The Watchtower, 15 October 2004, contained an article entitled, “Who is ‘The True God and Life Everlasting’?” The argument struck me as being the equivalent of someone shouting at a foreigner hopingthatthe louder they speak the more chance they have of understanding. The article concerns 1 John 5:20, which the New World Translation renders as:

“But we know that the Son of God has come, and he has given us intellectual capacity that we may gain the knowledge of the true one. And we are in union with the true one, by means of his Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God and life everlasting.”

However in the article they only quote part of it:

“We are in union with the true one, by means of his Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God and life everlasting.”

Please note the part they have left out and the fact that they have left out the ‘And’ and given the ‘we’ a capital ‘W’, which it does not have in the NWT. The New American Standard rendering of this verse is:

“And we know that the Son of God has come, and has given us understanding so that we may know Him who is true; and we are in Him who is true, in His Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God and eternal life.”

First we summarise the article and what it sets out to achieve.

It highlights the word ‘This’ which is the Greek word hou’tos. The crux of their argument is:

“Believers in the Trinity doctrine hold that the demonstrative pronoun “this” (hou’tos) refers to its immediate antecedent, Jesus Christ. They assert that Jesus is “the true God and life everlasting.” This interpretation, however, is in conflict with the rest of the Scriptures.” – p.30.

They then cite two quotes from scholars and follow it up by a number of Scriptures that ‘prove’ their point that the ‘this’ is referring to a subject earlier in the sentence and not immediately after where it comes. There is of course no problem with that because as they say:

“In his Gospel, the apostle John wrote: “Andrew the brother of Simon Peter was one of the two that heard what John said and followed Jesus. First this one [hou’tos] found his own brother, Simon.” (John 1:40, 41) It is evident that “this one” refers, not to the last person mentioned, but to Andrew.” – p.30.

As they say – ‘it is evident’ – in other words the context is clear and we know who the writer was talking about. However, we also need to realise, that there are other times in Scripture where ‘this’ is used to refer to what it has just been mentioning. Here are two examples from John’s same first letter.

“Children, it is the last hour; and just as you heard that antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have appeared; from this we know that it is the last hour.” – 1 John 2:18

‘This’ refers to the subject immediately before – ‘many antichrists’.

“Who is the one who overcomes the world, but he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God? This is the One who came by water and blood…” 1 John 5:5, 6

‘This’ refers to the subject immediately before -‘ Jesus’.

It is the context we need to look at because it is sentence structure and grammar that we are investigating, not a theological principle. This point is not made throughout the article and anyone reading it without checking even the full verse quoted – and that would be the majority of Witnesses – would be convinced by the argument.

Full verse

As already stated the full verse in the NWT is:

“But we know that the Son of God has come, and he has given us intellectual capacity that we may gain the knowledge of the true one. And we are in union with the true one, by means of his Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God and life everlasting.”

The subject of the verse is Jesus, the Son of God – this is then carried through into the next sentence AND where the subject changes to Jehovah before reverting back to Jesus and then we have the ‘this’.

But ‘this’ is the NWT English, what does the Greek really say?

“And we know that the Son of God has come, and has given us understanding so that we may know Him who is true; and we are in Him who is true, in His Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God and eternal life.”

It is nothing to do with ‘intellectual capacity’, so that we through our God-given ability can gain some knowledge of Him. It is that Jesus gives us understanding – whatever our mental ability – to know Christ not just to have knowledge of Him.

The deception in the translation gets worse ,because we are led to believe from the NWT that we are in union with Jehovah by means of Jesus. Why deception? Because the Greek has neither ‘union with’ or ‘by means of’. We are told that we are in Jehovah and in Jesus.

Matthew Henry’s commentary tells us:

“The Son leads us to the Father, and we are in both, in the love and favour of both, in covenant and federal alliance with both, in spiritual conjunction with both by the inhabitation and operation of their Spirit: and, that you may know how great a dignity and felicity this is…”

We will finish that sentence in a minute when we have highlighted again what is being said. The subject of this verse is not Jehovah nor is it Jesus it is both Jehovah and Jesus. Therefore when we have the ‘this’ it is referring to the relationship that has just been mentioned. Matthew Henry ends the sentence above:

“… you must remember that this true one is the true God and eternal life” or rather (as it should seem a more natural construction), ‘This same Son of God is himself also the true God and eternal life’.”

John Gill’s exposition of the whole Bible comment on this verse makes an ideal conclusion to this article:

“This is the true God and eternal life; that is, the Son of God, who is the immediate antecedent to the relative “this”; he is the true God, with his Father and the Spirit, in distinction from all false, fictitious, or nominal deities; and such as are only by office, or in an improper and figurative sense: Christ is truly and really God, as appears from all the perfections of deity, the fulness of the Godhead being in him; from the divine works of creation and providence being ascribed to him; and from the divine worship that is given him; as well as from the names and titles he goes by, and particularly that of Jehovah, which is incommunicable to a creature; and he is called “eternal life”, because it is in him; and he is the giver of it to his people; and that itself will chiefly consist in the enjoyment and v
ision of him, and in conformity to him.”

