Ichthys Acronym Image

Home             Site Links

Christology Questions VI:

Christophany, Deity and the Spiritual Death of Christ

Word RTF

Question #1: 

Hi Bob,

St. Stephen said that when Moses was in the desert, he saw an angel in the Burning Bush ("After forty years had passed, an angel appeared to Moses in the flames of a burning bush in the desert near Mount Sinai."). Didn't he see God?


Response #1: 

The issue is what the word "angel" means. Literally in Greek and Hebrew both it means "messenger" (and is used in both languages for human messengers). In the biblical context, most "messengers" are angelic beings, so we tend to read the words mal'ak and angelos exclusively as "angels" (meaning unseen beings not human messengers). Occasionally in the NT the word means not the messenger himself but "an instance of an apparition of a divine messenger", usually meaning the Angel of the Lord – or as we would say a "Theophany/Christophany" (cf. Gal.3:19; see the link).

That is what Stephen means in Acts 7:35 by "the Angel who appeared to him in the bush" (compare Acts 7:30 where He is called the Angel of the Lord, meaning a pre-incarnate appearance of Christ or "Christophany"). So Stephen's language is technically correct, but couched in a way so as not to interfere with audience reception. If he had said "Jesus appeared to Moses", that would have marked the end of audience tolerance, and they would have stoned him before he had a chance to finish his lesson.

In our dear Lord Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #2: 

You wrote: All the above examples of Christ's role of representing the Father in God's plan of salvation support the position that all Old Testament Theophany is truly Christophany, the Son appearing, representing, and speaking for the Father before His incarnation.

Could you clarify on what basis we are able to say that Christ representing the Father in God's plan of salvation support the position that Old Testament Theophany is Christophany? I understand both points, but I'm not sure about the exact link between them - it could seem that the fact that our Lord represents the Father, as taught in the New Testament passages you provide:

a) the Son's ascension into heaven (Ps.110:1 with Matt.22:44);

b) the Son's ascension to the throne on earth (Ps.45:6-7 with Heb.1:8-9);

c) the Son's primacy from creation to eternity (Ps.97:7b with Heb.1:6).

May this not necessarily imply that every Theophany is a Christophany? Hopefully I'm making my question clear here - I understand and agree with both points you make, but it's the direct relationship that I would like to be able to comprehend. Please correct me if I'm wrong, at the moment the logic may be that if it is Christ who is shown in the New Testament to represent the Father (as evident through Matthew 22:44, Hebrews 1:8-9 and Hebrews 1:6), then it is also Christ who appears on Father's behalf in the Old Testament.

Response #2: 

Yes, that (i.e., NT extrapolated to OT) is exactly the point I'm trying to get across, if inartfully so. Jesus is the One who is the Mediator between the Father and humanity; as such, it was appropriate for Him to be the One who represented the Father throughout the Old Testament before the incarnation, but now we behold Him as a true human being as well as God.

(14) Therefore since these children (i.e., believers) have a common heritage of flesh and blood, [Christ] too partook of these same [common elements] in a very similar fashion (i.e., not identical only in that He was virgin born and so without sin), in order that through His death He might put an end to the one possessing the power of death, that is, the devil, (15) and might reconcile those who were subject to being slaves their whole lives long by their fear of death.
Hebrews 2:14-15

Question #3: 

You wrote: The Angel first appears to Moses in the burning bush (Ex.3:2ff.). It is the Angel of the Lord who appeared to Moses in the fiery flames (v.2), but shortly thereafter the Angel represents Himself as God the Father, saying "I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob (v.6), and "I shall be who I am" (v.14), and is further identified as "the Lord" (in v.7).

Why should we take the Angel representing Himself as God the Father here? I would have thought that it is simply our Lord speaking on His own behalf as God, so that we've got a clear testimony of His own deity and a separation between these two Persons of the Godhead.

Response #3: 

Jesus is God and He is also the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob – as is the Father whom the Son serves in the plan of God. However, in scripture wherever "God" is used by itself it is almost always referring to the Father. The Spirit is God and the Son is God, but when the Bible uses the word "God" without qualifying it, it should usually be taken to be the Father who is meant (or occasionally the entire Trinity as in Genesis chapter one). So what we have here is Christ appearing in Christophany as "The Angel of the Lord", representing Himself variously as such but also as the Father, that is, speaking the Father's words for the Father as the Father's representative to mankind through whom He saved all who were willing to be saved.

Question #4: 

You wrote: At Exodus 23:20-23 as part of the giving of the Law to Moses on Sinai, the Angel of the Lord (identified as such as we saw above from New Testament passages such as Gal.3:19-20; Heb.2:2; Acts 7:38 & 53) proclaims that He is going to "send" the Angel before the Israelites to lead and guard them (as Christ is sent by the Father). Moses is also told that they are to obey the Angel "because My Name is in Him" (v.21), a similar description to that of the returning Son of Man in Revelation 19:11-16.

I'm not clear about this part - how can the Angel of the Lord send another Angel before the Israelites? Is it our Lord sending another Angel, or is it the Father speaking of sending Jesus Christ?

Response #4: 

As in all such situations, the Son is acting as and speaking for the Father, so He speaks of Himself as the Father has directed: as the Father would send the Son, so here the Father sends "the Angel", all this in our passage being described by the Angel who is Christ, appearing in Christophany (see the link).

Question #5: 

As I am now reading Exodus in Hebrew, I thought that maybe Exodus 23:21 could be taken as a reference to our Lord's divinity. The Angel of the Lord is in this verse described as having the power the forgive transgression:

Exodus 23:21 (NASB)
21 Be on your guard before him and obey his voice; do not be rebellious toward him, for he will not pardon your transgression, since My name is in him.

Next verse is also interesting:

Exodus 23:22 (NASB)
22 But if you truly obey his voice and do all that I say, then I will be an enemy to your enemies and an adversary to your adversaries.

When God says "But if you truly obey his voice and do all that I say" I'm wondering whether by "all that I say" He means these words whereby He exhorts Moses to listen to His Angel, or whether He means the words that the Angel Himself will speak - "But if you truly obey His voice and do all that I say through Him - as He is God with me and what He says, I say".

Similar situation seems to occur in the next verse, where the role of the Angel and God Himself seem to be conflated:

Exodus 23:23 (NASB)
23 For My angel will go before you and bring you in to the land of the Amorites, the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Canaanites, the Hivites and the Jebusites; and I will completely destroy them.

Response #5: 

Yes indeed. Since the Lord Jesus Christ is the revealed Person of the Trinity and the Father's specific representative sent to save the human race, in these situations He often speaks for the Father ("He") and also for Himself ("I"), and is also described in this way as at the burning bush:

There the angel of the LORD appeared to him in flames of fire from within a bush. Moses saw that though the bush was on fire it did not burn up. So Moses thought, "I will go over and see this strange sight-why the bush does not burn up." When the LORD saw that he had gone over to look, God called to him from within the bush, "Moses! Moses!" And Moses said, "Here I am."
Exodus 3:2-4 NIV

Question #6: 

Ok, understood. Just to make sure - I have interpreted that it's the Father speaking in Exodus 23:21 of His Angel - our Lord. Is that correct?

Response #6: 

The Father never appears for reasons of sanctity; so all theophanies in the Bible are for that reason actually Christophanies (unless the venue is not on earth as in Revelation chapter five or Daniel chapter seven). We see this even in cases like this one you ask about through John's interpretation for us of Isaiah chapter six where he says "These things Isaiah said when he saw His [i.e., Christ's] glory and spoke of Him" (Jn.12:41).

Question #7: 

So does it mean that it's our Lord speaking in Exodus 23:20ff.? I assumed it was the Father and considered it possible since He doesn't actually appear in His full glory. But if it is our Lord, then why does He speak of the Angel in third person ("I'm going to send an angel" in verse 20) if it was going to be Himself?

Response #7: 

Yes, because in all such instances Christ is appearing for and acting in the Father's stead (cf. Mal.4:1ff., e.g.).

Question #8:  

Someone on the internet stated:

"Jesus had shed His blood on the cross. It quite literally had drained out of His body. We see that when Jesus rose from the dead, He still had the holes in His hands and feet (Luke 24:39). Since He retained the characteristics of His bodily ordeal, it is logical to state that His blood, which was literally drained from His body, was likewise still shed."

Jesus didn't have all of the blood drain out of His body when He died, because His sacrifice was a spiritual one. So that argument is invalid.

Will we have blood in our resurrection bodies?


Response #8: 

I agree. We know that our Lord's blood was largely still in His body when He died because "blood and water" came out of His side when the soldier pierced it with a lance after He had given up His spirit following the three hours of darkness wherein He bore our sins (Jn.19:34). Since His body was taken down very soon thereafter, it is unlikely that all His blood drained out in the interim (with no blood pressure). In any case, His spirit was not in His body at that point, so in every way it is clear that you are correct: "the blood of Christ" is a sanctified metaphor for the price He paid in bearing our sins in the darkness of Calvary (the analogy being with a lamb literally slaughtered: Jesus is not literally a lamb, and the blood is not literally blood, but it paints a very vivid picture for us; see the link).

As to the resurrection, it seems logical to me that we won't need blood in our perfect and eternal new bodies, but that is only speculation. It's clear from the example of our resurrected Lord that the new ones will be like the old ones only better in ways we can't imagine (Jesus walked through walls, e.g.). There is much about eternity that we don't know. As I often say, that is no doubt a good thing because if we realized just how wonderful it is going to be it might be hard to motivate ourselves to think about anything else.

Yours in the One who died in our place that we might have eternal life with Him, Jesus Christ our Lord.

Bob L.

Question #9: 

Hi Bob,

Here's something remarkable I noticed. In Luke 18:1, Jesus begins telling the parable of the unjust judge, but while the parable is still being told, Luke very subtly adds in "and the Lord said, 'Listen to what the unjust judge...' " (Luke 18:6). Here, by using the word "Lord" as a referent for Jesus, the author Luke subtly points to the deity of Christ, suggesting that Luke held to just as high of a Christology as John. This is in opposition to the theory that the synoptics were trying to preach some first-century liberal and that the deity of Christ was invented wholesale by John.


Response #9: 

Yes indeed. I think if you do some word searches along these lines in the synoptics, you will find that this is not the only place where it is taken for granted that Jesus is "the LORD" (see the link: Where does the Bible teach that Jesus is God?).

Yours in our dear Lord Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #10: 

Hi Bob,

Sometimes I can't help but wonder if Arianism emerged because people living 300 years after first century Judaea didn't understand what Jesus meant when He claimed to be the Son of God, and why the Jews sought to stone Him for it.

In Judaea of Roman antiquity, there was no distinction between physical sonship and power of attorney, because the physical male progenitor was given all the rights of the father, and anything the son would do would be as legally binding as if the father did it. Jesus was saying that He had all the authority and power of God the Father.

