Theologians have argued whether God is a singular Oneness or a plurality for hundreds of years. For the ordinary individual, their sophisticated explanations are nearly impossible to decipher. Here, the question (and answer) is stated in terms we can all understand. All it takes is a little effort in looking up the scripture references he gives.
In my opinion, this article by David Bernard is one of the very best on the Godhead anywhere. I like it because it gets to the bottom line. It is from an old issue of the "Pentecostal Herald," shortened a little.
Here's a hypothetical question. If you were to ask God to come in your room and visit for a while, how many chairs would you bring out? David Bernard would bring out one chair. So would I. How about you?
Pastor K. Kirkland Valdez Apostolic Church, Valdez, Alaska
Whom will we see in Heaven?
by David K. Bernard
"If God is a trinity, how many thrones are there in heaven, and whom will we see there?" asked a curious student in the religion class.
"You know, I've never thought about that. The Bible doesn't really say," replied the lecturer, an ordained denominational minister.
I could not believe my ears! An acknowledged theological expert was confessing his ignorance of a basic Bible fact about his God. I raised my hand to respond, and in my response I read John's inspired words in Revelation 4:2: "And immediately I was in the spirit: and, behold, a throne was set in heaven, and one sat on the throne."
"The Bible does give us the answer. There is only one throne in heaven, and those who go there will see only one God on the throne," I concluded.
"Well, you've offered powerful support for your position," the teacher conceded as the class period ended.
Such confusion about the God they expect to see in heaven is by no means unusual among trinitarians. Bernard Ramm, a leading evangelical theologian, side stepped the issue in his Protestant Biblical Interpretation: "Many are the questions asked about heaven... will we see the Trinity or just the Son?... where Scripture has not spoken, we are wisest to remain silent" (p. 171).
Trinitarians try to resolve the tension between the many scriptural assertions of God's absolute oneness and their affirmation of plurality in the Godhead by reciting that God is "three in one." When accused of tritheism, they indignantly insist, "Oh no! We believe in one God." When asked if Jesus is the incarnation of all the Godhead, however, they maintain that he is not, for their "one" God exists mysteriously as three distinct persons.
While the concept of "three in one" may be a convenient philosophical concept on earth, it does not provide much help in answering the question "Whom will we see in heaven?" The answer "three in one" is unsatisfactory, for how can anyone see "three in one"?
If a trinitarian answers that he will see three, then he is a tritheist - a believer in three separate and distinct Gods - despite his protestations to the contrary. If there is a trinity of persons with separate bodies, each of whom can interact with us individually, then they are not one God in any meaningful sense.
On the other hand, if a trinitarian answers that he will see only one God, then the next question is "Who will he be?" A study of Scripture shows that the One we will see is Jesus Christ, and once a person agrees to that proposition he has essentially adopted the Oneness position.
Revelation 4:8 describes the One on the throne as "holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty, which was, and is, and is to come." This Lord is our Lord Jesus Christ, for Revelation 1 describes Jesus in identical terms: "Behold, he cometh with clouds; and every eye shall see him, and they also which pierced him: and all kindreds of the earth shall wail because of him. Even so, Amen, I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the ending, saith the Lord, which is, and which was, and which is to come, the Almighty... I am Alpha and Omega, the first and the last... I am the first and the last: I am he that liveth, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive for evermore" (Revelation 1:7-8, 11, 17-18).
As evidence of two separate divine persons in heaven, trinitarians often point to Revelation 5, which describes the One on the throne and the Lamb. "The Lion of the tribe of Juda" appeared to John as a Lamb and this lamb took a book from the right hand of the One on the throne. This vision is clearly symbolic; no one expects to see a literal lion or lamb in heaven. John's vision of the Lamb was a symbolic depiction of the Incarnation and the Atonement. The Lamb represented to the Son of God, particularly His sacrificial role (John 1:29). The Lamb was not a second divine person but simply the humanity of Jesus, for the Lamb was slain, and only humanity - not deity -can die.
The Pulpit Commentary, although written by trinitarians, concedes this point. It identifies the One on the throne as the Triune God, and it identifies the Lamb as Christ in his human capacity only (vol. 22, pp. 162, 165). Thus it does not interpret this vision of the Lamb to mean a separate divine person.
The Lamb had "seven eyes, which are the seven Spirits of God," (5:6). Seven is the number of perfection and completion, so the seven eyes represent the fulness of the Holy Spirit. Thus the Holy Spirit is not a third person, separate from the Lamb, but is the Spirit dwelling in the Lamb that he "sent forth into all the earth" (Revelation 5:6).
The passage reveals that the Lamb was not a separate person from the One on the throne; but that the Lamb actually came out of the throne. "And I heheld, and, lo, in the midst of the throne, and of the four beasts, and in the midst of the elders, stood a Lamb" (Revelation 5:6). Some translations by trinitarians say merely that the Lamb was in front of the throne, but the lexicon of Bauer, Arndt, and Gingrich, the most widely used and respected dictionary of New Testament Greek, says the Lamb stood "on the center of the throne and among the four living creatures" (p. 507)...
Revelation 7:17 describes the Lamb as sitting on the throne: "the Lamb which is in the midst of the throne" ... A beautiful truth emerges: the one God who sits on the throne became the Lamb. Our Creator became our Savior. Our Father is our Redeemer (Isaiah 63:16). God did not demonstrate his great love for us by sending someone else; instead, He came Himself and he gave of himself. "To wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself" ( 2 Corinthians 5:19).
The Lamb is the one God incarnate, not the incarnation of a second person in the Godhead. Revelation 21:22 says that "the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are the temple" of the New Jerusalem. In the Greek, the verb is singular, literally saying, "the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb is the temple." Revelation 22:3-4 speaks of "the throne (singular) of God and of the Lamb." It clearly refers to one throne and one being, not one throne and two beings, and not two thrones, for it uses a singular pronoun for God and the Lamb: "And his servants shall serve him: and they shall see his face; and his name shall be in their foreheads."
Who is this One called both God and the Lamb? Only one being is both sovereign and sacrifice, both deity and humanity - Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God at any time except by manifestation or incarnation (1 John 4:12), so what face will we see? The face of Jesus Christ, the express image of the invisible God (Colossians 1:15, Hebrews 1:3). And whose name are we to bear? The only saving name, the highest name ever given, the name at which every knee shall bow and every tongue shall confess - Jesus Christ (Acts 4:12; Phillippians 2:9-11).
When we arrive in heaven we will see one God on the throne - Jesus Christ. We will recognize Him as Father, Savior, and Holy Spirit, for "In him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily (Collossians 2:9). If someone expects or desires to see other divine persons, he should ponder Christ's words to Phillip: "He that hath seen me hath seen the Father; and how sayest thou then, Shew us the Father?" (John 14:9).
We do not have to be confused about whom we pray to, whom we worship, and whom we will meet in heaven. In the words of Titus 2:13, let us look for "the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ."