"Omnipresence"/ "Abiding In"/ "See Me: See Father"
God is a spirit person (see New Bible Dictionary - p. 427), which means that he does not have a material body, but a spiritual one: We read, "If there is a physical body, there is also a spiritual one" (1 Cor. 15:44; John 4:24). God, being an individual, a person with a spirit body, has a place where he resides, and so he could not be bodily present at any other place at the same time. Thus we read at 1 Kings 8:43 that the heavens are God's "dwelling place" - KJV. Also we see at Hebrews 9:24 that "Christ has entered ... into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God on our behalf." - RSV.
Moreover, the disciple Stephen and the Apostle John had visions of heaven in which they saw both God and Jesus. So God must be as much a person, an individual, as Jesus Christ is (Acts 7:56; Rev. 5:1, 9).
Those Christians who will live in heaven are assured that they will see God and also be like him, showing that Jehovah is truly a person and has a body as well as a certain location. - 1 John 3:2.
Some may have been confused due to the fact that God is all-seeing; also his power can be felt everywhere (2 Chron. 16:9). An illustration of this might be the comparison of an electric power plant to God. It has a certain location on a certain street in a certain city. But its power can be distributed out over the entire city, providing light, power, communications, etc. And so it is with God. He has a certain location in heaven, but his active force, his holy spirit, furnishes enlightenment, and its force can be felt throughout the entire universe so that God can perfectly "see" any particle of his universe and powerfully act (through that spirit force) anywhere in that universe.
Although the Bible repeatedly warns that God's worshipers are not to presume to make any likeness of him, it does use human characteristics in describing God. Thus the Bible speaks of God's face, eyes, ears, nostrils, mouth, arms, and feet. Of course, such descriptive figurative language does not mean that his spirit body actually has the same kind of members as fleshly human bodies have. But such expressions are helpful to us, inasmuch as Jehovah God becomes more real to us.
Some trinitarians attempt to prove that Jesus shares with the Father an "untransferrable quality of God" known as "omnipresence." But the scriptures they cite (such as John 6:56 and 14:23) do not indicate omnipresence for either God or Jesus. Certainly the most likely meaning for Jesus' "dwelling" or "abiding in" (or with) people is that they have accepted his sacrifice for them and do their utmost to live in harmony (in union) with Jesus' example and teachings! It shows a union of agreement in purpose and will. Jesus' will has become their very own.
It is the same concept as used for all those who "walked with God" or who were "with God" or who could say "God is with us" (analyze Phil. 4:9). It did not mean they were literally in the personal physical presence of God but that they were sincerely trying to follow, or be in union with, God's purposes and commandments, thereby pleasing him well or being "with" him. - Gen. 5:22; 6:9; Lev. 26:3, 21; 1 Kings 11:33; Malachi 2:6.
We need to understand exactly what "omnipresence" means. It is not a word found in the Scriptures nor a concept explained or used there. It is a concept developed and explained by philosophers:
"Omnipresence - property (of deity) of being in all places and things .... Omnipresence is opposed, not only to total, but also to partial, absence, or localization - action upon this thing and not upon that" - p. 546, An Encyclopedia of Religion, Ferm (ed.), 1945.
In other words, an omnipresent God could not be "in" one thing and not "in" another! Or "with" one and not "with" another. nor can an omnipresent God be said to be in any one specific location (e.g., "in heaven") - see Ps. 33:13, 14; 115:3.
Therefore, you must not (if you are really saying God is omnipresent) say that God was with David, but not with Saul (1 Sam. 18:12). Obviously, having God "with" you does not indicate Omnipresence!
The scriptures often cited (John 6:56; 14:23) show persons accepting Jesus' sacrifice and living in harmony with his teachings and example - "He that eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, dwelleth in me, and I in him." (John 6:56) If you should insist on taking the last half of that scripture literally, then you would be equally justified in taking the first half absolutely literally!
If Jesus were omnipresent, as some say, he would already be in everyone and everything. He would literally be in the most blasphemous of unrepentant sinners. Instead, this scripture shows he is only "in" certain ones who truly accept his ransom sacrifice and act accordingly. (You cannot truly accept his sacrifice and then fail to act accordingly.)
Notice how harmony in purpose (not Omnipresence) is obviously meant here: not only is Jesus "in" these people, but they are "IN" HIM! The will and purpose of the one becomes the will and purpose of the other (see John 10:30 study paper - ONE), in perfect harmony, but those Christians are not showing their "Omnipresence" by being "IN" Jesus anymore than Jesus is showing "omnipresence" by being "in" them! They are "keeping his words" and are therefore "in" (in harmony with) him and his Father - John 14:23, 24. Those who are not "keeping his words" are not in harmony or union and therefore are not "in" him, and he is not "in" them. (This is certainly not Omnipresence!) Compare the "whole world" being "in" Satan - 1 John 5:19. The NIV interprets this as "the whole world is under the control of the evil one." ("in the power of the evil one" - RSV, AT, NASB, CBW, cf. MLB, LB).
