Questions From Readers
What basis is there for saying that such phrases as “the one alone having immortality” and the one “whom not one of men has seen or can see” refer to Jesus rather than to Jehovah God?
The apostle Paul wrote: “This manifestation the happy and only Potentate will show in its own appointed times, he the King of those who rule as kings and Lord of those who rule as lords, the one alone having immortality, who dwells in unapproachable light, whom not one of men has seen or can see.”—1 Timothy 6:15, 16.
Bible commentators generally reason: ‘How could such phrases as “the one alone having immortality,” the “only Potentate,” and the one “whom not one of men has seen or can see” point to anyone other than the Almighty?’ Admittedly, such terms could be used to describe Jehovah. However, the context indicates that at 1 Timothy 6:15, 16, Paul was specifically referring to Jesus.
At the end of verse 14, Paul mentions “the manifestation of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1 Timothy 6:14) Hence, when Paul writes in 1Ti 6 verse 15 that “this manifestation the happy and only Potentate will show in its own appointed times,” he is referring to a manifestation of Jesus, not of Jehovah God. Who, then, is the “only Potentate”? It seems reasonable to conclude that Jesus is the Potentate referred to by Paul. Why? The context makes it evident that Paul is comparing Jesus with human rulers. Jesus truly is, as Paul wrote, “King of those [humans] who rule as kings and Lord of those [humans] who rule as lords.”a Yes, compared to them, Jesus is the “only Potentate.” Jesus has been given “rulership and dignity and kingdom, that the peoples, national groups and languages should all serve even him.” (Daniel 7:14) No human potentate can make that claim!
What about the phrase “the one alone having immortality”? Again, a comparison is being drawn between Jesus and human kings. No earthly rulers can claim to have been granted immortality, but Jesus can. Paul wrote: “We know that Christ, now that he has been raised up from the dead, dies no more; death is master over him no more.” (Romans 6:9) Thus, Jesus is the first one to be described in the Bible as receiving the gift of immortality. Indeed, at the time of Paul’s writing, Jesus was the only one who had attained indestructible life.
It should also be kept in mind that it would have been wrong for Paul to say that Jehovah God alone had immortality, since Jesus too was immortal when Paul wrote those words. But Paul could say that Jesus alone was immortal in comparison with earthly rulers.
Further, it is certainly true that after Jesus’ resurrection and ascension to heaven, he can be described as one “whom not one of men has seen or can see.” Granted, his anointed disciples would behold Jesus after their own death and subsequent resurrection to heaven as spirit creatures. (John 17:24) But no man on earth would see Jesus in his glorified state. Hence, it can truthfully be stated that since Jesus’ resurrection and ascension, “not one of men” has actually seen Jesus.
True, at first glance, it may seem as if the descriptions found at 1 Timothy 6:15, 16 could apply to God. But the context of Paul’s words—along with the corroboration of other scriptures—shows that Paul was referring to Jesus.