Saturday, December 3, 2011

Ongoing Earthly Ministry of Jesus

As believers in Jesus Christ, our hope and faith depend on the resurrection. If the resurrection did not happen and is just a myth, then our faith is in vain.  So that’s why I think it’s so important to examine the biblical evidence that proves it did occur.  My goal is not to prove the sequence of the post-resurrection appearances or the exact number of appearances, since these are not important.  Scholars do not agree on those minute details.  But I simply want to encourage your faith in Jesus Christ.

At the very end of this post, I will share with you about some exciting appearances of Jesus that have occurred in our own day, so don't miss those!  But first, let's begin with the biblical accounts.

In the apostle Paul’s letter to the Corinthians, he wrote, “For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that He appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. After that He appeared to more than five hundred brethren at one time, most of whom remain until now, but some have fallen asleep; then He appeared to James, then to all the apostles; and last of all, as to one untimely born, He appeared to me also.” (1Co 15:3-8)

In this passage, Paul speaks of the death, burial, and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ.  And to prove that he rose from the dead, Paul cites numerous occasions when Jesus appeared to people after his resurrection.

Peter and the Twelve
First Paul states, “He appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve.” (1 Co 15:5). Cephas was the name for Peter.  Was it actually Peter who saw the Lord first? 

This differs from the account of the gospels, which record that Jesus first appeared to Mary Magdalene and the other Mary.  Matthew’s gospel states that the angel at the empty tomb told the ladies, “Go quickly and tell His disciples that He has risen from the dead; and behold, He is going ahead of you into Galilee, there you will see Him; behold, I have told you." (Mat 28:7).  Since the angel told the ladies to go tell Jesus disciples that He had risen from the dead, we know that the disciples had not yet seen Him. 

According to Mark’s account, the “other Mary” was the mother of James (Mk 16:1).  According to Luke, there was also a third woman named Joanna.  Mark states that the angel specifically mentioned Peter to the women, when he said, "But go, tell His disciples and Peter, 'He is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see Him, just as He told you.'" (Mar 16:7).  Notice how Peter was called out separately from the disciples, since he had removed himself from being a disciple when he denied the Lord.  That’s why the angel said, “Go, tell His disciples and Peter…”

Matthew’s account continues, “And they left the tomb quickly with fear and great joy and ran to report it to His disciples. And behold, Jesus met them and greeted them. And they came up and took hold of His feet and worshiped Him. Then Jesus said to them, ‘Do not be afraid; go and take word to My brethren to leave for Galilee, and there they will see Me.’” (Mat 28:8-10).  Jesus appeared to them after they left the tomb and told them the same thing the angel had just said.  He instructed them to go tell his disciples, calling them his brothers.  Just as the angel had told the women, Jesus also said He would appear to His brothers in Galilee.

Mark states: “Now after He had risen early on the first day of the week, He first appeared to Mary Magdalene, from whom He had cast out seven demons. She went and reported to those who had been with Him, while they were mourning and weeping.” (Mar 16:9-10). So Mark and Matthew’s gospels agree that Jesus first appeared to Mary Magdalene, not Peter.

She was obedient to tell the disciples and Peter.  In turn, Peter and John did run to the tomb to verify her report, and later the disciples did go to Galilee, as the Lord said to do.  But they did not go to Galilee right away.  At first they refused to believe it.

Mark states: She went and reported to those who had been with Him, while they were mourning and weeping. When they heard that He was alive and had been seen by her, they refused to believe it. After that, He appeared in a different form to two of them while they were walking along on their way to the country. They went away and reported it to the others, but they did not believe them either.” (Mar 16:10-13)

Luke’s account agrees with this Mark that the disciples refused to believe when they first heard the report from the women who had seen Jesus.  Luke states: “But these words appeared to them as nonsense, and they would not believe them. But Peter got up and ran to the tomb; stooping and looking in, he saw the linen wrappings only; and he went away to his home, marveling at what had happened.” (Luk 24:11-12)

So after Mary Magdalene, Mark states that Jesus appeared to the two men walking on the road in the country, which was evidently the Road to Emmaus appearance described by Luke.  Note that Luke also placed the Emmaus Road appearance right after the women told the disciples.  He wrote: “And behold, two of them were going that very day to a village named Emmaus, which was about seven miles from Jerusalem. And they were talking with each other about all these things which had taken place. While they were talking and discussing, Jesus Himself approached and began traveling with them.” (Luk 24:13-15)

Interestingly Luke also recorded that when the two who saw Jesus on the Emmaus Road immediately reported their experience to the eleven gathered in Jerusalem, the eleven (including Peter) told them that the Lord had already appeared to Simon Peter.  “And they got up that very hour and returned to Jerusalem, and found gathered together the eleven and those who were with them, saying, ‘The Lord has really risen and has appeared to Simon.’” (Luk 24:33-34).  So Luke’s record of the statement by the eleven that the Lord appeared to Simon seems to place that appearance prior to the Road to Emmaus one.  Could it be that Jesus appeared to Simon shortly after he went to the tomb, and that it was not recorded explicitly, but rather mentioned indirectly here?  I don’t think so.

John’s record does not allow for that possibility.  He wrote: “Now on the first day of the week Mary Magdalene came early to the tomb, while it was still dark, and saw the stone already taken away from the tomb. So she ran and came to Simon Peter and to the other disciple whom Jesus loved, and said to them, ‘They have taken away the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid Him.’ So Peter and the other disciple went forth, and they were going to the tomb. The two were running together; and the other disciple ran ahead faster than Peter and came to the tomb first; and stooping and looking in, he saw the linen wrappings lying there; but he did not go in. And so Simon Peter also came, following him, and entered the tomb; and he saw the linen wrappings lying there, and the face-cloth which had been on His head, not lying with the linen wrappings, but rolled up in a place by itself. So the other disciple who had first come to the tomb then also entered, and he saw and believed. For as yet they did not understand the Scripture, that He must rise again from the dead. So the disciples went away again to their own homes. But Mary was standing outside the tomb weeping; and so, as she wept, she stooped and looked into the tomb; and she saw two angels in white sitting, one at the head and one at the feet, where the body of Jesus had been lying. And they said to her, "Woman, why are you weeping?" She said to them, "Because they have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid Him." When she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, and did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to her, "Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?" Supposing Him to be the gardener, she said to Him, "Sir, if you have carried Him away, tell me where you have laid Him, and I will take Him away." Jesus said to her, "Mary!" She turned and said to Him in Hebrew, "Rabboni!" (which means, Teacher). Jesus said to her, "Stop clinging to Me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father; but go to My brethren and say to them, 'I ascend to My Father and your Father, and My God and your God.'" Mary Magdalene came, announcing to the disciples, "I have seen the Lord," and that He had said these things to her.” (Joh 20:1-18).

In this account from John, after Mary Magdalene found the tomb empty and reported it to the eleven.  She did not yet know the Lord had risen, but she thought they had taken the Lord’s body.  Peter and John ran to the tomb to see.  When John saw it He believed.  The he states: “So the disciples went away again to their own homes.”  And the very next thing John records is the appearance of Jesus to Mary Magdalene, who saw Him first. 

