. The Real Christ...
It is a majestic, glorious theme of the Bible that God is revealed as a real being. It is also a fundamental tenet of Christianity that Jesus is the Son of God. If God is not a real being, then it is impossible for Him to have a Son who was the “image of His person” (Heb. 1:3). The Greek word actually means His “substance” (RV). Further, it becomes difficult to develop a personal, living relationship with ‘God’, if ‘God’ is just a concept in our mind. It is tragic that the majority of religions have this unreal, intangible conception of God.
As God is so infinitely greater than we are, it is understandable that many people’s faith has balked at the clear promises that ultimately we will see Him. It is impossible for sinful man to see God (Ex. 33:20 RSV) - although this implies that were it not for our sinfulness, God is indeed a being who can ‘be seen’. Israel lacked the faith to see God’s “shape” (Jn. 5:37). Such faith comes from knowing God and believing His word:
“Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God” (Mt. 5:8).
“His (God’s) servants shall serve him: and they shall see his face; and his name (God’s name - Rev. 3:12) shall be in their foreheads” (Rev. 22:3,4).
Such a wonderful hope, if we truly believe it, will have a profound practical effect upon our lives:
“Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord” (Heb. 12:14).
We should not swear oaths, because “he that shall swear by heaven, swears by the throne of God, and by him that sits upon it” (Mt. 23:22).
“We shall see him as he is (manifest in Christ). And every man that has this hope in him purifies himself, even as he is pure” (1 Jn. 3:2,3).
In this life our understanding of the heavenly Father is very incomplete, but we can look forward, through the tangled darkness of this life, to meeting Him at last. Our ‘seeing’ of Him will doubtless be matched by our greater mental comprehension of Him. Thus from the absolute depths of human suffering, Job could rejoice in the totally personal relationship with God which he would fully experience at the last day:
“Though after my death worms shall destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God: whom I shall see for myself, and my eyes shall behold, and not another” (Job 19:26,27).
And the apostle Paul cried out from another life of pain and turmoil:
“Now we look in a glass mirror, with a poor image; but then face to face” (1 Cor. 13:12).
Old Testament Evidence
These promises of the New Testament build on a considerable Old Testament backdrop of evidence for a personal God. It cannot be over stressed that it is fundamental to appreciate the nature of God if we are to have any true understanding of what Bible based religion is all about. The Old Testament consistently talks of God as a person; the person-to-person relationship with God of which both Old and New Testaments speak is unique to the true Christian hope. The following are strong arguments in favour of a personal God:
“God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness” (Gen. 1:26). Thus man is made in the image and likeness of God, as manifested through the angels. James 3:9 speaks of “...men, which are made in the similitude of God.” Our creation in the image of God surely means that we can infer something about the real object of which we are but an image. Thus God, whom we reflect, is not something nebulous of which we cannot conceive. Ezekiel saw God enthroned above the cherubim, with the silhouette of “the likeness of a man” (Ez. 1:26; 10:20); it is God Himself who is located above the cherubim (2 Kings 19:15 RV). All this has a practical import; because we are in the image of God, because it is imprinted on every part of our bodies, we must give that body to God, just as men were to give the penny which had Caesar’s image on it to Caesar (Lk. 20:25). Commenting on this matter in relation to Gen. 1:26,27, Risto Santala writes: “There are two Hebrew words here, tselem, ‘image’ (in modern Hebrew ‘photograph’), and demuth, ‘figure’ or ‘similitude’… these expressions are very concrete. God is a person and he has a definite form and being” (1).
- “He (God) knows our frame” (Ps. 103:14); He wishes us to conceive of Him as a personal being, a Father to whom we can relate.
- Descriptions of God’s dwelling place clearly indicate that He has a personal location: “God is in heaven” (Ecc. 5:2); “He has looked down from the height of His sanctuary; from heaven did the Lord behold the earth” (Ps. 102:19,20); “Hear in heaven your dwelling place” (1 Kings 8:39). Yet more specifically than this, we read that God has a “throne” (2 Chron. 9:8; Ps. 11:4; Is. 6:1; 66:1). Such language is hard to apply to an undefined essence which exists somewhere in heavenly realms. God is spoken of as “coming down” when He manifests Himself. This suggests a heavenly location of God. It is impossible to understand the idea of ‘God manifestation’ without appreciating the personal nature of God.
- Is. 45 is full of references by God to His personal involvement in the affairs of His people: “I am the Lord, and there is none else...I the Lord do all these things...I the Lord have created it. Woe unto him that strives with his maker...I, even my hands have stretched out the heavens...look unto me, and be saved, all the ends of the earth”. This last sentence especially shows the personal existence of God - He desires men to look to Him, to conceive of His literal existence with the eye of faith.
- God is revealed to us as a forgiving God, who speaks words to men. Yet forgiveness and speech can only come from a sentient being, they are mental acts. Thus David was a man after God’s own heart (1 Sam. 13:14), showing that God has a mind (heart), which is capable of being replicated to some limited degree by man, although man by nature is not after God’s heart. Passages like, “The Lord repented that He had made man...and it grieved Him at his heart” (Gen. 6:6), reveal God as a feeling, conscious being. This helps us to appreciate how we really can both please and displease Him, as children can a natural father.
If God Is Not Personal...
If God is not a real, personal being, then the concept of spirituality is hard to grapple with. If God is totally righteous but is not a personal being, then we cannot really conceive of His righteousness manifested in human beings. Once we appreciate that there is a personal being called God, then we can work on our characters, with His help and the influence of His word, to reflect the characteristics of God in our lives.
