What Has Jesus Done for You?


WHAT HAS JESUS DONE FOR YOU?



Have you ever wondered just what exactly has Jesus done for you? Have you ever wondered if one really needs a savior? Just what exactly do we need to be saved from? Isn’t living a good a life as possible enough? Isn’t the Bible just a collection of writings that well sound nice but aren’t practical in today’s world? Can we really believe what the Bible says? Finally what about the center character of the Bible, the promised Messiah. Was Jesus of Nazareth really the chosen one? How can we know if he even existed or was just a made up figure?

All legitimate questions that deserve an honest answer. While the Bible says that faith is the belief in things not seen[1] to respond to any of the questions that one just has to believe is not a credible answer. We are commanded to prove all things;

Prove all things; hold fast that which is good.

1 Thessalonians 5:21

In fact the church at Thessalonica was commended for the earnest study of the scriptures to prove the things they had been taught[2]. So one is not to just blindly accept anything they are told; granted faith is important but not blind faith. What about those that intuitively know what they have been taught is right or possibly has proven it to be true through study what if they are confronted with the questions above?

Is it a valid response to tell someone that honestly inquires as to the reason for their belief that it can’t be explained? Should this knowledge or understanding be a guarded secret that is not to be shared with another? No the Bible clearly tells us what is expected in such a situation;

… be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you…

1 Peter 3:15

So could you provide a clear and informed answer to someone if they were to ask you for the reason for your acceptance of Jesus as your savior? Further could you tell them if they were curious as to why they or for that matter anyone should accept Jesus as their savior? Remember our guiding scripture; to prove all things. However it needs to be pointed out that proof is a subjective item. For some one simple minor detail is sufficient for them to accept an argument while others can have every possible piece of evidence in support of an issue and still not be convinced. How much is too much proof is next to impossible to say; it really is up to the person being informed.

There is an aspect of studying the Bible that must be understood; rarely can one find the answer to an issue in one single place in the Bible. One is required to sift through the Bible to learn what all it says about different topics. This is tersely acknowledged in the book of Isaiah;

For precept must be upon precept, precept upon precept; line upon line, line upon line; here a little, and there a little:

Isaiah 28:10

So we must search throughout the scriptures and not rely solely on a single scripture. But on such a critical issue one can not have too much proof.

There are several facets to the issue we are going to look at. They are; one, did a man named Jesus of Nazareth exist, two, what were the prophecies about the Messiah, and three, did Jesus fulfill those prophecies. Related to these questions are; how does the Bible compare to other historical documents and what are the odds that Jesus just by happenstance fulfilled the prophecies. Finally on a more personal level we must ask or be called to answer the questions of; why do I need a savior, what is it that I have done to require a savior, what will happen if I don’t accept Jesus as my savior and finally what is expected of me if I accept Jesus as my savior?

So shall we begin our quest in an effort to obey the command to prove all things and prepare ourselves, as directed, to have an answer ready when asked why we have the hope we do?

Jesus; Man or Myth

Before we can begin to delve into what the Bible says about the Messiah and decide if Jesus was the promised savior we must first determine as best we can if such a man (i.e. Jesus of Nazareth) actually existed. This is fundamental because if someone doubts his actual existence how can they possibly accept the message he brought? To quote Paul;

And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith…17And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins.

1 Corinthians 15:14, 17

In this regard we might say that if Christ never existed then our faith is in vain. Again it is up to the individual to decide what enough proof to decide the issue is. One can use the standard used in criminal court proceedings and that is proof beyond a reasonable doubt. One could also use the standard used in civil court proceedings and that is based on the preponderance of the evidence.

There are many that claim that Jesus did not exist. A quotation from Albert Schweitzer best illustrates the enlightened opinion about Jesus: “The Jesus of Nazareth who came forward publicly as the Messiah, who preached the ethic of the Kingdom of God, who founded the Kingdom of Heaven upon earth, and died to give His work its final consecration, never had any existence. He is a figure designed by rationalism, endowed with life by liberalism, and clothed by modern theology in an historical garb.[3]” But is this an honest evaluation based on the available historical evidence?

Most critics claim that there is no documentation of the existence of Jesus outside of the Bible and therefore his existence is suspect. Is this an accurate claim or are there other writings besides the Bible that mention Jesus? Unfortunately for the deniers there is such documentation.

The mere fact that there is limited mention of Jesus in the surviving written records should not be that surprising for a number of reasons. First; Palestine, in the time of Jesus, was the back water of the Roman Empire. For something to cause mention to be made had to be significant. Also, most of the written records that have survived from that time were written by members of the very small elite class of the Roman Empire.[4] Further, “to them, Jesus (if they heard of him at all) was merely a troublesome rabble-rouser and magician in a small, backward part of the world”.[5] With this information in mind any mention of Jesus must be considered significant.

The Roman Written Record

When utilizing the written record of Rome one could refer to them as hostile witnesses[6] in that they have nothing to gain from supporting the existence of Jesus. Let us begin our perusal of the existent written record to see if Jesus is mentioned.

Our first source is Tacitus (c. A.D. 56-117); he was a member of the Roman provincial upper class with a formal education and held several high positions under different emperors such as Nerva and Trajan. His famous work, Annals, was a history of Rome written in approximately A.D. 115. In the Annals he told of the Great Fire of Rome, which occurred in A.D. 64.

Nero, the Roman emperor in office at the time, was suspected by many of having ordered the city set on fire. Tacitus wrote: “Nero fabricated scapegoats—and punished with every refinement the notoriously depraved Christians (as they were popularly called). Their originator, Christ, had been executed in Tiberius’ reign by the governor of Judea, Pontius Pilatus. But in spite of this temporary setback the deadly superstition had broken out afresh, not only in Judea (where the mischief had started) but even in Rome[7]”. Tacitus hated both Christians and their namesake, Christ. He therefore had nothing positive to say about what he referred to as a “deadly superstition.” He did, however, have something to say about it. His writing strongly shows that the Christian religion not only was relevant historically, but that Christ, as its originator, was a verifiable historical figure of such prominence that He even attracted the attention of the Roman emperor himself!

Another Roman writer that mentions Jesus is Suetonius, who wrote around A.D. 120. We are fortunate in that Suetonius had access to the Imperial and Senatorial archives, to a great body of contemporary memoirs and public documents, and in having himself lived nearly thirty years under the Caesars. Much of his information about Tiberius, Caligula, Claudius, and Nero comes from eye-witnesses of the events described.[8]

Twice in his history, Suetonius specifically mentioned Christ or His followers. He wrote, for example: “Because the Jews at Rome caused continuous disturbance at the instigation of Chrestus, he [Claudius] expelled them from the city”[9]. Chrestus is a misspelling of Christos, “the Greek word that translates the Hebrew ‘Messiah”. Suetonius further commented: “Punishments were also inflicted on the Christians, a sect professing a new and mischievous religious belief”[10]. Again, it is evident that Suetonius and the Roman government had feelings of hatred toward Christ and His alleged mischievous band of rebels. It is equally evident that Suetonius (and, in fact, most of Rome) recognized that Christ was the noteworthy founder of a historically significant new religion.

Another Roman writer is Pliny the Younger. In approximately A.D. 110-111, he was sent by the Roman emperor Trajan to govern the affairs of the region of Bithynia. From this region, Pliny corresponded with the emperor concerning a problem he viewed as quite serious. He wrote: “I was never present at any trial of Christians; therefore I do not know the customary penalties or investigations and what limits are observed”. He then went on to state: “This is the course that I have adopted in the case of those brought before me as Christians. I ask them if they are Christians. If they admit it, I repeat the question a second and a third time, threatening capital punishment; if they persist, I sentence them to death.”

It should be noted that Pliny used the term “Christian” or “Christians” seven times in his letter, thereby indicating that it was a generally accepted term that was recognized by both the Roman Empire and its emperor. Pliny also used the name “Christ” three times to refer to the originator of the “sect.” It is undeniable that Christians, with Christ as their founder, had multiplied in such a way as to draw the attention of the emperor and his magistrates by the time of Pliny’s letter to Trajan.

Our final Roman source is Celsus, a second-century pagan philosopher, who produced a vehement attack upon Christianity.[11] In it Celsus argued that Christ owed his existence to the result of fornication between Mary and a Roman soldier named Panthera. As he matured, Jesus began to call himself God—an action, said Celsus, which caused his Jewish brethren to kill him. Yet as denigrating as his attack was, Celsus never went so far as to suggest that Christ did not exist.

It must be obvious that the deniers claim that there is no record of Jesus, outside of the Bible, is without foundation. Numerous Roman writers mention him by name, his followers and/or the religion that sprung up after his death. While they rejected His teachings and often reviled Him they never claimed that he did not exist; in truth their vehement attacks tend to support the claim that Jesus was an actual, living person!

The Jewish Written Record

More historical written proof for the existence of the man named Jesus exists outside of the Roman Empire and surprisingly this information comes from Jesus’ own people; the Jews. There are two books that figure prominently in Jewish history. They are the Mishnah and the Talmud. The Mishnah was a book of Jewish law traditions codified by Rabbi Judah around the year A.D. 200 and known to the Jews as the “whole code of religious jurisprudence”[12]. Jewish rabbis studied the Mishnah and even wrote a body of commentary based upon it known as the Gemares. The Mishnah and Gemares are known collectively as the Talmud.[13]The complete Talmud surfaced around A.D. 300.

Surely if Jesus did exist and was such a persistent thorn in the side of the religious leaders at the time one would expect the rabbis would have had something to say about him. According to the earlier Rabbis whose opinions are recorded in these writings, Jesus of Nazareth was a transgressor in Israel, who practiced magic, scorned the words of the wise, led the people astray, and said that he had not come to destroy the law but to add to it. He was hanged on Passover Eve for heresy and misleading the people. His disciples, of whom five are named, healed the sick in his name[14].

Another famous Jewish writer that mentions Jesus is Josephus. The son of Mattathias, he was born into a Jewish upper class priestly family around A.D. 37. His education in biblical law and history stood among the best of his day[15]. At age nineteen, he became a Pharisee. When Jerusalem rebelled against the Roman authorities, he was given command of the Jewish forces in Galilee. After losing most of his men, he surrendered to the Romans. He found favor in the man who commanded the Roman army, Vespasian, by predicting that Vespasian soon would be elevated to the position of emperor. Josephus’ prediction came true in A.D. 69 at Vespasian’s inauguration. After the fall of Jerusalem, Josephus assumed the family name of the emperor (Flavius) and settled down to live a life as a government pensioner. It was during these latter years that he wrote Antiquities of the Jews between September 93 and September 94[16]. His contemporaries viewed his career indignantly as one of traitorous rebellion to the Jewish nation.

Twice in Antiquities, we find Josephus mentioning Jesus. Antiquities 18:3:3 reads as follows: “And there arose about this time Jesus, a wise man, if indeed we should call him a man; for he was a doer of marvelous deeds, a teacher of men who receive the truth with pleasure. He led away many Jews, and also Greeks. This man was the Christ. And when Pilate had condemned him to the cross on his impeachment by the chief men among us, those who had loved him at first did not cease; for he appeared to them on the third day alive again, the divine prophets having spoken these and thousands of other wonderful things about him: and even now the tribe of Christians, so named after him, has not yet died out.”

Certain historians regard the italicized segments of the section as “Christian interpolation.” There is, however, no evidence from textual criticism that would warrant such an opinion[17]. In fact, every existing Greek manuscript contains the disputed portions. The passage also exists in both Hebrew and Arabic versions and although the Arabic version is slightly different, it still exhibits knowledge of the disputed sections[18].