John records how the Lord appeared to the eleven that same day in the evening.  He states: “So when it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and when the doors were shut where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in their midst and said to them, ‘Peace be with you.’ And when He had said this, He showed them both His hands and His side. The disciples then rejoiced when they saw the Lord. So Jesus said to them again, ‘Peace be with you; as the Father has sent Me, I also send you.’ And when He had said this, He breathed on them and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, their sins have been forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they have been retained.’ But Thomas, one of the twelve, called Didymus, was not with them when Jesus came.” (Joh 20:19-24).

That evening on the same day He appeared to Mary, Jesus appeared to the eleven in the locked room.  Thomas was not there, and he doubted the others when they told him. John writes: “So the other disciples were saying to him, ‘We have seen the Lord!’ But he said to them, ‘Unless I see in His hands the imprint of the nails, and put my finger into the place of the nails, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe.’ After eight days His disciples were again inside, and Thomas with them. Jesus came, the doors having been shut, and stood in their midst and said, ‘Peace be with you.’ Then He said to Thomas, ‘Reach here with your finger, and see My hands; and reach here your hand and put it into My side; and do not be unbelieving, but believing.’ Thomas answered and said to Him, ‘My Lord and my God!’ Jesus said to him, ‘Because you have seen Me, have you believed? Blessed are they who did not see, and yet believed.’ Therefore many other signs Jesus also performed in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book;” (Joh 20:25-30). So there were two appearances to the eleven on that first day of the week.

John goes on to record that “After these things Jesus manifested Himself again to the disciples at the Sea of Tiberias, and He manifested Himself in this way.” (Joh 21:1).  This was the occasion when the disciples had been fishing unsuccessfully all night, and Jesus appeared on the shore in the morning, cooking fish.  He gave them instructions that resulted in a great catch, and they all enjoyed breakfast with him on the shore.  It was then that he walked with Peter and reinstated him as a disciple.

I mentioned earlier that after Mary saw Him alive again, she was obedient to tell the disciples, and the disciples did go to Galilee, as the Lord said to do.  But not right away.  At first some of them refused to believe it.  However, when they did finally do what the Lord said and they went to the mountain in Galilee, they all saw the Lord.

Matthew records their encounter with Jesus: “But the eleven disciples proceeded to Galilee, to the mountain, which Jesus had designated. When they saw Him, they worshiped Him; but some were doubtful.” (Mat 28:16-17).  At this point, there were only eleven disciples, since Judas had committed suicide and they had not yet appointed Matthias to replace him.  So Peter was there on the mountain among the Eleven.  Together they saw Jesus, but some doubted in their hearts.

And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, "All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. "Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age." (Mat 28:18-20).  This was the famous event known as the “Great Commission.”

This is the same event that Luke recorded.  Luke placed the timing of it on the day when the two men were telling the eleven they had seen him on the Emmaus Road.  “While they were telling these things, He Himself stood in their midst and said to them, ‘Peace be to you.’ But they were startled and frightened and thought that they were seeing a spirit. And He said to them, ‘Why are you troubled, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? See My hands and My feet, that it is I Myself; touch Me and see, for a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.’ And when He had said this, He showed them His hands and His feet. While they still could not believe it because of their joy and amazement, He said to them, ‘Have you anything here to eat?’ They gave Him a piece of a broiled fish; and He took it and ate it before them. Now He said to them, ‘These are My words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that all things which are written about Me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.’ Then He opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, and He said to them, ‘Thus it is written, that the Christ would suffer and rise again from the dead the third day, and that repentance for forgiveness of sins would be proclaimed in His name to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things. And behold, I am sending forth the promise of My Father upon you; but you are to stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high. And He led them out as far as Bethany, and He lifted up His hands and blessed them. While He was blessing them, He parted from them and was carried up into heaven.” (Luk 24:36-51)

Now Luke indicates that the Lord led them out as far as Bethany and was carried up to heaven, which is known as Jesus’ ascension.  Unless there were two ascensions, this could not have occurred until forty days after his resurrection, which is when the ascension occurred.  Luke explicitly states this time frame in his second account, known as Acts.

In Acts 1, he records the exact same appearance of Jesus (also see Lk 24:36-51 cited above) with these words, “The first account I composed, Theophilus, about all that Jesus began to do and teach, until the day when He was taken up to heaven, after He had by the Holy Spirit given orders to the apostles whom He had chosen. To these He also presented Himself alive after His suffering, by many convincing proofs, appearing to them over a period of forty days and speaking of the things concerning the kingdom of God. Gathering them together, He commanded them not to leave Jerusalem, but to wait for what the Father had promised, ‘Which,’ He said, ‘you heard of from Me; for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.’ So when they had come together, they were asking Him, saying, ‘Lord, is it at this time You are restoring the kingdom to Israel?’ He said to them, ‘It is not for you to know times or epochs which the Father has fixed by His own authority; but you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth.’ And after He had said these things, He was lifted up while they were looking on, and a cloud received Him out of their sight.” (Act 1:1-9)

Allow me to recap.  Luke stated it all in his first account as though Jesus led them out to Bethany and ascended the same day he Lord appeared to the two disciples on the Emmaus Road.  That would have been on the same day he was resurrected, since that was the day the disciples saw Him on the Emmaus Road.  In Luke’s second account (Acts) he later stated that it was not until forty days after his resurrection that the Lord gathered them in Bethany for the Great Commission and ascended to heaven!  During that forty-day period, Jesus made many appearances, and spoke about the kingdom. Luke explicitly stated that Jesus was “appearing to them over a period of forty days and speaking of the things concerning the kingdom of God.” (Ac 1:3).  He does not tell us how many times Jesus appeared or in what order those appearances occurred.

So it’s unclear from the gospel accounts and Acts whether Jesus appeared first to Peter, which Paul recorded in his Corinthian epistle.  It’s possible that Jesus appeared to him at the tomb after he ran there and looked in.  But that’s unlikely, since the angel that had spoken to Mary Magdalene earlier told her to “Go, tell His disciples and Peter…”  If she saw the Lord right after that, then this seems to indicate that Peter had not seen the Lord before she did.  However, John’s account gives the following sequence: Mary Magdalene finds the tomb empty, she runs and tells the eleven disciples, Peter and John run to the tomb and find it empty, and then AFTER that Jesus appears to Mary in the garden near the tomb (Jn 20:1-15).  Whether or not Peter saw Jesus when he went to the empty tomb, we do find evidence that He made a separate appearance to Peter prior to His appearance to the two disciples on the Road to Emmaus.  This was what the eleven told the two who reported that they saw the Lord on the Emmaus Road.

