Answering Islam - A Christian-Muslim dialog

Biblical Monotheism and God’s Heavenly Throne

Responding to a Muslim Dawagandist’s Objections to the Trinity Pt. 2

Sam Shamoun

We continue with our rebuttal to Zawadi’s “reply.”

Jesus is worshiped as a result of his exaltation to the highest position

Now that Jesus has been exalted to God’s heavenly throne God expects and demands that every creature worship him:

“Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” Philippians 2:9-11

“Then I saw in the right hand of him who was seated on the throne a scroll written within and on the back, sealed with seven seals. And I saw a strong angel proclaiming with a loud voice, ‘Who is worthy to open the scroll and break its seals?’ And NO ONE in heaven or on earth or under the earth was able to open the scroll or to look into it, and I began to weep loudly because no one was found worthy to open the scroll or to look into it. And one of the elders said to me, ‘Weep no more; behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has conquered, so that he can open the scroll and its seven seals.’ 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, saying, ‘Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation, and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they shall reign on the earth.’ 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, 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!’ 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!’ And the four living creatures said, ‘Amen!’ and the elders fell down and worshiped.” Revelation 5:1-14

In this last passage Jesus is not only worshiped by every creature in the same way that God the Father is he is actually being worshiped by the very objects which the Hebrew Bible forbids others to worship!

“And God spoke all these words, saying, ‘I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. You shall have no other gods before me. You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the LORD your God am) a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments.’” Exodus 20:1-6

Again, to cite NT scholar Richard Bauckham:

5.5. Worshipped by angels and all creation

A series of texts concerned with Jesus’ enthronement in heaven portray the worship given him specifically by all the heavenly beings (Heb. 1:6; Ascen. Isa. 10:15; 11:23-32; Ap. Jas. 14:26-30). That this worship is due to God ALONE is clear from the context of Jesus’ enthronement on God’s own heavenly throne, the symbol of the unique divine sovereignty over all things. It should be noted that it goes further than the very limited worship accorded the Son of Man in the Parables of Enoch, who is worshiped by neither angels nor by any other part of the non-human creation, but only by the wicked at the day of judgment. The Christian texts draw out the full consequences of Jesus’ exaltation to the divine throne, AND DELIBERATELY DEPLOY THE STRONGEST JEWISH THEOLOGICAL MEANS OF PLACING JESUS EMPHATICALLY ON THE DIVINE SIDE OF THE LINE BETWEEN THE ONE GOD OF ISRAEL AND THE REST OF REALITY, HIS CREATION. It is worship by the angels that differentiates God absolutely from them; it is worship by the whole creation that differentiates God absolutely from all other reality. However we may evaluate the evidence adduced for some kind of veneration of angels in some parts of Second Temple Judaism, NO ANGEL is worshiped by other angels in Second Temple Jewish literature.

In Second Temple Judaism, there was not a continuous spectrum of reality through which a developing Christology could gradually move Jesus until he eventually shared the divine identity. There was a gulf that Christology could cross only by seeing that Jesus surpassing all at once every heavenly creature and, seated on the throne of God, receiving their worship as God does. These texts place Jesus unequivocally within the unique divine identity. (Bauckham, Jesus and the God of Israel – God Crucified and Other Studies on the New Testament’s Christology of Divine Identity, 5. The Throne of God and the Worship of Jesus, pp. 178-179; capital and underline emphasis ours)


Examination of the New Testament texts that offer theological rationale for the worship of Jesus thus confirms our argument. Worship is given to Jesus precisely as recognition of characteristics of the divine identity that were regarded in Second Temple Judaism as distinguishing the uniqueness of the one God. The worship of Jesus serves to focus in conceptuality, as well as making most obvious in religious practice, the inclusion of Jesus in the unique identity of the one God of Jewish monotheism. It was not only the natural religious response of Jewish Christians to the status they perceived the exalted Jesus to have and the role he played in their religious experience and life. It was also reflectively understood in the context of Jewish monotheistic understanding of God. (P. 181; underline emphasis ours)

Conservative Bible expositor G. K. Beale agrees that the worship given to Jesus in Revelation indicates that he is on the Divine side of reality:

“The hymn in these verses underscores the point of the hymn in vv 11-12 by further interpreting the slain but risen Lamb’s reception of the book (v 7) to mean that his death and resurrection made him ‘worthy’ to receive praise and glory. The emphasis on glorifying Christ is enhanced by the fact that God also is to be glorified, no doubt because it was through God’s sovereign arm that redemption was wrought through Christ. But, even more so, God is mentioned as being glorified together with Christ to highlight that Christ is in the same divine position as God and likewise to be glorified. The glory of God and the Lamb, which is grounded in their sovereignty, is the main point of the ch. 5 vision, as well as of the vision in ch. 4.

