That Mysterious Trinity
If we are to understand the final conflict between Christ and Antichrist, we must know the nature of the God whom Satan opposes and the false views of God which Satan has inspired in his cosmic and lengthy struggle with the Creator. In view of Christ's statement that eternal life is "to know the only true God, and Jesus Christ" (john 17:3), it is easy to see why a major part of Satan's strategy is to promote false concepts of God and to present to mankind a counterfeit Christ. Those whom Satan can keep from knowing the true God and Jesus Christ will share his eternal doom.
Throughout the world and in all ages there have been two general concepts of God:
1) pantheism / naturalism - that the universe itself is God;
2) supernaturalism - that the Creator is distinct from His creation.
Related to these two are two more opposing vies;
1) polytheism - that there are many gods (Mormons, for example are polytheists);
2) monotheism - that there is only one God.
Antichrist's claims are built upon a pantheistic/polytheistic world view. If everything is God and there are thus many gods, it the follows that every person is a god whether he realizes or not. It was on this basis that Satan became convinced that he could be "like the Most High." He apparently still labours under that delusion. The Antichrist, having apparently "realized" this inner potential, is in a position to help others to achieve their Godhood also. Such is the great lie of the Serpent.
Supernaturalism/monotheism is divided into two rival beliefs:
1) that God is a single being;
2) that God has always existed in three Persons who are separate and distinct, yet one.
Only Christians hold the latter view - and even some who call themselves Christians reject it. Yet it is the only biblical, logical and philosophically coherent view of God possible. It is also the only real opposition to the Antichrist's ecumenical world religion. All other views of God can be accommodated by the Antichrist - but not the biblical doctrine of the Trinity.
Pantheism is really a form of atheism and share the same fatal flaws. If everything is God, then there is really no God. God over what, or in charge of what, or the Creator of what? Of Himself? Pantheism leads to numerous other contradictions. God would be the emptiness of a vacuum as well as the substance of matter; He would be sickness as well as health, death as well as life, evil as well as good. The very concept of God would be self-contradictory.
If the universe is God and thus all there is, then no outside reference point exists from which the universe can be evaluated and given purpose and significance. Nothing has meaning or value in itself, but only as some personal being has use for it and values it. The universe, and mankind as part of it, could have no meaning unless created for His purpose by Another, who must be separate and distinct from His creation. Pantheism can offer only meaninglessness, hopelessness, and ultimate despair.
As for polytheism, if there is more than one God, then who is in charge? If one God is stronger or has more authority than the others, then how could all of them be "God"? The many gods of polytheism fight wars and steal one another's wives, with no one to set the standards and call the universe to account. There is no basis for morals, truth, or peace in heaven or earth. Polytheism's basic problem is diversity without unity.
At the other extreme is the belief that God is a single Personage. It is held by both Muslims and Jews, who insists that Allah, or Jehovah, is "one". The same belief is held by pseudo-Christian cults such as the Jehovah's Witnesses. Some aberrant Christian groups also claim that God is a single Personage and the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are "titles" or "offices." Here we have unity without diversity.
That God must have both unity and diversity is clear. The Allah of Islam, or the Jehovah of Jehovah's Witnesses and Jews, or the God of Unitarian "Christian" groups would be incomplete in Himself. He would be unable to love or communicate before creating other beings capable of interacting with Him in these ways. (For God to be just, true, holy, and pure would not require the existence of other beings in order for these qualities to be expressed, as would be the case for God to experience love.)
The quality of love and the capacities for fellowship and communion, by their very nature, require another personal being with which to share them. And God could not fully share Himself except with another Being equal to Him. Yet the bible says that "God is love" in Himself alone. This could only be true if within the Godhead itself there is a plurality of Personages, or or divine Persons, who could express and experience love in relation to one another. Although the actual word "trinity" does not occur in the Bible, the concept is clearly expressed there, providing the unity and diversity that makes possible the love, fellowship, and communion within the Godhead.
