Not Every "Equal" is Equal-Challenge over the Highest Place

Article by an Anonymous Contributor-Adopted ad edited by Paul Chung

Originally published in 2 parts on Facebook as a response to a series of questions asked by an Adventist pastor in a Facebook group discussion forum dealing with Christ's position in heaven.

Here are the questions:

Question 1: What position and authority did Lucifer want in heaven, the HIGHEST possible position and authority, or the SECOND highest position and authority?

Question 2: Who did Lucifer want to be "equal to" in heaven? Who was he envious of?

Question 3: Who therefore had the highest possible position and authority in heaven?

Question 4: Can anyone be higher than the highest possible position or authority in heaven?

Response:

Part 1 - Challenge over the Highest Place

I am not an "anti-trinitarian". I am not even a "non-trinitarian" and I reject all such labels. I identify as a unique form of "trinitarian" such as Ellen White and the Pioneers were, which could best be termed "triotarian", since Ellen White coined the term "heavenly trio" in a deliberate avoidance of the word "trinity". But I am able to accept "trinity" if necessary, I'm less interested in labels as in the intricacies of how Father, Son and Spirit are revealed to be related to one another. 

I want to first of all respond with another perspective to your "Take the Challenge", which involves four questions revolving around the rebellion of Helel ben-Shakhar (Lucifer) in Heaven. It appears to me that you have oversimplified the matter in the way you have presented your questions. I will first present some Scriptural considerations, though the Scriptural evidence is admittedly less comprehensive than Ellen White's revelations. 

1. Christ's pre-incarnate name (or one of them) was Michael, which is a challenge name meaning "Who is like God?"

2. Helel ben-Shakhar (Lucifer) wanted to be "like the Most High".

3. It is possible to want one thing initially and then to seek something greater. You have not allowed for this possibility. Let's say that I believe you owe me $10000 and you rebuff me. Then I sue you for all that you possess. Or say that I wanted to have a place on the board of your "Power of the Lamb" ministry, but my ultimate intention was to become chairman of the board? I could possibly seek two positions. There are several steps of Helel ben-Shakhar's ambition revealed in a Chiasm in Isaiah 14:

A -- I will ascend to heaven; 

B ---- I will set my throne above the stars of God on high; 

X -------I will sit on the mount of assembly in the far reaches of the north; 

B` --- I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; 

A` - I will make myself like the Most High.

In the centre of the Chiasm, it is clear that Helel ben-Shakhar (Lucifer) initially wanted a seat at the table. The "sides of the north" in Sanctuary imagery would refer to the Throne of God in the Holy Place - the Table of Showbread. The height of the Table of Showbread was the same as the Ark of the Covenant, but while the Ark of the Covenant had only one crown around it's edges (Exodus 25:11), the Table of Showbread had two crowns, one within the other (Exodus 25:24-25). This table also had two stacks of bread, six and six. Helel ben-Shakhar wanted to sit on this table as a third crowned individual, a third stack of six. 

As we move out through the chiasm, we see that he wanted to be "above the stars/clouds. Stars and clouds represent Angels. He didn't want to be simply one of the angels, but ABOVE them. 

Finally, we see that though in heaven, Helel ben-Shakhar sought to climb higher. If you're already in heaven (as represented by the star Venus), then to go higher would to go into the superlative "heaven of heavens" and if you're already a worshipper in the Holy Place, you would be seeking to go to the superlative holy of holies where there is only one crown. The ultimate ambition of Helel ben-Shakhar was to become "like the Most High" - a position already held by someone else - Christ - and which was an usurpation not simply of Christ, but of the One Christ was "like". 

Now we can move on to look at what Ellen White had to say. 

Ellen White is clear that there was a position higher than Christ and that ultimately THIS is what those aligned with Lucifer desired. She wrote:

It means that when the angels came to claim THE HIGHEST PLACE in heaven, ABOVE the only begotten Son of God, it was not given to them. And because they did not receive it, there was war in heaven, and those that wanted A HIGHER PLACE, TO CROWD OUT CHRIST JESUS, were cast out of heaven because they would not repent and accept the rule of God; and they may be listening to me today. {Ms84-1910} 

In another place she states that "Ambition for the highest position excluded Satan from heaven..." {Ms33-1891}, and it is clear from the earlier quote that this cannot be referring to Christ's position. 

