35, 36. (a) To what existence does John 1:1 refer, and what man first called attention to that? (b) How was Jesus a man coming after John and yet existing before him, and to what did John’s calling him the Lamb of God refer?
THE apostle John opened up his account, saying: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God.” By that he did not mean the beginning of Jesus’ public ministry on earth nineteen centuries ago. He meant that the Word had a prehuman existence, long before he “became flesh” on earth. John makes that point clear all through his account. More than a month after Jesus was baptized in the Jordan River, John the Baptist called attention to Jesus and to his previous life, saying: “See, the Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world! This is the one about whom I said, Behind me there comes a man who has advanced in front of me, because he existed before me. Even I did not know him, but the reason why I came baptizing in water was that he might be made manifest to Israel.”—John 1:29-31.
36 John the Baptist was born about six months before the Word “became flesh” or was born as the Son of the Jewish virgin. For that reason John said with reference to Jesus: “Behind me there comes a man.” But now, because of what happened to Jesus after John baptized him, John could call Jesus “a man who has advanced in front of me.” So when John said of Jesus: “He existed before me,” John must have meant that Jesus had a prehuman existence. John also pointed out that Jesus was to become a sacrifice to God, for in ancient Israel lambs were daily sacrificed to God by the Jewish priests. In order for Jesus as the “Lamb of God” to take away the sin of the world, his blood would have to flow in sacrifice, for without the shedding of blood of an innocent victim there was no forgiveness of sins obtainable from God.—Heb. 9:22.
37. Why was Jesus able to speak to Nicodemus about heavenly things?
37 On a number of occasions Jesus himself testified to his own existence in heaven before becoming flesh on earth. Thus Jesus was able to speak about “heavenly things,” because, as Jesus said to the Jewish ruler Nicodemus, “no man has ascended into heaven but he that descended from heaven, the Son of man.”—John 3:12, 13.
38. How, in speaking about manna, did Jesus testify to his previous existence in heaven?
38 Jesus spoke of himself as symbolical manna from heaven and said to the Jews: “Moses did not give you the bread from heaven, but my Father does give you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is the one who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” “I have come down from heaven to do, not my will, but the will of him that sent me.” “I am the living bread that came down from heaven; if anyone eats of this bread he will live forever; and, for a fact, the bread that I shall give is my flesh in behalf of the life of the world.” “He also that feeds on me, even that one will live because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven.” Many Jews murmured at such sayings of Jesus, and so he surprised them still more when he said: “Does this stumble you? What, therefore, if you should behold the Son of man ascending to where he was before?”—John 6:32, 33, 38, 51, 57, 58, 61, 62.
39, 40. (a) On another occasion Jesus described himself as being from where? (b) Hence what could Jesus ask of God in prayer?
39 Hence, later, when Jesus spoke to the unbelieving Jews about going away, he said: “You are from the realms below; I am from the realms above. You are from this world; I am not from this world.” “If God were your Father, you would love me, for from God I came forth and am here. Neither have I come of my own initiative at all, but that One sent me forth.” (John 8:23, 42) For that reason Jesus could pray to God and say in the hearing of his faithful apostles:
40 “Father, glorify me alongside yourself with the glory that I had alongside you before the world [of mankind] was. Also, I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world and I am coming to you. Holy Father, watch over them on account of your own name which you have given me, in order that they may be one just as we are. . . . I wish that, where I am, they also may be with me, in order to behold my glory that you have given me, because you loved me before the founding of the world. “—John 17:5, 11, 24.
41. Of what, therefore, did the One from above speak and bear witness?
41 Up in heaven Jesus, as the Word or Logos, had had glory alongside his Father and had been loved by the Father. This was before the world was. The apostle John heard those words of Jesus, and so John could correctly make this comment: “He that comes from above is over all others. He that is from the earth is from the earth and speaks of things of the earth. He that comes from heaven is over all others. What he has seen and heard, of this he bears witness.” (John 3:31, 32) There is no question that Jesus had a prehuman life. As the Word or Logos he had been with God “in the beginning.”
WHAT BELIEVING JEWS CALLED HIM
42. In whom did the twelve believe before Jesus called them to be apostles, and so what questions arise about this?
42 When on earth, Jesus Christ called and chose twelve apostles. These were all Jews by birth and were brought up in the “Jews’ religion” or in Judaism, to believe in only one God, Jehovah. (Gal. 1:13, 14, AV) Did Jesus as their Teacher tell them about a Trinity? Did he convert them to believe in a Trinity in which he himself was the Second Person or “God the Son”? Did the apostles and other disciples get to regarding Jesus as “God the Son” and calling him such? What did they call him? Let us see what John reports.
