In this post, we will examine Mr. Burch’s assertion that Jesus can be “the image of the invisible God” while being a finite, created being of Yahweh. Mr. Burch uses a lot of flowery language to get the reader to appreciate his henotheistic view of a God and His created Son. We will see, rather, how beautiful it is to know that God of very God did, in fact, invade His own Creation and satisfy His own demands for justice by which He pours out His mercy. We will see that the Image of the Invisible God cannot be a creature of the One True God.
An image of an invisible God
Mr. Burch is quick to agree with the trinitarian assessment that Moses saw the Son when it is said that he saw Yahweh; however, this begs an important question when the Son does not share the Being of Yahweh. If Jesus can unequivocally bear the name of Yahweh as being His “image,” and any reference to Jesus as Yahweh is representational, what would be needed to prove satisfactorily to Mr. Burch that Jesus Christ is Yahweh? What is necessary in the use of language to communicate such a concept more than the verses we saw in previous posts in this series? Jesus was the Yahweh that Isaiah saw seated on the throne. Jesus claimed to be Yahweh by citing Isaiah 43:10 to put Himself to Yahweh’s test. In the face of these verses (and more can be cited), Mr. Burch can simply dismiss the challenges with his unitarian presuppositions. Jesus can be referenced directly as Yahweh Himself and bear the divine name of the Tetragrammaton, yet He is a separate, created being. Must we resort to the level of Muslim apologists who declare “Jesus never said ‘I am God, worship Me'”? Although, we have proved that Jesus did identify Himself as God, and He did accept religious worship!
In 1 Timothy 6:14-16, we have some curious verses in which the context seems to be in reference to Jesus Christ, yet out of the blue there seems to be an out-of-place reference that should obviously apply only to the Father.
“That thou keep this commandment without spot, unrebukeable, until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ:
Which in his times he shall shew, who is the blessed and only Potentate, the King of kings, and Lord of lords;
Who only hath immortality, dwelling in the light which no man can approach unto; whom no man hath seen, nor can see: to whom be honour and power everlasting. Amen.”
–1 Timothy 6:14-16
Remember that Yahweh clearly said that no one has seen Him or can see Him, and Mr. Burch agrees. Remember also that Jesus Christ is naturally the only One of Whom it is said He will be “appearing” with His second coming. We see, then, that when Jesus comes He will “show who is the blessed and only Potentate, the King of kings, and Lord of Lords.” At first glance, one would understand this verse to be saying that Jesus will show people who the Father is at His coming. This seems to be obvious because of what we see in the next verse. Verses 15 and 16 grammatically go together. All these parts refer to the same Someone:
- the blessed and only Potentate
- the King of kings
- the Lord of lords
- Who only hath immortality
- dwelling in the light which no man can approach unto
- whom no man hath see, nor can see
This must be God the Father, and not the Son, because we know that no one can see the Father, but they can see the Son Who makes the Father known, right? Well, these attributes are certainly true of the Father. Let’s look at the title of the One Whom Jesus Christ will show at His appearing: the King of kings, and Lord of lords. We see this language obvious of Yahweh:
“For the LORD (Yahweh) your God is God of gods, and Lord of lords, a great God, a mighty, and a terrible, which regardeth not persons, nor taketh reward:”
“O give thanks unto the LORD (Yahweh); for he is good: for his mercy endureth for ever.
O give thanks unto the God of gods: for his mercy endureth for ever.
O give thanks to the Lord of lords: for his mercy endureth for ever.”
“The king answered unto Daniel, and said, Of a truth it is, that your God is a God of gods, and a Lord of kings, and a revealer of secrets, seeing thou couldest reveal this secret.”
Yet, we also see that Jesus Christ bears the exact title of “King of Kings and Lord of Lords”!
“These shall make war with the Lamb, and the Lamb shall overcome them: for he is Lord of lords, and King of kings: and they that are with him are called, and chosen, and faithful.”
“And he [Jesus] hath on his vesture and on his thigh a name written, KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS.”
Who is Jesus going to show at His appearing? The Father? Himself? Maybe it is both. Maybe He will reveal to everyone Who is the Triune God!
If Jesus is the “King of Kings and Lord of Lords” in 1 Timothy 6:15, the attributes listed in verse 16 should apply to Jesus. Like the Father, He alone has immortality, dwells in light that no one can approach, and whom no one has ever seen or can see. Wait! That doesn’t sound right, in light of what we know about Jesus!