Probable Sequence of Jesus' Appearance to Peter and the Twelve
What we can surmise up to this point is the following sequence of events:

1.    Mary Magdalene and the other ladies visit the tomb and find the stone rolled away. (Mt 28:1-8; Mk 16:1-7; Lk 24:1-9; Jn 20:1)
2.    The angel speaks to them. Matthew placed this event before the women tell anyone (Mt 28:5-8).  John places this even after Peter and John look inside the tomb (Jn 20:11-13).   
3.    They report this to the eleven (Mt 28:8; Mk 16:10-11; Lk 24:9; Jn 20:2)
4.    Peter and John run to the tomb and find it empty (Lk 24:12; Jn 20:2-8).  The disciples return to their own homes. John believes (Jn 20:8), and Peter goes away to his home marveling to himself (Lk 24:12)
5.    Jesus appears to Mary Magdalene and the other women in the garden (Mt 28:9-10; Jn 20:14-16).  He does not allow Mary to cling to Him, stating that He has not yet ascended to the Father (Jn 20:17).  The way Matthew records this makes it seem like Jesus appeared to her before she reported to the disciples, but there was a gap here according to the other gospels.  She first reported the empty tomb to the eleven disciples, and then went back to the tomb, where Jesus appeared to her.  Some disciples headed for Emmaus once they heard Mary’s report of the empty tomb and the angel’s appearance, and they did not yet know about Jesus’ appearance to Mary, or they would have told Jesus (Lk 24:22-24)
6.    Mary tells the eleven that she saw the Lord alive, and that He will meet them in Galilee. By now the two disciples are already walking along the Road to Emmaus, and do not yet know that anyone has seen the Lord alive (Jn 20:18).
7.    Some of those who hear Mary’s report that she has seen the Lord alive refuse to believe (Lk 24:11).
8.    The Lord appears to Simon Peter on Resurrection Day, before He appears to the two disciples on the Road to Emmaus that afternoon, or to the eleven later that evening.  The eleven indirectly mentioned this personal appearance of Jesus to Peter, and so did Paul in his account. (Lk 24:34; 1 Co 15:5).
9.    The Lord appears to the two on the Road to Emmaus on Resurrection Day (Lk 24:13-32; Mk 16:12-13).
10.    While the two men who saw him on the Emmaus Road are telling the eleven about it, the Lord appears to the eleven altogether for the first time in the locked room the evening of the same day He appeared to Mary (Lk 24:36; Mk 16:14; Jn 20:19-21).  Thomas was absent (Jn 20:24). (This places the Road to Emmaus appearance earlier that afternoon.)  After Thomas later hears of it, he has doubts in his heart (Jn 20:25).
11.    The Lord appears again eight days later to the eleven in the locked room, and Thomas is there this time (Jn 20:26). The Lord tells Thomas to touch his wounds in his hands and his side (Jn 20:27).
12.    Over the coming weeks, the disciples go to Galilee. (Mt 28:16a).  If we understand that Matthew was recounting the events in broad strokes, not fine detail, we realize that there was a space between this first part of verse 16 and the second half of it.  He covered a large span of time in few words.
13.    Jesus performed many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in the Bible (Jn 20:30). 
14.    While they were in Galilee, they went fishing.  Seven of the disciples saw him on the shore while they were fishing in the Sea of Galilee (Jn 21:1).
15.    The eleven disciples proceed to the mountain in Galilee (Mt 28:16b) and while they are there, Jesus comes up the mountain, where they see Him again, and He speaks to them.  He leads them out to Bethany and commissions them to take the gospel to the whole world (Mt 28:18-20; Mk 16:16-19; Lk 24:50-51).

(Note: In Matthew’s account, the Great Commission appears to happen very soon after Mary Magdalene gave Jesus’ instructions to the eleven to go to Galilee, where they would see Him.  In Matthew’s account, it seems as though it is the first time they see Him after His resurrection, but the Great Commission is recorded there, which Jesus did not give until forty days later, right before his ascension.  There was obviously a gap of time that occurred between verses 16 and 17 in Matthew 28, or between verse 17 and 18.  This is the way Matthew writes. In other words, even though it runs together in Matthew’s concise telling of it, the Great Commission occurred a few weeks after they first saw Him on the mountain in Galilee. For more about this, I suggest "Understanding the Gaps in Scripture.")

(Note about Bethany and Mount Olivet: Bethany is near Jerusalem, about fifteen furlongs, according to Jn 11:18.  It only takes about a half hour to walk there from Jerusalem.  You have to walk over Mount Olivet to get to Bethany.  Mount Olivet is near Jerusalem, and Bethany is near the Mount of Olives according to Mk 11:1.  Jesus instructed them to go to a mountain in Galilee where they would see Him, and that is where they saw Him AFTER they had seen Him in the locked room in Jerusalem.  Galilee is not close to Jerusalem. It is unlikely that on the day of his resurrection they saw Him on a mountain, since they were still in the locked room in Jerusalem for fear of the Jews, in the evening on the day of His resurrection.  It is also not possible that the mountain in Galilee where Jesus appeared to his disciples was Mount Olivet, since that is located near Jerusalem, not in Galilee.  According to Luke, Jesus finally led them out as far as Bethany, and there he was carried up to heaven – he ascended -- before their eyes.  This was not a private ascension.  This event occurred forty days after His resurrection.  And Luke added in his second account in Acts 1:12 that after Jesus' ascension, the disciples returned to Jerusalem from the Mount of Olives.  When we put this together with Luke's first account in Lk 24:50, we can surmise that the ascension occurred in Bethany, and they had to walk over the Mount of Olives on their return trip to Jerusalem.  This means that his appearance to the disciples on a mountain in Galilee occurred during the forty days after his resurrection, not the day he ascended.  To summarize the appearances of Jesus to the eleven, His appearances in Jerusalem occurred first, then His appearances to them in Galilee, and finally came His appearance in Bethany immediately before His ascension. So there was a progression from Jerusalem to Galilee, and then back toward Jerusalem, with the ascension occurring in nearby Bethany, with the disciples returning to Jerusalem afterward.)

(Note about Jesus’ ascension: When Jesus appeared to Mary the morning of His resurrection, she wanted to cling to Him.  But He told her not to do so, explaining that He had not yet ascended to the Father.  Jesus said to her, "Stop clinging to Me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father; but go to My brethren and say to them, 'I ascend to My Father and your Father, and My God and your God.'" 

This is the only recorded instance where Jesus told anyone not to cling to Him.  Only a few hours later, he specifically told His disciples in the locked room to touch Him.  Luke states: “But they were startled and frightened and thought that they were seeing a spirit. And He said to them, ‘Why are you troubled, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? See My hands and My feet, that it is I Myself; touch Me and see, for a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.’"  (Luk 24:37-39). Some believe that Jesus ascended privately to the Father shortly after he rose on that first day, in order to be glorified, and a change occurred in His body.  This, they believe, was prior to the public ascension seen by his disciples forty days later, and explains why He allowed no one to touch Him until later during the day of His resurrection.

If it were true that Jesus ascended privately on resurrection day, then it would also explain why Jesus said to Mary that first morning that she was to tell His disciples that He was ascending to His Father and God.  If He did not ascend twice, the first time being soon after his resurrection, then we need to explain why He said on resurrection day that He was ascending to the Father.  Was He referring to the public event that would occur forty days hence?  It’s an interesting matter to consider, but certainly not an essential belief for our salvation.)

