The Trinitarian Claim
Trinitarians sometimes claim this verse identifies Jesus Christ as the Blessed and Only "Sovereign" (translations vary) and others may claim this verse identifies the Triune God as the Blessed and Only "Sovereign."
Examination of the Evidence
1. The Greek word dunastes
The term monos dunastes finds variation among translations such as "Potentate", "Sovereign", "Mighty", "Ruler", etc. The word is derived from dunamis which means power or ability which should not be confused with the Greek term for authority, exousia. "Potentate" most closely approximates the intent of the Greek since this English word refers to potency or power. The idea appears to be similar to Luke 1:49 where Mary refers to the God of Israel as dunatos, the Power, or the Powerful One. And again, at Matthew 26:64, Jesus declares they would see the son of man "sitting at the right hand of Power" (dunamis) which Luke writes as "the right hand of the power of God."
2. Translation Variations
Translation variations seem to contribute in part to the Trinitarian interpretation concerning this verse. Notice the differences in the following verses. Take special note of the ESV, NETBible, and NASB.
That thou keep [this] commandment without spot, unrebukeable, until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ: Which in his times he shall shew, [who is] the blessed and only Potentate, the King of kings, and Lord of lords; Who only hath immortality, dwelling in the light which no man can approach unto; whom no man hath seen, nor can see: to whom [be] honour and power everlasting. KJV
that thou keep the commandment, without spot, without reproach, until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ: which in its own times he shall show, who is the blessed and only Potentate, the King of kings, and Lord of lords; who only hath immortality, dwelling in light unapproachable; whom no man hath seen, nor can see: to whom [be] honor and power eternal. Amen. ASV
that thou keep the command unspotted, unblameable, till the manifestation of our Lord Jesus Christ, 15 which in His own times He shall shew--the blessed and only potentate, the King of the kings and Lord of the lords, 16 who only is having immortality, dwelling in light unapproachable, whom no one of men did see, nor is able to see, to whom [is] honour and might age-during! Amen. Young's Literal
I charge you to keep the commandment unstained and free from reproach until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ; and this will be made manifest at the proper time by the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords, who alone has immortality and dwells in unapproachable light, whom no man has ever seen or can see. To him be honor and eternal dominion. RSV.
That thou keep the commandment without spot, blameless, unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, 15 Which in his times he shall shew, who is the Blessed and only Mighty, the King of kings and Lord of lords: 16 Who only hath immortality and inhabiteth light inaccessible: whom no man hath seen, nor can see: to whom be honour and empire everlasting. Amen. Douay-Rheims
to keep this command without spot or blame until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ, 15 which God will bring about in his own time —God, the blessed and only Ruler, the King of kings and Lord of lords, 16 who alone is immortal and who lives in unapproachable light, whom no one has seen or can see. To him be honor and might forever. Amen. NIV
to keep the commandment unstained and free from reproach until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ, 15 which he will display at the proper time—he who is the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords, 16 who alone has immortality, who dwells in unapproachable light, whom no one has ever seen or can see. To him be honor and eternal dominion. Amen. ESV.
to obey this command without fault or failure until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ – whose appearing the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords, will reveal at the right time. He alone possesses immortality and lives in unapproachable light, whom no human has ever seen or is able to see. To him be honor and eternal power! Amen. NETBible
that you keep the commandment without stain or reproach until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ, which He will bring about at the proper time--He who is the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords, who alone possesses immortality and dwells in unapproachable light, whom no man has seen or can see. To Him be honor and eternal dominion! Amen. NASB
3. King of Kings, Lord of Lords
A second reason which perhaps leads to the Trinitarian confusion, is that Jesus is called "King of Kings" and "Lord of Lords" at Revelation 17:14.
Trinitarians also sometimes take these titles themselves to signify deity. However, Artaxerxes and Nebuchadnezzar are called "King of Kings" in Scripture. Daniel calls Nebuchadnezzar "King of Kings" under inspiration from God and God himself calls Nebuchadnezzare "King of Kings."