However, most interestingly, is that the first person to recognize this in the gospels was not Peter, or Thomas, but rather the Roman centurion who had a sick servant. His claim that, by analogy to his ability to push around soldiers, Jesus had the same ability with respect to everything in the world. This is what caused Jesus to remark that He has never seen anyone of such great faith in all of Israel.

In Jesus Christ (who really is God and not some lesser demigod),

Response #10: 

More good observations! The evil one is behind all such assaults on the truth. During the first century when the New Testament was being assembled, there was more skepticism about the humanity of Christ than the deity of Christ; Arianism is the opposite of course. The devil has attacked the truth of the Son (and the Trinity) in pretty much every way that might gain a hearing. Seems to me that this fact alone ought make skeptics realize that there is some powerful "there" there to attract such vehement assaults from such disparate directions.

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #11: 

Ars longa, vita brevis.

I feel that mathematics, philosophy, and art are all subjects which are too long for humans to study. The Old and New Testament are just short enough to make life fulfilling.

Also, I am having a lot of difficulty understanding the hypostatic union. I do not deny the hypostatic union, as I accept that Jesus is one person with a separate human nature and separate divine nature, but I subconsciously revert back to Apollonianism (that the Logos just put on a human body, like a hand puts on a glove).


Response #11: 

The meaning of the Latin quote is that while our lives our short, our art may endure: so we become immortal through our art – which is hogwash as every Christian knows.

On the hypostatic union, perhaps it would help to consider that while God is eternal, not subject to time and space, He only made one world and Jesus only came into this one world to fulfill the one perfect plan, dying for the actual sins of the perfect number of human beings in the perfect plan, the exact number of whom would receive Him and become His Bride exactly as planned. The taking on of humanity by God is something wonderfully unique and not to be underestimated. However, any other interpretation of necessity sees God as a mere super-being who makes adjustments as He goes, and who is not fully committed to this creation; in fact, by decreeing history, God committed Himself to the death of Christ – a sacrifice we cannot even begin to appreciate as we should this side of heaven.

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #12: 


I enjoy your website very much, I use it for reference often. I admire you patience with some of the hard to learn. If a person (a friend of mine) believes that Jesus is just a man, even though he lived a perfect life, as a man, could He die and pay the penalty for mankind? Any scripture on this would be very helpful.

Thank you,

Response #12: 

Good to hear from you as always.

There are many theological reasons why our Lord has to be both God and man, but the main point here is that the Bible actually teaches this, and from my point of view that is always the place to start (because if the person we are speaking with refuses to accept the authority of scripture then there are other problems and issues that need to be addressed first). So for the purposes of this email may I suggest the links: "Where does the Bible teach that Jesus is God?", and "Jesus is God".

As to the specific question you ask here, it is absolutely correct that no mere human being could possibly die for the sins of the world. There are a number of reasons for this, but one which is straightforwardly in the Bible and clearly delineated in scripture is the fact that only a perfect Substitute is acceptable to the Father – and Jesus was perfect and so acceptable as the Sacrifice for sins – but no (other) human being in the history of the world has come close to being sinlessly perfect so as to even be under consideration as the Redeemer. So a couple of scriptures to quote about our Lord's sinless perfection would be . . .

For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your ancestors, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect.
1st Peter 1:18-19

For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin.
Hebrews 4:15 NASB

. . . as opposed to the rest of us . . .

All sin and fall short of God's glory.
Romans 3:23

For we all stumble in many ways.
James 3:2

If a person is honest with him/herself, it will be realized immediately that even going a day without sin is impossible, so deep and wide is the ocean of iniquity in which we human beings with sin natures swim. Living an entire life under the pressure and opposition our Lord did and doing all He did in His earthly ministry, and enduring all He endured in getting to the cross without sin . . . suffice it to say that unless He was God too (which He is), sinlessness would be an imponderable. And being sinless in the first place is also something that only could be true of the most unique human being in the history of the world, the God-man Jesus Christ. If a person still wants to quibble about this being "just" exceptional goodness, there is also this:

A ruler questioned Him, saying, "Good Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?" And Jesus said to him, Why do you call Me good? No one is good except God alone."
Luke 18:18-19 NASB

Jesus is absolutely "good" in every way as the first two passages quoted above demonstrate; but that proves that He is God as well as a human being according to His own words here.

Also we know that Christ bore our sins in His human body on the cross (1Pet.2:24); it is hard to see how any human being, even a perfect one, could possibly accomplish this, given that for even the most righteous of us our sins outnumber the hairs of our head and the sands of the seashore – for He did it for every human being who has ever lived or will! Only by being God as well as a genuine human being could Christ endure spiritual death for all sin; only by being man as well as God could Christ present a perfect body for the judgment of all sins therein.

For if the blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of the heifer sprinkled upon the unclean render a person holy in respect to bodily cleansing, how much more will the blood of Christ, who offered Himself (i.e., His body; cf. 1Pet.3:18) without defect to God through the eternal Spirit, cleanse our conscience from dead works so that we may serve the living God?
Hebrews 9:14

Best wishes in your evangelizing efforts! I'll say a prayer for your success.

For this reason He had to be like His brothers in every way, in order to become a merciful and faithful High Priest in the things relating to God in order to propitiate the sins of the people (i.e., through the sacrifice of Himself).
Hebrews 2:17

To Jesus Christ our Lord be the glory in all things.

Bob L.