13 This scene anticipates the universal acclamation to be offered at the consummation of all things. If it represents universal praise in an absolute sense, then it issues not only from God’s willing subjects but also from his opponents, who will be forced into submission (as in Phil 2:10-11; Col. 1:20). Rev. 5:9-12 and 5:13 are good examples of the ‘already’ and ‘not yet’ time reference of chs. 4-5 in particular and of the Apocalypse in general. The evil rulers and earth-dwellers will be judged because they do not submit to and praise the sovereignty of Christ while they live on earth (cf. 14:7-11; 16:4-11. 21; 1 En. 46:6).” (Beale, The New International Greek Testament Commentary The Book of Revelation [Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co. & Paternoster Press, 1999], p. 365; bold emphasis ours)

And here is what he says in regard to Jesus sharing God’s throne and receiving priestly service:

“… There are not two thrones but only one, as is clear from 3:21: ‘'I also overcame and sat down with my Father on his throne’ (cf. similarly 5:11-13; 7:17; see likewise 1 En. 51:3). All who enter the city have access to the presence of God and the Lamb. They respond to this presence by becoming ‘servants’ who ‘will serve’ (latreuo) before the throne. The observation that in 7:15 the saints ‘serve’ (latreuo) God as priests in his heavenly temple shows that here also they are performing priestly service in the temple of the end-time city. This echoes the prophecy in Isa. 61:6 (‘you will be called priests of the LORD, ministers of God’', which will be fulfilled in the new cosmic temple. That Isa. 61:6 is in mind is evident from the allusions to Isaiah woven in throughout 21:1-22:5 (esp. Isaiah 61:10 in 21:2 and allusions to Isaiah 60 in 21:23-26 and 22:5).

“That ‘they will serve him’ likely does not refer only to God or only to the Lamb. The two are conceived so much as a unit that the singular pronoun can refer to both… That both are sitting on only one throne and together form one temple (21:22) enhances their perceived unity. Also, this unity is highlighted by both having the titles ‘Alpha and Omega’ (1:8; 21:6; 22:13). Such statements as these in 21:22 and 22:3 were among those that gave rise to later trinitarian formulas.” (Ibid., p. 1113; bold emphasis ours)

This explains why the early Church fathers and apologists like Justin Martyr had no problem with worshiping Christ even though they claimed that only God should be worshiped since they knew and believed that Jesus is God:

And everywhere we, more readily than all men, endeavour to pay to those appointed by you the taxes both ordinary and extraordinary, as we have been taught by Him; for at that time some came to Him and asked Him, if one ought to pay tribute to Cæsar; and He answered, Tell Me, whose image does the coin bear? And they said, Cæsar's. And again He answered them, Render therefore to Cæsar the things that are Cæsar's, and to God the things that are God's. Whence to God ALONE we render worship, but in other things we gladly serve you, acknowledging you as kings and rulers of men, and praying that with your kingly power you be found to possess also sound judgment. But if you pay no regard to our prayers and frank explanations, we shall suffer no loss, since we believe (or rather, indeed, are persuaded) that every man will suffer punishment in eternal fire according to the merit of his deed, and will render account according to the power he has received from God, as Christ intimated when He said, To whom God has given more, of him shall more be required. (The First Apology of St. Justin Martyr, Chapter 17. Christ taught civil obedience; bold, capital and italic emphasis ours)


Hence are we called atheists. And we confess that we are atheists, so far as gods of this sort are concerned, but not with respect to the most true God, the Father of righteousness and temperance and the other virtues, who is free from all impurity. But both Him, and the Son (who came forth from Him and taught us these things, and the host of the other good angels who follow and are made like to Him), and the prophetic Spirit, we worship and adore, knowing them in reason and truth, and declaring without grudging to every one who wishes to learn, as we have been taught. (Ibid., Chapter 6. Charge of atheism refuted; bold and italic emphasis ours)


