A Trust that Cannot Be Broken

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What causes you to trust the words of another person? Your answer no doubt includes the previous trustworthiness of that individual. Has he or she told the truth in the past? Does he or she have experience or expertise in what they are saying to you? Many considerations go into believing the assertions of someone you know even if you are not conscious of them.

Because Jesus rose from the dead just as He said He would do, we know we can have absolute confidence in His words. We know His claims are true because of His resurrection. It follows that what He says about Scripture is of utmost importance and of necessity must be true. If Jesus is God as He claimed, how could He possibly be wrong in His opinion of the Old Testament?

Because Jesus rose from the dead just as He said He would do, we know we can have absolute confidence in all His claims.

Previously, we looked at Jesus assertions regarding the validity of Genesis. Now we will expand that assessment to the entire Old Testament.

“If You Believed Moses, You Would Believe Me”

Jesus always spoke with the utmost reverence for Scripture, which in His day consisted of what we know today as the Old Testament. He frequently quoted from it and repeatedly referred to its words as something that must be fulfilled (Matt. 22:29; 26:54; Luke 33:37; John 13:18). He criticized the religious people of His day for not knowing it, “But Jesus answered them, ‘You are wrong, because you know neither the Scriptures nor the power of God’” (Matt. 22:29).

Jesus confirmed the authority of Scripture. In John 5:39-40 He said this to the Jews who by this time were seeking to kill Him, “You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me, yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life.” A little later he added this, “For if you believed Moses, you would believe me; for he wrote of me” (John 5:46).

The tremendous respect of the Jewish religious leaders for Scripture was correct, but they did not fully believe what they read. If they had, they would have recognized Jesus as their long awaited Messiah.

 “Scripture Cannot be Broken”

In John 10:35 Jesus said this, “. . . and Scripture cannot be broken.” With these words, Jesus asserts that the words of the Old Testament are absolutely reliable and accurate. They cannot be found lacking in any way. They stand firm; they cannot be twisted to mean something else or neglected as having no value for us.

In Matthew 5:18 Jesus made this strong statement about the Law, which in His day could refer to the entire Old Testament as well as well as just to its first five books, “For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished.” Scripture will more than pass the test of time; it will endure forever. Everything written on its pages must be fulfilled. Jesus regarded the Law as unbreakable truth that would stand forever.

This is bad news for us. If we cannot be loosed from the demands of the Law, we are in deep trouble. The good news, however, is that Jesus came to fulfill the Law (Matt. 5:17). He lived the morally perfect life we could never live and fulfilled all the other demands of the Law as well. He was the perfect sacrifice for our sins to which all the sacrifices in the Law pointed. He took our place on the cross bearing the punishment of the Law for our sins.

No one else has ever claimed to do that for us. No one else could ever do that for us!

Because the Old Testament is God’s Word and as such “cannot be broken,” Jesus needed to fulfill its demands in our place, which He did. This is why Christ is the only way to eternal life as He claimed in John 14:6. Only He fulfilled all the demands of the Law in our place. No one else has ever claimed to do that for us. No one else could ever do that for us!

“Everything Written about Me . . . Must Be fulfilled”

One of my favorite stories in the Bible is that of Jesus talking with the two disciples on the road to Emmaus shortly after His resurrection. I would love to know all the details of that conversation, but we are left with just a summary, “And he said to them, ‘O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?’ And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself” (Luke 24:25-27).

It’s no wonder the hearts of the two listening burned within them as He spoke (24:32). What an amazing time it must have been to listen to Jesus spend perhaps an hour or two explaining how all of the Old Testament looked forward to His coming.

That evening, as He appeared to the rest of His disciples, He spoke these words, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled” (Luke 24:44). Now we understand a little bit more about His respect for the Old Testament; it all spoke of Him. As such it tells us much about both His first and second coming!

To Sum Up

Just as with the book of Genesis, Jesus regarded the entire Old Testament as the authoritative Word of God. As such, it’s accuracy in its original manuscripts cannot be broken; it stands forever as the inerrant Word of God. Why am I so confident in Jesus’ evaluation of the Old Testament, you might ask?

First, I know the character and trustworthiness of my Savior. If He as the most loving and self-sacrificing person who had ever lived verifies the integrity and accuracy of the Old Testament, whom am I to question it? Secondly, Jesus said “whoever has seen me has seen the Father” (John 14:9). Jesus did not come as an opposing view to the God of the Old Testament. He came to fully reveal Him to us. He is the Word of the everlasting God made flesh.  Thirdly, Jesus accurately predicted the timing of His resurrection from the dead. Has anyone else ever done that? I can trust His words.

Lastly, Jesus is my Savior. What does it say about my future hope if He as someone who claimed to be God was wrong about something as critical as Scripture or about anything for that matter? I trust his ability to take me from this life to forever.

Do you trust Jesus enough to agree with Him regarding the words of Scripture?

Jesus and The Book of Genesis

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Ever since I can remember, I have always thought that if God existed He would surely be able to effectively communicate with us. It never made sense to think of an almighty God that was incapable of conveying His message to us in a clear, accurate, and meaningful way.

Perhaps that is why I was particularly drawn to a book that Francis A. Schaeffer wrote in 1972 entitled He Is There and He Is Not Silent. In it, Schaeffer goes into all of the philosophical and theological arguments pointing to the necessity of both God’s existence and His revelation to us.

I am going to approach the matter in a much simpler way, that of starting with Jesus’ resurrection and His claim to be God. One of the many implications of these two fundamental truths of our faith is the reliability of Scripture.

If Jesus rose from the dead as He predicted, then His claim to be God must of necessity also be true. Since He is God, His view of Scripture is of utmost importance. Since Jesus rose from the dead, it means He could not be mistaken about His views of Scripture. How could God possibly be wrong about His Word and still be God?

Let’s begin with what Jesus said about the book of Genesis.