Question #13: 

Hello Bob, how are you? This time I'm mailing you to ask for your help. This afternoon, while thinking on God's Word suddenly a thought crossed my mind and I would like to ask for your opinion.

While thinking about Jesus Christ wonderful resurrection I thought: It was impossible for Him not to resurrect from the dead, Paul says that payment for sin is death (both physical and spiritual, being the spiritual death the most important issue for mankind), since there was no sin found in Him, that's why death "could not hold him". He conquered the grave and death because there was no sin in Him. I know that He died for our sins, but afterwards, how could death hold him? The most perfect being that ever walked on this planet, died with no sin in Him, paying our debt with the father. But at the same time, since there was no sin found in Him, remaining dead was impossible (beside that He is God, the most important thing!)

Is my reasoning right?

Thank you for your patience, I'm sorry the bother you.

Wishing you the best in our wonderful, merciful, everliving and everlasting Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Response #13: 

As to your observations about our Lord's resurrection, certainly, nothing is impossible for God, and nothing prevented our Lord's resurrection. Further, His resurrection was necessary for us, as Paul says in Romans:

He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification.
Romans 4:25 NIV

The resurrection of Christ is, moreover, the sign of His Messiahship:

[Jesus who was] declared to be the Son of God with power according to the Spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead.
Romans 1:4 NKJV

Please feel free to write any time.

Your friend in Jesus Christ our Lord,

Bob L.

Question #14: 

Dear Bob,

How to explain Rev 3:14 does not mean that Jesus was not God’s creation?


Response #14: 

Good to hear from you, my friend, as always.

First, your translation may be amiss. The Greek word arche has a variety of meanings, determined by context. In this context is means "origin". Here is how I render the verse:

And to the angel of the church in Laodicea write: "This is what the Amen says, the reliable and truthful Witness, the origin of God’s creation."
Revelation 3:14

So this verse actually speaks of our Lord Jesus Christ as the Creator (according to the Word and plan of the Father in the power of the Spirit): Jesus created the universe as God (Jn.1:3; Col.1:16-18; Heb.1:2-3); in company with the Father, He will rule it for all eternity as the God-man.

Hope this helps; please feel free to write me back about any of this.

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #15: 

Hi Dr. Bob,

I hope and pray that your deliverance is coming or has come. You are still in my prayers.

Quick question. In studying your Christology series I am still stumped about the Spirit's role in effecting judgment.

Are you saying that God couldn't judge Christ in his divinity because He was sinless but prior to the judgment at the cross, Christ had to offer to relinquish His divinity to the Spirit. By doing that, he was actually human with no divinity nature at the time of judgment but in order for the judgment of the Father to be possible Christ had to last the full length of the judgment and he could not do that without the Spirit help.

If that is the case, how can the Spirit sustain Christ during the judgment without contacting sin?

I know there are many things we will never get and Christ actual spiritual suffering on the cross is at the top of the list with the Triune nature of God.

In our Lord Jesus Christ who we owe eternal gratitude

Response #15: 

It's good to hear from you my friend. We had some wonderful news today! Thanks for your prayers – we're still waiting for the details but it does seem as if the answer to prayer has come at long last! I hope and pray daily that you will receive assurance of your deliverance very soon too.

As to your question, deity cannot be relinquished, nor can it be judged. Only a human body could endure the judgment appropriate to the sins we as human beings commit. But no mere mortal human being could endure the fiery judgment for a single sin, not to mention the sins of the entire world! And in point of fact none of us is worthy to stand judgment in any case – only a spotless lamb will do. So only Jesus Christ could be the Substitute, and only by taking on a human body and living a sinless life. Only that way would we have a Substitute who was qualified and able to bear the sins of the world "in His body on the tree" (1Pet.2:24). The ministry of the Spirit made it possible for our Lord to remain physically alive and bear the sins of the world so that we might be saved through that blessed sacrifice of sacrifices (Heb.9:14), the smallest part of the suffering of which we cannot really even imagine. So you see for us to be saved we needed a Savior who was both God and man – and a perfect man at that. I hope this goes some way towards answering your question. Please do feel free to write back about this.

And thanks again for your prayer support, my friend!

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #16: 

I am excited and elated about your victory. God is always "on time" and faithful.

As to my query, you have not quite answered it and I apologize if I was unclear. I am familiar with Christ's deity and the need for The God-Man. My question revolves around the Holy Spirit role in Christ's death. You stated " the ministry of the Spirit allowed Christ to remain physically alive during the 3 hour judgment."

How is that possible when the Spirit is deity and can not be near any sin? Christ was bearing the sin of the world at the time of judgment. I am just trying to understand that part.

Thank you Dr.

Response #16: 

Thank you!

What you say is quite true. Hebrews 9:14b is the only specific statement we have in scripture, so it is necessary to hypothesize about what it doesn't say. We can say as this verse says that the sacrifice of Christ would have been impossible without the Spirit's ministry. That much is clear. What you say is also true about divinity necessarily being separate from sin. But we have to qualify that because, after all, deity is omnipresent. If we take that seeming complication too far it will consequently seem that God cannot have created the world because there is now sin in the world and God is in the world, obviously, at the same time. So it seems that there are ways that the Lord can keep Himself effectively separate from sin and sinfulness without at the same time needing to destroy the world immediately because of sin.