So the gospel record essentially agrees with Paul’s record that Jesus appeared first to Simon and then to the eleven altogether.  That sequence is correct.  Paul simply left out the fact that Jesus appeared to Mary Magdalene before He appeared to Peter.  Whether this was intentional or not makes no difference.  He had the sequence right, and did not explicitly deny the fact that Mary had seen the Lord before Peter did.

More than Five Hundred
Paul went on to describe what happened after Peter and the eleven saw Jesus.  He states, “After that He appeared to more than five hundred brethren at one time, most of whom remain until now, but some have fallen asleep.” (1 Co 15:6)

So again, Paul does not mention that the Lord appeared to the two on the Emmaus Road, choosing instead to highlight Peter and the eleven.  And after that came His appearance to more than five hundred people at once time.  This rules out any possibility that these people could have been hallucinating.  It is impossible for hundreds of people to experience the same hallucination simultaneously. 

At the time that Paul wrote this to the Corinthians, around 54 or 56 AD, most of these folks were still alive.  So several hundred of these witnesses were still available to be contacted, if the Corinthians wanted to verify Paul’s account of the resurrection. 

It is very likely that this appearance to more than five hundred occurred in Galilee during the weeks following his resurrection, prior to his ascension.

James
After Jesus appeared to Mary Magdalene, Peter, the men on the Emmaus Road, the eleven and the more than five hundred at one time, Paul states, “Then He appeared to James…”  (1 Co 15:7)

Since there were two disciples named James, we need to clarify which one Paul was referring to here.  There was the apostle James the son of Zebedee, who was the brother of the apostle John.  And then there was James the brother of Jesus, who wrote the book of the Bible called James.  I don’t think Paul meant the apostle James, because he was one of the eleven who saw the Lord after Peter did.  Paul had just mentioned that the eleven saw Jesus. So it would not make sense to mention James again.  I think rather that Paul was referring to James the brother of Jesus. 

James was one of the elders in Jerusalem who rendered important decisions for the church, such as the one made in Acts 15.  Did you ever wonder how he got to be an elder in the Jerusalem church, even though he was not one of the original apostles?  Well, Paul says the Lord appeared to him, and it is likely that this also occurred in Galilee, since James lived there.

What an amazing experience that must have been!  James had not believed in the Lord during His earthly ministry.  But he came to believe in the Lord later, probably after His resurrection.  And he was blessed to see the Lord, who had been his earthly brother, after His resurrection.  After that, James simply referred to himself as the bondservant of the Lord Jesus Christ.

All the apostles
Paul stated that after Jesus appeared to James, “Then to all the apostles…”  (1 Co 15:7).  This is also a noteworthy statement.  We usually think of the apostles as synonymous with the Twelve, which later became the eleven after Judas “quit.”  But Paul had already mentioned Jesus’ appearance to the eleven.  Now he indicates that Jesus appeared to “all the apostles.” This makes it clear that there were in the early church more apostles than just the eleven.  In fact, in his epistles, Paul mentions other apostles, so this is well established.  And there are still apostles today, since this gift has never ceased to exist since that time.

This event when Jesus appeared to all the apostles was most likely on ascension day when he commissioned them to take the gospel to the ends of the earth.  But there were others who also saw Jesus after that event, like Stephen, on the day he was stoned to death (Ac 7:55).

Paul
Finally Paul comes to the end of his list of those who saw the Lord alive after His resurrection. He states, “And last of all, as to one untimely born, He appeared to me also.” (1 Co 15:8). Here he refers to his own experience seeing the Lord on the Road to Damascus (Ac 9:3; 26:13). 

On that day, Paul’s travel plans were changed abruptly. He was headed to Damascus for one purpose – to persecute Christians – and when he got there, he had a completely opposite purpose – to preach the gospel.  This itself is proof the Lord appeared to him. Why else would anyone go from being a hater of Christians, imprisoning them and approving their deaths, to being a die-hard gospel preacher, suffering persecution and imprisonment himself for the Lord’s sake? 

Putting it All Together
So what Paul covered concisely in two or three sentences just took me ten pages to cover.  He highlighted only six of Jesus’ post-resurrection appearances.  But we know there were many more. 

Jesus made many appearances during the forty days between His resurrection and His public ascension to heaven, where He was seated at the right hand of the Father.  These include His appearance to Mary Magdalene with Joanna and Mary the mother of James, as well as His appearances to Peter, the two on the Emmaus Road, the eleven, James, and all the apostles.

When we speak of Jesus’ earthly ministry, this was a part of it we often forget.  His earthly ministry did not end after his death on the cross, but continued for forty days afterward until his public ascension.  In fact, His earthly ministry continued after His ascension. 

Jesus appeared to Stephen while He was being stoned to death with Saul’s consent.  Stephen saw Jesus standing at the right hand of God (Ac 7:55).  Jesus appeared to the apostle Paul himself, on the Road to Damascus.  And He appeared to the apostle John on the isle of Patmos (Rev 1:12-20).

In fact, the earthly ministry of Jesus continues to this day. The gospel of Mark ends with the statement that, “They went out and preached everywhere, while the Lord worked with them, and confirmed the word by the signs that followed.” (Mk 16:20).  This is a concise summary of the entire book of Acts, and all that the Lord continues to do today to confirm His Word by signs and wonders.

Jesus continues to appear to people on earth today, whether or not anyone wants to believe it or report on it.  For example, many say a supernatural dimension is at work throughout the Islamic world. There is an unseen revolution in Iran, in which many Muslims are coming to know Christ.  Jesus has appeared to many of these Muslims.



If you would like to see some amazing, true testimonies of Muslims who gave their lives to Jesus Christ after seeing Him in a dream or vision, then I want to encourage you to visit "More Than Dreams: From Dreams to Reality." There you will find video dramatizations of five Muslims from the nations of Turkey, Iran, Nigeria, Egypt, and Indonesia, who each had such a supernatural encounter with Christ.  I also highly recommend a book by Korean brother Yong-Doo Kim, called Baptize by Blazing Fire.  It documents how Jesus appeared to him and the members of his church in January 2005, during an all-night prayer rally that lasted for thirty days.  These are just examples, but there is much more happening than I could possibly cover here in this one blog.

Why should we doubt that He is doing this, when it is consistent with His character and past behavior?  He’s alive, He’s wonderfully personal, and loves to reveal Himself to us. He remains the same yesterday, today, and forever.

Attribution notice: Most Scripture quotations taken from the NASB.

Author's note: You may also access the Main Directory for this blog, or my complete blog directory at Writing for the Master.  

Do You Want to Know Him?
If you want to know Jesus personally, you can. It all begins when you repent and believe in Jesus.  Do you know what God's Word, the Bible says?

“Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of God, and saying, ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.’” (Mar 1:14b-15).  He preached that we must repent and believe.

Please see my explanation of this in my post called "Do You Want to Know Jesus?"
_________________________________________________

Len Lacroix is the founder of Doulos Missions International.  He was based in Eastern Europe for four years, making disciples, as well as helping leaders to be more effective at making disciples who multiply, developing leaders who multiply, with the ultimate goal of planting churches that multiply. His ministry is now based in the United States with the same goal of helping fulfill the Great Commission. www.dmiworld.org.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Candle in the Dark

I recently watched a movie about the life of William Carey, called Candle in the Dark. It was excellent. I knew he had made great sacrifices to take the gospel to India, but never realized all he went through.

