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IF JESUS, WHEN ON THE CROSS, WAS TRULY AN INCARNATION OF 'JEHOVAH', THEN WHO WAS IN HEAVEN?
This is a question that Jehovah's Witnesses have been trained to ask of 'Trinitarians' - thinking they have asked an impossible to answer question! This is a 'logical' question to those who doubt God's ability to exist and control His creation in a manner outside of their limited and finite minds.
Genesis 18-19 effectually gives fourteen answers to the question the WBTS labour under, each answer reaffirming the other. Read the two chapters below (from the NWT) very slowly and watch how the account describes the clear relationship that the WBTS try to deny:
Genesis 18:1 Afterward Jehovah appeared to him among the big trees of Mam´re, while he was sitting at the entrance of the tent about the heat of the day. 2 When he raised his eyes, then he looked and there three men were standing some distance from him. When he caught sight of them he began running to meet them from the entrance of the tent and proceeded to bow down to the earth. 3 Then he said: "Jehovah, if, now, I have found favor in your eyes, please do not pass by your servant. 4 Let a little water be taken, please, and YOU must have YOUR feet washed. Then recline under the tree. 5 And let me get a piece of bread, and refresh YOUR hearts. Following that, YOU can pass on, because that is why YOU have passed this way to YOUR servant." At this they said: "All right. You may do just as you have spoken."
6 So Abraham went hurrying to the tent to Sarah and said: "Hurry! Get three seah measures of fine flour, knead the dough and make round cakes." 7 Next Abraham ran to the herd and proceeded to get a tender and good young bull and to give it to the attendant, and he went hurrying to get it ready. 8 He then took butter and milk and the young bull that he had got ready and set it before them. Then he himself kept standing by them under the tree as they were eating.
9 They now said to him: "Where is Sarah your wife?" To this he said: "Here in the tent!" 10 So he continued: "I am surely going to return to you next year at this time, and, look! Sarah your wife will have a son." Now Sarah was listening at the tent entrance, and it was behind the man. 11 And Abraham and Sarah were old, being advanced in years. Sarah had stopped having menstruation. 12 Hence Sarah began to laugh inside herself, saying: "After I am worn out, shall I really have pleasure, my lord being old besides?" 13 Then Jehovah said to Abraham: "Why was it that Sarah laughed, saying, 'Shall I really and truly give birth although I have become old?' 14 Is anything too extraordinary for Jehovah? At the appointed time I shall return to you, next year at this time, and Sarah will have a son." 15 But Sarah began to deny it, saying: "I did not laugh!" For she was afraid. At this he said: "No! but you did laugh."
16 Later the men got up from there and looked down toward Sod´om, and Abraham was walking with them to escort them. 17 And Jehovah said: "Am I keeping covered from Abraham what I am doing? 18 Why, Abraham is surely going to become a nation great and mighty, and all the nations of the earth must bless themselves by means of him. 19 For I have become acquainted with him in order that he may command his sons and his household after him so that they shall keep Jehovah's way to do righteousness and judgment; in order that Jehovah may certainly bring upon Abraham what he has spoken about him."
20 Consequently Jehovah said: "The cry of complaint about Sod´om and Go·mor´rah, yes, it is loud, and their sin, yes, it is very heavy. 21 I am quite determined to go down that I may see whether they act altogether according to the outcry over it that has come to me, and, if not, I can get to know it."
22 At this point the men turned from there and got on their way to Sod´om; but as for Jehovah, he was still standing before Abraham. 23 Then Abraham approached and began to say: "Will you really sweep away the righteous with the wicked? 24 Suppose there are fifty righteous men in the midst of the city. Will you, then, sweep them away and not pardon the place for the sake of the fifty righteous who are inside it? 25 It is unthinkable of you that you are acting in this manner to put to death the righteous man with the wicked one so that it has to occur with the righteous man as it does with the wicked! It is unthinkable of you. Is the Judge of all the earth not going to do what is right?" 26 Then Jehovah said: "If I shall find in Sod´om fifty righteous men in the midst of the city I will pardon the whole place on their account." 27 But Abraham went on to answer and say: "Please, here I have taken upon myself to speak to Jehovah, whereas I am dust and ashes. 28 Suppose the fifty righteous should be lacking five. Will you for the five bring the whole city to ruin?" To this he said: "I shall not bring it to ruin if I find there forty-five."
29 But yet again he spoke further to him and said: "Suppose forty are found there." In turn he said: "I shall not do it on account of the forty." 30 But he continued: "May Jehovah, please, not grow hot with anger, but let me go on speaking: Suppose thirty are found there." In turn he said: "I shall not do it if I find thirty there." 31 But he continued on: "Please, here I have taken upon myself to speak to Jehovah: Suppose twenty are found there." In turn he said: "I shall not bring it to ruin on account of the twenty." 32 Finally he said: "May Jehovah, please, not grow hot with anger, but let me speak just this once: Suppose ten are found there." In turn he said: "I shall not bring it to ruin on account of the ten." 33 Then Jehovah went his way when he had finished speaking to Abraham, and Abraham returned to his place.
Genesis 19:1 Now the two angels arrived at Sod´om by evening, and Lot was sitting in the gate of Sod´om. When Lot caught sight of them, then he got up to meet them and bowed down with his face to the earth. 2 And he proceeded to say: "Please, now, my lords, turn aside, please, into the house of YOUR servant and stay overnight and have YOUR feet washed. Then YOU must get up early and travel on YOUR way." To this they said: "No, but in the public square is where we shall stay overnight." 3 But he was very insistent with them, so that they turned aside to him and came into his house. Then he made a feast for them, and he baked unfermented cakes, and they went to eating.
4 Before they could lie down, the men of the city, the men of Sod´om, surrounded the house, from boy to old man, all the people in one mob. 5 And they kept calling out to Lot and saying to him: "Where are the men who came in to you tonight? Bring them out to us that we may have intercourse with them."
6 Finally Lot went out to them to the entrance, but he shut the door behind him. 7 Then he said: "Please, my brothers, do not act badly. 8 Please, here I have two daughters who have never had intercourse with a man. Please, let me bring them out to YOU. Then do to them as is good in YOUR eyes. Only to these men do not do a thing, because that is why they have come under the shadow of my roof." 9 At this they said: "Stand back there!" And they added: "This lone man came here to reside as an alien and yet he would actually play the judge. Now we are going to do worse to you than to them." And they came pressing heavily in on the man, on Lot, and were getting near to break in the door. 10 So the men thrust out their hands and brought Lot in to them, into the house, and they shut the door. 11 But they struck with blindness the men who were at the entrance of the house, from the least to the greatest, so that they were wearing themselves out trying to find the entrance.
12 Then the men said to Lot: "Do you have anyone else here? Son-in-law and your sons and your daughters and all who are yours in the city, bring out of the place! 13 For we are bringing this place to ruin, because the outcry against them has grown loud before Jehovah, so that Jehovah sent us to bring the city to ruin." 14 Hence Lot went on out and began to speak to his sons-in-law who were to take his daughters, and he kept on saying: "Get up! Get out of this place, because Jehovah is bringing the city to ruin!" But in the eyes of his sons-in-law he seemed like a man who was joking.
15 However, when the dawn ascended, then the angels became urgent with Lot, saying: "Get up! Take your wife and your two daughters who are found here, for fear you may be swept away in the error of the city!" 16 When he kept lingering, then in the compassion of Jehovah upon him, the men seized hold of his hand and of the hand of his wife and of the hands of his two daughters and they proceeded to bring him out and to station him outside the city. 17 And it came about that, as soon as they had brought them forth to the outskirts, he began to say: "Escape for your soul! Do not look behind you and do not stand still in all the District! Escape to the mountainous region for fear you may be swept away!"
18 Then Lot said to them: "Not that, please, Jehovah! 19 Please, now, your servant has found favor in your eyes so that you are magnifying your loving-kindness, which you have exercised with me to preserve my soul alive, but I--I am not able to escape to the mountainous region for fear calamity may keep close to me and I certainly die. 20 Please, now, this city is nearby to flee there and it is a small thing. May I, please, escape there--is it not a small thing?--and my soul will live on." 21 So he said to him: "Here I do show you consideration to this extent also, by my not overthrowing the city of which you have spoken. 22 Hurry! Escape there, because I am not able to do a thing until your arriving there!" That is why he called the name of the city Zo´ar.
23 The sun had gone forth over the land when Lot arrived at Zo´ar. 24 Then Jehovah made it rain sulphur and fire from Jehovah, from the heavens, upon Sod´om and upon Go·mor´rah. 25 So he went ahead overthrowing these cities, even the entire District and all the inhabitants of the cities and the plants of the ground. 26 And his wife began to look around from behind him, and she became a pillar of salt.
27 Now Abraham made his way early in the morning to the place where he had stood before Jehovah. 28 Then he looked down toward Sod´om and Go·mor´rah and toward all the land of the District and saw a sight. Why, here thick smoke ascended from the land like the thick smoke of a kiln! 29 And it came about that when God brought the cities of the District to ruin God kept Abraham in mind in that he took steps to send Lot out of the midst of the overthrow when overthrowing the cities among which Lot had been dwelling.
