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Note: this is an adaptation of a question asked on Hermenutics.SE. Check it out if interested in answers from different viewpoints.


When John fell down to worship the angel that had just showed him the prophetic visions of Revelation, the angel quickly stopped him in his tracks and corrected him for doing so, as he (the angel) was just a fellow servant and God is the only one to be worshipped:

8 I, John, am the one who heard and saw these things. And when I heard and saw them, I fell down to worship at the feet of the angel who showed them to me, 9 but he said to me, “You must not do that! I am a fellow servant with you and your brothers the prophets, and with those who keep the words of this book. Worship God.” [Revelation 22:8-9 ESV]

However, angels are reported to have worshipped Jesus as well. For example:

Hebrews 1:5-6 ESV:

5 For to which of the angels did God ever say,

You are my Son, today I have begotten you”?

Or again,

“I will be to him a father, and he shall be to me a son”?

6 And again, when he brings the firstborn into the world, he says,

“Let all God's angels worship him.”

Revelation 5:11-14 ESV:

11 Then I looked, and I heard around the throne and the living creatures and the elders the voice of many angels, numbering myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands, 12 saying with a loud voice,

“Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!”

13 And I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, and all that is in them, saying,

“To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever!”

14 And the four living creatures said, “Amen!” and the elders fell down and worshiped.

Why didn't the angel at Revelation 22:9 mention Jesus when he said to John that God is the one to be worshipped? Shouldn't the angel have concluded the verse with "Worship God and his Son"? Did the angel forget about Jesus?

I know that most trinitarians would quickly answer with something like "come on, these are trivial questions, Jesus is God, by saying God the angel is implicitly including Jesus in the list, He is part of the Godhead". Of course, that answer assumes that Jesus is God as a premise. But what about those who deny this premise? How would they answer these questions?

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  • The header here is clearer than the previous one. Up-voted +1.
    – Nigel J
    Mar 21, 2021 at 6:43
  • The header question is very confusing to me. Do you mean: "How do believers in Christ's divinity explain that the angel at Revelation 22:9 did not include Jesus in the list of beings that can be worshipped?" Mar 21, 2021 at 11:01
  • If Jesus is not God explain angels worshipping him. That is the basic question here right?
    – Kris
    Mar 21, 2021 at 13:38
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    What list is there at Rev22:9?
    – Kris
    Mar 21, 2021 at 13:42
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    προσκυνέω Strong Definition = 'worship'. Pros towards kyneo to kiss. Literally, to prostrate oneself in worship so as to kiss the ground at the feet of the one being worshipped.
    – Nigel J
    Mar 22, 2021 at 2:30

3 Answers 3

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Jehovah's Witnesses believe that only Jehovah God should be worshipped. It would not be appropriate to worship any of Jehovah's creations, including Jesus or the angels. (Luke 4:8)

However, the matter is complicated by the fact that the Hebrew and Greek words that denote worship can also be applied to acts other than worship. This means that when translating these words, the Bible translator must be careful to take into consideration the context in order to get the intended meaning.

In the cases of Revelation 22:9, Hebrews 1:6, and Revelation 5:14, the Greek word used is pro·sky·neʹo. This word can be used to express a slave's act of obeisance towards a king (Matt. 18:26). In the Greek Septuagint translation of the Hebrew scriptures, this word pro·sky·neʹo is used to denote the acts of obeisance that were done towards the kings of Israel, prophets, and other men.

In all of these situations, many Bible translators use various terms such as "do obeisance to", "do reverence to", "do honor to", "pay homage", or "bow down to" rather than "worship", because the context makes it clear that these are not acts of worship towards these men, which would be idolatry. Rather, they are acts of subjection and respect towards a person in authority.

For this reason, the New World Translation does not use the word "worship" in Hebrews 1:6. Instead, it says:

But when he again brings his Firstborn into the inhabited earth, he says: “And let all of God’s angels do obeisance to him.”

