The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave Him to show to His bond-servants, the things which must soon take place; and He sent and communicated it by His angel to His bond-servant John.” – Revelation 1:1

When John mistakenly tried to worship the angel that Jesus was using to communicate the revelation, the angel correctly told John not to do that but to worship God instead (Revelation 22:8).  If John himself was confused, no one reading the Revelation need be ashamed if they feel the some confusion as well.  But careful analysis should draw out the truth.

Argument:

Kel then quotes the following passages:

“’Listen to Me, O Jacob, even Israel whom I called; I am He, I am the first, I am also the last. Surely My hand founded the earth, and My right hand spread out the heavens. When I call to them, they stand together.’ Isaiah 48:12-13.

‘Thus says Yahweh, the King of Israel and his Redeemer, Yahweh of Hosts: “I am the first and I am the last, And there is no God besides Me…. Thus says Yahweh, your Redeemer, and the One who formed you from the womb, “I, Yahweh, am the maker of all things, Stretching out the heavens by Myself And spreading out the earth all alone.’

These passages tell us that these titles refer to God as the Creator of all things. He is where creation begins and He is also where this creation will end (Judgment day).”

Response:

I don’t see how Kel can think that the same titles that show that God is the Creator of all things only show that Jesus was the instrument of creation of new things, and not of all things.  Isn’t it more logical to assume that the reason the titles of God are applied to Jesus is because Jesus is also God?

Argument:

“At Colossians 1:16-18, Paul is explaining how God created all things anew in the risen Son to whom God gave all authority in heaven and on earth. This is why it says that “He might come to be first in all things.” This is also why Paul then says all the fullness (of God) was pleased to dwell in him. This occurred when Jesus rose from the dead and was glorified. The risen son is first in all things in time and rank because he is the firstborn out of the dead and because God has given the risen son all authority in heaven and earth.”

Response:

Colossians 1:16-18 says that in (Christ) all things were created; this does not limit Christ’s creation to only the new creation.  It is true that it says that “the firstborn from the dead, so that He Himself will come to have first place in everything,” but if “first” means “first place” when Jesus said “I am the first and the last” it also means that Jesus has last place in creation, which is nonsense.  How can he be both the most important and least important being in creation?  By far the more likely meaning of “the first and last” is the origin and the goal of all creation, as I stated earlier.

I don’t think that Kel has presented any evidence that the “first” in “the first and the last” must have the same meaning as “the firstborn from among the dead.”   My take on the matter is that Jesus’ being “the firstborn from the dead, so that He Himself will come to have first place in everything” references his human nature, while Jesus’ claim to be “the first and the last” references his Divine nature.

Argument:

“It is quite clear that Revelation 3:14 is referring to the new creation of God and Jesus is the beginning of that new creation because he is the firstborn out of the dead. He is WHERE the new creation begins and this is why we are new creations in him, that is, in the risen Christ . . .”

Response:

Here again no solid connection between “the beginning of the creation of God” and being the firstborn from among the dead has been established.  While it is true that Jesus is where the new creation begins, that is not proof that the old creation did not begin with Jesus as well.  And I have shown that the old creation did begin with the Son (see the articles on John 1 and Colossians 1).

Conclusion

In this section no confusion or contradiction of the Trinitarian position has been successfully demonstrated, and in my opinion it is Kel who demonstrates confusion by arguing that there are two firsts and lasts, one big uncreated first and last, and one little created first and last.  It is much more logical to conclude that because God the Father says “I am THE first and the last,” and Jesus says “I am THE first and the last,” that Jesus and the Father are in fact both the same identity, even if not one and the same Person.