Now this is the copy of the decree which King Artaxerxes gave to Ezra the priest, the scribe, learned in the words of the commandments of the LORD and His statutes to Israel: 12 "Artaxerxes, King of Kings, to Ezra the priest, the scribe of the law of the God of heaven, perfect peace." Ezra 7:11-2.
For thus says the Lord GOD, "Behold, I will bring upon Tyre from the north Nebuchadnezzar King of Babylon,King of Kings, with horses, chariots, cavalry and a great army." Ezekiel 26:7.
You, O King, are the King of Kings, to whom the God of heaven has given the kingdom, the power, the strength and the glory. Daniel 2:38.
Notice carefully how Daniel gives the reason for Nebuchadnezzar's title, "King of Kings." God gave him this kingdom authority, power, strength, and glory. The risen Jesus was given all authority in heaven and earth when God seated him at his right hand making him "Lord" (see Matthew 28:18; Acts 2:33-36). Most Trinitarians do not understand that Jesus, by sitting at the Father's right hand, is exercising his God's authority, the authority of being King and the authority of being Lord. When Israel came out of Egypt, God was to be their King, their Lord, their God. But Israel wanted a human King and so they had human Kings like David and Solomon who was King and Lord for the Israelites (see 1 Kings 1) and so all Israel bowed down and worshiped Yahweh and the King who sat on the throne of Yahweh (1 Chronicles 29:20-23). God the Father is the true King of Kings and Lord of Lords of the people of God and Jesus is now exercising this authority until all enemies are defeated when he hands the Kingdom over to the Father (1 Cor 15:24-28).
4. Who Alone Possesses Immortality
If this passage referred specifically to Jesus, then the Father would not possess immortality.
5. Who No One has Seen or Can See
The passage also says no one has ever seen or can see the identity in view in this passage. Again, this could hardly be a specific reference to Jesus since many have seen him, both before his resurrection and after. And Paul also saw Jesus on the road to Damascus after his ascension.
6. The Triune God?
Claiming this passage refers to the Triune God is nothing short of eisegesis since there is no reason to read such a notion into the text. There is also no reason not to identify the "Only Sovereign" as God the Father.
Analysis of the Evidence
1. The Obvious Answer
It should be rather obvious that the One "who alone possesses immortality." Indeed, we also read that Jesus now lives by the power of God (2 Corinthians 13:4) who raised him bodiily from the dead and was made bodily "life-giving Spirit" (1 Corinthians 15:40-45). Furthermore, the identity in question is someone no one has ever seen or can see and the only identity in Scripture which fits this description is the invisible God (Col 1:15), God the Father (Jn 1:18; 5:37; 6:46; 1 Jn 4:12).
2. The Greek Text
A literal translation of the text reads, "the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ which in its own times he will show the bless and only potentate." Young's Literal translations illustrates this sufficiently.
3. What the Text Means
What the text means is really not that difficult to interpret. The idea here is that Jesus, when he appears, will show/display God Himself. This same sentiment is expressed at Matthew 16:27 where we read that Jesus will come in the glory of the Father. The risen Jesus is the radiance of God's glory (Heb 1:3) and so we read again at Titus 2:13, where Jesus is described as the glory of our great God and Savior, the glory of the Father, that we await the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ. When Jesus appears, the glory of the God the Father will appear.
4. 1 Timothy 1:17
A similar expression occurs in this selfsame letter:
Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.
It should be quite clear that this cannot refer to Jesus. He is not the invisible God. Rather, the risen Jesus is the image OF the invisible God (Col 1:15).
All we have to do is interpret the text for what it says. And if we read it just as it is stated, it is quite clear that at Jesus' appearing, he will show/display the Blessed and Only Potentate who alone possesses immortality and who no one has ever seen or can see. God the Father is the only identity in the Scriptures who fits this description.
Created: July 16, 2012