The Original Godhead and Christ’s Nature Prior to Creation
The Original Godhead and Christ's Nature Prior to Creation
The "Trinity" doctrine, which has been espoused and taught as a major tenet of the Orthodox Christian Faith for many centuries, was not taught in its current form by Christ or by the Apostles. It entered into Christian Theology long after the first disciples had passed from the scene. The first real mention of the term "Trinity" was made by Tertullian (150-225 AD). The "doctrine" of the "Trinity" - that is, "One God in Three co-eternal persons" was developed over a period of years and "Officially" became the orthodox teaching of Christianity during the 4th century AD (Note: It is not the purpose nor within the scope of this study to provide an "in-depth" history of the Trinity Doctrine. Those wishing to find a more thorough history are encouraged to look in any good encyclopedia and those who wish to find a comprehensive history of this doctrine's development may do so by visiting a library or bookstore; or by taking advantage of the vast amount of information available on the internet). Interestingly, it was introduced, developed and proclaimed by the Roman Catholic Church and is claimed to be the Doctrine upon which every other doctrine they hold and teach rests (see John A. Hardon, S.J., Catholic Doctrine on the Holy Trinity, [The Catholic Faith magazine, May/June 2001]-- "The mystery of the Holy Trinity is the most fundamental of our faith. On it everything else depends and from it everything else derives. Hence the Church's constant concern to safeguard the revealed truth that God is One in nature and Three in Persons." [Emphasis mine]). That, in and of itself ought to raise the eyebrows of the Protestant churches and those of God's Remnant people!
The truth is that the Doctrine of the Trinity not only does away with Christ's actual Sacrifice and reduces it to a Theatrical Hoax - it also relegates Christ's Work to that of Justification Alone (really it relegates His work to that of "Appeasing the Father's Wrath"!) and leaves no room for His ongoing work of SANCTIFICATION. According to the Traditional "Orthodox" Doctrine of the Trinity, there are Three COETERNAL, COEXISTANT members of the Godhead (Father, Son and Holy Ghost - each a separate, unique, independent, and "Self-Existent Being" ) and these three decided, at some point in Eternity Past, that if man fell, Jesus (the Son) would come and pay the penalty for man's transgression (which is death) and satisfy the need for Strict Justice, thus appeasing the Father's Wrath against Sin and Sinners. THEN, the Third Person of the Godhead, the Holy Spirit, would come and "pick-up" where Jesus left off, and He would be responsible for any Positive Changes in the lives of men (Sanctification). According to this Doctrine, once Christ had come and paid the Penalty for Sin, He returned to Heaven and "picked-up" where He left off - in other words, He resumed His former life as God with no limitations or consequences being felt by Him as a result of His having become Human for 33 ½ years. Indeed, the Doctrine of the Trinity makes Each of its Members responsible for simply "Playing different Roles" - as if the Sin problem and the Plan of Redemption were merely a "PLAY" being "acted out". Christ's life here on Earth and His death on the Cross really become nothing more than a Human Sacrifice (there is no "DIVINE SACRIFICE" in the Trinity Doctrine) -- and this, frankly, is as UNTRUE and UNSCRIPTURAL as it gets. It is as FALSE a Doctrine as has ever been dreamt up, and it is TOTALLY IN ERROR!!! The Orthodox Doctrine of the Trinity is actually a Doctrine that made its way into the Christian Church as the Church was departing further and further from the Teachings of Christ and His Apostles and was becoming more and more influenced and dependent upon the "Doctrines of Men". Please remember that the Devil introduces error by amalgamating (or mingling) it with truth. He creates "partial truths" (deception) with the sole intent of thwarting God's purposes and through which acceptance he hopes to secure our eternal destruction.
Does this mean that I do not believe that there are Three Members of the Godhead? No! I believe that "There are three living persons of the heavenly trio. . . three great powers of heaven - the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit" (Special Testimonies, Series B, No. 7, p. 63; 1905 - quoted in Evangelism, p. 615). I believe this with all my heart. However, I do not believe it in the totality or sense that the Trinity doctrine is taught today.
The Orthodox doctrine of the Trinity, which Seventh-day Adventists have come to espouse and teach, states that there are three members of the Godhead - the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit - and that these three have always existed as "One" and yet as three separate individuals or persons. It is the latter half of this doctrine (or belief) that I question and which I believe we have failed to properly understand. Have there always been three members of the Godhead? I don't think so - at least not in the "beginning"!
