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Jesus Christ was Worshiped as God

 

 


In a recent newsletter we pointed out how Muslims in particular demand Christians to show where Jesus claimed He was God and said: “Worship me.” We demonstrated where Jesus made the absolute unambiguous claim to be equal with God (e.g., Matt. 12:6, 8; John 5:17-18; 8:24, 58-59 et al; 10:28-33). Furthermore, in the NT Jesus was clearly presented as theos (“God”; cf. John 1:1, 18; Rom. 9:5; Phil. 2:6; Col. 2:9 (theotētos, “Deity”) and ho theos (“The God”; cf. John 20:28; Titus 2:13; Heb. 1:8; 2 Pet. 1:1; 1 John 5:20). He is also presented as Creator of all things (cf. John 1:3; Col. 1:16-17; Heb. 1:10-12). Since Jesus said, literally: “You will die in your sins if you shall not believe that I am” (John 8:24), presenting Jesus as God-man is vital in the gospel presentation.

 

The full deity of Jesus Christ is clearly established by three undeniable biblical facts: 1) in passages where He is presented/called “God” including His own claims, 2) in passages where He is presented as the Creator of all things, and 3) in passages where Jesus is worshiped in a “religious context” (a religious context is any such context where spirituality or holiness exists).

 

Here we will hit head on the challenges of nearly all non-Christian cults (esp. Islam, and Jehovah’s Witnesses) and exhibit scripturally that Jesus received the same kind of religious worship (proskuneō) as that of God the Father; this kind of worship is reserved for God alone—thus, creaturely worship is absolutely forbidden (cf. Exod. 20:5).

 

Recently, I was at my parent’s house and a Jehovah’s Witness actually came to the door. I was surprised because their residence had been marked as a “stay away house” by the Jehovah’s Witnesses for years. The fellow that came to the door was alone. With his Watchtower tract in hand, he attempted to invite me to a Kingdom Hall (their place of worship) meeting, which was to expound the question, “Who was Jesus?” So, I immediately asked: “So, who is Jesus?” And before he could hopscotch around the Bible with his so-called proof texts showing me where Jesus was a created angel, the “first of Jehovah’s works” (“firstborn”), a mere non-divine man on earth, etc., I directed him to the prologue of Hebrews (vv. 1-10).

 

I indicated the importance of context when interpreting a biblical text. Then, I explained the context of the prologue: The author is sharply contrasting all things created (viz. heaven, earth, angels) with the eternal Son. Despite his rejection of this context, I had him read (from his NWT) the prologue starting at verse 1. At verse 2, I pointed out that the Son is said to be the Creator: “His Son . . . through whom also He made the world. Of course, he denied verse 2 was saying that in spite of the fact that grammatically the preposition dia (“though”) is followed by the genitive case hou (“whom”) indicating that the Son was the agent of creation.[1] Then in verse 3, I presented the significance of the term charaktēr (“exact representation”) and that no creature, as with angels, could ever be the “exact representation” of the nature (hupostaseōs) of God.

 

 

 

“LET ALL THE ANGELS OF GOD WORSHIP HIM” (Heb. 1:6).

 

But then we arrived at verse 6 where the Father commands all the angels to worship the Son. First, if the command is to all the angels, then, the Son is excluded from being an angel. Second, and most important, the Son is clearly “worshiped.” Seeing the implications of the Son receiving “religious worship,” which would mean that the Son is truly God, the NWT changed the term “worship” (which it originally had) to “obeisance” (which means respect or honor) in the 1971 edition of the NWT—but only at the places where “worship” was in reference to Jesus (e.g., Matt. 14:33; 28:9; John 9:38; Heb. 1:6).  

 

Then I asked: “Why did all the early editions of the NWT have the word “worship,” but then in the 1971 edition (and all subsequent eds.) it was changed to ‘obeisance’?” He was not aware of this so he naturally denied it. So then I pulled out my pre-1971 edition of the NWT and showed him: “But when He again brings his First-born into the inhabited earth, he says: ‘And let all God's angels worship him’” (Heb. 1:6 NWT, 1950, 1961, and 1970 editions). He was shocked as he tried to conceal his emotion. At that point, I had him read verses 10-12and here’s where it got really bad for him!

 

According to the author of Hebrews, God the Father (citing Psalm 102:25-27, which is a reference to YHWH) directly addresses the Son[2] as the unchangeable Creator of Psalm 102:25-27. Note the NWT rendering of verse 10:And: ‘You at [the] beginning, O Lord, laid the foundations of the earth itself, and the heavens are [the] works of your hands.’” But I really did not want to leave verse 6, where we read that God the Father commands “all the angels” (which would include Michael) to worship the Son. What is clear from this text is that the command to worship the Son was obviously in a “religious context”—the setting is in heaven in the presence of God the Father—it does not get more religious than that!

