April 14, 2004
PLAINER WORDS … JESUS CHRIST IS GOD
“Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever” (Hebrews 13:8)
This verse is widely used and quoted by non-dispensationalists as their proof text to prove that Jesus Christ hasn’t changed His method of dealing with mankind. Pentecostals, especially, rely on this verse in defense of their stand on “the gifts of the Spirit” being an integral part of Jesus Christ’s administration today.
From time-to-time, I’ll watch charismatic, or Pentecostal preachers, on television. When they feel a need to reject the idea of dispensational truth, they invariably quote Hebrews 13:8 to dismiss right division. When they do, it brings loud applause from the congregations. Their logic is faulty. Once upon a time, Jesus Christ was a baby. In this sense, He was not the same yesterday, today, and forever. To use Hebrews 13:8 to invalidate right division of the Word of truth does harm to the profound truth contained in the verse.
The great truth in Hebrews 13:8 is that Jesus Christ was God yesterday, and is God today, and will be God forever. Hebrews 13:8 should be studied in the light of other verses. The fact that Jesus Christ is God never changes. But, His methods of dealing with mankind have changed over the course of the ages.
In John, chapter eight, the Pharisees were disputing with Christ about who He was. In the fifty-eighth verse, He said to them, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, Before Abraham was, I am.” The “I am” was a dynamite answer. The Pharisees understood full well what Christ had told them, even though many Christians don’t comprehend the profundity of—“I am.”
What was it the Pharisees understood Christ to mean when He said, Before Abraham was, I AM? The answer lies in Exodus 3:13-14. This was where the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob spoke to Moses, from the burning bush, telling him to go to the Hebrew children and tell them of their impending deliverance from Egypt.
“And Moses said unto God, Behold, when I come unto the children of Israel, and shall say unto them, The God of your fathers hath sent me unto you; and they shall say to me, What is his name? what shall I say unto them?” (Exodus 3:13).
“And God said unto Moses, I AM THAT I AM: and He said, ‘Thus shalt thou say, unto the children of Israel, I AM hath sent me unto you’” (Exodus 3:14).
The Pharisees knew the implication of what Jesus said. They understood Him to mean He was the I AM of Exodus 3:13-14—meaning, Jesus Christ asserted that He was, indeed, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
The evidence of this fact was that it so enraged the Pharisees that they attempted to stone Him to death, “Then took they up stones to cast at him: but Jesus hid himself, and went out of the temple, going through the midst of them, and so passed by” (John 8:59).
The power of “I AM,” spoken by Christ, is further illustrated in the garden when Jesus was betrayed. As Judas and a band of men, along with the officers of the chief priests and Pharisees, marched toward the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus didn’t run; He went to meet them.
“Jesus therefore, knowing all things that should come upon him, went forth, and said unto them, Whom seek ye? They answered him, Jesus of Nazareth. Jesus saith unto them, I AM He. And Judas also, which betrayed him, stood with them. As soon then as He had said unto them, I AM He, they went backward, and fell to the ground. Then asked He them again, Whom seek ye? And they said, Jesus of Nazareth. Jesus answered, I have told you that I AM He: if therefore ye seek Me, let these go their way:” (John 18:4-8).
In order to grasp the real significance of Who Jesus Christ really was, and is, and Who He will be forever, let’s consider The Emphasized Bible, A Literal Translation, by Joseph B. Rotherham:
Exodus 3:15-16, “And God said yet further unto Moses—Thus shalt thou say unto the sons of Israel, Yahweh, the God of your fathers, Abraham, God of Isaac, and God of Jacob hath sent me unto you.”
Now, notice Rotherham’s version of Exodus 6:1-3: “Then said Yahweh unto Moses, Now shalt thou see, what I will do to Pharaoh—for with a strong hand shall he let them go, and with a strong hand he shall drive them out from his land. Then God spake unto Moses—and said unto him—I am Yahweh: I appeared, therefore, unto Abraham, unto Isaac, and unto Jacob, as God Almighty, although by My Name Yahweh was I not made known to them.”
