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Biblical: God, Jesus, Holy Spirit, Angels, Demons

Do You Know Who God Is?

From the January 2013 Trumpet Print Edition »

The Philadelphia Trumpet, in conjunction with the Herbert W. Armstrong College Bible Correspondence Course.

Educator Herbert W. Armstrong was traveling in India years ago when he noticed cows and oxen wandering through Delhi’s streets. Mr. Armstrong asked his driver, “Don’t these cattle stray quite a distance from home?”

“Oh, yes.”

“But, when they wander all over the streets so far away, how do their owners find them, to drive them back home for the night?”

The driver smiled. “The owners don’t. But the cattle and the oxen know their owners and where they live. They find their own way home in the evening.”

God Not Known Today

Mr. Armstrong said that incident illustrated Isaiah 1:2-4: “Hear, O heavens, and give ear, O earth: for the Lord hath spoken, I have nourished and brought up children, and they have rebelled against me. The ox knoweth his owner, and the ass his master’s crib: but Israel doth not know, my people doth not consider. Ah sinful nation, a people laden with iniquity, a seed of evildoers, children that are corrupters: they have forsaken the Lord, they have provoked the Holy One of Israel unto anger, they are gone away backward.” Even cattle know their master, yet humans don’t!

These words were originally directed to ancient Israel, a nation to which God had revealed Himself by many infallible proofs and miracles. But the Israelites rebelled against Him and forgot who and what He is. How much less do the nations today know about who and what God is!

Israel’s descendants do not know who God is. Modern science does not know whether God even exists—much less who and what He is. Higher education does not know or teach the amazing truth about God’s identity. Instead, it has universally accepted the fable of evolution, the atheist’s attempt to explain the existence of a creation without the preexistence of a Creator. Thousands of years after Isaiah wrote those words, we still don’t know our Master!

A World in Religious Confusion

It seems utterly unbelievable, but even religion does not know who or what God is! That’s one reason why there are so many wildly different, conflicting versions.

You live in a world of religious confusion! Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, Sikhism, Judaism, the Baha’i Faith, Confucianism, Jainism, Zoroastrianism, Shintoism, Taoism—the world is full of conflicting ideas about spiritual truth. The Christian religion, with its thousands of denominations and sects, has the largest in number of adherents, but it is filled with various contradictory ideas about God. Not even traditional Christianity really knows who and what God is!

So much of the cause for this confusion is simply that human beings try to figure out and reason for themselves what God’s nature is like. But the way to learn the truth about God is to consult the source of revelation that God Himself provided us! With an open Bible and an open mind, you can prove God’s identity.

Let’s look into the Scriptures and begin to examine this question, then, of who and what God is.

God in Prehistory

Where in the Bible is the earliest account of God’s existence? You might think, In the very first verse, Genesis 1:1. “In the beginning, God created the heaven and the earth.”

But that’s actually not the earliest mention.

1. Where, in chronological order, is the earliest revelation of who and what God is? John 1:1-3.

This verse talks about a time before heaven and Earth, before the material universe. The Greek word translated into English as “Word” in John 1:1 is Logos. It means word, revelatory thought, spokesman, or one who speaks. It is the name there used for an individual Personage.

2. What did the Word become? Verse 14. Is He the only begotten Son of God the Father? Same verse. Did He live on Earth? Same verse, and also Matthew 1:23.

The Word is a Personage who was made flesh and blood over 2,000 years ago. He became the human Jesus Christ! He was begotten by God (who then became His Father) and was born of the virgin Mary as a human being.

Jesus’s begettal by God the Father was unique in the history of the world. Mary, His mother, was the only virgin who has ever conceived a child whose father was God! In this sense, Jesus is the “only begotten” Son of the Father.

But at the prehistoric time described in John 1:1-3, the Word was not yet the Son of God, and God was not yet His Father. There existed only two Personages. One was God. And with God was another Personage who was also God. How could the Word be with God and also be God?