 

The Greek word proskuneō can mean divine worship in a religious context, which is reserved for God alone (as in Matt 4:10 and John 4:24) or it can also mean to fall prostrate in front of another in honor and respect, thus, “obeisance.” Only the context determines the meaning. Again, in Hebrews 1:6 the setting is in the heavens—hence, it is religious worship to the Son that the Father commands of all the angels. There is no escape from this passage particularly in the light of the entire context of the prologue. Also note, the OT citation in Hebrews 1:6 is taken from the LXX of Psalm 96:7 (Eng. 97:7), which reads: proskunēsate [from proskuneō] autō, pantes hoi aggeloi autou (lit., “worship Him all the angels of Him”).   

 

There are many places in both the OT and NT where the Son received religious worship. Daniel 7:9-14, for example, presents this clearly. First, in Daniel’s vision he sees two distinct divine Persons: the Ancient of Days and the Son of Man.[3] Second, in verse 14, we read that the Son of Man was given “dominion, glory and a kingdom” by the Ancient of Days (God the Father). Then we read that “all the peoples, nations and men of every language might serve [i.e., “worship”][4] Him, His dominion is an everlasting dominion which will not pass away.”[5] The same word (Aram. pelach,[6] “serve”) applied to the Son of Man in verse 14 is used of YHWH in verse 27, which clearly denotes divine worship.[7] Clearly, the Son of Man whose “dominion is an everlasting dominion” will receive worship by “all the peoples, nations, and men of every language.”

 

In the NT, Jesus received religious worship on several occasions—for example, by the men in the boat (cf. Matt. 14:33[8]); the women at the grave (Matt. 28:9); and the blind man (cf. John 9:35-38); and of course, by all the angels (cf. Heb. 1:6).

 

In Revelation 5:13-14, the Father (“To Him who sits on the throne”) and the Lamb receive the same kind of blessing, honor, and glory, and thus, the same kind of worship:

 

To Him who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb, be blessing and honor and glory and dominion forever and ever. And the four living creatures kept saying, ‘Amen’ and the elders fell down and worshiped [proskuneō].”

 

Here, as in Daniel 7:9-14, we have two objects of divine worship, the Father and the Lamb. These biblical examples of “worship” to Jesus were not only in the context of honor and/or falling prostrate before another in mere “obeisance” as the NWT reads (but not before 1971), but rather, the Son, as God, was worshiped in a religious context—worship reserved for God alone.

 

 Exodus 20:5 says to worship the LORD [YHWH] alone. Since God is triune, we should continuously worship the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. As with the divine command to all the angels, let us too worship God the Son, the Lord of Glory!


 

NOTES

 

[1] Agency is expressed three different ways in the NT. That the Father is the ultimate Agent and the Son is the intermediate Agent of creation does not mean that the Son was a mere instrument of creation, but rather, it indicates that He was the actual Agent of creation. Biblically, the Father was the source (ultimate Agent) of creation and the Son being the intermediate Agent in that He carried out the act for the ultimate Agent. We also see the preposition dia followed by the genitive (“of Him”/”whom”) at John 1:3: “All things came into being through Him [di’ autou]”; 1 Cor. 8:6: “and one Lord, Jesus Christ, by whom [di’ hou] are all things”; and Col. 1:16: “All things have been created through Him [di’ autou] and for Him” all indicate that Jesus was the actual Agent of creation (in Gk, dia loses the alpha when it precedes a vowel, thus, di’).

[2] In verse 8, the NWT correctly reads: “But with reference to the Son:

[3] Notice that in verse 9, we read of “thrones,” thus, not a single “throne” indicating thrones for the two divine Persons being mentioned.

[4] The term “serve” is from Aramaic word, pelach, which corresponds to the Hebrew word, palach. In religious contexts, when referring to God, it caries the idea of worship, rendering religious service, or performing religious rituals in honor of a deity (cf. Bowman & Komoszewski, Putting Jesus in His Place: The Case for the Deity of Christ [Grand Rapids: Kregel], 72). In Greek versions of Daniel, the term latreuō (another term that means, “to worship”; cf. Rom. 12:1) is a frequent translation of pelach (cf. 3:12, 14, 18, 28; 6:16, 20).

[5] Cf. Matthew 28:18; Ephesians 1:20-21.

[6] As explained in note 37 above.

[7] “Then the sovereignty, the dominion and the greatness of all the kingdoms under the whole heaven will be given to the people of the saints of the Highest One; His kingdom will be an everlasting kingdom, and all the dominions will serve and obey Him.”

[8] For example, Matthew 14:22:34 records Jesus walking on the water. When the disciples who were in the boat saw Jesus walking on the water, they were terrified for they thought they saw a “ghost” (phantasma; cf. v. 26). At which point Jesus comforted them by stating: “Take courage, it is I, do not be afraid.” The Greek records Jesus as saying: “Take courage, I am [egō eimi].” Then, after Peter attempting to walk in the water, but sank due to his weak faith, and Jesus helping him get back into the boat, verse 33 reads: “And those who were in the boat worshiped [proskuneō] Him, saying, ‘You are certainly God's Son!’” Here they “worshiped” Jesus while addressing Him as “God’s Son.” Thus, the act of worshiping is connected with the religious title, “God’s Son”—the object of their worship.