Christ 4 U - "Why Do We Need Salvation?"
WHY DO WE NEED SALVATION? -- It's a Second Chance at Paradise for YOU
The children of Israel had become well settled in the lands of Cannan since the time of Abraham and had prospered under the reign of King David and then Solomon. The early Prophets had been vigilent over the people and had guided their leaders along the path of God's will. But once again, the people would begin to stray from the way of the righteous and fall from the heart and grace of the Lord.
"And the Lord was angry with Solomon, because his heart had turned away from the Lord, the God of Israel, who had appeared to him twice and had commanded him concerning this thing, that he should not go after other gods. But he did not keep what the LORD commanded. Therefore the Lord said to Solomon, "Since this has been your practice and you have not kept my covenant and my statutes that I have commanded you, I will surely tear the kingdom from you and will give it to your servant. Yet for the sake of David your father I will not do it in your days, but I will tear it out of the hand of your son. However, I will not tear away all the kingdom, but I will give one tribe to your son, for the sake of David my servant and for the sake of Jerusalem that I have chosen."
(1 Kings 11:9-13)
The Prophets had tried to warn the people (and their rulers) against their possible fate if they did not heed the words of the Lord. They foretold of the eminent immediate future as well as reinforcing what God's plan for his people was to be in the generations yet to unfold. Their words began to fall upon deaf ears however.
According to Jeremiah, the LORD then declared that the (first) covenant had been broken by the people and that God would bring upon Israel and Judah the curses of breaking the covenant as a result. It was Jeremiah’s task to explain the reason for the impending disaster (destruction by the Babylonian army and Jewish captivity).
At this time in history, Babylon was a great nation under King Nebuchadnezzar II and he is credited with the construction of the Hanging Gardens of Babylon (one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World). According to the Bible, Nebuchadnezzar conquered the Kingdom of Judah and the capital city of Jerusalem where he was responsible for the destruction of King Solomon's Temple (the First Temple). The Babylonians then sent the Jews into exile and they ruled over them as captives in Babylon. Nebuchadnezzar is featured in the Book of Daniel and is also mentioned in several other books of the Bible.
Babylon the Great
Jewish Captivity in Babylon
"For thus saith the LORD; Sing with gladness for Jacob, and shout among the chief of the nations: publish ye, praise ye, and say, O LORD, save thy people, the remnant of Israel."
(Jeremiah 31:7 KJV)
Although the Jews were in exile, this period was a rich one for Hebrew literature and a time for them to return to the ways of the Lord. In order to preserve the oral traditions of the former temple priesthood and for their Jewish heritage not to become lost, the Rabbi (religious teachers) began to write down everything they could about the word of God and their ethnic history back to the time of creation and the Garden of Eden through to the times of Noah and his bloodline after the great flood.
These writings are what would become the foundations for all Jewish Rabbinic literature including the Torah , the Tanakh and the Talmud . The term "Torah" (also known as the Pentateuch ) refers to the Five Books of Moses as well as the entirety of Judaism's fundamental legal and ethical religious texts. The Torah is also the first three parts of the Tanakh (the Hebrew Bible) , and the founding religious canon of scripture for Judaism. It is divided into the five books, whose names in the English Bible are Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy (the first part of the Old Testament).
The Return Home and Promise of the NEW Covenant
Babylon had conquered most of the territory stretching from the fertile crescent of Mesopotamia (modern day Iraq) to the shores of the Mediterranean Sea, including the lands of Judaea. The Jewish people had already endured nearly 40 years of exile and occupation, but God had promised to deliver His people from their plight once again. When Cyrus the Great of Persia later waged war against Babylon, the Jewish captives were released from their bonds and were allowed to return home.
"Behold, I will bring them from the north country, and gather them from the coasts of the earth, and with them the blind and the lame, the woman with child and her that travaileth with child together: a great company shall return thither. They shall come with weeping, and with supplications will I lead them: I will cause them to walk by the rivers of waters in a straight way, wherein they shall not stumble: for I am a father to Israel, and Ephraim is my firstborn. Hear the word of the LORD, O ye nations, and declare it in the isles afar off, and say, He that scattered Israel will gather him, and keep him, as a shepherd doth his flock. For the LORD hath redeemed Jacob, and ransomed him from the hand of him that was stronger than he. (Jeremiah 31:8-11 KJV)
And God (always forgiving) promised of an upcoming "New Covenant" with us, by which all humankind could be saved from His wrath and once again achieve the immortality we had lost since the time in the Garden of Eden (eternal Life with God).
