In this part we will answer one of Mr. Burch’s remaining “difficult questions” for trinitarians. This question has to do with the distinction in person and role between the Father and the Son. We will see that the Scriptures provide all the answers to this that we need if we let the Spirit lead us into all truth.
How can Jesus be at God’s right hand if He is God?
I suppose that the obvious question for those of us who recognize that God is spirit and that He is infinite, would be “How can God have a ‘right hand’ anyway?” Mr. Burch and I would agree that God is unlimited in His being and is not geospacially contained. Therefore, we should contemplate that the “right hand” has more to do with an authoritative role or position rather than a measure of distance from a geometric point.
Regardless, if Jesus and “God” (the Father) in this case are distinguished such that “God” occupies a “throne” in heaven and Jesus is designated to be at the “right hand,” do trinitarians have a dilemma? Many texts reference Jesus, having ascended to heaven in His glorified body being now at the “right hand” of the throne of the Father to fulfill prophecy. Understanding that we do not expect this phrase to have the most literal understanding in reference to an actual physical location, trinitarians have no issue with this, because we recognize the distinction in person between the Father and the Son. We also recognize the distinction in roles between the Father and the Son in the eternal covenant of redemption.
What should be an issue for unitarians on the other hand (no pun intended), is when the Scriptures proceed to conflate things that start different, but finish the same. This is where the trinitarian understanding really shines!
Who sits on the throne?
The book of Revelation is chock full of evidence of the deity of Christ for those who have an eye to see it. With the issue of Jesus sitting at the “right hand” of God’s throne, we will see some interesting progressive revelation.
And immediately I was in the spirit: and, behold, a throne was set in heaven, and one sat on the throne.
And he that sat was to look upon like a jasper and a sardine stone: and there was a rainbow round about the throne, in sight like unto an emerald.
And I saw in the right hand of him that sat on the throne a book written within and on the backside, sealed with seven seals.
— Revelation 4:2-3; 5:1
First, we have a vision to the Apostle John of a figure sitting on a throne in heaven representing the Father. He held an apocalyptic scroll in His right hand. Then, the Lamb is revealed:
And I beheld, and, lo, in the midst of the throne and of the four beasts, and in the midst of the elders, stood a Lamb as it had been slain, having seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven Spirits of God sent forth into all the earth.
And he came and took the book out of the right hand of him that sat upon the throne.
— Revelation 5:6-7
As twenty-four elders and four beasts surround this throne, a Lamb is revealed in their midst. He is also “in the midst of the throne.” He is obviously Jesus Christ. He is the One Who is worthy to open the scroll, break the seals, and read it. He takes the scroll from the One sitting on the throne. There is a clear distinction between these two.
These shall make war with the Lamb, and the Lamb shall overcome them: for he is Lord of lords, and King of kings: and they that are with him are called, and chosen, and faithful.
The Lamb is now called “Lord of lords, and King of kings.” Compare this with 1Ti 6:15-16 where the One Who shall appear as “King of kings and Lord of lords” is also the One Who dwells in light, is invisible and unapproachable, and receives eternal worship.
And I saw no temple therein: for the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are the temple of it.
And the city had no need of the sun, neither of the moon, to shine in it: for the glory of God did lighten it, and the Lamb is the light thereof.
Toward the end of the book of Revelation, now God and the Lamb are both the temple of the new Jerusalem. The Lamb is the light of God.
And he shewed me a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding out of the throne of God and of the Lamb.
And there shall be no more curse: but the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it; and his servants shall serve him:
And they shall see his face; and his name shall be in their foreheads.
Now, God and the Lamb clearly share the same throne. Yet, “his” (singular) servants shall serve “him” (singular). They shall see “his” face (c.f. Mat 5:8 where the meek shall “see God”). “His” name (singular) will be in their foreheads (c.f. Rev 14:1 where the 144,000 have the Father’s name on their foreheads).
And he said unto me, These sayings are faithful and true: and the Lord God of the holy prophets sent his angel to shew unto his servants the things which must shortly be done.
I Jesus have sent mine angel to testify unto you these things in the churches. I am the root and the offspring of David, and the bright and morning star.
Both “The Lord God” and “Jesus” sent this angel as their messenger. This is the same angel before whom John attempted to worship (proskuneō). The angel refused and told John to “worship (proskuneō) God” (Rev 19:10; 22:9). Expectedly, the twenty-four elders and four beasts do this before God (Rev 4:10; 7:11; 11:16; 19:4), but every creature in the universe do this before God and the Lamb at the same time (Rev 5:13-14).
What are we to make of all this? Yes, Jesus and the Father are distinct. Jesus can be at the Father’s “right hand,” take a scroll from the Father, be “in the midst of the throne,” share the throne with the Father, be the light of the Father, be the temple with the Father, be served as “him” with the Father, and be worshipped as only “God” should be worshipped. Why? Because the Scriptures teach the Trinity! Because Jesus and the Father are separate Persons in the same Being of God! Yes, only trinitarians can truly understand how Jesus can be “at the right hand of the throne of God” and “be God” at the same time.
Who is the rock?
Let us look at another example of conflation. Can God set up a rock and be that same rock?
Sanctify the LORD of hosts himself; and let him be your fear, and let him be your dread.
And he shall be for a sanctuary; but for a stone of stumbling and for a rock of offence to both the houses of Israel, for a gin and for a snare to the inhabitants of Jerusalem.
And many among them shall stumble, and fall, and be broken, and be snared, and be taken.
Here, Yahweh God Himself prophesies that He will be “a stone of stumbling and rock of offense” to Israel. Now, let us move on to another prophecy about a stone.
Therefore thus saith the Lord GOD, Behold, I lay in Zion for a foundation a stone, a tried stone, a precious corner stone, a sure foundation: he that believeth shall not make haste.
The stone which the builders refused is become the head stone of the corner.
This is the LORD’S doing; it is marvellous in our eyes.
Now, Yahweh God says that He will set up a corner stone in Israel. All must believe in this stone to be saved. This stone will be rejected by the builders. We see that this foundation/corner stone Who is laid in Israel is Jesus (Mat 21:42; Mar 12:10-11; Luk 20:17; Act 4:11; Eph 2:20-22). However, the Apostle Peter does something very interesting with all three of these texts:
Wherefore also it is contained in the scripture, Behold, I lay in Sion a chief corner stone, elect, precious: and he that believeth on him shall not be confounded.
Unto you therefore which believe he is precious: but unto them which be disobedient, the stone which the builders disallowed, the same is made the head of the corner,
And a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offence, even to them which stumble at the word, being disobedient: whereunto also they were appointed.
–1 Peter 2:6-8
Yahweh God said that He was the “stone of stumbling and rock of offense.” He said that He would lay in Zion the “chief corner stone” and that this would be the “stone which the builders rejected.” However, Peter conflates all these together and makes them all the same stone! Therefore, God can be the stone and lay the stone. If God is the One Who sends the stone and Jesus is the stone, but this stone is also God, then Jesus “is God” as much as Mr. Burch would like to make us believe cannot be true!
- Les Burch, It Isn’t The Way We Think It Is: Seven Common Beliefs That Aren’t in the Bible (Mustang, Okla.: Tate Publishing, 2013), 78, 109.
- Psa 110:1; Mat 22:44; 26:64; Mar 12:36; 14:62; Luk 20:42; 22:69; Act 2:33-35; 7:55-56; Rom 8:34; Eph 1:20; Col 3:1; Heb 1:3,13; 8:1; 10:12; 12:2; 1Pe 3:22