The Bible presents a God who did not need to create any beings to experience love, communion and fellowship. This God is complete in Himself, existing eternally in three Persons: Father, Son and Holy Spirit, individually distinct from each other yet at the same time eternally one God. These three loved, communed and felloshipped with each other and took counsel together before the universe, angels or man were brought into existence. Truly the biblical triune God "is love" (1 John 4:8,16)-and He alone.
In contrast, the God of Islam and contemporary Judaism could not be love in and of Himself, for whom could He love in the solitude predating His creation of other personal beings? Such a deficiency in God would affect man at every level of his being. As one astute author, who tried Eastern mysticismand found it wanting, has said:
The inconceivably complete identity of God is the paradigm of all personhood, as its very plurality is the foundation of all relatedness. Such is the "image of God" in which we are made. In that light, the doctrine of the Trinity is not some facile mystification, but a straightforward statement of the multiple personhood of God ...
If God is a Person, that ... translates into moral absolutes for us ... humanity's alienation from God has occurred at precisely that level of character and relationship. (1)
Love is God's principle weapon in His battle with Satan for the soul and destiny of mankind. For the battle rages not only for man's mind but above all for his love. Every sin, therefore, has its root (as the Decalogue declared) in man's failure to respond to God's love in the fullness of the capacity for love which He has given us. As the first and greatest commandment declares:
Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment (Mark 12:30; Deutoronomy 6:5; etc.).
We don't have the ability within ourselves to keep this commandment, for "love is of God, and every one that loveth is born of God and knoweth God" (1 John 4:7). It is God's love to us that woos and wins our hearts and awakens in us a love for Him: "We love him because he first loved us" (verse 19). The great act (and thus the proof of God's love is that God became a man in order to personally pay the penalty demanded by His justice against our sin. He could only do this because He is a personal and Triune Being.
The heresy that God is a single Personage (Unitarianism) and not three Persons existing eternally in one God (Trinitarianism) invaded the church around 220 A.D. through a Libyan theologian named Sabellius. He attempted to retain biblical language concerning Father, Son and Holy Spirit without acknowledging the triune nature of God. Sabellius claimed that God existed as a single Personage who manifested Himself in three activities, modes or aspects: as Father in the creation, as Son in redemption and as Holy Spirit in prophecy and sanctification. Though condemned by the vast majority of Christians, this heresy survives to this day in such "Jesus only" groups as the United Pentecostal Church.
Jesus said, "The Father loveth the Son and hath given all things into his hand" (John 3:35). God's love is not just toward mankind but first of all among the three Persons of the Godhead. Father, Son and Holy Spirit can't be mere offices, titles, or modes in which god manifests Himself, for such cannot love, consult and n fellowship together. Not only is the Son presented as a Person, but the Father and the Holy Spirit are as well. The Bible presents each as having His own personality: each wills, acts, loves and cares, and can also be grieved or become angry. Unitarianism robs the Godhead of the essential qualities of self-existent and self-sufficient deity.
Godhead? Is that a biblical term? Yes indeed. It occurs three times in the King James New Testament: in Acts 17:29, Romans 1:20 and Colossians 2:9. In contrast to theos , which is used consistently throughout the New Testament for God, three different but related Greek words occur in these verses /theios, theiotes, theotes), which the King James Bible, in contrast to other versions, carefully designates by the special word Godhead. That very term indicates a plurality of being.
Paul wrote, "In Him dwelleth all the fullness of the Godhead bodily" (Colossians 2:9). This statement makes no sense if, as the "Jesus only" advocates teach, Christ is the only God, and the Father and the Holy Spirit are merely "offices" or "titles." Paul would then be making the meaningless statement that in Christ dwelt all the fullness of Christ.
Did Paul mean that in Christ dwells all the fullness of deity, as non-King-James translations render it? That would detract from the deity of Christ. For if Christ is intrinsically God, then what is the point of saying that "in Him dwells all the fullness of deity"? But if Christ is the Son and and there are two other Persons in the Godhead, then it does mean something: that when the Son became man He brought that fulness of the Godhead with Him into the flesh.
