Revisiting the Worship of the God-Man

In this post I am going to revisit the issue of the honors given to Christ, documenting that Jesus receives the very worship which only God is supposed to receive.  

Pelach

In the Aramaic section of the book of Daniel, pelach is the type of service that is to be given to God alone:

“‘There are certain Jews whom you have appointed over the affairs of the province of Babylon: Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed′nego. These men, O king, pay no heed to you; they do not serve (palachin) your gods or worship the golden image which you have set up.’… Nebuchadnez′zar said to them, ‘Is it true, O Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed′nego, that you do not serve (palachin) my gods or worship the golden image which I have set up?’… ‘If it be so, our God whom we serve (palachin) is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace; and he will deliver us out of your hand, O king. But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve (palachin) your gods or worship the golden image which you have set up.’… Nebuchadnez′zar said, ‘Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed′nego, who has sent his angel and delivered his servants, who trusted in him, and set at nought the king’s command, and yielded up their bodies rather than serve (yip’lechun) and worship any god except their own God.’” Daniel 3:12, 14, 17-18, 28

“Then the king commanded, and Daniel was brought and cast into the den of lions. The king said to Daniel, ‘May your God, whom you serve (palach) continually, deliver you!’… When he came near to the den where Daniel was, he cried out in a tone of anguish and said to Daniel, “O Daniel, servant of the living God, has your God, whom you serve (palach) continually, been able to deliver you from the lions?’… ‘I make a decree, that in all my royal dominion men tremble and fear before the God of Daniel, for he is the living God, enduring for ever; his kingdom shall never be destroyed, and his dominion shall be to the end.’” Daniel 6:16, 20, 26

What makes this rather interesting is that the prophet is given a vision in which he sees a human figure riding the clouds of heaven whom all the nations are supposed to render pelach as he reigns over them forever and ever!

“I saw in the night visions, and behold, with the clouds of heaven there came one like a son of man, and he came to the Ancient of Days and was presented before him. And to him was given dominion and glory and kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve (yip’lechun) him; his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom one that shall not be destroyed.” Daniel 7:13-14

Remarkably, not only is this transcendent Being worshiped as God he even rides the clouds of heaven as God does:

“Sing to God, sing praises to his name; lift up a song to him who rides upon the clouds; his name is the LORD, exult before him!… to him who rides in the heavens, the ancient heavens; lo, he sends forth his voice, his mighty voice. Ascribe power to God, whose majesty is over Israel, and his power is in the skies.” Psalm 68:4, 33-34

“who hast laid the beams of thy chambers on the waters, who makest the clouds thy chariot, who ridest on the wings of the wind,” Psalm 104:3

“Behold, the LORD is riding on a swift cloud and comes to Egypt; and the idols of Egypt will tremble at his presence, and the heart of the Egyptians will melt within them.” Isaiah 19:1

“The LORD is slow to anger and of great might, and the LORD will by no means clear the guilty. His way is in whirlwind and storm, and the clouds are the dust of his feet.” Nahum 1:3

According to the inspired New Testament documents, Jesus Christ is that very Son of Man whom the prophet saw ascending into God’s heavenly presence to receive his indestructible kingdom:

“For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him will the Son of man also be ashamed, when he comes in the glory of HIS Father with the holy angels.” Mark 8:38

“And then they will see the Son of man coming in clouds with great power and glory. And then he will send out the angels, and gather his elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of heaven.” Mark 13:26-27

“But he was silent and made no answer. Again the high priest asked him, ‘Are you the Christ, the Son of the Blessed?’ And Jesus said, ‘I am; and you will see the Son of man seated at the right hand of Power, and coming with the clouds of heaven.’” Mark 14:61-62

“‘When the Son of man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate them one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, and he will place the sheep at his right hand, but the goats at the left. Then the King will say to those at his right hand, “Come, O blessed of MY Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.” Then the righteous will answer him, “Lord, when did we see thee hungry and feed thee, or thirsty and give thee drink? And when did we see thee a stranger and welcome thee, or naked and clothe thee? And when did we see thee sick or in prison and visit thee?” And the King will answer them, “Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me.” Then he will say to those at his left hand, “Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels; for I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.” Then they also will answer, “Lord, when did we see thee hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to thee?” Then he will answer them, “Truly, I say to you, as you did it not to one of the least of these, you did it not to me.” And they will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.’ When Jesus had finished all these sayings, he said to his disciples, ‘You know that after two days the Passover is coming, and the Son of man will be delivered up to be crucified.’” Matthew 25:31-46; 26:1-2