There are several reasons generally offered for rejecting the passage as genuine. First, early Christian writers like Justin Martyr, Tertullian, and Origen did not use Josephus’ statement in their defense of Christ’s deity. Habermas observed that Origen, in fact, documented the fact that Josephus (although himself a Jew) did not believe Christ to be the Messiah[19]. However, as Habermas also pointed out, the fourth-century writer Eusebius, in his Ecclesiastical History (1:11), quoted Josephus’ statement about Christ, including the disputed words. And he undoubtedly had access to much more ancient sources than those now available.

Furthermore, it should not be all that surprising that such early Christian apologists did not appeal to Josephus in their writings. Wayne Jackson has suggested: Josephus’ writings may not have been in extensive circulation at that point in time. His Antiquities was not completed until about 93 A.D. Further, in view of the fact that Josephus was not respected by the Jews, his works may not have been valued as a worthwhile apologetic tool.

Such a suggestion possesses merit. Professor Bruce Metzger commented: “Because Josephus was deemed a renegade to Judaism, Jewish scribes were not interested in preserving his writings for posterity”. Thomas H. Horne, in his Critical Introduction to the Study and Knowledge of the Holy Scriptures, referred to the fact that the main source of evidence frequently used by the so-called “church fathers” was an appeal to the Old Testament rather than to human sources[20]. The evidence substantiates Horne’s conclusion; for example, a survey of the index to the eight volumes of the multi-volume set, The Ante-Nicene Fathers, reveals only eleven references to Josephus in the entire set.

The second reason sometimes offered as to why the disputed passage in Josephus’ Antiquities might be due to “Christian interpolation” is the fact that it seems unlikely that a non-Christian writer would include such statements as “this man was the Christ” or “if indeed we should call him a man.” But while such might be unlikely, it certainly is not beyond the realm of possibility. Any number of reasons could explain why Josephus would write what he did. For example, Bruce allowed for the possibility that Josephus might have been speaking sarcastically[21]. Howard Key suggested: If we assume that in making explicit statements about Jesus as Messiah and about the resurrection Josephus is merely conveying what Jesus’ followers claimed on his behalf, then there would be no reason to deny that he wrote them [i.e., the supposed interpolated phrases][22].

Furthermore, even if the material containing the alleged Christian interpolation is removed, the vocabulary and grammar of the section matches “well with Josephus’ style and language”[23]. In fact, almost every word (omitting for the moment the supposed interpolations) is found elsewhere in Josephus[24]. Were the disputed material to be removed, the writings of Josephus still would verify the fact that Jesus actually lived. Habermas therefore concluded: There are good indications that the majority of the text is genuine. There is no textual evidence against it, and, conversely, there is very good manuscript evidence for this statement about Jesus, thus making it difficult to ignore. Additionally, leading scholars on the works of Josephus[25] have testified that this portion is written in the style of this Jewish historian

In later sections of Antiquities he has more to say about Jesus. In Antiquities 20:9:1 he writes that Ananus brought before the Sanhedrin “a man named James, the brother of Jesus who was called the Christ, and certain others. He accused them of having transgressed the law, and condemned them to be stoned to death.” This quotation is significant because he calls James ‘the brother of Jesus the so-called Christ,’ in such a way as to suggest that he has already made reference to Jesus. And we do find reference to him in all extant copies of Josephus[26]. Meier, in an article titled “Jesus in Josephus,” made it clear that rejecting this passage as actually having been written by Josephus defies accurate assessment of the text[27].

An honest assessment of the available written evidence shows that first-century Judaism, in large part, refused to accept Jesus Christ as the Son of the God. Yet it did not refuse to accept Him as a historical man from a literal city known as Nazareth or to record for posterity crucial facts about His life and death.

So how do the deniers claim that there is no evidence of Jesus’ existence outside of the Bible? Clearly this claim is false; there is a good supply of evidence that tends to support the existence of the man named Jesus. In fact, even if we did not have the New Testament or Christian writings, we would be able to conclude from such non-Christian writings as Josephus, the Talmud, Tacitus and Pliny the Younger that: (1) Jesus was a Jewish teacher; (2) many people believed that he performed healings and exorcisms; (3) he was rejected by the Jewish leaders; (4) he was crucified under Pontius Pilate in the reign of Tiberius; (5) despite this shameful death, his followers, who believed that he was still alive, spread beyond Palestine so that there were multitudes of them in Rome by 64 A.D.; (6) all kinds of people from the cities and countryside—men and women, slave and free—worshiped him as God by the beginning of the second century.

The Bible as a Historical Document

While the above list of hostile and Jewish witnesses strongly supports the claim that Jesus actually lived, it is by no means the only historical evidence available to those interested in this topic. The gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John), and the other 23 books that form the New Testament, provide more information about Jesus than any other source available. But cnan these records be viewed as historical evidence, or are they instead writings whose reliability pales in comparison to other types of historical documentation? Next to proving the existence of a man named Jesus from Nazareth the validity of the Bible is also crucial.

The Bible is the written record of the life, death and the ministry he initiated and was carried on by his followers. It is also within the contents of the Old Testament that we find the promises about the Messiah and the signs that would identify the Messiah. Many claim that the Bible can not be accepted as believable; that it is not a valid historical document. Since the Bible is the basis of two of the world’s major religions (i.e. Judaism and Christianity) the validity of the Bible is important. Whereas proving the existence of a man named Jesus is critical so is proving the acceptability of the Bible since it is claimed to be the written word of God. Further it is through the words in the Bible that Jesus’ claim to be the Messiah must be assessed; again demonstrating that one can believe what is written in the Bible is crucial. Remember our directive in I Thessalonians, to prove all things[28].

To begin, like the Old Testament, we now have significant evidence that the New Testament we read today is remarkably accurate as compared to the original manuscripts. Of the thousands of copies made by hand before the printing press, we have approximately 24,000 manuscripts, including more than 5,300 Greek manuscripts of the New Testament alone.

There are those who date the writing of the Gospels in the second century A.D., 100+ years after Jesus' death, and there is serious doubt about this late writings; in terms of ancient evidences, writings less than 200 years after the events took place are considered very reliable evidences. Further, the vast majority of scholars (Christian and non-Christian) will grant that the Epistles of Paul (at least some of them) were in fact written by Paul in the middle of the first century A.D., less than 40 years after Jesus' death. This in and of itself is significant seeing that in 70 A.D., the Romans invaded and destroyed Jerusalem and most of Israel, slaughtering its inhabitants. Entire cities were literally burned to the ground! We should not be surprised, then, if much evidence of Jesus' existence was destroyed. Many of the eye-witnesses of Jesus would have been killed. These facts likely limited the amount of surviving eyewitness testimony of Jesus.

One last argument that some attempt to present in an effort to deny the Bible is that it has been that the New Testament has been translated "so many times" that it has become corrupted through stages of translating. If the translations were being made from other translations, they would have a case. But translations are actually made directly from original Greek, Hebrew and Aramaic source texts based on thousands of ancient manuscripts. When one compares the text of one manuscript with another, the match is amazing. Sometimes the spelling may vary, or words may be transposed, but that is of little consequence. Concerning word order, Bruce M. Metzger, professor emeritus at Princeton Theological Seminary, explains: "It makes a whale of a difference in English if you say, 'Dog bites man' or 'Man bites dog' -- sequence matters in English. But in Greek it doesn't. One word functions as the subject of the sentence regardless of where it stands in the sequence."

So how does the Bible compare to other accepted historical documents? F.F Bruce examined much of the evidence surrounding this question in his book, The New Testament Documents—Are They Reliable? As he and other writers[29] have noted, there are 5,366 manuscripts of the Greek New Testament in existence today, in whole or in part, that serve to corroborate the accuracy of the New Testament. The best manuscripts of the New Testament are dated at roughly A.D. 350, with perhaps one of the most important of these being the Codex Vaticanus, “the chief treasure of the Vatican Library in Rome,” and the Codex Sinaiticus, which was purchased by the British from the Soviet Government in 1933[30].

Additionally, the Chester Beatty papyri, made public in 1931, contain eleven codices, three of which contain most of the New Testament (including the Gospels). Two of these codices boast of a date in the first half of the third century, while the third slides in a little later, being dated in the last half of the same century[31]. The John Rylands Library boasts of even earlier evidence. A papyrus codex containing parts of John 18 dates to the time of Hadrian, who reigned from A.D. 117 to 138[32].

Other documents that further support the accuracy of the New Testament can be found in the writings of the so-called “apostolic fathers”—men who wrote primarily from A.D. 90 to 160[33]. Irenaeus, Clement of Alexandria, Tertullian, Tatian, Clement of Rome, and Ignatius (writing before the close of the second century) all provided citations from one or more of the Gospels[34]. Other early witnesses to the authenticity of the New Testament are the Ancient Versions, which consist of the text of the New Testament translated into different languages. The Old Latin and the Old Syriac are the most ancient, being dated from the middle of the second century[35].

The available evidence makes it clear that the Gospels were accepted as authentic by the close of the second century[36]. They were complete (or substantially complete) before A.D. 100, with many of the writings circulating 20-40 years before the close of the first century[37]. Linton remarked concerning the Gospels: A fact known to all who have given any study at all to this subject is that these books were quoted, listed, catalogued, harmonized, cited as authority by different writers, Christian and Pagan, right back to the time of the apostles[38](emphasis added).

Consider; there are only 643 copies of Homer’s Iliad, which is undeniably the most famous book of ancient Greece. No one doubts the text of Julius Caesar’s Gallic Wars, but we have only 10 copies of it, the earliest of which was made 1,000 years after it was written. Livy wrote 142 books of Roman history, of which a mere 35 survive. The 35 known books are made manifest due to some 20 manuscripts, only one of which is as old as the fourth century. We have only two manuscripts of Tacitus’ Histories and Annals, one from the ninth century and one from the eleventh. The History of Thucydides, another well-known ancient work, is dependent upon only eight manuscripts, the oldest of these being dated about A.D. 900 (along with a few papyrus scraps dated at the beginning of the Christian era). The History of Herodotus finds itself in a similar situation. “Yet no classical scholar would listen to an argument that the authenticity of Herodotus or Thucydides is in doubt because the earliest MSS of their works which are of any use to us are over 1,300 years later than the originals”[39]. The New Testament enjoys far more historical documentation than any other volume ever known.

Dr. Ravi Zacharias, a visiting professor at OxfordUniversity, also comments: "In real terms, the New Testament is easily the best attested ancient writing in terms of the sheer number of documents, the time span between the events and the documents, and the variety of documents available to sustain or contradict it. There is nothing in ancient manuscript evidence to match such textual availability and integrity." The New Testament is humanity's most reliable ancient document. Its textual integrity is more certain than that of Plato's writings or Homer's Iliad. To have such abundance of copies for the New Testament from within 70 years of their writing is nothing short of amazing.



ARCHAEOLOGICAL FIND AND THEIR SIGNIFICANCE

Mari Tablets -- Over 20,000 cuneiform tablets, which date back to Abraham's time period, explain many of the patriarchal traditions of Genesis.

Ebla Tablets -- Over 20,000 tablets, many containing law similar to the Deuteronomy law code. The previously thought fictitious five cities of the plain in Genesis 14 (Sodom, Gomorrah, Admah, Zeboiim, and Zoar) are identified.

Nuzi Tablets -- They detail customs of the 14th and 15th century parallel to the patriarchal accounts such as maids producing children for barren wives.