43, 44. After John baptized Jesus, to what fact did John bear witness about him?
43 After Jesus was baptized, John the Baptist introduced his own disciples to Jesus. John was sent by God to baptize, and God told John what to look for. So how did John refer to the baptized Jesus when introducing Jesus to the Jews who were John’s own disciples?
44 For an answer let us read John 1:32-34: “John also bore witness, saying: ‘I viewed the spirit coming down as a dove out of heaven, and it remained upon him. Even I did not know him, but the very One who sent me to baptize in water said to me, “Whoever it is upon whom you see the spirit coming down and remaining, this is the one that baptizes in holy spirit.” And I have seen it, and I have borne witness that this one is the Son of God.’”
45. Whom did John expect to come to him for baptism, and what, therefore, did John disclaim to be?
45 John the Baptist himself was filled with holy spirit right from his mother’s womb. Did John bear witness that Jesus was Jehovah or that Jesus was God? No! John the Baptist told his own disciples: “This one is the Son of God.” John said, not “God the Son,” but, “the Son of God,” an expression meaning something altogether different. John did not expect Jehovah God to come to him to be baptized in water. John expected the one who was to become the Christ, the Messiah, or Anointed One, the one whom God would anoint with holy spirit. And so John did not let anyone think that he himself was Christ. He said to his disciples: “You yourselves bear me witness that I said, I am not the Christ, but, I have been sent forth in advance of that one. . . . That one must go on increasing, but I must go on decreasing.” (John 3:28-30) By what John saw he knew that Jesus was the Christ, God’s Anointed One.
46. After John turned his disciples over to Jesus, what shows whether they changed their minds as to who John said Jesus was?
46 John the Baptist taught his disciples and he turned them over to Jesus Christ to follow him as the “Son of God.” Did these disciples change their minds about Jesus after hearing, observing and being with him? What did those disciples call him, from first to last? When Jesus first met Nathanael and amazed him by his foresight, “Nathanael answered him: ‘Rabbi, you are the Son of God, you are King of Israel.’” (John 1:49) In 1 John 4:15; 5:5, the apostle says: “Whoever makes the confession that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, God remains in union with such one and he in union with God.” “Who is the one that conquers the world but he who has faith that Jesus is the Son of God?” In 2 John 3 he speaks of “peace from God the Father and from Jesus Christ the Son of the Father.”
47. What did Martha say was her belief in Jesus, and what did his enemies say was the reason why Jesus deserved to die according to their law?
47 Before resurrecting Lazarus, then four days dead, Jesus asked Martha the sister of Lazarus whether she believed what he had just said. In answer Martha said: “Yes, Lord; I have believed that you are the Christ the Son of God, the One coming into the world.” (John 11:27) Notable even is the testimony of Jesus’ bloodthirsty enemies. When the Roman governor was minded to shift the distasteful job of execution over to the Jews since he himself had found no fault in Jesus, the Jews answered the governor: “We have a law, and according to the law he ought to die, because he made himself God’s son.” (John 19:7) Thus John the Baptist, Jesus’ apostles, Lazarus’ sister Martha, and even the enemies all agreed in their witness that Jesus was “the Son of God.” Not God himself!
48, 49. (a) What comparison did John make as to turning over his disciples to Jesus joyfully? (b) Whom does the Bride expect to marry?
48 When John the Baptist explained why he must decrease in regard to having disciples but Jesus must increase in the number of baptized followers, John pictured Jesus as a bridegroom. John said: “He that has the bride is the bridegroom. However, the friend of the bridegroom, when he stands and hears him, has a great deal of joy on account of the voice of the bridegroom. Therefore this joy of mine has been made full.” (John 3:29) John had much joy in turning over baptized disciples to Jesus Christ.
49 Since Jesus is the Bridegroom, symbolically speaking, then the entire group of his baptized, anointed followers must be his Bride. Their hope is that of being united with the Lord Jesus Christ as their Bridegroom in heaven. They are not expecting to be married to God, which would be the case if God were a Trinity. Nor are they expecting to be married to a particular Person of such a Trinity, namely, to the Second Person of the Trinity, the so-called God the Son. They cannot imagine being married to a Trinity or even to a third part of this Trinity. The inspired Holy Scriptures do not teach such a thing, like someone marrying a Siamese twin!
