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To me, the deity of Christ is seen all throughout Revelation, and for that matter, the Gospels (e.g. John 1:1) and Epistles, and all of Scripture, but for the purposes of the question, how do those who do not believe in the deity of Christ ('that Jesus is God in the flesh') view such passages as Revelation 2:23?

Revelation 2:18,20-23 ... These things says the Son of God, whose eyes are like a flame of fire, and whose feet are like refined bronze1 ... But I have this against you [i.e. the congregation at Thyatira]: that you put up with that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess, and teaches [falsely], and misleads my servants, seducing them into sexual promiscuity and the eating of things sacrifices to idols. And I have given her time that she might repent, but she was unwilling to repent of her sexual sin. Behold, I will cast her onto a bed of sickness, and those that commit adultery with her into great affliction, if they do not repent of their deeds. And her children I will strike with death; then will all the churches know that I am he who searches the minds and the hearts, and [that] I render to each of you according to your works.

In light of this being the perogative of YHVH, God Almighty:

Jeremiah 17:10 I, YHVH, search the heart and examine the mind, to render to each according to his conduct—according to the fruit of his doings.2


IMPORTANT EDIT

As noted by another user 2 Chronicles 6:30 (cf. 1 Kings 8:39) teaches explicitly that YHVH alone knows the hearts of men:

1 Chronicles 6:14, 30 O YHVH, God of Israel, ... So then, hear from heaven, your dwelling place, and forgive, and render to each one according to all his ways, [you] who know his heart: for you alone know the hearts of the sons of men.


Footnotes

1 Fresh translations throughout for reasons of consistency; largely irrelevant for the purposese of the question. | cf. 1:10-18; 2:8

2 cf. Jer 11:20; 20:12; Wis 1:6-7; Rom 8:27

3 cf. Nahum 1:3; Rev 3:19; Prov 3:12; Heb 12:6

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  • 1 Kings 8:39 and 2 Chronicles 6:30 sound like good verses to add aswell.
    – aska123
    Mar 2, 2018 at 7:27
  • Thanks very much, you pretty much put the nail in the coffin lol! Mar 2, 2018 at 14:27
  • @SolaGratia If you're asking this question with the perspective that the question is unanswerable, then this is not really a question, it's a rant. Please keep in mind that the purpose of this site is to learn. You may personally disagree with the perspective you're seeking, but don't let that blind you from having a productive Q&A.
    – user32540
    Mar 2, 2018 at 15:00
  • 1
    Not at all. I want to know the perspectives of the respective verses from the theological corner specified. My question posits that YHVH alone searches the hearts and the minds, and provides the passages which I believe indicate such. I want insight into the view that says these passages (when compared) mean something else—and what that alternative meaning is. It's by no means a rant. My conviction of the truth of my position is not an obstacle to marking an answer which reasonably, within its own viewpoint, not mine, accounts for these, as the accepted one. Mar 2, 2018 at 15:27

3 Answers 3

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Jehovah's Witnesses have not published an article specifically explaining this verse within the context of the Trinity, but the fundamental argument being presented is a common one: God's actions and Jesus' actions are the same, so they must be the same.

The Bible describes the relationship between God and His Son in great detail, and from this Jehovah's Witnesses believe that Jesus is not God, but that he imitates his Father and is given authority by his Father. For example, when the Jews were accusing Jesus of "making himself equal to God," Jesus responded by saying:

John 5:19-24

“Most truly I say to you, the Son cannot do a single thing of his own initiative, but only what he sees the Father doing. For whatever things that One does, these things the Son does also in like manner. For the Father has affection for the Son and shows him all the things he himself does, and he will show him works greater than these, so that you may marvel. For just as the Father raises the dead up and makes them alive, so the Son also makes alive whomever he wants to. For the Father judges no one at all, but he has entrusted all the judging to the Son, so that all may honor the Son just as they honor the Father. Whoever does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent him. Most truly I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes the One who sent me has everlasting life, and he does not come into judgment but has passed over from death to life.

This verse shows that Jesus has been given the authority to judge and that Jesus acts like God, not because he is God, but because he sees God and imitates him. Jesus gave the ultimate example of how the rest of God's children should also imitate God.—Ephesians 5:1, 2.

There are many other verses which also describe how Jesus was given authority. Daniel spoke of it prophetically, and Jesus and Paul both attest to how it came true.

Daniel 7:13, 14

“I kept watching in the visions of the night, and look! with the clouds of the heavens, someone like a son of man was coming; and he gained access to the Ancient of Days, and they brought him up close before that One. And to him there were given rulership, honor, and a kingdom, that the peoples, nations, and language groups should all serve him. His rulership is an everlasting rulership that will not pass away, and his kingdom will not be destroyed.