Black Stele -- Proved that writing and written laws existed three centuries before the Mosaic laws.

Temple Walls of Karnak, Egypt -- Signifies a 10th century BC reference to Abraham.

Laws of Eshnunna (ca. 1950 BC) -- Lipit-Ishtar Code (ca. 1860 BC)

Laws of Hammurabi (ca. 1700 BC) -- Show that the law codes of the Pentateuch were not too sophisticated for that period.

Ras Shamra Tablets -- Provide information on Hebrew poetry.

Lachish Letters -- Describe Nebuchadnezzar's invasion of Judah and give insight into the time of Jeremiah.

Gedaliah Seal -- References Gedaliah is spoken of in 2 Kings 25:22.

Cyrus Cylinder -- Authenticates the Biblical description of Cyrus' decree to allow the Jews to rebuild the temple in Jerusalem (see 2 Chronicles 36:23; Ezra 1:2-4).

Moabite Stone -- Gives information about Omri, the sixth king of Israel.

Black Obelisk of Shalmaneser III -- Illustrates how Jehu, king of Israel, had to submit to the Assyrian king.

Taylor Prism -- Contains an Assyrian text which detail Sennacherib's attack on Jerusalem during the time of Hezekiah, king of Israel.

PAST CHARGES BY CRITICS ANSWERED BY ARCHAEOLOGY

Moses could not have written Pentateuch because he lived before the invention of writing.

Writing existed many centuries before Moses.

Abraham's home city of Ur does not exist.

Ur was discovered. One of the columns had the inscription "Abram."

The city built of solid rock called "Petra" does not exist.

Petra was discovered.

The story of the fall of Jericho is myth. The city never existed.

The city was found and excavated. It was found that the walls tumbled in the exact manner described by the biblical narrative.

The "Hittites" did not exist.

Hundreds of references to the amazing Hittite civilization have been found. One can even get a doctorate in Hittite studies at the University of Chicago.

Belshazzar was not a real king of Babylon; he is not found in the records.

Tablets of Babylonia describe the reign of this coregent and son of Nabonidus.




Jesus; Man or Messiah?

A question, is Christ Jesus’ last name? Is it, Christ, a name or is it a title? Just what exactly does Christ mean? The name “Christ” is the Greek equivalent of “Messiah,” so that the name Jesus Christ really means “Jesus the Messiah,” or “Jesus the anointed”. So in answer to the previous question, Christ is a title and not Jesus’ last name. So our next question is what were the expectations of the Jewish population in regards to the promised Messiah?

Jewish Expectations About the Messiah

“While David was king of Israel (tenth century B.C.E.E.), the belief developed that his House would rule forever, not only over Israel but also over all the nations:”[40]. This belief was based on promises made by God and recorded in the Old Testament;

It is God that avengeth me, and that bringeth down the people under me, 49 And that bringeth me forth from mine enemies: thou also hast lifted me up on high above them that rose up against me: thou hast delivered me from the violent man. 50 Therefore I will give thanks unto thee, O LORD, among the heathen, and I will sing praises unto thy name.
51 He is the tower of salvation for his king: and showeth mercy to his anointed, unto David, and to his seed for evermore.

2 Samuel 22:48-51

Then did I beat them small as the dust before the wind: I did cast them out as the dirt in the streets.
43 Thou hast delivered me from the strivings of the people; and thou hast made me the head of the heathen: a people whom I have not known shall serve me. 44 As soon as they hear of me, they shall obey me: the strangers shall submit themselves unto me. 45 The strangers shall fade away, and be afraid out of their closen places. 46 The LORD liveth; and blessed be my rock; and let the God of my salvation be exalted. 47 It is God that avengeth me, and subdueth the people under me. 48 He delivereth me from mine enemies: yea, thou liftest me up above those that rise up against me: thou hast delivered me from the violent man.
49 Therefore will I give thanks unto thee, O LORD, among the heathen, and sing praises unto thy name. 50 Great deliverance giveth he to his king; and showeth mercy to his anointed, to David, and to his seed for evermore.

Psalm 18:42-49

In 586 BCE Judah fell to the Babylonian Empire under Nebuzar-adan, captain of Nebuchadnezzar's body-guard. They were subsequently deported from their homeland; this period of exile is known as the Babylonian exile in Jewish history and is a pivotal point in Jewish history. The Kingdom of Judah (also known as the "Southern Kingdom") was created in c. 930 BCE when the northern ten tribes split off, retaining the national name of Israel[41]. They were subsequently conquered and taken into captivity by the Assyrians in 721 BCE[42].

Many if not most of the Jews were aware of the prophecies that told of how a savior would come and reestablish the Kingdom of David and eagerly awaited the appearance of this promised deliver. One such prophecy was found in the Book of Micah. Micah prophesized deliverance by someone from Bethlehem, the home village of the house of David, in terms that are resonant with Messianic expectations centuries later:

“Now you are walled about with a wall; siege is laid against us; with a rod they strike upon the cheek the ruler of Israel. But you, O Bethlehem Eph’rathah, who are little to be among the clans [or rulers] of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel, whose origin [Hebrew ‘goings out’ ] is from of old, from ancient days [olam[43] or from days of eternity]. Therefore he shall give them up until the time when she who is in travail has brought forth; then the rest of his brethren shall return to the people of Israel. And he shall stand and feed his flock in the strength of the Lord, in the majesty of the name of the Lord his God. And they shall dwell secure, for now he shall be great to the ends of the earth.”

Micah 5:1-5

What the Bible says about the Messiah

There are 60 different prophecies, with more than 300 references to the coming Messiah in the Old Testament. It was through the fulfillment of these prophecies that Israel would recognize their Messiah (and the world too). So these are the identifying signs that we must use to determine if Jesus actually was the promised Messiah or not. Although we can not actually speak to Jesus the words of some of John the Baptist’s followers addressed to Jesus after John’s arrest are appropriate;

And when the men came to him they said, John the Baptist has sent us to you, saying, Are you he who is to come, or are we waiting for another?

Luke 7:20

Partial list of prophecies about the Messiah

(1)The Messiah would be a prophet like Moses. This was prophesied by Moses, himself:

“The LORD your God will raise up for you a Prophet like me from your midst, from your brethren. Him you shall hear, according to all you desired of the LORD your God in Horeb in the day of the assembly, saying, ‘Let me not hear again the voice of the LORD my God, nor let me see this great fire anymore, lest I die.’ And the LORD said to me: ‘What they have spoken is good. ‘I will raise up for them a Prophet like you from among their brethren, and will put My words in His mouth, and He shall speak to them all that I command Him. And it shall be that whoever will not hear My words, which He speaks in My name, I will require it of him’.”

Deut. 18:15-19 (NKJV)

(2) Like Moses the Messiah would be; a leader, a prophet, a lawgiver, a deliverer, a teacher, a priest, an anointed one, a mediator, a human and one of God’s chosen people (a Jew) performing the role of intermediary between God and man—speaking the words of God—and like Moses, the Messiah would offer himself to die for the sins of the people.

(3) Both Moses and Jesus; performed many miracles[44] validating their message. As infants, both their lives were threatened by evil kings, and both were supernaturally protected from harm. Both spent their early years in Egypt. Both taught new truths from God. Both cured lepers[45] and confronted demonic powers. Both were initially doubted in their roles by their siblings. Moses lifted up the brazen serpent to heal all his people who had faith; Jesus was lifted up on the cross to heal all who would have faith in Him. Moses appointed 70 elders to rule Israel[46]; Jesus appointed 70 disciples to teach the nations[47].

(4) The Messiah would be a descendant of Noah’s son, Shem. Noah said;

“Blessed be the LORD God of Shem; and Canaan shall be his servant. God shall enlarge Japheth, and he shall dwell in the tents of Shem; and Canaan shall be his servant

Gen. 9:26-27[48]

Noah associated Shem especially with the worship of Jehovah, recognizing the spiritual motivations of Shem and thus implying that God’s promised Deliverer would ultimately come from Shem. The Semitic nations have included the Hebrews, Arabs, Assyrians, Persians, Syrians and other strongly religious-minded peoples. “…Shem was peculiarly His [God’s] steward with respect to the propagation of God’s will and plan for mankind, especially the transmission of His saving Word.[49]”

Further, (5) he would be a descendant of Shem named Abraham (Genesis 22:18; 12; 17; 22); fulfilled, see Christ’s genealogy in Matthew 1. More specifically, (6) he would be a descendant of Abraham’s son, Isaac and not Ishmael (Gen. 17; 21); fulfilled, see Christ’s genealogy in Matthew 1. (7) He would be a descendant of Isaac’s son, Jacob and not Esau (Gen. 28; 35:10-12; Num. 24:17); fulfilled, see Christ’s genealogy in Matthew 1. (8) More specifically, he would be a descendant of Judah and not of the other eleven brothers of Jacob; fulfilled, see Christ’s genealogy in Matthew 1. (9) More specifically, he would be a descendant of the family of Jesse in the tribe of Benjamin (Isaiah 11:1-5); fulfilled, see Christ’s genealogy in Matthew 1 and Luke 3:23-38. Finally, (10) he would be of the house of David (2 Samuel 7:12-16; Jeremiah 23:5; Psalm 89:3-4); fulfilled: see Christ’s genealogy in Matthew 1; Luke 1:27; 32; 69[50].

(11) He will be born in a small city called Bethlehem, specifically the one formerly known as Ephratah (Micah 5:2); fulfilled: Luke 2:4-20[51].

(12) He will be born of a virgin (Isaiah 7:14); fulfilled, Matthew 1; Luke 1. (13) The Messiah would be the “seed of a woman” come to destroy the work of the Devil. Not long after Creation, God prophesied to the serpent Satan, “And I will put enmity between you and the woman, And between your seed and her Seed; He shall bruise your head, And you shall bruise His heel”[52]. The implication was that one of Eve’s descendants would undo the damage that Satan had caused.

The “seed of the woman” can only be an allusion to a future descendant of Eve who would have no human father. Biologically, a woman produces no seed, and except in this case Biblical usage always speaks only of the seed of men. This promised Seed would, therefore, have to be miraculously implanted in the womb. In this way, He would not inherit the sinful nature which would disqualify every son of Adam from becoming a Savior from sin. This prophecy thus clearly anticipates the future virgin birth of Christ.

Satan would inflict a painful wound on the woman’s Seed, but Christ in turn will inflict a mortal wound on the Serpent, crushing his head. This prophecy was fulfilled in the first instance at the cross, but will culminate when the triumphant Christ casts Satan into the lake of fire[53]. This ancient prophecy made such a profound impression on Adam’s descendants that it was incorporated, with varying degrees of distortion and embellishment, in all the legends, mythologies and astrologies of the ancients since they are filled with tales of mighty heroes engaged in life-and-death struggles with dragons and other monsters. Mankind, from the earliest ages, has recorded its hope that someday a Savior would come who would destroy the devil and reconcile man to God[54]. In the New Testament, John confirms that this was His Master’s purpose,

He who does what is sinful is of the devil, because the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil’s work

I John 3:8[55]

(14) He will be a priest after the order of Melchisedek (alternate rendering Melchisedec) (Psalm 110:4); fulfilled, Hebrews 5:6.

(15) The scepter shall not pass from the tribe of Judah until the Messiah comes. In other words, He will come before Israel loses its right to judge her own people. The patriarch Jacob prophesied this:

The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet, until Shiloh come; and unto him shall the gathering of the people be.

