How Can Jesus, the Son,
Be the ‘Everlasting Father’

James Kinnebrew
James Kinnebrew

James is a Theology professor at Luther Rice College. He earned a B.S., M.Div. from Liberty University and his Ph.D. at Mid-America Baptist Theological Seminary.

Jesus Saves

Since it is the responsibility of government leaders to be ministers of God for good, it is not unfitting to see them as “fathers,” but only Jesus can perfectly fill that position and do so everlastingly.

Research for a recently published article on the trinitarian view of Jesus led to some familiar but perplexing texts that might be used to support a modalistic view of God in opposition to the historic trinitarian orthodoxy. [1] For instance, why, if Jesus is a separate person from God the Father, does Isaiah call Him “everlasting father” (9.6)?

Further, if Jesus and the Holy Spirit are two different personages, why is the latter called “the Spirit of Jesus,” (Acts 16.7) “the Spirit of Jesus Christ,” (Phil 1.19) and “the Spirit of Christ?” (1 Peter 1.11) Why must He be identified with Jesus if He is, indeed, a different person?

Do these names make the “Oneness” case? Do they prove that the Father equals the Son equals the Holy Spirit and that all three of these are mere “modes of being” employed by the singular person of God?

Is the Son the Father?

Initially, it may seem that the above question must be answered in the affirmative.  Clearly, Isaiah was talking about the Messiah who would arrive some seven centuries later. Jesus is the virgin-born “child” Who was “born” (Is 7.14, cf. Matt 1.23-25); He is the “Son” Who was “given” (John 3.16). He is the “Wonderful Counselor” (Matt 11.28-30). [2] He is “the Mighty God” (Rev 1.8) and the “Prince of Peace” (Rom 5.1). Then He must also be “the everlasting father;” but doesn’t that disprove the triunity of God?

The first observation to be made is that the doctrine of the Trinity is distinctly a New Testament revelation.  Although the God of the OT is a triune God, that aspect of His nature is not clearly seen until after the work of redemption was accomplished. Until the Father sent the Son, and the Son sent the Spirit, it was not important (or even possible) for believers to understand the triunity of God. It was more important for Israel to comprehend the unity of God and to know that He alone was God amidst all the pagan “gods” to which they were constantly seduced.

In this regard, the OT has been likened to a dark room filled with all the same furnishings that are seen in the NT; but with the lights turned off, only the shadows of the contents could be seen. It was not until after the work of redemption was accomplished by Christ and applied by the Spirit, that the triune nature of God became apparent. [3] So Isaiah’s use of the terms “Son” and “Father” should not be vested with NT trinitarian significance. That was not Isaiah’s concern.

Second, we should ask “if the Trinity was not in Isaiah’s mind, what was?” A survey of the context reveals that the prophet was very much concerned with the promised Messianic Kingdom. Although he begins his prophecy calling for the cosmos to witness against Israel’s sin (1.2-4), the chapters that follow are a poignant mix of judgment and joy: judgment because of the nation’s rebellion (1.20-31), and joy because of their coming redemption and the reign of Messiah the King (2.1-5, 11.1-10, etc.).

The “Everlasting Father” to which Isaiah 9.6 refers is the Messianic King – Jesus at His second coming. On His throne in Zion, He will be a “Wonderful Counselor” – He will not need “handlers,” “spin doctors,” or other advisors to guide His policy. He is, after all, the Mighty God – no enemy, foreign or domestic, will be able to dethrone Him.  Because of this, there will be peace in all the world – a circumstance that can only come to pass when the “Prince of Peace” takes over the globe.

So “Everlasting Father” refers to the kingly role of Christ in providing, protecting, guiding, and doing all the other “fatherly” things that earthly rulers should strive to do.  Even the good kings of Isaiah’s day performed these functions imperfectly, and then they died.  The evil kings of Israel, and evil Ahaz in Judah, never even tried to be a “father” to their people; but Jesus will be – and He will never die. He is the “Everlasting Father” for Whom Israel and the nations of the world have long been waiting. When the whole prophecy is read in context, the Eternal Kingdom intent is clear:

“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on His shoulders. And He will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the greatness of His government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. The zeal of the LORD Almighty will accomplish this” (Is 9.6-7).

CONCLUSION

It is, perhaps, anachronistic; but it may not be totally irrelevant to remind ourselves that other leaders have been given the title “father.”  Washington was dubbed the “father of our country.” He led in America’s fight for independence, and it is doubtful that we would have achieved it without him. He refused to be king and set us on a better path than England had known. Catholics call their leader “Papa.” Since it is the responsibility of government leaders to be ministers of God for good (Romans 13), it is not unfitting to see them as “fathers,” but only Jesus can perfectly fill that position and do so “without end” (everlastingly).

 

CITATIONS

1. https://mphbooks.com/trinitarian-view-jesus-christ/
2. It seems best to keep the modifier-subject symmetry of the other names rather than to make “Wonderful” and “Counselor” two separate names as in the KJV (cf., NASB, NIV, NLT, etc.).
3. Paul gives a beautiful exposition of this in Ephesians, showing how we were selected by the Father (1.3-6), saved by the Son (1.7-12), and sealed by the Spirit (1.13-14).

 

 

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