1.2.1 Yahweh: God as Father
Volume 1: Foundations—Chapter 2.1
Yahweh: God as Father
It may seem strange to say it, but Yahweh waited until man had been around (at least in the state we find ourselves today—fallen creatures in a cursed world) for over four thousand years before He sat us down and explained His most fundamental nature. Oh, we knew a lot about Him before this time—revealed in glimpses of glory and glimmers of insight throughout the Old Covenant scriptures. But I believe Yahweh wanted to wait until He had shown us all the cards in His hand before He revealed Who was dealing. In other words, He apparently wished to let us see every Logos manifestation—every Symbol revealing His nature—before He chose to elucidate the heart of the matter.
In his first epistle, John returned again and again to a handful of fundamental themes: God’s intrinsic nature as light, life, and especially love, our proper response to that nature (to live in purity, set apart from the world), and the rather surprising concept that we can know what our relationship with God is—information that’s guaranteed to suck the profit margin out of any manmade religion. He says, “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God.”
Wait a minute. Although he wrote this (most likely) while serving a predominantly gentile congregation in Asia Minor—in and around Ephesus—John was Jewish. He was steeped in the Hebrew Scriptures, the Old Testament, the Tanach. Thus He knew Yahweh’s name, for it is written seven thousand times in these Scriptures, even though rabbinical pressure had been trying for some time to suppress it. John used the generic Greek word for deity here—Theos (although he didn’t actually write that word out either; it’s rendered with a placeholder abbreviation called a “nominum sacrum” in the few pre-Constantinan manuscripts we have). We aren’t told why he indicated “Theos,” but I suspect it’s because John simply didn’t countenance any pagan “god” as a rival to Yahweh. In his mind, “God” was obviously the God of the Hebrew Scriptures, not some Greek or Roman myth. And if you’ll analyze New Covenant quotations of Old Covenant scriptures, the vast majority of the time, the name YHWH is transmitted as Theos. Anyway, if you’ll indulge me, I’d like to quote this passage using the Name that I know John knew as God’s self-revealed identifier—Yahweh. I’ve warned you up front about my “textual tampering,” which is more than I can say for the Scribes, Pharisees, and Masoretes.
So, to begin again, “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of Yahweh; and everyone who loves is born of Yahweh and knows Yahweh.” Cutting right to the heart of the matter (just like Yahshua always did) John begins by linking Yahweh with love, observing that since love is God’s primary defining characteristic, then we who know Him and are His children will naturally and inevitably display the same trait: we too will love. Note that love is characterized as something you do because of something you are; it’s not something you feel. It’s not a byproduct of hormones or cultural impetus or emotional response, but of having been born from above. The converse is also true: “He who does not love does not know Yahweh, for Yahweh is love….” Lack of love betrays one’s ignorance of, and one’s lack of relationship with, Yahweh. Note that John here (and not for the last time) equates God with love, as if to say Yahweh is love personified.
But Yahweh, as I noted, does not pour Himself “full strength” into human affairs, for we’d never survive the encounter (and our continued life with Him is the whole point, as far as I can tell). So John now discusses “manifestations” Yahweh has employed, through whom He has communicated His love to us. The first One mentioned is the most obvious: Yahshua. “In this the love of Yahweh was manifested toward us, that Yahweh has sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him….” We recognize the phrase “only begotten Son” as one with which Yahshua described Himself to Nicodemus in John’s Gospel, chapter 3. This introduces a recurring metaphor, that of the relationship between a father and his son, into the discussion. We’ll get into precisely what these familial symbols mean later in this volume. For now, just suffice it to say that these are symbols: Yahshua is not a second-generation deity.
I’ve been using the words “manifest” or “manifestation” with alacrity, assuming everybody knows what I’m talking about, but now that John’s used it, this might be a good time to analyze the word from the Greek. It’s phaneroo, a verb that means to make visible, known, or conspicuous something that was previously hidden or unknown. Applied to people, the word denotes being made to appear, to be recognized, shown openly, or understood. So John is telling us that something about Yahweh, something that was previously obscure, was brought to light in the person and ministry of Yahshua. Something we didn’t formerly understand was made perfectly clear, if only we’ll look at it. What was that something? Yahweh’s Love. What was the mechanism for revealing this Love? Yahshua’s life and sacrifice. And what was the point of doing this? That we, through Yahshua’s coming, might have eternal life.