The Antichrist comes in the place of the true Christ. Lacking the marks of crucifixion, as we have noted, he must therefore promote another view of Christ that denies that Jesus is the one and only Messiah. ("Christ" is simply the Greek equivalent of the Hebrew word "Messiah"). He must therefore deny that God has literally become a man and that this union between God and man continues eternally in the Person of Jesus of Nazareth, who died for our sins and is now resurrected. This common "antichrist" doctrine takes away many forms and is found in many religions. Such delusions have all been part of a centuries-long preparation for the time when Antichrist will be accepted by the world as its true Savior.
Like Jews, Muslims find the trinity particularly objectionable. One of Islam's most important teachings concerns the "absolute oneness of Allah." Yet the Koran repeats the Genesis statement: "Let us make man in our image." Islam has no explanation for this contradiction.
The very first verse in the Bible presents God as a plural being. It declares: "In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth." Yet instead of the singular Eloah for God in the Hebrew, the plural, Elohim, is used It literally means "In the beginning, Gods created ..." It is also Elohim (Gods) who say later in the chapter, "Let us make man in our image ..."
This plural noun (Elohim) is found over 2500 times in the Old Testament. Yet a singular verb, bara, is used in Genesis 1:1 and in almost every other place that Elohim is found. So we have both singularity (in the verb) and plurality (in the noun). The same is true all through the Torah and entire Old Testament. If God was a single Personage, then the single form, Eloah, would have been used, not Elohim. That fact is inescapable.
At the burning bush incident we read: "And God (Elohim) said unto Moses, I am that I am ..." (Exodus 3:14. Here Gods speak, but they don't say "We are" but "I am." Again that peculiar singularity and plurality at the same time in the same Being! So it is in Exodus 20:2-"I am the Lord thy God (Elohim) ..." And Leviticus 11:44-"I am the Lord your God (Elohim)..."
Each time God uses Elohim (Gods) of Himself (90 percent of the time) instead of Eloah (God) (10 percent), He reveals to us the plurality in His Being. And when He uses a singular verb and pronoun along with Elohim, He is clearly telling us that He is a unity.
Nor is the word Elohim the only way in which God's plurality is presented. Consider for example, Psalm 149:2 (NKJV): "Let Israel rejoice in their Maker" (literally "makers"); Ecclesiastes 12:1 "Remember now thy Creator" (literally creators); and Isaiah 54:5 "For thy Maker is thine husband" (literally makers, husbands"). Unitarianism has no explanation for this consistent presentation of God's plurality all through the Old Testament.
Most Jewish people are not aware that the plural noun Gods is found in the very center of Israel's famous confession of the oneness of God. It reads in Hebrew: "Shema yisroel adonai elohenu adonai echad" (Deutoronomy 6:4). From this Scripture, Rabbi Moses Maimonides taught Jews to recite daily, "I believe with a perfect faith that the Creator, blessed be His name , is One."
Maimonides, however, perverted the Scripture, apparently deliberately. To express "ONE" he used the Hebrew word yachid, which means a single and absolute one. Yet Moses used echad, which could mean a unity of several into one. For example, it is used in Genesis 2:24, where man and woman become "one flesh"; in Exodus 36:13, when the various parts "became one tabernacle"; in 2 Samuel 2:25, when many soldiers "became one troop"; and elsewhere.
God is telling us something important about Himself by His choice of Hebrew words. Had God wanted to show that He is an absolute one, He would have chosen yachid, but instead He chose echad. Maimonides made a serious mistake in changing God's Word. As a result, millions of Jews have been led astray and still are to this day. Islam perpetuates the same error. God is not an absolute one; He is a unity, as Moses taught in the Torah.
We have already referred several times to some of Isaiah's remarkable promises, such as: "The Lord himself shall give you a sign: Behold, a virgin shall concieve, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel" (Isaiah 7:14). The literal translation of the Hebrew word Immanuel is with us is God-not spiritually but literally present in this babe named Immanuel. And again Isaiah 9:6: "For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder; and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, the mighty God, the everlasting Father ..."
The concept presented by the H ebrew prophets is found nowhere else in the world's religious literature, but is nunique to the Bible: a Son would be born into this world who, though a man, would be the Mighty God. And though a Son, He would be the Everlasting Father. Isaiah presents the deity of Christ, the Fatherhood of God, and the oneness of then Father and the Son.