However, the initial JEALOUSY of Lucifer was not a jealousy against the highest position, but jealousy of the One Who was EQUAL to the Highest position. However, this jealousy led to another logical step. If Christ's position was one that was appointed to Him, then the next step of opposition would be to God Himself. We see this in the following quote:

“Before the fall of Lucifer, he aspired for THE SUPREMACY THAT HAD BEEN GIVEN TO CHRIST, who was one with the Father in the government of heaven. There was war in heaven, and Satan and all the rebellious angels he had deceived were overcome. Those who had OPPOSED THE WILL OF GOD IN APPOINTING CHRIST AS CHIEF RULER were cast out of the heavenly courts, and since that time they have been warring against the Most High" (Lt 24, 1910).

At some point in the future, I might post a large compilation I have been working on which details the steps of Lucifer's fall and the issues involved. Before moving to the next point in my Part 2 post, I want to give the answers to your challenge:

Question 1: What position and authority did Lucifer want in heaven, the HIGHEST possible position and authority, or the SECOND highest position and authority?

Answer? Initially, Lucifer wanted the position of Christ and because Christ's position was conferred/appointed/given to Him, Lucifer next sought to overthrow the government of God Himself. 

Question 2: Who did Lucifer want to be "equal to" in heaven? Who was he envious of?

Answer? Again, Lucifer was jealous of Michael - "Who is like God?" - and wanted to also be "like the Most High". Like Christ was already "equal" to God, Lucifer wanted the same equality. His envy wasn't JUST of Christ, but of the RELATIONSHIP that Christ had with the Father, thus the envy naturally extended to God.

Question 3: Who therefore had the highest possible position and authority in heaven?

Answer? The "highest position" was "above the only begotten Son of God" and logically belongs to the One Who appointed/conferred/gave the Son of God His position.

Question 4: Can anyone be higher than the highest possible position or authority in heaven?

Answer? No. Please see what I have to share in the next post about different forms of equality. 

Part 2 - Not Every "Equal" is Equal

Pastor M, I want to move on to the false dichotomies you have presented. If I could boil down what seems to be the biggest issue you have with Christ being begotten, it seems that it revolves around the fact that Christ is said to be "equal" with God. 

Before Eve was "brought forth" out of Adam, she was equal with him in one sense as a part of his very being. After she was "brought forth" she became "equal" with him as an "ezer kenegdo". This term is central to the issue of both pre-sin human organisation and by extention as a reflector of the divine order as part of the Imago Dei. 

Ezer means "to help" or "to aid". It is used twice in Genesis referring to woman's relation to man (specifically Eve to Adam), twice to the help that God's enemies receive and the rest of the time to God as the helper of His people often as a warrior in battle with terms like "shield". Neged, from which comes the word kenegdo, means "before", "in front of", "opposite", "against", "corresponding to". The prefix "ke" means "like". Together, the sense of this composite term, ezer kenegdo means "an equal counterpart that helps, aids, protects, supports". So not only was Eve equal IN NATURE/SUBSTANCE, Eve was Adam's "equal counterpart" even though there had been a priority of existence of one to the other. As you can see, "equal" does not mean that one cannot have priority of existence to another. Eve was equal in the fact that her substance was once part of Adam's. Ellen White said that from Adam's perspective "She was A PART OF HIMSELF" (PP 56). Remember these words. 

Genesis actually calls Eve "Adam". The word "Adam" is used of both an individual - the first man - and humanity as a whole. For example, throughout Genesis 2, Adam clearly refers to the individual from whom Eve was taken as a distinct individual. Genesis 1:26-27 indicates that "Adam" was both a "him" and a "them". Genesis 5:2 says that God "called THEIR name Adam" referring to both Adam and Eve. This is important because it gives us a picture for how to understand a few statements of Scripture and Inspiration. 

John 1:1 says that "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God." The absence of the article the last clause "theos en ho logos" indicates quality. One translation reads "the Word was as to His essence God" (ALT), "the Word was fully God" (NET), "the Word was as to His essence absolute deity" (Wuest), "what God was, the Word was" (NEB). The way I explain it is this. There are two ways of using the word "Theos" as demonstrated in this verse:

1. Quantitative - The word "Theos" or "God" can refer to a quantitative individual. This is the vast majority usage of the word "Theos" in the New Testament or of the word "God" in Inspiration. 

