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Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Throne (Rev. 22:1)


(From the RDB Files)

"The Throne of God and of the Lamb"

"Then he showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb." - Rev. 22:1, RSV.

Some trinitarians claim that if there is only one throne that God and the Lamb share, then they both must be God. If we carefully examined what this scripture actually says, most of us would probably reject such reasoning out of hand. However, for those who may still have a problem with it, let's examine the subject.

First, let's look at some scriptures where "throne" is used:

(1) "Let the king and his throne be guiltless" - 2 Sam. 14:9, RSV.

(2) "Do not swear at all: either by heaven, for it is God's throne ...." - Is. 66:1; Mt 5:34; 23:22.

(3) "Blessed be Jehovah thy God, who delighted in thee, to set thee on his throne." - 2 Chronicles 9:8, ASV.

(4) "Then Solomon sat on the throne of Jehovah as king instead of David his father." - 1 Chron. 29:23, ASV.

(5) "He [Jesus] will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord will give him the throne of his father David ... his kingdom will never end." - Luke 1:32.# (See End Note)

(6) "[Jesus] sat down at the right hand of the throne of God." - Heb. 12:2, NASB.

(7) "To him who overcomes, I [Jesus] will give the right to sit with me on my throne, just as I overcame and sat down with my Father on his throne." - Rev. 3:21, NIV.

(8) "Round the throne [of God] were twenty-four thrones, and seated on the thrones were 24 elders...with golden crowns upon their heads." - Rev. 4:4, RSV.

("The 24 elders on their thrones....represent...the heads of the 12 tribes together with the 12 apostles." - The New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology, p. 615, v. 2; also, see New Oxford Annotated Bible [1977 ed.] f.n. for Rev. 4:4.) - cf. Rev. 20:4, 6.

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I believe that the majority of people who truly want to approach this subject fairly and objectively could find honest alternatives to the trinitarian argument found at the beginning of this page merely by examining the above scriptures carefully.

Therefore, most people should stop at this point and review, analyze, and correlate the above scriptures. Then they should ask themselves what interpretations could honestly be found for the scripture quoted in the heading of this paper. Those who still can see no honest alternative to the trinitarian interpretation might want to turn the page for a further discussion.

Scriptures (1) and (2) quoted above show some of the Bible's figurative meanings for the word "throne." The first, of course, shows that "throne" can stand for the rule or authority of a person. The second shows "throne" may include the entire location (room, building, city, territory, etc.) where that government is stationed.

Scriptures (3) and (4) show that the "throne" or authority of a much higher ruler can be delegated to another, much inferior ruler. Even King David (and Solomon) was said to be sitting on God's throne. That is, he wielded the authority over God's people on earth as a representative for God. So it was the throne of God and of David and of Solomon. 

Scripture (5) shows that Jesus, like David, sat "on the throne of Jehovah."

Scripture (6) shows that when Jesus assumed David's God-given authority (or throne) over God's people, he "sat at the right hand of the Throne of God." Cf. Ps 110:1 where Jesus is to sit at the right hand of Jehovah. A footnote in the very trinitarian The NIV Study Bible for Ps. 110:1 tells us:

"right hand.... thus he [Christ] is made second in authority to God himself. NT references to Jesus' exaltation to this position are many (see...Mark 16:19;...Acts 2:33-36;...Heb 10:12-13)." Compare the NIVSB footnote for Mark 16:19 - "right hand of God. A position of authority second only to God's." - The NIV Study Bible, Zondervan, 1985.

Scriptures (7) and (8) similarly show that Jesus' sitting on his own (subordinate) throne (Rev. 3:21) can be figuratively described as sitting "down with my Father on his throne" (who, in effect, shares some of his authority with Christ). The same description then applies to the Apostles who "sit with me on my throne" (Rev. 3:21) which can also be described as sitting upon their own separate thrones around the throne of God (Rev. 4:4) because the Christ shares some of his God-given authority with them. (See The New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology, Vol. 3, p. 588.)

As in certain other "trinitarian" interpretations the separate consideration of God and Christ proves in itself that Christ is not God. (It might have been worth considering, at least, if it said "the throne of the Father and of the Lamb.")