John now defines the practical aspect of Yahweh’s love: “In this is love, not that we loved Yahweh, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins….” That’s a big, scary word, “propitiation.” I guess we’d better look it up. Propitiation is sort of like expiation. (Oh, thanks, that’s a big help.) The Greek noun hilasmos denotes the means or mechanism of forgiveness, an atoning (that is, covering) sacrifice, the remedy for defilement. Whereas “expiation” would focus on the means of forgiveness, “propitiation” would stress God’s positive assessment of the remedy’s efficacy (both of which concepts are implied in the word hilasmos). Therefore, Yahshua’s mission was designed to be the sacrifice Yahweh would accept so that we could be forgiven, cleansed, and reunited with Him. Furthermore, Yahweh’s love, not ours, instigated this process of propitiation. He loved us, in point of fact, before we even existed.
How, then, are we to respond to this unilateral display of love on God’s part? “Beloved, if [i.e., because] Yahweh so loved us, we also ought to love one another.” (I John 4:7-11) Yahshua had affirmed that the first and greatest commandment of the Torah was “Hear, O Israel: Yahweh our God, Yahweh is one! You shall love Yahweh your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength.” (Deuteronomy 6:4) In light of His love toward us, reciprocation would seem perfectly appropriate—even obvious (which is not to say everybody actually does it). The Old Covenant scriptures agree with the New—no surprise there. But the second most significant instruction, according to Yahshua, wasn’t quite so intuitive: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am Yahweh.” (Leviticus 19:18) The surprise comes when we analyze the precept: we are to love one another because we are loved by God. Why is that? I believe it’s because Yahweh wants us to be like Him insofar as our core nature is concerned. Like God, we are to be loving, not hateful; creative, not destructive; forgiving of personal affront, but not tolerant of dangerous falsehood; liberating, not domineering; fair minded, not unjust; merciful, not cruel; fruitful, not barren. But again I must ask: why? Why does Yahweh want us to be like Him? Why did He create us (as we’re told in Genesis 1:26) in His image, in His likeness? He created a lot of living things, from angels to amoebas. But we’re the only “species” we know of that was built specifically for the purpose of communing with God, having fellowship with Yahweh, sharing His love. Face it: we’re special. Why don’t we act like it?
John wasn’t nearly done. He still had to explain why “God sent His Son,” His Logos, to be the propitiation for our sins. So he reminds us, “No one has seen Yahweh at any time.” If we had “seen” Him, we wouldn’t have lived to tell the tale. All we’ve seen of Yahweh are diminished manifestations: we’ve felt the leading of the Spirit, we’ve experienced dreams and visions, we’ve stood in awe as God wreathed Mount Sinai in smoke and filled the Temple with His glory, and we’ve walked with the One who was sent to put the “Man” in manifestation: Yahshua of Nazareth. So although what Yahshua said to Philip (in John 14:9) was true—that he who had seen Him had seen the Father—the fact remains, no mortal man has actually experienced the full and undiminished glory of Yahweh.
That being said, “If we love one another, Yahweh abides in us, and His love has been perfected in us.” How does God do this? “By this we know that we abide in Him, and He in us, because He has given us of His Spirit.” (I John 4:12-13) Here the Spirit of God is identified as the specific manifestation of Yahweh who “abides in us.” Abides in whom? In all mankind? In every living thing? No. The Spirit abides in people who love each other, people in whom the love of God has been “perfected”—accomplished, completed, brought to fruition, or fulfilled (Greek: telieoo). John here has given us a litmus test whereby we can know we are Yahweh’s children: we are “in Him” if His love characterizes our lives. Do we love the people we encounter? Are we willing to meet their needs as we do our own, physically if we can and taking them before God in prayer if we can’t? Conversely, are we unwilling to stand idly by and watch them perish in ignorance and apostasy if it is in our power to awaken them?
I’m not saying you’re a hell-bound heathen if you don’t accost people in the street, waving Gospel tracts in their faces, accusing them of being heinous sinners, and demanding that they repent. We’re not called to force people to toe the line in their behavior, or even their doctrine. But where is your heart? Ezekiel once saw a vision where Yahweh’s criteria for life or death was determined by whether “men…sigh and cry over all the abominations that are done.” (Ezekiel 9:4) In the same way, “meeting needs” involves perceiving and embracing Yahweh’s plan, not tolerating destructive alternatives and worthless counterfeits that lead lost people away from Him. It’s not a loving act to facilitate a heroin user’s addiction, no matter how badly he “needs” another fix.