2. Qualitative - The word "Theos" or "God" can refer qualitatively to another who shares all the qualities of (or in other cases dimly reflect some of the qualities or usurp the prerogatives of) the Quantitative Theos or God. 

Probably 98+% of the time, "Theos" in the New Testament naturally refers to God the Father. Perhaps in another post I will go through all the extraordinary "qualitative" references. The ones which refer to Christ, probably 1.5% (a few refer to humans or false deities) share some patterns. For example, they are almost entirely QUALIFIED references. For example, in Hebrews 1:8, it is often pointed out that God the Father calls Christ "God". However, if we read one verse onward the Father continues quoting from the same Psalm where the Father clearly calls Himself the "God" of Christ. This same pattern can be seen in John 20 wherein it is often pointed out that Thomas calls Christ "My Lord and my God". However a few verses earlier, Jesus had just told Mary that He had yet to ascend to "My Father and your Father... My God and your God", thus declaring that the Father was His Own God. 

Jesus is qualitatively "God" to us while the Father is the Quantitative "Only True God" (John 17:3). The Father and Son are listed respectively in 1 John 5:20 as "the True God" (Father) "and Eternal Life" (Christ). Now, let us test this quantitative-qualitative understanding throughout some statements of Inspiration. 

"The Lord Jesus Christ, the only begotten Son of the Father, is truly God in infinity, but not in personality." (Ms 116, 1905) 

Here we see that Christ IS God in one sense "in infinity", thus embracing the infinite qualities of God, "BUT NOT" in another sense - in the quantitive sense of God's individual personality. At the very least, it must be admitted that this quote says that there is one sense in which Christ IS "truly God" and another sense in which He is NOT "truly God". Yet in another place, Ellen White says:

"Christ was God essentially, and in the highest sense. He was with God from all eternity, God over all, blessed forevermore." (RH, April 5, 1906) 

Ellen White says that Christ "was God essentially, and in the highest sense", yet we have just read that there is a sense ("in personality") in which Christ was "not" "truly God". Thus this "highest sense" must refer to the essential QUALITIES of being "God in infinity" rather than the QUANTITY of being "God... in personality". 

Let's come back to that phrase that I asked you to keep in mind "a part of himself". Eve was "a part of himself" referring to Adam. Now look at what we read about Christ:

"Who can anticipate the gifts of infinite Love. 'God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth on him should not perish, but have everlasting life.' God’s love for the world was not manifest because He sent His Son, but because He loved the world He sent His Son into the world that divinity clothed with humanity might touch humanity, while divinity lay hold of infinity. Though sin had produced a gulf between man and his God, divine benevolence provided a plan to bridge that gulf. And WHAT MATERIAL DID HE USE? A PART OF HIMSELF. The brightness of the Father’s glory came to a world all seared and marred with the curse, and in His own divine character, in His own divine body, bridged the gulf and opened a channel of communication between God and man. The windows of heaven were opened, and the showers of heavenly grace in healing streams came to our benighted world. O what love, what matchless, inexpressible love!" (Lt 36a, 1890)

So just like Eve was distinct from Adam and yet also qualitatively "essentially Adam in the highest sense", so Christ is distinct from God and yet qualitatively "essentially God in the highest sense". Just as Eve was "a part of" Adam, the "material" of Christ was "a part of" God. 

So what about the phrases such as "made equal", or "given an exalted position" and the like?

Well, my friend, I see that Christ's BIRTH and His INSTALLATION are simultaneous as Proverbs 8 indicates. Eve was brought forth instantaneously as the equal with Adam. Eve wasn't "made equal" at a separate event to her being brought forth out of Adam. The INTENT in God bringing her out of Adam's body was so that her very existence would be one of equality - ezer kenegdo - with Adam. In the same way, Christ being "made equal" would have been a default consequence of His being begotten. 

