On April 21, 2017, Dr. James White debated cult group Iglesia ni Cristo’s (InC) leading apologist named “Brother” Joe Ventilacion on the topic, “Who Is God? – Trinity Debate” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZnElgAnN414.
Dr. White was masterful in his defense of the biblical basis for the doctrine of the Trinity and the essential Deity of Christ, and did a marvelous job of refuting Ventilacion’s arguments.
There is one passage that Ventilacion raised to undermine the risen Lord’s essential coequality with the Father, which we would like to address here (even though White did a fine job of addressing it within the time allotted to him). Ventilacion quoted the following inspired words of the blessed Apostle to prove that Christ is not equal to God the Father (and never has been):
“Then, when all things are under his authority, the Son will put himself under God’s authority, so that God, who gave his Son authority over all things, will be utterly supreme over everything everywhere.” 1 Corinthians 15:28 New Living Translation (NLT)
Mr. Ventilacion employed this text to prove that Jesus cannot be one with the Father in essence since the Son will subject himself to God at the end of the age after having destroyed his last enemy, namely death itself.
In this post I will be mainly employing the NLT to address the misuse of this verse, since this is the version that Mr. Ventilacion cited in order to make his case. I will show how this very translation ends up backfiring against Mr. Ventilacion since it amply testifies that Jesus Christ is the eternal God who became flesh.
To begin with, we note that Paul wasn’t suggesting here that the Lord’s reign would come to a complete end since he affirms elsewhere that in the age to come, Christ will continue to be highly exalted above every power, rule and authority in existence:
“I also pray that you will understand the incredible greatness of God’s power for us who believe him. This is the same mighty power that raised Christ from the dead and seated him in the place of honor at God’s right hand in the heavenly realms. Now he is far above any ruler or authority or power or leader or anything else—not only in this world but also IN THE WORLD TO COME. God has put all things under the authority of Christ and has made him head over all things for the benefit of the church. And the church is his body; it is made full and complete by Christ, who fills all things everywhere with himself.” Ephesians 1:19-23
As we will shortly see, this means that the risen Lord will continue to reign supreme over all creation even after death has been abolished.
Paul wasn’t the only inspired spokesperson that spoke of Christ ruling forever and ever. Note what the prophet Daniel said concerning the reign of the Messiah:
“As my vision continued that night, I saw someone like a son of man coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient One and was led into his presence. He was given authority, honor, and sovereignty over all the nations of the world, so that people of every race and nation and language would obey him. His rule is ETERNAL—it will NEVER END. His kingdom will NEVER BE DESTROYED.” Daniel 7:13-14
According to the NT, the Son of Man whom Daniel saw is none other than the Lord Jesus Christ himself:
“But Jesus was silent and made no reply. Then the high priest asked him, ‘Are you the Messiah, the Son of the Blessed One?’ Jesus said, “I am.[a] And you will see the Son of Man seated in the place of power at God’s right hand[b] and coming on the clouds of heaven. [c]’”
a. 14:62a Or The ‘I am’ is here; or I am the Lord. See Exod 3:14.
Other witnesses include the following:
“In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a village in Galilee, to a virgin named Mary. She was engaged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of King David. Gabriel appeared to her and said, ‘Greetings, favored woman! The Lord is with you! Confused and disturbed, Mary tried to think what the angel could mean. ‘Don’t be afraid, Mary,’ the angel told her, ‘for you have found favor with God! You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you will name him Jesus. He will be very great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his ancestor David. And he will reign over Israel FOREVER; his Kingdom will NEVER END!’”