John continues, offering eyewitness testimony of how Yahweh has manifested Himself among us. “And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent the Son as Savior of the world.” You don’t have to have seen the Messiah with your waking eyes, however, to bear witness of the truth: “Whoever confesses that Jesus [Yahshua] is the Son of Yahweh, Yahweh abides in him, and he in Yahweh.” A “son” in this symbolic context is one who reflects the character and advances the agenda of his father, not merely someone who is genetically related. “And we have known and believed the love that Yahweh has for us. Yahweh is love, and he who abides in love abides in Yahweh, and Yahweh in him….” As love is personified in Yahweh, so “the love that Yahweh has for us” is personified as Yahshua. Therefore, if we love one another, it is evidence of Yahweh’s Logos living within us, empowering us and conforming us to His likeness: love.
Now John stresses the practical aspect of knowing we are Yahweh’s children. “Love has been perfected [i.e., completed or accomplished] among us in this: that we may have boldness in the day of judgment; because as He is, so are we in this world….” The picture here is that of choosing sides. “Judgment” isn’t necessarily condemnation (though it’s how we tend to think of the word—probably because we’re so acutely aware of our guilt), but rather krisis—separation, sundering, a judicial decision dividing right from wrong, the guilty from the innocent. It’s the dividing of the sheep from the goats, the separation of the wheat from the tares, the setting apart of the saved from the lost. In the “day of krisis,” there is no middle ground, no shades-of-gray situational moral code, no compromise between light and darkness. The division is absolute: one is either Yahweh’s or he is not. This is the very definition of “holiness,” which (as I’ve said) has nothing to do with good behavior, and everything to do with being set apart to God (something that admittedly produces good behavior in our lives). John says we can have “boldness in the day of separation” because (and only because) Yahweh’s love, dwelling within us, has placed us on His side of the “line He has drawn in the sand.”
This boldness, this confidence we have because the love of Yahweh resides within us, enables us to live our lives in perfect peace. “There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment. But he who fears has not been made perfect in love.” (I John 4:14-18) It’s another litmus test. Are you afraid of what the world might do to you? If so, why? God plus anyone is a majority. Is not Yahweh able to take care of His own? Of course He is. And yet, bad things happen to the saved and lost alike, which ought to tell us something: magically improving our circumstances in this life isn’t how God operates. He wants us to see challenges as occasions for growth, as opportunities to exercise our reliance on Him. We’ve been bluntly warned that tribulation will be our lot in this world—we (and I’m talking especially to my fellow American believers here) shouldn’t consider it strange when trials come, or presume that God has abandoned us, just because we always had a relatively easy time of it until now. “To live is Christ and to die is gain” is not just a platitude—it’s reality; or at least, it can be.
We need to pay attention to the actual words of scripture here: it doesn’t say “Being strong casts out fear,” or “Being vigilant and well prepared…” or even “Being ignorant of current events….” We are approaching times when we believers will have very good reasons to “fear,” for as the end approaches, the world will lash out against us, seeking to place the blame for their self-imposed problems on someone else—anybody else. As the signs of the end increase in frequency and intensity—wars, famine, pestilence, false messiahs, natural disasters, runaway political correctness, betrayal, hatred, and lawlessness—the world will look for a scapegoat, and we’re it. As Yahshua warned us, “You will be hated by all nations for My name’s sake.” (Matthew 24:9) Expect it. It’s coming.
So why isn’t terror a natural part of a believer’s life? Because perfect love—Yahweh’s Spirit dwelling within us—casts out fear. It’s not that we masochistically learn to like the pain the world dishes out; it’s merely that we know that Yahweh’s love makes any trial we might be asked to endure trivial in comparison. What, then, is our proper response to the world’s ever accelerating demise? It’s “sighing and crying over the abominations that are done,” for one thing. “Praying for the peace of Jerusalem” is another. “Feeding Yahshua’s sheep” is another. “Looking forward to His glorious appearing” is another. “Studying to show ourselves to be approved workmen” is another. Need I go on? The things we are to be doing in these last days are the same things we were supposed to be doing during the whole age of Ekklesia: we are to “love one another,” “hold fast to what we have,” “be watchful,” and “occupy ’til He comes.” Remember, “He who endures to the end will be saved.” (Matthew 24:13) That’s cause for celebration, not fear.
Something I previously “read between the lines” is now stated outright: “We love Him because He first loved us.” (I John 4:19) The opinion of cultural anthropologists notwithstanding, we did not invent God: He invented us. We did not set out to find Him: He sought us. We cannot purchase His favor with alms, penance, or good works: rather, He purchased our freedom with the most precious substance known to man—the blood of His Messiah. Thus it is impossible for us to initiate a loving relationship with Yahweh—in truth, all we can do is choose to reciprocate the love He has already shown us. But since Yahweh is careful not to force us to respond to His presence and persona (since love requires free will), showing our love for Him is a bit problematical: how, exactly, does one demonstrate one’s love for an infinite God?