In the Hebrew Bible (our Old Testament), the name, “Yahweh,” is not spelled out; the vowels were dropped, and they spelled God’s name as YHWH. It has been said that out of reverence for His Name, the Jews did not spell it out. For some reason, the King James translators suppressed God’s Name which I, respectfully, think was wrong. If we knew God’s Name in the Old Testament, the English speaking world could more readily identify Jesus Christ as God Himself. (I am digressing a bit, but it seems essential to cover this).
The Authorized Version translated “Yahweh” as “LORD.” All letters are capitalized, but the “O-R-Ds” are in smaller upper case than that of the “L”. According to Vines, the word, “Yahweh,” occurs 6,828 times in the Old Testament. 6,824 times, it is translated “LORD,” and only four times, is it translated “JEHOVAH” which is the anglicized spelling of Yahweh.
“Jehovah Yahweh. One of the most important names for God in the Old Testament is Yahweh, or Jehovah, from the verb ‘to be,’ meaning simply but profoundly, ‘I am who I am,’ and ‘I will be who I will be.’ The four letter Hebrew word YHWH was the name by which God revealed Himself to Moses in the burning bush <Ex. 3:14>. This bush was a vivid symbol of the inexhaustible dynamism of God who burns like a fire with love and righteousness, yet remains the same and never diminishes. Some English translations of the Bible translate the word as Jehovah, while others use Yahweh.
“God is the author of life and salvation. His ‘I AM’ expresses the fact that He is the infinite and original personal God who is behind everything and to whom everything must finally be traced. This name, ‘I AM WHO I AM’, signals the truth that nothing else defines who God is but God Himself. What He says and does is who He is. The inspired Scriptures are the infallible guide to understanding who God is by what He says about Himself and what He does. Yahweh is the all powerful and sovereign God who alone defines Himself and establishes truth for His creatures and works for their salvation.”
(from Nelson's Illustrated Bible Dictionary; Copyright 1986, Thomas Nelson Publishers).
In our Bible (KJV), the Name of God is concealed from those who listen to the reading of the Bible. The listener is unable to tell whether the word “LORD,”or “Lord,” is read. It makes a big difference. The reader with an untrained eye finds the truth of “LORD” completely hidden. This is tragic, indeed. “LORD” is different than “Lord.” When the causal reader or listener of Scripture reads or hears the word “LORD,” or “Lord,” he is unable to distinguish between the two. These two words are titles. Whereas, Yahweh is a Name; it is not a title. It is the Name of God. He gave Himself the Name, Yahweh. He used this Name when He revealed Himself to His servants and prophets in the Old Testament.
When our Lord Jesus Christ said, “Before Abraham was, I AM,” He identified Himself as Yahweh of the Old Testament.
The Lord Jesus further asserted His deity in the winter during the “feast of dedication” in John Chapter Ten. He told the Pharisees, “I and My Father are one” (John 10:30). To be one meant they were the same Person. They responded by taking up stones again to stone Him (John 19:31), and, “Jesus answered them, Many good works have I shewed you from my Father; for which of those works do ye stone me? The Jews answered him, saying, For a good work we stone thee not; but for blasphemy; and because that thou, being a man, makest thyself God” (John 10:32-33). Many Christians miss the nuance of “I AM,” but not the Pharisees.
Dear readers, “still water runs deep:” we are in the “still water” of Scripture. To equate Hebrews 13:8 as a condemnation of the right division of dispensational truth is evidence of shallowness.
In conclusion, we’ll look at two other passages:
“John to the seven churches which are in Asia: Grace be unto you, and peace, from Him which is, and which was, and which is to come; and from the seven Spirits which are before his throne;” (Revelation 1:4).
“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).