What sober-minded man, then, will not acknowledge that we are not atheists, worshipping as we do the Maker of this universe, and declaring, as we have been taught, that He has no need of streams of blood and libations and incense; whom we praise to the utmost of our power by the exercise of prayer and thanksgiving for all things wherewith we are supplied, as we have been taught that the only honour that is worthy of Him is not to consume by fire what He has brought into being for our sustenance, but to use it for ourselves and those who need, and with gratitude to Him to offer thanks by invocations and hymns for our creation, and for all the means of health, and for the various qualities of the different kinds of things, and for the changes of the seasons; and to present before Him petitions for our existing again in incorruption through faith in Him. Our teacher of these things is Jesus Christ, who also was born for this purpose, and was crucified under Pontius Pilate, procurator of Judæa, in the times of Tiberius Caesar; and that we reasonably worship Him, having learned that He is the Son of the true God Himself, and holding Him in the second place, and the prophetic Spirit in the third, we will prove. For they proclaim our madness to consist in this, that we give to a crucified man a place second to the unchangeable and eternal God, the Creator of all; for they do not discern the mystery that is herein, to which, as we make it plain to you, we pray you to give heed. (Ibid., Chapter 13. Christians serve God rationally; bold and italic emphasis ours)

One more time:

For I myself, when I discovered the wicked disguise which the evil spirits had thrown around the divine doctrines of the Christians, to turn aside others from joining them, laughed both at those who framed these falsehoods, and at the disguise itself and at popular opinion and I confess that I both boast and with all my strength strive to be found a Christian; not because the teachings of Plato are different from those of Christ, but because they are not in all respects similar, as neither are those of the others, Stoics, and poets, and historians. For each man spoke well in proportion to the share he had of the spermatic word, seeing what was related to it. But they who contradict themselves on the more important points appear not to have possessed the heavenly wisdom, and the knowledge which cannot be spoken against. Whatever things were rightly said among all men, are the property of us Christians. For next to God, we worship and love the Word who is from the unbegotten and ineffable God, since also He became man for our sakes, that becoming a partaker of our sufferings, He might also bring us healing. For all the writers were able to see realities darkly through the sowing of the implanted word that was in them. For the seed and imitation impacted according to capacity is one thing, and quite another is the thing itself, of which there is the participation and imitation according to the grace which is from Him. (The Second Apology of St. Justin Martyr, Chapter 13. How the Word has been in all men; bold, capital and italic emphasis ours)

There's more:

"... And speaking in other words, which also have been already quoted, [he says]: 'Your throne, O God, is for ever and ever: a sceptre of rectitude is the sceptre of Your kingdom. You have loved righteousness, and have hated iniquity: therefore God, even your God, has anointed You with the oil of gladness above Your fellows. [He has anointed You] with myrrh, and oil, and cassia from Your garments, from the ivory palaces, whereby they made You glad. King's daughters are in Your honour. The queen stood at Your right hand, clad in garments embroidered with gold. Hearken, O daughter, and behold, and incline your ear, and forget your people and the house of your father; and the King shall desire your beauty: because he is your Lord, and you shall worship Him.' Therefore these words testify explicitly that He is witnessed to by Him who established these things, as deserving to be worshipped, as God and as Christ." (Dialogue with Trypho the Jew, Chapter 63. It is proved that this God was incarnate; bold and italic emphasis ours)