When Jesus asked the rabbis, "What think ye of Christ (Messiah)? Whose son is he?" they replied immediately, "The son of David" (Matthew 22:42). Christ then quoted, "The Lord said unto my Lord, Sit thou at my right hand until I make thine enemies thy footstool" (Psalm 110:1) and asked them, "If David then call him Lord, how is he his son?" (Matthew 22:45). The Pharisees were speechless. Only the trinity provided an explanation for these two "Lords," one of whom is God the Father and the other God the Son.
The rabbis surely knew that Jehovah had repeatedly declared, "I am the Lord thy God, the Holy One of Israel, thy Savior ... and beside me there is no savior." Then who else, if He was to save His people, could the Messiah be except the Lord God of Israel come down as a man? The full wonder of this staggering fact, so essential to our salvation, shattered the skepticism of doubting Thomas and caused him to exclaim, when confronted by the resurrected Christ, "My Lord and my God" (John 20:28).
Yet the rabbis accused Jesus of blasphemy because He said "that God was His Father, making himself equal with God" (John 5:18). They knew that He was claiming to be "the God of Abraham, isaac, and Jacob," even though many today deny that Jesus ever made such a claim. This "blasphemy" became death: "For a good work we stone thee not, but for blasphemy ... thou being a man, makest thyself God" (John 10:33, Mark 14:64). They were blind to the prophecy of Zechariah that Israel would pierce Jehovah-and they fulfilled that prophecy, for Jesus was God, a conclusion one cannot escape.
When Christ returns visibly in power and glory at His second coming, the surviving Jews (whom He rescues from thze Antichrist at Armageddon) will recognize Him by the marks of Calvary: "They shall look upon me whom they have pierced, and they shall mourn for him" (Zechariah 12:10). Jehovah, the God of Israel, is speaking. When was He pierced? The Hebrew word means the piercing to death, as when King Saul begged his armorbearer, "Draw thy sword, and thrust me through" (1 Samuel 31:4).
Zechariah's prophecy is both remarkable and clear: God Himself will come as a man to rescue Israel when, in the last days, they will be surrounded by the armies of the world and will stand on the brink of destruction. Nor does He come as an ordinary man, but as One who was thrust through to death and has come back to life. When Israel sees Him, they will know He is Jehovah by His power, and they will recognize Him as Jesus by the marks of crucifixion that His resurrected body still bears. In thatb moment all Israel will be convinced at last that Jesus of Nazareth, whom they crucified and have rejected for so long, is the Messiah long promised by their own prophets. They will repent and believe in Him (Zechariah 12:10-14:9).
Zechariah's prophecy should have made it clear to Israel all along that the Messiah would be Jeovah Himself: the me whom they will "look upon" and the him "whom they have pierced" are clearly one and the same. Jesus no doubt had this Scripture, among others, in mind when He declared, "I and my Father are one" (John 10:30). Here we confront a teaching that distinguishes the God of the Bible from every other concept of God known in the world's religions.
No wonder Paul wrote that if the "princes of this world" (the rabbis, Pilate, Herod, etc.) had only known the truth about Christ they would not have dared to crucify Him! (1 Corinthians 2:8). It was in reference to such blindness that Isaiah asked the solemn question: "Who hath believed our (the prophets') report" (Isaiah 53:1). That same query is appropriate today. Just as Israel misunderstanding of God's triune nature caused her to reject her Messiah, so that same misunderstanding will allow her to be deceived into accepting the antichrist. He comes, as we have seen, not as a member of the Trinity-in the name of the Father and under the anointing of the Holy Spirit-but "in his own name."
The New Testament presents three Persons who are distinct, yet each is God. At the same time we repeatedly have the clear staement that there is only one true God. Christ prays to the Father. Is He praying to Himself? "The Father sent the Son to be the Savior of the world" (1 John 4:14). Did He send Himself? Worse yet, did one "office" pray to and send a "title"? Christ said, "The words that I) speak unto you I speak not of myself (on my own initiative), but the Father that dwelleth in me, he doeth the works" (John 14:10); "I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter ... even the Spirit of truth" (John 14:16,17). Throughout the New Testament, Father Son and Holy Spirit are each separately hoinored and act as God, yet only in concert with one another.