Question re Stephen

The Watchtower, 1 January 2005, “Questions From Readers” on p.31, is, “Does Stephen’s exclamation at Acts 7:59 indicate that prayers should be directed to Jesus?” The answer from the viewpoint of the Society has to be no, although they do agree that Stephen did; but in so answering they make some interesting claims that are not altogether true. First they make a statement that is true as far as it goes:

“Barnes’ Notes on the New Testament makes this honest admission: ‘The word God is not in the original, and should not have been in the translation. It is in none of the ancient [manuscripts] or versions.'”

True, but not the whole truth, because the full quote from Barnes is as follows:

“The word God is not in the original, and should not have been in the translation. It is in none of the ancient mss. or versions. It should have been rendered, “They stoned Stephen, invoking, or calling upon, and saying, Lord Jesus,” etc. That is, he was engaged “in prayer” to the Lord Jesus. The word is used to express “prayer” in the following, among other places: 2Co_1:23, “I call God to witness”; 1Pe_1:17, “And if ye call on the Father,” etc.; Act_2:21, “whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord,” etc.; Act_9:14; Act_22:16; Rom_10:12-14. This was, therefore, an act of worship; a solemn invocation of the Lord Jesus, in the most interesting circumstances in which a man can be placed – in his dying moments. And this shows that it is right to worship the Lord Jesus, and to pray to him.”

If they accept Barnes on the fact that God should not be in the text they should also accept Barnes when he informs us that he is praying to the Lord Jesus and that Scripture indicates we can do it too. But no, they simply take the first part and ignore the rest. They then talk about the Greek word used:

“Vine’s Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words explains that in this setting the original Greek word, epikaleo, means: ‘To call upon, invoke; … to appeal to a authority.”

Again words have been missed out from the Vine’s quote which put a different light on the issue:

“in the Middle Voice, to call upon for oneself (i.e., on one’s behalf), Acts 7:59”

Clearly Stephen called upon, invoked, prayed to the Lord Jesus. The Society, albeit seemingly reluctantly admit this was happening but want to show that we cannot do it today.

“Does Stephen’s brief utterance set a precedent for praying to Jesus? Not at all. For one thing, Stephen clearly distinguished Jesus from Jehovah, for the account says that he saw Jesus “standing at God’s right hand.'”

What this has to do with praying to Jesus I am not sure. We make a distinction between Jesus – God the Son – and Jehovah – God the Father – but we can still pray to Jesus in His own right.

Next they say:

“Also, these circumstances were exceptional. The only other case of such an utterance being directed to Jesus is that of the apostle John, who similarly addressed Jesus directly when he saw Him in vision. – Revelation 22:16,20”

No clear reason is given as to why, if Stephen prayed to Jesus and it was accepted, and John prayed to Jesus and it was accepted, I cannot pray to Jesus and it will be accepted!

They end the article with this:

“Although Christians today direct, all their prayers to Jehovah God, they too have unshakable faith that Jesus is “the resurrection and the life.”

This refers back to an earlier paragraph where they stated:

“He therefore asked Jesus to safeguard his spirit, or life force, until the day when Jesus would raise him to immortal life in the heavens.”

Not according to other parts of the New Testament where the same Greek word, dechomai, is used.

Acts 3:21 – whom heaven must receive until the period of restoration of all things about which God spoke by the mouth of His holy prophets from ancient time.

Heaven actually received Him and Jesus was in heaven.

John 4:45 – So when He came to Galilee, the Galileans received Him, having seen all the things that He did in Jerusalem at the feast; for they themselves also went to the feast.

The Galileans actually received Jesus and He was in Galilee.

Matthew 10:14 – Whoever does not receive you, nor heed your words, as you go out of that house or that city, shake the dust off your feet.

They were literally received into the home and stayed there.

Hebrews 11:31 – By faith Rahab the harlot did not perish along with those who were disobedient, after she had welcomed (literally received) the spies in peace.

Rahab actually received the spies into her home.

Acts 7:59 – They went on stoning Stephen as he called on the Lord and said, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit!”

Stephen was asking Jesus to actually receive his spirit and so he would be with Jesus in heaven; nothing to do with safeguarding for a future day.

There is nothing to stop us praying to Jesus, indeed the teaching is that we should be praying the same prayer as Stephen – Lord receive my spirit so that I might be with you for all eternity.

Who is Michael

The Watchtower, 1 March 2005, carried on pp.30&31 a summary of their belief, “Michael the Archangel – Who Is He?” [We have been informed that this article does not apper in the 2005 Year Bound Volume of the Watchtower and we are not sure if this is significant or not.]

This is the first article for some time that sums up their belief and shows that despite persistent rumours they are not yet ready to give up this doctrine.

We will cite a number of paragraphs and show how this belief is inconsistent with the evangelical Christian Biblical understanding.