The "Original" Godhead:
"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God." (Jn. 1:1). This text, I believe, reveals the "Original Godhead". Other texts support this text and show that Christ existed as God with the Father from all eternity and indicate that He and the Father alone were responsible for creating the universe and the plan of salvation (see Jn. 17:5; Micah 5:2; Isa. 9:6; Jn. 1:1-3; Heb. 1:1,2; Col. 1:13-16; Jn. 3:16; 17:3; 6:44-46; 2 Cor. 5:19; etc.). There are NO Biblical texts, which speak of or confirm that there was a third member of the Godhead from eternity past. I have also found NO Spirit of Prophecy quotes that speak of an independent third member of the Godhead from eternity past. Some may object that there are texts which speak of the Holy Spirit being the third member of the Godhead and of His being "as much of a person as God is a person" [e.g. Manuscript 66, 1899] -- which does express both God-being and individuality (See also: John 14:16,17 & Manuscript 20, 1906 "The Holy Spirit is a person. . . a divine person" who "has a personality"), but I have found none that suggest the existence of an original, individual, third member of the Godhead apart from the Father or Christ. Frankly, it amazes me that we have not critically examined this glaring omission in both the Bible and the SOP! We will examine this in detail as we proceed and what we will find is a surprisingly "easy to be understood" Truth that may leave you wondering how we have been so slow to recognize and understand it.
We are told that: "…Christ, the Word, the only begotten of God, was one with the eternal Father--one in nature, in character, in purpose--the only being that could enter into all the counsels and purposes of God….The Father wrought by His Son in the creation of all heavenly beings." (PP p.34, par. 1-2). In this statement, the word "nature" must refer to Christ's physical substance - His physical "being" - because she makes the distinction between His "nature" and His "character". If the "nature" being referred to here consisted of His "character" then the statement would be nonsensical - it would read like this: "Christ . . . was one with the eternal Father-one in character, in character, in purpose. . .". That doesn't make any sense does it?! I believe that in using the word "nature" (in this instance) she is referring to Christ's existence prior to creation in which He existed as one with the Father in Spirit Form.
This "Spirit form", or "nature", would include His physical form as well as the attributes that make God, God. These attributes include His Omniscience, His Omnipotence, and His Omnipresence. These three are attributes of His "being", not simply of His character per se. For example, Omnipotence is an attribute of being "ALL-POWERFUL" and is a physical attribute (if you will) not one of character (as are "Love, Mercy, and Justness"). It implies the ability to create and to "act" upon both the animate nature (the physical dimension of matter) as well as on the inanimate nature (the spiritual dimension) of beings such as in the "thoughts and desires of the heart." This is not simply a character trait. Likewise, Omnipresence is the capacity or ability to be everywhere at once and is a physical attribute, not a character attribute. I believe that Omniscience (the attribute of being "all-knowing") is inseparably connected to Omnipresence (the attribute of being everywhere) because I find it inconceivable that one could be "all-knowing" if one was not also "ever-present" in some fashion. Christ showed this to be the case when, describing the timing of His Second Coming, He declared: "But of that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone." (Mark 13:32). Jesus was not "all-knowing" (omniscient) when He said this because He did not possess the ability to be "ever-present" (omnipresent) at this point in time. This point is important as we consider the incarnation and will become clearer and more evident in a moment.
Christ existed as "One" with the Father in the beginning. He was "One" with Him in Character, Purpose, Substance, and in Glory. God is a "Spirit" (John 4:24) and I believe that, since Christ was God in eternity past, that He existed with the Father before the Creation in the form of "Spirit". John 1:14 says that "the Word [Christ] became flesh, and dwelt among us." If Christ "became" flesh then He must have existed in some other form before this time. "Before Christ came in the likeness of men, he existed in the express image of his Father." (Youth's Instructor; December 20, 1900; par. 4). Now I do not wish to get into a debate as to what "form" a "spirit" has (it does apparently have one for we are told in Early Writings page 55: "I saw a throne, and on it sat the Father and the Son. I gazed on Jesus' countenance and admired His lovely person. The Father's person I could not behold, for a cloud of glorious light covered Him. I asked Jesus if His Father had a form like Himself. He said He had, but I could not behold it, for said He, "If you should once behold the glory of His person, you would cease to exist" -- Please note that Mrs. White's asking Christ "if His Father had a form like Himself" does not necessarily imply or convey the idea that their "forms" were identical. Rather, it seems that it is used in the sense of confirming that the Father does indeed have a "form". The question is really: "does your Father have a form?" - not "is His form identical to yours?" or, "is His form like the one I see you as having?" In this vision Mrs. White sees a multitude of peoples - both true believers and false believers - which indicates that she is viewing Christ at a time after His incarnation and which would make it impossible for Christ to have the same form as the Father), the point is that Jesus once shared the Father's "Spirit form" (with God and as God) and enjoyed all the attributes of God including Omniscience, Omnipresence and Omnipotence. This is not entirely the case now -- "Cumbered with humanity Christ could not be in every place personally, therefore . . . He would represent Himself as present in all places by His Holy Spirit." (Manuscript Releases, vol. 14: MR 1084).