Matthew 28:18

Jesus approached and spoke to them, saying: “All authority has been given me in heaven and on the earth.

Philippians 2:9-11

For this very reason, God exalted him to a superior position and kindly gave him the name that is above every other name, so that in the name of Jesus every knee should bend—of those in heaven and those on earth and those under the ground— and every tongue should openly acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father.

Therefore, Jesus has the authority and power to be the Judge of peoples' minds and hearts because God commissioned him with that responsibility. Prior to that, however, God dealt with Israel alone, functioning as the only reader of hearts in the Hebrew Scriptures. Some verses refer to Jesus as "the arm of Jehovah" because he accomplishes God's will.—Isaiah 40:10; 53:1; John 12:37, 38.

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  • This particular action (knowing the human heart) seems to be presented as something that only YHVH is able to do (1 Kings 8:39 and 2 Chronicles 6:30).
    – aska123
    Mar 2, 2018 at 14:22
  • See the edit to my question, @4castle Mar 2, 2018 at 14:27
  • @aska123 Right, when those verses were written Jesus had not yet been commissioned with that responsibility. God acted as Judge of Israel, but Jesus will act as Judge of God's new kingdom.
    – user32540
    Mar 2, 2018 at 14:29
  • @aska123 So your answer is that these verses can't exclude Jesus because He wasn't around yet in His specific capacity as the one comissioned with these perogatives? To be clear, my question is specifically about the exclusivity of the perogative of YHVH to see into the heart and mind. Mar 2, 2018 at 15:36
  • 2
    @Sola Gratia I think some interpret the OT verses as temporary, the ability of knowing the human heart was held by YHVH alone until Jesus was given the ability later on.
    – aska123
    Mar 2, 2018 at 17:51
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Who Is God?

The title "God" is found about 100 times in Revelation. In most instances, nobody else is mentioned in the context so it is not immediately clear whether the title "God" refers to the Father, to the Son or to both (e.g., Rev 14:19). However, the 17 instances listed below mention both the Father and the Son and consistently identify the Father alone as "God." In other words, in the way that Revelation uses the title “God,” the Son is NOT God:

“The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave Him” (Rev 1:1)

“Salvation to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb” (Rev 7:10).

“You (the Lamb – Jesus) were slain, and purchased for God with Your blood men from every tribe …” (Rev 5:9).

“Now … the kingdom of our God and the authority of His Christ have come” (Rev 12:10).

For similar statements, see Revelation 1:2, 9; 7:17; 12:5, 17; 14:4, 12; 20:4, 6; 21:22, 23; and 22:1, 3.

In these 17 instances, the title "God" ALWAYS refers to the Father exclusively. Revelation NEVER refers to Jesus as "God." The point is that God is one Person and Jesus is somebody else. In other words, when the angel instructs John to “worship God” (Rev 19:10; 22:9), it is a command to worship the Father.

God’s Divine Titles

Revelation describes the Ultimate Reality also using several other titles, including:

  • Him “Who Was and Who Is and Who Is to Come” (Rev 4:8),
  • “The Almighty” (Rev 4:8),
  • “Him who sits on the throne” (Rev 4:9),
  • “Him who lives forever and ever” (Rev 4:9), and
  • “Him who made the heaven and the earth and sea and springs of waters” (Rev 14:7; cf. Rev 4:11).

The following analysis shows that these descriptions also ALWAYS apply to the Father only and NEVER to the Son:

Him who sits on the throne

The throne is an important concept in Revelation. Much happen “around the throne” (Rev 4:3, 6; 5:11; 7:11, etc.), “before the throne” (Rev 4:5, 6, 10; 7:9, 11, etc.), and comes “from the throne” (Rev 4:5; 16:17; 22:1; etc.).

Revelation 4 may be called the throne room chapter for the word “throne” appears at least 10 times in that one chapter alone. After God is introduced as the “One sitting on the throne” (Rev 4:2), He is often referred to later in the book as “Him who sits on the throne” (Rev 4:9, 10; 5:1, 7, 13; 6:16). For the following reasons, this always refers to the Father alone and never to the Son:

  1. Since Jesus is absent from Revelation 4 (He only enters the throne room in Revelation 5:6), the “One sitting on the throne” in that chapter is the Father.

  2. The “One sitting on the throne” is also called “God” (Rev 4:8, 11; 19:4) and, as shown above, Revelation uses the title “God” only for the Father.

  3. Several verses make an explicit distinction between “Him who sits on the throne” and Christ. For example:

  • “The Lamb” (Jesus) “came and took the book out of the right hand of Him who sat on the throne” (Rev 5:6-7).

  • “Every created thing … I heard saying, To Him who sits on the throne, AND to the Lamb” (Rev 5:13; cf. Rev 12:5; 6:16; 7:9-10).

