This is another in a series of excerpts from “What Every Christian Should Know About the Trinity,” available through Amazon and other booksellers.
In the previous column, we showed how Jehovah’s Witnesses twist the use of “firstborn” in Scripture to deny the deity of Christ. They also misuse the term “only begotten,” which appears several times in the Gospel of John, most notably in John 3:16: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (KJV).
Many modern translations render the term “one and only Son,” emphasizing Christ’s uniqueness.
Jehovah’s Witnesses argue that “only begotten” means Jesus is the only direct creation of Jehovah, who then created all other things through His Son. The key is the Greek word monogenes. James White explains how linguistic studies and the discovery of ancient papyri in the Egyptian deserts within the last century have clarified a proper understanding of this term:
“It was assumed that the term was made up of two parts: monos, which means ‘only,’ and gennao, which is a verb meaning ‘to beget, give birth to.’ The assumption was half correct. Monogenes does come from monos but not from gennao; rather, the second part of the word comes from a noun, genos, that means ‘kind’ or ‘type.’
“Therefore, monogenes means ‘one of a kind, unique’ rather than ‘only begotten,’ and, accordingly, the term was used of an only son, a unique son. The importance for Christology is clear: No one can base a denial of the Son’s eternal nature upon this term, for it does not refer to a ‘beginning’ at all but instead describes the uniqueness of the object.”
The apostle John, who takes great care to establish the deity of Jesus, wants us to know that while Jesus is the Son of God, His Sonship is an eternal, one-of-a-kind relationship with God the Father. Believing sinners are “begotten” in the sense that we are born again, or made spiritually alive through the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit. Our sonship is through adoption; Christ’s Sonship is by the very nature of His eternal relationship with the Father.
The doctrine of the Trinity distinguishes orthodox Christianity from counterfeit forms of the faith, and sets Christianity apart from other monotheistic religions such as Judaism and Islam. Even so, many Christians struggle to understand and explain this non-negotiable doctrine.
What Every Christian Should Know About the Trinity explores the biblical foundation of belief in one true and living God, who exists as three distinct, but inseparable, co-equal, co-eternal persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
Written for pastors and laypersons alike, this new resource features twelve lessons that conclude with probing questions, making this an ideal resource for personal or group study.
Written by the Missouri Baptist Convention’s Rob Phillips, the book features a foreword from noted apologist Robert M. Bowman Jr.
Available in print from the MBC.
Rev. 14:20 – Then the press was trampled outside the city, and blood flowed out of the press up to the horses’ bridles for about 180 miles. (HCSB)
Finally in this chapter, John records, “Then the press was trampled outside the city, and blood flowed out of the press up to the horses’ bridles for about 180 miles” (v. 20).
Commentators generally agree that the city in question is Jerusalem. It is called “the great city” in Rev. 11:8, as well as “Sodom and Egypt, where also their Lord was crucified.” The reason the wicked are destroyed outside the city is that this is where accursed and unclean things are taken for disposal. For example, the Valley of Hinnom outside Jerusalem is where human sacrifices take place in Old Testament times. It is a burning trash dump in Jesus’ day. Even the carcasses of sacrificial animals, whose blood the high priest carries into the Holy of Holies on the Day of Atonement, are carried outside the city walls and burned.
But the writer of Hebrews reminds us that Jesus is crucified outside the city in order to identify with sinful people. The One who knew no sin becomes sin for us, and the blessed Son of God becomes a curse: “For the bodies of those animals whose blood is brought into the most holy place by the high priest as a sin offering are burned outside the camp. Therefore Jesus also suffered outside the gate, so that He might sanctify the people by His own blood. Let us then go to Him outside the camp, bearing His disgrace” (Heb. 13:11-13).