There might be a man named John. And John might be with the man named Smith, and John might also be Smith because John is the son of Smith, and Smith is the family name. Yet they are two separate persons. The only point of difference in that analogy is that the Word, at the time of John 1:1, was not the Son of God yet. But He was with God, and He also was God. It was He who was later begotten and born as Jesus Christ.

Both members of the God Family have existed eternally (Psalm 90:2; Hebrews 1:8, 10-12; 1 Timothy 1:17). It is impossible for our finite human minds to understand how these two immortal supreme beings could have always existed, but neither can we really understand what electricity is. Yet we know electricity exists and is very real.

3. Exactly why did the Word—the second member of the God Family—become a flesh-and-blood human being? John 3:16; Romans 5:6-10; Hebrews 2:9-10.

Jesus was both human and divine. God was His Father, and the virgin Mary was His mother. He was both the “Son of God” and the “Son of man.” As the Creator of the universe and mankind (John 1:3; Ephesians 3:9), His life was worth more than all other human lives combined, and as a human, He could die. This great God sacrificed Himself for the sins of all mankind so that others could come to know who God is, receive His Spirit, and ultimately be born into His Family (Romans 8:29; Hebrews 2:11).

What Does God Look Like?

1. What physical creation did God make whose image and likeness was patterned after Himself? Genesis 1:26. Can we therefore conclude that both members of the God Family look like a man? Same verse.

We know what form and shape a man has. Since Adam was created in the “image” of God, after His “likeness,” God therefore has the form and shape of a man. In various parts of the Bible, it is revealed that God has a face, eyes, a nose, a mouth, ears, hair, arms and legs, hands and fingers, feet and toes. God has a mind. In all those respects, you are very much like God!

2. The Word became flesh and blood and lived on Earth. Did Jesus have a special appearance, or did He look like any other average man in His community? Matthew 26:47-49.

The multitude that came looking for Jesus had to have Him specially pointed out. He had no particularly distinguishing features.

3. Whom did Jesus tell Philip that the Father in heaven looked like? John 14:9.

4. Even though God the Father looks like a man, what is He composed of? John 4:24. Is He therefore invisible to human eyes? 1 Timothy 1:17.

5. Are the Father and Christ’s appearances described as glorious? John 17:5. What does Jesus, after His resurrection and restoration to former glory, now look like? Revelation 1:13-18.

If we could see both God the Father and Christ the Son as they appear today in their glorified state in heaven, their faces, though formed and shaped like human faces, would be as bright as the sun in full strength! Their eyes would be like flames of fire, their feet like burnished brass and their hair as white as snow!

God does reveal Himself to us in the Bible, if we will just understand it.




    Elohim: The Plurality of God

    Throughout Scripture we come back to the reality that God has chosen to express His personal nature in terms of a family relationship. Elohim is the Hebrew word translated "God" in every passage of Genesis 1 as well as in more than 2,000 places throughout the Old Testament.

    Elohim is a noun that is plural in form but normally singular in usage—that is, paired with singular verbs—when designating the true God. For a comparable modern expression, consider the term United States . This proper noun is plural in form but singular in usage. It is used with singular verbs. For example, Americans say, "The United States is going to take action," not "The United States are going to take action." The plural form does signify multiple individual states—but, taken collectively, they are viewed as one nation.

    It is the same with Elohim. The word Eloah, meaning "Mighty One," is the singular form. Elohim, meaning "Mighty Ones," is plural. And, indeed, there are two Mighty Ones, the Most High and the Word. But, collectively, as Elohim, the two are seen as one God. Elohim said, "Let Us make man in our image, according to Our likeness" (verse 26).

    We should note that since Elohim is used of the God family, each family member can be referred to by this word. (Some Bible writers also use the word elohim as a plural noun with plural usage to describe false gods. So one crucial factor in comprehending the meaning of this Hebrew word is determining what is intended by the context.)

    When Adam and Eve made the momentous decision to disobey their Creator by eating of the fruit God had forbidden them to eat, the divine reaction was, "Behold, the man has become like one of Us, to know good and evil" (Genesis 3:22). And God cut them off from the tree of life (verses 22-24).