Jesus Validated Many of the Events in Genesis

Many people may not realize this, but Jesus validated many of the events recorded in the book of Genesis.  Let’s start with creation. In Matthew 19:4 Jesus said, “Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female.” With these words, Jesus verified the creation of Adam and Eve and in doing so verified the entire creation account.

Since Jesus spoke of God’s creation of the two genders in this way, it logically follows that He regarded all of Genesis 1 and 2 as fact. As the wording of Mark 10:6 confirms, Jesus accepted the whole creation account as fact, not just the story of Adam and Eve.

Jesus established the existence of Noah, the ark, the flood, and the fact that the waters killed everyone in the known world except for Noah and some of his family members.

In Matthew 24:37-39, Jesus not only confirmed the historicity of the Genesis flood, but many of the details contained in the Genesis account of it. Jesus established the existence of Noah, the ark, the flood, and the fact that the waters killed everyone in the known world except for Noah and some of his family members. Jesus spoke of all these things as though they were established facts.

Then there is the matter of Sodom and Gomorrah. Did Jesus really believe that happened? Yes! At least two times during His ministry, Jesus referred to the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah as an historical fact. In Matthew 10:14-15 we find these words of the Savior, “And if anyone will not receive you or listen to your words, shake off the dust from your feet when you leave that house or town. Truly, I say to you, it will be more bearable on the day of judgment for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah than for that town.”

Not only did Jesus confirm God’s destruction of these two cities, He also confirmed the story whereby the angels led Lot and his family out of Sodom before “fire and sulfur rained from heaven and destroyed them all” (see Luke: 17:28-29). The Lord even mentioned Lot’s wife confirming that story as well (Luke 17:31-32). She did turn into a pillar of salt; it’s not a myth or a fable. According to the affirming testimony of Jesus; it actually happened.

Jesus Validated the Existence of the Key People in Genesis

Besides events, Jesus validated the existence of many of the key people in the book of Genesis. As noted above, Jesus spoke of the creation of the man and woman, undoubtedly referring to Adam and Eve. They existed just as Jesus said. In mentioning the details of the flood, he verified the existence of Noah and his sons. Jesus spoke of all these as historical figures.

In John 8:31-59, Jesus engaged the Jews in a lengthy discussion regarding Abraham. At one point Jesus told them this, “Your father Abraham rejoiced that he would see my day. He saw it and was glad” (John  8:56). The Lord not only confirmed his existence, but the reference here may have been to the offering of Isaac, where God provided an animal for the sacrifice in place of his only son, a clear picture of God the Father sending His Son as a sacrifice for our sins.

In addition to Abraham, Jesus also established the existence of Isaac and Jacob as well. In confirming the resurrection of the dead to the Sadducees, who did not believe that, Jesus spoke these words, “And as for the resurrection of the dead, have you not read what was said to you by God: ‘I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? He is not God of the dead, but of the living’” (Matt. 22:31-32).

Of course, as we saw under the discussion of Sodom and Gomorrah, Jesus also confirmed the existence of Lot and his wife.

If Jesus, who claimed to be God, was wrong about the first book of the Bible, what does that say about our faith?

Do you see the implications of believing in the resurrection? If He rose from the dead and is God in the flesh as He claimed, then we know the events in Genesis happened exactly as recorded and the people are real as well. Jesus’ own words verify Genesis as accurately recorded history. If Jesus, who claimed to be God, was wrong about the first book of the Bible, what does that say about our faith?

I have singled out Genesis for two reasons. First, it is perhaps the most maligned book in the Old Testament. Many dispute its authenticity or would like to be able to do so since if it is true, it means we are accountable to God. Secondly, Genesis is fundamental to all we believe. If you take away its historicity, the rest of the Bible does not make sense. Why does humanity need a Savior if Adam and Eve never existed or sinned? The book of Genesis provides the essential context for Jesus’ life, death on the cross, and resurrection.

My wife and I recently watch a documentary on Netflix called Is Genesis History? It is excellent! The show offered so many convincing evidences for the Genesis flood that by the end of the program I concluded it takes more faith to deny the reality of the flood than to believe it actually happened. Most of all, the documentary renewed my awe and wonder of the Creator and the greatness of the universe and world He created.  We have an amazing God! We have an awesome Creator. We have an awesome Savior!

 

Is Jesus an Islamophobe?

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Would Jesus’ teachings fall under the modern day usage of the term Islamophobic?

Let’s begin our examination of this by looking at how this term was recently used in a Senate confirmation hearing. On June 7, 2017, Senator Bernie Sanders accused Russell Vought, President Trump’s nominee to be Deputy Director of the White House Office of Management and Budget, of being “Islamophobic” and because of that unfit for office.  He concluded his questioning with this remark, “This nominee is really not someone who this country is supposed to be about.”

The cause of the Senator’s angst was an article Russell Vought wrote in defense of Wheaton College pertaining to their firing of a professor who claimed there was no difference between Allah and the God of the Bible. Here is what he wrote in a publication called Resurgent, “Muslims do not simply have a deficient theology. They do not know God because they have rejected Jesus Christ, His Son, and they stand condemned.” Sanders considered Vought to be Islamophobic based on this statement.

Would Jesus agree with Russell Vought or with Senator Sanders? Let’s put it to the test.

What Did Jesus Claim about Himself?

Jesus asserted that He is the only path of salvation. In John 14:6 he says, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”  Jesus’ claim here is unmistakable. He stated that no one can be saved; no one can come to the Father apart from Him. Jesus clearly claimed to be the only path of salvation available to all men and women.

So far, Jesus would agree with Vought’s statement. Since Muslims reject Him, they cannot know God or receive eternal life. According to the Quran, Jesus is a great prophet, but certainly not God nor the way of salvation. Muslims place Muhammed above Jesus and worship Allah, an ancient moon god, rather than the true and living God, whom Jesus revealed at His coming. They have a long history of opposing both Jesus and His followers, to say the least.

Jesus claimed to be God in the flesh and His resurrection forever verifies all His claims, including this one.