Other interpreters see this simply as an allusion to Old Testament purification laws where the unclean are taken outside the camp (Lev. 8:17; 9:11). Still others understand this as a reference to the end-time gathering of the wicked around the city of Jerusalem (Ps. 2:2, 6; Dan. 11:45; Joel 3:12-14; Zech. 14:1-4; and the apocalyptic book of 1 Enoch 53:1). If this is a reference to the Day of the Lord, it likely speaks of the Valley of Jehoshaphat, which according to Jewish tradition is the part of the Kidron Valley between the Temple Mount and the Mount of Olives. This is where Joel prophesies that the judgment of nations will take place (Joel 3:12-14). Zechariah places the final battle on the outskirts of Jerusalem (Zech. 14:1-4).
While these unbiblical views from our LDS and JW friends are not surprising, it may come as a shock to hear that some leaders of the Christian Word-Faith movement hold a similar view – and quote the Bible to support it
A case in point: Kenneth Copeland and Isaiah 40:12.
Copeland, perhaps more than any other prosperity preacher, has gone into great detail about God’s alleged bodily existence.
In a letter responding to an inquiry on the subject, Copeland lists a number of God’s bodily attributes, including back parts, a heart, hands, a finger, nostrils, a mouth with lips and a tongue, feet, eyes and eyelids, a voice, breath, ears, hair, head, face, arms, and loins.
Further, says Copeland, he wears clothes, eats, sits on His throne, and walks. Copeland has made the outrageous claim that God lives on a planet, of which the earth is an exact copy, only smaller. Says the televangelist: Earth is “a copy of the mother planet.”
Rev. 14:14 – Then I looked, and there was a white cloud, and One like the Son of Man was seated on the cloud, with a gold crown on His head and a sharp sickle in His hand. (HCSB)
One like the Son of Man
Seated on the cloud is “One like the Son of Man.” He wears a gold crown on His head and wields a sharp sickle in His hand. There is little doubt that this is Jesus, who calls Himself the Son of Man more than 80 times in the Gospels. The name is not exclusive to Jesus in scripture. For example, the Lord calls Ezekiel “son of man” more than 90 times, and the angel Gabriel once refers to Daniel by the same moniker. But there is no doubt that in specific contexts “Son of Man” refers to the second person of the Godhead.
The Son of Man clearly is a divine being in Dan. 7:13, and Jesus’ claim to be the Son of Man who will come on the clouds of heaven (Matt. 26:64) is sufficient testimony to convict Him of blasphemy and condemn Him to death in the eyes of Caiaphas. It’s important for us to understand that in preferring to call Himself “Son of Man” rather than “Son of God,” Jesus is communicating His incarnation. He is neither denying His deity nor exalting His humanity; rather, He is demonstrating that He is one person with two natures: divine and human.
As Ron Rhodes writes, “First of all, even if the phrase ‘Son of Man’ is a reference to Jesus’ humanity, it is not a denial of His deity. By becoming a man, Jesus did not cease being God. The incarnation of Christ did not involve the subtraction of deity, but the addition of humanity. Jesus clearly claimed to be God on many occasions (Matthew 16:16, 17; John 8:58; 10:30). But in addition to being divine, He was also human (see Philippians 2:6-8). He had two natures (divine and human) conjoined in one person” (found at http://christiananswers.net/q-eden/son-of-man.html).
The name “Son of Man” is found almost exclusively in the mouth of Christ in the New Testament. The apostles and other writers avoid the term, with a couple of exceptions. In Acts 7:55 Stephen exclaims, “Look! I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God!” And, of course, in Rev. 14:14 John sees “One like the Son of Man” seated on a white cloud.
The early church fathers are of the opinion that Jesus uses the expression “Son of Man” out of humility and to demonstrate His humanity. Others think He adopts the title so as not to offend His enemies until His hour is at hand. Then, associating this lowly title with Dan. 7:13 and tying it to His deity forces the hands of both His accusers and followers to acknowledge Him as Messiah or reject Him as a pretender. At last, this title is “capable of being applied so as to cover His Messianic claims – to include everything that had been foretold of the representative man, the second Adam, the suffering servant of Jehovah, the Messianic king” (The Catholic Encyclopedia, “Son of Man”).