In a recent post, we looked at an exposition of Colossians 1:15 in light of the Jehovah’s Witness belief that Jesus was a created being by God the Father. Working through that passage we saw that the basis for their belief is an erroneous understanding of the Greek word prototokos, translated firstborn in many faithful translations. In this post, I hope to set forth a polemic from the book of Revelation as a proof of Christ’s deity through the assertion that He is the Alpha and Omega.
As in the post mentioned above, it is important to engage the Jehovah’s Witness in a dialogue, not necessarily a debate. Typically, this will better allow the truths of Scripture to be unfolded before their eyes. Therefore, it is often helpful to have them read passages for themselves and even where accurate, from their own New World Translation (remember though that this is not a faithful translation). That said, utilizing the Alpha and Omega argument from Revelation allows you to both reference the NWT and provides an opportunity for the Jehovah’s Witness to reach their own conclusion from Scripture’s assertion that Christ is God.
One can approach the A&O argument from two different angles, first is within Revelation itself utilizing the JW understanding of the passages and the second is the correlation between Revelation and Isaiah utilizing Scriptures understanding of the passage. Keep in mind, the goal of this polemic is to assert that Jesus is God, or that Scripture often refers to Jesus as Yahweh. Remember that in the mind of the Jehovah’s Witness, Christ is neither; he is a created being and one of many “gods”.
First, have the Jehovah’s Witness read Revelation 1:8 (it may be helpful when engaging JW or Mormons to reference a King James Version of the Bible; I’ve included that particular version in this post):
“I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the ending, saith the Lord, which is, and which was, and which is to come, the Almighty” Revelation 1:8
ASK: Who is this passage referring to?
By reason of their own NWT translation, the JW is forced to conclude that this passage is talking about Jehovah, note the NWT: “’I am the Alpha and the Omega’, says Jehovah God, “the One who is and who was and who is coming, the Almighty.” Obviously, the JW insertion that this is Jehovah/The Father for the purpose of advancing their own doctrinal beliefs, is wrought with problems. First is context, which is clearly a reference to the second coming of Christ, “Behold, he cometh with clouds; and every eye shall see him, and they also which pierced him: and all kindreds of the earth shall wail because of him. Even so, Amen.” Revelation 1:7
Verse 8 obviously corresponds and continues this thought by concluding that Christ is the One coming again. Where in Scripture does it ever say that God the Father will return or is coming? Or where does it say that the Father was pierced?
This minor (it’s really not) contextual issue aside, there is a bigger fish to fry in this argument. After getting the JW to consent that Jehovah (i.e. the Father) is in reference here as the Alpha and Omega, turn them to Revelation 22 and have them read aloud the following verses either in their own “translation” or in the KJV:
“Behold, I come quickly: blessed is he that keepeth the sayings of the prophecy of this book.” Revelation 22:7
“And, behold, I come quickly; and my reward is with me, to give every man according as his work shall be. I am the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, the first and the last.” Revelation 22:12-13
ASK: Whom is being referenced as the Alpha and Omega in these particular passages?
Keep them reading:
“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.” Revelation 22:16
“He that testifieth these things saith, Surely I come quickly. Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus.” Revelation 22:20
A consistent JW will again conclude that the Father, Jehovah, is in view here. However, continuing to read through the end of the chapter will reveal the voice of the One who has been speaking, namely Jesus Christ, and it is upon Himself that He takes the title of Alpha and Omega. There is simply no getting around this. I’ve had experienced, hardened JW’s tell me that they would have to do some research on this; younger JW say they’ve never seen that before and stand dumbfounded under this truth; however, I have had another JW leader try to pass it off as “my interpretation”. If the latter defense is played against you, ensure the JW that you have offered no interpretation of any kind, but have simply allowed the Scripture to speak for themselves. It’s best to proceed back to Revelation 1 and finish reading that chapter with the thought in mind that this is now speaking of Christ.
The second prong of this argument comes by way of Isaiah 44:6 which reads, “Thus saith the LORD the King of Israel, and his redeemer the LORD of hosts; I am the first, and I am the last; and besides me there is no God”. You may in fact wish to start with this passage, before progressing into Revelation 1. It’s likely that this is the basis for their interpretation that Revelation 1:8 is speaking of the Father, since it too says “saith the LORD”.
ASK: Who is this passage in Isaiah referring to?
Rightly, the JW will assert that this is a clear reference to Jehovah (the Father) because the translation indicates that the LORD (Yahweh) is speaking. Holding this passage in concert with Revelation and the assertion that Christ is the Alpha and Omega, the first and the last, gives a clear witness to the Witnesses that Scripture makes the connection of Christ as Yahweh. There is simply no way around this. If you start with this passage, simply progress to Revelation 1:8 and follow the flow of thought above into Revelation 22.