Hebrews 13:8 is the capstone of divine revelation. It has nothing to do with His methods of dealing with mankind. It has everything to do with Who Jesus Christ is! Interpreting Revelation 1:4 & 8 in the light of Hebrews 13:8 would be as follows:
The “Him,” which is, is equivalent to Jesus Christ “the same today;” The “Him,” which was, is equivalent to Jesus Christ “yesterday;” and the “Him” which is to come, is equivalent to Jesus Christ forever.
The Personal Name of God in the Old Testament was Yahweh. His Name in the New Testament and the Prison Epistles is Jesus Christ. His Name in the ages to come will be Jesus Christ.
The glorious truth we are to learn from Hebrews 13:8 is that Jesus Christ is God.
Tom L. Ballinger
April 21, 2004
PLAINER WORDS … I AM THE LORD
One-hundred-sixty-three times in the King James Version of the Bible, God says, “I am the LORD;” LORD being the translation of Yahweh. One-hundred-sixty-three times, God says of Himself—I AM THE LORD. As it was pointed out in our last study, Joseph Rotherham, in his Emphasized Bible, always translates LORD as “Yahweh.”
The last of the Old Testament references of “I AM The LORD” is found in Malachi 3:6; “For I am the LORD, I change not: therefore ye sons of Jacob are consumed.” This is the definitive comment on Hebrews 13:8, “Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever.”
Malachi 3:6 could be rendered; “For I Am Yahweh, I change not: …” Hebrews 13:8 would be correct by saying, “Jesus Christ changes not.” Our Lord Jesus Christ named Himself, Yahweh, in the Old Testament. He also selected His name for the New Testament times. He sent His angel to Joseph, who was espoused to Mary, and told him, “…for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost. And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shall call his name JESUS: for He shall save His people from their sins” (Matthew 1:20-21). A superficial reading of this fact would indicate that Jesus is the name of the baby ― “Baby Jesus.” The Name, JESUS, is the English rendering of the Greek, “Iesous,” which comes from “Jehovah,” or “Jehoshua,” and they all are derived from Yahweh. (I’ll not get into that study). But, the Name, JESUS, is the New Testament equivalent of YAHWEH.
I also noticed in Matthew 1:23 that a messenger (i.e. angel) further informed Joseph that the child is to be born of a virgin, and “they shall call His name Emmanuel which, being interpreted, is God with us.”
Here is what I’ve learned: (1) One-hundred-sixty-three times, God is identified in the Old Testament as—I AM YAHWEH. (2) Yahweh never changes. He is always God. (3) When the language of the Bible changes from Hebrew to Greek, only the spelling and pronunciation changes; that’s all. Yahweh/Jesus is “the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever.” An example of this can be that my Christian name, in English, is Thomas. It’s pronounced as Thomas. In Spanish, my first name is spelled Tomas. It is pronounced Tow-mas. However, I remain the same person, whether it is Thomas or Tomas.
When I consider the one-hundred-sixty-three references of “I AM YAHWEH,” I am overwhelmed with the significance of the “I AM.” Over-and-over, again, the emphasis is on “I AM Yahweh,” i.e. LORD. Check out the occurrences; you, too, will perceive the significance and import of “I AM.” [ i ]
In Isaiah 43, notice the “I AMs.”
“For I AM the LORD thy God, the Holy One of Israel, thy Saviour:” (v.3).
“Ye are my witnesses, saith the LORD, and my servant whom I have chosen: that ye may know and believe me, and understand that I AM He: before me there was no God formed, neither shall there be after me. I, even I, AM the LORD; and beside me there is no saviour. I have declared, and have saved, and I have shewed, when there was no strange god among you: therefore ye are my witnesses, saith the LORD, that I AM God” (vs. 10-12).
“I AM the LORD, your Holy One, the creator of Israel, your King” (v. 15).
“I, even I, AM He that blotteth out thy transgressions for mine own sake, and will not remember thy sins” (v. 25).