Genesis 49:10

As Dr. Henry M. Morris’ The Defender’s Bible explains: This important prophecy has been strikingly fulfilled. Although Judah was neither Jacob’s firstborn son nor the son who would produce the priestly tribe, he was the son through whom God would fulfill His promises to Israel and to the world. The leadership, according to Jacob, was to go to Judah, but this did not happen for over 600 years. Moses came from Levi, Joshua from Ephraim, Gideon from Manasseh, Samson from Dan, Samuel from Ephraim and Saul from Benjamin. But when David finally became king, Judah held the scepter and did not relinquish it until after Shiloh came. “Shiloh” is a name for the Messiah, probably related to the Hebrew word for “peace” (shalom) and means in effect, “the one who brings peace.”

According to the Jewish historian Josephus, the Sanhedrin of Israel lost the right to truly judge its own people when it lost the right to pass death penalties in 11 A.D[56]. Jesus was certainly born before 11 A.D.

(16) He will come while the Temple of Jerusalem is standing[57] (Malachi 3:1; Psalm 118:26; Daniel 9:26; Zechariah 11:13; Haggai 2:7-9); fulfilled, Matthew 21:12 etc.

(17) He will perform many miracles (Isaiah 35:5-6); fulfilled, see list of “Miracles Recorded in the Gospels” at end of section. (18) He will open the eyes of the blind (Isa. 29:18); fulfillment, Matt. 9:27-31; 12:22; 20:29; Mark 8:22-26; 10:46; Luke 11:14; 18:35; John 9:1-7. (19) He will speak in parables (Psalm 78:2); fulfilled, Matthew 13:34, etc. (20) The Gentiles will believe in Him, while His own people (the Jews) will reject him (Isaiah 8:14; 28:16; 49:6; 50:6; 60:3; Psalms 22:7-8; 118:22); fulfilled: I Peter 2:7 etc.

(21) A messenger (a man of the wilderness) will prepare the way for Him (Isa. 40:3; Malachi 3:1); fulfilled, Matthew 3:1-3; 11:10; John 1:23; Luke 1:17.

(22) There would one day be a commandment to rebuild the city of Jerusalem, which the Babylonians had destroyed years earlier. This was fulfilled in 445 BC by Artaxerxes, king of the Medo-Persian Empire (465-424 BC); nearly a century after the prophecy was given. See Nehemiah 2:1-8 for the account of how Nehemiah asked Artaxerxes for permission and the means to rebuild the ruins of the city of Jerusalem. In Nehemiah 2:1, we see that this took place "... in the month Nisan[58], in the twentieth year of Artaxerxes the king (445 BC) ...." (23) The exact day of His public revelation to Israel—and subsequent death. (24) From the giving of this commandment to the Messiah would be 69 weeks of years (seven plus threescore and two) after which the Messiah would be cut off (killed). This was fulfilled when Jesus Christ was crucified on the 14th day of Nisan (the Passover) of 32 AD, right on schedule.

In the first year of his reign I Daniel understood by books the number of the years, whereof the word of the LORD came to Jeremiah the prophet, that he would accomplish seventy years in the desolations of Jerusalem.

Daniel 9:2

Seventy weeks are determined upon thy people and upon thy holy city, to finish the transgression, and to make an end of sins, and to make reconciliation for iniquity, and to bring in everlasting righteousness, and to seal up the vision and prophecy, and to anoint the most Holy.
Know therefore and understand, that from the going forth of the commandment to restore and to build Jerusalem unto the Messiah the Prince shall be seven weeks, and threescore and two weeks: the street shall be built again, and the wall, even in troublous times
.

Daniel 9:24-25

Here is how the calculation of the 69 weeks of years works: Weeks of years are sevens of years[59], and seven times 69 is 483 years. But we know from the detail of the seventieth week provided in the book of Revelation, that these years are 360 days rather than the years on our present calendar which, figuring in leap years, are approximately 365.25 days. Revelation 12:14 describes the second half of the tribulation as "a time, times, and half a time" (1 + 2 + 1/2 = 3 1/2 years). Revelation 12:6 says this is "a thousand two hundred and threescore (1260) days", and Revelation 13:5 says it is "forty and two months". Since 1260 / 42 = 30 and 1260 / 3.5 = 360, we know that in this prophecy, God is counting months as 30 days each and years as 360 days each. Since the tribulation is a part of the 70 weeks of Daniel's prophecy, we know that the 360-day years must be used. So to see how many of our years this is, we calculate 483 * (360 / 365.25) = 476 years, 0 months, and a few days. Moving forward from the 445 BC date, this brings us to the early spring of 32 AD (476 - 445 + 1 = 32), when Jesus Christ was crucified. The one must be added to account for the fact that there is no "year 0". The year after 1 BC was 1 AD. The calculation here is somewhat simplified and shows that at a minimum, the prophecy was accurate to within a very few days.

(25) He will enter Jerusalem riding a donkey (the colt of an ass) (Zechariah 9:9); fulfilled, Matt. 21:5; Luke 19:32-37. (26) He will be hated for no reason (Psalm 69:4); fulfilled, John 15:25. (27) He will be betrayed (Psalm 41:9); fulfilled, Matt. 27:3-10. (28) More specifically, He will be betrayed by a friend (Psalm 41:9); fulfilled, Matt. 27:3-10; 26:47-48. (29) The price of his betrayal will be thirty pieces of silver (Zech. 11:12); fulfilled, Matt. 27:3-10. (30) The betrayal money will be cast onto the floor (Zech. 11:13); fulfilled, Matt. 27:5. (31) More specifically, it will be cast onto the floor of the Temple (Zech. 11:13); fulfilled, Matt. 27:3-10. (32) The betrayal money will be used to buy a potter’s field (Zech. 11:13); fulfilled, Matt. 27:6-10.

(33) He will not open his mouth to defend himself (Isaiah 53:7); fulfilled, Matthew 27:12. (34) He will be beaten and spit upon (Isaiah 50:6); fulfilled, Matthew 26:67; 27:26-30. (35) He will be “numbered with the transgressors” (Isaiah 53:12); fulfilled, Jesus was crucified as a criminal in between two thieves (Mat 27:38). (36) He will be pierced (Zechariah 12:10); fulfilled, John 19:34.

(37) His hands and feet will be pierced (Psalm 22:16; cf. Zechariah 12:10; Galatians 3:13). (38) Crucifixion foretold; Psalm 22 graphically prophecies the Messiah’s manner of death. At the time the psalm was written (and long after), the penalty for blasphemy was stoning. However, at the time Jesus was condemned by the Sanhedrin, it no longer had the legal right to put people to death. Thus, the case was taken to the Roman governor Pontius Pilate who crucified him according to Roman custom.

(39) The Passover sacrifice and Jesus Christ’s sacrificial death coincide exactly. The dates on which Jesus was taken by the Roman authorities, and then slain, also coincided precisely with the Passover. Jesus became the Passover Lamb, “without blemish.” At the first Passover, described in Exodus 12, God instructed the Israelites to kill a lamb with no blemishes and to put its blood on their door posts. When the angel of death passed through Egypt where the Israelites were being held as slaves, it would pass by any house that had the blood of the Passover lamb on its door posts. Jesus fulfilled Moses' prophecy of the Passover Lamb because it is through His blood that we can be saved from, or passed over by, death[60].

(40) His bones will not be broken (Psalm 34:20; Exodus 12[61]); fulfilled, John 19:33. (41) They will divide his clothing and cast lots for them (Psalm 22:18); fulfilled, John 19:23-24. (42) He will be given vinegar and gall to drink (Psalm 69:21); fulfilled, Matthew 27:34, 48. (43) He will say: “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” (Psalm 22:1); fulfilled, Matthew 27:46.

(44) He will be buried with the rich (Isaiah 53:9); fulfilled, Matthew 27. According to Henry Morris, This passage [Isaiah 53:9] could also be read, “they planned His grave (to be) with the wicked, but it was with a rich man [Joseph of Arimathea] in His death.”[62] (45) He will not decay (Psalm 16:10); fulfilled, Acts 2:31.

(46) He will be resurrected from the dead (Psalm 16:10); fulfilled, Acts 2:31, etc. (47) He will ascend into heaven (Psalm 68:18); fulfilled, Acts 1:9. (48) He will be seated at the right hand of God (Psalm 110:1); fulfilled, Hebrews 1:3. (49) He will be the Son of God (Psa. 2:7); fulfilled, Matthew 3:17, etc.

Fulfillment Timing

It is obvious that Christ fulfilled the many prophecies listed in the Old Testament. However there is more to Jesus’ fulfillment that must be considered which further support the belief that Jesus is the Promised Savior and that is many of the prophecies could only have been fulfilled during the 1st Century AD.

For example, the patriarch Jacob said, in Genesis 49:10, “The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet, until Shiloh come.” The name “Shiloh” is a title of the Messiah, and the prophecy states that Judah’s tribe would remain the chief tribe in Israel, in particular providing their kings, until Messiah would come. The prophecy must have been fulfilled prior to the destruction of Judah and Jerusalem in A.D. 70, by which time certainly all semblance of a scepter had departed from Judah.

Further, the promise was given to King David that the Messiah should be one of his descendants, as the King eternal, the one of whom God said, “I will establish the throne of his kingdom for ever”[63]. Isaiah said, “There shall come forth a rod out of the stem (literally ‘stump’) of Jesse (that is David’s father), and a Branch shall grow out of his roots”[64]. This is another name of the Messiah, and indicates that, even after it would appear that the family tree of Jesse has been cut down, yet one Branch will grow out of the stump. Evidently the very last one who could be known to have come of this lineage would finally prove to be the promised Messiah! This was fulfilled uniquely in Jesus. His foster father, Joseph, was in the royal line from David and thus held the legal right to the throne (Matthew 1:1-16). His mother, Mary, was also a descendant of David, as shown by her genealogy in Luke 3:23-31. But ever since the time of Jesus, it would be quite impossible to establish the legal or biological lineage of any pretender to David’s throne, as all the ancient genealogical records were destroyed soon after that.

An even more striking prophecy and fulfillment is given in Daniel 9:24-27. There Daniel was told explicitly that Messiah would come 69 “Sabbaths” (that is, 69 sabbatical years for a total of 483 years) after the decree was given to rebuild Jerusalem, which at that time lay in ruins after Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, had destroyed it. Such a decree was given later by the Persian emperor. Although the exact date of the decree is somewhat uncertain, the termination date of the prophecy must have been some time in the first century A.D. In fact, it must have been before the destruction of the city and the temple by the Romans in A.D. 70, because the prophecy said quite explicitly: “After (the 483 years) shall Messiah be cut off, but not for himself; and the people of the prince that shall come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary”[65]. Not only must Messiah come before this destruction, but He was also to be “cut off,” rejected and killed, before it came.

What are the Odds?

Many detractors claim that maybe Jesus did fulfill the prophecies relating to the Messiah but it simply happened; that it was just happenstance. A true ‘yeah but’ response. Is this a valid argument against Jesus’ claim or rather our acceptance of Jesus as our Savior? Is it possible that he just happened to fulfill the prophecies about the Messiah or is one stretching the limits of possibility?

Consider, if still doubting that the man born some two thousand years ago was not the Messiah; that the Old Testament prophet Micah, writing circa 700 B.C.E.E., out of the hundreds and hundreds of cities in the scores and scores of nations in existence all over the world even in those days, designated Bethlehem of Judea as the birthplace of the Messiah? Also recall that it was not the decision of Joseph and Mary to travel to Bethlehem it was forced upon them. Also that at about the same time, Isaiah[66] said that the Christ would be born of a virgin?