Yahweh told us precisely how to do this: the proper way to reciprocate Yahweh’s love toward us is to extend it to other people. A few verses back, John had reminded us, “No one has seen Yahweh at any time.” Now, he ties the two principles together: “If someone says, 'I love Yahweh,' and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, how can he love Yahweh whom he has not seen?” (I John 4:20) His point is well taken. It’s easy for someone to say he loves God. But since Yahweh is not physically, bodily, here among us, there’s really nothing he can do directly to prove it (or disprove it, for that matter)—even (or should I say, especially) to himself. The only evidence of our love for God that means anything is circumstantial: it’s what we do for other people.
I’ll give you an example that just occurred in my own life to demonstrate how this works. I could fancy myself a “servant of God” cloistered up here in my study, showing my love for Him by writing lofty tomes (that nobody reads, but ought to). And I could reason (in my pride) that any interruption to my oh-so-important train of thought would thus be intolerable. But my wife, who’s spent the morning out in her garden trying to grow some food for our family, just called up here and asked me to fix a problem for her—design an “environment” for her cantaloupes to grow in that will let them climb and flourish as they are wont to do, and yet be safe from the roving deer who think her garden is an all-you-can-eat salad buffet. So I dropped what I was doing, went downstairs, and figured out what would work. (She’s got a green thumb, but she’s no engineer.) I was loving God by serving her. Funny thing, though: while I was out there building frames and draping deer netting, you didn’t miss me at all, did you? Yahweh doesn’t ask us to be in more than one place at a time. And note one more thing: even though I took time out to help my wife simply because I love her (and not because of something I might get out of the deal), a couple of months from now I could well find myself eating some of the sweetest melons this side of heaven—all because of a simple service I took the time to do, an act of love for my wife reflecting the love Yahweh had placed in my heart.
There are several principles we might derive from this. (1) Loving someone entails doing something for them that they couldn’t do for themselves—but something for which God had equipped you before the need even came up. (2) The “loved one” need only be in your sphere of influence. In my illustration, it was my wife, but the connection needn’t be remotely that close. In 1978, we adopted an orphaned child from a country half a world away—the first of nine such kids, it would transpire—simply because God had loved us, called us, and equipped us for the task. (3) The act of loving endeavors to solve a problem for the recipient—even if that “problem” is merely the need for encouragement, advice, or solace. (Put another way, love is not meddling in other people’s affairs in an effort to “improve” their lives whether they want help or not.) (4) Loving costs us something: perhaps time, perhaps resources, perhaps emotional investment. Remember the ridiculous lengths to which Yahweh was willing to go in the process of redemption (not to mention creation) just to have someone with whom He could share a loving relationship. (5) Yahweh doesn’t ask or expect us to solve all of the world’s problems: our love should be focused upon whomever He has placed in our path. There were lepers and demoniacs in Judea at the time of Christ who didn’t get healed. (6) “Doing God’s work” entails meeting the needs of others, not trying to earn brownie points for ourselves. And (7) Although it may not be readily apparent, loving others always has an upside, a benefit for the lover, if only lowering our blood pressure a point or two.
Point Number Two above begs the next question on everybody’s mind. If we’re supposed to “love our brother,” precisely who is included in that? (And more to the point, who’s not?) Let’s face it: some folks are just naturally unlovable. I’m as guilty as the next guy of being “selective” in choosing whom to love and whom to ignore—it’s human nature, which is not necessarily a good thing. That being said, we must balance the affirmative advice of scripture against its admonitions. The parable of the Good Samaritan in Luke 10:29-37 (where the Samaritan showed selfless and timely love toward one who would have normally considered him a cultural pariah—had he not been beaten bloody and left for dead by the side of the road, ignored and shunned by his own countrymen) told us in practical terms how to “love our neighbors as we do ourselves.” But Paul warned Timothy to have nothing to do with some people: “But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come: For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having a form of godliness but denying its power. And from such people turn away!” (II Timothy 3:1-5) The word translated “turn away” is from the Greek verb apotrepo, meaning to avoid, shun, or turn away from—precisely the opposite of the Good Samaritan’s taking a personal interest in a victim of the world’s evil. For all practical purposes, these nineteen traits describe the bad guys who had mugged the victim in the parable—as well as the “priest” and the “Levite” who subsequently refused to help him!