Obviously, we wouldn't give a thought to the "Godhood" of David and Solomon if we saw a reference to "the throne of God and David and Solomon" - cf. scriptures (3) and (4) above! We are speaking of only one throne (perhaps), but there is certainly no reason to think that one throne unites all three mentioned who had the authority symbolized by that throne!

And the fact that God is mentioned as one person (and David and Solomon as others) precludes any possibility of honest error. For example, even when we add the testimony of the scripture which says that all the assembly bowed down and worshiped ["shachah"] Jehovah and King David (1 Chron. 29:20 - see the WORSHIP study paper), we still wouldn't reason that David was Jehovah! The fact that they are so clearly represented as two separate individuals compels us to find some other solution to the problem of what seems to be "equal worship" (unless, of course, you already have an unshakable tradition or mindset that David is Jehovah). So why should we accept such poor reasoning for Rev. 22:1?

End Note added Aug. 2014:
# In July 2014, mikeboll64 on Heaven Net Forum wrote:

“Does God Almighty rule forever from the throne of God’s SERVANT David?

Because it is clear that Jesus DOES:
“Isaiah 9:7
He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom….. from that time on and forever.

“Luke 1:32-33
‘The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever.’

“So, the UNDENIABLE SCRIPTURAL FACT is that unless God Almighty is the one who will forever reign from the throne of God’s SERVANT David ……… then Jesus clearly ISN’T God Almighty.”

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"Then I saw a Lamb, looking as if it had been slain, standing in the center of the throne [of God]." - Rev. 5:6, NIV.

Some trinitarians also imply that the slain Lamb (obviously the heavenly-resurrected Christ) must be God because he is in the middle of God's throne in this verse.

There is never any doubt that the one seated on God's throne in Rev. 4 and 5 is God.

"They [the 24 elders] lay their crowns before the throne and say: `You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things." - Rev. 4:10, 11 NASB.

But the Lamb is never called God, nor does he sit on the throne of God in these two chapters. He approaches God, and is clearly differentiated from God:

"To him who sits on the throne [God] and to the Lamb, be blessing and honor and glory...." Rev. 5:13, NASB.

So why is the Lamb standing in the center of the throne of God? Well here is how it reads in the original Greek: "And I saw in midst of the throne (en meso tou thronou) ... lamb standing...." Thayer tells us of this NT Greek word meso:

"in midst of, i.e. in the space within, tou thronou [`the throne'] (which must be conceived of as having a semicircular shape [c-shaped]: Rev. iv. 6; v. 6."

Thayer continues with an explanation of Rev. 5:6 that meso means

"between the throne and the four living creatures and the elders (i.e. in the vacant space between the throne and the living creatures [on one side] and elders [on the other side], accordingly nearest the throne." - p. 402, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament, Baker Book House.

Highly trinitarian New Testament expert A. T. Robertson in his comment on Rev. 4:6 also takes this to mean “before” or in front of the throne . - Word Pictures in the New Testament, Vol. vi, p. 328.

And when examining the same phrase (en meso tou thronou) in Rev. 5:6, Robertson writes:
“It is not quite clear where the Lamb was standing in the vision, whether close to the throne or in the space between the throne and the elders (perhaps implied by ‘came’ in verse 7, but nearness to the throne is implied by 14:1 and Acts 7:56; Heb. 10:11).” - p. 334.
Accordingly, many modern trinitarian translations of Rev. 5:6 use “between” here (rather than “in the center of”): “between the throne and the four living creatures” - (1) NASB; (2) The Jerusalem Bible; (3) RSV; (4) NAB (1970 ed.); (5) NRSV; (6) The Amplified Bible (1965); (7) MLB (1969); (8) Beck’s The Holy Bible in the Language of Today (1976); (9) C. B. Williams’ New Testament in the Language of the People (1963); (10) REB; (11) Living Bible; (12) CEB; (13) ESV; (14) GW [“near the throne”]; (15) HCSB; (16) Mounce; (17) NLV [“in front of”]; (18) NLT; (19) WE [“in front of”]; (20) Noyes Translation; (21) Ferrar Fenton’s Translation; etc.

