Christianity’s Central Theme

jesus_easter

Here is a True/False Quiz for Christians:

1. God was despised, mocked, and put through suffering according to Old Testament prophecy. ( T / F )

2. God claimed that he fulfilled the prophecy that he was numbered with the transgressors. ( T / F )

3. God cried out his seven last sayings on the cross. ( T / F )

4. God cried out in a loud voice, “Father, into thy hands I commit my spirit” and breathed his last on the cross. ( T / F )

5. God died on the cross and gave his life as a ransom for many. ( T / F )

6. God was declared by the Centurion who cried out, “Truly this was God!” ( T / F )

7. God was buried in a rich man’s tomb. ( T / F )

8. God was three days and three nights in the tomb. ( T / F )

9. God raised himself from death. ( T / F )

10. God ascended to heaven forty days after he resurrected himself. ( T / F )

If you answered “false” for each of these statements then you’ve scored 100%. I purposely put God in place of the one person who would make all of these statements true—God’s one and only Son, Jesus Christ. The truth that God did not turn himself into a man makes all the difference between fact and fiction. Jesus Christ is not God the Son but the Son of God and Son of Man (Matt. 16:13-20).

Once we understand who Jesus is, as opposed to certain dogma, then we can understand Christianity’s central theme in regard to the Good News of salvation. Take a look at what the Bible really says for making each statement true in our quiz:

1. Jesus, not God, was despised, mocked and put through suffering according to Old Testament prophecy. Two primary messianic prophecies are Psalm 22 and Isaiah 53. If you read these chapters, you will get a detailed picture that prophesied what Jesus literally went through from the time of his arrest to his agony on the cross (Matt. 17:12; 20:22; 26:28, 47-68; 27:27-50).

2. Jesus, not God, claimed he fulfilled the prophecy of being numbered with the transgressors: (Isa. 53:12; Mark 15:28; Luke 22:37). This was a sign that Jesus fulfills the scriptures concerning his identity as Messiah. Another word for “transgressors” is “rebel.” The two swords in possession of the disciples at Jesus’ arrest was to carry out what was prophesied in Isaiah 53:12. Jesus said, For I tell you that this which is written must be fulfilled in me….for that which refers to me has its fulfillment,” (Luke 22:37; also 24:44-47). But even more importantly, by being numbered with the transgressors he could represent all sinners by suffering and dying for them even though he, himself, was without sin. “He bore the sin of many and interceded for the transgressors,” (Isa. 53:12; cp., Heb. 4:15; 9:26; 1 John 3:5).

3. Jesus, not God, cried out his seven last sayings on the cross. Not once did God cry out because he was not the one nailed to the cross. But Jesus, his beloved Son, did speak these words: (1) “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do,” (Luke 23:24); (2) “Truly I say to you this day thou shalt be with me in paradise,” (Luke 23:43); (3) “Woman, behold your son…” (John 19:26-27); (4) “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matt. 27:46; Mark 15:34); (5) “I thirst,” (John 19:28; (6) “It is finished,” (John 19:30); (7) “Father, into thine hands I commend my spirit,” (Luke 23:46).

4. The Bible says that Jesus, not God, cried out in a loud voice, “Father, into thy hands I commit my spirit” (Luke 23:46) and “yielded up his spirit,” on the cross: “And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice, and yielded up His spirit,” (Matt. 27:50, NASB. Also, Mark 15:37-39; John 19:30).Where it says that Jesus “yielded up his spirit” (“spirit” also used in John), Mark and Luke use “breath”—e.g., “breathed his last.” The word “spirit” is from the Greek word, pneuma ( http://youtu.be/vR4AO490Gp8 ) meaning, “wind, breath.” The Hebrew counterpart is ruach ( http://youtu.be/bATLyGf-8BQ ) which has the same meaning. One’s spirit or breath of life is not a personal being apart from the body. Rather, it is primarily the air we breathe. When God created man, he “…breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul [being],” according to Genesis 2:7. The breath or spirit is what enables us to think and feel. At death, the opposite happens. At the moment we take our final breath, our thoughts perish or vanish and we return to dust from which we came (Psalm 146:4; Ecclesiastes 3:20). Our breath or spirit returns to the One who created us (Psa. 104:29-30; Eccl. 3:19; 9:5, 10; 12:7; Job 34:14-15). When Jesus shouted, “Father, into thy hands I commit my spirit,” he was committing his last breath to God, his Father. When he died, his breath returned to God and he didn’t know anything until his Father raised him from death to life three days later.

5. Jesus, not God, died on the cross and gave his life as a ransom for many: The sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross is an essential part of the Good News of our salvation (1 Cor. 1:18; 15:1-4). Jesus died and was raised to life to carry out God’s salvation plan from the beginning of creation (1 Peter 1:18-21; Rev. 13:8). Jesus testified of himself, “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many,” (Mark 10:45). By the way, the Greek word for “life” in this verse is from the root word psuche (pron., psoo-khay’) or “soul” which primarily means “life,” and secondarily, “creatures that possess that life,” In Hebrew, the equivalent word is nephesh (pron., neh’-fesh) which means “creature,” “life,” “person,” “being.” There are no such terms as “immortal soul” or “undying soul” in the Bible. Souls are persons who sin and die (Ezekiel 18:4, 20). One does not receive a soul, one IS a soul. Jesus’ soul was his life. He gave up his life so that he, the soul, died as “an offering for sin,” (Isa. 53:10; also v. 12). Jesus was without sin but he took our sins upon himself to ransom us from our sin and provide that we should escape condemnation and receive eternal life when he comes again (Matt. 20:28; John 1:29; Rom 8:1; 1 Cor. 5:7; 2 Cor. 5:21; Galatians 3:13-14; Hebrews 2:9; 1 John 3:16). When Jesus, the soul, died he was placed in hades (pron., hah’-dace), a Greek word for hell (Acts 2:27; Psalm 16:10, sheol [pron., sheh-ole’] or “hell” the equivalent of hades). This is not the burning hell of popular myth. Rather, it’s a reference to death, in general, and the grave, in particular, the common receptacle of the dead. Jesus’ corpse was not entombed long enough to decay but he was there long enough to fulfill Jesus’ own words (Matt. 12:40).