    The Hebrew word here translated "know" often means to learn or become aware of something through one's personal experience. For Adam and Eve it was not enough to simply accept God's command to not eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. They instead chose to step into God's place and determine for themselves what was good and what was evil. The psalmist notes that the ungodly question God's knowledge: "And they say, 'How does God know? And is there knowledge in the Most High?'" (Psalm 73:11).

    The phrase "one of Us," we should note, provides clear evidence that more than one constituted the "Us." Moreover, to "become like one of Us" was actually our Creator's original intention for all humanity, but it must be done God's way and in His own time frame. That way is to submit ourselves to every word that proceeds from the mouth of God (Matthew 4:4).

    Only our Creator has the right and wisdom to determine what is good and evil for us. He knows what's best for us and never wanted us to learn what is evil through experimentation. He tells us, "The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul; the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple; the statutes of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes" (Psalm 19:7-8). He wants us to trust Him and His judgment.

    Then He will follow through on His intention to make us like Him as part of the divine family in the way He has determined (see "God's Plan to 'Bring Many Sons to Glory '").


    The Holy Spirit Is Not a Person

    The Holy Spirit, from the evidence found in the Bible, is not a person in a supposed Trinity. The Holy Spirit is the very nature, presence and expression of God's power actively working in His servants. ". . .'Not by might, nor by power, but by My Spirit,' says the LORD of hosts" (Zechariah 4:6).

    In the preceding chapter we saw that the teaching of the Trinity originated well after the New Testament was written rather than with the Bible writers themselves.

    How, then, do we define the Holy Spirit if it is not a person?

    Rather than describing the Holy Spirit as a distinct person or entity, the Bible most often refers to it as and connects it with God's divine power (Zechariah 4:6
    ; Micah 3:8). Jewish scholars, examining the references to it in the Old Testament Scriptures, have never defined the Holy Spirit as anything but the power of God.

    In the New Testament, Paul referred to it as the spirit of power, love and a sound mind (2 Timothy 1:7). Informing Mary that Jesus would be supernaturally conceived in her womb, an angel told her, "The Holy Spirit will come upon you ...," and he defined this as "the power of the Highest," which "will overshadow you" (Luke 1:35).

    Jesus began His ministry "in the power of the Spirit" (Luke 4:14). He told His followers, "You shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you" (Acts 1:8).

    Peter relates that "God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power" (Acts 10:38). This was the same power that enabled Christ to perform many mighty miracles during His ministry. Likewise, Jesus worked through the apostle Paul "in mighty signs and wonders, by the power of the Spirit of God" (Romans 15:19).

    The Holy Spirit is the very nature, presence and expression of God's power actively working in His servants (2 Peter 1:4; Galatians 2:20). Indeed, it is through His Spirit that God is able to be present everywhere at once throughout the universe and affect it at will (Psalm 139:7-10).

    Divine inspiration and life through the Spirit

    Repeatedly the Scriptures reveal that God imparted divine inspiration to His prophets and servants through the Holy Spirit. Peter noted that "prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit" (2 Peter 1:21).

    Paul wrote that God's plan for humanity had been "revealed by the Spirit to His holy apostles and prophets" (Ephesians 3:5) and that his own teachings were inspired by the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 2:13). Paul further explains that it is through His Spirit that God has revealed to true Christians the things He has prepared for those who love Him (verses 9-16). Working through the Spirit, God the Father is the revealer of truth to those who serve Him.

    Jesus told His followers that the Holy Spirit, which the Father would send, "will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you" (John 14:26). It is through God's Spirit within us that we gain spiritual insight and understanding. Indeed, we come to receive the very "mind of Christ" (1 Corinthians 2:16)—also referred to as the "mind of the Spirit" (Romans 8:27).

