Examining The New Testament On Christ Receiving Sacred Service
Note: This paper is intended to supplement my article on the worship given to Jesus in the NT (here) by focusing on a particular type of worship given to the risen Lord, namely the service that God alone is said to receive.
The Holy Bible emphatically states that God alone is to receive sacred service or latreuo:
"Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. All this I will give you, he said, if you will bow down and worship me.' Jesus said to him, 'Away from me, Satan! For it is written: "Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only (kai auto mono latreuseis)."" Matthew 4:8-10; cf. Luke 4:8
This word is also used in the Greek Old Testament called the Septuagint (LXX):
"And now, Israel, what does the Lord thy God require of thee, but to fear the Lord thy God, and to walk in all his ways, and to love him, and to serve the Lord thy God (kai latreuein Kurio to Theo) with all thy heart, and with all thy soul." Deuteronomy 10:12 Brenton
"And now fear the Lord, and serve him in righteousness and justice (kai latreusate auto en euthuteti kai en dikaiosune); and remove the strange gods which our fathers served (elatreusan) beyond the river, and in Egypt; and serve the Lord (kai latreusate Kurio). But if it seem not good to you to serve the Lord (latreuein Kurio), choose to yourselves this day whom you will serve (latreusete), whether the gods of your fathers that were on the other side of the river, or the gods of the Amorites; among whom ye dwell upon their land: bit I and my house will serve the Lord (latreusomen Kurio), for he is holy." Joshua 24:14-15 Brenton
The BlueLetterBible dictionary defines the term as:
Strong's Number 3000 from latris (a hired menial);
- serve 16, worship 3, do the service 1, worshipper 1; 21
1) to serve for hire
2) to serve, minister to, either to the gods or men and used
alike of slaves and freemen
2a) in the NT, to render religious service or homage, to worship
2b) to perform sacred services, to offer gifts, to worship God in the observance of the rites instituted for his worship
2b1) of priests, to officiate, to discharge the sacred office. (Source)
As noted above, the term is used in relation to the priestly service rendered in the Tabernacle/Temple:
"The point of what we are saying is this: We do have such a high priest, who sat down at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in heaven, and who serves in the sanctuary, the true tabernacle set up by the Lord, not by man. Every high priest is appointed to offer both gifts and sacrifices, and so it was necessary for this one also to have something to offer. If he were on earth, he would not be a priest, for there are already men who offer the gifts prescribed by the law. They serve (latreuousin) at a sanctuary that is a copy and shadow of what is in heaven. This is why Moses was warned when he was about to build the tabernacle: 'See to it that you make everything according to the pattern shown you on the mountain." Hebrews 8:1-5
"When everything had been arranged like this, the priests entered regularly into the outer room to carry on their ministry. But only the high priest entered the inner room, and that only once a year, and never without blood, which he offered for himself and for the sins the people had committed in ignorance. The Holy Spirit was showing by this that the way into the Most Holy Place had not yet been disclosed as long as the first tabernacle was still standing. This is an illustration for the present time, indicating that the gifts and sacrifices being offered were not able to clear the conscience of the worshiper (latreuonta). They are only a matter of food and drink and various ceremonial washings-external regulations applying until the time of the new order." Hebrews 9:6-10
What makes this interesting is that Jesus is given sacred service or latreuo:
"Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, as clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb down the middle of the great street of the city. On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations. No longer will there be any curse. The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the city, and his servants will serve (latreusousin) him. They will see his face (to prosopon autou), and his name will be on their foreheads. There will be no more night. They will not need the light of a lamp or the light of the sun, for the Lord God will give them light. And they will reign for ever and ever." Revelation 22:1-5
This proves that Jesus is God. Let us break this down logically:
Knowing this, anti-Trinitarian groups such as Jehovahs Witnesses must deny that Jesus receives sacred service. They must argue that Revelation 22:3 is not speaking of Christ but of the Father. One such example of a Jehovah Witness who seeks to disprove that Jesus receives sacred service is Greg Stafford who writes:
"Yet, he (Jesus) still showed that only Jehovah was to be given absolute, religious worship when he told Satan, It is Jehovah God you worship, and it is to him alone you must render sacred service [... latreuo]. Mt. 4:10
"Bowman asserts that Jesus also receives... sacred service (Rev. 22:3). Is this true? Does Revelation 22:3 teach that Jesus receives latreuo? The NIV reads: No longer will there be any curse. The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the city, and his servants will serve [form of latreuo] him (emphasis added). Revelation speaks of two individuals, God and the Lamb. In referring to the one who would receive latreuo, John uses the third person singular pronoun (his, him), showing that it has reference to but one of the two individuals mentioned. If John wanted his readers to know that both God and the Lamb (Jesus Christ) were to receive latreuo, he would have simply used the third person plural pronoun (for example, and their servants will serve them) instead of the singular. "If it is argued that latreuo here refers to the Lamb, then we must indeed wonder why it does not refer to God, the One to whom it is elsewhere restricted. Also, there would be no evidence other than mere opinion to support such a theory that Jesus here receives latreuo and God does not. Thus, we may safely conclude that latreuo is here given to the same individual who receives it in Revelation 7:15, and elsewhere in the Bible." (Greg Stafford, Jehovahs Witnesses Defended - An Answer To Scholars And Critics [Huntington Beach, CA; Elihu Books, first edition 1998], pp. 85-86)
Staffords footnote found on the same page states:
"Revelation 7:15 speaks of the great crowd that comes out of tribulation rendering latreuo to the One seated on the throne, referring to Jehovah. Whereas Jesus is clearly distinguished from the One seated on the throne, as he is said to be in the midst of the throne, according to verse 17." (Ibid., f. 37)
As I shall shortly demonstrate, Staffords claim that John would have used third person plural pronouns if he wanted to show that both God and Jesus received latreuo has little substance behind it. I first want to address Staffords claim that Jesus is distinguished from the One seated on the throne, as if this somehow proves anything. Even though Revelation 7:17 shows that Jesus is in the midst of the throne, we are told elsewhere that Jesus also sits on the very same throne of God:
" But the throne (singular) of God and of the Lamb will be in [the city] " Revelation 22:3 NWT
John speaks of the throne of God and the Lamb, not thrones, affirming that Jesus also sits on Gods throne. Moreover, in Revelation 20:11-15 the One seated on the throne will judge the dead. The NT clearly teaches that the Father judges no one but has entrusted all judgment to the Son (Cf. Matthew 25:31-46; John 5:22-23, 27; Acts 10:42, 17:30-31; Romans 2:16; 1 Corinthians 4:5- cf. 1:7-8; 2 Corinthians 5:10; 1 Thessalonians 3:13; 2 Thessalonians 1:5-10; Hebrews 9:28). This again proves that Jesus is also sitting on the very throne of the Father.
Secondly, Stafford erroneously assumes that since latreuo is elsewhere restricted to God this therefore means that Jesus cannot be the object of latreuo. Stafford is simply begging the question here since he assumes what he has yet to prove. Stafford assumes that the Father alone is God in the absolute sense and that Jesus is one of many lesser gods. In light of this presupposition it isnt surprising that Stafford believes that Jesus cannot be the recipient of sacred service.
Yet if this passage does teach that Jesus receives latreuo this would then prove that Jesus is not a god, but the true God Jehovah! This would further prove that the Father is not the only Person who is the true God since the data would show that the true God is actually multi-Personal, the very thing that Stafford has already assumed cannot be the case.
In light of this, we now set forth the arguments which we feel conclusively prove that Revelation 22:3 does refer to the Lord Jesus Christ and therefore demonstrates that he indeed receives latreuo. To begin with, we note that John says regarding the One receiving latreuo that:
Let us contrast this with what is said of Christ elsewhere in the NT:
1. He has servants that serve him.
"To the angel of the church in Thyatira write: These are the words of the Son of God, whose eyes are like blazing fire and whose feet are like burnished bronze. I know your deeds, your love and faith, your service and perseverance, and that you are now doing more than you did at first. Nevertheless, I have this against you: You tolerate that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess. By her teaching she misleads MY SERVANTS into sexual immorality and the eating of food sacrificed to idols." Revelation 2:18-20