Read the verses carefully and you will plainly see these truths:
the text clearly states that 'Jehovah' appeared to Abraham (18:1);
three men actually appeared 'standing' before Abraham (18:2);
Abraham addresses them as 'Jehovah' (18:3)!;
Jehovah has 'feet', and 'hearts';
they reply together as if one person is speaking (18:5)!;
then they eat (18:8);
they now refer to Sarah as three speaking together (18:9);
they then carry on speaking as one person (18:10)!;
Sarah is listening behind 'the man' who is talking (18:10);
'the man' who asks why Sarah laughed is 'Jehovah' (18:13-15);
'the men' get up from there, look down toward Sod´om (18:16) and Abraham walks 'with them' to escort them;
'Jehovah' speaks as 'I' and reveals why He has 'become acquainted with him [Abraham]'(18:17-19);
this 'Jehovah' - who is left with Abraham - refers to another 'Jehovah' when He speaks (18:19): '...in order that Jehovah may certainly bring upon Abraham what he has spoken about him"!;
'Jehovah' details the complaint about Sod´om and Go·mor´rah (18:20-21) and says: 'I am quite determined to go down that I may see whether they act altogether according to the outcry over it that has come to me, and, if not, I can get to know it."
'the men' go on their way to Sodom (18:22) - leaving 'Jehovah' 'still standing before Abraham.';
Abraham clearly identifies who he dares to debate with concerning the destruction of potentially righteous men in Sodom (18:23-26) - it is with 'Jehovah' - 'the Judge of all the earth'!
(18:27) Abraham makes it clear who he is speaking to: '"Please, here I have taken upon myself to speak to Jehovah, whereas I am dust and ashes'!;
Finally, (18:33) 'Jehovah went his way when he had finished speaking to Abraham, and Abraham returned to his place'; where did 'Jehovah' go to? We learn the answer in 19:24!;
We now learn more about 'the men' who left Abraham [remember, in 18:1-2, 'Jehovah' appeared as 'three men' and one stayed with Abraham] - for 'the two angels arrived at Sod´om by evening';
Lot addresses the two 'men/angels' [in 19:4-12 they are four times referred to as 'men'] as 'my lords' (19:2);
these 'men/angels' (19:13) declare: '... we are bringing this place to ruin, because the outcry against them has grown loud before Jehovah, so that Jehovah sent us to bring the city to ruin";
Lot warns his sons-in-law (19:14): '... Jehovah is bringing the city to ruin!';
'However, when the dawn ascended, then the angels became urgent' (19:15);
'When he [Job] kept lingering, then in the compassion of Jehovah upon him, the men seized hold of his hand and of the hand of his wife and of the hands of his two daughters and they proceeded to bring him out and to station him outside the city';
(19:18) Lot said to them: "Not that, please, Jehovah!' - note, the two 'men/angels' are addressed as 'Jehovah'!;
'Jehovah' is with Lot for we read (19:21): 'So he said to him: "Here I do show you consideration to this extent also, by my not overthrowing the city of which you have spoken. 22 Hurry! Escape there, because I am not able to do a thing until your arriving there!";
Again we learn that there is more than One 'Jehovah', for 19:24 reads: 'Then Jehovah made it rain sulphur and fire from Jehovah, from the heavens, upon Sod´om and upon Go·mor´rah. 25 So he went ahead overthrowing these cities, even the entire District and all the inhabitants of the cities and the plants of the ground'; 'Jehovah' on earth had rained sulphur and fire from 'Jehovah' 'from the heavens' and had then gone 'ahead' overthrowing these cities!;
19:27 affirms again that Abraham spoke to 'Jehovah': 'Now Abraham made his way early in the morning to the place where he had stood before Jehovah';
So we find that, when Abraham had three visitors who appeared as men; two are called angels, but the third he addressed as 'Jehovah' God fourteen times!
Remember that we read in the New Testament that the apostle John wrote:
'No man hath seen God (the Father) at anytime; the only begotten Son (Jesus Christ) who is in the bosom of the Father, he hath revealed him' (John 1v18).
Clearly, in the Old Testament, 'Jehovah' appeared in the form of men and angels and conversed with men such as Abraham! The 'Jehovah' who appeared to Abraham was a different person to the 'Jehovah' in heaven. How do we know this? Because we read that the 'Jehovah' who had come to converse with Abraham and bring judgement on Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding areas brought down 'sulphur and fire' from the 'Jehovah' in heaven!
(Genesis 19:24 - NWT): 'Then Jehovah made it rain sulphur and fire from Jehovah, from the heavens, upon Sod´om and upon Go·mor´rah.