"But every one shall die for his own iniquity: every man that eateth the sour grape, his teeth shall be set on edge. Behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah: Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt; which my covenant they brake, although I was an husband unto them, saith the LORD:"
(Jeremiah 31:30-32 KJV)
SIGNED, SEALED, and DELIVERED
The New Covenant would come to us in three parts as representing the three aspects of God (Body-Soul-Spirit), the "Body" being the physical aspect of God as in the "Angel of the Lord" and being realized through Jesus Christ. The "Soul" being the mind of God (His divine sentience and will) and of course the "Spirit" being the Holy Spirit, God's life force and eternal energy which binds all things together. You will see later in this article how all this ties in together to establish and accomplish God's plan for our salvation.
But now hath he (Jesus) obtained a more excellent ministry, by how much also he is the mediator of a better covenant, which was established upon better promises. For if that first covenant had been faultless, then should no place have been sought for the second. For finding fault with them, he saith, Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah: Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day when I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt; because they continued not in my covenant, and I regarded them not, saith the Lord.
(Hebrews 8:6-10 KJV)
The Gospel of John the Baptist
The Gospel According to John the Baptist is a detailed account of the three year long ministry of Jesus from Nazareth. John was the cousin of Jesus and had know him from growing up in the province of Galilee. John's gospel details the public appearances and works of the Lord Jesus from the beginning of His ministry, particularly in the towns of Nazareth and Capernaum, as witnessed to and affirmed by John. Galilee is also the place where Jesus is witnessed to curing a blind man.
John's ministry had begun earlier than that of Jesus because he was called by God to "pave the way" for the "one who would follow".
"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning."
"The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth."
(John 1:1-2,14 NIV)
Most notable is the account of John baptising new believers in the waters of the River Jordan (hence the origin of his adopted name). Baptism in the water has developed into an important sacrament to Christians as it represents the rites of admission into the Christian Church. Some Pharisees had also come out from the city to observe John and question his intent and authority for performing baptisms. Although the term "baptism" itself is not used to describe any Jewish ritual, their own purification rites (or "mikvah" = ritual immersion in water) in Jewish law and tradition have some similarity to Christian Baptism. Both faiths use the act of immersion in water for purposes of purification and for restoration to a condition of "ritual purity", especially in regards to a change in status and qualification for full religious participation by the individual being baptised.
When the Pharisees approached John, he answered them:
"I baptize with water," John replied, "but among you stands one you do not know. He is the one who comes after me, the thongs of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie."
(John 1:26-27 NIV)
The following day John was performing baptisms again at the river and this is where we find one of the more famous events in his and Christ's ministry.
John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, "Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world! This is the one I meant when I said, 'A man who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me.' I myself did not know him, but the reason I came baptizing with water was that he might be revealed to Israel."
Then John gave this testimony: "I saw the Spirit come down from heaven as a dove and remain on him. I would not have known him, except that the one who sent me to baptize with water told me, 'The man on whom you see the Spirit come down and remain is he who will baptize with the Holy Spirit.' I have seen and I testify that this is the Son of God."
(John 1:29-34 KJV-NIV)
The Gospel of John the Baptist continues up through the time of Christ's arrival in Jerusalem, his arrest and crucifiction, his burial and then His subsequent Resurrection three days later. It also covers some of the post-Resurrection appearances made by Jesus to his Apostles and many others. By Christ having suffered the cross, His sacrifice both symbolically and physically took away all of our sins (for all time) and provided the method by which we could accept and receive God's FREE Gift of Salvation through Jesus Christ.
Jesus saith unto him, "I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me ."
The Validity of Jesus' Testimony
When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, "I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life." The Pharisees challenged him, "Here you are, appearing as your own witness; your testimony is not valid."