Some trinitarians have shown a similar understanding of these figurative expressions when they speak of the necessity of accepting Jesus "so he can make himself at home with you" or "can come into your heart." If Jesus were really Omnipresent, he would already be in everyone's heart! But, as these trinitarians indicate, before you can truly be in harmony with him, you must accept him as Savior and Christ and be obedient to him and his God. Then, and only then, can he be "in" you, and you can be "in" him—this is certainly not omnipresence, but obvious figurative language! (Surely no one would ever insist on taking Phil. 1:7 literally where Paul says he has all the Christian brothers of Philippi "in my heart"!)
Notice how clearly a figurative meaning is intended at John 17:20-23: "(20) Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word; (21) that they may all be one [all those who believe the words of the Apostles concerning Jesus]; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us ... (22) And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one: (23) I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one." - KJV.
IF Jesus must be equally God, then we see Jesus in this scripture telling us that men are also to be equally God. And if Jesus is omnipresent because he is "in" others, then clearly Jesus is telling us here that real Christians are also to be Omnipresent! But trinitarians say omnipresence is an untransferrable quality of God alone! (Isn't it much better to admit the clear, figurative meaning of "in" and "abiding with," etc.?) - cf. Jn 17:20-23 AT, CBW.
Clearly Jesus is speaking of being "one" as being "in harmony with" just as his being "in" the Father (and Christians being "in" Jesus and "in" the Father) shows a complete harmony of purpose, not some mysterious non-scriptural "omnipresence"! If Christ were truly "omnipresent" and literally "dwells in us" and "in" everything, what are such scriptures as 2 Cor. 5:6-9 trying to tell us?
It might be profitable to consider why God deals with men through angels, prophets, etc. It would certainly be easier, faster, clearer, and more certain (if God were truly physically present in all things) to just speak directly and cut out the "middle men." Why, for example, take the time and bother to send an angel all the way to earth to appear in a burning bush to speak to Moses on behalf of God?
If God were omnipresent, he would have spoken directly from the burning bush himself! Or, even more likely, (if God were truly Omnipresent) He would have spoken out right in Moses' brain! ("Moses, this is Jehovah God speaking. To prove it is I, watch that bush burst into flames and continue to burn as long as I speak to you. Here's what I want you to do ....")
And why would Jesus (the only person who had been a man and who had also literally been in the physical presence of God - John 1:18; 1 John 4:12) have to declare the only true God (or "explain him" - NASB; "Make him known" - NEB, RSV, JB) - Jn 1:18? If God were omnipresent, he certainly wouldn't have to send another person from his physical presence in heaven to declare or make himself known. And why would Jesus bother to speak to John through an angel to send essential information to fellow Christians if he were also Omnipresent? - Rev. 1:1-3.
"Seen Me: Seen Father" - Jn 14:7-9
Now that we have a better understanding of what Bible writers intended by "abiding in" and someone or something being "in" someone else, we are ready to look at John 14:7-9.
John 14:1 - "believe in God, believe also in me." 14:7 - "If ye had known me, ye would have known my Father also: from henceforth ye know him, and have seen him. (:8) Philip saith unto him, Lord, show us the Father, and it sufficeth us. (:9) Jesus saith unto him, Have I been so long time with you, and dost thou not know me, Philip? He that hath seen me hath seen the Father; how sayest thou, Show us the Father? (:10) Believest thou not that I am in the Father, and the Father in me? the words that I say unto you I speak not from myself: but the Father abiding in me doeth his works." - ASV.
We can understand what Jesus actually intended when he said "I am in the Father and the Father is in me" and "the Father is abiding in me." And it is not very difficult to understand his saying, "If you had known me, you would have known my Father" since Jesus is in perfect harmony with the Father's will and purpose (i.e. "one," "in," etc.). But what about "he that has seen me has seen the Father"?
First, let's examine the relationship between "abiding in," "knowing," and "seeing" (horao in NT Greek) as commonly used figuratively in the Bible. 1 John 2:3, 5, 6 - "by this we know that we have come to know Him, if we keep His commandments .... By this we know that we are in Him: the one who says he abides in Him ought himself to walk in the same manner He walked [your purpose, actions words, and life must reflect his example]." - NASB. And 1 John 3:29, "he that keeps His [God's] commandments abides in Him, and He in him." - NASB. These scriptures show, again, the intended meaning for the figurative use of "abides."
Now notice the relationship between "know" and "see": 3 John 11 - "the one who does good is of God; the one who does evil has not seen [horao] God." And 1 John 3:6 - "No one who abides in Him sins; no one who sins has seen [horao] Him or knows Him." - NASB.
We can see, then, that horao ("see") can mean the same thing as "abiding in" or "knowing," and all three may have the figurative meaning of agreement in purpose and will with someone else.