I can only conclude that we are to be discerning, to be selective, to discriminate between people when showing our love. I realize that’ll sound like heresy to some, but it’s not. Toleration of evil is evil; support for the enemies of Yahweh is treason. However, I’m not saying we should love only our fellow believers, to the exclusion of lost souls. We should—we must—reach out in love to the world’s victims, the sleepers, the prisoners, the misguided, the ignorant, and the apathetic. Those who have not overtly chosen Satan’s path can still benefit from our expressions of Yahweh’s love. It is not too late. But it soon will be.
The place to start, however, is within the ekklesia: we are commanded to love our brothers and sisters in Christ—without fail, without reservation. “And this commandment we have from Him: that he who loves Yahweh must love his brother also.” (I John 4:21) Those who don’t acknowledge Yahshua as Master aren’t expected to obey His commandments, but we who do, are. This is an all-volunteer army; there is no draft—nobody is forced to join. But if we sign on, we’re then duty bound to follow our Commander’s lead: “If you love Me, keep My commandments.” (John 14:15) This isn’t rocket science: even I can understand it. Just before His passion, Yahshua had instructed His disciples: “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:34-35) Loving each other “as Yahshua has loved us” is a tall order. But if we’re part of this brotherhood, this fellowship, we will find it impossible to suppress the love of Yahweh that resides within us. Nor would we want to.
We’ve been discussing the primary trait that defines and identifies Yahweh in our world—Love. John also speaks of two other attributes, light, and life. I’d like to defer the discussion of light to a later chapter, because it is spoken of as something God created: “And God said, ‘Let there be light,’ and there was light.” (Genesis 1:3) There’s more to it, of course. Light is merely one form of energy—one that can be seen with the human eye, making it ideal as a symbol. Energy itself is a fundamental component of God’s nature, but it’s something that He hasn’t pressed into service as a personal metaphor, probably because the human race wouldn’t really come to terms with what energy was until physicists like Einstein, Bohr, Heisenberg, Schrödinger, and Planck came along (and even then, who really understands it?). As a symbol, light communicates the same basic idea to men of all ages; energy, as a concept, does not.
But even though Yahweh didn’t specifically utilize the concept of “energy” to communicate His nature to us, we should take the opportunity to pause and reflect on something. Remember how I remarked upon the extravagance of Yahweh in building an entire universe just so the elements needed to make our bodies would be available—bodies that are in turn needed to temporarily house our souls and His Holy Spirit? I’m going to suggest a theory that, I’m the first to admit, may be way off base—but on the other hand, I may be right. At least hear me out.
First, consider this: when Yahweh “created the heavens and the earth,” He started from nothing—the only “thing” that existed was Himself. Second, note that Einstein’s Special Theory of Relativity has proven that there is an equivalence between matter and energy. It’s expressed by the well-known formula E=MC2—that is, energy is equal to mass times the square of the speed of light. We’ve all heard of the practical applications of this principle in atomic weapons and nuclear power generation, where a tiny amount of radioactive material can be transformed into immense amounts of energy. But the formula also works the other way. It is theoretically possible to “create” matter, although you’d have to expend a ridiculous amount of energy to do so.
The mass of the universe, 3 x 1042 kilograms according to one estimate, is greater than we can possibly imagine. But the scientific data that has emerged over the past few decades has demonstrated convincingly that there was a point in time—about fourteen billion years ago—before which none of it existed. They call it the “Big Bang.” I call it the moment of creation, when Yahweh put everything in motion, exquisitely balanced, awesomely energetic, and fraught with purpose. Where did God get His “raw materials?” My theory is that Yahweh invested Himself—in terms of physics, He utilized the energy that comprised His own substance—in order to create the matter necessary for our mortal existence. Considering what a vast amount of energy it would take to make even one gram of mass, we can start to get an appreciation of the scope of Yahweh’s commitment, not to mention the greatness of Yahweh Himself.
Well, no, we really can’t. Our feeble brains can’t begin to grasp how much Yahweh has invested in us. We tend to think of God’s sacrifice on our behalf in terms of Yahshua’s agony at Calvary as He bore our sins. And we should. When contemplating this drives us to our knees in awe at Yahweh’s unfathomable mercy, that’s precisely the right and proper response. But sacrifice? Yahweh’s real sacrifice for us goes back to creation itself, and its extent completely defies mortal comprehension. As scripture phrases it, Yahweh “spoke” the worlds into existence. And what exactly is speech? It is the expending of energy to express in audible, comprehensible terms an idea or concept—something that in Greek, you’d call the Logos. David expressed it like this: “The heavens tell of the glory of God. The skies display his marvelous craftsmanship. Day after day they continue to speak; night after night they make Him known. They speak without a sound or a word; their voice is silent in the skies. Yet their message has gone out to all the earth, and their words to all the world.” (Psalm 19:1-4 NLT) The question is, “Are we listening?”