2. His face will be seen.
"Look, he is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him, even those who pierced him; and all the peoples of the earth will mourn because of him. So shall it be! Amen." Revelation 1:7
"Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when he appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. Everyone who has this hope in him purifies himself, just as he is pure." 1 John 3:2-3
That this last passage is speaking of Christ can be seen from the following citations:
"For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers." Romans 8:29
"So it is written: 'The first man Adam became a living being'; the last Adam, a life-giving Spirit. The spiritual did not come first, but the natural, and after that the spiritual. The first man was of the dust of the earth, the second man from heaven. As was the earthly man, so are those who are of the earth; and as is the man from heaven, so also are those who are of heaven. And just as we have borne the likeness of the earthly man, so shall we bear the likeness of the man from heaven." 1 Corinthians 15:45-49
"The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. For we do not preach ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus sake. For God, who said, Let light shine out of darkness, made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ (en prosopo Christou)." 2 Corinthians 4:4-6
Paul states that God reveals himself in the person of Christ. What this basically means is that to see the visible Christ is to behold the invisible God (Cf. Colossians 1:15).
"But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body." Philippians 3:20-21
The NT is clear that it is the Son who shall be seen, and believers shall behold his face.
3. His name will be on his servants foreheads.
"Him who overcomes I will make a pillar in the temple of my God. Never again will he leave it. I will write on him the name of my God and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem, which is coming down out of heaven from my God; and I will also write on him MY NEW NAME." Revelation 3:12
"And I saw, and, look! The Lamb standing upon the Mount Zion, and with him a hundred and forty-four thousand having HIS NAME and the name of his Father on their foreheads." Revelation 14:1
"These are those who did not defile themselves with women, for they kept themselves pure. They follow the Lamb wherever he goes. They were purchased from among men and offered as firstfruits to God AND THE LAMB." Revelation 14:4
These passages state that believers will have the name of both the Father and the Son on their foreheads. Revelation also shows that the 144,000 are firstfruits of the Father AND OF THE SON. Compare this to the following Old Testament citations:
"The LORD said to Moses, Speak to the Israelites and say to them: "When you enter the land I am going to give you and you reap its harvest, bring to the priest a sheaf of the first grain you harvest. He is to wave the sheaf before the LORD so it will be accepted on your behalf; the priest is to wave it on the day after the Sabbath. On the day you wave the sheaf, you must sacrifice as a burnt offering to the LORD a lamb a year old without defect, together with its grain offering of two-tenths of an ephah of fine flour mixed with oil-an offering made to the LORD by fire, a pleasing aroma-and its drink offering of a quarter of a hin of wine. You must not eat any bread, or roasted or new grain, until the very day you bring this offering to your God. This is to be a lasting ordinance for the generations to come, wherever you live."" Leviticus 23:9-14
"Israel was holy to the LORD, the firstfruits of his harvest; all who devoured her were held guilty, and disaster overtook them,' declares the LORD." Jeremiah 2:3
Jesus also has priests serving him:
"I have written you quite boldly on some points, as if to remind you of them again, because of the grace God gave me to be a minister of Christ Jesus (leitourgon Christou 'Iesou) to the Gentiles with the priestly duty (hierourgounta) of proclaiming the gospel of God, so that the Gentiles might become an offering (prosphora) acceptable to God, sanctified by the Holy Spirit." Romans 15:15-16
"I saw thrones on which were seated those who had been given authority to judge. And I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded because of their testimony for Jesus and because of the word of God. They had not worshiped the beast or his image and had not received his mark on their foreheads or their hands. They came to life and reigned WITH CHRIST a thousand years. (The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were ended.) This is the first resurrection. Blessed and holy are those who have part in the first resurrection. The second death has no power over them, but they will be priests of God AND OF CHRIST and will reign WITH HIM for a thousand years." Revelation 20:4-6
Again, contrast this with the following OT citation:
"And you will be called PRIESTS OF THE LORD, you will be named MINISTERS OF OUR GOD. You will feed on the wealth of nations, and in their riches you will boast." Isaiah 61:6
Christ having priests and firstfruits further strengthens the fact he is the One receiving sacred service and is therefore Yahweh God Almighty (yet he is not the Father or the Holy Spirit)!