He was a cobbler in England, who lived from 1761 to 1834 -- an era when the Protestant church didn't believe that Christians had a responsibility to take the gospel to the nations. But he saw it differently. He wrote a booklet that made the case from Scripture that the disciples of Christ have a responsibility to reach other nations for Christ. He taught that in order to reach other nations for Christ, we need to cooperate, organize ourselves, and plan strategically.

He would not simply sit back in his own comfort zone, and wait for God, in His sovereignty, to get the gospel out to the nations. He said, “Expect great things from God. Attempt great things for God.” His motto was: Begin with prayer, asking God to do great things in your own life and in the lives of others. Then act on those prayers, attempting great things for God as you expect great things from Him.

And he practiced what he preached. He became the first Protestant missionary, leaving his homeland with his wife and children to take the gospel to India. Although he lost his wife and one child, who succumbed to deadly diseases, he remained obedient to the Lord. During his forty years in India, he translated the Bible into many Indian languages, printed Bibles, and established schools, as well as a college that offered theological training. He also helped bring about the abolition of Sati, the traditional Indian practice of burning widows on their husbands' funeral pyres.

There is still so much work to be done today to complete the Great Commission of Jesus, who commanded His disciples to "make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit." (Mt 28:19). America was once the greatest missionary-sending nation on earth. Yet sadly today many Americans spend more money on their pets than they do on missions.

There are a few, a remnant, who are passionate about taking the gospel to the nations. They understand that we need to cooperate, organize ourselves, and plan strategically for these ventures to do so. If you are not presently involved, let me encourage you to pray and ask the Lord how He wants to use you.

I encourage you to pick up a copy of this "Candle in the Dark" movie online, and watch it. You won't be disappointed, and the Lord may use it to give you a fresh passion for fulfilling the Great Commission.

We should all be involved in making disciples among the people around us. But regarding foreign missions, some are called to go, others are called to give, and still others to pray. Ask the Lord what your role is in this exciting end times harvest.

Jesus said, "This gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all the nations, and then the end will come." (Mat 24:14). His words will be fulfilled. Will you be a part of it? Will you be a candle in the dark?

Attribution notice: Most Scripture quotations taken from the NASB.

Author's note: If you enjoyed this post, you may also access the Main Directory for this blog, or my complete blog directory at Writing for the Master.  

Do You Want to Know Him?
If you want to know Jesus personally, you can. It all begins when you repent and believe in Jesus.  Do you know what God's Word, the Bible says?

“Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of God, and saying, ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.’” (Mar 1:14b-15).  He preached that we must repent and believe.

Please see my explanation of this in my post called "Do You Want to Know Jesus?"
_________________________________________________

Len Lacroix is the founder of Doulos Missions International.  He was based in Eastern Europe for four years, making disciples, as well as helping leaders to be more effective at making disciples who multiply, developing leaders who multiply, with the ultimate goal of planting churches that multiply. His ministry is now based in the United States with the same goal of helping fulfill the Great Commission. www.dmiworld.org.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Supremacy of Christ

Many people believe intellectually that Jesus is God and that He is the Light of the World, as I've written about in previous posts on this blog. But for some people, that belief may not go beyond a simple ascent to the truth. And that's very unfortunate, because when you truly know Christ, it makes a real, practical difference in your life. Today I'd like to address the supremacy of Christ, and hopefully show how His supremacy affects our lives.

First of all, let's look at what the apostle Paul wrote to the Colossian church. My focus will be primarily on chapter one, verses 15-20.

He is the Firstborn
As I've addressed in my previous posts, Jesus is the image of the invisible God. And in this passage, the apostle Paul refers to Jesus as the "firstborn of all creation." Paul wrote: "He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation." (Col 1:15).

Some people have been confused by this term unnecessarily, and taught that Jesus is a created being. This erroneous belief, known as Arianism, has been around since the fourth century AD. In my opinion, it lowers Jesus to the same level as the so-called gods of ancient, Greek mythology. Arianism is named after Arius (c. 250 - c. 336), a priest in Alexandria, who was a Greek theologian. He thought of Jesus Christ as a special creation made by God for man's salvation. While there were many damaging heresies throughout Church history, this is considered to be the most serious one of all.

As Gil Rugh explains in "The Supremacy of Christ in Creation", Paul is using the term firstborn here to express the place of highest honor given to Jesus throughout the universe. In Scripture, we find that the firstborn son of a family has the place of highest honor, and holds the most responsibility to care for his brothers and sisters. Likewise, the Heavenly Father has given this same honor to Jesus Christ, His Son. But this does not mean Jesus is a created being. This is evident in the immediate context of this passage and throughout the rest of Scripture.

In the very next section, I will show how the immediate context does not allow for any other understanding of the term "firstborn" than the one I just explained above. But first let's look at just a couple other passages of Scripture that clarify this matter.

In the book of Hebrews, the writer refers to Melchizedek as a type of Christ found in Scripture. He states: "For this Melchizedek, king of Salem, priest of the Most High God, who met Abraham as he was returning from the slaughter of the kings and blessed him, to whom also Abraham apportioned a tenth part of all the spoils, was first of all, by the translation of his name, king of righteousness, and then also king of Salem, which is king of peace. Without father, without mother, without genealogy, having neither beginning of days nor end of life, but made like the Son of God, he remains a priest perpetually." (Heb 7:1-3). In this passage, we find an analogy between a priest, known as Melchizedek, and Jesus Christ, the Son of God. One of the similarities is that Melchizedek had "neither beginning of days nor end of life." This makes it clear that Jesus shares the same attributes and is without beginning or end.

In Revelation, Jesus says, "I am the Alpha and the Omega." (Rev 1:8) These are the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet and this would be the same as calling someone "the A and the Z," using the English alphabet. Jesus further clarified this later, when He referred to Himself as "the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end." (Rev 21:6). Then once more, He said, "I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end." (Rev 22:13). When He said this, He was referring to His eternal nature.

Some believe that when Jesus said, "I am the Beginning," that it means He "had a beginning." Yet it does not mean this at all. He said, "I am the Beginning," not "I had a beginning." Those who take this to mean that Jesus had a beginning must also use the same approach to understanding Jesus' words when He said that He is the End. This would lead to the incorrect conclusion that Jesus has an end. Therefore, this teaching is seriously in error.

Jesus said He is the Bread of Life, and those who eat this Bread will live forever, just as He does. (John 6:51,58). Jesus later referred to Himself as "the Life." (John 14:6). The apostle John also referred to Jesus as "the Eternal Life." He wrote: "And the life was manifested, and we have seen and testify and proclaim to you the Eternal Life, which was with the Father and was manifested to us-- what we have seen and heard we proclaim to you also, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father, and with His Son Jesus Christ." (1Jo 1:2-3). He also says, "And we know that the Son of God has come, and has given us understanding so that we may know Him who is true; and we are in Him who is true, in His Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God and Eternal Life." (1Jo 5:20). One meaning of the word "eternal" (Greek, aionios) is that it goes on forever in both directions without beginning or end. And I think it's appropriate to apply that meaning here. Jesus Christ, the Eternal Life, has no beginning or end.