“Then God will give you a grand entrance into the ETERNAL KINGDOM of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” 2 Peter 1:11
“Then the seventh angel blew his trumpet, and there were loud voices shouting in heaven: ‘The world has now become the Kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he will reign FOREVER AND EVER.’” Revelation 11:15
The next set of verses from Revelation depict Jesus ruling with the Father in the new heavens and earth, after having destroyed death by casting it into hell itself:
“And I saw a great white throne and the one sitting on it. The earth and sky fled from his presence, but they found no place to hide. I saw the dead, both great and small, standing before God’s throne. And the books were opened, including the Book of Life. And the dead were judged according to what they had done, as recorded in the books. The sea gave up its dead, and death and the grave gave up their dead. And all were judged according to their deeds. Then death and the grave were thrown into the lake of fire. This lake of fire is the second death. And anyone whose name was not found recorded in the Book of Life was thrown into the lake of fire.” Revelation 20:11-15
“Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the old heaven and the old earth had disappeared. And the sea was also gone. And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven like a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. I heard a loud shout from the throne, saying, ‘Look, God’s home is now among his people! He will live with them, and they will be his people. God himself will be with them. He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be NO MORE DEATH or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever. And the one sitting on the throne said, ‘Look, I am making everything new!’ And then he said to me, ‘Write this down, for what I tell you is trustworthy and true.’ And he also said, ‘It is finished! I am the Alpha and the Omega—the Beginning and the End. To all who are thirsty I will give freely from the springs of the water of life. All who are victorious will inherit all these blessings, and I will be their God, and they will be my children.’… I saw no temple in the city, for the Lord God Almighty AND THE LAMB are its temple. And the city has no need of sun or moon, for the glory of God illuminates the city, and the Lamb is its light. The nations will walk in its light, and the kings of the world will enter the city in all their glory. Its gates will never be closed at the end of day because there is no night there. And all the nations will bring their glory and honor into the city. Nothing evil will be allowed to enter, nor anyone who practices shameful idolatry and dishonesty—but only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s Book of Life.” Revelation 21:1-7, 22-27
“Then the angel showed me a river with the water of life, clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God AND OF THE LAMB. It flowed down the center of the main street. On each side of the river grew a tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, with a fresh crop each month. The leaves were used for medicine to heal the nations. No longer will there be a curse upon anything. For THE THRONE of God AND OF THE LAMB will be there, and his servants will worship him. And they will see his face, and his name will be written on their foreheads. And there will be no night there—no need for lamps or sun—for the Lord God will shine on them. And they will reign forever and ever.” Revelation 22:1-5
Now compare this with what Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 15 again:
“Then comes the end when He will deliver up the kingdom to God the Father, when He puts an end to all rule and all authority and power. For He will reign until He has put all enemies under His feet. The last enemy that will be destroyed IS DEATH. For He ‘has put all things under His feet.’ But when He says, ‘all things are put under Him,’ it is revealed that He, who has put all things under Him, is the exception. When all things are subjected to Him, then the Son Himself will also be subject to Him who put all things under Him, that God may be all in all (ho Theos [ta] panta en pasin).” 1 Corinthians 15:24-28 Modern English Version (MEV)
The blessed Apostle states that the Lord shall reign until he has abolished death. Yet according to Revelation, Christ continues to rule along with the Father even after death has been destroyed, thereby establishing the fact that the Son’s kingdom is eternal and therefore indestructible.
What all of this shows is that Jesus Christ is included within the identity of the very God whom Paul says will be all in all.
This is further confirmed by the fact that the God-breathed Scriptures apply the term God to Christ in contexts that clearly point to his uncreated, essential Deity.
For instance, the Holy Bible proclaims that the Lord Jesus is the God-Man who rules forever, being the Mighty God that created and gives life to all things:
“Nevertheless, that time of darkness and despair will not go on forever. The land of Zebulun and Naphtali will be humbled, but there will be a time in the future when Galilee of the Gentiles, which lies along the road that runs between the Jordan and the sea, will be filled with glory. The people who walk in darkness will see a GREAT light… For a child is born to us, a son is given to us. The government will rest on his shoulders. And he will be called: Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God (El Gibbor), Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. His government and its peace will never end. He will rule with fairness and justice from the throne of his ancestor David for all eternity. The passionate commitment of the Lord of Heaven’s Armies will make this happen!” Isaiah 9:6-7
“In the beginning the Word already existed. The Word was with God, and the Word was God. He existed in the beginning with God. God created everything through him, and nothing was created except through him. The Word gave life to everything that was created, and his life brought light to everyone… The one who is the true light, who gives light to everyone, was coming into the world. He came into the very world HE CREATED, but the world didn’t recognize him… So the Word became human and made his home among us. He was full of unfailing love and faithfulness. And we have seen his glory, the glory of the Father’s one and only Son… No one has ever seen God. But the unique One, who is himself God, is near to the Father’s heart. He has revealed God to us.” John 1:1-4, 9-10, 14, 18
“Long ago God spoke many times and in many ways to our ancestors through the prophets. And now in these final days, he has spoken to us through his Son. God promised everything to the Son as an inheritance, and through the Son he created the universe. The Son radiates God’s own glory and expresses the very character of God, and he sustains everything by the mighty power of his command. When he had cleansed us from our sins, he sat down in the place of honor at the right hand of the majestic God in heaven… But to the Son he says, ‘Your throne, O God (HO Theos), endures FOREVER AND EVER. You rule with a scepter of justice. You love justice and hate evil. Therefore, O God, your God has anointed you, pouring out the oil of joy on you more than on anyone else.’” Hebrews 1:1-3, 8-9
Jesus is also said to be the God who humbled himself to become a servant in order to die an accursed death,
“You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had. Though he was God, he did not think of equality with God as something to cling to. Instead, he gave up his divine privileges; he took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being. When he appeared in human form, he humbled himself in obedience to God and died a criminal’s death on a cross.” Philippians 2:5-8
The God who shed his own blood to redeem the church,
“So guard yourselves and God’s people. Feed and shepherd God’s flock—his church, purchased with HIS OWN BLOOD—over which the Holy Spirit has appointed you as leaders.” Acts 20:28
The God who is above all and is eternally praised,
“Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob are their ancestors, and Christ himself was an Israelite as far as his human nature is concerned. AND HE IS GOD, the one who rules over everything and is worthy of eternal praise! Amen.” Romans 9:5
The God who bestows his grace upon believers,
“Then the name of our Lord Jesus will be honored because of the way you live, and you will be honored along with him. This is all made possible because of the grace of our God and Lord, Jesus Christ (TOU Theou hemon kai Kyriou ‘Iesou Christou).” 2 Thessalonians 1:12
The great God and Savior whose glorious appearance all true believers eagerly await,
“while we look forward with hope to that wonderful day when the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ (TOU megalou Theou kai Soteros hemon ‘Iesou Christou), will be revealed. He gave his life to free us from every kind of sin, to cleanse us, and to make us his very own people, totally committed to doing good deeds.” Titus 2:13-14
As well as the God and Savior whose justice and fairness results in salvation being granted to all human beings, irrespective of ethnicity, gender, or status:
“This letter is from Simon Peter, a slave and apostle of Jesus Christ. I am writing to you who share the same precious faith we have. This faith was given to you because of the justice and fairness of Jesus Christ, our God and Savior (TOU Theou hemon kai Soteros ‘Iesou Christou).” 2 Peter 1:1
Two important points need to be noted regarding the above passages. First, the Greek of 2 Thessalonians 1:12, Titus 2:13, Hebrews 1:8 and 2 Peter 1:1 all have the definite article before the word God, and therefore describe Jesus as THE God, and not simply a God.
