“all authority in heaven and on earth.” God has set Jesus Christ as His second-in-command, his under-ruler, and given him all authority to administer His creation (Matt. 28:18; Eph. 1:18-22). He has made Jesus, “Lord” (Acts 2:22). Given that, what are some of the things that Jesus is doing now? Jesus is the head of the body of Christ, directing and guiding it (Eph. 1:22-23; Col. 1:18). Jesus gives the gift of holy spirit to people when they get saved, and thus he adds to his body (Acts 2:32-33; 2:47; Matt. 16:18). He supports his body, the Church, and causes it to grow (Eph. 5:15-16; Col. 2:18-19), and he organizes it, for example, by creating leadership positions (Col. 1:15-19). Jesus sets people in their personal ministries (Eph. 4:7-8, 11). He gives revelation to people (Gal. 1:11-12; Acts 9:10-17; 16:7; 18:9). He is a wonderful counselor (Isa. 9:6).
Jesus also ministers through his angels (Rev. 1:1). He prays and intercedes for us (Rom. 8:26-27, 34; Heb. 7:25). He protects us from evil (2 Thess. 3:3). Jesus heals people (Acts 9:32-34). He gives grace and peace to us (1 Cor. 16:23; Eph. 1:2; 1 Thess. 5:28). He is with us in our trials and suffering (Acts 9:4; Rom. 8:26). We can fellowship with Jesus (1 John 1:3), and we can pray to him for support (John 14:12-14; Acts 7:59; 1 Cor. 1:1; 2 Cor. 12:8-9). Jesus will raise us from the dead (1 Thess. 4:15), transform our bodies when we are raised at the Rapture (Phil. 3:21), and be our judge on our Day of Judgment (John 5:21-29; 2 Cor. 5:10).
It is important to understand that when Jesus said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me,” he did not mean that he was now in control of everything that happens on earth or even that he could micromanage what happens on earth if he wanted to. God had “all authority” before He gave it to the resurrected Christ, and God could not and did not control what the Devil, demons, or even people do; they are free will beings.
When we read that Jesus has “all authority,” we need to define it in biblical terms and see how it plays out in the Bible. God did and to a degree still does have all “authority” in the sense that He is the final judge and the most powerful One in creation. It is based on God’s ultimate authority that allows Him to send Christ back when He decides to do so, judge and reward the righteous, and judge and condemn the unsaved. God’s ultimate authority was why He could create freewill beings without fear of them overthrowing Him, and also why it was He who created the rules by which all living beings are governed and will be judged. God does not lose His authority just because He allows freewill beings to act of their own volition. After all, it was because of His love and desire for spirit beings and physical beings to love Him that He created that free will volition.
When God raised His Son from the dead, He invested Christ with His authority, such that now Christ works with the Church, gives grace and mercy, works through the gift of holy spirit, and will be the judge of both the righteous and unrighteous at the resurrections. But in the same way that God had all authority before Christ’s resurrection but allowed freewill beings to live by their own free will decisions, today Christ has all authority but allows freewill beings, including the Devil, demons, and people, to live by their free will decisions. However, there will come a day in the future when Christ’s authority over God’s creation will be more fully demonstrated, and he will come down from heaven, kill or imprison all of God’s enemies, and conquer the earth. Then, eventually, he will have judged every person and the Devil and his demons, and the saved will live forever while the unsaved will be annihilated and gone forever.
“has been given to me.” This is one of the many verses that make it clear that Jesus Christ is not God. If Christ were really God, and co-equal and co-eternal with the Father as the Trinitarians teach, then it is illogical to say Christ was given authority. God, by definition, has authority.
Jesus is a man, and the authority he has was given to him by God and is not a function of his “divine nature.” The wording of Matthew 28:18 is, in actuality, a refutation of the Trinity. Jesus is that man to whom God gave “all authority.” In contrast to Christ, there is no verse anywhere that says “God” was given authority. God has all authority, and delegates it to others. Although there are some Trinitarians who teach that Jesus divested himself of his authority when he was incarnated as a human, this verse is after Jesus’ resurrection, and all Trinitarians affirm Jesus had his full position as God after he was raised from the dead, which was the case in this verse.
The Trinitarian refutation to the Scripture saying that “God” gave Jesus his position and authority, such as in Acts 2:36, which says, “God has made Jesus both Lord and Christ,” is to say that “God” means the Father. But there is no evidence for that; it is an assumption to support the doctrine and not what the Bible actually says. If we simply read the Bible as we would normally understand it, then “God” does not have to be constantly redefined. Jesus is the man, Jesus, and “God” is God.
There are many verses that say Jesus was given what he had from “God.” These include that he was “given” all authority (Matt. 28:18), “made Lord and Christ” by God (Acts 2:36); and that God “placed” everything under his feet and “appointed” him to be Head of the Church (Eph. 1:22). The most natural reading of the Bible is that “God” is the Father, and Jesus is the human Messiah, and “God” does things for Jesus, but “God” never does things for “the Father” because He is the Father.
Another reason that Matt. 28:18 disproves the Trinity is that if “God” is made up of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, then by definition Jesus cannot have “all authority.” By virtue of being “God,” the Father and Holy Spirit would both have equal authority with Jesus. In fact, it is part of the standard definition of the Trinity that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are “co-equal.” The only way Jesus could be given all authority would be if he were not God, but the Messiah, God’s chosen ruler, and the Father had entrusted him with all authority, just as God gave Jesus the authority to judge on the Day of Judgment (John 5:22).
[For more information on Jesus being the fully human Son of God and not being “God the Son,” see Appendix 10, “Jesus is the Son of God, Not God the Son.” For more on “the Holy Spirit” being one of the designations for God the Father and “the holy spirit” being the gift of God’s nature, see Appendix 11, “What is the Holy Spirit?”]