God’s purpose is to reveal Himself in a multitude of glorified beings. His memorial name, Yahweh Elohim, implies this (‘He who shall be revealed in mighty ones’, is an approximate translation). The descriptions of the reward of the faithful in God’s coming Kingdom on earth show that they will have a tangible, bodily existence, although no longer subject to the weaknesses of human nature. Job longed for the “latter day” when he would have a resurrection of his body (Job 19:25-27). Abraham is one of the “many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth (who) shall awake...to everlasting life” (Dan. 12:2) so that he can receive the promise of eternal inheritance of the land of Canaan, a physical location on this earth (Gen. 17:8). “Saints shall shout aloud for joy...let them sing aloud upon their beds...and execute judgment upon the nations” (Ps. 132:16; 149:5,7). A failure by both Jew and Gentile to appreciate passages like these, as well as the fundamentally literal, physical import of the promises to Abraham, has led to the wrong notion of an “immortal soul” as the real form of human existence. Such an idea is totally devoid of Biblical support. God is an immortal, glorious being, and He is working out His purpose so that men and women might be called to live in His future Kingdom on this earth, to share His attributes, expressed in a bodily form.
The faithful are promised that they will inherit God’s nature (2 Pet. 1:4). We will be given a body like that of Jesus (Phil. 3:21), and we know that he will have a physical body in the Kingdom. The doctrine of the personality of God is therefore related to the Gospel of the Kingdom.
There can be no sensible concept of worship, religion or personal relationship with God therefore until it is appreciated that God is a real being and that we are made in His image. We need to develop His mental likeness now so that we may be made fully like Him in the Kingdom of God. So much more sense and comfort can now be gained from the passages which speak of God as a loving Father, chastening us as a Father does his son (e.g. Dt. 8:5). In the context of Christ’s sufferings we read that, “It was the Lord’s will to bruise Him” (Is. 53:10); although he “cried unto God: he heard my voice...and my cry came before him, even into his ears” (Ps. 18:6). God’s promise to David of a seed who would be God’s Son required the miraculous birth of a human being who was truly in the image and likeness of his father.
A correct understanding of God is a key which opens up many other vital areas of Bible doctrine. But as one lie leads to another lie, so a false concept of God obscures the truth which the Scriptures offer. If you have found this section convincing, or even partly so, the question arises: ‘Do you really know God?’ We will now further explore Bible teaching about Him.
The Unity Of God
There is really repeated Biblical emphasis upon the unity of God, that Yahweh God of Israel, "the Father", is the one and only God: "Listen, Israel: Yahweh our God is the one, the only Yahweh" (Dt. 6:4 New Jerusalem Bible). He swears that there will be no God formed after Him (Is. 43:10). The birth and exaltation of His Son, whatever exalted language is used about, was therefore in no way the forming of another God. If the Lord Jesus knew there to have been a trinity, it's somewhat strange that He fails to correct the man who commented: "Teacher, you have truly stated that [God] is one; and there is none else besides Him" (Mk. 12:32). The record presents an aobviously monotheistic Jewish scribe as being in complete agreement with the Lord Jesus about the unity of God. The Lord Jesus evidently supported the Old Testament's strict monotheism. When Jesus speaks of His Father as "the one who alone is God" (Jn. 5:44 NRSV), He is evidently alluding to the classic statement of monotheism in Dt. 6:4- that Yahweh is the one God. And the inspired writers of the New Testament did the same thing. James commented to Jews upon their belief in one God: "You believe that God is one. You do well" (James 2:19). He doesn't seek to correct their monotheism. Why, if the issue was so utterly vital and obvious? Moses had spoken of the future Messiah as being "a prophet like me from among your brothers" (Dt. 18:15)- and both Peter and Stephen apply this to the Lord Jesus (Acts 3:22; 7:37). Neither they nor Moses could surely have used that kind of language if they considered Messiah to be God Himself. David in Ps. 110:1 calls this future Messiah adoni, Lord, rather than adonai, the Lord God. If David understood Messiah to be God, then why this choice of word? And if David didn't think Jesus was God- why should we? And this Psalm 110 is referred to oabout 33 times in the New Testament as proof that the Old Testament prophesied about Jesus! Why didn't the inspired writers "correct" David if indeed he had it so wrong about the nature of Messiah? In passing, I have noted several trinitarian commentaries (e.g. Bullinger's Companion Bible)that carelessly claim that David uses the Hebrew word adonai for "Lord" in Ps. 110:1, thus implying that Messiah would be "Lord God". But David doesn't. Again, the intellectual desperation of trinitarianism is revealed. Quite simply, how come those who were inspired by God to write about the Lord Jesus didn't make it clear that He was God Himself? And why in fact do they stress just the opposite- just consider how Peter preached about "Jesus... a man attested by God... this man" (Acts 2:22,23). And why does Paul speak of "the man Christ Jesus" even after the ascension of Jesus to Heaven (1 Tim. 2:5; Rom. 5:15)? Why do the accounts of the birth of Jesus emphasize the humanity of Mary, speak of the Lord's conception in quite simple terms, and give no hint whatsoever that a pre-existent being was entering a woman, who was to be the mother of God?
(1) Risto Santala, The Messiah In The Old Testament In The Light Of Rabbinical Writings (Kukkila, Finland: BGS, 1992), p. 63.
Duncan Heaster has written over 20 books, some of which contain material relevant to The Real Christ. And there is a host of other relevant material...