Even today, when humans give birth we often use the expression that the parents "made" the child and that they "gave life to" the child through the process of either conception, fertilisation, gestation or birth. The difference is that children are dependent upon the parent. Eve was not dependent upon Adam once she was brought forth. She came forth fully mature. So Christ would have come forth as omniscient and omnipotent. Like Eve, He was "made equal" in position by virtue of His coming into existence from the very substance of God. Ellen White says that Christ and the Father were "of one substance, possessing the same attributes" (ST, November 27, 1893).

Pastor M, you twist yourself in knots over your supposed dilemmas you throw up. Did Eve exist before she was brought forth? The answer is yes and no. Eve's SUBSTANCE existed in Adam, but she herself did not exist as a distinct personality. Did Christ exist before He was begotten? yes and no. Christ's SUBSTANCE existed in God, yet He did not exist as a distinct personality. You throw up as impossible the idea that God could in any way beget another qualitative God-being, yet by saying this you are limiting God. God is omnipotent, He can beget another qualitative God-being if He wants. 

Your dilemmas exist only because you (and I say respectfully here) do not know the Scriptures nor the power of God. In Scripture, a person is frequently spoken of as existing BEFORE they have independent individuality by virtue of their progenitor. For example, Romans 5:12 tells us that "all sinned" in the "one man" - Adam and 1 Corinthians 15:22 says that "in Adam all die". Again, Hebrews 7:9 speaks of Levi paying tithes to Melchizedek "in the loins" of Abraham. Thus Christ can be said to exist because His SUBSTANCE existed eternally in His progenitor - God. 

We could spend a long time going over every single quotation you present and showing that there are other ways of looking at these. Perhaps we shall at some point. However, I would prefer to take up the discussion in private either through Skype or Facetime or some other such immediate communication. These exchanges are cumbersome and it is well that both you and I have wives who encourage us to spend time away from digital debating. I would welcome a personal exchange with you. I have only posted these two missives because it was requested of me for the edification of others. I would prefer to continue any further discussion with you more directly as I feel such an hermeneutic kinship with you as a Drashic preacher and text-based dialogue leaves so much of the humanity and emotion out of these exchanges. 

Pastor M's Response

I am responding to you because you respond to my quiz. Thank you for your response. It was also good connecting with you in Australia. Ok, Let me share with you a few thoughts regarding it.

First, you are correct: There is one throne in the Most Holy, and the Father sits on that throne.

You mentioned that the Ark of the Covenant had one throne, while the table on the northern side of the Sanctuary had two. Presumably, the argument is that the Ark of the Covenant or the Mercy seat is where the Father sat, and that this is the highest place. I actually agree that this throne represents the Highest place.

For example, you wrote: “If you're already in heaven (as represented by the star Venus), then to go higher would to go into the superlative "heaven of heavens" and if you're already a worshipper in the Holy Place, you would be seeking to go to the superlative holy of holies where there is only one crown. The ultimate ambition of Helel ben-Shakhar was to become "like the Most High" - a position already held by someone else - Christ - and which was an usurpation not simply of Christ, but of the One Christ was "like".”

In this, you are correct. Ellen White tells us:

“It was shadowed by the wings of the golden cherubim, and the unspeakable glory of the Shekinah, the visible symbol of the most high God, had rested over it in the holy of holies. { PP 584.1}

God had borne long with his erring people. In visible glory he had dwelt in the Shekinah of the mercy-seat. HE had sent his Son to redeem them, but in a short time they were to show to the heavenly universe, to the worlds unfallen, that they had chosen Satan to be their leader, and were determined to cherish his attributes. { YI May 11, 1899, par. 2 }

The above quotes do prove what you said, that the Father is the MOST HIGH God, since he sits on the throne above the Ark, which has only one crown.