The A&O argument serves several purposes, not the least of which undermines the integrity of the NWT and sheds light on their desire to mask Christ as Jehovah. Secondly, it asserts clearly the deity of Christ in plain language by making the OT connection with Christ as Yahweh. Thirdly, assuming the title of Alpha & Omega connotes all that this means. Literally, it is the title of eternality applied to Christ, which the JW denies; along with all of His intrinsic attributes. It is similar in function as the title “I AM”. He is the beginning and the end. Simply put, it is a statement of supremacy.
Clearly the “god” and “jesus” of the JW is not the same as the God and Jesus of Christianity. Though they share similarity in name, the real meaning comes from the attestation of Scripture and this proves that the beliefs of of the Jehovah’s Witness is nothing other than heresy.
I began writing this blog in January 2009. Initially, it was a way to communicate truths about God’s Word to others while also serving to help me grow in my walk with Christ and my own personal understanding of the Bible. Those early days were marked with semi-frequent posts on the Emerging/Emergent Church and certain trends in evangelicalism that some might’ve read in greater detail on so called discernment blogs. I suppose in part, some errors that I had been exposed to either within the church or online through these types of blogs began to spill over into the content that I wrote on my own blog. An example of this was numerous posts on Rob Bell, then pastor of Mars Hill (not the same as Mark Driscoll’s Mars Hill).
At the time, I was so concerned about the influence and teaching of Rob Bell that I tried to make his name and heretical beliefs known to as many people as I could. His books, sermons, and videos had begun trickling into the youth group that I was serving in at the time and as Scripture states clearly, a little leaven, leavens the whole lump (1 Cor. 5:6). There was really no other option but to confront those who endorsed Rob Bell, give them opportunity to dissociate from him, or otherwise ask them to leave (Matthew 18:15-20). That final step is what ended up happening on several occasions. I am deeply indebted to the Lord who through His grace granted me discernment in these matters, constantly forcing me to examine what I had read or heard in light of His holy word. As much as the popular evangelical establishment dislikes discernment blogs, they were right on Rob Bell then and the fruits of his ministry are even more evident now.
More recently, Rob Bell has stepped down from his pastorate and moved to California to begin a television/entertainment career and now has his own show on Oprah’s OWN network. In the past year or so, Bell has published a new book with his wife titled The Zimzum of Love and has recently appeared with Oprah on her Super Soul Sunday program (the irony is overwhelming) to endorse and promote the book. Before we get to some interesting things in that interview, a word about the book’s title.
Zimzum. Sounds catchy, almost Dr. Seussian isn’t it? Here is how Bell defines Zimzum on his website:
“Zimzum is a Hebrew term where God, in order to have a relationship with the world, contracts, creating space for the creation to exist. In marriage, zimzum is the dynamic energy field between two partners, in which each person contracts to allow the other to flourish. Mastering this field, this give and take of energy, is the secret to what makes marriage flourish.”
I’ll admit, I have no idea what that’s supposed to mean. It sounds philosophical and intellectual and this creates intrigue I suppose, but I actually think this pseudo-intellectual language is gibberish. In order to have a relationship with the world, God sent His only begotten Son, the Lord Jesus Christ into the world, that the world through Him and Him alone, might be saved if they repent of their sins and believe the Gospel. That’s crystal clear. Additionally, God’s Word clearly defines the “secret” to what makes a marriage work:
“22 Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. 23 For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. 24 Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands. 25 Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, 26 that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, 27 so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.[a] 28 In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. 29 For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, 30 because we are members of his body. 31 “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” 32 This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church. 33 However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.” Ephesians 5:22-33 Again, clarity abounds.
Back to the philosophical gibberish. While the indication that Zimzum is a Hebrew word is strategic to help the readers feel more comfortable with it, as though it is a biblical word or at least has biblical roots, it is actually an unbiblical anti-God concept because it finds its developments in the Kabbalah religion, made popular more recently by Madonna and several prominent members of the entertainment industry. Kabbalah itself has Hebrew origins and sounds very intellectual and philosophical much like the definition of Zimzum given by Bell above. Here’s what CARM says about Kabbalah:
“Kabbalah is difficult to categorize because it is a subjective non-falsifiable belief system. In other words, it rests in non-verifiable philosophy, not in historic fact. Nevertheless, Kaballah is a mystical and esoteric system of observing and interpreting the universe and mankind that also seeks to reveal the true relationship between God, man, and the universe. It teaches that there is a divine being, neither male nor female, that has 10 primary aspects called sephirot which are represented in the Tree of Life. Kabbalah teaches that the supreme being created the universe through a series of those 10 aspects that descended through various levels until creation was fully realized.”