The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, vol. 4, p. 380, tells us:
"What is seen in a vision is a revelation from God. Statements that human beings have seen or will see God Himself do not refer to a perception of a physical aspect of God by human physical senses but a process of coming to some amount of understanding of God, often just a simple realization of His greatness or some other aspect of His nature, either by a revelatory vision (Isa. 6:15; Ezk. 1:26-28), … or by their acquaintance with Jesus Christ (Jn 14:9, cf. 1:18)." – Eerdmans, 1991.
The New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology, Vol. 3, 1986 printing, Zondervan, pp. 513, 515, 518, explains the meanings of horao.
"Horao" means "... become aware (Gen. 37:1). (b) figuratively it comes to be used of intellectual or spiritual perception .... It also means ... attend to, know or have experienced (Deut. 11:2), or be concerned about something (Gen. 37:14; Is. 5:12)." - p. 513. - - "Besides the general meaning of to know, horao and its derivatives can mean to obtain knowledge". - p. 515.
This trinitarian reference also states:
"For the NT God is utterly invisible (Jn 6:46; 1 Tim. 1:17; 6:16; Col. 1:15) ... yet the resurrection narratives especially stress that the risen Christ is visible." - p. 518.
Professor Joseph H. Thayer (who was "the dean of New Testament scholars in America" - Dictionary of American Biography, Vol. IX) in his Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament ("a standard in the field") also defines horao with similar meanings and specifically tells us that John 14:7, 9 is in the category of "2. to see with the mind, to perceive, to KNOW."
In discussing this meaning of "horao," Thayer writes:
"to know God's will, 3 John 11; from the intercourse and influence of Christ to have come to see (know) God's majesty, saving purposes, and WILL, Jn. xiv. 7, 9". - p. 451, Baker Book House, 1984 printing.
We can understand, then, why the very trinitarian The NIV Study Bible, 1985, Zondervan, explains John 14:7 this way:
"Once more Jesus stresses the intimate connection between the Father and himself. Jesus brought a full revelation of the Father (cf. 1:18), so that the apostles had real knowledge of him." - footnote for John 14:7.
Trinitarian minister and acclaimed New Testament scholar, Dr. William Barclay, also comments on John 14:7-9:
"The Jews [including Jesus, of course, and those to whom he spoke] would count it as an article of faith that no man had seen God at any time .... To see Jesus is to see what God is like." - p. 159. "`He who has seen me has seen the Father,' Jesus is the revelation of God." - p. 161.
"The danger of the Christian faith is that we may set up Jesus as a kind of secondary God. But Jesus himself insists that the things he said and the things he did did not come from his own initiative or his own power or his own knowledge but from God. His words were God's voice speaking to men; His deeds were God's power flowing through him to men. He was the channel by which God came to men." - The Daily Study Bible Series: The Gospel of John, pp. 159, 161, 162, Vol. 2, The Westminster Press, 1975.
So there is no real reason to insist that John 14:7, 9 shows Jesus as being equally God with his Father. The probability is that, in harmony with the usage of the time, Jesus was merely saying that what he spoke came from God, and what he did is what God directed. He meant that understanding what he did and said was like knowing ("seeing") God* (as, in a similar sense, those who literally saw angels sent by God and speaking God's words were said to have "seen God" - see the SF study paper). Jesus is totally in harmony with ("one" with) the Father in purpose (see the ONE study paper) so that we can "see" the Father's will in Jesus.
As in all other "Jesus is equally God" evidence, we find that the trinitarian "proof" is a scripture that can honestly be translated or interpreted in at least one other way which would prove no such thing!
We never find a statement clearly stating that "Jesus is equally and fully God" in the entire Bible. And yet other such essential knowledge that leads to eternal life is clearly and repeatedly emphasized: "Jesus is the Christ [Messiah]," "our savior and king" - the one who appears before God in heaven in our behalf, the one through whom we must approach God. Surely this most important information in the Bible of exactly who God is and exactly who Jesus is would not be hidden from us in the slightest degree!
Note:Although Watchtower Society (WTS) research and scholarship is usually at least the equal of (and often superior to) that of other sources, I have tried to rely most heavily on other sources in Christendom itself (preferably trinitarian) or my own independent research to provide evidence disproving the trinitarian `proof' being examined in this paper. The reason is, of course, that this paper is meant to provide evidence needed by non-Witnesses, and many of them will not accept anything written by the WTS. They truly believe it is false, even dishonest. Therefore some of the information presented in this study paper, all of which helps disprove specific trinitarian "proofs," may be in disagreement with current WTS teachings in some specifics (especially when I have presented a number of alternates). Jehovah's Witnesses should research the most recent WTS literature on the subject or scripture in question before using this information with others. – RDB.
Origen, the greatest and most knowledgeable scholar of the NT Greek explained John 14:9:
"But ... God is invisible .... Whereas, on the contrary, God, the Father of Christ, is said to be seen, because `he who sees the Son,' he says, `sees also the Father.' This certainly would press us hard [to explain], were the expression not understood by us more correctly of understanding, and not of seeing. For he who has understood the Son will understand the Father also." - p. 277, vol. iv, The Ante-Nicene Fathers, Eerdmans Publishing.