Since Jesus sat down with His Father on His Father's throne (Rev 3:21), the Lamb also sits on the throne (Rev 22:1, 3) but it remains the Father’s throne. Even human beings may sit on the Father's throne, for Jesus promised:

"He who overcomes, I will grant to him to sit down with Me on My throne" (Rev 3:21).

This is not a literal throne. The throne symbolizes authority. Since it is the Father’s throne, He is the Supreme Ruler of all creation. By contrasting Jesus with “Him who sits on the throne” (Rev 5:7; 12:5), Revelation indicates that the Son is subordinate to the Father.

The Creator

Elsewhere in the New Testament, we read that God created all things “THROUGH” His Son:

“THROUGH whom (His Son) also He (God) made the world” (Heb 1:1-2; cf. 1 Cor 8:6; Col 1:16; John 1:3).

The Son, therefore, was God’s agent through whom God created all things. Similarly, in Revelation, the beings in the heavenly throne room worship the “One sitting on the throne” - the Father - because He has “created all things” (Rev 4:11). The Father alone, therefore, is the uncaused Cause of all things.

Him who lives forever

This title appears four times in Revelation:

It appears twice in chapter 4 (Rev 4:9-10) where Jesus is not present and, therefore, describes the Father.

Revelation 15:7 identifies this Being as “God” and, as discussed, Revelation uses the title “God” only for the Father.

The fourth instance (Rev 10:6) is a quote from Daniel 12:7 which, arguably, refers to the “Most High;” a favorite term for God in Daniel (e.g., Dan 4:24).

All four instances, therefore, identify the Father as the One "who lives forever and ever." Since the Father is described in this way, as Paul stated, He "alone possesses immortality" (1 Tim 6:16). The immortality of all other beings, including the Son, is dependent on the Father's immortality.

Who Is and who Was and is To come

For the following reasons, this title refers to the Father alone:

  1. The one sitting on the throne, who has been interpreted above as the Father, is also identified as Him “Who Is and who Was and is To come" (Rev 4:8).

  2. In the opening verses of the book, John mentions the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit together. In these verses, John describes the Father as, “Him who is and who was and who is to come” (Rev 1:4-5).

  3. Him "who is and who was and who is to come" is also called "God" (Rev 1:8; 11:17) and it was already shown above that Revelation refers to only the Father as God.

This title may be related to Exodus 3:14, where YHVH (or Yahweh or Jehovah) identified Himself as “I AM WHO I AM.” Both titles may be understood to mean the One who exists without cause.

The Almighty

This title appears:

  • 17 times in the Old Testament (OT),
  • once in the New Testament outside Revelation in a quote from the OT (2 Cor 6:18), and
  • 9 times in Revelation.

Therefore, if we want to understand what this term means for the church, we need to study it in Revelation. In Revelation, it is "God" who is identified as "the Almighty." For example:

“The war of the great day of God, the Almighty” (Rev 16:14; cf. Rev 1:8; 4:8; 11:16-17; 15:2-3; 16:7, 14; 19:6, 13-15; 21:22).

Since, as discussed above, the title “God” refers to the Father alone, the Father alone is the “Almighty.” Revelation never uses the title "Almighty" for Jesus. On the contrary, it makes an explicit distinction between Christ and “the Almighty:”

“I saw no temple in it, for the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb are its temple” (Rev 21:22; cf. Rev 19:13-15).

Subordinate to the Father

In Revelation, Jesus is subordinate to the Father. For example:

  1. Revelation refers only to the Father as “God,” “the Almighty,” “Him who sits on the throne,” and as the Creator. As such, the Father is the ultimate Ruler.

  2. Jesus received the Book of Revelation from God (Rev 1:1). When He was on earth, Jesus similarly said that the Father gives Him "what to say" (John 12:49). Revelation 1:1 shows that, 60 years after His resurrection and ascension, Jesus still received from God the words of this prophecy.

  3. In Revelation, God is also Jesus' God (Rev 1:6; 3:2, 12).

For evidence that the Son is subordinate to the Father in the entire New Testament, see - God is the Head of Christ.

Jesus belongs with God.

Revelation shows that Christ is distinct from and subordinate to God, but Revelation also puts God and Christ together over against the created universe. For example:

Both are the temple and the light of the New Jerusalem (Rev 21:22-23).

Both are “the beginning and the end” (Rev 1:17; 2:8; 21:5-6), meaning that both have always existed.

The saved belong to both God and Christ (Rev 14:4; 20:6).

The throne belongs to both (Rev 22:3), symbolizing that the Father and the Son will rule together.

They are praised together (Rev 5:13-14).

These verses imply an extremely close relationship between God and His Son.