Energy, however, cannot by itself display love. To do that, Yahweh (by any logical criteria) would have needed Life, the third key to God’s identity in John’s epistle. This life is neither a created entity nor a derivative of some other system, but is part of the very fundamental nature of Yahweh. Simply being is not enough—to be God Yahweh must live. “Yahweh is the true God. He is the living God and the everlasting King.” (Jeremiah 10:10) Here the prophet has de facto equated Yahweh (the true and living God) with Yahshua (the everlasting King, to whom all authority is given).
Note that His own life is the basis of Yahweh’s favorite oath: “For I raise My hand to heaven, and say, ‘As I live forever, if [and the Hebrew also allows the translation “when” here] I whet My glittering sword, and My hand takes hold on judgment, I will render vengeance to My enemies, and repay those who hate Me.’” (Deuteronomy 32:40-41) His prophets too are constantly heard affirming the truth of their words by adding the imprecation, “As Yahweh lives….” Try that phrase out on any other “god” and it’s tantamount to saying, “Oh, by the way, I’m lying to you.”
Life is something Yahweh transfers to us who are made in His image and likeness. Yahshua explained: “Most assuredly, I say to you, he who hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me has everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment, but has passed from death into life. Most assuredly, I say to you, the hour is coming, and now is, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God; and those who hear will live….” We mortals have “life” from the moment we’re conceived, but this biological sort of life is temporary: a soul cannot ordinarily live without a body, and our bodies are not built to last forever. But Yahweh equipped Adam’s race with a neshamah which allows His own eternal Spirit to dwell within us. (It’s usually translated “breath of life” or something similar, but considering all that it does, the neshamah can’t really be boiled down to a simple English word or slogan.) A soul (nephesh) whose neshamah is indwelled with Yahweh’s Spirit (Ruach) will not perish when the body dies. It has “passed from death into life”—eternal life.
In explaining why this is so, Yahshua pinpoints what makes Yahweh absolutely unique: “For as the Father has life in Himself, so He has granted the Son to have life in Himself, and has given Him authority to execute judgment also, because He is the Son of Man.” (John 5:24-27) Although we’re used to thinking of Yahweh as being eternal and uncreated (which explains why His self-revealed name means “I Am”), this description—of Yahweh having “life in Himself”—is, if you think about it, one of the most stunning truths in all of scripture. Every living thing in creation got its life from something that came before—its parents or progenitors, depending upon the reproduction mode of the species. Since life is obviously here, it had to start somewhere—it had to have a “first cause.” So as if it weren’t apparent before, Yahshua identifies that “Cause” in the clearest possible terms: life can only have originated with the One who has life in Himself, which explains why we call Yahweh “the Father.” And as Jeremiah pointed out above, the “Son” shares this essential life with the “Father,” for they are, in fact, One: “He is the living God and the everlasting King.”
Scientists (who can be the dumbest smart people on the planet) like to pontificate on how life might have “arisen” on this planet. But the fact is, they have never seen it come from non-life under any conditions—and believe me, they’ve looked. Discover Magazine admits, “In 1953, chemist Stanley Miller tried to duplicate the conditions present on the primordial earth in laboratory flasks…. Miller’s classic experiment involved putting atmospheric components thought to reflect those of the early Earth (ammonia, hydrogen, methane, and water) in a closed system and stimulating that mixture with an electric current to mimic the effects of lightning storms. He generated a small number of biochemically significant compounds, including amino acids, hydroxy acids, and urea, showing that conditions of primitive earth can create the building blocks of life. These results generated considerable excitement, but later researchers argued that Miller was wrong about the composition of the young earth’s atmosphere, and the experiment was written off as a novelty.” The point, to my mind, is that even if all the correct chemicals and compounds come to coincidentally coexist under conditions conducive to life, life does not spontaneously appear—whether in the laboratory or in nature. “Biologically significant compounds” aren’t remotely the same thing as living tissue. In fact, considering the existence of angels—spirit messengers created by Yahweh (which I’ll acknowledge aren’t admitted as evidence by scientists because they can’t analyze them)—I’d go so far as to say that chemistry has nothing to do with life—the two things may be compatible, but they aren’t interdependent.