He is the Creator of All
In his letter to the Colossians, immediately after Paul referred to Christ as the firstborn of all creation, he wrote: "For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities--all things have been created through Him and for Him." (Col 1:16). Jesus is the Creator of all, and a created being could never fulfill this role.

We are all familiar with the Creation story in Genesis chapters 1-2. The Lord said, “Let their be…” and in this way He created everything. Then God decided to make man in His own image. Then God said, "Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; and let them rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over the cattle and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth." (Gen 1:26). Notice that the Lord said, "let us make". God is one Being in three divine Persons -- Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. All things were created by Jesus -- both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible.

I want to look more closely at the expressions "by Him," "through Him," and "in Him." Gil Rugh uses some building and real estate terms to explain this. He points out, that when Paul says all things were created "by Him," it means specifically that everything was created "in" Him, which refers to His role as the Divine Designer and Architect. When Paul states that everything was created "through" Him, this refers to the role of Jesus as Builder and Maker of everything. And the expression "for Him" refers to the fact that it was all made for His glory. Using the real estate analogy, Jesus is the land Lord and owner of all creation. It all belongs to Him and exists for Him.

He is Before All Things
The apostle Paul wrote, “He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together.” (Col 1:17). When he says that Jesus is before all things, it means that Jesus precedes all creation. There is nothing that existed before Him. As God, He has no beginning or end.

What's more, everything is held together in Him. This is true at every level, including the atomic or molecular level. Atoms are made up of protons, neutrons, and electrons, and these are all held together by Jesus. We know that all matter is made up of tiny particles, called molecules. These are all held together by an invisible force and energy. Take for example, water vapor, liquid water and ice. They all have the same chemical properties, in that they are made up of hydrogen and oxygen (H2O). But their physical properties are considerably different. The molecules in ice are packed very closely together and cannot be compressed easily, since there is very little space between them. The molecules of water are also in a formation, but they have more space between them than in ice. This is how the molecules are able to easily slip over one another. In the gaseous state of water vapor, the molecules are very loosely arranged, allowing them to disperse from one another. The force that keeps molecules together is found in Christ.

Likewise, our human bodies are held together in Him. In Him we live and move and have our being. Every beat of our heart and every breath we take is given by Him. Then even our solar system, our planet and all the others are rotating around the sun because of Him. Even though our sun is a giant ball of gases, as depicted above, it is held together by the Lord. The same is true of our galaxy -- the Milky Way. Like all the other millions of galaxies, it is being held together in Christ. In Him all things are held together.

He is the Head of the Body
“He is also head of the body, the church; and He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that He Himself will come to have first place in everything.” (Col 1:18)

As we know, without a head, a body is dead. This is true of humans and animals alike. The same is true in the Body of Christ, which is the Church. Jesus is the Head of the Body. In order to remain alive, all members of the Body must remain connected to the Head.

When Paul says that He is the firstborn from the dead, he means that Jesus is the first one to be resurrected from death and the grave and then to receive His glorified body.

Then we come to the main verse for today's post, in which Paul says that Jesus will come to have the supremacy or precedence in everything. This means He will have first place in all things. He will reign supreme over everything. And right now, He reigns supreme in His Kingdom, which is near. He must have first place in all those who have already entered His kingdom.

Here Christ is all, and is in all
Paul wrote: "Do not lie to one another, since you laid aside the old self with its evil practices, and have put on the new self who is being renewed to a true knowledge according to the image of the One who created him-- a renewal in which there is no distinction between Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave and freeman, but Christ is all, and in all." (Col 3:9-11).

When he said "Christ is all, and in all," he meant here in the kingdom of God. For those of us who have come to know Him, Christ is our all to us in all things. This is not a religion, but a relationship with our Lord and Creator. It's not a ritual we perform or a meeting we attend once a week, but He is everything to us in every aspect of life. We relate to Him that way in the small things like driving our vehicle or taking an exam, as well as the big things like choosing our marriage partner.

He is Above All
John the Baptist said, "He who comes from above is above all, he who is of the earth is from the earth and speaks of the earth. He who comes from heaven is above all." (Joh 3:31). Since we know that Christ came from heaven above, we learn from this Scripture that He is above all. As the song says, He is above all powers and all created things. He is above all wealth and treasures of the earth. There's no way to measure what He's worth.

Why does Christ’s identity matter to me?
Now that we know who Christ is, let’s see what difference that makes to my life and yours. Paul wrote: "Therefore as you have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him." (Col 2:6).

The Colossians had received Christ as Lord, not just Savior. Many people only receive Jesus as their Savior. So they like the part about being forgiven of their sins and saved from perishing. But many times those same people do not allow Jesus to be the Lord of their lives. There is a figurative throne in each of our hearts. Who is on the throne of your heart? Are you on the throne in control of your own life, or is Jesus Christ? If you are on the throne, then you need to get off of it and ask Jesus to take His rightful place on that throne.

And Paul goes on to say that just as the Colossians had received Jesus as Lord they should continue to live in Christ as Lord. The same is true of us. Just because we asked Him to be the Lord of our life, doesn't mean we have continued to walk that way. To continue to live in Christ as Lord means He continues to be in control of your whole life, the big things and the small things. We must give Him first place in our lives, so that He may have the supremacy in all things.

You are being renewed in the image of your Creator

Paul wrote, “and have put on the new self who is being renewed to a true knowledge according to the image of the One who created him.” You see, the Lord made man in His own image, but the image of God in man has been marred by sin. The wonderful part about receiving Jesus as Lord and living in Him as Lord is that in Him, the image of God in us is being restored. As I've mentioned before, an image is an exact representation of something. So those who live this way are being formed into the likeness and image of Jesus Christ.

Do everything in the name of the Lord

Paul wrote, "Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father." (Col 3:17). When he says, "whatever you do," and "do all," that includes everything we do, whether it's brushing our teeth, driving to work, eating lunch, going to a wedding, or being a parent.

But how do we do everything “In the name” of the Lord. That doesn't mean we go around saying, "I now brush my teeth in the name of Jesus." The expression "in the name of the Lord" means “in His authority”. When a king would authorize a decree or law, he would place his signature on it, which was his name. He did this using a signet ring that was pressed into a wax seal. When a king did this, then the law had the full force of his authority behind it. In the same way, policemen today have the authority to enforce the law, because they act in the name of the legal authorities.

This reminds me of the time when King Xerxes gave his signet ring to Mordecai the Jew, as we read in the book of Esther. "The king took off his signet ring which he had taken away from Haman, and gave it to Mordecai. And Esther set Mordecai over the house of Haman." (Est 8:2). Therefore, the king said to Queen Esther, "Now you write to the Jews as you see fit, in the king's name, and seal it with the king's signet ring; for a decree which is written in the name of the king and sealed with the king's signet ring may not be revoked." (Est 8:8). This is what it means to do something in the name of the Lord. You do it in His authority, so you have the full force of the king's authority in what you do. As disciples of Christ do all things in the name of the Lord, then His authority will be brought to bear in every aspect of their lives.