Jehovah's Witnesses are trained by the WBTS to try and emphasise the supposed inability of Jesus, the Word who was God, to be the God He is with - although John 1:1 clearly states this fact! But Scripture gives emphatic proof that 'Jehovah' appeared on earth, spoke and ate with men, and was recognised to be God, even while the 'Jehovah', who was not seen or heard by men, could act from heaven as He did in Genesis 19:24! This reveals another glimpse of the composite unity in the Triune God. Other translations reveal this truth clearly, whether they use LORD or 'Jehovah', e.g.:
24 (AV) Then the LORD rained upon Sodom and upon Gomorrah brimstone and fire from the LORD out of heaven;
24 (ASV) Then Jehovah rained upon Sodom and upon Gomorrah brimstone and fire from Jehovah out of heaven;
24 (RSV) Then the LORD rained on Sodom and Gomorrah brimstone and fire from the LORD out of heaven;
This is the only possible solution to this WBTS dilemma: 'Jehovah' the Father rained fire on Sodom and Gomorrah, and 'Jehovah' the Son spoke and ate with Abraham and Sarah.
This gives irrefutable reason for orthodox Christians to accept that this 'Jehovah' was a pre-Incarnate appearance of the Lord Jesus Christ!
The view that 'Jehovah' is a solitary unity is repeatedly confounded by the words of Jesus, who said (concerning His Father):
'you have not at any time either heard His voice or seen His form.' (John 5v37)
46 'No one has seen the Father except the one who is from God; only he has seen the Father.' (John 6:46)
This makes it all the clearer that it was Christ who appeared to the Old Testament patriarchs in human form since Moses, and many witnesses, declared that God spoke 'face to face' with them (Genesis 32:30; Exodus 33:11; Numbers 12:8; 14:14; Deuteronomy 5:4; 34:10; Judges 6:22), and both Jesus and John say that 'No man hath seen God at any time.'
So both Jesus and John are making it clear that it is God the Father who has never been seen by man - but Jesus has been seen by man, and he who has 'seen the Son has seen the Father' (John 14:9)!
Notice that (Exodus 33:18-23) Moses was to stand on a 'rock' to see God's glory (v21; cf. Matthew 7:24-27). When the glory passed by, Moses would be hid in the 'cleft in the rock' and covered by the Lord's hand (v22). Then the hand of God would be removed so that Moses might see God's back (v23). 'Hand' and 'back' are anthropomorphisms (i.e., descriptions of the reality of God in terms or analogies understandable to men - likewise see the 'finger of God' in Exodus 8:19 and 31:18 and cf. Psalm 8:3; Luke 11:20 and the 'hand of God' in 1 Samuel 6:9; Psalm 109:27):
EXODUS 33:18 Then Moses said, 'Now show me your glory.'
EXODUS 33:19 And the LORD said, 'I will cause all my goodness to pass in front of you, and I will proclaim my name, the LORD, in your presence. I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion. 20 But,' he said, 'you cannot see my face, for no one may see me and live.'
EXODUS 33:21 Then the LORD said, 'There is a place near me where you may stand on a rock. 22 When my glory passes by, I will put you in a cleft in the rock and cover you with my hand until I have passed by. 23 Then I will remove my hand and you will see my back; but my face must not be seen.'
So the restriction that the Lord gave - that Moses would not be permitted to see the Lord's face (v20) for 'no one may see me and live' (v20; cf. John 1:18; 6:46; 1 Timothy 1:17; 1 John 4:12) - is not because God the Father is a man with a face (as the Mormons mistakenly teach), but because the sight of His glory would be devastating to a human being and cause their death! This explains every appearance of God as an 'angel' or a 'man' and why Jesus left His glory to appear on earth as a man while declaring that He had (previous to His Incarnation!) fully shared the Father's glory which God declared that He will never share with another (compare Isaiah 6:5 with John 12:41 and Isaiah 42:8 with John 17v3-5; also see Matthew 16:27; 2 Peter 3:18; Revelation 5:12)!
Thus it is that the Hebrew word panim ('face') came to be used in the phrase 'face to face' to mean an intimate appearance, whether this was in a reflection of God the Father's glory - as in the appearance to Moses - or when 'a man' (Jesus) wrestled with Jacob in Genesis 32:31:
31 Jacob named the place Peniel, 'Because I have seen God face to face,' he said, 'yet my life has been spared.'
When Christ walked the earth as the Perfect Son of Man, God the Father was in heaven, God the Son - the Son of Man - then died on the cross, and God the Holy Spirit began His ministry of comfort to the church until Jesus shall come again.
Those who refuse to accept the Old Testament as God's Word, and wish to reject belief in the 'Trinity' because it is considered beyond human reasoning, must convince themselves against the fact that the Bible teaches it.
The 'Trinity' was clearly at work in our salvation from the beginning: The Father planned it and loved us enough to send Christ into the world to shed His blood for us; the Son accomplished the work on the Cross; and the Holy Spirit makes salvation effective in our lives by His regenerating and guiding ministry.
There are many other 'disguised' appearances of God in the Old Testament and we will examine these later when dealing with another WBTS bone of contention. Now let us look at the plain teaching of the 'Trinity' in the New Testament where we see it in all its fulness.
(Continued on page 77)