“But he, full of the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God; and he said, ‘Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of man standing at the right hand of God.’” Acts 7:55-56

“Behold, he is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him, every one who pierced him; and all tribes of the earth will wail on account of him. Even so. Amen. ‘I am the Alpha and the Omega,’ says the Lord God, who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.’ I John, your brother, who share with you in Jesus the tribulation and the kingdom and the patient endurance, was on the island called Patmos on account of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus. I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s day, and I heard behind me a loud voice like a trumpet saying, ‘Write what you see in a book and send it to the seven churches, to Ephesus and to Smyrna and to Per′gamum and to Thyati′ra and to Sardis and to Philadelphia and to La-odice′a.’ Then I turned to see the voice that was speaking to me, and on turning I saw seven golden lampstands, and in the midst of the lampstands one like a son of man, clothed with a long robe and with a golden girdle round his breast; his head and his hair were white as white wool, white as snow; his eyes were like a flame of fire, his feet were like burnished bronze, refined as in a furnace, and his voice was like the sound of many waters; in his right hand he held seven stars, from his mouth issued a sharp two-edged sword, and his face was like the sun shining in full strength. When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. But he laid his right hand upon me, saying, ‘Fear not, I am the first and the last, and the living one; I DIED, and behold I am alive for evermore, and I have the keys of Death and Hades.’” Revelation 1:7-18

Interestingly, Jesus not only appears as the Son of Man but also claims to be the First and the Last who lives forever, titles and ascriptions which the Hebrew Bible attributes to Jehovah alone!

“For my own sake, for my own sake, I do it, for how should my name be profaned? My glory I will not give to another. ‘Hearken to me, O Jacob, and Israel, whom I called! I am He, I am the first, and I am the last.’” Isaiah 48:11-12 – Cf. 41:4; 44:6

“At the end of the days I, Nebuchadnez′zar, lifted my eyes to heaven, and my reason returned to me, and I blessed the Most High, and praised and honored him who lives for ever; for his dominion is an everlasting dominion, and his kingdom endures from generation to generation; all the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing; and he does according to his will in the host of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth; and none can stay his hand or say to him, ‘What doest thou?’” Daniel 4:34-35

Finally,

“Then I looked, and lo, a white cloud, and seated on the cloud one like a son of man, with a golden crown on his head, and a sharp sickle in his hand. And another angel came out of the temple, calling with a loud voice to him who sat upon the cloud, ‘Put in your sickle, and reap, for the hour to reap has come, for the harvest of the earth is fully ripe.’ So he who sat upon the cloud swung his sickle on the earth, and the earth was reaped.” Revelation 14:14-16

The foregoing makes it abundantly clear that Jesus is that very exalted Son of Man whom all nations must worship as God forever and ever.

Latreuo/Latreia

According to the Greek translation of our blessed Lord’s words, latreuo/latreia refer to the worship that is to be given only to God:  

“Then Jesus said to him, ‘Begone, Satan! for it is written, “You shall worship the Lord your God and him only shall you serve (mono latreuseis).”’” Matthew 4:10

“And Jesus answered him, ‘It is written, “You shall worship the Lord your God, and him only shall you serve (mono latreuseis).”’” Luke 4:8 – Cf. Luke 1:74; 2:37; Acts 7:7, 42; 24:14; 26:7; 27:23; Romans 1:9, 25; Philippians 3:3; 2 Timothy 1:3; Revelation 7:15

Latreuo/latreia are the Greek terms used to render the Hebrew word avad, as the following examples indicate:

“You shall fear the LORD your God; you shall serve (ta’abod) him, and swear by his name.” Deuteronomy 6:13

“Thou shalt fear the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve (kai autoo monoo latreuseis); and thou shalt cleave to him, and by his name thou shalt swear.” LXX

