Who Is “the True God and Life Everlasting”?
JEHOVAH, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, is the true God. He is the Creator, the one giving eternal life to those who love him. That is how many who read and believe the Bible would answer the question posed in the above title. Indeed, Jesus himself said: “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 17:3.
Yet, many churchgoers give the expression a different meaning. The words in the title come from 1 John 5:20, which says, in part: “We are in union with the true one, by means of his Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God and life everlasting.”
Believers in the Trinity doctrine hold that the demonstrative pronoun “this” (houʹtos) refers to its immediate antecedent, Jesus Christ. They assert that Jesus is “the true God and life everlasting.” This interpretation, however, is in conflict with the rest of the Scriptures. And many authoritative scholars do not accept this Trinitarian view. Cambridge University scholar B. F. Westcott wrote: “The most natural reference [of the pronoun houʹtos] is to the subject not locally nearest but dominant in the mind of the apostle.” Thus, the apostle John had in mind Jesus’ Father. German theologian Erich Haupt wrote: “It has to be determined whether the [houʹtos] of the next proposition refers to the locally and immediately preceding subject . . . or to the more distant antecedent God. . . . A testimony to the one true God seems more in harmony with the final warning against idols than a demonstration of the divinity of Christ.”
Even A Grammatical Analysis of the Greek New Testament, published by Rome’s Pontifical Biblical Institute, states: “[Houʹtos]: as a climax to 1 Jo 5 [verses] 18-20 the ref[erence] is almost certainly to God the real, the true, [in] opp[osition to] paganism (v. 21 1Jo 5:21).”
Often houʹtos, generally translated “this” or “this one,” does not refer to the immediately preceding subject of a phrase. Other scriptures illustrate the point. At 2 John 7, the same apostle and penman of the first letter wrote: “Many deceivers have gone forth into the world, persons not confessing Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh. This [houʹtosʹ] is the deceiver and the antichrist.” Here the pronoun cannot refer to the closest antecedent—Jesus. Obviously, “this” refers to those who denied Jesus. They collectively are “the deceiver and the antichrist.”
In his Gospel, the apostle John wrote: “Andrew the brother of Simon Peter was one of the two that heard what John said and followed Jesus. First this one [houʹtos] found his own brother, Simon.” (John 1:40, 41) It is evident that “this one” refers, not to the last person mentioned, but to Andrew. At 1 John 2:22, the apostle uses the same pronoun in a similar way.
Luke makes similar use of the pronoun, as seen at Acts 4:10, 11: “In the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene, whom you impaled but whom God raised up from the dead, by this one does this man stand here sound in front of you. This [houʹtosʹ] is ‘the stone that was treated by you builders as of no account that has become the head of the corner.’” The pronoun “this” clearly does not refer to the man who was healed, though he is the one mentioned just before houʹtos. Certainly, “this” in Ac 4 verse 11 refers to Jesus Christ the Nazarene, who is the “cornerstone” on which the Christian congregation is founded.—Ephesians 2:20; 1 Peter 2:4-8.
Acts 7:18, 19 also illustrates the point: “There rose a different king over Egypt, who did not know of Joseph. This one [houʹtos] used statecraft against our race.” “This one” who oppressed the Jews was, not Joseph, but Pharaoh, the king of Egypt.
Such passages confirm the observation made by Greek scholar Daniel Wallace, who says that for Greek demonstratives, “what might be the nearest antecedent contextually might not be the nearest antecedent in the author’s mind.”
“The True One”
As the apostle John wrote, “the true One” is Jehovah, the Father of Jesus Christ. He is the only true God, the Creator. The apostle Paul acknowledged: “There is actually to us one God the Father, out of whom all things are.” (1 Corinthians 8:6; Isaiah 42:8) Another reason that Jehovah is “the true one” referred to at 1 John 5:20 is that he is the Source of truth. The psalmist called Jehovah “the God of truth” because He is faithful in all He does and cannot lie. (Psalm 31:5; Exodus 34:6; Titus 1:2) Referring to his heavenly Father, the Son said: “Your word is truth.” And regarding his own teaching, Jesus stated: “What I teach is not mine, but belongs to him that sent me.”—John 7:16; 17:17.
Jehovah is also “life everlasting.” He is the Source of life, the One giving it as an undeserved gift through Christ. (Psalm 36:9; Romans 6:23) Significantly, the apostle Paul said that God is “the rewarder of those earnestly seeking him.” (Hebrews 11:6) God rewarded his Son by raising him from the dead, and the Father will give the reward of everlasting life to those who serve Him with all their heart.—Acts 26:23; 2 Corinthians 1:9.
Hence, what conclusion should we come to? That Jehovah, and no one else, is “the true God and life everlasting.” He alone is worthy to receive exclusive worship from those whom he created.—Revelation 4:11.