They go on to summarize Kabbalah as follows:
“Because there is no way to verify the truth of the 10 aspects of God, that Kabbalah was given to the angels for the creation of the world, etc., the Kabbalist is left to either believe or disbelieve based upon his preferences. Instead of believing what the Bible actually says, the Kabbalist is left with following the baby and mystical interpretations of a few ancient Jews.
Unlike the Gospels, Kabbalistic literature is full of philosophical mumbo-jumbo, unverifiable and subjective ideas, and words that are strung together in such a way as to appear to be semi-coherent. The problem is that Kabbalah contradicts the Bible. Therefore, it is not true.”
In its philosophical nonsensical way, Zimzum is trying to express the presence and absence of the divine. As it relates to marriage, Bell is seemingly trying to correlate this term and apply it to knowing when to be present and knowing when to give space. In reality, what Rob Bell has done then is to co-opt a Kabbalah philosophical term, as to create nuance and intrigue and then apply it to the idea of marriage between professing Christians such that the audience broadens to include not only New Age/Kabbalah followers, but also appeal to Christians who may already be familiar with him. Simply put, this is the classic methodology of Satan whom the Apostle Paul says disguises himself as an angel of light.
If his outright embrace of Paganism wasn’t enough, nor his association with Oprah who has promoted such New Age philosophers as Eckhart Tolle and Dr. Oz and such books as The Secret, A New Earth, and A Course in Miracles, then allow the interview of Bell and Oprah to shed additional light on the further shift of Rob Bell away from Orthodox Christianity (if he was ever truly there to begin with).
In addition to the esoteric language and conversation which says little of substance while saying a lot in quantity, here are some takeaways:
23:27 Marriage is an opportunity to find God in each other
The theologians call it incarnation, when the divine and the human exist in the same place.
29:20 “Marriage – gay and straight is a gift to the world because the world needs more not less love, fidelity, commitment, and sacrifice.”
Discussion on the embrace of homosexual marriage begins here
30:00 Oprah: When is the church going to get this? Bell’s: We are a moment away from the church’s embrace of homosexual marriage.
Culture is there, church will be irrelevant if it continues to quote letters from 2000 years ago as their best defense.
Exactly Zero Scripture references/quotations
Christians, this video should disturb you; from the talk of energy fields and spirituality, the debasing of the Bible, to the embrace of homosexual marriage intertwined with an appeal to the emotional desires of people to be loved. This material is presented in such a way that makes you less likely to recognize the cyanide and drink the Kool-Aid unsuspectingly.
Rob Bell is a false teacher. He was a wolf in sheep’s clothing when making his Nooma videos and writing such books as The Velvet Elvis, Sex God, and Love Wins, but now he is making perfectly clear the sheepskin has come off to reveal an extremely dangerous teacher who claims Christ but mixes truth with error. In an age of Christianity where believers are seen as intolerant and violence against Christians is at an all-time high, need there be more compelling evidence for the call to be even more vigilant, even more discerning, and even more willing to stand as Ezekiel and be a watchman for the Church.
Yesterday morning, ABC’s Good Morning America featured a segment on Pastor Rob Bell’s forthcoming book, Love Wins: A book about heaven, hell, and the fate of every person who ever.
Below is the publisher’s statement for the upcoming release:
Fans flock to his Facebook page, his NOOMA videos have been viewed by millions, and his Sunday sermons are attended by 10,000 parishioners—with a downloadable podcast reaching 50,000 more. An electrifying, unconventional pastor whom Time magazine calls “a singular rock star in the church world,” Rob Bell is the most vibrant, central religious leader of the millennial generation. Now, in Love Wins: Heaven, Hell, and the Fate of Every Person Who Ever Lived, Bell addresses one of the most controversial issues of faith—the afterlife—arguing that a loving God would never sentence human souls to eternal suffering. With searing insight, Bell puts hell on trial, and his message is decidedly optimistic—eternal life doesn’t start when we die; it starts right now. And ultimately, Love Wins
These “teasers” by Bell and his publishing company have created quite the controversy in the evangelical world (see popular Christian blogs by Al Mohler, Justin Taylor, Kevin DeYoung, Denny Burk, Tim Challies, et.al.), enough so that the nationally viewed secular program Good Morning America took notice. In that segment, they provided viewpoints of those both for and against Bells views. Representing the orthodox Christian view on the existence of hell was Al Mohler, president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, who offered the following statement, “If indeed Rob Bell denies the existence of hell, this is a betrayal of biblical truth that has severe spiritual and evangelistic consequences… Jesus was himself very, very clear about the reality and threat of hell.”1 Representing a defense of Bell’s alleged view on hell was Serene Jones, President of Union Theological Seminary, who offered this comment, “I think that the people who are going after Rob Bell as controversial are themselves closer to heresy than Rob Bell is… Jesus’ message was basically that the love of God is stronger than anything we can do. And the forgiveness of God is stronger, so why would that God be torturing people in some made-up hell?… Centuries of theologians … have said that the question of heaven and hell was not something that we should be worrying about but rather doing good in this life and loving God.”1More on the existence of hell later in this post, but first, who is Rob Bell and what has he written before?