“and I say to you, ‘Let my son go that he may serve (waya’abdeni) me’; if you refuse to let him go, behold, I will slay your first-born son.” Exodus 4:23

“And I said to thee, Send away my people, that they may serve (latreuse) me: now if thou wilt not send them away, see, I will slay thy first-born son.” LXX

“you shall not bow down (tishtachweh) to them or serve them (ta’abadem); for I the LORD your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me,” Exodus 20:5

“thou shalt not bow down (proskyneeseis) to them, nor serve them (oude mee latreusees autois); for I am the Lord thy God, a jealous God, recompensing the sins of the fathers upon the children, to the third and fourth generation to them that hate me,” LXX

“you shall not bow down (tishtachweh) to their gods, nor serve them (ta’abadem), nor do according to their works, but you shall utterly overthrow them and break their pillars in pieces. You shall serve (wa’abadem) the LORD your God, and I will bless your bread and your water; and I will take sickness away from the midst of you.” Exodus 23:24-25

“Thou shalt not worship (proskyneeseis) their gods, nor serve them (ou de mee latreusees autois): thou shalt not do according to their works, but shalt utterly destroy them, and break to pieces their pillars. And thou shalt serve (latreuseis) the Lord thy God, and I will bless thy bread and thy wine and thy water, and I will turn away sickness from you.” LXX

“And now, Israel, what does the LORD your God require of you, but to fear the LORD your God, to walk in all his ways, to love him, to serve (wala’abod) the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul… You shall fear the LORD your God; you shall serve (ta’abod) him and cleave to him, and by his name you shall swear.” Deuteronomy 10:12, 20

“And now, Israel, what does the Lord thy God require of thee, but to fear the Lord thy God, and to walk in all his ways, and to love him, and to serve (latreuein) the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul… Thou shalt fear the Lord thy God, and serve (latreuseis) him, and shalt cleave to him, and shalt swear by his name.” LXX

“Because you did not serve (abadta) the LORD your God with joyfulness and gladness of heart, by reason of the abundance of all things,” Deuteronomy 28:47

“because thou didst not serve (elatreusas) the Lord thy God with gladness and a good heart, because of the abundance of all things.” LXX

“Now therefore fear the LORD, and serve (wa’ibdu) him in sincerity and in faithfulness; put away the gods which your fathers served (abadu) beyond the River, and in Egypt, and serve (wa’ibdu) the LORD. And if you be unwilling to serve (la’abod) the LORD, choose this day whom you will serve (la’abodun), whether the gods your fathers served (abadu) in the region beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell; but as for me and my house, we will serve (na’abod) the LORD.” Joshua 24:14-15

“And now fear the Lord, and serve (latreusate) him in righteousness and justice; and remove the strange gods, which our fathers served (elatreusan) beyond the river, and in Egypt; and serve (latreusate) the Lord. But if it seem not good to you to serve (latreuein) the Lord, choose to yourselves this day whom ye will serve, whether the gods of your fathers that were on the other side of the river, or the gods of the Amorites, among whom ye dwell upon their land: but I and my house will serve (latreusomen) the Lord, for he is holy.” LXX

“What is in your mind shall never happen—the thought, ‘Let us be like the nations, like the tribes of the countries, and worship (lasharet) wood and stone.’ As I live, says the Lord GOD, surely with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm, and with wrath poured out, I will be king over you.” Ezekiel 20:32-33

“And it shall not be as ye say, We will be as the nations, and as the tribes of the earth, to worship (latreuein) stocks and stones. Therefore, [as] I live, saith the Lord, I will reign over you with a strong hand, and with a high arm, and with outpoured wrath:” LXX – Cf. Deuteronomy 4:28; 5:9; 7:4, 16; 8:19; 11:16, 28; 12:2; 29:17

Here is where it gets rather astonishing. John depicts the Son reigning on the same throne with the Father in the new heavens and earth, where they both receive latreuo/latreia from their servants

“Then he showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the THRONE of God and of the Lamb through the middle of the street of the city; also, on either side of the river, the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit each month; and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. There shall no more be anything accursed, but the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it, and HIS servants shall worship (latreusousin) HIM; they shall see HIS face, and HIS name shall be on their foreheads. And night shall be no more; they need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they shall reign for ever and ever.” Revelation 22:1-5