John also tells us that the Kingdom belongs to both God and Christ:
"The seventh angel sounded his trumpet, and there were loud voices in heaven, which said: The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord AND OF HIS CHRIST, and HE will reign for ever and ever." Revelation 11:15
These last two passages serve as excellent parallels to Revelation 22:3, since John states that resurrected believers will reign with "HIM" and "HE" will reign forever and ever (third person singular pronouns) despite there being two referents (i.e., "God/Lord" and "Christ"). Moreover, the "HIM" of 20:6 is explicitly identified as Christ in verse 5, which provides support for taking the "HE" of 11:15 who reigns forever as Christ as well. This provides a solid case for taking the singular subject of 22:3 (i.e., "His" and "Him") as referring to Jesus even though there are clearly two referents in the context, i.e. God and the Lamb.
Finally, the LXX ascribes latreuo to the Apocalyptic Son of Man:
"I beheld in the night vision, and, lo, [one] coming with the clouds of heaven as the Son of man, and he came on to the Ancient of days, and was brought near to him. And to him was given the dominion, and the honour, and the kingdom; and all nations, tribes, and languages, shall serve him (auto latreuousa): his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom shall not be destroyed." Daniel 7:13-14
The NT identifies this Son of Man as the Lord Jesus:
"When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his throne in heavenly glory. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left." Matthew 25:31-33
"But Jesus remained silent and gave no answer. Again the high priest asked him, Are you the Christ, the Son of the Blessed One? I am, said Jesus. And you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven." Mark 14:61-62
"But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, looked up to heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. Look, he said, I see heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God." Acts 7:55-56
"Look, he is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him, even those who pierced him; and all the peoples of the earth will mourn because of him. So shall it be! Amen." Revelation 1:7
"I turned around to see the voice that was speaking to me. And when I turned I saw seven golden lampstands and among the lampstands was someone 'like a son of man,' dressed in a robe reaching down to his feet and with a golden sash around his chest. His head and hair were white like wool, as white as snow, and his eyes were like blazing fire. His feet were like bronze glowing in a furnace, and his voice was like the sound of rushing waters. In his right hand he held seven stars, and out of his mouth came a sharp double-edged sword. His face was like the sun shining in all its brilliance. When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. Then he placed his right hand on me and said: 'Do not be afraid. I am the First and the Last. I am the Living One; I was dead, and behold I am alive for ever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and Hades.'" Revelation 1:12-18
"I looked, and there before me was a white cloud, and seated on the cloud was one 'like a son of man' with a crown of gold on his head and a sharp sickle in his hand. Then another angel came out of the temple and called in a loud voice to him who was sitting on the cloud, 'Take your sickle and reap, because the time to reap has come, for the harvest of the earth is ripe.' So he who was seated on the cloud swung his sickle over the earth, and the earth was harvested." Revelation 14:14-16
These preceding passages demonstrate that Jesus does receive sacred service. Nothing in the context of Revelation 22:3 rules out this interpretation. It is only the presuppositions of biased individuals who deny that Christ receives the same exact worship given to the Father that disallows for such an interpretation.
Interestingly, there may be another valid interpretation of Revelation 22:3. John may in fact be referring to both the Father and the Son as the objects of sacred service. For instance, John tells us that:
"I did not see a temple in the city, because the Lord God Almighty AND THE LAMB are its temple. The city does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and the Lamb IS ITS LAMP. The nations will walk by ITS LIGHT, and the kings of the earth will bring their splendor into it." Revelation 21:22-24
Compare this to the following OT citations:
"The sun will no more be your light by day, nor will the brightness of the moon shine on you, for the LORD will be your everlasting light, and your God will be your glory. Your sun will never set again, and your moon will wane no more; the LORD will be your everlasting light, and your days of sorrow will end." Isaiah 60:19-20
"You are MY LAMP, O LORD; the LORD turns my darkness into light." 2 Samuel 22:29
"I will make a covenant of peace with them; it will be an everlasting covenant. I will establish them and increase their numbers, and I will put MY SANCTUARY among them forever. My dwelling place will be with them; I will be their God, and they will be my people. Then the nations will know that I the LORD make Israel holy, when MY SANCTUARY is among them forever." Ezekiel 37:26-28
John ascribes to Jesus what the OT ascribes to Yahweh God! Other places where John does this include the following:
"To the angel of the church in Thyatira write: These are the words of the Son of God, whose eyes are like blazing fire and whose feet are like burnished bronze. I know your deeds, your love and faith, your service and perseverance, and that you are now doing more than you did at first I will strike her children dead. Then all the churches will know that I AM HE who searches hearts and minds, and I will repay each of you according to your deeds." Revelation 2:18-19, 23
"To the angel of the church in Sardis write: These are the words of him who holds the seven spirits of God and the seven stars. I know your deeds; you have a reputation of being alive, but you are dead." Revelation 3:1
"Then I saw a Lamb, looking as if it had been slain, standing in the center of the throne, encircled by the four living creatures and the elders. He had seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven spirits of God sent out into all the earth." Revelation 5:6
The symbols of the Lamb, the seven horns, the seven eyes and the holding of the seven stars signify that Jesus is omnipotent and omniscient. The number seven represents completeness and perfection while horns symbolize power and eyes symbolize knowledge. This means that Jesus has perfect power and discernment. In other words, Jesus is Almighty and All-knowing!