Who is the Son?

So, if the Bible refers to the Father alone as God, and if the Son is distinct from and subordinate to God, but also belongs with God, who is the Son?

I like Tertullian’s analogy in which he compared God to the sun and His Son as the rays of the sun. In that metaphor, the Father is the Source of all things and the Son is the link between God and the created universe. Just like the rays of the sun brings us warmth and life from the sun, the Son is the Means through whom God gives us everything we need, including creation, knowledge of God, a Savior, redemption, restoration, and eternal life. This relationship is perhaps well explained by Paul:

“There is one God, and one mediator also between God and men, the man Christ Jesus” (1 Tim 2:5).

Final Conclusions

In conclusion, in the Trinity doctrine, Jesus is God Almighty; the uncaused Cause of all creation. But this article has shown that Revelation refers to the Father alone as:

Him “Who Was and Who Is and Who Is to Come,” meaning that the Father is the One who exists without cause,

“Him who sits on the throne,” meaning that the Father is the Supreme Ruler of all creation,

“Him who lives forever and ever,” meaning that immortality of all other beings, including the Son, depends on the Father's immortality,

“Him who made the heaven and the earth and sea and springs of waters,” and as

“The Almighty.”

All of these titles may be combined into the single title “God,” which Revelation also uses for the Father alone. Consequently, the Son is subordinate to the Father. However, when compared to the created universe, Christ belongs with God.

Similar to the analogy of the sun and its rays, the Father is the Source of all things and the Son is the Means through Whom God gives creation everything it needs.

Comment on the Question

The questioner begins by saying that "the deity of Christ is seen all throughout Revelation." The question then takes one instance of that deity, namely that the Son is "He who searches the minds and hearts" (Rev 2:23). The logical error in the question is the assumption that His divine attributes means that Jesus is God. This is not so. We use the title "God" only for the Ultimate Reality. The Son is not the Ultimate Reality. He received His divine attributes from the Father. For example, the Father gave Him:

  • Authority to give life to the dead (John 17:2),
  • Authority to judge (John 5:22, 27),
  • To have “life in Himself” (John 5:26), and
  • All authority in heaven and on earth (Matt 28:18).

Therefore, the ability to search the minds and hearts is the ability to judge, which is something which God gave to His only begotten Son.

For a further discussion, see - Does the book of Revelation present Jesus as God Almighty?

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  • Good and comprehensive answer +1
    – steveowen
    Oct 11, 2022 at 4:43
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Rom 16:27... to God, who alone is wise, be the glory through Jesus.
(Does that mean anyone who is wise is GOD?) No.
Ps 19:7 The reminder of Jehovah is trustworthy, making the inexperienced one wise.

1 Tim 6:16... He is the King of those who rule as kings and Lord of those who rule as lords, the one alone having immortality. (Does that mean anyone rewarded with immortality becomes Jesus?). No.
1 cor 15:51-53 “we will all be changed,  in a moment, in the blink of an eye, during the last trumpet......and this which is mortal must put on immortality”

Rev 15:4. ...Jehovah, and glorify your name, for you alone are loyal? (Does that prove anyone the scriptures identify as loyal is God?) No. 1 Samuel 2:9. “He guards the steps of his loyal ones”

You get the point.

The fact that Jesus claimed authority from God to do things only attributable to God was also a burning issue the religious leaders had when Jesus was on the earth.

For instance, when Jesus said to a paralyzed man, “your sins are forgiven”, the scribes said to themselves, “this fellow is blasphemous, Who can forgive but God?”

But during that exchange it also says, “Jesus, knowing their thoughts, said “Why are you thinking wicked things in your hearts?” Jesus then healed the man to prove he had authority. But besides having the authority to forgive sins, that verse also shows Jesus was able to read what was in their hearts (words & thoughts unspoken) Matthew 9:2-7 Mr 2:6-8;

Prophetically this was foretold in Isa 11: 2, 3 which says about the Messiah: “The spirit of Jehovah will settle upon him,” so he would not base his judgments on “what appears to his eyes” or what “his ears hear”. As a result, Jehovah gave Jesus the ability to discern the thinking, reasoning, and motives of others, which would enable him to “judge with fairness”. (Isa 11:4) (John 5:22). This ability also allowed Jesus to discern Nathanael was a man “in whom there [was] no deceit” (Joh 1:47;). Jesus would also use this ability to search the minds and hearts and render each one according to his works, as recorded in Re 2:23.

Of course, to someone who believes the unnamed spirit of Jehovah is the 3rd person of the trinity, this understanding might seem unsatisfactory. But to one of Jehovah’s Witnesses, any teaching (or part of any teaching) that claims Jesus and Jehovah are anything other than father and son would be unscriptural. 1 John 2:22

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