In the garden, after the Adam & Eve sinned, God cursed the serpent (Satan) and told him about the seed of the woman (Jesus). "So the LORD God said to the serpent, 'Because you have done this, Cursed are you above all livestock and all wild animals! You will crawl on your belly and you will eat dust all the days of your life. And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; He will crush your head, and you will strike his heel.' ” (Gen 3:14-15). In a sense, Satan struck the heel of Jesus Christ, who is the offspring of the woman, Eve. Jesus, who was born of the virgin Mary, died on the cross. In His suffering and sacrificial death we can see how Satan was allowed to bruise His heel. But in His resurrection, ascension, and glorification, we see how Jesus crushed the head of Satan! Paul wrote to the Colossians regarding the cross of Christ saying, "When He had disarmed the rulers and authorities, He made a public display of them, having triumphed over them through Him." (Col 2:15). Jesus has crushed Satan's head with his heel.

As you do everything in the name or authority of the Lord, you will trample on the serpents as well. As Paul wrote to the Romans, “The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet.” (Rom 16:20). Because Jesus lives in you, He will use your foot to crush Satan. Though Satan may strike your heel, Jesus will crush His head under your feet!
 
Do everything for the Lord

Paul wrote: "Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men." (Col 3:23). Similar to his previous instruction to do everything in the name of the Lord, we are to do everything for the Lord. This means that He is the one we are doing it for. So we should work at everything with all of our heart, giving it our best. Whether we are writing a blog, sweeping the streets, or running an international company, we should do it as though we are doing it for the Lord, because that's what we are actually doing.

Complete the work you have received in the Lord
At the end of his letter to the Colossians, Paul had a personal message for a man there named Archippus. He wrote: Say to Archippus, "Take heed to the ministry which you have received in the Lord, that you may fulfill it." (Col 4:17).

The Lord had given Archippus a work to do -- a ministry. And Paul wanted them to encourage that man to complete the work he received from the Lord. Just like Archippus, every disciple of Christ has been given a work to do for the Lord. As Paul wrote to the Ephesians, "For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them." (Eph 2:10). We have been created for good works. The Lord prepared those good works for us to do before we were ever born. You have a unique purpose in life. It may be raising children, showing hospitality, supporting missionaries, prayer and intercession, healing the sick, or teaching the Word of God. Whatever it is, God created you for that purpose. And just as Paul reminded Archippus, let me encourage you to complete the work the Lord gave you to do. Take heed to your ministry. If you have never been equipped or prepared for that work, then get with those in oversight in the Church who can equip you and receive the preparation to do those works that you were created to do.
 
Putting it All Together

Jesus Christ is the Creator of All. He is Before All Things. He is the Head of the Body, and we need to remain connected to Him. For those who know Him, He is all, and is in all.

Be sure that you receive Christ as Lord, not just Savior. We must give Him first place in our lives, so that He may have the supremacy in all things.

You are being renewed in the image of your Creator. The very image of God that was marred by sin is being restored in you.

Do everything in the name of the Lord, which means in His authority. Though Satan may strike your heel, Jesus will crush His head under your feet. Likewise, do everything for the Lord, no matter how great or small.

And be sure to complete the work you have received in the Lord. Your labor in the Lord is not in vain. Don't grow weary, because you will reap a harvest at the proper time.

Attribution notice: Most Scripture quotations taken from the NASB

Author's note: If you enjoyed this post, I recommend reading Christ the Beginning, Is Jesus God?, The Sinlessness of Christ, and Jesus is Yehova. You may also access the Main Directory for this blog, or my complete blog directory at Writing for the Master.  

Do You Want to Know Him?
If you want to know Jesus personally, you can. It all begins when you repent and believe in Jesus.  Do you know what God's Word, the Bible says?

“Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of God, and saying, ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.’” (Mar 1:14b-15).  He preached that we must repent and believe.

Please see my explanation of this in my post called "Do You Want to Know Jesus?"
_________________________________________________

Len Lacroix is the founder of Doulos Missions International.  He was based in Eastern Europe for four years, making disciples, as well as helping leaders to be more effective at making disciples who multiply, developing leaders who multiply, with the ultimate goal of planting churches that multiply. His ministry is now based in the United States with the same goal of helping fulfill the Great Commission. www.dmiworld.org.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Is Jesus God?

It is important for us to know whether Jesus was a good man who once lived, whether He was simply a prophet, a teacher, or whether He is actually God. If He is truly God, then that takes everything He did and said to another level. It means that our life depends on Him, and that we must obey Him in everything. It means that we can only be saved through Him. So let’s see what Scripture says about Him.

He is the exact representation of God’s nature
“And He is the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His nature, and upholds all things by the word of His power. When He had made purification of sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high.” (Heb 1:3)

In this verse, the writer of Hebrew is speaking about Jesus Christ, saying He is the radiance of God’s glory and that He is the exact representation of God’s nature. He goes on to say that Jesus holds everything up by His powerful Word.

The Psalmist Calls Him “God”
“But of the Son He says, "YOUR THRONE, O GOD, IS FOREVER AND EVER, AND THE RIGHTEOUS SCEPTER IS THE SCEPTER OF HIS KINGDOM.” (Heb 1:8)

The writer of Hebrews is quoting Psalm 45. In the first verse, the psalmist states that he is addressing his verses to the King. In the second verse, he states that the King is fairer than the sons of men. In the sixth verse, the psalmist refers to the King as “God,” and declares that His throne is eternal.

The Word was God
The apostle John began his gospel with these words:

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being. In Him was life, and the life was the Light of men. The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it. There came a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness, to testify about the Light, so that all might believe through him. He was not the Light, but he came to testify about the Light. There was the true Light which, coming into the world, enlightens every man. He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him. He came to His own, and those who were His own did not receive Him. But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God. And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth. “ (Joh 1:1-14)

John had walked with Jesus for three and a half years on earth, and was his closest earthly companion. Here is what John said of Jesus in this passage:
  • Jesus is the Word of God
  • Jesus existed in the beginning, at the time of creation
  • Jesus was with God in the beginning
  • Jesus was God
  • Apart from Jesus, nothing came into being that has come into being
  • Jesus is the Light and the world was made through Him
  • The Word (Jesus Christ) became flesh and lived among us
  • The Word (Jesus Christ) is the only begotten of the heavenly Father, God
He Jesus Was with the Father Before His Incarnation
The Lord said that He was with the Father prior to taking on the form of a man at His birth.  He said, "For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me." (Joh 6:38; cf., 6:58). He explicitly said He came down from heaven.

He also said, "What then if you see the Son of Man ascending to where He was before?" (Joh 6:62). 