In John 10:30 Jesus also said this, “I and the Father are one.” The Jews who heard this immediately took up rocks to stone Him; they recognized His words as a claim to be God, one and the same with the Lord God of the Old Testament, the creator of all things. Jesus claimed to be God in the flesh and His resurrection forever verifies all His claims, including this one.

Russell Vought’s statement so far stands in agreement with Jesus.  Muslims do not know the only true and living God since they reject Him in the person of the Lord Jesus Christ. Because Jesus is one with God the Father, one cannot reject Jesus and at the same time claim to know God. That’s simply impossible. You cannot reject God and at the same time claim to know God.

Are Those Who Reject Jesus Condemned?

The other part of Vought’s statement, the one that perhaps caused Senator Sanders the most trouble, was that Muslims who reject Jesus “stand condemned.” Would Jesus agree with this assertion?

Yes. Look at what Jesus said as recorded in John 3:17-18, “For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.”  Jesus here boldly asserts that those who do not believe in Him are already condemned by virtue of their rejection of Him.

Vought’s statements regarding Islam align perfectly with the teachings of Christ; those who reject the Savior are “condemned already” and we have already established that Muslims do indeed reject Him.

Does this make the teachings of Jesus Islamophobic? Perhaps in the modern day usage of the term but in reality, absolutely not!!

Jesus died a cruel death on the cross; He shed his very blood so that all people, including the followers of Islam, might have eternal life. Jesus gave His life so that all people could find life and salvation by believing in Him (see John 1:12).

In John 15:13 Jesus said this, “Greater love has no one than this, that someone would lay down his life for his friends.” Jesus does not fear or hate Muslims; he died so that they might find eternal life in Him. He loves Muslims so much that He shed His own blood for them.

Since 2001, millions of Muslims have turned to Jesus and become heirs of eternal life. Some estimate there may be as many as a million Christian converts in Iran alone. I recently read that Muslims in Indonesia are currently turning to Jesus in record numbers. The life and hope they could not find in Islam they now forever possess in Jesus. I rejoice that so many former Muslims are now brothers and sisters in Christ.

We all equally need a Savior; there is no distinction. We all need Jesus.

In essence, this is not a matter regarding any one religion or race or any other grouping of people. Everyone, without exception, needs the life that only Jesus offers.  Apart from Him, no one can know God or find eternal life. We all equally need a Savior; there is no distinction. We all need Jesus.

I truly pray that Senator Sanders someday turns to Jesus and finds the joy, peace, and eternal life that can only be found through putting one’s faith in the Savior. The senator has every right to reject Vought’s nomination, but sadly his words reflect more of a rejection of Jesus than of the nominee.

 

 

It’s the Resurrection Part 2: Jesus’ Claims

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Since gravity is true, regardless of our ability to jump we always come back to the ground (I return a bit quicker than most since I can’t jump very high). If we drop something, it goes down rather than up. If we trip, we fall unless we regain our balance in time. Since gravity exists, certain things naturally flow from that.

If Jesus can predict the timing of His rising from the dead, it follows that we can trust the claims He made about Himself.

Likewise with Jesus’ resurrection, since He rose from the dead certain other things are necessarily true as well. If Jesus can predict the timing of His rising from the dead, it follows that we can trust the claims He made about Himself. It’s an unbreakable chain.

Think about it for a moment, if He indeed walked out of the tomb on the third day exactly as He predicted, and we know for certain He did, this adds an undeniable authority to everything else He said does it not? It validates beyond any doubt all His many other assertions. The empty grave establishes the credibility and supernatural character of Jesus; He is no ordinary man.

Let’s consider some of the key claims Jesus made about Himself in this light.

Jesus Claimed to Be God in the Flesh

I want to revisit Jesus’ claim to be God as this is crucial to building my case for why I believe what I do. In John 10:30 Jesus made this remarkable statement, “I and the Father are one.” The Jews who heard these words immediately picked up rocks with which to stone Him to death because they recognized Jesus was claiming equality with the Lord God of the Old Testament. They regarded His claim as the height of blasphemy.

In John 14:8, Philip said this to Jesus, “Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us.” In response, Jesus told his disciple he had already seen the Father, “Have I been with you so long, and you still do not know me, Philip? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father” (v. 9). Jesus claimed to be the perfect revelation of His Father in heaven. He claimed to be God in the flesh.

When we look at Jesus, we see an exact reflection of our Heavenly Father who by His word created the universe out of nothing.

The writer of Hebrews put it this way, “He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature” (Heb. 1:3). When we look at Jesus, we see an exact reflection of our Heavenly Father who by His word created the universe out of nothing.

Can you see how Jesus’ resurrection plus His claim to be God in the flesh adds unmistakable value to all His other assertions?

Jesus Claimed to be the Only Way of Salvation

Jesus’ claim to be the only way of salvation is perhaps His most controversial one today. People recognize Jesus as someone great, but dismiss the necessity of putting their faith in Him alone for their salvation. They do not see Him as necessary for their lives.

Jesus made this claim about Himself in John 14:6, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” Perhaps the most recognized verse in all of the New Testament, John 3:16, echoes this exact same exclusivity, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” Jesus said it’s only those that believe in Him that do not experience God’s wrath, but receive eternal life

The brutality of Jesus’ death adds further weight to this truth. If we could save ourselves by keeping the Law, being moral, or by our good works, do you really think that the Father would have allowed His Son to endure such extreme agony on the cross? Of course not!

If there was any other way of salvation, do you not think the Father would have spared His only Son such a brutal and horrendous death? Absolutely!

Jesus suffered and died precisely because there was no way for the Father to provide eternal life apart from faith in Christ and His death in our place.

Jesus Claimed to be the Resurrection and the Life

In the next claim we will consider, Jesus again emphasizes that He alone is the way of salvation. In John 11:25-26 Jesus said this about Himself, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. . . .” In claiming to be “the resurrection and the life” Jesus promises that all who believe in Him will live, even if they die.