That the singular pronouns definitely include Christ, grouping him together with God, thereby showing that he too is the recipient of latreuo/latreia, is confirmed from the fact that it is the risen Lord whose face believers will see when he comes in glory:

“He who testifies to these things says, ‘Surely I am coming soon.’ Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!” Revelation 22:20

“If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God… For you have died, and your life is hid with Christ in God. When Christ who is our life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.” Colossians 3:1, 3-4

“And now, little children, abide in him, so that when he appears we may have confidence and not shrink from him in shame at his coming. If you know that he is righteous, you may be sure that every one who does right is born of him. See what love the Father has given us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Beloved, we are God’s children now; it does not yet appear what we shall be, but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.” 1 John 2:28-29; 3:1-2

Moreover, believers are portrayed as bearing the name of both Christ and God on their foreheads,

“Then I looked, and lo, on Mount Zion stood the Lamb, and with him a hundred and forty-four thousand who had HIS NAME and his Father’s name written on their foreheads.” Revelation 14:1

And are further identified as the very servants of Christ:

“And to the angel of the church in Thyati′ra write: ‘The words of the Son of God, who has eyes like a flame of fire, and whose feet are like burnished bronze. I know your works, your love and faith and service and patient endurance, and that your latter works exceed the first. But I have this against you, that you tolerate the woman Jez′ebel, who calls herself a prophetess and is teaching and beguiling MY servants to practice immorality and to eat food sacrificed to idols. I gave her time to repent, but she refuses to repent of her immorality. Behold, I will throw her on a sickbed, and those who commit adultery with her I will throw into great tribulation, unless they repent of her doings; and I will strike her children dead. And all the churches shall know that I am he who searches mind and heart, and I will give to each of you as your works deserve.’” Revelation 2:18-23

Remarkably, the Son ascribes to himself the very ability and function which the Hebrew Bible attributes to Jehovah God alone:

“I the LORD search the mind and try the heart, to give every man according to his ways, according to the fruit of his doings.” Jeremiah 17:10

“But, O LORD of hosts, who judgest righteously, who triest the heart and the mind, let me see thy vengeance upon them, for to thee have I committed my cause.” Jeremiah 11:20

“because they have committed folly in Israel, they have committed adultery with their neighbors’ wives, and they have spoken in my name lying words which I did not command them. I am the one who knows, and I am witness, says the LORD.” Jeremiah 29:23

“then hear thou in heaven thy dwelling place, and forgive, and act, and render to each whose heart thou knowest, according to all his ways (for thou, thou only, knowest the hearts of all the children of men);” 1 Kings 8:39

“And you, Solomon my son, know the God of your father, and serve him with a whole heart and with a willing mind; for the LORD searches all hearts, and understands every plan and thought. If you seek him, he will be found by you; but if you forsake him, he will cast you off for ever.” 1 Chronicles 28:9

“would not God discover this? For he knows the secrets of the heart.” Psalm 44:21

“and that to thee, O Lord, belongs steadfast love. For thou dost requite a man according to his work.” Psalm 62:12

“If you say, ‘Behold, we did not know this,’ does not he who weighs the heart perceive it? Does not he who keeps watch over your soul know it, and will he not requite man according to his work?” Proverbs 24:12

“Behold, the Lord GOD comes with might, and his arm rules for him; behold, his reward is with him, and his recompense before him.” Isaiah 40:10

“Behold, the LORD has proclaimed to the end of the earth: Say to the daughter of Zion, ‘Behold, your salvation comes; behold, his reward is with him, and his recompense before him.’” Isaiah 62:11

Another line of evidence comes from the fact thatlatreuo/latreia are specifically connected with the temple cultus, to the sacred service rendered to the only true God by his appointed priests:  

“but to be a witness between us and you, and between the generations after us, that we do perform the service (abodat) of the LORD in his presence with our burnt offerings and sacrifices and peace offerings; lest your children say to our children in time to come, ‘You have no portion in the LORD.’” Joshua 22:27