Jesus answered and said to them, "...I know where I came from and where I am going; but you do not know where I come from or where I am going." (Joh 8:14)

And He was saying to them, "You are from below, I am from above; you are of this world, I am not of this world." (Joh 8:23)

He also said that He enjoyed glory with the Father in heaven before the world was created (Jn 17:5).  This leaves no question as to the eternal nature of His existence.  He is without beginning.
He is God’s Son, the image of the invisible God
In his letter to the Colossian church, the apostle Paul began by writing:

“Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, and Timothy our brother, To the saints and faithful brethren in Christ who are at Colossae: Grace to you and peace from God our Father. We give thanks to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, praying always for you, since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and the love which you have for all the saints; because of the hope laid up for you in heaven, of which you previously heard in the word of truth, the gospel which has come to you, just as in all the world also it is constantly bearing fruit and increasing, even as it has been doing in you also since the day you heard of it and understood the grace of God in truth; just as you learned it from Epaphras, our beloved fellow bond-servant, who is a faithful servant of Christ on our behalf, and he also informed us of your love in the Spirit. For this reason also, since the day we heard of it, we have not ceased to pray for you and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so that you will walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, to please Him in all respects, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God; strengthened with all power, according to His glorious might, for the attaining of all steadfastness and patience; joyously giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified us to share in the inheritance of the saints in Light. For He rescued us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities--all things have been created through Him and for Him. He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together. He is also head of the body, the church; and He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that He Himself will come to have first place in everything. For it was the Father's good pleasure for all the fullness to dwell in Him.” (Col 1:1-19)

In this passage, Paul says the following things about Jesus:
  • God is the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ (Jesus is God’s Son).
  • God is invisible. But Jesus is the image of the invisible God.
  • All things were created by Jesus -- both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible.
  • All things have been created through Jesus and for Him.
  • He is before all things.
  • In Jesus all things hold together.
  • Jesus is the Head of the Body, the church.
  • It was the Father's good pleasure for all the fullness to dwell in Jesus.
Jesus and the Father are one
Jesus said, "I and the Father are one." The Jews picked up stones again to stone Him. Jesus answered them, "I showed you many good works from the Father; for which of them are you stoning Me?" The Jews answered Him, "For a good work we do not stone You, but for blasphemy; and because You, being a man, make Yourself out to be God." (Joh 10:30-33)

The Jews wanted to stone Jesus to death, because He claimed to be God. Jesus did so when He explicitly said, “I and the Father are one.” He went on to say in verse 36, “I am the Son of God.” And He said in verse 38, “the Father is in Me, and I in the Father.”

He who sees Jesus sees God
Jesus proclaimed, "He who sees Me sees the One who sent Me.” (Joh 12:45)

If you have seen Jesus, you have seen God the Father, who sent Him.

Jesus reiterated this later when He said, "If you had known Me, you would have known My Father also; from now on you know Him, and have seen Him." Philip *said to Him, "Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us." Jesus *said to him, "Have I been so long with you, and yet you have not come to know Me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father; how can you say, 'Show us the Father'?” (Joh 14:7-9)

Jesus is God blessed forever
The apostle Paul said “…whose are the fathers, and from whom is the Christ according to the flesh, who is over all, God blessed forever. Amen.” (Rom 9:5)

In this passage, Paul referred to the covenants, the Law, the temple, and the promises, and said these all belong to the Israelites. He went on to say that Christ came from the Israelites, at least according to his natural body, although we know He existed eternally. He ended by saying that Jesus Christ is “over all” and that He is “God” and He is “blessed forever.” As the NIV puts it, He "is God over all, forever praised! Amen."

All the fullness of Deity dwells in Jesus Christ
The apostle Paul declared: “For in Him all the fullness of Deity dwells in bodily form.” (Col 2:9)

You see, Jesus has a bodily form, and is not invisible like the Heavenly Father. Yet all the fullness of Almighty God resides in Him.

Jesus is our great God and Savior
In his letter to Titus, the apostle Paul wrote that we are “Looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus.” (Tit 2:13) He clearly referred to Jesus here as our great God.

Jesus is Himself God
John wrote in his gospel, "No one has ever seen God, but the one and only Son, who is Himself God and is in closest relationship with the Father, has made him known" (Joh 1:18, NIV 2011). The 1978 NIV translation refers to him in this same verse as "God the only Son." This clearly states that Jesus is Himself God.

Jesus is the True God
In John's epistle, he wrote, "And we know that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, so that we may know him who is true; and we are in him who is true, in his Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life." (1Jn 5:20, ESV). We believe that He is the true God.

Putting it All Together
In these passages, we learn the following things about Jesus:
  • God is the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ (Jesus is God’s Son).
  • God is invisible. But Jesus is the image of the invisible God.
  • He is the exact representation of God’s nature.
  • All things were created by Jesus -- both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible.
  • All things have been created through Jesus and for Him.
  • He is before all things.
  • In Jesus all things are held together.
  • Jesus is the Head of the Body, the church.
  • It was the Father's good pleasure for all the fullness to dwell in Jesus.
  • Jesus and the Father are one.
  • He who sees Jesus sees God.
  • All the fullness of Deity dwells in Jesus Christ.
  • Jesus is our great God and Savior.
  • Jesus is the Word of God.
  • Jesus existed in the beginning, at the time of creation.
  • Jesus was with God in the beginning. 
  • He Jesus Was with the Father Before His Incarnation
  • The Word was God. In other words, Jesus was God.
  • Apart from Jesus, nothing came into being that has come into being.
  • Jesus is the Light and the world was made through Him.
  • The Word (Jesus Christ) became flesh and lived among us.
  • The Word (Jesus Christ) is the only begotten of the heavenly Father, God.
  • He Himself is God.
  • He is the true God.
  • Jesus is God over all, forever praised! Amen. 
There are many more passage in Scripture that speak of the divinity of Christ. But if we only had these alone, we have enough to prove that He was more than simply a Prophet or a Teacher. He is Lord of All.  He gave proof of this through His resurrection from the dead after three days, and His ascension into heaven before the eyes of His disciples.

Unlike Mohamed, Buddha, Confucius, Joseph Smith, and others who established religious systems, and whose bones are still in their graves, you will not find the bones of Jesus in His grave.  He is alive forevermore.  He is truly God.

Attribution notice: Most Scripture quotations taken from the NASB.

Author's note: If you enjoyed this post, you may also like The Sinlessness of ChristOngoing Earthly Ministry of Jesus, The Son of Man, and Christ's Two Ascensions. You may also access the Main Directory for this blog, or my complete blog directory at Writing for the Master.  

Do You Want to Know Him?
If you want to know Jesus personally, you can. It all begins when you repent and believe in Jesus.  Do you know what God's Word, the Bible says?

“Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of God, and saying, ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.’” (Mar 1:14b-15).  He preached that we must repent and believe.

Please see my explanation of this in my post called "Do You Want to Know Jesus?"
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Len Lacroix is the founder of Doulos Missions International.  He was based in Eastern Europe for four years, making disciples, as well as helping leaders to be more effective at making disciples who multiply, developing leaders who multiply, with the ultimate goal of planting churches that multiply. His ministry is now based in the United States with the same goal of helping fulfill the Great Commission. www.dmiworld.org.