In addition to the many texts that we have discussed previously, there are other standard texts to which Oneness advocates will appeal in support of their position that God is unipersonal and that the Son merely refers to the humanity of Jesus –he was God the Father manifested in the flesh. I am attempting to touch on a number of those passages here.
Revelation 4:2 – At once I was in the Spirit and behold, a throne stood in heaven, with one seated on the throne.
Here John has a vision in heaven and he sees a throne set up in heaven with one sitting on the throne. David Bernard and other Oneness advocates will look at this passage and then compare the description of the one sitting on the throne with the description of the one given in Revelation 1:12-16. Given the similarity in titles and descriptions given for Jesus in Revelation 1 and the one who sits on the one throne in Revelation 4, according to Bernard, “it is apparent that the One on the throne is none other than Jesus Christ.”[i]
The fact that similarities exists in a vision of one on a throne and a glorified Christ does not a doctrine make. Revelation is full of visions and symbols and of some things that John was unable to record. Clearly there are similarities between the one on the throne and the one said to be a glorified Christ. This certainly supports the Trinitiarian and Oneness claims that Jesus Christ is the Lord God Almighty. Yet as we continue to read the text into chapter 5 we see that in the right hand of him who was seated on the throne was a sealed scroll that no one was worthy to open. “And between the throne and the four living creatures and among the elders I saw a Lamb standing, as though it had been slain, with seven horns and with seven eyes, which are the seven spirits of God sent out into all the earth. And he went and took the scroll from the right hand of him who was seated on the throne. And when he had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each holding a harp, and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints. And they sang a new song….To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever!” (Revelation 5:6-91, 13).
According to Oneness advocates, this vision of the one on the throne and the Lamb affirms that the Lamb and God are one and the same person.[ii] Again, the presumption is that God is unipersonal and, therefore, every statement affirming the deity of Christ is a statement, according to Oneness advocates, that God the Father is in Christ. Oneness supporters say the Lamb in these visions would pertain to the Jesus the man the one on the throne would be God the Father or Jesus’s divine nature. Yet how does such an interpretation not fall into the trap that Oneness advocates assert against Trinitarians – that their position stands for more than one God.
There appears to be a clear distinction made between the one who sits on the throne and the Lamb in Revelation 4 and 5. Yet both are in heaven and both are the objects of worship. In the Oneness position, God is one person and he would be the one sitting on the throne and yet the Lamb is also an object of worship. Isn’t this teaching bi-theism or a belief in two gods? How does the Oneness position reconcile this seeming contradiction? They simply assert that the One who sits on the throne and the Lamb are the same. But how are they the same? Bernard states, “The only person who is both God and the Lamb is Jesus Christ.”[iii] (emphasis added).
The fact of the matter is that Revelation continues to emphasize the Trinitarian teaching that recognizes that there is but one God/one divine being shared by three persons or subsistences – Father, Son/Lamb, Spirit. The Father, Son and Spirit are all recognized to be the one God and yet are distinguished from one another time and time again. It is why Jesus and the One sitting on the throne can share in the same divine glorious appearance in one moment and then be distinguished from one another in the next moment. Oneness theology continues to struggle with providing an explanation for these passages that remains both consistent to their position as well as consistent to the overall teaching of scripture as a whole.
[i] David Bernard, The Oneness of God (Word Aflame) page 77.
[ii] Id. at 78.
[iii] Id. at 78.