Malachi[67], in about 425 B.C.E.E., specified that the Messiah would be contemporary with the temple in Jerusalem—a temple that was destroyed in 70 A.D. and has never been rebuilt. Or that a prophecy made in 1012 B.C.E.E. specified that the Messiah’s hands and feet would eventually be pierced—a clear reference to death by crucifixion—800 years before the Romans ever even instituted crucifixion as a form of capital punishment!

Consider

And it was broken in that day: and so the poor of the flock that waited upon me knew that it was the word of the LORD. 12 And I said unto them, If ye think good, give me my price; and if not, forbear. So they weighed for my price thirty pieces of silver. 13 And the LORD said unto me, Cast it unto the potter: a goodly price that I was prised at of them. And I took the thirty pieces of silver, and cast them to the potter in the house of the LORD.

Zechariah 11:11-13 (Written over 500 years before Christ)

3 Then Judas, which had betrayed him, when he saw that he was condemned, repented himself, and brought again the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and elders, 4 Saying, I have sinned in that I have betrayed the innocent blood. And they said, What is that to us? See thou to that. 5 And he cast down the pieces of silver in the temple, and departed, and went and hanged himself. 6 And the chief priests took the silver pieces, and said, It is not lawful for to put them into the treasury, because it is the price of blood. 7 And they took counsel, and bought with them the potter’s field, to bury strangers in. 8 Wherefore that field was called, The field of blood, unto this day. 9 Then was fulfilled that which was spoken by Jeremy the prophet, saying, And they took the thirty pieces of silver, the price of him that was valued, whom they of the children of Israel did value; 10 And gave them for the potter’s field, as the Lord appointed me.

Matthew 27:3-10 (Written some 25-30 years after Christ)

A number of years ago, Peter W. Stoner and Robert C. Newman wrote a book entitled Science Speaks. The book was based on the science of probability and vouched for by the American Scientific Affiliation. It set out the odds of any one man in all of history fulfilling just eight of the 60 major prophecies (and 270 ramifications) fulfilled by the life of Christ. The probability that Jesus of Nazareth could have fulfilled just eight such prophecies would be only 1 in 1017. That’s 1 in 100, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000.

Stoner claims that that many silver dollars would be enough to cover the face of the entire state of Texas two feet deep. Who in his right mind would suppose that a blindfolded man, heading out of Dallas by foot in any direction, would be able, on his very first attempt, to pick up one specifically marked silver dollar out of 100, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000?



Why do we need a Messiah?


Was that the sound of happenstance collapsing? If one still refuses to (1) acknowledge that Jesus of Nazareth existed and (2) is the promised Messiah then further discussion is pointless. However if this either confirms your belief or convinces you of this we have fulfilled our command to prove all things.

But what if someone expresses a yeah but defense; yeah he’s the promised Messiah but why do I need a Savior? Many offer that as a defense for not accepting Jesus as their Savior. Others tend to say that maybe having Jesus as their Savior is not really necessary; it’s more the intent that counts. Is that a valid claim? Is a good life good enough? Can we enter the kingdom other then through accepting Jesus as our Savior?

The answer is most definite no!

Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that entereth not by the door into the sheepfold, but climbeth up some other way, the same is a thief and a robber. 2 But he that entereth in by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. 3 To him the porter openeth; and the sheep hear his voice: and he calleth his own sheep by name, and leadeth them out. 4 And when he putteth forth his own sheep, he goeth before them, and the sheep follow him: for they know his voice. 5 And a stranger will they not follow, but will flee from him: for they know not the voice of strangers. 6 This parable spake Jesus unto them: but they understood not what things they were which he spake unto them. 7 Then said Jesus unto them again, Verily, verily, I say unto you, I am the door of the sheep.
8 All that ever came before me are thieves and robbers: but the sheep did not hear them. 9 I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and
find pasture.

John 10:1-8

Okay so the Bible clearly says that we need Jesus as our Savior but one may still ask why do I need a Savior in the first place? The answer is simple;

But your sins have come between you and your God, and by your evil doings his face has been veiled from you, so that he will give you no answer.

Isaiah 59:2

This thing called Sin

Sin, to some that is an archaic word; something that has no place in today’s language. Something that we hear tossed about in church but has no place in today’s world. Is that true, is sin an outdated idea? Maybe we should see what God has to say about it through an examination of his written word. The first step we should engage in is finding out what exactly God says sin is. As a former instructor once said; first you have to agree on the terms. So shall we begin?

What is sin?

Everyone who sins breaks the law; in fact, sin is lawlessness

I John 3:4

All unrighteousness is sin and there is sin not leading not to death.

I John 5:17

Therefore to him who knows to do good and does not do it, to him it is sin.

James 4:17

…for whatever is not from faith is sin.

Romans 14:23 (later part)

It is clear that there are certain acts that are considered sinful later will discuss just what the law is and if it applies to us. But what about the claim that someone is a good person surely they don’t sin?

For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;

Romans 3:23

For there is not a just man upon earth, that doeth good, and sinneth not.

Ecclesiastes 7:20

If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.

1 John 1:10

But what if someone repents and tries to lead a good life but without Jesus; won’t that be enough?

Who can say, I have made my heart clean, I am pure from my sin?

Proverbs 20:9

For though thou wash thee with nitre, and take thee much soap, yet thine iniquity is marked before me, saith the Lord GOD

Jeremiah 2:22

If I sin, then thou markest me, and thou wilt not acquit me from mine iniquity.

Job 10:14

Well some may try and claim that times have changed since when those words were written. Surely God can’t expect us to try and be like what is outlined in the Bible and generally they make this claim without any real solid understanding of the Bible. What does God say?

For I am the LORD, I change not

Malachi 3:6

Well what does God think about sin? Is it really a big thing to him, after all we’re only human. Remember that our sins have cut us off from God[68] but again what does God say about it? Quite a lot.

First off he hates it;

For all that do such things, and all that do unrighteously, are an abomination unto the LORD thy God. .

Deuteronomy 25:16

These six things doth the LORD hate: yea, seven are an abomination unto him: 17 A proud look, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, 18 An heart that deviseth wicked imaginations, feet that be swift in running to mischief, 19 A false witness that speaketh lies, and he that soweth discord among brethren.

Proverbs 6:16

God also remembers our sins;

For her sins have reached unto heaven, and God hath remembered her iniquities .

Revelation 18:5

Is provoked to jealousy by it;

And Judah did evil in the sight of the LORD, and they provoked him to jealousy with their sins which they had committed, above all that their fathers had done.

1 Kings 14:22

He is also provoked to anger by our sins;

Forasmuch as I exalted thee out of the dust, and made thee prince over my people Israel; and thou hast walked in the way of Jeroboam, and hast made my people Israel to sin, to provoke me to anger with their sins.

1 Kings 16:2

Recompenses;

And first I will recompense their iniquity and their sin double; because they have defiled my land, they have filled mine inheritance with the carcases of their detestable and abominable things.

Jeremiah 16:18

Reward her even as she rewarded you, and double unto her double according to her works: in the cup which she hath filled fill to her double.

Revelation 18:6

Punishes;

And I will punish the world for their evil, and the wicked for their iniquity; and I will cause the arrogancy of the proud to cease, and will lay low the haughtiness of the terrible.

Isaiah 13:11

You only have I known of all the families of the earth: therefore I will punish you for all your iniquities.

Amos 3:2

But luckily He alone can forgive;

Keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, and that will by no means clear the guilty; visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children, and upon the children's children, unto the third and to the fourth generation.

Exodus 34:7

To the Lord our God belong mercies and forgivenesses, though we have rebelled against him;.

Daniel 9:9

Who is a God like unto thee, that pardoneth iniquity, and passeth by the transgression of the remnant of his heritage? he retaineth not his anger for ever, because he delighteth in mercy..

Micah 7:18

Why doth this man thus speak blasphemies? who can forgive sins but God only?

Mark 2:7

It would seem that, at least in God’s eyes, sin is a very serious thing and so it should be to us. But what causes us to sin? Let’s see what God says. First off we find that it comes from the heart.

18 But those things which proceed out of the mouth come forth from the heart; and they defile the man. 19 For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies:

Matthew 15: 18-19

It also comes from lust;

But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed. Then when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, is full grown brings forth death.

James 1:14-15

Finally it also comes from foolish thoughts;

The devising of foolishness is sin, and the scoffer is an abomination to men

Proverbs 24:9

The effects of sin?

Shame;

But what fruit were you getting at that time from the things of which you are now ashamed? For the end of those things is death.

Romans 6:21

Disquiet;

There is no soundness in my flesh
because of your indignation; there is no health in my bones
because of my sin.

Psalm 38:3

Disease;

His bones are full of the sin of his youth, which shall lie down with him in the dust

Job 20:11

The ground is cursed;

And unto Adam he said, Because thou hast hearkened unto the voice of thy wife, and hast eaten of the tree, of which I commanded thee, saying, Thou shalt not eat of it: cursed is the ground for thy sake; in sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life; 18 Thorns also and thistles shall it bring forth to thee; and thou shalt eat the herb of the field;

Genesis 3:17-18

Toil and sorrow originated in it;

18 Thorns also and thistles shall it bring forth to thee; and thou shalt eat the herb of the field; 19 In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken: for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return.

Genesis 3:18-19

Leads to death;

But of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you may not take; for on the day when you take of it, death will certainly come to you.

Genesis 2:17

Behold, all souls are mine; as the soul of the father, so also the soul of the son is mine: the soul that sinneth, it shall die…20 The soul that sinneth, it shall die.

Ezekiel 18:4, 20

Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death

James 1:15

For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Romans 6:23

And ultimately it bars us from the Kingdom of Heaven;

Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind,

I Corinthians 6:9

Now the works of the flesh are clear, which are these: evil desire, unclean things, wrong use of the senses, 20 Worship of images, use of strange powers, hates, fighting, desire for what another has, angry feelings, attempts to get the better of others, divisions, false teachings, 21 Envy, uncontrolled drinking and feasting, and such things: of which I give you word clearly, even as I did in the past, that they who do such things will have no part in the kingdom of God.

Galatians 5:19-21

Being certain of this, that no man who gives way to the passions of the flesh, no unclean person, or one who has desire for the property of others, or who gives worship to images, has any heritage in the kingdom of Christ and God.

Ephesians 5:5

And there shall in no wise enter into it any thing that defileth, neither whatsoever worketh abomination, or maketh a lie: but they which are written in the Lamb's book of life.

Revelation 21:27

Death according to God


The mention of death occurs early in Bible;

Then the LORD God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to tend and keep it. 16 And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, "Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat; 17 but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die."

(NKJV)GENESIS 2:15

God told Adam that he would die the very day that he ate of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Just one chapter later, we see Adam and Eve eating of that forbidden fruit[69]. Yet they did not physically die that day. Had God lied to Adam about dying, as the "serpent" implied to Eve in the Garden[70]? Or did God literally mean that Adam would DIE the day he ate of the fruit?

A brief aside to talk about the identification of the serpent mentioned in the story of the fall of man. The Bible elsewhere identifies Satan with the serpent in this story. In Revelation 12:9 and 20:2, he is called "that serpent of old, called the Devil and Satan." Did he appear to Eve in the form of a talking snake? Probably not. The Hebrew word translated "serpent" in the above passage is נחש (nachash). In addition to "serpent," this Hebrew root word has several other possible meanings. It can be used as a noun to mean "one who practices divination," or "shining brass." However, nachash can also be used as an adjective to mean "bright" or "brazen." In Genesis 3, it is likely that nachash is an adjective being used as a noun. If that is the case, the proper translation of hanachash in Genesis 3 would be "the bright one" or "the shining one." This understanding of nachash fits in very well with Paul's description of Satan appearing as an "angel of light"[71].