The Old Testament also presents three Persons in the Godhead interacting with each other. Take for example the following:
Hearken unto me, O Jacob and Israel, my called; I am he; I am the first, I also am the last. Mine hand also hath laid the foundation of the earth, and my right hand hath spanned the heavens ... from the time it was, there am I; and now the Lord God and his Spirit, hath sent me
The one speaking refers to Himself as "the first and the last" and the Creator of all, so He must be God. But He speaks of two others in the same passage who must also be God: "the Lord God, and His Spirit, hath sent me." By whom could God be "sent" on some mission-and where? This can be none other than the Father and the Holy Spirit sending the Son into the world to be our Savior.
God is also called "the first and the last" in the New Testament-and so is Jesus. In Revelation 1:8 we read: "I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the ending, saith the Lord ... the Almighty." God, the Lord Almighty, is speaking. Yet John tells us he was being addressed by Jesus Christ. In the last chapter Jesus says, "Behold, I come quickly" (22:7), referring to His second coming. Then He adds: "I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, the first and the last" (22:13). Again Jesus is presented as God.
Isaiah gives further insight into past counseling among the Godhead when the Father and Holy Spirit sent the Son into the world:
Also I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, Whom shall I send, and who will go for us? Then said I; send me.
"The voice of the Lord" said all of the above. "The Lord" God not only says, "Who will go for us?" but He also replies, "Here am I; send me." Here we see the essential unity and diversity in the Godhead at work. There are three Persons communing with each other and working together, yet they are not three Gods but one God.
The Bible reveals other decisions coming from the counseling together of the Godhead: "God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness"; and again, "Let us go down, and there confound their language" (Genesis 1:26; 11:7). Why does God say, "The man is become as one of us" (Isaiah 6:8)? Who is this us and to whom does our refer if God is a single Personage? It could not be some angelic beings, as Unitarians suggest. God would not say to them, "Let us make man," for no created being could cocretae with God. And that the Son was one of those included in us and our is quite clear, for we are told that "without him was not any thing made that was made" (John 1:3).
Even if angels were made in the image of God, they would not intrinsically possess the likeness of God. If God were speaking to created beings He wouldn't say "in our image" but rather "in my image as I made you." Whoever is referred to by us and our must be equal with God. We are told that the Son existed eternally "in the form (Greek morphe-of the very nature) of god" (Philippians 2:6). He is "the brightness of his (God's) glory, and the express image of his person" (Hebrews 1:3).
One cannot escape the fact that all through the Bible God is presented as a plurality and yet as one, as having both diversity and unity. This concept of God is unique among all the world's religions. To reject the triune nature of god is to reject the God of the Bible-and to come, ultimately, under the delusion that will cause the world to obey and worship the Antichrist when he comes.
It is a mystery that God can exist in three Persons yet be one God, but both Scripture and logic demand this fact. It is also a mystery how God could have no beginning and create everything out of nothing, yet it must be so. There is much else that we cannot explain-love, beauty, truth, or what a human soul or spiritis-but we don't reject it on that basis. God has revealed His triune nature to us so that we can believe in and know Him. We dare not reject what He says or lower Him to the level of our finite minds.
God is not some "force" inherent within the universe that we can tap into and use to our own advantage-nor is the universe an extension of Him. The First Law of Thermodynamics declares that energy can neither be created nor destroyed, yet we know that the universe could not have been here forever. Were that the case, our own sun would have burned out by now. The secret to its existence in time is not to be found within the universe itself but in its Creator, who must exist outside of and separate from it.
The Second Law of Thermodynamics declares that the amount of usable energy in the universe is staedily decreasing, causing the universe to run down like a clocvk. Eventually all the planets will have fallen out of orbit and all the stars will have burned out-and death will reign throughout. All the schemes and dreams of mankind, the corporate plans, the political startegies, the heroic deeds, the triumphs and tragedies, the agonies and the ecstasies will be like sand castles washed into a cosmic ocean of nothingness. If God is merely the universe or part of it or a force within it, He too will be estinguished.