"And they cried out in a loud voice: Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, AND TO THE LAMB Therefore, they are before the throne of God and serve him day and night in his temple; and he who sits on the throne will spread his tent over them. Never again will they hunger; never again will they thirst. The sun will not beat upon them, nor any scorching heat. For the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd; he will lead them to springs of living water. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes." Revelation 7:10, 15-17
Now compare the preceding statements with the following OT passages:
"then hear from heaven, your dwelling place. Forgive and act; deal with each man according to all he does, since you know his heart (for you ALONE know the hearts of all men)," 1 Kings 8:39
"For the eyes of the LORD range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him. You have done a foolish thing, and from now on you will be at war." 2 Chronicles 16:9
"The LORD is in his holy temple; the LORD is on his heavenly throne. He observes the sons of men; his eyes examine them." Psalm 11:4
"From the LORD comes deliverance. May your blessing be on your people. Selah" Psalm 3:8
"and that you, O Lord, are loving. Surely you will reward each person according to what he has done." Psalm 62:12
"See, the Sovereign Lord comes with power, and his arm rules for him. See, his reward is with him, and his recompense accompanies him. He tends his flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart; he gently leads those that have young." Isaiah 40:10-11
"The Lord has made proclamation to the ends of the earth: Say to the Daughter of Zion, "See, your Savior comes! See, his reward is with him, and his recompense accompanies him."" Isaiah 62:11
"I the Lord search the heart and examine the mind, to reward a man according to his conduct, according to what his deeds deserve." Jeremiah 17:10
"Because that they have done folly in Israel, and commit adultery with the wives of their neighbours, and speak a word in My name falsely that I have not commanded them, and I [AM] HE who knoweth and a witness - an affirmation of Jehovah." Jeremiah 29:23 Youngs Literal Translation
"But I, with a song of thanksgiving, will sacrifice to you. What I have vowed I will make good. Salvation comes from the LORD." Jonah 2:9
"See, the stone I have set in front of Joshua! There are seven eyes on that one stone, and I will engrave an inscription on it, says the LORD Almighty, and I will remove the sin of this land in a single day." Zechariah 3:9
"Who despises the day of small things? Men will rejoice when they see the plumb line in the hand of Zerubbabel. (These seven are the eyes of the LORD, which range throughout the earth.)" Zechariah 4:10
For John to apply OT descriptions of Yahweh to Christ demonstrates beyond any reasonable doubt that the Evangelist truly believed that Jesus is Yahweh God Almighty (yet not the Father or the Holy Spirit)!
John also distinguishes Jesus from all creation:
"And EVERY CREATED THING which is in heaven and on the earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all things in them, I heard saying, To Him who sits on the throne, AND TO THE LAMB, be blessing and honor and glory and dominion forever and ever. And the four living creatures kept saying, Amen. And the elders fell down and worshiped." Revelation 5:13-14 NASB
John has the entire creation worshiping both God and the Lamb! This conclusively demonstrates that Jesus is not part of creation since if he were only a creature he too would be worshiping God, as all creatures are supposed to. Yet instead of worshiping God, Jesus is being worshiped!