Returning to the incident in the Garden of Eden we find God pronouncing a curse upon Adam and in turn upon all of mankind. The curse that God placed on Adam for eating of the forbidden fruit was that he would have to work the ground to produce food to eat for the rest of his life. He cursed the soil so that it would produce thorns and thistles and make Adam's job of farming much more difficult. Then God tells Adam his physical fate:

"In the sweat of your face you shall eat bread till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for dust you are, and to dust you shall return."

(NKJV) GENESIS 3:19

After pronouncing this curse upon Adam and his descendents God:

…sent him out from the garden of Eden, to cultivate the ground from which he was taken. 24 So He drove the man out; and at the east of the garden of Eden He stationed the cherubim and the flaming sword which turned every direction to guard the way to the tree of life.

GENESIS 3:23

But is this fate to return to dust what God was talking about when He told Adam that he would die in the day he ate of the forbidden fruit? Adam did not cease living at that moment; in fact he lived quite sometime following being banished from the Garden;

And all the days that Adam lived were nine hundred and thirty years: and he died

Genesis 5:5

Clearly Adam was banished from the Garden of Eden because of his disobedience. The Bible doesn't tell us how long Adam was in the Garden before his expulsion, but we can see from Genesis 2 and 3 that Adam had a personal relationship with God there. He was in close contact with Him, and certainly God spent time teaching him many things, including the fundamental concepts of right and wrong. But after his exile, the Scriptures never again mention God talking to or interacting with Adam. His relationship with YHVH 'elohim was cut off at that moment.

But how does this equate to dying, you might ask?

God’s definition of Death

It is important to understand that the Eternal thinks in a way that is fundamentally foreign to mankind;

For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD

Isa. 55:8

God continual stresses that he is God of the living;


31 But as touching the resurrection of the dead, have ye not read that which was spoken unto you by God, saying,
32 I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob? God is not the God of the dead, but of the living.

Matt. 22:31-32

26 And as touching the dead, that they rise: have ye not read in the book of Moses, how in the bush God spake unto him, saying, I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob?
27 He is not the God of the dead, but the God of the living: ye therefore do greatly err
.

Mark 12:26-27

37 Now that the dead are raised, even Moses showed at the bush, when he calleth the Lord the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob. 38 For he is not a God of the dead, but of the living: for all live unto him.

Luke 20:37-38

But what does this have to do with death; the cessation of life? Isn’t it ‘natural’ for humans to die? Is there more to this issue of death? We need to turn to the writings of Paul to get better understanding on this subject. In I Timothy 5:5-6 we find some reference to this concept. We'll break into the middle of instructions Paul was giving Timothy about the proper care for widows in the Church. Notice what Paul says about their conduct:

Now she who is really a widow, and left alone, trusts in God and continues in supplications and prayers night and day. 6 But she who lives in pleasure is dead while she lives.

I Timothy 5:5-6

Just how can someone be alive and also be dead? In Colossians 2:13, Paul gives us a hint at the answer:

When you were dead in your transgressions and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He [the Father] made you alive together with him [Christ], having forgiven us all our transgressions,

COLOSSIANS 2:13

Here, Paul states that a person who breaks God's law, one who is a sinner, is dead in that state. Although physical death is the final consequence of sin, clearly Paul isn't speaking of physical death in this verse. In Ephesians 2:1-5, he expands on this concept:

And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins, 2 in which you once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience, 3 among whom also we all once conducted ourselves in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, just as the others. 4 But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, 5 even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved),

EPHESIANS 2:1

Whoever breaks God's law commits sin, for sin is the transgression of His holy law[72]. Sin separates us from God, and keeps us from knowing Him and having a personal relationship with Him. The Bible tells us that those who keep His commandments have a good understanding[73]. The Scriptures show that without understanding and knowing God, we cannot have eternal life:

"This is eternal life, that they may know You [the Father], the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent."

(NASU) JOHN 17:3

We know too that the Son of God has come, and has given us the power to know the true God [the Father]. We are in the true God [the Father], as we are in His Son, Jesus Christ. This [the Father] is the true God, this is eternal life.

(Jerusalem Bible) I JOHN 5:20

Knowing the true God is the key to eternal life. However, this knowledge goes beyond simply comprehending who God is. One must obey God to truly know Him. The demons know who God is, but they do not have life because they do not submit to God's law

Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble.

James 2:19

So it would seem that according to the Bible that separation from God is death and that our sins have cut us off from God. As we have seen all have sinned and there is no way we can cleanse ourselves from this transgression. Is there a way out or are we doomed? We will look closer at this but first we must continue our examination of this thing called death.

Death; the ultimate end

The Bible has clearly stated that the wages of sin is death[74] and that the Bible says that being separated from God we are as good as dead. So this must beg the question, is there any kind of ‘death’ after physical death is there any further punishment for the unsaved? What of the traditional concepts of hell; is there any Biblical basis for such beliefs? What does the Bible say about what finally happens to the unsaved?

First we, as said above, must define our terms. In the New Testament there are three Greek words that the King James Version often translated as "hell"—hades, gehenna and Tataros. The first word we shall look at is the Greek word Hades. An understanding of the original meaning of the Greek word hades is necessary, the The New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology states that hades". . . comes from idein (to see) with the negative prefix, a-, and so would mean the invisible. . . In the LXX[75] hades occurs more than 100 times, in the majority of instances to translate Heb. she'ol, the underworld which receives all the dead. It is the land of darkness …"[76]. Most likely, hades originally meant "unseen." Later, it came to refer to the hidden state of those buried in the earth. It is generally accepted that Hades is referring to the abode of the dead; i.e. the grave. Actually there is a fourth word that was usually rendered as hell and that is she’ol and was used only in the Old Testament. It is the Hebrew form of the word Hades, having the same connotation as it; the place of the dead or the grave.

The second word render as hell is Tataros; it is only used once and applies to a very specific situation.

For if God spared not the angels that sinned, but cast them down to hell, and delivered them into chains of darkness, to be reserved unto judgment;

II Peter 2:4

As can be seen the angels that rebelled against God were put into hell; not in some fiery pit suffering endless torment and waiting for the unsaved to join them, but simply in a condition of restraint.

The final word is Gehenna and it is this word that has generated the most commentary, at least in regards to hell. The word Gehenna[77] or a variation is used only 12 times in the New Testament.

"But I say to you that whoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment. And whoever says to his brother, 'Raca!' shall be in danger of the council. But whoever says, 'You fool!' shall be in danger of hell [gehennan] fire."

MATTHEW 5:22 (NKJV)

"If your right eye causes you to sin, pluck it out and cast it from you; for it is more profitable for you that one of your members perish, than for your whole body to be cast into hell [geennan]. 30 And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and cast it from you; for it is more profitable for you that one of your members perish, than for your whole body to be cast into hell [gehennan]."

MATTHEW 5:29-30 (NKJV)

"And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. But rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell [gehenne]."

MATTHEW 10:28 (NKJV)

"But I will show you whom you should fear: Fear Him who, after He has killed, has power to cast into hell [geennan]; yes, I say to you, fear Him!"

LUKE 12:5 (NKJV)

"If your hand or foot causes you to sin, cut it off and cast it from you. It is better for you to enter into life lame or maimed, rather than having two hands or two feet, to be cast into the everlasting [aionion] fire. 9 And if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out and cast it from you. It is better for you to enter into life with one eye, rather than having two eyes, to be cast into hell [geennan] fire."

MATTHEW 18:8-9 (NKJV)

"If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter into life maimed, rather than having two hands, to go to hell [geennan], into the fire that shall never be quenched - 44 where 'Their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched.' 45 And if your foot causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life lame, rather than having two feet, to be cast into hell [geennan], into the fire that shall never be quenched - 46 where 'Their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched.' 47 And if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out. It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye, rather than having two eyes, to be cast into hell [geennan] fire - 48 where 'Their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched.' 49 For everyone will be seasoned with fire, and every sacrifice will be seasoned with salt."

MARK 9:43 (NKJV)

"Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you travel land and sea to win one proselyte, and when he is won, you make him twice as much a son of hell [geennes] as yourselves."

MATTHEW 23:15 (NKJV)

"You snakes! You brood of vipers! How will you escape being condemned to hell [geennes]?"

MATTHEW 23:33 (NIV)

And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity. The tongue is so set among our members that it defiles the whole body, and sets on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire by hell [geennes].

JAMES 3:6 (NKJV)

Clearly, geenna is often used in conjunction with fire. So how did this association occur? To determine that we must delve into where the word Gehenna came from and how it became associated with fire.

"Gehenna" is derived from, "Ge Hinnom," meaning, "Valley of Hinnom." "Ge Hinnom" is also called, "Gai ben-Hinnom," meaning, "valley of Hinnom's son." The valley is outside the south wall of ancient Jerusalem and stretches from the foot of MountZion eastward to the KidronValley. It is mentioned 13 times in 11 different verses in the Bible (King James Version) as, "valley of Hinnom," "valley of the son of Hinnom" or, "valley of the children of Hinnom."

It is not described as a spiritual hell but as a literal valley in Jerusalem (Joshua 15:8, Joshua 18:16, 2nd Kings 23:10, 2 Chronicles 28:3, 2nd Chronicles 33:6,Nehemiah 11:30, Jeremiah 7:31~32, Jeremiah 19:2, Jeremiah 19:6, Jeremiah 32:35). After 638 B.C.E.E., the valley of Hinnom and the valley of the son of Hinnom became the place for burning rubbish from Jerusalem. The dead bodies of criminals, and dead animals were also thrown there.

The southwestern gate of Jerusalem, overlooking the valley, came to be known as "The Gate of the Valley”[78]. The Book of Jeremiah[79] speaks of residents worshipping Moloch and committing abominations, foreshadowing the destruction of Jerusalem. In ancient times, children were sacrificed to the pagan god Molech in Gehenna (either a killing or a simple rite of passing through fire), a practice that was outlawed by King Josiah[80]. Priests would bang on drums (Hebrew: tof, tupim) so fathers would not hear the groans of children being sacrificed. Hence the name Topheth.

This was the place that Jesus was referring to when he spoke of the hell (Gehenna) fire. But something must be recognized in Jesus’ comments. Each time he referred to the hell fire it was always in a future tense; sinners will be cast there not that they are already there. So is this hell a place yet to be; a future event?

The second death

So are sinners condemned to wander endlessly separated from God; spiritually dead? What exactly is the fate for those that refuse God? The Bible spells out what will become of those that refuse God.

For, behold, the day cometh, that shall burn as an oven; and all the proud, yea, and all that do wickedly, shall be stubble: and the day that cometh shall burn them up, saith the LORD of hosts, that it shall leave them neither root nor branch.
2 But unto you that fear my name shall the Sun of righteousness arise with healing in his wings; and ye shall go forth, and grow up as calves of the stall.
3 And ye shall tread down the wicked; for they shall be ashes under the soles of your feet in the day that I shall do this, saith the LORD of hosts.

Malachi 4:1-3

"But for the cowardly and unbelieving and abominable and murderers and immoral persons and sorcerers and idolaters and all liars, their part will be in the lake that burns with fire and brimstone which is the second death."

REVELATION 21:8

And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works. 13 And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works. 14 And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. 15 And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire.

REVELATION 20:12-15

Recall the Bible says that we have all sinned and this has cut us off from God. So is this the fate of all of us or is there a way out?