50. Whom does the Bridegroom marry, and how many does Revelation show?
50 The Bridegroom Jesus Christ marries, not the whole human family of billions, but only a limited number taken from the human family. In the Revelation the apostle John had a vision of the Bridegroom and Bride together on the heavenly location of government, called Mount Zion, as foreshadowed by Mount Zion in Jerusalem where King David ruled. John says: “And I saw, and, look! the Lamb standing upon the Mount Zion, and with him a hundred and forty-four thousand having his name and the name of his Father written on their foreheads. . . . And they are singing as if a new song before the throne and before the four living creatures and the older persons; and no one was able to master that song but the hundred and forty-four thousand, who have been bought from the earth. These are the ones that did not defile themselves with women; in fact, they are virgins. These are the ones that keep following the Lamb no matter where he goes. These were bought from among mankind as a first fruits to God and to the Lamb.”—Rev. 14:1-4.
51. How is the Bride class virgin, marked in the forehead and bought?
51 The Bride class are thus pictured as a virgin class, who have not defiled themselves with persons or organizations guilty of spiritual adultery by becoming friends with this immoral world. They have their Bridegroom’s name and that of his Father upon their foreheads, but no other name, no name of any third Person of a Trinity called God the Holy Ghost. This Bride class of 144,000 members has been taken out from the earth for heaven, yes, taken out from among flesh-and-blood mankind for eternal life as spirit creatures. How? By being bought through the sacrifice of their Bridegroom, “the Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world.”
52. How is the Bride class like a “first fruits to God,” and what does this fact mean for mankind in general?
52 They are like a first fruits that the Israelites took out of their harvest crops and offered up to Jehovah God through his temple servants, as on the day of Pentecost when the high priest presented to God two leavened loaves of wheat bread “as first ripe fruits to Jehovah.” (Lev. 23:15-20) Since the Bride class are only the “first fruits to God and to the Lamb,” there must be a much larger number of mankind who will be saved to eternal life, not in heaven, but on earth. Why? Because the Lamb of God takes away the “sin of the world” and not merely that of his Bride class.—John 1:29; 1 John 2:1, 2.
53, 54. According to Revelation 19:6-9, whose marriage is it, to whom does the Bride belong, and for whom is the marriage supper?
53 The apostle John leaves us in no doubt as to whom the Bride class, the anointed Christian congregation, marries in heaven. In Revelation 19:6-9 John writes: “Then I heard what seemed to be the voice of a great multitude, like the sound of many waters and like the sound of mighty thunderpeals, crying, ‘Hallelujah! For the Lord our God the Almighty reigns. Let us rejoice and exult and give him the glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and his Bride has made herself ready; it was granted her to be clothed with fine linen, bright and pure’—for the fine linen is the righteous deeds of the saints. And the angel said to me, ‘Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.’ And he said to me, ‘These are true words of God.’”—RS.
54 The marriage is that of the Lamb of God, not the marriage of the Lord our God the Almighty. The Bride is the Bride of the Lamb of God, not the Bride of God the Almighty. The marriage supper is that of the Lamb of God; and the prophetic parables of Jesus indicate that it is his Father, the Lord our God the Almighty, who prepares the marriage supper for the Lamb, his Son.
55. Who does Revelation 19:11-16 identify the Lamb of God as being, and whose Bride do the 144,000 therefore become?
55 A few verses later on, in Revelation 19:11-16, the apostle John identifies the Lamb of God as being the Word or Logos, for John sees the Lamb riding forth to battle against his Father’s enemies. John describes him, saying: “He is clad in a robe dipped in blood, and the name by which he is called is The Word of God. . . . On his robe and on his thigh he has a name inscribed, King of kings and Lord of lords.” (RS) Hence his 144,000 faithful followers become the Bride of the Word of God, not the Bride of God.
56, 57. In Revelation 21, between whom do we see a distinction made in connection with the Bride class, and how?