Well, these things cannot be true of the Person of the Son as He is revealed to us in Scripture. In reference to Yahweh, it is the Father Whom no one can see, but in reference to Yahweh, it is the Son Who is seen and Who exegetes the Father. Now, also remember that we have frequent references in the book of Revelation to “the one who sits on the throne” (the Father) and “the Lamb” (the Son). Notice also in this vision that John sees both “the one who sits on the throne” and “the Lamb” (Rev. 4:2-3; 5:6-7). But, doesn’t the same John say that no one has seen “God” at any time in John 1:18? Yes! Remember that Revelation is a book full of visions and symbols. John did not really see the Father, but he saw in a vision a representation of the Father and he saw the Son represented by a “Lamb.”
Remember also that John later refers to “the throne of God and of the Lamb” (Rev. 22:3). This shows the reigning unity between the Father and the Son over all creation. Notice also some interesting things from this passage:
“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:
And they shall see his face; and his name shall be in their foreheads.
And there shall be no night there; and they need no candle, neither light of the sun; for the Lord God giveth them light: and they shall reign for ever and ever.”
With this combined throne, “his servants shall serve him.” Who is this? Is it both? Is it just the Lamb? Possibly. But if it is just the Lamb, do the Lamb’s servants only serve the Lamb, when the throne is shared by both “God” and “the Lamb”?
Then, we see that these servants “shall see his face.” Well, of course we know that we can only see the Son. Still, why do we have God and the Lamb mentioned, but only these singular pronouns?
Next, we see that “his name shall be in their foreheads.” Who’s name is this? In Revelation 3:12, Jesus Himself said that He would write upon the faithful “the name of my God.” In Revelation 14:1, we see that the Lamb and 144,000 followers have “his Father’s name written in their foreheads.” Who’s name is written on foreheads in Revelation 22:4, given the antecedent of the compound genitive “of God and of the Lamb”? Well, when we have the doctrine of the Trinity, why should it matter? I would think that with a henotheistic unitarian doctrine, it should matter.
We then see in verse 5, that “the Lord God giveth them light.” Can we compare this to 1 Timothy 6:16, in which this “King of Kings, and Lord of Lords” dwells in “light which no man can approach”? That would not make much sense, unless that light that can be seen is the light from the Son, but the light that cannot be approached is the light of the Person of the Father. We can see a similar concept of light in reference to both “God” and “the Lamb” in such a way as the light is visible to people:
“And I saw no temple therein: for the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are the temple of it.
And the city had no need of the sun, neither of the moon, to shine in it: for the glory of God did lighten it, and the Lamb is the light thereof.”
Notice that “the Lord God Almighty” and “the Lamb” are the combined temple of the New Jerusalem, showing their inseparable unity. Yet, we also see that both “the glory of God” and “the Lamb” provide the light instead of the sun or the moon. Obviously, just as a human being can see the sun and moon because of the light coming from them, so they see the light from “God” and from “the Lamb.” Now, this is still not to say that John or these saints in the vision see the Father Himself. However, the union between the Father and the Son is so emphasized that there can be no logical separation of the two into the Creator/Creation divide. The point is that they are seeing light from the very Being of God as these texts make clear. Jesus Christ–the Lamb–is not just a created agent of the Father Who explains Him in an imperfect sense.
- He is the One Who appears, and makes the light visible; yet, He is the One surrounded by light that no one can approach.
- He is the One Who died, yet He alone has immortality.
- He is the One Who is “the image of the invisible God,” yet no man has seen Him.
- Both He and the Father are “the King of Kings, and Lord of Lords.”
- The Father is the One Who sits on the throne, and He is the Lamb; yet, the throne is both of theirs, and “his” servants shall serve “him.”
The God Who is coming
As if the worship of the Father and the Son together in the exact same way is not enough to emphasize that Jesus Christ must necessarily be Yahweh, John the Revelator wraps up the book with statements about Jesus that cannot be said of anyone but Yahweh. There is more than meets the eye concerning this One Who is coming again than that He is “the Son of God.”
“And he said unto me, These sayings are faithful and true: and the Lord God of the holy prophets sent his angel to shew unto his servants the things which must shortly be done.
Behold, I come quickly: blessed is he that keepeth the sayings of the prophecy of this book.”
“I Jesus have sent mine angel to testify unto you these things in the churches. I am the root and the offspring of David, and the bright and morning star.”
Here, Jesus Christ is clearly and unambiguously called “the Lord God (kurios ho theos) of the holy prophets.” How can any creature of Yahweh be called the kurios ho theos, and not be the One True God? Naturally, the God of the “holy prophets” (see Heb. 1:1-2; 2 Pet. 1:21) is Yahweh Himself. If absolutely everything that is said about Yahweh in the Old Testament is Jesus Christ only as a created agent of Yahweh, then we know absolutely nothing about Yahweh at all!
“And there shall be no night there; and they need no candle, neither light of the sun; for the Lord God giveth them light: and they shall reign for ever and ever.