The way out


As we have seen; all of us have sinned[81], our sins have cut us off from God[82], we can not cleanse us of our sins[83], the wages of sin is death[84] and our sins bar us from entering the Kingdom of God[85]. So it would seem that there is no chance for anyone to gain entrance into the Kingdom of God; the Bible is quite clear on that point. So is there an escape, a truly great escape?

The Great Escape

In that day there shall be a fountain opened to the house of David and to the inhabitants of Jerusalem for sin and for uncleanness.

Zechariah 13:1

The next day John seeth Jesus coming unto him, and saith, Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.

John 1:29

And ye know that he was manifested to take away our sins; and in him is no sin.

1 John 3:5

In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace;

Ephesians 1:7

…the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin

1 John 1:7 (later part)

So there is the reason we need a Savior, to take away our sins and Jesus is the Christ that cleans us of our transgressions. In modern terms, he cleans the record. The next question one might ask is upon accepting Jesus Christ is there anything expected of me? Yes the Bible says that the gift of God is eternal life[86] but are there conditions to this gift? Maybe we should say are there expectations upon us if we accept this gift?

Remember that the Bible says that sin is breaking the law of God[87] but many say that the law was done away with; i.e. nailed to the cross. Is that true, especially in the light of the statement by John? Remember our charge to prove all things. Let’s not assume but prove it.

Status of the law

Just what exactly is the status of ‘the law’ today; was it nailed to the cross or is it still in effect? And what of the concept of saved by grace does that negate the law?

Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill. 18 For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled.

Matthew 5:17-18

Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.

Matthew 5:19

For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all.

James 2:10

For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad.

2 Corinthians 5:10

Many cite the writings of Paul claiming they say that the law has been done away with and that we are saved through grace;

For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, 9 not of works, lest anyone should boast.

EPHESIANS 2:8 (NKJV)

For sin shall not have dominion over you, for you are not under Law but under grace.

ROMANS 6:14 (NKJV)

But now we have been released from the Law, having died to that by which we were bound, so that we serve in newness of the Spirit and not in oldness of the letter.

ROMANS 7:6 (NASU)

I do not nullify the grace of God, for if justification were through the Law, then Christ died for no purpose.

GALATIANS 2:21 (ESV)

All who rely on observing the Law are under a curse, for it is written: "Cursed is everyone who does not continue to do everything written in the Book of the Law." 11 Clearly no one is justified before God by the Law, because, "The righteous will live by faith." 12 The Law is not based on faith; on the contrary, "The man who does these things will live by them." 13 Christ redeemed us from the curse of the Law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written: "Cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree."

GALATIANS 3:10 (NIV)

A definite quandary; is the Bible contradicting itself; at one point saying the law is still in effect and in another saying that the law is null? Remember that God is not the author of confusion[88] so this confusion is of our making. We must examine the written word of God to sort out this confusion.

Before we begin, again let us define our terms; mainly what do we mean when we say ‘the law’? When a Jew in Jesus’ time referred to ‘the law’ there were three possible items they could be referring to. The first was the Law of Moses, the laws and statutes that God gave to Moses, acting as a mediator between God and the nation of Israel, at Mt.Sinai. They could be referring to the first five books of the Old Testament; the Torah or they could be referring to the whole collection of writings that compose the Old Testament. To illustrate this recall the incident where the man asked Jesus what is the greatest commandment in the law? Christ said that the greatest commandment in the law was, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.” He then said that upon these two commandments all of the law and the prophets hung[89]. One will not find either of those two commandments listed in the Ten Commandments, which most people think is the only law. The two commandments mentioned by Christ as being the greatest are found in Deuteronomy[90], so when we find reference to ‘the law’ we had best determine exactly what is being referred to.

It is from the writings of Paul that the argument that the law has been nailed to the tree is based so we must examine Paul’s writings to see if that is true.


The writings of Paul

Before we look at Paul’s writings a word first from Peter in regards to Paul’s writings;

And count the patience of our Lord as salvation, just as our beloved brother Paul also wrote to you according to the wisdom given him, 16 as he does in all his letters when he speaks in them of these matters. There are some things in them that are hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other Scriptures. 17 You therefore, beloved, knowing this beforehand, take care that you are not carried away with the error of lawless people and lose your own stability.

II PETER 3:15

Two things need to be pointed out about what Peter said regarding Paul’s writings. One; they are on par with other scriptures, i.e. they are inspired by God and two, they are some times hard to understand.

Grace vs. the Law

Many say that Paul tells us that we are not under the law but that we are saved by grace. Is this what he says or is there a little more to it then that? If we accept Jesus as our Savior are we still under the law or are we set free from obeying God’s law? Does God’s grace in a sense give us a spiritual ‘get out of jail free’ card?

Some key words

Before we go further there are some key words that must be mentioned and defined. They are; (1) grace, (2) justification, (3) lasciviousness, (4) lawlessness and (5) legalism.

GRACE - In the New Testament, the Greek word generally translated "grace" is charis. The Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature (BDAG) gives the following definitions for charis: 1. a winning quality or attractiveness that invites a favorable reaction, graciousness, attractiveness, charm, winsomeness . . . 2. a beneficent disposition toward someone, favor, grace, gracious care/help, goodwill . . . 3. practical application of goodwill, (a sign of) favor, gracious deed/gift, benefaction . . . 4. exceptional effect produced by generosity, favor. . . . 5. response to generosity or beneficence, thanks, gratitude. . .

As you can see, this word has several related meanings. But when referring to God's grace given to sinning humans, it is defined as God's benevolent attitude toward mankind. This attitude results in favor being granted by God to man. God's grace is wholly undeserved by mankind; it has not been (and cannot be) earned.

JUSTIFICATION - This English word comes from the Greek nouns dikaioma and dikaiosis. Additionally the verbal forms, "justify," "justifies," and "justified" all come from the related verb dikaioo. There is a subtle difference of meaning between dikaioma and dikaiosis. According to BDAG, dikaioma refers to "a regulation relating to just or right action, regulation, requirement, commandment" and "an action that meets expectations as to what is right or just, righteous deed . . ." Implicit within this word is the concept of being made right with God by keeping His commandments.

Friberg's Analytical Lexicon to the Greek New Testament (ALGNT) states that dikaiosis means "strictly, an act of making right or just; hence justification, acquittal, vindication (RO 4.25) . . . righteous act that sets free and gives life (RO 5.18)." So we see that the first of these words refers to being made righteous by our own acts, while the second means to receive imputed righteousness by being acquitted of our transgressions.

LASCIVIOUSNESS - This archaic English word, also translated "lewdness" and "licentiousness" in modern translations, comes from the Greek noun aselgeia. ALGNT states that this word means "as living without any moral restraint licentiousness, sensuality, lustful indulgence (2C 12.21); especially as indecent and outrageous sexual behavior debauchery, indecency, flagrant immorality (RO 13.13)."

LAWLESSNESS - Anomia is the Greek word underlying "lawlessness." Thayer's Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament (Thayer) says that anomia is "properly, the condition of one without law -- either because ignorant of it, or because violating it. . . . contempt and violation of law, iniquity, wickedness" (p. 48).

I John 3:4 defines SIN as lawlessness; therefore, sin is biblically defined as the violation of God's Law. Those who break God's Law because of their contempt for its value to a believer are practicing lawlessness (Matt. 7:23; 13:41). In II Corinthians 6:14, Paul rhetorically asks "what fellowship has RIGHTEOUSNESS (Gr. dikaiosune) with LAWLESSNESS (anomia)?" The implied answer is NONE.

LEGALISM - This final term is not found in the Bible. The Webster Comprehensive Dictionary, Encyclopedic Edition gives two theological definitions for legalism: "The doctrine of salvation by works, as distinguished from that by grace," and "the tendency to observe the letter rather than the spirit of the law" (p. 728, vol. 1).

“Under the Law”

This phrase (under the law; Gr. hupo nomon) is used by Paul ten times in eight verses, and he uses it in slightly different ways, depending on the point he's trying to make.

The first way Paul uses this phrase is to designate those who have been given God's Law, i.e., the Jews. An example of this usage is found in 1 Corinthians 9:

And to the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might win Jews; to those who are under the Law [hupo nomon], as under the Law [hupo nomon], that I might win those who are under the Law [hupo nomon]; 21 to those who are without Law, as without Law (not being without Law toward God, but under Law [ennomos] toward Christ), that I might win those who are without Law;

I CORINTHIANS 9:20 (NKJV)

In this passage, we see that Paul differentiates between Jews who had been given the Law and were under its requirements, and Gentiles who did not have the Law. The Greek word translated "under Law" in verse 21 is ennomos, an adjective that ALGNT[91] defines as "strictly within law; hence lawful, legal, according to law (AC 19.39); as a personal characteristic committed to law, obedient to law (1C 9.21)". Paul essentially said here that even when interacting with the Gentiles who didn't know or have the Law, he was still obedient to the Law for the Messiah's sake.

So in Paul's writings, being "under the Law" can refer to those who had received the Law and were required to keep it (I Cor. 9:20; Gal. 4:4-5, 21). However, Paul also uses the phrase hupo nomon to refer specifically to being subject to the PENALTY for disobedience to the Law (i.e., death). This usage can clearly be seen in Romans 6:

In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus. 12 Therefore do not let sin reign parts of your body to him as instruments of righteousness [dikaiosunes]. 14 For sin shall not be your master, because you are not under Law [hupo nomon], but under grace [charin]. 15 What then? Shall we sin because we are not under Law [hupo nomon] but under grace [charin]? By no means! 16 Don't you know that when you offer yourselves to someone to obey him as slaves, you are slaves to the one whom you obey-- whether you are slaves to sin, which leads to death, or to obedience, which leads to righteousness [dikaiosunen]? 17 But thanks be to God that, though you used to be slaves to sin, you wholeheartedly obeyed the form of teaching to which you were entrusted. 18 You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness. in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires. 13 Do not offer the parts of your body to sin, as instruments of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God, as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer the

ROMANS 6:11 (NIV)

Paul states that believers are "not under Law but under grace" (v. 14). By this, he means that they are not under the death penalty for sin imposed by the Law. Instead, they have been given life by God's grace. But Paul goes on to state that this grace does NOT allow them to continue in sin (v. 15). To continue sinning, Paul states, would lead them back to death (v. 16). However, Paul says that obedience leads to righteousness (v. 16). Although he states that the Roman believers used to be slaves to sin (v. 17), their obedience to the teaching brought to them has freed them from sin. Now they are to be slaves to righteousness (v. 18).

A second look at Paul

With this understanding let us take another look at what Paul wrote to understand what he was saying;

I do not nullify the grace [charin] of God; for if justification [dikaiosune] comes through the Law, then Christ died for nothing.

GALATIANS 2:21

The Greek noun dikaiosune, translated "justification" in this verse, is closely related to dikaioma. Some translations alternately render this word as "righteousness." ALGNT defines dikaiosune as "(1) righteousness, uprightness, generally denoting the characteristics of δικιος (righteous, just) (MT 5.6); (2) legally justice, uprightness, righteousness (PH 3.6); (3) as an attribute of God righteousness, integrity (RO 3.5); (4) of the right behavior that God requires of persons righteousness, good behavior, uprightness (MT 5.20), opposite αδικια (unrighteousness, wrongdoing); (5) in Pauline thought of the divine action by which God puts a person right with himself and which then becomes a dynamic power in the believer's life making right(eous); state of having been made righteous (RO 1.17)." In this Scripture, it literally means to be "justified" or "righteous" in the sight of God.