However, equally important is the following:

Christ was their instructor. As He had been with them in the wilderness, so He was still to be their teacher and guide. In the tabernacle and the temple HIS GLORY dwelt in the holy shekinah ABOVE the mercy seat. { COL 288.1}

The holy Shekinah, in departing from the first temple, had stood upon the eastern mountain, as if loath to forsake the chosen city; SO CHRIST stood upon Olivet, with yearning heart overlooking Jerusalem. { DA 829.2}

Christ Himself was the Lord of the temple. When He should leave it, its glory would depart—that glory once visible in the holy of holies OVER THE MERCY SEAT, where the high priest entered only once a year, on the great day of atonement, with the blood of the slain victim (typical of the blood of the Son of God shed for the sins of the world), and sprinkled it upon the altar. THIS WAS THE SHEKINAH, the visible pavilion of Jehovah. { 4BC 1139.5 } 
It was this glory that was revealed to Isaiah, when he says, “In the year that king Uzziah died I saw also the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up, and his train filled the temple” [Isaiah 6:1-8 quoted] (Manuscript 71, 1897). { 4BC 1139.6 }

The Son of God shared the Father’s throne, and the glory of the eternal, self-existent One ENCIRCLED BOTH. { EP 10.5 }

The above quotes show that Christ sat on the mercy seat, the one throne in the “most highest” positon possible. 

This is not just supposition. He is the MOST HIGH.

“The Lord worked with power to bring the mightiest king on the earth to acknowledge Him as King over all kings. He moved upon the mind of the proud king until Nebuchadnezzar acknowledged Him as “the most high God,” “whose dominion is an everlasting dominion, and His kingdom is from generation to generation.”—Letter 132, 1901. { Ev 88.1}

Here we see the “King over all kings” was acknowledged as the “most high” God. Who is that? Whose dominion is an everlasting dominion? See Daniel 7:13. And this too:

“He whose kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, whose dominion endureth throughout all generations, made himself to be sin for us that he might lift up all that are bowed down, and give life to those who are ready to perish. { ST January 20, 1890, par. 8 }

“Adam was to reign subject to CHRIST. When Adam betrayed his sovereignty into Satan’s hands, Christ still remained the RIGHTFUL KING. Thus the Lord had said to King Nebuchadnezzar, “The MOST HIGH RULETH in the kingdom of men, and giveth it to whomsoever He will.” Daniel 4:17. Satan can exercise his usurped authority only as God permits. { DA 129.4}

The RIGHTFUL KING is the same as the MOST HIGH who ruleth in the kingdom of men. 

So, if the Most High sits on the throne, and Christ was the Shekinah Glory, what does this tell us about the position of Christ? Is it not the highest possible position in the Most Holy place?

The above quotes places Christ as well as the Father on the throne above the Ark. Meaning the two shared ONE THRONE which occupied the HIGHEST place. If we were to rephrase this, THEY are the MOST HIGH, Michael is equal to the Father. 

You also stated that Satan wanted a position “above” Christ. You are presumably seeking to establish that Christ was second highest and then God himself the highest. We’ve just seen that both Father and Son occupied the place and title of MOST HIGH. 

But consider this as well.
The pope has changed the day of rest from the seventh to the first day. He has thought to change the very commandment that was given to cause man to remember his Creator. He has thought to change the greatest commandment in the Decalogue and thus make himself equal with God, or even exalt himself above God. The Lord is unchangeable, therefore His law is immutable; but the pope has exalted himself above God, in seeking to change His immutable precepts of holiness, justice, and goodness. { EW 65.1}

So I would ask, if there is a position higher than God, does that mean that someone exists that is higher than the Heavenly Father? Of course not. It just means that whoever is seeking that position wants God to submit to their desires, making them first and highest. So when Lucifer wanted to be above Christ, this is not indicating that there was someone he wanted to be equal with, any more than the Pope exalting himself “above God” means that there is someone in existence above our Heavenly Father that he wants to be equal with.

So let’s go through that quiz again. Here is how I see it.

Question 1: What position and authority did Lucifer want in heaven, the HIGHEST possible position and authority, or the SECOND highest position and authority?
Answer? He wanted the highest position. The Bible nor SOP indicate an initial desire, to be followed by a greater desire. 

Question 2: Who did Lucifer want to be "equal to" in heaven? Who was he envious of?

Answer? He wanted to be LIKE THE MOST HIGH. Jesus was the Most High. So was the Father. They are equally the most High, equal to each other. In wanting the position of he Most High he was seeking the highest possible position.

Question 3: Who therefore had the highest possible position and authority in heaven?
Answer? Christ is the Most High. The Father is the Most High.

Question 4: Can anyone be higher than the highest possible position or authority in heaven?
Answer? No.