Scientists can’t even agree on what life is. Oh, they can describe it, observe it, and try to define it (“a characteristic that distinguishes objects that have self-sustaining biological processes from those which do not;” or “the condition that distinguishes organisms from inorganic objects and dead organisms…”). But without reference to the Life that is defined by the nature of Yahweh, such anemic attempts to come to grips with the concept are invariably inadequate and shortsighted. There’s more to life than biology. In point of fact, biological life (something created by Yahweh) is itself “only” a symbol introduced by God to illustrate to us what real life is. It’s the same reality-shadow comparison we saw above, when Yahshua said, “As the Father has life in Himself, so He has granted the Son to have life in Himself.” As the Father (Yahweh) is Life Personified, His essential life was symbolically manifested first as biological life in the advent of the Son, Yahshua the Messiah. That was the only way we’d ever have been able to experience His presence while confined to our mortal bodies. But Yahshua was also granted Yahweh’s essential life, something He demonstrated by rising from the dead—in an entirely different kind of body—under His own power on the Feast of Firstfruits in the year 33.
Thus John begins his first epistle, “That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, concerning the Word of life—the life was manifested, and we have seen, and bear witness, and declare to you the eternal life which was with the Father and was manifested to us.” (I John 1:1-2) That “Word of life” is a theological mouthful—it’s Logos ho zoe: the statement or declaration uttered by God’s living voice, embodying and communicating the concept of animate, genuine, vital, and vigorous life. He’s not talking about bios, the kind of temporary life we share with puppy dogs and paramecia; zoe (in New Testament usage) is a code word for life beyond this life, life of a fundamentally different and higher order than that enjoyed by plants and animals and unregenerate men. It’s Yahweh’s kind of life—essential, eternal, and unquenchable.
Lest we lose sight of the forest for the trees, note that John was saying that Yahshua, the One about whom he was bearing eyewitness testimony, was the very manifestation of the Life of Yahweh among men. Later, he says, “He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life. These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life, and that you may continue to believe in the name of the Son of God.” (I John 5:12-13) All three times here, “life” is the Greek zoe, not bios. So He’s not saying that everybody walking around on this planet “has the Son of God ” simply because he hasn’t died yet. Rather, John is declaring that when Yahweh dwells within a person—something achieved by His Spirit through our belief in the name of the Anointed Son—this is in itself the source and cause of the person’s eternal life. Note that he cites the “name of the Son of God” as the key to knowing one’s eternal disposition. What is that name? It’s Yahshua—which means “Yahweh is Salvation.” The lesson is: trusting reliance upon Yahweh’s Salvation is what gives us zoe-life.
Yahshua told us this very thing: “Jesus said to [Thomas], ‘I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me. If you had known Me, you would have known My Father also; and from now on you know Him and have seen Him.’” (John 14:6-7) He was telling him, in so many words, “This eternal life you seek—the life that proceeds from the Father, Yahweh—is available only through Me, for I Am Yahweh in human form. I’m telling you the truth: if you know Me, you know Yahweh; and if you trust Me, you’re trusting Yahweh, for We are One.”
The key word there is “If.” The choice is ours. Why anyone would choose death over life is beyond me, but we’re allowed to do so if we wish. Love, as I’ve said ’til I’m blue in the face, must be freely given, or it isn’t love at all. Yahweh won’t twist our arms, but He will—and does—make the ramifications of our choices crystal clear. Moses, having delivered the Torah and outlived an entire generation of rebellious Israelites, put his cards on the table as they prepared to enter the promised land. “See, I have set before you today life and good, death and evil, in that I command you today to love Yahweh your God, to walk in His ways, and to keep His commandments, His statutes, and His judgments, that you may live and multiply; and Yahweh your God will bless you in the land which you go to possess.” Yes, it’s a “commandment,” but it’s clear that there is a choice to be made: life or death, good or evil, walking in God’s ways or living according to our own lusts. “But if your heart turns away so that you do not hear, and are drawn away, and worship other gods and serve them, I announce to you today that you shall surely perish; you shall not prolong your days in the land which you cross over the Jordan to go in and possess….” Why would somebody perish if he worshipped gods other than Yahweh? Because only Yahweh “has life within Himself.” If you don’t want that life, you don’t really want to live. It’s the only game in town.