The Spirit is the One who is generally concerned with sanctification / separation from sin (see BB 5 link for the details; cf. 2Thes.2:6-7). So it stands to reason that the potential complications involved in the Son bearing sin – even though He is divine as well as human – and in the Father judging that sin in His human body – even though Jesus is His Son and the sin is being born in His body – are resolved by the Spirit's intervention and sanctification, acting as the One who insulates the deity of the Son and the Father in this bearing and judging of sin so that there is in fact no compromise. If this is difficult to understand (and of course it is), the difficultly has to do with the fact that as human beings our ability to understand the essence of deity is limited to what is revealed in scripture. By our very nature, the conceptualization of anything that is not bounded by time and space is really impossible (just to take that part of divinity as an example). What we do know is that the cross is the most important thing in the history of the universe – and that said history would be impossible in first place without it. The cross is what makes the creation of a world where there are moral creatures who decide – the image of God – possible (in that it resolves the sin that is inevitable as a result while yet saving those who wish to be saved).

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #17: 

Hello again Dr. Luginbill,

I have been studying the work of Christ in an effort to better grasp what it is that Jesus did for us, because while I have always understood it was the greatest act known to creation, I really didn't know much beyond the Sunday school facts. I had other bits and pieces that added some understanding but it was never as coherent a picture as I would have liked, and I was convinced that if I truly understood what scripture said on Jesus' efforts, I would be even more grateful and completely overwhelmed by what He has done. That is why I am thankful for the Christology section of your site, which has helped shed light on the whole picture, as best as we can understand it on this side of eternity. In that section you emphasize the importance of understanding the sacrifice of Jesus is in his spiritual death on our behalf, not so much the physical death. This seems to be vastly overlooked in most Christian studies. Of course it does not reduce the immense physical suffering he endured. This has led me to a slight point of confusion I am hoping you can clear up...what then was the purpose of Jesus' physical death, if the atonement was finished before he even died? Why the need for any physical suffering? If the spiritual death of Christ was what brought us salvation, why the need for the cross (speaking literally)? Could he not have endured the spiritual death apart from the physical suffering? I hope what I'm asking is clear, but to sum it up, what is the purpose of the physical death and suffering of Jesus and how does it compare to His spiritual death and suffering? Thank you again for your ministry. God bless, and I look forward to hearing from you! I have also copied my good friend on this email, as him and I routinely study from your site and work together on these sorts of questions. Thank you again!

Response #17: 

It's good to hear from you again, my friend.

I'm happy to hear that these studies have been a help to you. On your point/question, it's a good one. It is absolutely the case that most Christians don't have a good grasp of just what it is that our Lord did for us in Calvary's darkness. For God to take on humanity and then to suffer the complete judgment for sin, any sin, is beyond anything we can grasp – how much more all of the sins of all who've ever lived or will? I like to say that it is bigger than any potential universe and all human and angelic experience and understanding over the entire course of history – dying for just one sin is. And Jesus died for them all. If we really did appreciate this to our core in even some small way it would, as you say, completely overwhelm us. The fact that it is hard to grasp, hard to understand, and hard to explain no doubt has something to do with your question about the need for all of the physical suffering our Lord had to endure even to get to the point of being judged for sin. Keep in mind that the suffering He endured before actually being crucified was immense (e.g., Is.52:14) – beyond anything any other human being could have taken, emotionally or physically. We could also ask why was that necessary if physical crucifixion were the thing that saved us, not to mention the fact that it is His spiritual death in being judged for our sins which is really what saves us. In part I am sure that the visible sufferings of Christ – sufferings beyond what any other human being has or could endure (rightly understood) – help to give us some small idea of how much more immense the suffering of spiritual death for sin must have been (Ps.22:1-8; Heb.5:7-8). The entire Mosaic Law revolves around animal sacrifice which is likewise a set of illustrations of what it takes to remove sin as an issue so that we might be saved. We see the violent death of he animal in question whose body is then burned on the altar and we get some sense of what it takes to remove the sin we've just confessed as we put our hand on the animal's head before it's slaughtered. Analogously, seeing the physical and emotional sufferings of our Lord on the cross before the sun was eclipsed on Calvary, and knowing that as the Lamb of God "He bore our sins in His body on that tree" thereafter (1Pet.2:24), we get some small idea of what it cost the Son to suffer death for us and for the Father to judge Him in our place. As to our Lord still being physically alive after the cross, the only way He could die physically at this perfect time, after completing His mission, was to voluntarily give up His spirit (Jn.10:17-18). Without doing so, there would have been no proof of God's power to conquer physical death in resurrection – which resurrection is our greatest hope.

He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification.
Romans 4:25

These are difficult questions but worth asking. I hope this short response is of some help. Do feel free to write me back.

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #18:  

Thank you for the quick response, as always. I believe I understand what you are saying: The physical suffering is primarily a tangible illustration of what our Lord went through during the spiritual darkness that rested on him while on the cross.

As a kind of follow up to that: If Jesus' physical suffering and death was mainly to represent a spiritual truth, is his physical resurrection different in that it represents both spiritual and physical truths? These being in the form of the promises of spiritual and physical resurrection for believers?

Thank you for clarification on these things, I am trying to cut through the fog of it all so I can be sure of the truth in these important areas. Thank you again!

Response #18: 

You're most welcome, my friend. To clarify, it's not that dying for our sins was not also physical – we have no idea how terribly painful it was to bear a single sin, but the fire on the altar burning the sacrifice shows us that it must have been immense: He "rose in the flames" to save us (cf. Jdg.13:20). Christ "bore our sins in His body on the tree" (1Pet.1:24); but it is true that this bearing of sins unseen by the world is better termed His spiritual death to distinguish it from His later physical death (when He gave up His spirit at the end of the ordeal and died physically). But, yes, I believe that the physical sufferings we were given to see leading up to that substitutionary spiritual death on our behalf do serve to give us a small glimpse of the magnitude of what our Lord endured on our behalf when He was judged for the sins of the world.