56 The ones married are shown again in the further vision, which John describes, saying: “I saw also the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God and prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And there came one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls which were full of the seven last plagues, and he spoke with me and said: ‘Come here, I will show you the bride, the Lamb’s wife.’ So he carried me away in the power of the spirit to a great and lofty mountain, and he showed me the holy city Jerusalem coming down out of heaven from God and having the glory of God. . . . The wall of the city also had twelve foundation stones, and on them the twelve names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb. And I did not see a temple in it, for Jehovah God the Almighty is its temple, also the Lamb is. And the city has no need of the sun nor of the moon to shine upon it, for the glory of God lighted it up, and its lamp was the Lamb.”—Rev. 21:2, 9-11, 14, 22, 23.
57 Always we are shown that there is a distinction made between the Lamb and the Lord our God the Almighty, and that it is to the Lamb that the Bride of 144,000 members is married. It is the Lamb’s wife that she becomes. If there were such a thing as the Trinity, then the 144,000 could not help marrying God in one of his Persons and thus becoming one with God. But the Bible does not teach this.
58. In his talk to Nicodemus, who did Jesus claim to be?
58 For the benefit of the Bride class John the Baptist identified the Bridegroom as the Lamb of God. How, though, did the Bridegroom identify himself to his Bride class and to others? What relationship did he himself claim to have with God? Did he ever claim to be more than John the Baptist declared him to be, namely, God’s Son? In answer listen first to these much-loved words of Jesus Christ to Nicodemus: “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. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved. He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.”—John 3:16-18, AV.
59. After Jesus cured the man born blind, whom did the man confess believing Jesus to be?
59 Jesus once cured a man blind from birth. According to a number of Bible versions, Jesus later said to him: “Dost thou believe on the Son of God?” The man answered: “Who is he, Lord, that I might believe on him?” Jesus replied: “Thou hast both seen him, and it is he that talketh with thee.” Jesus did not ask the man to believe that he, Jesus, was more than the Son of God. The man confessed to believing only that.—John 9:35-37, AV; Dy; AS; ED; Lamsa; Murdock.
60. Before raising Lazarus, who did he say was to be glorified, and thereafter who did Martha say she believed Jesus to be?
60 Before going to the town of Bethany in behalf of his sick friend Lazarus, Jesus said to his apostles: “This sickness is not with death as its object, but is for the glory of God, in order that the Son of God may be glorified through it.” Before Jesus reached the tomb where Lazarus now lay dead, his sister Martha confessed to believing what Jesus claimed to be, as she said: “Yes, Lord; I have believed that you are the Christ the Son of God, the One coming into the world.”—John 11:4, 27.
61. In sending a message to the congregation in Thyatira, whom did Jesus speak of himself as being?
61 Even in heaven the glorified Jesus speaks of himself as the Son of God. In Revelation 2:18, when sending a message to the Christian congregation in the city of Thyatira, the glorious Jesus says to John: “To the angel of the congregation in Thyatira write: These are the things that the Son of God says, . . . And to him that conquers and observes my deeds down to the end I will give authority over the nations, and he shall shepherd the people with an iron rod so that they will be broken to pieces like clay vessels, the same as I have received from my Father.”—Rev. 2:18, 26, 27.
62. In prayer, in what relationship with God did Jesus speak of himself as being?
62 On the basis of such a relationship to God Jesus addressed himself to God as a son and prayed: “Father, the hour has come; glorify your son, that your son may glorify you, according as you have given him authority over all flesh, that, as regards the whole number whom you have given him, he may give them everlasting life. This means everlasting life, their taking in knowledge of you, the only true God, and of the one whom you sent forth, Jesus Christ.” (John 17:1-3) Thus Jesus did not claim to be “the only true God.”
63. Why did the Jews want to stone Jesus, and what did Jesus quote from the Psalms to show whether they were justified in doing so?
63 In saying this, are we not forgetting John 10:31-39, according to which the Jews wanted to stone Jesus for saying: “I and the Father are one”? No, we are not forgetting. The Jews, who believed in the one God whose name is Jehovah, there wanted to stone Jesus. Why? Not because he taught such a thing as a Trinity and that he was one-third of it, but because he spoke of himself as the Son of God, the Son of their God Jehovah. Jesus said to them with their stones in their hands: “Many good works, from my Father, I have shown you; for which of them do you stone me?” The Jews replied: “It is for no good work that we stone you, but for blasphemy, because you, a man, make yourself god.” (Torrey) Jesus then referred the Jews to their own Holy Scriptures, to Psalm 82:6, and said: “Is it not written in your law, I have said, Ye are gods? If God said, that those to whom he was speaking were gods (and the scripture cannot be annulled), do you accuse of blasphemy him whom the Father consecrated and sent into the world, because I said, I am the Son of God? If I do not do the works of my Father, do not believe me; but if I do them, even if you believe not me, believe the works, that you may perceive and understand that the Father is in me, and I in the Father.”—Torrey.