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    The Holy Spirit Is Not a Person

    Impersonal attributes of the Holy Spirit

    The Holy Spirit is spoken of in many ways that demonstrate that it is not a divine person. For example, it is referred to as a gift (Acts 10:45; 1 Timothy 4:14). We are told that the Holy Spirit can be quenched (1 Thessalonians 5:19), that it can be poured out (Acts 2:17, 33), and that we are baptized with it (Matthew 3:11).

    People can drink of it (John 7:37-39), partake of it (Hebrews 6:4) and be filled with it (Acts 2:4; Ephesians 5:18). The Holy Spirit also renews us (Titus 3:5) and must be stirred up within us (2 Timothy 1:6). These impersonal characteristics are certainly not attributes of a person.

    In contrast to God the Father and Jesus Christ, who are consistently compared to human beings in Their form and shape, the Holy Spirit is consistently represented, by various symbols and manifestations, in a completely different manner—such as wind (Acts 2:2), fire (verse 3), water (John 4:14; 7:37-39), oil (Psalm 45:7; compare Acts 10:38; Matthew 25:1-10), a dove (Matthew 3:16) and an "earnest," or down payment, on eternal life (2 Corinthians 1:22; 5:5; Ephesians 1:13-14, KJV). These depictions are difficult to understand, to say the least, if the Holy Spirit is a person.

    In Matthew 1:20 we find further evidence that the Holy Spirit is not a distinct entity, but God's divine power. Here we read that Jesus was conceived by the Holy Spirit. However, Jesus continually prayed to and addressed God the Father as His Father and not the Holy Spirit (Matthew 10:32-33; 11:25-27; 12:50). He never represented the Holy Spirit as His Father. Clearly, the Holy Spirit was the agency or power through which the Father begot Jesus as His Son.

    Paul's example and teaching

    If God were a Trinity, surely Paul, who recorded much of the theological underpinnings of the early Church, would have comprehended and taught this concept. Yet we find no such teaching in His writings.

    Moreover, Paul's standard greeting in his letter to the churches, as well as individuals to whom he wrote, is "Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ." Yet in each of his greetings he never mentions the Holy Spirit. (The same can also be said of Peter in the salutations of both his epistles.)

    The same greeting, with only minor variations, appears in every epistle that bears Paul's name (see Romans 1:7; 1 Corinthians 1:3; 2 Corinthians 1:2; etc.) The Holy Spirit is always left out of these greetings—an unbelievable and inexplicable oversight if the Spirit were indeed a person or entity coequal with God the Father and Christ.



    The Holy Spirit Is Not a Person

    This is even more surprising when we consider that the congregations to which Paul wrote had many gentile members from polytheistic backgrounds who had formerly worshipped numerous gods. Paul's epistles record no attempt on his part to explain the Trinity or Holy Spirit as a divine person equal with God the Father and Jesus Christ.

    In all of Paul's writings, only in 2 Corinthians 13:14 is the Holy Spirit mentioned along with the Father and Christ, and there only in connection with the "fellowship of the Holy Spirit" (NIV) in which believers share—not in any sort of theological statement on the nature of God. God's Spirit, says Paul, is the unifying agent that brings us together in godly, righteous fellowship, not only with one another but with the Father and Son.

    Yet here, too, God's Spirit is not spoken of as a person. Notice that our fellowship is of the Holy Spirit, not with the Holy Spirit. As 1 John 1:3 tells us, "Truly our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ." The Holy Spirit is not mentioned. Paul states that "there is one God, the Father, ... and one Lord Jesus Christ" (1 Corinthians 8:6). He makes no mention of the Holy Spirit as a divine person.

    Other biblical perspectives

    Jesus likewise never spoke of the Holy Spirit as a divine third person. Instead, in numerous passages He spoke only of the relationship between God the Father and Himself (Matthew 26:39; Mark 13:32; 15:34; John 5:18, 22; etc.). The Holy Spirit as a person is conspicuously absent from Christ's teaching in general. Of particular interest in this regard are His many statements about Himself and the Father, especially when He never makes similar statements about Himself and the Holy Spirit.