It would logically be inappropriate for God to command the angels to worship Jesus because it would be in direct contradiction to God's commands against idolatry and giving exclusive devotion to himself. (Exodus 34:14) It would also be in contradiction to when Jesus stated that we must worship only God. (Matt. 4:8-10) So, it becomes clear that the kind of pro·sky·neʹo being expressed in Hebrews 1:6 is one of showing respect to a king, such as bowing down or kneeling. Or even if "worship" is the preferred rendering, it's clear that this worship is still given to God by means of Jesus being God's representative. (Hebrews 1:1-3)

Meanwhile, Revelation 22:9 and Revelation 5:14 are accounts where the worship is being directed towards Jehovah God (see also Revelation 4:10 and its context), so it would be Scripturally consistent to translate pro·sky·neʹo as "worship" in those verses, though the other various meanings of pro·sky·neʹo would also be acceptable.

See also:

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  • 1
    In the case of Revelation 5:14, the preceding verse makes it quite clear that Jesus is part of the scene: “To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever!”
    – user50422
    Mar 22, 2021 at 13:51
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    @SpiritRealmInvestigator Right, Jesus is part of the scene and he also is the object of the "blessing and honor and glory and might", but the account establishes beforehand in Revelation 4:10, 11 that the one they are worshipping is the one seated on the throne, Jehovah God.
    – user32540
    Mar 22, 2021 at 17:01
  • Let's see what others think: hermeneutics.stackexchange.com/questions/57000/…
    – user50422
    Mar 22, 2021 at 17:19
  • How do JW's believe one does obeisance to Jesus now? Mar 22, 2021 at 18:23
  • @RevelationLad We can’t see Jesus right now in order to physically do obeisance to him, but we can pay respect to him by recognizing him as our King and obeying his commands. JWs believe and proclaim that Jesus is the King of God’s Kingdom, which is currently ruling in heaven.
    – user32540
    Mar 22, 2021 at 18:36
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When John “fell down to worship at the feet of the angel who showed” these visions to him, the angel said, “You must not do that! I am a fellow servant … Worship God” (Rev 22:8-9). The question is, why didn't the angel tell John to worship both God and Jesus?

From a Trinitarian perspective, a possible answer may be that “God” includes Jesus. However, that is not how the word “God” is used in Revelation. The title "God" is found about 100 times in Revelation. 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 to whom the title "God" refers. However, in the following 17 instances, the title is used to identify the Father in distinction from Jesus, making it clear that Jesus is NEVER called God and that the title "God" ALWAYS refers exclusively to the Father. The point of the following is not to show that the Father and Son are different Persons, but that GOD AND THE SON ARE DIFFERENT PERSONS:

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

“John, who testified to the word of God and to the testimony of Jesus Christ” (Rev 1:2)

“I, John … was on the island called Patmos because of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus” (Rev 1:9).

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

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

“The Lamb … will be their shepherd … and God will wipe every tear from their eyes” (Rev 7:17).

“She gave birth to a son, a male child, who is to rule all the nations with a rod of iron; and her child was caught up to God and to His throne” (Rev 12:5).

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

“The dragon … went off to make war with the rest of her children, who keep the commandments of God and hold to the testimony of Jesus” (Rev 12:17).

“These have been purchased from among men as first fruits to God and to the Lamb” (Rev 14:4).

“The saints who keep the commandments of God and their faith in Jesus” (Rev 14:12)

“Those who had been beheaded because of their testimony of Jesus and because of the word of God” (Rev 20:4)

“They will be priests of God and of Christ and will reign with Him for a thousand years” (Rev 20:6).

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

“The glory of God has illumined it, and its lamp is the Lamb” (Rev 21:23).

“A river of the water of life, clear as crystal, coming from the throne of God and of the Lamb” (Rev 22:1)

“There will no longer be any curse; and the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it” (Rev 22:3).

The above shows that God and His unique Son belong together. For example, they share one single throne (22:1, 3) and, together, they are the temple and the light of the New Jerusalem (21:22-23). Nevertheless, God is one Person and Jesus is somebody else. People who do not accept this VERY CLEAR conclusion will argue that Jesus is elsewhere called God. That is simply not true.

VERY FEW

The word theos appears about 1300 times in the New Testament. Of those, Trinitarians propose about 7 instances where Jesus is called God. The extremely small number of instances where Jesus is POSSIBLY called God shows that, in the other 99.5% of the instances, there is no dispute. In the other 99.5% instances, it is agreed that “God” refers to the Father ONLY. In other words, IT IS OVERWHELMINGLY CLEAR THAT THE TITLE "GOD" REFERS PREDOMINANTLY TO THE FATHER.

PAUL

Paul should be our main interpreter of the gospels. I have done a similar exercise as the above for the book of Colossians, which has Paul’s highest Christology, and I similarly found that the title God is used for the Father ONLY.

Furthermore, with the exception of two disputed passages in Paul's other letters, PAUL NEVER REFERS TO JESUS AS GOD.

The one is Romans 9 verse 5, but that depends entirely on punctuation. In 50% of the translations, the punctuation is such that it does not describe Jesus as God, but says that Jesus is blessed by God.

The other is Titus 2:13, which reads, “Our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus.” Trinitarians read this as referring to only one Person but it can just as well be a reference to two Persons; God and Jesus.

Just think of it: In all of Paul’s letters, which is about half of the New Testament, and which should be our main guide to doctrine, there are ONLY TWO instances where he POSSIBLY refers to Jesus as God. Since Paul never clearly refers to Jesus as God but maintains a clear and consistent distinction between God and Jesus (e.g., I Cor 8:6; 1 Tim 6:13), do we not have abundant evidence that Paul does not describe Jesus as God?

JOHN

The main verse Trinitarians use to say that Jesus is called God is John 1:1. I feel very passionate about this verse because the translators KNOW that theos is used in that verse in a qualitative sense. But they argue that this means that Jesus is like God in nature and that this means that He is God. Consequently, the average Christian reads the translation of John 1:1 as an identification of Jesus as God, rather than as a qualitative description. A better translation, I believe, would be something like: "And the word was with God and the word was like God."

The other verse in John is when Thomas sees Jesus after His resurrection and exclaimed, “My Lord and my God!” (John 20:28)! Can you imagine? Jesus never taught His disciples that He is God! In fact, in the very same chapter He refers to His Father as His God (John 20:17). And John summarises the purpose of his entire gospel a few verses later. Does he say his purpose is to show that Jesus is God? No! His purpose was to proclaim Jesus as Christ (John 20:31)! But Thomas, about 60 years before John made this summary of his gospel, miraculously simply knew that Jesus is God!

What the poor average churchgoer is not told is that there is a huge difference between the word theos and the word God. Hanson explains:

“The word theos or deus, for the first four centuries of the existence of Christianity had a wide variety of meanings. There were many different types and grades of deity in popular thought and religion and even in philosophical thought.” (link)

In Thomas’ day, the word theos was used for any immortal being with supernatural powers. And there were thought to be quite a number of such beings; including the Greek pantheon. In contrast, the word “God” is a name for one specific Being. Since the standard explanation of John 20:28 cannot be right, I think that Thomas used the word theos in a generic sense. Namely, seeing the risen Jesus, he used theos in the sense of an immortal being with supernatural powers.

HEBREWS 1:8

In Hebrews 1:8 Jesus is called theos but the very next verse refers to God as His theos. At least, that means that Jesus is subordinate to His Father. But Hebrews 1:8 is simply a quote from Psalm 45:6 where the king of Israel is called god IN A GENERIC SENSE. Hebrews 1 applies this to Jesus and also calls Him theos IN A GENERIC SENSE. It does not identify Jesus as God Almighty.

2 PETER 1:1

In the NASB, 2 Peter 1:1 reads “our God and Savior, Jesus Christ.” However, since this is the only possible instance when Peter describes Jesus as God and since, in the very next verse, Peter makes a distinction between God and Jesus (“The knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord” (2 Peter 1:2)), we should read verse 1 as referring to two Persons; the Father and the Son.