But no matter how you wish to translate en meso tou thronou, it is obvious that the Lamb's being there does not make him God. Simply look at Rev. 4:6 and the complete Rev. 5:6. We see in Rev. 4:6 that the four living creatures are en meso tou thronou just as the lamb is in 5:6! If that means the Lamb is God, then it also means the four living creatures are God!

A further examination of Rev. 4:6 reveals this additional information concerning "en meso tou thronou" and the throne of God. These 4 living creatures ("beasts" - KJV) are "in the midst of the throne and around the throne." This could mean that they are positioned around the throne so that each one is standing in the center of each side. For that reason, the translators of TEV and GNB translated it:

"surrounding the throne on each of its sides." CBW and Beck both translate: "in the middle of each side of the throne." (Cf. RSV, MLB, and LB.)

This understanding and these renderings by modern trinitarian Bibles correlate well with Ezekiel's vision of Jehovah's throne at Ezek. 1:15-22 where the 4 living creatures (Cherubs) are stationed at each corner of the throne (or chariot which supports the throne).

It could also mean the four living creatures are in the central position in heaven (or in the throne room) where the throne of God is located. For this reason, The Jerusalem Bible reads: "in the center, grouped around the throne itself."

The above gives us good evidence for determining what en meso tou thronou may mean for the position of the Lamb in Rev. 5:6.

Or merely examine all of the scripture in question. Rev. 5:6 reads literally in the Greek:

"And I saw in midst of the throne [en meso tou thronou] and of the four living [creatures] and in midst of [en meso] the older persons lamb having stood as having been slaughtered."

Again we see the four living creatures in the "midst" of the throne, and also the Lamb is in the "midst" of the 24 elders. The 24 elders, then, must also be in the "midst" of the throne with Jesus. So, this trinitarian "evidence" would mean the 24 elders are God too!

Let's examine the scriptural visions of God on his throne in a little more detail.

Ezekiel's inspired vision of God on his throne shows these details:

"From the midst of it [the vision of fire] came the likeness of four living creatures [Cherubs, angels]. And this was their appearance: they had the form of men, but each had four faces, and each of them had four wings." - Ezek. 1:5, 6, RSV.

Notice that Ezekiel tells us that these 4 Cherubs at the 4 corners of God's throne (Ezek. 1:26) look just like men except for 4 faces (and wings) which are further described in verses 10, 11. We know, therefore, exactly what they looked like. Any significant variation from a man's likeness has been carefully explained by Ezekiel.

Now look at the description of God himself as Ezekiel continues his vision. Ezekiel again tells us that "seated above the...throne was a likeness as it were of a human form." - Ezek. 1:26, RSV. And again Ezekiel describes all the significant differences from the appearance of a man (v. 27): brightness, gleaming like glowing bronze, fiery appearance from the waist down. Except for these significant differences the vision of God looks like a man! Not three persons; not a man with three heads; not a man with three faces, etc. but just like a man!

IF God were 3 persons, Ezekiel's vision surely would have given us some indication of that (such as his description in this very same vision of the 4 aspects of each of the 4 Cherubs shown figuratively by 4 distinctive faces for each person which he gave just before this description of God).

But, instead, we are shown the one person, like a man seated on God's throne whereas trinitarians should be insisting that three equal persons should be somehow represented there!

"This was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of Jehovah." - Ezekiel 1:28, ASV and The King James II Version, Fourth Ed.

We see the same thing in the throne visions of Rev. 4 and 5 and 19:4.

"lo, a throne stood in heaven, with one seated on the throne! And he who sat there [the Lamb later approaches this one - vv. 6, 7] appeared like jasper and carnelian and round the throne was a rainbow...." - Rev. 4:2, 3, RSV.

Obviously this is a single person who differs from the likeness of a man only in the brilliant, glowing colors of his person. (Notice that John doesn't hesitate to describe the figurative details of the 4 cherubs as they differ from human likenesses - as did Ezekiel above - in vv. 6, 7 and even describes a figurative 7-headed beast of his own in Rev. 13:1.) But John, who is, of course, very familiar with the figurative descriptions of Ezekiel (4-faced person) and Daniel (4-headed beast) uses nothing (figurative or literal) to represent God as anything more than a single person!