It’s no secret that Bell has had a dramatic effect on college students and youth groups nationwide. And it’s no secret he’s had his share of critics, of which I am one (See the following posts: The Idolatry of Rob Bell, 4 Point Spiritual Abuse, The Emerging Heresy, My Heart is Burdened, Apostasy: The Wolves are Emerging). So what are we to make of him and his new book? Many, like Tim Challies, have taken a wait and see approach claiming that it’s premature to assume that Bell is departing from orthodox Christianity in favor of universalism, the belief that hell does not exist and that in the end everyone will be saved. Others, such as Al Mohler argue, “We must await the release of the full book in order to know what Rob Bell is really saying, but his advance promotion for the book is already saying something, and it is not good.” What many of these faithful men miss is that Rob Bell has established the pattern for what his new book will say based on his previous works and his promotional video and that’s all that really needs to be taken into consideration for this new book.
In Bell’s first book, Velvet Elvis, he develops what he calls “trampoline theology” where each “spring” represents a doctrine of the Christian faith. Using the trampoline imagery, what Bell actually describes is a flexible and ever changing system of beliefs that is based more on doubt than truth. This is his modus operandi, to create doubt while never actually denying the truths of God’s Word. In the Ligonier Ministries February edition of Tabletalk magazine, this is described as “Divorcing Doctrine from Scripture” and is an age-old attempt to undermine the truth. This is perhaps best described in this article by both affirming AND denying the existence of the truth of God’s Word “in the same breath without ever directly challenging what He said….you must appear to accept what He says, but you must give the impression that what you are offering is nothing more than a mere codicil [addition] to what He has written.” And this is precisely what Bell does. In his neither affirming nor denying truths, he creates doubts, and his methods are smooth. For instance, in the context of the trampoline theology, Bell pulls out the spring of the virgin birth of Christ by offering the following:
“What if tomorrow someone digs up definitive proof that Jesus had a real, earthly, biological father named Larry, and archeologists find Larry’s tomb and do DNA samples and prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that the virgin birth was really just a bit of mythologizing the Gospel writers threw in to appeal to the followers of the Mithra and Dionysian religious cults that were hugely popular at the time of Jesus, whose gods had virgin births? But what if as you study the origin of the word virgin you discover that the word virgin in the gospel of Matthew actually comes from the book of Isaiah, and then you find out that in the Hebrew language at that time, the word virgin could mean several things. And what if you discover that in the first century being ‘born of a virgin’ also referred to a child whose mother became pregnant the first time she had intercourse?” (Velvet Elvis, pg. 26)
Clever approach isn’t it? If nothing else, Bell is smart, very smart, in a dangerous sort of way. While beginning his supposition with the ridiculous, “what if” Jesus were the son of a man named Larry, he ventures into more than just speculation by intermingling facts with more doubts, such as the existence of cults during the time of Jesus, and distorting the meaning of virgin in the Bible, followed by more “what ifs” for the cultural definition of virgin birth. All meant to subtly undermine the truth. Now notice the pattern that follows.
“What if that spring was seriously questioned?
Could a person keep jumping? Could a person still love God? Could you still be a Christian?
Is the way of Jesus still the best possible way to live?
Or does the whole thing fall apart?
I affirm the historic Christian faith, which includes the virgin birth and the Trinity and the inspiration of the Bible and much more. I’m a part of it, and I want to pass it on to the next generation. I believe that God created everything and that Jesus is Lord and that God has plans to restore everything.
But if the whole faith falls apart when we reexamine and rethink one spring, then it wasn’t strong in the first place, was it?”(Velvet Elvis pg. 26-27)
Observe his pattern of creating doubt in the mind of his readers, affirming certain “truths” for himself, then concluding by saying if the “spring” of the miraculous virgin birth was removed and the whole faith fell apart, then it wasn’t strong in the first place.