CONCLUSION

The evidence that the New Testament refers to Jesus as God is negligible. Since the title “God” is consistently used to identify the Father in distinction from Jesus, when the angel told John, "worship God,” he referred to the Father ONLY.

I am not disputing that the Son always existed or that God created all things through Him. My point is that only the Father is the Ultimate Reality; the Source of all else, and that the Son is subordinate to the Father.

This answers the question: WHY did the angel not include Jesus? Why must only the Father be worshiped? Since only the Father is identified as “God,” all other beings, including His unique Son, are subordinate to Him. Therefore, we worship Him.

JESUS IS WORSHIPED.

But, as the question rightly states, angels and the entire creation worship Jesus (Heb 1:6; Rev 5:13-14). That does not contradict the statement that we must worship God only. The Greek word translated as “worship” (proskunuo) merely means to show extreme respect by falling down before somebody else. It is also used when people fall down before other people such as kings. For example, in Revelation 3:9, Jesus said, “I will make them come and bow down at your feet.” “Bow down,” here, translates proskuneó.

Furthermore, as we read in Philippians 2:9-11 and Hebrews 1:6, Jesus is worshiped by the entire creation BECAUSE THAT IS GOD’S WILL. There is, therefore, nothing wrong with showing extreme respect to the One through whom God created all things. But, as Philippians 2:11 adds, it is all “to the glory of God the Father.”

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  • Excellent work that will be denied with enthusiastic focusing on the very few ambiguous verses that might be read or made to read in a way that suits traditional purposes. +1
    – steveowen
    Sep 1, 2022 at 6:12
  • +1 You have much more patience than I do. :) But I think John 20:28 embodies the basic lesson of John's Gospel. When you see Jesus, you see the Father. This is because (as John says again and again and again) Jesus is the agent of the Father. The crucial task for early Christians such as John was to show Jesus was the Christ. When Thomas says "My Lord and my God", he is showing ("on that day, you will know") that he gets Jesus' central teaching, and when he sees Jesus he now 'sees' the Father, not ontologically, but because Jesus is indeed the agent of the Father. Sep 1, 2022 at 18:39
  • This makes sense of the lack of build up and lack of response by Jesus. Jesus doesn't say "Blessed are you Thomas! The Father has revealed this to you!" as He does when Peter says "You are the Christ, the Son of God". Instead, Jesus just chides him for taking so long to 'get it'. That means others got it before him. As you note, the summary John gives is that Jesus is the Christ. This is because if Jesus is the Christ, when you see Jesus, you 'see' the Father, because the Christ is the image (representative, icon) of the Father. Sep 1, 2022 at 18:41
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The Biblical Unitarian view on this is fairly straightforward. Although Jesus can and ought to be worshipped as King, God is a larger ultimate object of worship. So the angel mentioned God and not Jesus.

See Should we "worship" Jesus Christ? which lays out the issue of worship and Jesus from a Biblical Unitarian perspective.

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    This does not answer the text. The angel specifically says 'worship God' and, thus, prohibits any other worship at all. Nor does your link answer the question, as the document it links to does not mention this text.
    – Nigel J
    Mar 21, 2021 at 6:41
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    "The angel specifically says 'worship God' and, thus, prohibits any other worship at all" Huh? If the angel said "Love God" would he have meant John couldn't love anyone else? Mar 21, 2021 at 16:59
  • 1
    "Nor does your link answer the question, as the document it links to does not mention this text." The link lays out the background of the term 'worship'. Nowhere do I claim the linked page explicitly addresses this particular text, which is almost never discussed in relation to Biblical Unitarianism precisely because it is considered unproblematic from a Biblical Unitarian perspective! Mar 21, 2021 at 17:04
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    The angel 1) prohibits worship to himself and 2) exhorts worship to God. If anything else were relevant, then such a distinguished and capable Being would have mentioned it.
    – Nigel J
    Mar 21, 2021 at 22:22
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    @NigelJ Huh? Apply that hermeneutic consistently across the Bible and you're going to get some very interesting outcomes. Mar 21, 2021 at 23:24

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