Answering a Jehovah's Witness: Can Jesus be God if He's Seen?
I've talked to you on Tuesday nights before and I have been to your Monday night classes. I think your classes are awesome and God has blessed in your teaching. I write because I have a question about Jehovah's Witnesses. I've been talking to my co-worker each week about the Trinity. Our conversations are going good but he mentioned not being able to see God, but we can see Jesus (Exodus 33:20).
I know that we cannot see Jesus in his glorified self but how will I back that up with scripture? I read the article by Robert Bowman. He brought up 1 Tim 6:16, but I do not really understand it. Is there any other scripture for that? And if you have any other information about Jehovah's Witnesses, let me know.
Oh and your podcasts are great. Thanks Lenny.
God Bless You,
Thanks for the letter. I'm glad that you're enjoying the teaching. As to your question, it seems that your friend's reasoning is a bit faulty. From what you've written, it sounds like he's arguing something like this:
- The Bible says "No man can see My (God's) face and live" (Exodus 33:20).
- People saw Jesus' face and lived to tell about it.
- Therefore, Jesus is not God.
Now, your friend is trying to imply that Exodus 33:20 is an all-encompassing statement. In other words, he is trying to foster the belief that if someone is seen face to face in any way at all, then it proves that such a one is not truly God. This proves too much, for if he is going to be consistent, then it means that Jehovah Himself is not God also. Let me explain what I mean.
In Genesis 18, Abraham hosts three visitors who are identified as two angels and the Lord ("Jehovah" in the NWT). Abraham spoke with Jehovah, ate with Him, and even bargained with Him. If the argument above is true, then Abraham should have been dead also—or Jehovah is not God. Either way, your friend loses. In Genesis 32, Jacob not only saw God's face, but he wrestled with Him. Jacob identifies it as such by naming the place Peniel which means "The Face of God" and he says "I have seen God face to face, and my life has been preserved."
If your friend interprets Exodus 33:20 as meaning "no one can look at any manifestation of God in any way and live" he has some huge difficulties with other passages. If, on the other hand, Exodus 33:20 means that no one can look upon God in His holiness and righteousness and live, then it is possible that Jesus, in His time on earth, only exposed His humanity to His followers and not His glory , much as Philippians chapter 2 states. And, just as Jehovah came to Abraham in a human form to Abraham, Jesus' human form allowed the people around Him to interact with Him.
I see no reason why this understanding of Exodus 33:20 isn't the proper one. It also makes the passage in 1 Timothy 6:16 much clearer. No one actually has seen Jesus in all his glory as yet. That's coming. But, you cannot dispute the deity of Jesus because people didn't drop dead when looking upon Him. If you did, then Jehovah isn't God either, since Abraham saw Him face to face and still lived another seventy-five years to tell about it.
I hope this letter helps clarify the issue. As for more resources, I do have some additional articles on the Trinity at the Web site and we offer a teaching CD on Jehovah's Witnesses from the Come Reason store.
God bless and I pray that God will continue to bless your efforts in making Him known.