We have no ability whatsoever to save ourselves; only He is capable of bringing us safely to eternity.

Do you see the essential relationship between this claim and Jesus’ resurrection? If Jesus’ bones are buried somewhere in Israel, then our belief that we will rise again to new life someday is also buried with them. When Jesus physically walked out the grave, He demonstrated His ability to give eternal life to those who believe in Him.

This is why only He can offer salvation to a lost humanity. We have no ability whatsoever to save ourselves; only He is capable of bringing us safely from this life to eternity. That’s why it’s so necessary that we put our trust solely in Him.

Those who believe in Jesus will someday rise again to a glorious and wonderful life. Jesus’ resurrection guarantees this for all who truly know Him as their Savior.

Jesus Claimed to be the Long Awaited Messiah

If I was a Jewish Christian living in the first century AD, this would likely have been the first claim of Jesus that I would have mentioned. Jesus claimed to be the long awaited Messiah spoken of throughout the entire Old Testament. He is the Christ that the prophets, beginning with Moses, said would come to Israel one day.

The woman knew of the hope for a Messiah and Jesus simply responded saying that He was the One, the hope of Israel.

Interestingly, Jesus first claimed to be the long awaited Messiah while talking with a Samaritan woman, “The woman said to him, “I know that Messiah is coming (he who is called Christ). When he comes, he will tell us all things.” Jesus said to her, ‘I who speak to you am he’” (John 4:25-26). The woman knew of the hope for a Messiah and Jesus simply responded saying that He was the One, the hope of Israel.

This sampling of Jesus’ key claims about Himself helps us understand why the resurrection is so foundational to all that we believe. The remarkable claims Jesus made about Himself are true because Jesus walked out of the grave on the third day, exactly as He predicted. If not for His resurrection, all of His claims would be meaningless because He could not be God. And if not God, then incapable of keeping the many wonderful promises He made to us.

However, because He rose from the dead, we have hope. He is our risen Savior.

These claims of Jesus are building blocks upon the sure foundation of our faith, the resurrection of Jesus. From here, we will keep on building. In the coming posts, we will take this a step further; we will start looking at some of the implications of Jesus claims. My next post will seem a bit off topic at first, but it will soon be clear how it relates.

 

It’s the Resurrection, Part 1

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During the 1992 presidential campaign, candidate Bill Clinton posted a sign in his office that read, “It’s the economy, stupid!” The purpose of these words was to remind him to focus on the economy as he believed that to be the winning issue in his quest to be president.

Similarly, if someone were to ask me why I believe what I do, I would simply say, “It’s the resurrection!” This is the foundation of my faith. My hope stands or falls upon its validity. As the apostle Paul said in 1 Corinthians 15:19, followers of Christ “are of all people most to be pitied” if Jesus did not rise from the dead and as a result we only have hope in this life.

The resurrection is the bedrock of my faith upon which all the other blocks fit and find their meaning.

Because Jesus physically walked out of the grave, I have hope for all eternity and it adds certainty to what I believe. The resurrection is the bedrock of my faith upon which all the other blocks fit and find their meaning.

The Centrality of the Resurrection

Lee Strobel, an avowed atheist at the time, accurately recognized that if he could disprove the resurrection, he could discredit Christianity once and for all. When his wife became a believer in Jesus, he set out on a two year quest to prove that her faith rested upon a hoax. Strobel, an investigative reporter for the Chicago Tribune at the time, employed all his skills and resources into disproving Jesus’ resurrection. After extensive research and countless hours examining the evidence he amassed, Strobel realized he could not dispute it. He ended up asserting his faith in the very thing he had worked so hard to disprove.

After giving his life to Jesus, he wrote the book Case for Christ and since then Strobel has become a world famous speaker as well as author verifying the claims of His Savior.

J. Warner Wallace is a highly recognized police detective with the Los Angeles Police Department. Some of the cold cases he has solved have been featured on NBC’s Dateline. He became famous as a result of his ability to discern the validity of statements made by witnesses, which in many instances led to the solving of the crime.

One day Wallace began to wonder what would happen if he applied the same successful tests he used of witnesses in criminal cases to the Gospel accounts of the life of Christ. What he discovered radically changed his life; he followed the path of Strobel in turning from atheism to saving faith in Jesus.

Wallace later wrote a book entitled Cold Case Christianity demonstrating why the Gospels are reliable witnesses, especially in regard to the resurrection of Jesus. He found that the Gospel writers passed all the tests he used to determine the validity of witnesses in all his other cases. We can trust these writers.

Why is the Resurrection so Crucial to Christianity?

Lee Strobel was correct in his initial assumption that if he could disprove the resurrection, he could debunk the Christian faith. Why is it so critical to our faith as believers?

During His ministry, Jesus made many radical claims. As recorded in John 10:30 He said, “I and the Father are one.” The Jews who heard these words immediately picked up rocks with which to stone Him to death. They recognized He was claiming equality with the Lord God of the Old Testament and such outrageous blasphemy could not be tolerated.

Besides claiming to be God, Jesus also repeatedly predicted His death and the timing of His resurrection. In John 2:19 he said, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” Although misunderstood at the time, it later became clear he was talking about his body as the temple that would be raised in three days. Matthew 17:22-23 records these words from Jesus, “The Son of Man is about to be delivered into the hands of men, and they will kill him, and he will be raised on the third day.” Jesus clearly predicted his death as well as the timing of His resurrection.

Do you see how all of His claims are tied into the validity of His resurrection? He claimed to be God. If His bones are still in a grave somewhere in Israel, it means He was a liar. Everything He claimed rests upon the validity of His promise to rise from the dead on the third day. If Jesus was wrong about that, how can we trust him regarding anything else?

However . . . since He indeed walked out of the grave on the third day, this changes everything. He can absolutely be trusted in all that He said.

The evidence is clear; Jesus rose from the dead on the third day. His grave is empty. Opponents of Christianity do not deny the historicity of the empty tomb, but instead seek to prove theories to explain it. Lee Strobel, as an atheist, sought in vain to explain away the empty tomb as he realized he could not dispel the fact that it was indeed empty when the women arrived early that morning.