As to the resurrection, it was literal and real, and while He was raised with a "spiritual body", as I have explained when writing about the resurrection what that means is that the new body we shall all have – exactly like Christ's save for the "marks of honor" of the nails in His hands – will be perfectly attuned to our spirits and to living with God forever, even though they will most definitely be real, and tangible (and so "physical" in those respects, though much superior to this present one). For more on the resurrection, please see the link: "The Resurrection of the Lamb's Bride".

Do feel free to write back about this.

In our dear Lord Jesus who gave His all for us and our eternal life.

Bob L.

Question #19: 

Okay. Thank you for that clarification, and I look forward to reading that link. I suppose I was wondering how Jesus' resurrection plays into our salvation. For instance: If his sacrifice brought forgiveness of sin, what does the resurrection bring? I think I'll be reading a bit more! Thank you.

Response #19: 

You're most welcome. As Paul says,

[Jesus Christ] was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification.
Romans 4:25

That is to say, forgiveness means God can now consider us righteous and fit to live with Him; but that eternal life with Him requires an actual new resurrection body. So Jesus had to die for our sins for us to be forgiven, and He had to be raised from the dead in a new, transformed body so that we too might live in such a wonderful new home for all eternity. That is why we eat the bread – to commemorate the body He gave unto death for us so that we might have an eternal one through His resurrection, and that is why we drink the cup – to commemorate the blood He shed for us to wash away our sins that we might have God's righteousness and be fit to live with Him forever.

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #20: 

The Bible is full of expressions about the father, son and the Holy spirit, others even state more emphatically that Jesus is sitting at the right hand of his father, my question is, if one were to go to heaven today, would one find three thrones there?

Response #20: 

There is one throne in heaven today. The Father is seated on that throne and the Son is seated with Him "at His right hand" (please see the link for further details).

Question #21: 


Do you believe that the Father, Son and Holy Spirit are co-equal in power, authority, majesty and glory?

I do have a point to the question.


Response #21: 

I absolutely believe (and know) that the Father, Son and Holy Spirit are co-equal, co-eternal, and con-subtantial.

In Jesus our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #22: 

Yes but I'm asking specifically do you believe they are co-equal in power and authority, you didn't mention how you believed they are equal

Response #22: 

What's the difference between what you're asking and what I said? I have a reason for asking.

Question #23: 

The difference is that because someone believe Jesus and the Holy Spirit are co-equal in power it doesn't mean that they believe in co-equal authority. There is a debate within Christianity this very moment about this very issue among Evangelicals. Complementarians vs Egalitarians.

Response #23: 

If they weren't coequal, they wouldn't be coequal. As it is, they are coequal. That is what the oneness of the Trinity is all about: seamless unity in every respect.

I wouldn't waste my time on this "how many angels can dance on the head of a pin" stuff. Spiritual growth is based on hearing and believing the truth, not idle speculation that passes for theology.

To that end, you are welcome to the studies at Ichthys at any time.

In Jesus,

Bob L.

Question #24: 

I disagree I think it is very important. If not co-equal in power then Jesus couldn't be God. If he is co-equal in authority something different then why does Paul state that the head of Christ is God, that the head of the husband is Christ and the head of the wife is the husband. That would imply I the wife is equal with the husband she can't be in terms of authority, follow that backwards to Christ is would seem that Paul in inferring Jesus is subordinate in authority if not power and glory. Exactly it is about hearing and believing the truth that is why it is important to understand the truth. I assume you mean by "seamless unity is every respect" they are co-equal in power, authority and glory. Paul calling God the head of Christ is somewhat puzzling what is also puzzling is the number of people who say they believe Jesus is God won't come out and say they believe he is co-equal in power, they dress things up in flowery words.

Response #24: 

The truth is what is important. The problem with engaging with these people on their own false terms is that then there is no way back out of the morass once you do (ask anyone who every debated Socrates). The weird explication of scripture you relate is a perfect example of people engaging in theology when they don't know the first thing about what the Bible actually says. The "problem" you relate here and all such other problems vis-ΰ-vis the Trinity are resolved when one remembers that Christ is God AND man since the incarnation. His subordination has to do with His humanity, not His deity. This was a major issue during the first advent (it's called the doctrine of kenosis; see the link). So for example, when Jesus says "not even the Son [knows]", He is speaking from His humanity, not His deity.

The Trinity exist and always have existed independent of time and space. Their relationship is perfect and flawless. They are "one" in a sense that no two (or more) human beings have ever been "one" – or could even imagine, and to a degree beyond our comprehension. Questions like the one you relate fail, therefore, to understand the significance and the meaning of the incarnation on the one hand, and the perfection and transcendence of the Trinity on the other. That's why I stick with tried and true (and doctrinally unassailable) definitions when I can, and resist being sucked into debates about definitions like this which are not based on scripture but on a misunderstanding of it generated by a complete disinterest in it – the point here is controversy not edification.