Moses concludes, “I call heaven and earth as witnesses today against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing.” Don’t blame me if you screw this up, he says. I’ve told you the truth, straight up. “Therefore choose life, that both you and your descendants may live; that you may love Yahweh your God, that you may obey His voice, and that you may cling to Him.” Life, he says, is comprised of three things: (1) love for Yahweh, (2) obedience to His instructions, and (3) a close relationship with Him. But since Yahweh’s Torah is designed to point toward the means He would provide for mankind to regain the loving relationship with God that was lost in the Garden (namely, the life and sacrifice of His Messiah) these three are tantamount to being the same thing. “For He is your life and the length of your days; and that you may dwell in the land which Yahweh swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, to give them.” (Deuteronomy 30:15-20) If we choose Yahweh’s life, we will live. If we don’t, we won’t. It’s that simple. But the death we’ll suffer as a result of choosing not to reciprocate Yahweh’s love won’t really be the result of His righteous vengeance, the well deserved punishment of our crimes. It will merely be the inevitable result of having chosen a destination devoid of life.
Yahweh’s recurring pattern of Self-revelation is groups of seven, invariably arranged as six plus one. We see this most prominently in the creation account, the work week plus Sabbath, the Sabbatical year cycle, the annual schedule of Yahweh’s “Feasts” (more properly, appointments), and the seven phases of Yahshua’s called-out assemblies (erroneously called “churches”). These are all structured as six-plus-one “sets.” We should therefore be a little suspicious of a doctrine that describes our God as a trinity, “three in one,” not the scripturally ubiquitous “six plus One.”
I had to search for all of three minutes to identify the seven components of the divine nature: they’re patently obvious, if you’re not hogtied by religious tradition. The Trinitarians are right, of course, in identifying the Son and the Holy Spirit as part of this, along with the Father. It bothers me a little that they (a term that used to include me) don’t generally recognize the Father’s self-revealed name, Yahweh, nor the Son’s real name, Yahshua or Yahoshua (it’s not Jesus), nor the real meaning of the descriptive word “Holy” in Holy Spirit. But hey, it’s a start. Call me naïve, but I’m willing to overlook the pagan history of the Trinitarian viewpoint and characterize the Christian version of it as an honest mistake, a half truth based on incomplete information. I sincerely hope that’s the case.
The key to seeing the six-plus-One pattern in God’s persona is to realize and embrace the fact that “Yahweh our God, Yahweh is One” (Deuteronomy 6:4) That is, He is the “One” in the six-plus-One pattern. The “six” are all Logos symbols, diminished manifestations of Himself used to reveal His character and reality to mankind, thus avoiding all the undesired side effects that would have accompanied any direct revelation of Yahweh in His undimmed glory—like turning the whole planet into a charcoal briquette, for instance. The six are, in order of their chronological predominance in human affairs, (1) the “Angel of Yahweh” (a.k.a. theophanies), (2) the Shekinah, (3) visionary or dream-state manifestations of God, (4) the “Son,” (Yahshua of Nazareth), (5) the Holy Spirit, and (6) the risen and glorified Messiah-King. Trinitarians aren’t stupid, of course. They’ve noticed that these things exist, and valiantly try to make them somehow fit their “God in three persons” scheme. But remember Sullivan’s architectural maxim, “Form follows function.” Every Logos manifestation that Yahweh chooses for an encounter with man is perfectly suited for the job at hand. For that matter, it’s not uncommon for two or more of these forms to be seen in the same context, when several functions need to be performed at the same time.
And lest we slip back into familiar but erroneous patterns of thought, please bear in mind that the Six are all “God.” They’re not junior gods, or second generation “devinirivatives” (to coin another word), or separate godly entities. They’re all Yahweh. They all bear His name, character, eternal existence, essential life, and unfathomable love. To paraphrase Colossians 2:9, “In them, all the fullness of deity dwells, each in its own unique form.” As I said, they’re all Yahweh, but they aren’t all there is of Yahweh.
Perhaps a parable would help to clarify this concept. Let’s say for the sake of the metaphor that Yahweh is the water of the Pacific Ocean. One Logos manifestation of Him might be a cup of this water scooped out at the surface. Another might be a bit of ice, frozen solid from the same source. If you boiled some of the water, you’d have steam. Another manifestation would be the water vapor comprising the clouds overhead, evaporated from the ocean’s surface. Another form might be that found under extreme pressure in the crushing depths of the Marianas Trench. And the stinging, wind-driven spray of a typhoon, or perhaps the breakers rolling in onto a Hawaiian beach could qualify as other “forms” of Pacific Ocean water. All of these different manifestations have the same chemical composition and the same source—the same “identity.” But they differ in their appearance, form, physical state, temperature, and the effect on their surroundings. Yes, they’re all “Pacific Ocean,” but none of them is all there is of it. We should not presume that just because we’ve analyzed a beaker full of it, we know everything there is to know about this vast body of water.