Jesus is the only person ever to accurately predict His death as well as the precise time that He would rise from the dead.

My purpose in writing these series of articles on the resurrection is not to prove the historicity of it, but to rather show why it matters in the foundation of my faith and why I believe what I do as the result of it. If you desire to read about the proofs for the resurrection, the books I previously mentioned in this article by Strobel and Wallace are great resources. The book Who Moved the Stone? by Frank Morrison is an older but also great book in this regard. A blog site called “Reasoned Cases for Christ” is also an excellent resource.

Because I know with absolute certainty that Jesus walked out of the grave with a physical body, I not only have hope in His return for me, but also confidence in His words. This is at the heart of all I believe.

Jesus is the only person ever to accurately predict His death as well as the precise time that He would rise from the dead. Because of this, He can be fully and absolutely trusted. We will examine this further in part 2 as we continue look, one step at a time, at how Jesus’ resurrection impacts our faith as well as our confidence in him.

Stay tuned . . . .

 

 

Our Eternal Home

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Recently, we went with friends to see the movie In Our Hands: Battle for Jerusalem. The movie showed the background to and the fight for the city during the Six Day Way in 1967. Perhaps the most striking aspect of the movie was the joy of the soldiers upon reaching the ancient outer wall of the temple.

Fifty years later, the city of Jerusalem remains the focus of the world’s attention and will remain so until the Lord returns. Then, the city will be miraculously restored from the ravages of the tribulation as Jesus will reign in Jerusalem for a thousand years upon the throne the David. It was David, by the way, who made Jerusalem the capital of Israel three thousand years ago.

As such, it’s fitting that our eternal dwelling place will be called the “New Jerusalem.” The Apostle John described this city in Revelation 21:9-22:5. An angel took the apostle to a mountain where he witnessed “the holy city Jerusalem coming out of heaven from God” (21:10). One commentator refers to the “New Jerusalem as “heaven’s capital” city.[1] Let’s look at a few of the features of our future and glorious eternal home:

Dwelling place of God

John first describes the New Jerusalem as the “dwelling place of God” with us as “his people” (21:3). It already seems remarkable that God’s Holy Spirit dwells in us as believers. Here, however, we will share our eternal home with the Lord himself; he will dwell with us in close physical proximity. We will belong to him as “his people” forever secure enjoying eternity with our Savior. It will be more wonderful than we can ever imagine.

As the dwelling place of God, the city will be continually illuminated by the “glory of God;” there will be “no need of the sun or the moon” (21:23). I like the phrase at the end of the verse, “its lamp is the Lamb.” Jesus came to the world as a light shining in darkness; here he will not only shine spiritually, but physically as well. The cycle of day and night will be something of the past; nighttime will not exist in the New Jerusalem (v. 25). Our future glorified bodies will not require sleep so there will be no need of darkness to help us sleep.

Absence of Pain and Sorrow

Death, pain, sorrow, and weeping will not exist in the New Jerusalem. The apostle puts it this way, “He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away” (21:4). Try to even imagine such an existence with no sorrow, no loss, and no pain. Pastor and commentator John MacArthur wrote this about the absence of pain and sorrow:

What it declares is the absence of anything to be sorry about—no sadness, no disappointment, no pain. There will be no tears of misfortune, tears over lost love, tears of remorse, tears of regret, tears over the death of loved ones, of tears for any other reason.[2]

Unimaginable Beauty and Size

We would expect such a city to be amazing in appearing and that is just what we find in John’s portrayal of it. As John saw the city descend from heaven he described its appearance as “having the glory of God, its radiance like a most rare jewel, like a jasper, clear as crystal” (21:11). Later, the apostle listed all the jewels adorning its foundation and described its street as being of pure gold (21:18-21). This all speaks to the unimaginable beauty of the New Jerusalem. Its appearance will be spectacular beyond anything we have ever seen in our lives.

The apostle also provides the measurements of the huge city in 21:15-17. The city will be a square cube 1,364 miles long on each side and 1,364 miles tall. If superimposed upon the United States, it would take up over half of the country with just its width and length. It’s understandable why the angel took John to a high mountain to view the New Jerusalem; the apostle needed that perspective to take in the city of such incredible size.

River of Life

In contrast to the Webster dictionary definition of heaven as the dwelling place of the “blessed dead,” the New Jerusalem will be a place of life, of rich abundant and never-ending life. Revelation 22:1-2 records this about the city, “Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb through the middle of the street of the city; also, on either side of the river, the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit each month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations.”

In heaven, we will be more alive than we can now possibly imagine. Our joy will never end. Life will flow unceasingly in our eternal home.

Death will be forever banished in the New Jerusalem. We will enjoy life there to the fullest. In heaven, we will be more alive than we can now possibly imagine. Our joy will never end. Life will flow unceasingly in our eternal home.

The New Jerusalem will be spectacular beyond what we can imagine. Through the apostle John, we have a glorious picture of this amazing city. I believe we can also assume that John struggled with the limitations of human language to adequately describe the wonders and beauty of this city. I believe the New Jerusalem will be more spectacular than anything we have ever seen in our lives and the new earth will exceed the wondrous beauties of creation all around us.

We will dwell in the most beautiful home imaginable and enjoy God’s creation, which will be even more breathtaking than the Rocky Mountains in all their splendor and glory.

Can you see what a powerful influence a focus on our eternal home can have on our daily lives? If we know Christ as our Savior, this is our future. We will spend eternity in a spectacularly beautiful home with access to God’s new created order on earth totally free from all the effects of sin and the curse. We will literally have the best of both worlds. We will dwell in the most beautiful home imaginable and enjoy God’s creation, which will be even more breathtaking than the Rocky Mountains in all their splendor and glory.