John tells us what happens when a person worships a creature:
"Then the angel said to me, Write: Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding supper of the Lamb!" And he added, These are the true words of God. At this I fell at his feet to worship him. But he said to me, Do not do it! I am a fellow servant with you and with your brothers who hold to the testimony of Jesus. Worship God! For the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy." Revelation 19:9-10
"I, John, am the one who heard and saw these things. And when I had heard and seen them, I fell down to worship at the feet of the angel who had been showing them to me. But he said to me, Do not do it! I am a fellow servant with you and with your brothers the prophets and of all who keep the words of this book. Worship God!" Revelation 22:8-9
Again for Christ to be worshiped by all creation proves that he is God Almighty since John is specifically told not to worship anyone but God.
To summarize, John explicitly states that both the Father and the Son sit on the same throne, are the believers one temple and light, are the one source of salvation, will have both their names on the foreheads of believers, have priests serving them, and are worshiped by all creation! It is little wonder that John links the two together with singular pronouns as opposed to plural ones! John could use singular pronouns to describe the Father and the Son since it is evident that the Evangelist obviously believed that the two distinct Persons are co-equal and co-eternal. John is clearly presenting the Father and the Son as the one true eternal God. The following citations further prove this:
"The angel said to me, These words are trustworthy and true. The Lord, the God of the spirits of the prophets, sent HIS angel to show HIS servants the things that must soon take place. Behold, I am coming soon! Blessed is he who keeps the words of the prophecy in this book." Revelation 22:6-7
"Behold, I am coming soon! My reward is with me, and I will give to everyone according to what he has done I, JESUS, have sent MY ANGEL to give you this testimony for the churches. I am the Root and the Offspring of David, and the bright Morning Star. He who testifies to these things says, Yes, I am coming soon. Amen. Come, Lord Jesus." Revelation 22:12, 16, 20
The Lord God who sent his angel to the churches and who is coming soon is none other than our Lord Jesus Christ!
NT Commentator G.K. Beale, in his commentary on Revelation, notes:
" 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." (Beale, The New International Greek Testament Commentary - The Book of Revelation [Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co. & Paternoster Press, 1999], p. 1113; bold emphasis ours)
John is not the only one to link both the Father and the Son together. Paul does the same thing through his use of singular verbs to describe the work of the Father and the Son:
"Now may our God and Father himself and our Lord Jesus clear (kateuthunai) the way for us to come to you." 1 Thessalonians 3:11
"May our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who loved (ho agapesas) us and by HIS grace gave (dous) us eternal encouragement and good hope, encourage (parakalesai) your hearts and strengthen (sterixai) you in every good deed and word." 2 Thessalonians 2:16-17
Although Paul refers to both the Father and the Son as loving, gracing, encouraging etc. he uses singular verbs all throughout which is his way of describing their actions as essentially being one!
It is abundantly clear that the Apostles did believe in the essential unity and co-equality of the Father and the Son. They clearly taught that since the Lord Jesus is fully God in essence he is to receive the highest form of worship and devotion imaginable, the very worship that must be given to God alone. It is little wonder that the Apostolic Father Polycarp (an eyewitness and disciple of the Apostles such as John) could write that all creation gives latreuo to Christ:
"Therefore prepare for action and serve (douleusate) God in fear" and truth, leaving behind the empty and meaningless talk and the error of the crowd, and "believing in him who raised" our Lord Jesus Christ "from the dead and gave him glory" and a throne at his right hand; to whom all things in heaven and on earth were subjected, WHOM EVERY BREATHING CREATURE SERVES (latreuei), who is coming as "Judge of the living and the dead," for whose blood God will hold responsible those who disobey him (The Apostolic Fathers, Greek Texts And English Translations, edited and revised by Michael W. Holmes [Baker Books, Grand Rapids, MI 1999], pp. 207, 209; bold and capital emphasis ours)
We have seen that there are two valid interpretations of Revelation 22:3. The first is that Christ is the subject and he is receiving sacred service or latreuo. The second is that both the Father and the Son are the subjects, an interpretation which also has the Son (along with the Father) receiving sacred service or latreuo. Thus, either interpretation still leaves us with Jesus receiving sacred service.
This should come as no surprise when we recall that according to the book of Revelation Christ is worshiped by all creation, has priests serving him, has firstfruits, and is pictured as having all the qualities of Yahweh. In light of all this it would be shocking not to find Jesus receiving sacred service!
Articles by Sam Shamoun
Answering Islam Home Page