And he said unto me, These sayings are faithful and true: and the Lord God of the holy prophets sent his angel to shew unto his servants the things which must shortly be done.
Behold, I come quickly: blessed is he that keepeth the sayings of the prophecy of this book.”
“And, behold, I come quickly; and my reward is with me, to give every man according as his work shall be.”
“He which testifieth these things saith, Surely I come quickly. Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus.”
Notice the progression in the text:
- “The Lord God” (kurios ho theos) gives them light.
- “The Lord God” (kurios ho theos) of the holy prophets sent His angel.
- He says, “Behold, I come quickly.”
- He says again, “Behold, I come quickly.”
- He says again, “Surely I come quickly.”
- John repeats and reemphasizes by declaring himself: “Even so, come, Lord Jesus” (kurie Iesou).
The truth is unmistakable! Jesus Christ is not simply a created agent of Yahweh. In fact, Jesus (aka “the Lord God”) sent “his angel” to testify to John as His agent; yet, this agent refused John’s worship and told him to “worship God.” Revelation chapter 22 seamlessly blurs any alleged distinction between Jesus Christ and “the Lord God”–clearly a reference to Yahweh. If we have to keep them ontologically distinct, language becomes meaningless! It is the henotheistic unitarian that must dance around these powerful words of Scripture in a futile effort to separate the Person of the Son from the Being of Yahweh. It cannot be done!
The exact representation of God’s being
Mr. Burch hopes to lull the unsuspecting reader into henotheistic unitarian dream land by maintaining that Hebrews 1:2-3 teaches that the Father and the Son are distinct beings, while at the same time Jesus Christ is “the express Image of His [God’s] very substance.”. He maintains that “[w]hen we see Jesus, we truly see God.” Mr. Burch puts a lot at stake in his henotheistic idea that a necessarily finite, non-eternal, created being “represents Him [the Father] perfectly in all ways and in every way” and that he will “fully represent the Father throughout time.”
Mr. Burch then has the audacity to proclaim that the understanding of Jesus as “the second ‘person’ of the trinity…is the beginning of image building and idol worship.” What he is essentially saying is that idolatry is man’s worshiping one created being in the place of God other than the one created being that God has authorized to be worshiped in the place of God. So, absolute monotheism that recognizes that only the One True God can be worshiped as Divine–just as He said–is “image building and idol worship”? If it walks and quacks like a duck, we have reason to believe that it is, in fact, a duck. If Yahweh says that there is only one God worthy of worship, and if Jesus Christ is referenced directly as Yahweh and is worshiped exactly the same as the Father and with the Father, it stands to reason that Jesus Christ does indeed share the Being of Yahweh with the Father! To allow the Son (as a created being) to be honored even as the Father (as the eternal Creator) is honored in the face of Yahweh’s clear declarations about Himself seems more befitting the accusation of “image building and idol worship.”
Let’s return to the defining factors about the Son expressed in Hebrews 1:3.
“Who being the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person, and upholding all things by the word of his power, when he had by himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high;”
First, the Son is “the brightness of his [God’s] glory” or the apaugasma tes doxes. The word apaugasma is a hapax legomenon, which is a Greek word that occurs only once in the New Testament. Such shows the uniqueness of how the Son is being described. The word doxes as you may recognize is the genitive form of doxa, which we saw in Isaiah 6:1 and John 12:41. Isaiah said he saw Yahweh and His glory, but John said that Isaiah saw Jesus and His glory. This is true because Jesus is Yahweh! If Jesus is an ontologically distinct representative of Yahweh, then I could say that I “got to see the President of the United States” by merely looking at a picture of him in the newspaper or by seeing an intern sent by the White House. Sure, an agent can bear the authority and message of another, but how far can we take language before it becomes so ambiguous as to lose its meaning?
Second, the Son is “the express image of his person” or the karakter tes hupostaseōs. Once again, the word karakter is a hapax legomenon and carries the idea of an “exact copy” or “exact representation” of something else, such as an impression made from a signet ring. Hupostaseōs (genitive of hupostasis) is the “substance” or “essence” of something. The question one must ask is “How can a finite, created being be the ‘exact copy’ or ‘exact representation’ of the very substance, essence, or nature of an infinite, eternal God?” These strong, unique terms show us how the Son as God relates God to us. Yes, Mr. Burch, when we see the Son, we truly see God–not a finite, created being who somehow shows us what God is kinda, sorta like, and call that creature “the Lord of me and the God of me” and “the King of kings, and Lord of lords”!
- Les Burch, It Isn’t The Way We Think It Is: Seven Common Beliefs That Aren’t in the Bible (Mustang, Okla.: Tate Publishing & Enterprises, LLC, 2013), 98.
- Ibid., 101.
- Ibid., 99.
- Ibid., 100.