This is our eternal and living hope in midst of all the aches and pains and disappointments of this life. Such hope sustains us in the midst of suffering, heals the deep wounds of our past, and gives us courage to face an uncertain future. Jesus rose from the dead to prove that He is who He claimed to be and that His promised return is just as sure as the rising of sun tomorrow morning.

Jesus will not fail to keep any of His many promises to us.

_____________

[1] John MacArthur, The MacArthur New Testament Commentary – Revelation 12-22 (Chicago: Moody Press, 2000), p. 265)

[2] Ibid, p. 269

A Story of God’s Faithfulness

wood-houses-school-old

Irma Jean Wessels was a friend of my mom while I was growing up in Rockford, Illinois. I had not thought of her for many years until last Sunday when our pastor read Luke 18:28-30 as a part of his sermon. There, in response to Peter pointing out his sacrifice in following the Savior, Jesus responded with these words, “Truly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or wife or brothers or parents or children, for the sake of the kingdom of God, who will not receive many times more in this time, and in the age to come eternal life.”

I am not sure if I heard Miss Wessels talk about this passage in our home or in public, but these words certainly came true in her life as she later recounted. Let’s start from the beginning of her story (based on what I remember).

In the mid 1950’s she was the principal of the grade school where I would later attend. My father was actively involved with the school board of this country school and that is likely where her connection to my family began. God called her to serve as missionary to India and she was already overseas by the time I started grade school.

Knowing that she was single, one day I asked my mom if she ever had a boyfriend. I guess I was just curious. My mom said that she was in love once, but her boyfriend did not feel the same calling to serve as a missionary. Irma Jean remained faithful to her calling although it must have been difficult to leave for India all alone. She felt some sadness, but, I am getting ahead of the story.

Once on the field, things changed dramatically in her location in India. A revolution in Tibet brought many refugees into the area where she was stationed, including a large number of Tibetan orphans. The mission organization under which she served decided to start a boarding school for these orphans. Because of Miss Wessel’s experience as a principal, she became head of the new school.

In the years that followed, she had a remarkable impact on the children who came under her care. Many came to know the Lord as their Savior and her loving devotion to them even caught the attention of the Dalai Lama of Tibet who formally recognized her service in educating these children.

Many came to know the Lord as their Savior and her loving devotion to them even caught the attention of the Dalai Lama of Tibet who formally recognized her service in educating these children.

I remember attending a PTA meeting at the grade school I attended. Back on furlough, Irma took up the entire time telling the parents about her time as a missionary in India. As the former principal of the school, she had the opportunity to share her story of what had happened and about all God was doing for these Tibetan children.

She later brought one of these orphans to the United States to train at a Bible school so he could later return and minister among his people. Since I was close in age to him, I spent a day with him while Irma Jean and her mom visited with my mom.

But how, you might be wondering, does her story relate to Luke 18:29-30? Miss Wessels later recounted how she felt sadness as she arrived in India. Because she remained unmarried, it seemed unlikely she would ever have any children of her own. It was not long, however, before she became a surrogate mother to scores of Tibetan children.

These verses came vividly to life for her one day as she was teaching several Tibetan girls how to sew. She suddenly realized that the Lord had given her an abundance of children. When she left for India, she thought she was giving up hope of ever being a mother. God, however, rewarded her with many more children than she could ever have imagined. He turned her sadness into great joy.

I have long since lost contact with her. I know that after many years of leading the school for these children she returned to the states and became active in missions at home. She also married later in her life.

While we look forward to rewards in eternity for our faithfulness, it’s not beyond the love and grace of our Father to reward us in this life by giving us a taste of the joys that will forever be ours once Jesus returns to take us home to be with Him.

What is Truth?

inside_empty_tomb

As I sat in class the first day, I begin to realize it was not what I expected. I should have dropped the course and signed up for another one. But I delayed in deciding upon an alternative and ended up stuck in the class.

Rather than a course dealing with the various methods of accounting as I expected, it ended up being about the philosophy of accounting. Later it morphed into a discussion of truth itself.

The professor asked us to read an article he wrote in which he asserted there was no such thing as objective truth. All truth statements were thus in one sense equally valid and perhaps also equally invalid in the same the way. No one belief system was better than another; objective truth could not be known.

In the next class period, I pointed out that such a statement contradicted itself. Wasn’t he making an objective truth statement while denying the possibility of such a statement? His statement itself was an assertion of objective truth; the very thing he said was impossible.

The teacher showed respect for my beliefs and allowed me to voice my many objections to his atheistic worldview although I did not sway him in any way toward a biblical point of view. We had some interesting discussions regarding the subject of truth for the rest of the semester as I realized my purpose for being in the class.

My class was many years ago, but the questions remains today: What is truth?

It actually goes back at least two thousand years, to when Jesus stood trial before Pilate. In response to the Lord’s assertion that he had come into the world “to bear witness to the truth,” the governor responded, “What is truth?” (John 18:37-38).

The ancient Roman governor mocked the whole idea of truth. Even if truth had any value, which he doubted, what did it matter at that moment? What good was bearing witness to the truth if one was going to be crucified that very day? In Pilate’s eyes, he had the power; Jesus did not, so what difference did the truth make anyway?

Jesus is the Truth

Just hours earlier, Jesus had told His disciples this, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6). Jesus not only came to bear witness of the truth, He claimed to be “the truth.”

This is a remarkably bold statement in many ways. Jesus claims to be the embodiment of truth as well as the only way of salvation. In contrast to my professor’s assertion, Jesus said objective truth indeed existed and more than that, He was it. The Word had become flesh and dwelt among us as the apostle John later asserted in his Gospel.

His statement also refuted the mocking of Pilate. Truth mattered because He was the only path to the Father and to eternal life. All other belief systems lead to death; only Jesus has the words of life and is the way to eternal life. He soon demonstrated why He could make such a bold claim.

Who else through all history has ever accurately predicted their death and the precise timing of their resurrection?