If one can eventually keep the Law good enough to override prior sins, then the sacrifice of Christ was needless. But we cannot remove our prior sins by subsequently keeping God's Law. Forgiveness requires faithfully accepting the sacrifice of the Messiah for our sins.

Paul's point in Galatians 2:21 is that those who think that they can earn their salvation by Law-keeping are effectively nullifying God's grace.

Does this mean that keeping God's Law is wrong? By no means! It all boils down to the REASON for keeping the Law. There is no scriptural condemnation of those who obey God's Law in order to emulate the Messiah's example and honor their heavenly Father. But those who do so as a means of accumulating enough brownie points with God to be saved are misguided and in error, as Paul points out.

For by grace [chariti] you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, 9 not of works, lest anyone should boast.

EPHESIANS 2:8

For all who rely on works of the Law are under a curse; for it is written, "Cursed be everyone who does not abide by all things written in the Book of the Law, and do them." 11 Now it is evident that no one is justified [dikaioutai] before God by the Law, for "The righteous [dikaios] shall live by faith." 12 But the Law is not of faith, rather "The one who does them shall live by them." 13 Christ redeemed us from the curse of the Law by becoming a curse for us-for it is written, "Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree"

GALATIANS 3:10 (NIV)

Paul speaks of those "who rely on the works of the Law" being "under a curse" (v. 10). His implication is that some of the people in Galatia were relying on keeping the Law to be justified before God. The "curse of the Law" (v. 13) is not the Law itself, but rather the penalty for disobedience to that Law (i.e., death). To avoid the curse of death, one had to keep the Law perfectly (v. 12). But since Paul understood that the whole world had transgressed the Law, he recognized that no one could be justified in the sight of God by keeping the Law. It was only through Christ's sacrificial death on the cross that the curse brought about by Law-breaking could pass from us, that we might be made right with God.

You who are trying to be justified [dikaiousthe] by Law have been alienated from Christ; you have fallen away from grace [charitos].

GALATIANS 5:4 (NIV)

When one begins to think that they can be justified in God's sight by Law-keeping, they have in fact separated themselves from the Messiah. Again, Paul is not disparaging the Law here. He is simply finding fault with the Galatians' motives for keeping it. It is possible for someone to do the RIGHT thing for the WRONG reason.

One may then ask just what the reason for the law is. Since to be justified by the works of the law one must obey it perfectly[92] and it is our duty to keep it[93] but our carnal nature rebels against it[94]. Yet although it seems God has forgiven our sins through the sacrifice of Christ then why do we need the law? Remember God is not the author of confusion, there is a reason for everything he does and so too with the law.

Now we know that whatever the Law says, it says to those who are under the Law, that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God. 20 Therefore by the deeds of the Law no flesh will be justified in His sight, for by the Law is the knowledge of sin.

ROMANS 3:19 (NKJV)

So the purpose of the law is to teach us about sin. Simple enough. But there’s even a grander reason for the law and that is;

Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith

Galatians 3:24

So the purpose of the law is two fold; to teach us about sin and more importantly to lead us to Christ. How magnificent.

What is expected of us?

Consider a man that is on death row for a crime he had committed. Now let us say that this man, condemned to die for his crime, is granted a full pardon for his offense by the President of the United States. The crime he was convicted of is, in a sense, forgiven; he is released from jail and will not be executed for the crime he had been convicted of. Now this pardoned individual is he still subject to the laws of the land or since he has been forgiven can he just do as he pleases? It’s obvious that while his past crime has been forgiven he must still obey the laws of the land.

This is also true when it comes to Christians. While are past sins (or crimes) have been forgiven we are still expected to obey God’s laws. Not the old Mosaic laws with its numerous ordinances and rituals but the royal law of God.

But when the kindness and the love of God our Savior toward man appeared, 5 not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit, 6 whom He poured out on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior, 7 that having been justified [dikaiothentes] by His grace [chariti] we should become heirs according to the hope of eternal life. 8 This is a faithful saying, and these things I want you to affirm constantly, that those who have believed in God should be careful to maintain good works. These things are good and profitable to men.

TITUS 3:4 (NKJV)

Paul here encourages Titus to teach believers that, because of the grace God had shown them through Messiah, they should be sure to do good works. What were those "good works"? Paul tells us in his first letter to the Corinthians:

Circumcision means nothing, and uncircumcision means nothing; what matters is keeping God's commandments.

I CORINTHIANS 7:19 (NAB)

I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh. 17 For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the Law. 19 Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, 20 idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, 21 envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like; of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told you in time past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. 22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law. 24 And those who are Christ's have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 25 If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.

GALATIANS 5:16 (NKJV)

By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God, and keep his commandments. 3 For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments: and his commandments are not grievous.

1 John 5:2

Do we, then, nullify the law by this faith? Not at all! Rather, we uphold the law.

Romans 3:31

For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this; Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself

Galatians 5:14

Love worketh no ill to his neighbour: therefore love is the fulfilling of the law

Romans 13:10

Footnotes

[1] Heb. 11:1

[2] Acts 17:11

[3] Albert Schweitzer, 1964

[4] The Historical Figure of Jesus, E.P. Sanders, 1999, p 49

[5] IBID

[6] Hostile witness -- A hostile witness is a witness in a trial who testifies for the opposing party or a witness who offers adverse testimony to the calling party during direct examination.

A witness called by the opposing party is presumed hostile. A witness called by the direct examiner can be declared hostile by a judge, at the request of the examiner, when the witness' testimony is openly antagonistic or clearly prejudiced to the opposing party.

[7] 1952, 15.44, parenthetical comments in orig

[8] Robert Graves, as translator of Suetonius’ work, The Twelve Caesars

[9] Claudius, 25:4; note that in Acts 18:2 Luke mentioned this expulsion by Claudius

[10] Nero, 16:2

[11] True Discourse (c. A.D. 178)

[12] Bruce, 1953, p. 101

[13] IBID

[14] IBID, p 102

[15] Sanders, 1993, p. 15

[16] Bruce, 1953, pp. 103-104

[17] Bruce, 1953, p. 110

[18] Chapman, 1981, p. 29; Habermas, 1996, pp. 193-196

[19] 1996, p. 192; cf. Origen’s Contra Celsum, 1:47

[20] 1841, 1:463-464

[21] 1953, p. 110

[22] 1970, p. 33

[23] Meier, 1990, p. 90

[24] Meier, p. 90

[25] Daniel-Rops, 1962, p. 21; Bruce, 1967, p. 108; Anderson, 1969, p. 20

[26] Bruce, 1953, p. 109

[27] 1990, pp. 79-81

[28] 1 Thessalonians 5:21

[29] Metzger, 1968, p. 36; Geisler and Brooks, 1990, p. 159

[30] Bruce, 1953, p. 20

[31] Bruce, 1953, p. 21

[32] IBID

[33] Bruce, 1953, p. 22

[34] Guthrie, 1990, p. 24

[35] Bruce, 1953, p. 23

[36] Guthrie, p. 24

[37] Bruce, 1953, p. 16

[38] 1943, p. 39

[39] Bruce, 1953, pp. 20-21

[40] Raphael Patai, The Messiah Texts

[41] I Kings 11:14

[42] II Kings 17:3-6

[43] “The word ‘olam’ is derived from the primitive root alam, meaning to veil from sight, to conceal. An analysis of the passages where olam appears shows clearly that the word does not express ‘eternity’ or ‘everlasting’ as it has been frequently translated in the King James Version. Rather, it simply expresses a duration, a time during which a person, thing, or state of a thing exists — literally an age of time which has a definite beginning and conclusion. The duration of an age in scripture is sometimes defined and sometimes undefined.” - Dallas E. James, “Putting the Sword to Churchianity

[44] See list of miracles recorded in the Gospels at end of this section

[45] Num 12:10-15: Matt 8:2-3

[46] Num 11:16-17

[47] Luke 10:1, 17

[48] Chapter 10 goes on list descendants of Shem, noting that he was ancestor of Eber (Heber: Luke 3:35), the founder of the Hebrew race.

[49] Henry M. Morris, The Defender’s Bible

[50] Since the Jewish genealogical records were destroyed in 70 A.D., along with the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple, it would not be possible for a Messiah imposter who was born later to prove his lineage back to David and thus fulfill this prophecy.

[51] Christ’s birth in Bethlehem was apparently not by the choice of Mary and Joseph; it was forced upon them by Vaesar Augustus’ taxation decree which required Joseph to leave his home in the city of Nazareth and return to his place of origin to pay the tax.

[52] Gen. 3:15

[53] Rev. 20:10

[54] Henry M. Morris, The Defender’s Bible

[55] See also: Heb. 2:14; Rev. 20:10

[56] Josephus, Antiquities, Book 17, Chapter 13

[57] The Temple did not exist at certain periods in Jewish history, and it was finally destroyed in A.D. 70.

[58] Nisan is the first month of the Hebrew calendar which occurs in early spring.

[59] The phrase "seventy weeks" in this verse comes from the Hebrew shavu'im shiv'im, which literally means "seventy sevens." Just as we in western culture tend to view years in groups of ten ("decades"), anciently the Jews thought of years as being in groups of seven (based on the seven-year sabbatical cycle, Lev. 25:1-7). The "seventy sevens" spoken of here refers to 70 X 7 years, or a total of 490 years.

[60] Peter and Paul LaLonde, 301 Startling Proofs & Prophecies (Niagra Falls, Ontario, Canada: Prophecy Partners, Inc., 1996)

[61] Exodus 12 states that the Passover lamb’s bones are not to be broken.

[62] Henry M. Morris, The Defender’s Bible

[63] II Samuel 7:13

[64] Isaiah 11:1

[65] Daniel 9:26

[66] Isaiah 7:14

[67] Malachi 3:1

[68] Isaiah 59:2

[69] Gen. 3:6

[70] Gen 3:4

[71] II Cor. 11:14

[72] I John 3:4

[73] Psalm 111:10

[74] Rom 6:23

[75] The LXX is the Koine Greek version of the Hebrew Bible, translated in stages between the 3rd and 1st centuries BC in Alexandria. It is the oldest of several ancient translations of the Hebrew Bible into the Greek language.

[76] p. 206, vol. 2

[77] Gehenna is the Greek version of the Jewish word Geennan

[78] Jeremiah 7:31; 19:2-6; 32:35

[79] 2:23

[80] 2 Kings, 23:10

[81] Rom. 3:23

[82] Isaiah 59:2

[83] Proverbs 20:9

[84] Rom. 6:23

[85] Rev 20:12-15

[86] Rom. 6:23

[87] I John 3:4

[88] 1 Corinthians 14:33

[89] Matthew 22:35-40

[90] 6:5; 11:1; 19:9; 30:6, 16, 20

[91] Analytical Lexicon to the Greek New Testament

[92] Deut. 27:26; Gal 3:10; James 2:10

[93] Eccl. 12:13

[94] Rom. 8:7

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Comments 3 comments

In The Doghouse profile image

In The Doghouse 7 years ago from California

Thank you for all the research and references you provided for this work. I took a couple of days and studied your words, as I undertook to "prove all things". This was an amazing piece. Thanks again.


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mdiggs1234 5 years ago from Greenville SC

Thanks for sharing such a well researched piece. The most important subject we all should be studying and applying. Really detailed...have to come with god's help..


sacoh58 5 years ago Author

Thank you for your response and I believe that God was helping me in writing the article. There is a special thrill I find in researching God's word and then trying to share what he has taught. I can honestly say I understand the parable about the man finding a treasure in a field.

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