“but that this may be a witness between you and us, and between our posterity after us, that we may do service to the Lord (tou latreuein latreian Kyriou) before him, with our burnt-offerings and our meat-offerings and our peace-offerings: so your sons shall not say to our sons, hereafter, Ye have no portion in the Lord.” LXX

“Now the point in what we are saying is this: we have such a high priest, one who is seated at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in heaven, a minister in the sanctuary and the true tent which is set up not by man but by the Lord. For every high priest is appointed to offer gifts and sacrifices; hence it is necessary for this priest also to have something to offer. Now if he were on earth, he would not be a priest at all, since there are priests who offer gifts according to the law. They serve (latreuousin) a copy and shadow of the heavenly sanctuary; for when Moses was about to erect the tent, he was instructed by God, saying, ‘See that you make everything according to the pattern which was shown you on the mountain.’” Hebrews 8:1-5

“Now even the first covenant had regulations for worship and an earthly sanctuary. For a tent was prepared, the outer one, in which were the lampstand and the table and the bread of the Presence; it is called the Holy Place. Behind the second curtain stood a tent called the Holy of Holies, having the golden altar of incense and the ark of the covenant covered on all sides with gold, which contained a golden urn holding the manna, and Aaron’s rod that budded, and the tables of the covenant; above it were the cherubim of glory overshadowing the mercy seat. Of these things we cannot now speak in detail. These preparations having thus been made, the priests go continually into the outer tent, performing their ritual duties; but into the second only the high priest goes, and he but once a year, and not without taking blood which he offers for himself and for the errors of the people. By this the Holy Spirit indicates that the way into the sanctuary is not yet opened as long as the outer tent is still standing (which is symbolic for the present age). According to this arrangement, gifts and sacrifices are offered which cannot perfect the conscience of the worshiper (latreuonta), but deal only with food and drink and various ablutions, regulations for the body imposed until the time of reformation. But when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things that have come, then through the greater and more perfect tent (not made with hands, that is, not of this creation) he entered once for all into the Holy Place, taking not the blood of goats and calves but his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption.” Hebrews 9:1-9

“We have an altar from which those who serve (latreuontes) the tent have no right to eat. For the bodies of those animals whose blood is brought into the sanctuary by the high priest as a sacrifice for sin are burned outside the camp. So Jesus also suffered outside the gate in order to sanctify the people through his own blood. Therefore let us go forth to him outside the camp, and bear the abuse he endured. For here we have no lasting city, but we seek the city which is to come. Through him then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name. Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God.” Hebrews 13:10-16

And yet Jesus, amazingly, has priests that serve him in the same way that they serve God!

“Blessed and holy is he who shares in the first resurrection! Over such the second death has no power, but they shall be priests of God AND OF Christ, and they shall reign with him a thousand years.” Revelation 20:6

The foregoing confirms that Jesus receives latreuo just as the Father does, which only makes sense since the Lord himself said that God has commanded that all honor the Son just as they honor the Father:

“The Father judges no one, but has given all judgment to the Son, that all may honor the Son, even as they honor the Father. He who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent him.” John 5:22-23

This explains why every created thing in the entire creation give the risen Lord the exact same worship which God receives for the exact same duration:

“And when he had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each holding a harp, and with golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints; and they sang a new song, saying, ‘Worthy art thou to take the scroll and to open its seals, for thou wast slain and by thy blood didst ransom men for God from every tribe and tongue and people and nation, and hast made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they shall reign on earth.’ Then I looked, and I heard around the throne and the living creatures and the elders the voice of many angels, numbering myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands, saying with a loud voice, ‘Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!’ And I heard EVERY CREATURE in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, AND ALL THEREIN, saying, ‘To him who sits upon the throne AND TO THE LAMB be blessing and honor and glory and might for ever and ever!’ And the four living creatures said, ‘Amen!’ and the elders fell down and worshiped.” Revelation 5:8-14

The fact that Christ is personally distinguished from every creature in all of creation proves that the Son is no mere creature. Rather, Christ is the eternal Son of God who is essentially coequal with the Father, and therefore worthy of the same accolades that the Father receives.

Unless indicated otherwise, biblical references are from the Revised Standard Version (RSV) of the Holy Bible.

FURTHER READING

Does Jesus Receive Latreuo?

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