For when Daniel speaks of 'one like the Son of Man' who received the everlasting kingdom, does he not hint at this very thing? For he declares that, in saying 'like the Son of Man,' He appeared, and was man, but not of human seed. And the same thing he proclaimed in mystery when he speaks of this stone which was cut out without hands. For the expression 'it was cut out without hands' signified that it is not a work of man, but [a work] of the will of the Father and God of all things, who brought Him forth. And when Isaiah says, 'Who shall declare His generation?' he meant that His descent could not be declared. Now no one who is a man of men has a descent that cannot be declared. And when Moses says that He will wash His garments in the blood of the grape, does not this signify what I have now often told you is an obscure prediction, namely, that He had blood, but not from men; just as not man, but God, has begotten the blood of the vine? And when Isaiah calls Him the Angel of mighty counsel, did he not foretell Him to be the Teacher of those truths which He did teach when He came [to earth]? For He alone taught openly those mighty counsels which the Father designed both for all those who have been and shall be well-pleasing to Him, and also for those who have rebelled against His will, whether men or angels, when He said: 'They shall come from the east [and from the west], and shall sit down with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, in the kingdom of heaven: but the children of the kingdom shall be cast out into outer darkness.' And, 'Many shall say to Me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not eaten, and drunk, and prophesied, and cast out demons in Your name? And I will say to them, Depart from Me.' Again, in other words, by which He shall condemn those who are unworthy of salvation, He said, 'Depart into outer darkness, which the Father has prepared for Satan and his, angels.' And again, in other words, He said, 'I give unto you power to tread on serpents, and on scorpions, and on scolopendras, and on all the might of the enemy.' And now we, who believe in our Lord Jesus, who was crucified under Pontius Pilate, when we exorcise all demons and evil spirits, have them subjected to us. For if the prophets declared obscurely that Christ would suffer, and thereafter be Lord of all, yet that [declaration] could not be understood by any man until He Himself persuaded the apostles that such statements were expressly related in the Scriptures. For He exclaimed before His crucifixion: 'The Sonf Man must suffer many things, and be rejected by the Scribes and Pharisees, and be crucified, and on the third day rise again.' And David predicted that He would be born from the womb before sun and moon, according to the Father's will, and made Him known, being Christ, as God strong and to be worshipped. (Ibid., Chapter 76. From other passages the same majesty and government of Christ are proved; bold and italic emphasis ours)

We now turn to Zawadi’s challenge concerning the throne of God’s Holy Spirit.

The throne of the Holy Spirit

Zawadi asks:

We would also like to ask Shamoun how come there aren't three thrones in heaven for each of the persons in the Triune Godhead.

Zawadi has adapted the arguments of “Servetus the Evangelical” without realizing how these challenges actually work against him, as we shall see shortly. With that said, we will address the issue of multiple thrones in the second part of our rebuttal.

Zawadi then argues that:

If the Throne of God became a symbol of monotheism and that the God on the Throne receives all worship and the Trinity is true, then why isn't there a Throne for each person? If Shamoun insists that all three persons were sharing the Throne, then I challenge Shamoun to cite me one verse that says that the Holy Spirit is sitting on the Throne as well. He cannot. We sure do hope that Shamoun doesn't get desperate and states what other Christian's state, which is that the Throne of the Holy Spirit is the body of the believer. If he does, then it becomes pretty obvious that he is avoiding the argument, for the Holy Spirit should be able to occupy a Throne and still be in the believers simultaneously.

Notice that Zawadi didn’t challenge me to quote a verse proving that Jesus sits on the very same throne of God the Father since he knows that there are plenty of Biblical passages which clearly state that he does.

However, what makes this rather unfortunate and sad is that in his haste to “refute” Trinitarianism Zawadi couldn’t see that his challenge actually proves that Jesus is God. Notice what happens when we apply Zawadi’s (actually “Servetus”’) logic to the NT teaching concerning Christ’s enthronement:

  1. God’s heavenly throne is a symbol of monotheism, i.e., the throne shows that there is only one true God who is separate and distinct from all created reality.
  2. Jesus sits on God’s throne.
  3. Jesus therefore shares in the identity of the one true God and is separate from all created reality.
  4. Moreover, the God who sits on the throne receives all worship.
  5. Jesus sits on the heavenly throne.
  6. Therefore, Jesus receives all worship.

Hence, Zawadi has actually helped us to at least prove that Jesus is God and is worthy of all worship and honor! We want to thank Zawadi for assisting us in establishing that the NT does teach the absolute Deity of the Lord Jesus Christ while also doing a great job of exposing his false prophet and religion.