On the third day after being nailed to the cross, Jesus rose from the dead just as He said He would do. Has there ever been a greater confirmation of the truth of one’s own words? Who else through all of history has ever accurately predicted their death and the precise timing of their resurrection? No one has ever risen from the dead for that matter, apart from our Lord, let alone predicted it!

This is what sets true Christianity above all other belief systems. The grave is empty. Jesus is alive. His words are truth and of supreme value.

Why Does It Matter?

C.S. Lewis once said this, “Christianity, if false, is of no importance, and if true, of infinite importance. The only thing it cannot be is moderately important.”

Our faith is of “infinite importance” because Jesus rose from the dead. His radical claim to be “the way, the truth, and the life,” the only path to eternal life is true because He is alive.

C.S. Lewis once said this, “Christianity, if false, is of no importance, and if true, of infinite importance. The only thing it cannot be is moderately important.”

If Jesus had remained in the tomb, our faith would be false and of absolutely no value. Paul said this in 1 Corinthians 15:19, “If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people to be pitied.” The apostle told the believers in Corinth that their faith was worthless if Jesus had not risen from the dead.

In the next verse, however, the apostle asserts, “But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.”

The fact Paul knew that some of the witnesses had already died suggests he likely could name most of the 500 who had seen the risen Savior.

As Paul wrote to the church in Corinth, most of the 500 people who saw Jesus alive after His resurrection were still around and able to testify to its validity (15:6). The fact Paul knew that some of the witnesses had already died suggests he likely could name most of the 500 who had seen the risen Savior.

So not only does objective truth exist, as validated by Jesus’ resurrection, it has infinite value. We dismiss it to our peril because Jesus is not only truth, but also the only true source of life.

If you have never put your faith in Jesus as your Savior, please do so before it is too late. We have become so familiar with the words of John 3:16 that they often lose their meaning when we read them. They do however, express the overwhelming value of the Gospel, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”

A few weeks ago, my wife and I went to see the Case for Christ. The movie shows the response of Lee Strobel to his wife’s decision to trust Christ. He was not happy, to say the least. He decided to use his skills as an investigative reporter for the Chicago Tribune to refute the claims of Christianity. He remained confident all the way through his intensive scrutiny of the facts that he could disprove the resurrection of Jesus and bring his wife back to his atheistic point of view.

For two years he dedicated himself to proving that the claims of Jesus were a sham and He was still in the grave. One morning, after remaining at work all night to review the evidence, he came home and uttered these simple words to his worried wife, “I believe.”

What makes the truth claims of Jesus stand far above those of my cynical professor? He rose from the dead just as He said He would do. He is alive.

And if He is alive, He is the only path of salvation. All the founders of all the world’s religions, philosophies, and belief systems are all dead. As such they offer no life, no hope . . . nothing at all, only death.

Speaking just weeks after Jesus’ resurrection the Apostle Peter uttered these words, “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.”[i] He confirmed the words of Jesus, salvation is only found in Christ.

In the same way the early church began to look for His return. For if Jesus said He was returning for them, they knew He would do what He said.

We also look for His return because based on His track record of truth, if He says He is coming to take us to His Father’s house, He is certainly going to do it. Of this there can be no doubt.

Maranatha! Our Lord come!

 

[i] Acts 4:12

Why Such Silence in Our Churches?

Church in the woods

Why are our churches so silent on the matter of Jesus’ return? Jan Markell, in a recent article, noted that 90% of pastors do not preach or teach about the return of our King, the Lord Jesus.

It was not like this during the early days of the church. The sense of imminency for Jesus’ appearing spilled over from the pages of the New Testament into the early centuries of the church.

Today, we see signs of the approaching tribulation everywhere we look. Yet, few pastors even mention the Rapture, the tribulation, Jesus’ Second Coming, or the Millennium. Why do so few truly understand the times in which we live?

Pastor Tom Hughes of The 412 Church in San Jacinto, California recently wrote an article titled, “Five Reasons Pastors Don’t Teach Bible Prophecy.” Briefly, his reasons are as follows:

  1. They don’t understand prophecy
  2. They fear offending members of the church
  3. They sense it will scare people
  4. They fear people will stop giving
  5. They fear looking like fringe groups who take things to an extreme

I agree that these things play a role in the current silence regarding prophecy. However, I believe they are symptomatic of far deeper issues impacting the church today.

False Teaching

From the very beginning, Satan opposed prophetic teaching. By the time the ink was barely dry on Paul’s first letter to the Thessalonians, false teachers delivered a message to the believers in Thessalonica contradicting what Paul wrote concerning the timing of Jesus’ return for His church.

In 1 Thessalonians 5, Paul promised the young believers in Thessalonica that Jesus would come for them before the judgments of the “Day of the Lord” (see 5:9). I believe these judgments include the entire seven year tribulation, but that is a topic for another time. Almost immediately after the church read Paul’s first letter, false teachers caused a great panic among these believers by telling them the “Day of the Lord has come” (see 2 Thess. 2:2).

It took only a matter of weeks or perhaps months for Satan to attack our hope embodied in the rapture.

In other words, either they had missed the rapture or Paul was mistaken about the Lord’s return for His church. It took only a matter of weeks or perhaps months for Satan to attack our hope embodied in the rapture.

In his second epistle, Peter warned of false teachers who would arise denying the basics of our hope for Jesus’ return. “Knowing this first of all, that scoffers will come in the last days with scoffing, following their own sinful desires. They will say, “Where is the promise of his coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all things are continuing as they were from the beginning of creation” (2 Pet. 3:3-4). Are not many today echoing this same refrain? Does this not sound like the day in which we live?

The current pervasiveness of false teaching on Jesus’ Second Coming should not surprise us. The Bible clearly warned it would happen. It started during the days of the apostles and continued on from there.

In church history, the first prominent naysayer concerning the promises of Jesus’ return was a man named Origen who lived in the early fourth century AD. Influenced heavily by the pagan philosopher Plato, he taught that the promised millennium would be a spiritual kingdom, not something tangible and visible. The Council of Nicea in AD 325 condemned his many wayward beliefs, which included reincarnation as well as the belief that everyone, without exception, would someday be saved.