Jesus answered, "Even if I testify on my own behalf, my testimony is valid, for I know where I came from and where I am going. But you have no idea where I come from or where I am going. You judge by human standards; I pass judgment on no one. But if I do judge, my decisions are right, because I am not alone. I stand with the Father, who sent me. In your own Law it is written that the testimony of two men is valid. I am one who testifies for myself; my other witness is the Father, who sent me."
(John 8:12-18 NIV)
The Everlasting Gift of Jesus Christ and the Lord's New Covenant
"For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God's one and only Son. This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what he has done has been done through God."
This act of God's undying love as described above was the beginning of Him fulfilling His promise to the "children of Israel" (all of us) as it had been foretold by the early New Testament prophets. God's New Covenant and His plan for our salvation is a guaranteed legal and binding contract, between God and ourselves, that has been "signed" by Him with His blood.
"This is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel after that time, declares the Lord. I will put my laws in their minds and write them on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people. No longer will a man teach his neighbor, or a man his brother, saying, 'Know the Lord,' because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest. For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more."By calling this covenant "new," he has made the first one obsolete; and what is obsolete and aging will soon disappear.
(Hebrews 8:10-13 NIV)
Christ would become the sacrificial "Lamb of God", whose blood replaced that of the ram's blood formerly used by the Jewish priests to consecrate holy ordainment.
These things were done in Bethabara beyond Jordan, where John was baptizing. The next day John seeth Jesus coming unto him, and saith, Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world. This is he of whom I said, After me cometh a man which is preferred before me: for he was before me .
(John 1:28-30 KJV)
The BLOOD of CHRIST - The Signing of the Contract
Jesus was coming to change what had been traditional in Jewish religious practice and to establish the Lord's New Covenant and New Church here on Earth. The sanctuary of the temple was being radically transformed from an inward physical place (the Holy of Holies inside Solomon's Temple) to an outward spiritual place (the people becoming the Body of Christ and the New Church), with Christ's blood now being shed on the altar (the Cross) as a substitute for the sacrificial lamb's blood.
When Christ came as high priest of the good things that are already here, he went through the greater and more perfect tabernacle that is not man-made, that is to say, not a part of this creation. He did not enter by means of the blood of goats and calves; but he entered the Most Holy Place once for all by his own blood, having obtained eternal redemption. The blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer sprinkled on those who are ceremonially unclean sanctify them so that they are outwardly clean. How much more, then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God! For this reason Christ is the mediator of a new covenant, that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance—now that he has died as a ransom to set them free from the sins committed under the first covenant.
(Hebrews 9:11-15 NIV)
For those who were present as witnesses, the death of Jesus had been described as a climatic event that stirred up the forces of nature.
And when Jesus had cried out again in a loud voice, he gave up his spirit...
At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook and the rocks split. The tombs broke open and the bodies of many holy people who had died were raised to life. They came out of the tombs, and after Jesus' resurrection they went into the holy city and appeared to many people.
(Matthew 27:50-53 NIV)
On the Third Day - The RESURRECTION! - The Contract is Sealed. . .
"Men of Israel, listen to this: Jesus of Nazareth was a man accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs, which God did among you through him, as you yourselves know. This man was handed over to you by God's set purpose and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross. But God raised him from the dead, freeing him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him."
(Acts 2:22-24 NIV)
Jesus was resurrected after three days and was now ready to fulfill the rest of God's plan for our salvation in His promise of the New Covenant. By Christ's action of overcoming death on the cross, the New Covenant had become permanently sealed by God.
In the end of the sabbath, as it began to dawn toward the first day of the week, came Mary Magdalene and the other Mary to see the sepulchre. And, behold, there was a great earthquake: for the angel of the Lord descended from heaven, and came and rolled back the stone from the door, and sat upon it. His countenance was like lightning, and his raiment white as snow: And for fear of him the keepers did shake, and became as dead men. And the angel answered and said unto the women, Fear not ye: for I know that ye seek Jesus, which was crucified. He is not here: for he is risen, as he said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay. And go quickly, and tell his disciples that he is risen from the dead; and, behold, he goeth before you into Galilee; there shall ye see him: lo, I have told you. And they departed quickly from the sepulchre with fear and great joy; and did run to bring his disciples word. And as they went to tell his disciples, behold, Jesus met them, saying, All hail. And they came and held him by the feet, and worshipped him. Then said Jesus unto them, Be not afraid: go tell my brethren that they go into Galilee, and there shall they see me.