64. (a) What did Jesus there argue that he himself was? (b) Who were the ones whom Psalm 82 addressed as “gods”?
64 The very argument of Jesus here proves he did not claim to be God. Had he claimed to be God, then the Jews would have been right in stoning him for blasphemy. But Jesus argues that he claimed to be less than God. To prove this, Jesus quoted to them from Psalm 82, verses 1, 2, 6, 7 (AV) of which read: “God [Elohím] standeth in the congregation of the mighty; he judgeth among the gods [elohím]. How long will ye judge unjustly, and accept the persons of the wicked? . . . I have said, Ye are gods [elohím]; and all of you are children of the most High. But ye shall die like men, and fall like one of the princes.” In this psalm the Most High God speaks to the unjust judges on earth, mere men, and calls them “gods,” or elohím in the Hebrew, and he tells them to correct their legal practice. Because those judges fail of their duty, it becomes necessary for the Most High God to arise and judge the peoples of the earth.
65. Despite their being “gods,” what will happen to those judges and for whose death were such kind of Jewish gods responsible?
65 Their being called “gods” will not save these judges; neither will their considering themselves to be “sons of the Most High” or sons of God. That gives them no immortality. They are still mortal and will die just like other men. They will fall in death just like other judicial princes on earth, and this by the execution of God’s judgment. God’s word was against them in adverse judgment. It was human gods like these, among the Jews, that caused Jesus to be put to death at the hands of the Romans.—Ex. 22:28, AV; Dy.
66, 67. What did Jesus not claim to be, and what did he not say to the Jews about his Father and himself?
66 Jesus told those who wanted to stone him that he had not claimed to be God or a god, even though Psalm 82:6 had called some men, some Israelite judges, “gods.” Jesus had been speaking to the Jews about God as being his Father, which would mean that he, Jesus, was the Son of God. Jesus said to them: “No one will snatch them [my sheep] out of my hand. What my Father has given me is something greater than all other things, and no one can snatch them out of the hand of the Father. I and the Father are one.”
67 After Jesus said that, his very argument that followed proved that he was not claiming to be God, nor was he saying that he and his heavenly Father were one God, a trinitarian God in which he and his Father were two Persons along with a third Person, “God the Holy Ghost.” Jesus did not say, I and the Father and the Holy Ghost are one. He mentioned no “Holy Ghost.”—John 10:28-30.
68. Using Psalm 82:6, how did Jesus prove that he did not claim to be God by saying: “I and the Father are one”?
68 Jesus argued that his statement, “I and the Father are one,” did not mean claiming to be God. How so? Because Jesus told those Jews that he was calling himself less than God his Father. He told those Jews that their own law in Psalm 82:6 called the men against whom God’s word came in criticism “gods,” and that the Jews could not annul this scripture that called human judges by the title of “gods”; nor could they deny that this scripture said this, and they could not take this scripture out of the inspired Scriptures. And yet, when Jesus Christ, who performed so many wonderful good works among the Jews, spoke of God as his Father and spoke of himself as merely the Son of God, they said he blasphemed and were ready to stone him as a blasphemer. Still he was more than those men whom Psalm 82 had called “gods,” because he, Jesus, was the one whom the heavenly Father had sanctified and sent into the world. If it was not blasphemy for Asaph to compose a psalm calling human judges in Israel “gods,” then it was far less a blasphemy for Jesus to speak of himself as merely the Son of God and not as a god.—Psalm 82, superscription.
69. (a) In the material thus far from John’s writings what have we failed to find about Jesus Christ? (b) Why is the reader invited to join us in considering further material from John’s writings?
69 Thus not once in all the above material from John’s writings have we found that Jesus Christ called himself God or let others speak of him as God. But ah! the trinitarians will say, not all the pertinent texts in John’s writings have yet been considered, Scripture texts that will surely prove that Jesus did speak of himself as God and let himself be addressed as God, and these will prove that the many Bible translations are correct in rendering John 1:1 to read: “And the Word [or, the Logos] was God.” So in our next three parts of this article on “The Word” we shall deal with those texts. Let the reader join us in the consideration of them.