6. Jesus, not God, was declared to be Son of God by the Centurion. In his own way, the Centurion understood it was not God who died for he proclaimed, “Truly this man was the Son of God!” (Mark 15:39; cp., Matt. 27:54). It’s noted that this could also mean, “a son of God” or “a son of a god.” Nevertheless, the Centurion uses “Son” and not God. Even he could tell the difference. Why? Because God cannot die. God Almighty is from everlasting to everlasting; eternal, immortal, and incorruptible (1 Tim. 1:17; Deuteronomy 33:27; Psa. 90:1-2; Isa. 40:28). Jesus, however, as God’s Son did die because he was made mortal (Rom. 8:3), suffered as a mortal (Matt. 4:1-2; Heb. 2:9, 18), and served as a mortal (Mark 10:45; Matt. 20:28). God gave his one and only Son, not himself, for our sins (John 3:16).

7. Jesus, not God, was the One who fulfilled the prophecy in Isaiah 53:9, “His grave was assigned with wicked men, yet He was with a rich man in His death, because He had done no violence, nor was there any deceit in His mouth.” About 700 years before Christ, Isaiah the prophet recorded that the Messiah would be put to death with wicked men and that he would be buried with the rich. This was literally fulfilled when Jesus was crucified between two thieves and laid to rest in the grave of the rich man, Joseph of Arimathea, as recorded in Matt. 27:57-61; Mark 15:42-47; Luke 23:50-56; John 19:38-42.

8. Jesus, not God, was buried three days and three nights in the tomb. Jesus, himself, predicted this when he likened it to the prophet Jonah who was three days and nights in the whale’s belly: “For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the whale, so will the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth,” (Revised Standard Version, RSV). There are numerous passages where Jesus predicted that he, not God, would be buried in the tomb for that amount of time. Here are just few examples: Matt. 16:21; Mark 9:31; Luke 18:33; John 2:19-21; Matt. 27:63. This fulfillment was taught by the church (Acts 10:39-40; 1 Cor. 15:3-4).

9. Jesus, not God, was raised from the dead. I heard a minister say recently that God raised himself from the dead. But nowhere do we read this in the Bible. We do read, however, that God raised Jesus from the dead and, furthermore, raised him to immortality: “But God raised Him up again, putting an end to the agony of death, since it was impossible for Him to be held in its power,” (Acts 2:24). Jesus said, “I was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of death and of Hades,” (Rev. 1:18). The Apostle Paul wrote, “Christ being raised from the dead dieth no more; death hath no more dominion over him,” (Rom. 6:9). God, our heavenly Father, raised his Son from death to life which entitled Jesus to be “the firstfruits of them that slept,” (1 Cor. 15:20). Jesus, not God, is “the firstborn from the dead,” (Col. 1:18).

10. Jesus, not God, ascended forty days after his resurrection. In Acts 1:3, Luke wrote, “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.” Luke’s reference to “he” is Jesus (v. 1). After the forty days, Jesus and not God, ascended to heaven: “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. And as they were gazing intently into the sky while He was going, behold, two men in white clothing stood beside them. They also said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into the sky? This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in just the same way as you have watched Him go into heaven,” (Acts 1:9-11). Jesus is presently at the right hand of God’s throne in heaven (Acts 7:54-56; Romans 8:34; Ephesians 1:20; Colossians 3:1; Heb. 1:3; 8:1; 1 Pet. 3:22) just as was predicted in the Old Testament (Psalm 110:1; Heb. 1:13). God our Father did not sit down beside himself at his own right hand but Jesus Christ the Son of God did (Heb. 1:5-12). Jesus is now interceding as Mediator and High Priest in the heavens (Heb. 3; 1 Timothy 2:5) until he returns in great power and glory (Matt. 24:27-30; Colossians 3:1-4; 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18; 1 Peter 1:7, 13; Rev. 1:7). He will return to establish God’s Kingdom on the earth, which gives believers the hope of the resurrection and change to immortality (Rom. 8:11-25; 1 Cor. 15:50-58; Rev. 1:4-8). When Jesus returns and finishes his kingdom work, including judgment (Rev. 20:4-15) and putting an end to death, the final enemy, (1 Cor. 15:25-28), then God himself will come down (Rev. 21:1-8).

In summary, it is essential to believe that Jesus is the Messiah or Christ, the Son of God and Son of Man. In submitting to his Father’s will, Jesus is the One and Only One who has been given authority by God to fulfill all that we profess by faith as his followers (Acts 4:12). Jesus’ mission, purpose, and nature are not to be confused with the one God, our Maker and Provider. Christianity’s central theme revolves around this truth including the fact that Jesus is the Son of God and Son of Man. He is divine because he is “of God” and human because he is “of Man.” Therefore, Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection make up the central theme of the Gospel, the Good News proclaimed in God’s Word. Without his death and resurrection we would have no hope, no reason to live, no joy. Or, as the Apostle Paul put it, we would be of all people “most to be pitied,” ( 1 Cor. 15:3-19).

Here is an old spiritual with a message that still inspires us this day:

http://youtu.be/iGQ1wEleV4I

Good News to YOU!
Pastor Michael

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