The “I AM,” in these passages, is instructing us that “I AM” is Yahweh. I AM the LORD. As it was pointed out, previously, in the study “Jesus Christ Is God,” the Pharisees understood exactly what Jesus meant when He said, “Before Abraham was, I AM.”
There is currently a growing movement within a certain sect of Christendom proclaiming that Jesus Christ was a supernatural human being—but He was not God, nor even divine. They claim, “Jesus never once said he was God.” This group is headed up by an ex-Englishman now out of Morrow, Georgia. He calls himself, “Sir Anthony Buzzard.” Two things to notice; in America we do not, by law, have titles such as “Sir,” or “Lord,” or “Duke,” and etc. The man’s last name, Buzzard, isn’t very flattering. You know what buzzards eat? But of course, we cannot choose our family name. The point is, “Sir” Buzzard denies that Jesus Christ is God. [ ii ] It was surprising, and alarming, to learn how broad a range this movement covers within the Christian religion.
Let’s carry the idea of I AM YAHWEH, or I AM the LORD, over into the Gospel of John and see if we can appreciate the full impact of “I AM.”
“As long as I AM in the world, I AM the light of the world” (John 9:5).
“Then said Jesus unto them again, Verily, verily, I say unto you, I AM the door of the sheep” (John 10:7-8).
“I AM the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep” (John 10:11).
“I AM the good shepherd, and know my sheep, and am known of mine” (John 10:14).
“Jesus said unto her, I AM the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live’ (John 11:25).
“Jesus saith unto him, I AM the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me” (John 14:6).
“I AM the true vine” (John 15:1).
“I AM the vine (John 15:5).
I want to use a phrase that adequately defines what the Lord Jesus was communicating when He said, “I AM,” but I am at a loss to do so. Therefore, I’ll say the following for wont of a more proper phrase; the subtle nuance of Jesus saying, “I AM,” is that He was stating He was God.
God is the light of the world; God is the door; God is the good Shepherd; God is the resurrection; God is the way, the truth, and the life; God is the true vine. This is what our Lord and Savior meant when He said, “I AM.”
The Gospel of John also describes the event in the Garden, as did Matthew, when Judas and the others came for Jesus.
“Jesus therefore, knowing all things that should come upon him, went forth, and said unto them, Whom seek ye? They answered him, Jesus of Nazareth. Jesus saith unto them, I AM He. And Judas also, which betrayed Him, stood with them. As soon then as He had said unto them, I AM He, they went backward, and fell to the ground. Then asked he them again, Whom seek ye? And they said, Jesus of Nazareth. Jesus answered, I have told you that I AM He: if therefore ye seek me, let these go their way” (John 18:4-8).
Three times in these four verses, He said He was I AM. He was not just saying, “I’m the guy you’re looking for.” Nor was He just saying, “I’m the man you want.” It was His way of identifying Himself as “Jesus of Nazareth,” Who was the Great I AM of the Old Testament.
When Christ said, “I AM He,” “they went backward, and fell to the ground,” this demonstrated the power in the spoken Name of ― I AM. If you or I were to say, “I am he,” there would be no great significance in it as it was when our Lord Jesus Christ replied, “I AM He.”
Yahweh (i.e. LORD) of the Old Testament and Jesus Christ of the New “is the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever”(Hebrews 13:8). “For I AM the LORD, I change not” (Malachi 3:6).
Tom L. Ballinger
[ i ] In this study, “I AM” is capitalized in order to emphasize the importance of the phrase which is also His Name.
[ ii ] Anthony Buzzard heads-up what is called, “The Restoration Fellowship” at the Atlanta Bible College, Morrow, Georgia. He is either affiliated with the Assemblies of God, or the Church of God. This fellowship speaks of themselves as the “Minority Church.”
From Plainer Words
Two Part Study: Jesus Christ Is God - I Am The Lord
Posted in: 2004
By Tom L. Ballinger
Mar 2, 2008 - 3:40:43 PM
Mar 2, 2008 - 3:40:43 PM
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