    We should also consider that, in visions of God's throne recorded in the Bible, although the Father and Christ are seen, the Holy Spirit is never seen (Acts 7:55-56; Daniel 7:9-14; Revelation 4-5; 7:10). Jesus is repeatedly mentioned as being at the right hand of God, but no one is mentioned as being at the Father's left hand.

    Nowhere are three divine persons pictured together in the Scriptures.

    Even in the final book of the Bible (and the last to be written), the Holy Spirit as a divine person is absent from its pages. The book describes "a new heaven and new earth" (Revelation 21:1) wherein "the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them" (verse 3). Christ, the Lamb of God, is also present (verse 22).

    The Holy Spirit, however, is again absent—another inexplicable oversight if this Spirit is the third person of a triune God.

    Clearly, the Holy Spirit, from the evidence found in the Bible, is not a person in a supposed Trinity. Regrettably, the unbiblical doctrine of the Trinity obscures the scriptural teaching that God is a family—a family which, as we will see, is our ultimate destiny!


           The Mystery of Melchizedek Solved!

                 by Herbert W. Armstrong (1892-1986)

    FEW MYSTERIES of the Bible have attracted more interest than the mystery of the identity of Melchizedek. Who is he?

    You will read in Hebrews 6:19-20 that Jesus Christ, after His resurrection, is High Priest "after the order of Melchizedek." The plainer English of the Moffatt translation words it: ". . with the rank of" that is, equal status with "Melchizedek."


              Melchizedek Was God's Priest

    First, notice from both Old and New Testaments that the man of mystery, Melchizedek, was a priest of the Most High God. Turn 'low to the account in Genesis 14. During the war between a number of ancient city-states in Canaan and Mesopotamia, Abraham's nephew Lot had been captured. He and his family and goods were carted off.

    One of their number escaped and brought the news to Abraham, who armed 318 of his own servants and pursued the invaders to what was later named Dan and beyond. Abraham rescued Lot and his family and returned them safely to the Canaanite cities.

    On Abraham's return a man of mystery bursts upon the scene. Abraham was ministered to by Melchizedek.

    Here is the account:

    "And Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine; he was priest of God Most High. And he [Melchizedek] blessed him [Abraham] and said, 'Blessed be Abram by God Most High, maker of heaven and earth; and blessed be God Most High, who has delivered your enemies into your hand!' And Abram gave him [Melchizedek] a tenth of everything" that is, a tithe of all, for a tithe means a tenth (Genesis 14:18-20, RSV).

    Notice that Melchizedek was king of Salem. That is the city of Jerusalem. "Salem" comes from the Hebrew word meaning "peace." That would make Melchizedek the "King of Peace" (Hebrews 7:2). The Hebrew name Melchizedek itself means "King of Righteousness" (Hebrews 7:2). The same individual is mentioned in Psalm 110:4. Speaking prophetically of Christ, David stated: "The Eternal hath sworn, and will not repent, Thou art a priest forever after the order of Melchizedek." This verse is quoted again in Hebrews 5:6, 10.

    Before we turn to Hebrews for the identification of Melchizedek, remember that this mystery figure is a mystery only to us. Abraham and the King of wicked Sodom knew exactly who he was. They must have seen him before. He could not have been a Canaanite, for they were steeped in pagan customs. And furthermore Canaan was a descendant of Ham, whereas God basically chose the descendants of Shem to accomplish His work.

    Then who is the mystery man Melchizedek?

    One other hint before we proceed. The land of Canaan from ancient time, before the days of Moses, was known among the Gentiles as "the divine land" the Holy land" the land of the place of worship!" Why? Was there someone in the Holy Land who was divine, holy, worthy of worship?



    The Mystery of Melchizedek Solved!

    The Mystery Clears

    Coming to Hebrews 7, we find Melchizedek identified:

    "For this Melchizedek, king of Salem, priest of the most high God, who met Abraham returning from the slaughter of the kings, and blessed him; to whom also Abraham gave a tenth part of all; first being by interpretation King of righteousness, and after that also King of Salem, which is, King of peace" (Hebrews 7:1-2).

