I think one of the most powerful portions of Scripture that is used by some folks in an effort to prove that Jesus is not God is found in 1Corinthians 15. Here we are told that the Father had placed all things under the authority of Jesus. Jesus reigns as the Messiah until all things are brought into subjection to the Father, as all things were in the beginning, before the rebellion of Adam. Once Jesus does this, the Scripture claims, “…then the Son himself also will be subjected to the One who subjected all things to him, so that God may be all in all” (1Corinthians 15:28). So, what about this one-liner? Is there enough of a foundation here to support a teaching that Jesus is not God? Can God be subject to God?
First of all, there does not exist any gods other than the one God mentioned in our Bible. There are no lesser demigods running around sharing in the authority of God. The Scriptures are very clear on this point. Therefore, God is not subject to God, but does this mean Jesus is not God. No, and the Scriptures are very clear about this too. I have written four separate blogs concerning the different occasions upon which Jesus openly claimed to be God, and they can be found HERE. Nevertheless, if there are no demigods and Jesus did claim to be God, how should we understand 1Corinthians 15:28?
Throughout this series of studies, I’ve pointed to context. Understanding context is the only way we are able to clarify the difficult one-liners many folks use whether ignorantly or purposefully in an effort to show Jesus is not God. 1Corinthians compares Jesus with Adam, showing there are two creations—the physical and the spiritual. The physical will pass away, so salvation means becoming part of the spiritual creation ruled by Jesus, the second and last Adam. It is also important to see that Paul refers to Jesus through his office as Christ or Messiah. In other words, just as Adam was the first man created by God and became the ruler of the physical creation, in a similar fashion Jesus or the Messiah is the Firstborn who had been resurrected from the dead and as such is the ruler of all those who are resurrected and become part of the spiritual creation.
When we speak of the Messianic throne, what do we mean? Scripture reveals that this is the throne of David, and God had promised David that one day one of his (David’s) heirs would reign from his throne. This Heir or Son of David became known as the promised Messiah. The Messianic Throne is the highest of all human thrones and is subject only to the throne of God (Psalm 89:20-27). This is the throne from which Jesus rules as the Messiah. It is not God’s throne. It is a throne through which God has given his authority for men to rule other men. We can see this in Revelation 3:21 where Jesus tells us that, if we overcome, we will sit with him in his throne—the Messianic throne, just as he also sits upon his Father’s throne. In other words, as overcomers in the Kingdom of God, we shall rule over men and our authority will be derived from the Messianic throne.
Notice what Revelation 3:21 also says—namely, that Jesus sits also upon his Father’s throne. The Scriptures are very clear that God will never share his glory with anyone else (Isaiah 48:11). This being true, how could Jesus, as man, sit upon the Throne of God? Moreover, why would this throne be called the Throne of God and the Lamb in Revelation 22:1, 3? In both verses, this throne is in the singular, so the Messianic throne is not in view here. Jesus will rule in eternity from the throne of God. As far as 1Corinthians 15:28 is concerned, the text refers to the Messianic throne. The Son will become subject to the authority of God. The context points to the Son’s authority as vested in the Messianic throne. All this means is the authority of the Messiah would no longer exist. Jesus will still rule, but as God, not the Messiah. Men will no longer need to have authority over one another, because God will be all and in all—God will rule man as man rules the creation of God—just as it was in the beginning.