In his “what ifs” and intermingling of truths with doubts what Bell doesn’t explain to his readers is that “if” the virgin birth is taken away, then Christ is now of sinful origin, not a miraculous work of the Holy Spirit. It also means that Jesus is not God’s Son and likewise asserts that the Bible is a lie. If his “what if” spring of the virgin birth is taken away, not only does the Christian faith fall apart, but it’s null and void. In similar fashion, he questions the real definition of faith/believing, the authority of Scripture, individual ability to interpret Scripture, and hell.
Bell’s slick “what if” methods are not something new, quite the contrary. In fact, they have their root in the oldest sin, the original questioner of the truth, the father of lies, Satan himself. “1 Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the LORD God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?” 2 And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden, 3 but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.'” 4 But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. 5 For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”
Bell employs the exact methods that Satan used on Eve by creating doubts and “what ifs.” “Did God actually say?” Which brings us back to Bell’s new book, Love Wins where he once again resorts to this same strategy by questioning if the Bible actually says that hell is a real place or merely a misunderstood, mistranslated word and instead no one will end up there. This doubt will once again be created in the mind of the reader, while Bell himself will likely claim to hold vaguely to the orthodox truth, but then summarize that a God who is love cannot actually send anyone to hell.
19th century minister J.C. Ryle offers the following statement on the questions surrounding the existence of hell during his own time:
“I believe the time is come when it is a positive duty to speak plainly about the reality and eternity of hell. A flood of false doctrine has broken in upon us. Men are beginning to tell us that God is too merciful to punish souls forever, that there is a love of God lower even than hell, and that all mankind, however wicked and ungodly some of them may be, will sooner or later be saved. We are invited to leave the old paths of apostolic Christianity. We are told that the views of our fathers about hell, and the devil, and punishment, are obsolete and old-fashioned. We are to embrace what is called ‘kinder theology’, and treat hell as a pagan fable, or a bugbear to frighten children and fools. Against such false teaching I desire, for one, to protest. Painful, sorrowful, distressing as the controversy may be, we must not blink it, or refuse to look the subject in the face. I, for one, am resolved to maintain the old position, and to assert the reality and eternity of hell.
Once let the old doctrine of hell be overthrown, and the whole system of Christianity is unsettled, unscrewed, unpinned and thrown into disorder. I believe that the man who finds arguments for evading the evidence of the Bible on this question has arrived at a state of mind in which reasoning is useless…The minister who keeps back hell from his people in his sermons is neither a faithful nor a charitable man.”
The problem with drawing attention to Bell’s new book, without explaining Bell’s previous writing patterns, his theological errors, and the unbiblical denial of hell’s existence is that it creates curiosity in the public arena. People will be curious what Bell’s conclusions will be and what all the fuss is about and this is precisely what any author or publisher interested in selling books wants to accomplish. But herein lies the greatest danger. Because of Bell’s creative, polished delivery, and the intelligent dialogue which he develops with his readers in creating doubt, the result is a brainwashing of false doctrine and misguided philosophical ideas. This is precisely what the Apostle Paul warns the church at Corinth of in 2 Corinthians 11:3-4, “3 But I am afraid that as the serpent deceived Eve by his cunning, your thoughts will be led astray from a sincere and pure devotion to Christ. 4 For if someone comes and proclaims another Jesus than the one we proclaimed, or if you receive a different spirit from the one you received, or if you accept a different gospel from the one you accepted, you put up with it readily enough.” Note here that Paul refers to the exact same passage that we looked at earlier from Genesis 3 and says just as Eve, “your thoughts will be led astray from a sincere and pure devotion to Christ.” This is where submitting to the curiosity of the fleshly mind in desiring to read what Bell has written opens the door to lead astray the thoughts of the Christian mind. Don’t take this lightly brethren. False doctrine has no place in the Christian mind. Scripture is replete with examples of false teachers and bad doctrine, but it never commends the Christian to take up the study of these philosophies and allow them a foothold in the mind. Quite the contrary. Scripture warns to “beware of false prophets” (Matthew 7:15) to “test the spirits to see if they are from God” (1 John 4:1) and to “Take no part in theunfruitfulworks of darkness, but instead expose them.” (Ephesians 5:11) Instead of allowing these dangerous teachers a place in our minds, we are to think on “whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” Philippians 4:8
When Bell’s new book is released, do your mind a favor and avoid it. Your reading time would be better spent in God’s Word, or in God glorifying books such as Knowing God, The Holiness of God, Holiness, or The Works of John Owen.