Nor give heed to fables and endless genealogies, which cause disputes rather than godly edification which is in faith.
1st Timothy 1:4 NKJV

If anyone teaches otherwise and does not consent to wholesome words, even the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the doctrine which accords with godliness, he is proud, knowing nothing, but is obsessed with disputes and arguments over words, from which come envy, strife, reviling, evil suspicions, useless wranglings of men of corrupt minds and destitute of the truth, who suppose that godliness is a means of gain. From such withdraw yourself.
1st Timothy 6:3-5 NKJV

Remind them of these things, charging them before the Lord not to strive about words to no profit, to the ruin of the hearers.
2nd Timothy 2:14 NKJV

But avoid foolish and ignorant disputes, knowing that they generate strife.
2nd Timothy 2:23 NKJV

But avoid foolish disputes, genealogies, contentions, and strivings about the law; for they are unprofitable and useless.
Titus 3:9

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #25: 

Excuse me but I'm not trying to cause controversy and I do have an interest in it. Please don't attempt to mind read. I'm me and I don't like being compared to how others work. That isn't my motive. I was simply trying to reconcile something in my mind that I can't reconcile with the fact that Paul God is the head of Christ, and his rejection of women in leadership roles which seem to be patterned after the internal relationship of the members of he Trinity. Although I don't understand why you won't say you believe he is equal in power.

With respect you fail to understand the complementarian position. I think the complementarians would agree that when he said "not even the Son" they would understand it exactly the same way. They would state that it doesn't stop the Son being all knowing before his incarnation and submissive in authority. They would argue that they only thing the Son needs to be co-equal in to be fully God is in power and glory. I read John Chrysostom he seems to teach much the same thing. I don't see how willingly deferring to the Father effects Jesus oneness with the other members of the Trinity. Complementarians are not even close to being what they are accused. The accusation being they teach a form of Arianism. No they don't. They teach ontological co-equality (power and glory) economic subordination (authority). If the Father sent Jesus before his birth and the Son obeyed then he can't be subordinate in terms of authority just as a man. A king can send a servant but is the servant less than the king and are they not equal. Paul didn't allow women leadership roles in the church are you saying women are less then men?

1 Cor 11:3 does make it clear whether this is a reference to Jesus as a man alone or whether he has always obeyed the Father from before the incarnation. Your interpretation could well be correct, but I'm certainly not doubting Jesus being fully God Almighty. One equal can obey another.

In regards to them being one. You know this is referring to unity of will and purpose. If it doesn't mean that then we have a problem since Jesus prayed that the disciples and future believers would all be one as he and the Father are one. Are believers all part of the Trinity? Of course not.

Response #25: 

I was talking about others, not you (see the email again). Nothing personal meant here!

I didn't say I didn't believe Jesus was "not equal in power" to the other two members of the Trinity. Of course He is. Jesus is God, and God is omnipotent. That means limitless power, the same as the Spirit and the Father. Signing off on other people's creedal statements, however, is never a good idea, if only because one can never be quite sure precisely what they may think they mean by them (we do better to stick with scriptural terminology).

As to "willing deferment", here I feel what I said to you has been completely vindicated. If there is in truth no measurable or appreciable difference between the positions, then there is no serious doctrinal controversy – merely a question about words (1Tim.1:4; 6:4; 2Tim.2:14; 2:23; Tit.3:9). What I have done for you is to smoke out the underlying theological fallacies. As is often the case, such "controversies" almost always result from a failure to understand the actual truth of the Bible by one side (or maybe even more often, by both sides, as in hyper-Calvinists vs. Arminians).

Christ is God. Being God, He can't stop being God. He has all the attributes of God and that can never be changed. So any deferment that is "willing" is clearly 1) impossible without the hypostatic union as any such deferment will pertain only to His humanity in fact ("sent" refers to the incarnation, after all); and 2) applies only here in time-space where we creatures exist.

It strikes me, as mentioned before, that most such confusions are attributable to misunderstanding the hypostatic union on the one hand, and/or misunderstanding the nature of God on the other: He is not just a big super-creature; He created time and space, exists independently of them never changing, and this cosmos could not continue to exist without His will.

For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things have been created through Him and for Him. He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together (literally, "subsist").
Colossians 1:16-17 NASB (cf. Jn.1:3; Heb.1:3)

Sending Christ. God knows the future – obviously, since He decreed all of history. So anticipating the incarnation resolves that issue (to the extent that it really is an issue). Deity can't technically be "sent" since deity is omnipresent. This reminds me of the filioque clause controversy, another large bit of confusion and wasted effort. Two things can be true in God's truth without contradicting each other even if they seem to be contradictory by human logic – that is another genesis of the confusion in this controversy that concerns you. Just as both the Father and the Son can send the Spirit, and that doesn't mean that one is superior to the other or that either is superior to the Spirit, so in this case. This is language of accommodation (as it is technically called), used to explain things to limited human beings things for which we would otherwise have no frame of reference; but "theologians" (I use the word advisedly) have made things more confusing than anyone just reading the Bible would ever imagine to do. The problem is the application of canons of human logic where they do not apply. One cannot always deduce principle C from theorems A and B in scripture the way one can do in human disputation – especially when the subject is God. Something is true only if the Bible says it is. One may be correct in a deduction, but one may not be. All of the evidence has to be weighed. And in this area, the description of actions having to do with God who is not human and not motivated by the same human passions or limited by the same human limitations is one area where "logic" has to be used with care. Anthropopathism is widely used in scripture when describing God's actions and motives (see the link); and by definition these figures of speech are taking liberties in describing God, His motives and His actions – through the Spirit to help us understand (not to confuse us as these sorts seem intent on doing).