Second, 2 Thessalonians 1:12, Titus 2:13 and 2 Peter 1:1 are examples of what is commonly referred to as a Granville Sharp construction. Sharp was a Christian philanthropist and abolitionist who wrote a monograph in 1798 on how the Greek NT employs the definite article, especially as it relates to the Deity of Christ. He discovered six rules concerning the article, the first of which being that whenever one finds two singular personal nouns, which are not proper names, connected by the Greek conjunction kai (“and”), with the definite article appearing only before the first noun, then both nouns are referring to and describing the same individual. This is precisely what we find in the case of the aforementioned verses.
Christ is therefore being described as God, in fact as the great God, who is the Lord and Savior of all believers. And since there is only one Being who can be properly called the great God, namely Yahweh Almighty,
“For the Lord your God is the God of gods and Lord of lords. He is the great God, the mighty and awesome God, who shows no partiality and cannot be bribed.” Deuteronomy 10:17
“And now, our God, the great and mighty and awesome God, who keeps his covenant of unfailing love…” Nehemiah 9:32
“For you are great and perform wonderful deeds. You alone are God.” Psalm 86:10
“You show unfailing love to thousands, but you also bring the consequences of one generation’s sin upon the next. You are the great and powerful God, the Lord of Heaven’s Armies.” Jeremiah 32:18
This means that, according to the inspired NT record, Jesus Christ is Yahweh God Almighty in the flesh (even though he is not the Father or the Holy Spirit)!
This explains why the NT authors could say without any reservation that Christ existed before any created thing came into being, and that he is the Agent whom the Father used to create and sustain the entire creation,
“For he has rescued us from the kingdom of darkness and transferred us into the Kingdom of his dear Son, who purchased our freedom and forgave our sins. Christ is the visible image of the invisible God. He existed before anything was created and is supreme over all creation, for through him God created everything in the heavenly realms and on earth. He made the things we can see and the things we can’t see—such as thrones, kingdoms, rulers, and authorities in the unseen world. Everything was created through him and for him. He existed before anything else, and he holds all creation together. Christ is also the head of the church, which is his body. He is the beginning, supreme over all who rise from the dead. So he is first in everything.” Colossians 1:13-18
And why Hebrews could take the following Psalm, which describes Yahweh God Almighty as the unchanging Creator and Sustainer of all things,
“Long ago you laid the foundation of the earth and made the heavens with your hands. They will perish, but you remain forever; they will wear out like old clothing. You will change them like a garment and discard them. But you are always the same; you will live forever.” Psalm 102:25-27
And apply that to the Son!
“He also says to the Son, ‘In the beginning, Lord, YOU laid the foundation of the earth and made the heavens with YOUR HANDS. They will perish, but you remain forever. They will wear out like old clothing. You will fold them up like a cloak and discard them like old clothing. But you are always the same; you will live forever.’” Hebrews 1:10-12
Therefore, since one of the very translations which the InC apologist utilized in his debate against Dr. White goes out of its way to proclaim that Jesus is Yahweh God Almighty who became flesh, being the eternal divine Son of God whom the Father has always loved, will he and his organization now do the honest thing and repent of their blasphemies and shameless distortion of the Holy Scriptures?
Unless and until the Holy Spirit brings conviction and enables them to see the error of their ways, the sad reality is that they will never do so but will instead choose to continue blaspheming the risen Lord of glory, Jesus Christ, the Father’s eternally beloved Son.
Lord willing, the second part of my rebuttal where I discuss the sense in which he the Son will become subject to God, should be appearing shortly.