The God of the Bible, however, is the Creator of the universe, separate and distinct from it and not subject to the laws He made to govern it. And therein lies the only hope for mankind, for the God of the Bible can in fact reach into the dying universe and re-create it to be totally new. Reincarnation can only recycle that which is staedily sinking into oblivion. Resurrection, on the other hand, represents an influx of God's power from outside, bringing immortality to that which otherwise would be eternally dead.
Such is the God whom we must know personally in order to be saved. And such is the God whom the Antichrist denies. It is the triune God who made man in His image and who alone could come as a man and still remain God. He alone could rescue mankind from sin and self and from eternal separation from His love and presence.
When God said, "Behold, I will send my messenger, and he shall prepare the way before me" (Malachi 3:1), He was saying that He Himself would come to this earth as the Messiah. All through the Old Testament God repeatedly said: "I, even I, am the Lord; and beside me there is no savior" (isaiah 43:11, etc.). And how does He saves us? By giving us a law to keep? No, the law can condemn lawbreakers.
Suppose a person is arrested for some crime. He pleads with the judge, "If you let me off this time, I promise I will never break the law again." But the judge replies, "If you never break the law again you are only doing what the law demands. You get no extra credit for that. You can't make up for breaking the law in the past by keeping it in the future. The penalty required for disobeying the law must be paid."
God loves even the vilest sinner, but it would be unjust to forgive him unless the penalty that His justice demands has been paid. It was in order to pay the penalty we owed for our sins that God became a man. In so doing He did not cease to be God, and He will never cease to be man. If Jesus Christ were not the one and only God-man, perfect and without sin, He would have had to die for His own sins. But because of who He is, He is able to die in our place and pay the infinite penalty that we deserved.
Jesus Christ now offers eternal life as a free gift of God's grace to all who will believe that He died in their place and will open their hearts to receive Him as their Savior and Lord. Such a plan of salvation is unknown in the world's religions and is anathema to New Age teachings. It is possible only because of the unique triune nature of the God of the Bible, who stands in complete contrast to all rival gods.
God's love toward mankind is not some impersonal cosmic force that operates inexorably by a universal law. It is intensely personal. God loves each of us with a passion. We find that incredible fact extremely difficult to believe, much less to understand. We look within ourselves to find the reason for His love. Yet it would not be conforting if God loved us because we somehow deserved or had aroused His love, because we could change and lose that appeal and thus lose His affection. It is, instead, assuring to know that He loves us because of who He is in Himself-and in spite of who and what we are. Since God is love and since He never changes, we are secure for eternity and need never fear that we could lose His love by anything we might do or neglect to do.
How can we be certain that God loves us? Paul wrote that God demonstrated His love "in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us" (Romans 5:8). God has so fully proved His love through the cross of Christ, as only the personal, triune God could do, that no reasonable person could ever doubt it. John reminds us:
For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish but have everlasting life - (John 3:16)
In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent his only begotten Son into the world that we might live through him.
Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son t be the propitiation (the basis of forgiveness) for our sins. - 1 John 4:9, 10
If God loves us so much, then why will many people be separated from Him for eternity? There are three reasons:
1) God is holy and just. His love cannot nullify these aspects of His character. Love wants to forgive, but justice must be satisfied and dictates the terms of our forgiveness.
2) While God in love has fully paid the penalty demanded by His justice, man must respond. The payment of this penalty cannot be credited to those who deny the obbligations.
3) MOreover, love will not force itself upon anyone. Those who would be forgiven and reconciled to God must be willing to accept the remedy He offers. Those who refuse consign themselves to eternal separation in spite of God's provision.
True biblical love is no mere emotion that sweeps over a person, as Hollywood depicts it-"a falling in love." Instead, it involves a moral choice and total commitment, from which love never turns back but faithfully pursues the loved one's good, even to its own loss, and patiently endured all until it has triumphed. Such is God's commitment to those who respond tp His love-He will never leave or forsake us (Hebrews 13:5). A lack of such commitment on our part to God and to one another destroys marriages and families and produces the full range of chaos in human relationships that characterize today's world. What a tragic testimony toman's separation from his loving Creator!