    Since God names individuals what they are, that, then is what this man is.. "King of Righteousness."

    Think of it! King of Righteousness.

    Jesus Himself said: "There is none good but one, that is, God" (Matthew 19:17). Human self-righteousness is, before God, as filthy rags. None can be righteous but God—or one made righteous by God's power—Christ in a person! And certainly none but One of the Godhead the divine Kingdom of God would be King of Righteousness. Such an expression, applied to any but God, would be blasphemous. Why?

    Righteousness is obedience to God's Law. Since God made all laws (James 4:12), He is Supreme Ruler or King. He determines what righteousness is. "All thy commandments are righteousness" (Psalm 119:172). When speaking of one of the points of that Law, Jesus placed Himself superior to it. He is Lord of the Sabbath (Mark 2:28). No man is Lord or King over God's Law. Only God could be! All human beings have sinned and broken that Law of righteousness (Romans 3:23).

    To continue with Hebrews 7. Note, too, that this man was King of peace. "Salem" from which Jerusalem was named means "peace." And remember, Jesus is called the Prince of peace! No human being could be King of Peace. Men know not the way of peace. Read Romans 3:10 and 17: "There is none righteous, no, not one.... And the way of peace have they not known."

    Observe further: Melchizedek was "without mother, without father, without descent," or as the Phillips translation renders it: "He had no father or mother and no family tree." He was not born as human beings are. He was without father and mother. This does not mean that Melchizedek's records of birth were lost. Without such records human priests could not serve (Ezra 2:62). But here Melchizedek had no genealogy. He must not have been an ordinary mortal. He had no descent or pedigree from another, but was self-existent. Notice Paul's own inspired interpretation of this fact: "Having neither beginning of days, nor end of life" (Hebrews 7:3). Therefore He has always existed from eternity! He was not even created, like angels. But He is now eternally self-existing. And that is true only of GOD deity, not humanity!


              Not the Father Nor the Holy Spirit

    Yet Melchizedek cannot be God the Father. He was the "priest of that Most High God." Scripture says no man has ever seen the Father (John 1:18, 5:37), but Abraham saw Melchizedek. He cannot be God the Father, but rather, "made like unto the Son of God; abideth a priest continually" (Hebrews 7:3).

    And there it is! In the days of Abraham, He was not the Son of God, for He had not yet been born of the virgin Mary but He was made like unto the Son of God in His manifestation to the ancients.

    Notice again: Melchizedek, this scripture reveals, abides that is, remains permanently, continually, a priest. God the Father is not the Priest of God, but Christ the Son is! Yet, in the days when the Apostle Paul lived and wrote, shortly after Jesus ascended to heaven as High Priest, the scripture states that even then Melchizedek "abideth "—which means does now abide—"a priest continually." The Moffatt translation states it: "continues to be priest permanently" even while Jesus Christ is High Priest!

    And notice that the order of Christ's Priesthood is named after Melchizedek. It is the High Priest's name that is placed upon an order just as Aaron's name was upon the Aaronic priesthood. Thus Melchizedek was then High Priest, in Paul's day, and even now, and He will rule forever! And at the same time Christ was, is today, and shall be forever High Priest!

    Are there two High Priests'? No! Impossible! The conclusion is inescapable. Contrary to many cherished man-thought-out ideas, Melchizedek and Christ are one and the same! Some people have stumbled on the statement that Melchizedek has no "end of life." They contend that since Christ died, He had an end of life! If that be true then Christ is still dead! But Christ is not dead. He is alive. It was not possible for Christ to be held by death (Acts 2:24). Melchizedek would never have fulfilled His office of High Priest if He had not died for the sins of the people and risen again. It is the function of the High Priest to lead the way to salvation.

    Indeed, Jesus Christ is the author and finisher of our salvation (Hebrews 5:9; 12:2). He is "called of God an high priest after the order of Melchizedek" (Hebrews 5:10).

    And no wonder. Melchizedek and Christ are one and the same Person!

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