“The first occurrence of the name is in the tenth chapter of Daniel, where Michael is described as ‘one of the foremost princes'”

In this first sentence they show that Michael could not be Jesus.

Daniel 10:13 says, “Michael, one of the chief princes” but Daniel 8:25 speaking of the work of the evil one says that, “He will even oppose the Prince of princes…”, and in Daniel 9:25 we read, “So you are to know and discern that from the issuing of a decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem until Messiah the Prince”.

Michael is simply one of the princes but Jesus is the Prince of princes. Jesus is seen in Daniel not just as one of the crowd but the leader.

This makes nonsense of the next paragraph:

“Scriptural evidence indicates that the name Michael applied to God’s Son before he left heaven to become Jesus Christ and also after his return.”

Not deterred the Society brings in further circumstantial evidence:

“Michael is the only one said to be ‘the archangel,’ meaning ‘chief angel,’ or ‘principal angel.’ The term occurs in the Bible only in the singular. This seems to imply that there is but one whom God has designated chief, or head, of the angelic host.”

True there is only one named Archangel, but the Society seek to ignore the position that Scripture gives to Gabriel. He too is mentioned in Daniel and it is interesting to compare the Scriptures with the ones naming Michael.

The first mention is in Daniel 8:16. Daniel had a vision which he could not understand and so he seeks God for wisdom. Gabriel – whose name means “man of God” is the one who gives the understanding of the vision. In chapter 9 when Daniel seeks the Lord about the fulfilment of prophecy it is Gabriel again, v.21, who brings the answer. This angel obviously has a very special place and by the description of what he does, brings revelation from God, he is every bit as important as Michael.

There is one further piece of evidence in Daniel which is very important. In chapter 10, Daniel has a terrifying vision of a great angel or maybe even the pre-incarnate Jesus. However, what is clear, by the description given in verses 5-6, this one was great. What is so important? Verse 13 tells us that Michael comes to help this great one. The one that Michael helps is by very definition greater and more resplendent than Michael himself; there is someone greater than Michael in God’s Kingdom; he is not the one great archangel!

“At 1 Thessalonians 4:16 the voice of the resurrected Lord Jesus Christ is described as being that of an archangel, suggesting that he is, in fact, himself the archangel. This text depicts him as descending from heaven with “a commanding call.” It is only logical, therefore, that the voice expressing this commanding call be described by a word that would not diminish or detract from the great authority that Christ Jesus now has as King of kings and Lord of lords. (Matthew 28:18; Revelation 17:14) If the designation “archangel” applied, not to Jesus Christ, but to other angels, then the reference to “an archangel’s voice” would not be appropriate. In that case it would be describing a voice of lesser authority than that of the Son of God.”

The Society teaches that because of what 1 Thess.4:16 says about the voice of the archangel, it is “suggesting” that he is an archangel. The trouble is they miss out half of verse 16 to make such an assumption. Certainly it says that Jesus will descend with the voice of an archangel but it goes on to say also, with the trumpet of God! Using the same logic as the Society, if the voice of an archangel makes Him an archangel then the trumpet of God makes Him, God!!!!

Of course that is not good exegesis but it shows just how impossible it is to take half a verse and build a vital doctrine on it.

This verse is explained at Matthew 16:27 & 25:31, Jesus comes with the angels. Amongst them would be Michael and here we have the voice of the archangel. Matthew 24:31 also informs us that Jesus sends His angels with the trumpet.

The last paragraph of the article reads:

“In his prehuman existence Jesus was called ‘the Word.’ (John 1:1) He also had the personal name Michael. By retaining the name Jesus after his resurrection, ‘the Word’ shows that he is identical with the Son of God on earth. (Acts 9:5) His resuming his heavenly name Michael and his title (or name) ‘The Word of God’ ties him in with his prehuman existence. (Revelation 19:13) The very name Michael, asking as it does, “Who Is Like God?” points to the fact that Jehovah God is without like, or equal, and that Michael his archangel is his great Champion or Vindicator.”

Nowhere does Scripture say that Jesus was Michael before He left heaven and resumes that same name when He returns. Indeed if that were the case, Stephen and John would have to pray to Michael not Jesus. This also ignores the fact that Scripture actually teaches the opposite – Jesus is in heaven and so is Michael and the two can never be the same person.

Hebrews 1:7 & 8 are the key verses because they put angels in one category and the Son – who the Society accepts refers to Jesus – in another. Verse 7 has Jehovah speaking “to the angels” who are all together in one group. This would have had to include Michael because all the title archangel indicates is that he is a chief angel but by nature, he is still an angel.

The ‘but’ at the beginning of verse 8 indicates that Jehovah then goes on to speak to another group, or in this case to someone different and that someone is “the Son.” The angels are on one side, the Son is on the other and there is a dividing line down the middle.

These verses show that Jesus can never be an angel, not even an archangel because He would still be by nature an angel. If Jesus is an angel as Society want to say then we would suggest that these Scriptures appear to be deliberately misleading us and, as any dedicated Bible reader would agree, that is not the case.