As to your last paragraph, as I said, we human beings are never "one", any two of us, to the degree of the unity of the Trinity. So we are talking apples and oranges here, and taking apple logic and applying it to oranges will therefore result in erroneous conclusions (Q.E.D.). We are made in the image of God – meaning we all have free will which is analogous to (though clearly much more limited than) the Will of God. However, we are made according to His likeness – meaning that there is an even loser analogy between the multiplicity of the Trinity and that of the human race, the two being really quite different things (your point is my point). This principle (see the link: "The Image and Likeness of God") is very little understood too by most "theologians". Compounding ignorance on ignorance surprisingly does not result in correct conclusions.

Please do NOT think any of this is personally directed at you! As mentioned at the outset I am responding for your benefit to the positions and logic being reported. You are clearly someone who is very much interested in theology, and that is a decidedly good thing (to the extent that theology you are reading is truly "good"). What I am attempting to demonstrate to you is that all proper understanding of the truths of the Word of God has to be built from the ground up. Derivative theology which attempts to extrapolate "truth" from logic, reasoning, and other people's faulty understanding of the scriptures is very much analogous to studying the Talmud. It might be intellectually satisfying, but it won't get you to the truth you are looking for.

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #26: 

So in 1 Corinthians 11:3 would you understand this to be referring to Jesus the man?

Response #26: 

This verse says that "the head of Christ is God". Please notice it says "Christ", using the Greek title for Messiah. The Messiah is anointed by God to deliver Israel and all mankind, first at the cross, then at the second advent. It is a title absolutely and intimately connected with our Lord's humanity. Also, the cross and the second advent happen in time/history while the Plan of God is playing out – and Jesus is the focus, the fulcrum, the Agent of the Plan. Note too that this verse also says "the head of the woman is man" – but we know that there will be absolute equality in eternity, and that the subordination from an authority point of view of wife to husband is a post-Eden / pre-eternity necessity (see the link: "The Creation of Eve"). It will not be an issue in the New Jerusalem any more than it was before the fall, just as our position in Christ teaches us:

There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.
Galatians 3:28 NASB (cf. Col.3:11)

So, yes, 1st Corinthians 11:3 is speaking of authority relationships here and now in time where we are still "in the world" and in the fight. It can't be used to extrapolate backwards (before the fall for human beings or before creation for the Trinity), nor forwards after the destruction of this present kosmos and the coming of New Jerusalem when God is "all in all" (1Cor.15:28).

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #27: 

If "Christ" refers to Jesus as a man alone why does the St Athanasian Creed state "Who, although He is God and man, yet He is not two, but one Christ" to says that this is referring to Jesus the man isn't that kind of dividing Christ in two? The Creed seems to teach that Christ refers to Jesus both as God and man.

Response #27: 

So here is the problem with creeds. They are written by imperfect human beings not inspired by the Holy Spirit in a plenary way and with an imperfect understanding of scripture, and written in order to address issues that were current at the time of writing about which many centuries later we can only approximately know – even if we are still speaking the same language in the same way. Building doctrine on them is therefore a very bad idea. I'm not saying there is anything dreadfully wrong about what this creed says, the way the authors probably understood it, but they no doubt did not have the issue which concerning you in their minds (the way you have it in mind) when they framed it. Creeds can't anticipate changes in language, thought and expression, or the vicissitudes in the development of doctrinal controversy in ages to come. Which goes a long way toward explaining why the Bible is written as it is written rather than in the way we might set about organizing a "Bible" if it were up to us: God has anticipated everything; our job is to look to the actual Bible as our source of truth, treating it respectfully in the proper way.

Your friend in Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #28:  

I may be wrong , but it seems that Jacob in Genesis 48:15-16 equates God with the Angel - could it be a piece of evidence for the deity of our Lord, whom Jacob here considers one with God the Father?

Response #28: 

Yes. It's not a Christophany per se, but a reference to Christophany. The word "angel" or malakh, in Hebrew means, literally, "messenger", and it is often used to refer to an "appearance" from God in some form – that is, God sending a message via a messenger. This is sometimes a true angel (as we think of the word), and sometimes God Himself in the Person of Jesus Christ (represented as the Angel of the Lord) in Christophany.

Question #29: 

As I'm now going through Walker's "History of the Christian Church", quite a comprehensive view of our Lord's nature seems to have been expressed by Athanasius (page 140):

With Arius, Athanasius accepted the view that there can be no halfway house between Creator and creature. Unlike Arius, however, he was convinced that creation and redemption alike imply and entail a direct presence of the Uncreated God in and for creatures - an immanence of the Transcendent. It would not do, therefore, to attribute creation and redemption to a glorified creature like the Arian Logos and thus to isolate God from God's world. No more was it possible for humanity to come to share in the divine way of being - to be "divinized" - except through the presence of the one who is truly God. Thus, the Logos, in and through whom God creates and redeems, must be all that God is.

I know that this is a theological summary rather than scriptural argument, but it does sound quite correct. What do you think?

Response #29: 

I'm no authority on Athanasius, so I cannot speak to the accuracy of Walker's characterization of his teachings. I will note that Walker presents these teachings as essentially "making stuff up" and then gives a "theological" rationale for why he made stuff up differently from the stuff Arian "made up". This is a good quote to keep handy to remember that the mindset of those who do not actually accept the truth of God and His Word have when they feel inclined to comment on these issues. We know that Christ is God and man (since the incarnation), and that He is truly both. Any theory or system or teaching which would seek to diminish or confuse the truth of either His completely divine or truly human nature is heretical.

Ichthys Home