This single person on the throne is obviously the only true God, the creator (Rev. 4:10, 11 - see The New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology, Vol. 3, p. 588) and this does not include the person of Jesus Christ: "Salvation belongs to our God who sits upon the throne, and to the Lamb." - Rev. 7:10, RSV. ("All glory to him who alone is God, who saves us through Jesus Christ our Lord" - Jude 25, Living Bible. - cf. John 17:1, 3, NEB.)

This one person, with the likeness of a man, seated upon the throne is worshiped by those in heaven as Jehovah God!

"and the 24 elders and the 4 living creatures fell down and worshiped God who is seated on the throne, saying, `Amen, Hallelujah!'" - Rev. 19:4, RSV.

"Hallelujah," as is well known, means "Praise Jehovah." (Today's Dictionary of the Bible; Webster's New Collegiate Dictionary, etc.)

Notice Rev. 21:3, 5.

"And I heard a loud voice from the throne. [So this must be God, right? - - - Wrong!], saying, `Behold the tabernacle of God is among men and He shall dwell among them, and they shall be His peoples, and God Himself shall be among them.'"

Now notice in verse 5:

"And He who sits on the throne said, `Behold I am making all things new.'" - NASB.

We see that although the first voice was from the throne, it was still not from God. The second voice was from the one who sits on the throne (God).

Another vision of God in heaven is noteworthy. "Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, looked up to heaven and saw God's glory and Jesus standing at the right side of God." - Acts 7:55, TEV.

Please note: God is a single person here who is not Jesus Christ. If it had said, "Stephen ... saw God's glory. Yes, he saw Jesus standing at the right side of the Father," then we could accept one possible interpretation as Jesus and the Father both being God. (But why isn't the "person" of the Holy Spirit standing here also - or in any other vision of God in heaven?) But as it's worded by the inspired Bible writer, this is simply not a permissible interpretation.  Yes, we never see God represented in visions, dreams, etc. as more than one person (and this person is never Jesus or the Holy Spirit). Whenever personality can be determined, the person shown to be God in heaven is always the Father, Jehovah alone.

We never find the word "trinity" (nor anything remotely equivalent to it) used by the Bible writers. We don't even find the word "three" used to describe God in any sense! ("God is three;" "There is only one God in three persons;" "Jehovah is three;" etc.) This alone makes the "evidence" for a trinity totally incredible and completely unacceptable! - see the IMAGE study.

So we find, as usual, that the evidence for a Trinity is so ambiguous, so indirect, that the same type of "evidence" can be used to "prove" that many others are "God" - see the "TRIN-TYPE" study. This simply cannot be! Anything of such essential importance to man's salvation and God's true worship cannot be so inconclusive.

Can we imagine that other teachings of such essential importance to man's salvation could be so vague? Just look at the massive number of straight-forward statements that openly declare that Jesus is the Messiah! He is our Savior, and we had better believe it if we want to please God and receive life! We don't have to add up little bits and pieces, hints, strained interpretations, and vague references to patch together a life-saving doctrine. God clearly and repeatedly reveals the necessities for life. (See MINOR 14-15)

Note: Although Watchtower Society (WTS) research and scholarship is usually at least the equal of (and often superior to) that of other sources, I have tried to rely most heavily on other sources in Christendom itself (preferably trinitarian) or my own independent research and conclusions to provide evidence disproving the trinitarian `proof' being examined in this paper. The reason is, of course, that this paper is meant to provide evidence needed by non-Witnesses, and many of them will not accept anything written by the WTS. They truly believe it is false, even dishonest. Therefore some of the preceding information, all of which helps disprove specific trinitarian "proofs," may be in disagreement with current WTS teachings in some specifics (especially when I have presented a number of alternates). Jehovah's Witnesses should research the most recent WTS literature on the subject or scripture in question before using this information with others. - RDB.

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