Many false teachings regarding prophecy persist today and I believe this makes many pastors hesitant to talk about the times in which we live. Rather than become embroiled in controversy or appear extreme, they remain silent. Rather than offend people, they avoid the subject altogether.

As a result, many false ideas regarding Jesus’ return continue unchecked by sound scriptural teaching.  The lack of sound teaching about prophecy only serves to further the spread of false teaching.

A Failure to Recognize That We Are at War

The avoidance of teaching about the Lord’s return blinds many to another reality.

Many preachers correctly apply the message of our spiritual warfare to the battles of our everyday life and Satan’s attempts to derail our walk with Jesus. Yet few go beyond this struggle to talk about the prophetic implications of the devil’s geopolitical war against the Lord, Israel, followers of Christ, and God’s Word.

The battle is not between good and bad people, between political parties, or even between politicians we admire and those we do not. As Ephesians 6:12 makes clear, our battle is against demonic forces of varying powers, not flesh and blood. We have a target on our backs, an enemy raging about as a roaring lion seeking to stop Jesus’ soon arrival on earth and destroy us in the process.

Only a worldview through the lens of biblical prophecy offers any sense to the war that daily rages throughout the world.

Satan sees the signs of Jesus’ soon return and it should not surprise us that he is doing everything he can to prevent it. He tried to eliminate the Israelites before Jesus’ first coming; it makes perfect sense he would repeat his strategy with the Second Coming.

Satan knows Jesus will someday return to a restored Israel and his only chance at preventing this is to utterly destroy Israel. We see this in the current massive buildup of weapons aimed at Israel. Scripture describes a great battle in Ezekiel 38-39 where many nations come against Israel. However, God will intervene and rescue His people.

When Satan’s initial attempts to destroy Israel eventually fail, he will use his man, the antichrist, to attempt to stop Jesus’ return to earth. The coming world order will be the mechanism for this coming evil leader to attempt to kill all Jews along with all followers of Christ. We see his plans for this new world order everywhere we look.

We see it in the dramatic growth of the occult and open worship of Satan. We see it in the pictures of small children in agony after another attack of chemical weapons in Syria. We see it in scenes of Christians lined up to be executed. Alas, we also see it in refusal of many politicians from both parties to take a firm stand against the ghastly murder of the unborn and sale of their body parts.

We see it in the hatred toward both Jews and Christians sweeping through the world. This is all setting the stage for the arrival of the antichrist (1 John 2:18). A world aligned with God would never accept the evil designs of the coming world order. The devil must destroy biblical faith and the Judeo-Christian foundations of right and wrong if he is to accomplish his purposes through the antichrist.

As followers of Christ, we are caught up in a war we cannot ignore. An understanding of the times in which we live not only gives us insight into the war around us, but also gives us the courage to push back against the enemy.

A Failure to Recognize Our Place in God’s Redemptive Story

I believe the silence in our pulpits regarding prophecy results not so much from a lack of understanding of prophecy as it does from a failure to grasp the full extent of the glorious message of the Gospel. There is a future tense to the Gospel; one in which Jesus’ returns to earth, binds Satan, and sets up His righteous kingdom over all the earth.

As believers, we are born into God’s redemptive story. Of course there is an enemy. Have you ever read a great story where there was not an adversary, someone opposing the hero of the story? So often we enjoy great dramas not realizing they also speak to our struggles and ultimate victory over our greatest foe.

Of course there is an enemy. Have you ever read a great story where there was not an adversary, someone opposing the hero of the story?

So yes, we are at war and that is where the good news begins. John Eldredge compares our adventure to Frodo in The Lord of the Rings. Frodo played a vital role in saving the world of his day from the evil Saran. Eldredge calls it living mythically; grasping the reality of the great adventure of redemption of which we are all a part.

The magnificent story of our redemption includes Jesus’ saving work on our behalf in the past as well as His current work inside us through the Holy Spirit. However, we are also saved in hope of a glorious future, in hope of the completion of our adoption into God’s family and the redemption of our bodies (see Rom. 8:24).

Our salvation points to the future. Is this not why New Testament believers lived in constant expectation of Jesus’ appearing? The Rapture represents the completion of Jesus’ saving work on our behalf when we receive our immortal bodies and are caught up to forever be with our Savior.

We are not simply spectators in God’s glorious redemptive program; we are active participants. The spiritual kingdom, on whose behalf we now engage as warriors, will someday become a glorious physical kingdom in which we will reign alongside Jesus.

We all play a role in this great undertaking. Our mere presence on earth restrains Satan’s plans for world dominance; or more precisely, it’s the Holy Spirit inside each one of us that now restrains the work of the coming antichrist. Our prayers . . . our prayers make a great difference in the battle into which we were born the moment we trusted Christ as our Savior.

Do you understand why Satan works so hard to keep believers from understanding the true nature of the battle and their amazing role in God’s glorious plan of redemption? Believers with eyes focused on earth-bound hopes are much less of a threat to his ultimate plans.

Things are not as they seem; there is a much greater reality than what we see with our eyes.

Just like the ending to Beauty and the Beast, the Lord will someday gloriously transform everything we see; He will make all things new. The coming transformation of God’s people and His creation will make the ending to Beauty and Beast seem rather dull by comparison.

A proper perspective of our place in the Lord’s redemptive story negates all the factors that keep many pastors from talking about prophecy. The subject may very well scare us at times; our role requires courage, faith, and a heart devoted to bringing God the glory due His name.

The call of Jesus, repeatedly echoed by His apostles, is to watch and be ready for His return (read Matt. 24:42-51). His last spoken words to the church in Revelation 22 also echo this same plea for readiness.

This perspective energizes our faith and determination to serve the Lord in making disciples of all nations.

Why did Jesus encourage both fervent watchfulness and a passion for reaching the lost? Why is it so critical that we hear both messages from our pastors and teachers?

Stay tuned . . . .