(Matthew 28:1-10 KJV)
But Mary stood without at the sepulchre weeping: and as she wept, she stooped down, and looked into the sepulchre, And seeth two angels in white sitting, the one at the head, and the other at the feet, where the body of Jesus had lain. And they say unto her, Woman, why weepest thou? She saith unto them, Because they have taken away my LORD, and I know not where they have laid him. And when she had thus said, she turned herself back, and saw Jesus standing, and knew not that it was Jesus. Jesus saith unto her, Woman, why weepest thou? whom seekest thou? She, supposing him to be the gardener, saith unto him, Sir, if thou have borne him hence, tell me where thou hast laid him, and I will take him away. Jesus saith unto her, Mary. She turned herself, and saith unto him, Rabboni; which is to say, Master. Jesus saith unto her, Touch me not; for I am not yet ascended to my Father: but go to my brethren, and say unto them, I ascend unto my Father, and your Father; and to my God, and your God. Mary Magdalene came and told the disciples that she had seen the LORD, and that he had spoken these things unto her.
(John 20:11-18 KJV)
Over the next few weeks, Jesus made himself known to many other people so that they could bare witness to the testimony of His resurrection. Some did not recognize Him and even doubted at first, but they all finally realized that Christ HAD risen from the dead!
Now Thomas (called Didymus), one of the Twelve, was not with the disciples when Jesus came. 25So the other disciples told him, "We have seen the Lord!" But he said to them, "Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe it."
A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, "Peace be with you!" 27Then he said to Thomas, "Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe." Thomas said to him, "My Lord and my God!" Then Jesus told him, "Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed." Jesus did many other miraculous signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. 31But these are written that you may[a] believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.
(John 20:24-30 NIV)
The ASCENTION of JESUS into HEAVEN
Forty days after Jesus was resurrected, He met with and informed the apostles that it was going to be necessary for him to leave them. Jesus explained that He would be ascending to join His Father in Heaven (in order to apply the benefits of His sacrifice once and for all) and complete the New Covenant. Jesus also told them however that they would not be left abandoned and comfortless. He said that he would then send to them His Holy Spirit who would come to be alongside them and help in His absence.
"Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me. In my Father's house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. You know the way to the place where I am going."
(John 14:1-4 NIV)
“And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever;
Even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you.”
The BAPTISM of the HOLY SPIRIT - We are Delivered into the NEW Covenant!
There are numerous other references to the Holy Spirit throughout the Acts of the Apostles. The disciples were commanded by Jesus to stay at Jerusalem until He (the Holy Spirit) would come back to them. They knew that this time would correspond with the upcoming Jewish holiday to celebrate the completion of the harvest season. This annual feast was “Shavuot” or the Feast of Weeks – a festive time when Jews from all over the land would be in Jerusalem. The disciples would wait as they were commanded for on the day of Pentecost it happened.
The Holy Spirit descended from Heaven and manifested himself onto the crowd of these first-century believers. He began working miracles through them so that all the people who had assembled for the festival could bare witness to the event for future generations to come. This became known as the "Baptism in the Holy Spirit" and it marked the delivery and fulfillment of God's New Covenant to His people.
"When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them."
(Acts 2:1-4 NIV)
Peter replied, "Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off—for all whom the Lord our God will call."
(Acts 2:38-39 NIV)
This Baptism of the Holy Spirit was foretold by Jesus and then received by the crowds at Pentecost (50 Days after the Resurrection of Christ). It was the third and defining act that signified the unity and completion of God's promise for the New Covenant - in the sacrifice of Christ's blood at His death, the Resurrection of the Body, and the manifestation of the Holy Spirit which grants us life everlasting with God.
“For John truly baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost not many days hence.”
“But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.”
(Acts 1:5,8 KJV)
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