Before the creation of other intelligent life forms - when Christ existed solely with the Father- there would have been no need for Christ to exist in any other form than that of "Spirit". In this "Spirit" form, Christ and the Father were most fully, completely, and totally ONE! They were still individuals yet they were united in form, character, and purpose. It was only as the Father and the Son began their work of Creation that the necessity for a change in this nature (or "state of "being") arose.
Some will argue that God does not and cannot change. They will cite Malachi 3:6 "For I, the LORD, do not change" as "proof" of this. But the context of this text shows that God is speaking of His character and not of His form or nature - the word "therefore" indicates this: "For I, the LORD, do not change; therefore [because of this fact] you, O sons of Jacob, are not consumed." God indicates that He is willing to change His stated purposes based on our reaction and relationship to Him: "At one moment I might speak concerning a nation or concerning a kingdom to uproot, to pull down, or to destroy it; if that nation against which I have spoken turns from its evil, I will relent concerning the calamity I planned to bring on it. Or at another moment I might speak concerning a nation or concerning a kingdom to build up or to plant it; if it does evil in My sight by not obeying My voice, then I will think better of the good with which I had promised to bless it." (Jer. 18:7-10; see also Jer. 42:10). God's character does not change and is not subject to change. God could not change His Law, for instance, in order to accommodate man in his sinful condition or in order to save him. This type of "change" would have violated His character (for the Law is a transcript of His character) and would have caused Him to become something that He is not. But to say that God cannot change in any way would effectively deny the incarnation. "Incarnation", by its very definition, means " to invest with flesh or bodily nature and form. . . to give a concrete or actual form to. . ." (Webster's New Collegiate Dictionary [G. & C. Merriam Co., Publishers; Springfield, Mass., U.S.A.; 1961]). If God cannot change in any way then Christ could not have become "flesh, and dwelt among us" (Jn. 1:14). It is evident that God can and indeed did change in the bodily nature and form" of Jesus Christ. So let's consider the "original" Godhead for a moment.
Where is the Holy Spirit?
When one reads in the Bible and in the Spirit of Prophecy one cannot help but be struck by the omission and absence of the Holy Spirit in the most vital acts and plans of God. For instance, the Bible clearly states that the Father and the Son were active in the creation, but there is no mention of a third member of the Godhead being involved here. In Hebrews 1:2 we are told that the Father created all things through the agency of His Son: "God [Father] . . . in these last days has spoken to us in His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the world." Likewise, Colossians 1:16 tells us "For by Him [Christ] all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities-all things have been created by Him and for Him." John 1:2 says: "All things came into being by Him; and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being." Proverbs 8:30-31 states: "Then I [Christ-singular] was beside Him [Father-singular], as a master workman; and I was daily His delight, rejoicing always before Him, rejoicing in the world, His earth, and having my delight in the sons of men."
Mrs. White also speaks of the Father and the Son as those responsible for the creation, but like the Bible writers she omits any mention of a third person of the Godhead. Here are several of her quotes:
"The Sovereign of the universe was not alone in His work of beneficence. He had an associate [denoting singularity] - a co-worker [again denoting singularity] who could appreciate His purposes, and could share His joy in giving happiness to created beings. . . . Christ, the Word, the only begotten of God, was one with the eternal Father--one in nature, in character, in purpose--the only being that could enter into all the counsels and purposes of God. . . . The Father wrought by His Son in the creation of all heavenly beings." (PP p.34, par. 1-2 - parenthetical notes mine).
"The Father and the Son engaged in the mighty, wondrous work they had contemplated - of creating the world." (PP p.44).
"After the earth was created, and the beasts upon it, the Father and Son carried out their purpose, which was designed before the fall of Satan, to make man in their own image. They had wrought together in the creation of the earth and every living thing upon it. And now God says to his Son, "Let us make man in our image." (ST Jan. 9, 1879; par. 13).
"In the beginning the Father and the Son had rested upon the Sabbath after their work of creation." (DA p.769, par.2).
"…Adam and Eve united with them [the birds and all nature] in thanksgiving to the Father and the Son." (PP p. 50).
Why is the Holy Spirit omitted? Why is He so glaringly absent in all these references? I am sure that some will argue that Genesis 1:1 speaks of the "Spirit of God" moving over the surface of the waters and that this must mean that there was a third person involved here - but does it? We will consider this in a moment. One must be struck, however, by the many references to the creation and by the fact that only two persons are mentioned in connection with it!
The "Councils of Heaven" and the "Plan of Redemption":
Who do we find involved in the "Councils of Heaven" and in the Plan of Redemption? Again, we find only two persons referred to as responsible for it - the Father and the Son.
"Christ, the Word, the only begotten of God, was one with the eternal Father--one in nature, in character, in purpose--the only being that could enter into all the counsels and purposes of God" (PP p.34, par. 1-2).
"The Son of God shared the Father's throne, and the glory of the eternal, self-existent One encircled both. . . . none but Christ, the Only Begotten of God, could fully enter into His purposes, and to Him it was committed to execute the mighty counsels of His will" (PP, p. 36).
"The great plan of redemption was laid before the foundation of the world. Christ did not stand alone in this wondrous undertaking for the ransom of man. In the councils of heaven, before the world was created, the Father and the Son covenanted together that if man proved disloyal to God, Christ, one with the Father, would take the place of the transgressor, and suffer the penalty of justice that must fall upon him." (RH November 15, 1898; par. 1).
"…Christ and the Father would redeem the fallen race." (ST Feb. 17, 1909; par. 9).
"The great contest that had been so long in progress in this world was now decided, and Christ was conqueror. His death had answered the question whether the Father and the Son had sufficient love for man to exercise self-denial and a spirit of sacrifice." (PP p.69, par. 3).
"There is a personal God, the Father; there is a personal Christ, the Son." (RH November 8, 1898; par. 9).
Why are there not Three members mentioned in these Councils? Wouldn't you expect the Holy Spirit to be included in these councils? But if Christ was the only being permitted to share the Father's Counsel, doesn't that exclude a "Third" member? The Traditional Trinity Doctrine would leave no room for the exclusion of the "Third" member of the Godhead. How can we harmonize these statements? Certainly not through the "Trinity Doctrine"! Perhaps we had better take a closer look at what we believe!
The "Throne" of God:
There are at least 66 verses in the Bible that refer to the "Throne of God" (23 in the Old Testament and 43 in the New Testament - 24 references to the "Throne" are found in the Book of Revelation alone!). Only two persons are ever named in connection with God's Throne - the Father and the Son! In the Spirit of Prophecy there are over 2,000 references to the "Throne of God", and while I cannot claim to have read every one of these I have read many and have found only two persons mentioned in relation to God's Throne. Never have I come across a reference in either the Bible or the SOP where three persons are associated with the Throne of God, OR where the Holy Spirit is specifically identified (as a person) in connection with it. If someone can find a reference to a third person residing on God's Throne I would welcome the opportunity to see it!
Surely, if there were three persons in the Godhead there would be three persons mentioned regarding God's Throne, or regarding His Creation, or regarding the councils of God and the development of the Plan of Redemption. Why isn't the Holy Spirit mentioned, named, and included in these references to the Godhead?
There is an important reason why we do not find the "Third Person" - the "Holy Spirit" -- mentioned in any of these critical references to the Godhead. And it all has to do with the "change" that took place in the Godhead prior to the creation in order to accommodate the eventuality and entrance of Sin and in order to provide a means by which sinners could be redeemed and reconciled to God.
What We've Learned Here
- The doctrine of the Trinity, which is accepted and taught by Orthodox Christianity, including Seventh-day Adventists, teaches that there are three members of the Godhead (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) and that these three individual members of the One true God have always existed as three individual persons within the Godhead. This is simply not true!
- Christ existed in the beginning as "One" with the Father in nature (form), character, and in purpose. That is to say that Jesus existed, prior to the creation of intelligent life, in Spirit Form -- with all the attributes inherent in God's "Spirit" form including Omnipresence, Omniscience, and Omnipotence. Prior to creation all the evidence from the Bible and the Spirit of Prophecy indicates that there were only two members of the Godhead - the Father and the Son. These two - Jesus and the Father - comprised the Original Godhead.
- In order for the Creation of intelligent and free moral beings to be accomplished - there had to be a change in the nature of the Godhead. The Holy Spirit is not mentioned in any of the critical references to the Godhead (e.g. the Councils of God, the Plan of Redemption, and the Throne of God) because of the change that took place in the nature of Christ - which resulted in a change in the composition of the Godhead. This will be explained more in the next Study.
Next -- #5 The “Change” in the “Person” of Jesus Before and After the Creation
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