Now as far as the enthronement of the Holy Spirit is concerned there is every indication that he too sits on God’s throne. For instance, according to Revelation there is a river of living water which springs from the one throne of God and the Lamb:

“Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb through the middle of the street of the city; also, on either side of the river, the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit each month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. No longer will there be anything accursed, but the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and his servants will worship him.” Revelation 22:1-3

This is the water which believers are to drink from for eternal life and which sustains creation:

“For the Lamb in the midst of the throne will be their shepherd, and he will guide them to springs of living water, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.” Revelation 7:17

“And he said to me, ‘It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give from the spring of the water of life without payment. The one who conquers will have this heritage, and I will be his God and he will be my son.’” Revelation 21:6-7

“The Spirit and the Bride say, ‘Come.’ And let the one who hears say, ‘Come.’ And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who desires take the water of life without price.” Revelation 22:17

“Jesus answered her, ‘If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, “Give me a drink,” you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.’ … Jesus said to her, ‘Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.’” John 4:10, 13-14

According to John’s Gospel this water of life is symbolic of the Holy Spirit who gives life to every believer:

“On the last day of the feast, the great day, Jesus stood up and cried out, ‘If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, “Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.”’ Now this he said about the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were to receive, for as yet the Spirit had not been given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.” John 7:37-39

This, therefore, means that the river of the water of life which John saw is actually the Holy Spirit who proceeds from the throne of the Father and the Son so as to give life to the new heavens and earth! This was also the position held by the late Bible expositor Matthew Henry:

Verses 1-5 All streams of earthly comfort are muddy; but these are clear, and refreshing. They give life, and preserve life, to those who drink of them, and thus they will flow for evermore. These point to the quickening and sanctifying influences of the Holy Spirit, as given to sinners through Christ. The Holy Spirit, proceeding from the Father and the Son, applies this salvation to our souls by his new-creating love and power. The trees of life are fed by the pure waters of the river that comes from the throne of God. The presence of God in heaven, is the health and happiness of the saints. This tree was an emblem of Christ, and of all the blessings of his salvation; and the leaves for the healing of the nations, mean that his favour and presence supply all good to the inhabitants of that blessed world. The devil has no power there; he cannot draw the saints from serving God, nor can he disturb them in the service of God. God and the Lamb are here spoken of as one. Service there shall be not only freedom, but honour and dominion. There will be no night; no affliction or dejection, no pause in service or enjoyment: no diversions or pleasures or man's inventing will there be wanted. How different all this from gross and merely human views of heavenly happiness, even those which refer to pleasures of the mind! (Matthew Henry Concise Commentary on the Whole Bible)

There’s more. According to the Gospel of John the Lord Jesus would send the Holy Spirit from the Father since he proceeds from him out of heaven:

“But when the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness about me.” John 15:26

We are further told that Jesus poured out the Holy Spirit after his ascension to God’s heavenly throne:

“When the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all together in one place. And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance. … ‘Brothers, I may say to you with confidence about the patriarch David that he both died and was buried, and his tomb is with us to this day. Being therefore a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him that he would set one of his descendants on his throne, he foresaw and spoke about the resurrection of the Christ, that he was not abandoned to Hades, nor did his flesh see corruption. This Jesus God raised up, and of that we all are witnesses. Being therefore exalted at the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, he has poured out this that you yourselves are seeing and hearing. For David did not ascend into the heavens, but he himself says, “The Lord said to my Lord, Sit at my right hand, until I make your enemies your footstool.” Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified.’” Acts 2:1-4, 30-33

Thus, since the Spirit comes forth from the Father himself who is seated on the throne this shows that the Spirit proceeds forth from the heavenly throne itself and must therefore be present on the throne with the Father and the Son!

To put this in the form of a syllogism so that Zawadi can get it:

  1. God the Father is seated on his Divine throne.
  2. The Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father.
  3. Therefore, the Holy Spirit dwells with the Father on the throne and is worthy of all worship, honor and praise.

Finally, seeing that Zawadi likes to issue challenges perhaps he wouldn’t mind answering the following challenges:

And these specific rebuttals will show him how NOT to answer these challenges:

Our series of challenges will help make sure that Zawadi is being consistent and honest. However, in light of Zawadi’s track record and the quality of his “rebuttals” we won’t be holding our breath or get our hopes up too high.

It is now time to move to the next part of our rebuttal where we will address some of the arguments issued by “Servetus the Evangelical”’ seeing that Zawadi is so fond of them.