What Does the Bible Teach About Jesus Christ?
By: Dr. John Weldon
|By: Dr. John Ankerberg, Dr. John Weldon; ©2003|
|Today, almost everyone has an opinion of who Jesus Christ is. But these opinions vary widely and are often contradictory. And contrary opinions can’t all be true. How then do we determine who Jesus really is and whether or not He truly is the person of paramount importance He claims to be? The only way is to frankly examine His claims and then see the quality of the evidence which exists to support them. It is our hope that this article will help our readers understand the real Jesus Christ.|
- 1 What Does the Bible Teach About Jesus Christ?
- 2 Seven Crucial Facts About Jesus
- 3 Is Jesus the prophesied Messiah predicted centuries in advance in the Old Testament?
- 4 Is Jesus really unique in all the creation and all religious history? Has there never been another like Him?
- 5 Is Jesus really God? Is He the only incarnation of God there is or ever will be?
- 6 Is Jesus Christ the world’s only proven Savior who died for our sins on the cross and who offers eternal salvation as an entirely free gift?
- 7 Is Jesus the final judge: The One who will personally and visibly return to earth and judge every person who has ever lived on the Last Day?
- 8 Notes
What Does the Bible Teach About Jesus Christ?
Today, almost everyone has an opinion of who Jesus Christ is. But these opinions vary widely and are often contradictory. And contrary opinions can’t all be true. How then do we determine who Jesus really is and whether or not He truly is the person of paramount importance He claims to be? The only way is to frankly examine His claims and then see the quality of the evidence which exists to support them. It is our hope that this article will help our readers understand the real Jesus Christ.
We can begin by noting that history is defined as follows: “A continuous methodological record of important or public events; past events, those connected to a person or thing… the study of past events, esp. of human affairs” (Oxford American Dictionary). Notice there is no declaration that miracles cannot be part of history, despite their uniqueness. So when we encounter supernatural events in the life of Christ, the only issue is whether or not they occurred. If competent eyewitness testimony indicates miracles happened, then they must be considered part of history. Obviously if God has intervened in history, then miracles could be expected. Thus the true historian should be concerned with what actually did happen, based on careful and impartial investigation of the evidence, not with upholding a bias against the supernatural.
Seven Crucial Facts About Jesus
It is important to note that the Gospels constitute accurate historical reporting. It is no longer logically possible to argue that Jesus did not say and do the things His biographers recorded of Him. In light of this, there are at least seven key things the Bible teaches about Jesus Christ, none of which are claimed as true for the founder of any other religion:
- 1. Jesus is the prophesied Messiah who was predicted hundreds of years in advance in the Old Testament through very specific prophecies;
- 2. Jesus is unique in all creation; in all religious history there has never been another like Him;
- 3. Jesus is virgin born, and morally perfect, i.e., sinless;
- 4. Jesus is God, the only incarnation of God there is or will be;
- 5. Jesus is the world’s only savior, who died for our sins on the cross and offers eternal salvation as an entirely free gift;
- 6. Jesus rose from the dead as proof of His claims;
- 7. Jesus is the Final Judge: He will return and personally judge every person who has ever lived at the Last Day.
In no other person of history can we see his/her life and nature prophetically outlined 400 to 1,000 years before being born; of no other individual this world has known is it possible to differentiate between their birth and origin or to speculate over their nature. In no other man do we find the audacity to specifically predict His own time and method of death and His rising from the dead. The world has never known any other truly sinless person. No one else ever claimed He would die for man’s sin and would visibly return from heaven to judge the world and decide the eternal fate of every individual.
Let’s briefly examine some of the above points.
Is Jesus the prophesied Messiah predicted centuries in advance in the Old Testament?
It is one thing to wish to have truth on our side, and another to wish sincerely to be on the side of truth.—Richard Whately
The Hebrew Scriptures are unique among those of the world’s religions in that they contain scores of prophecies about a predicted future Messiah. These prophecies extend over a period of 1,000 years and many are given in specific detail. The final prophecy was given 400 years before Christ was ever born. In the November 2003 issue of the ATRI Journal we discuss more than a dozen of these prophecies at length, proving that only Jesus Christ fulfills them, and therefore, that only He is the predicted Jewish Messiah (cf., John 5:46). For example, in the anguished imagery of King David’s prayers, Psalm 22 accurately describes a crucifixion—yet this description is given hundreds of years before the method of execution by crucifixion was devised. No other Psalm fits the description of Christ’s crucifixion better than Psalm 22, explaining why it is the most frequently quoted Psalm by New Testament writers. Yet this Psalm was written 1000 years before Jesus was even born. Significantly, Jesus quoted the first verse of this Psalm while on the cross. Whatever one thinks of this Psalm, no one can deny that it describes what happened to Jesus on the cross an entire millennium later, for example, “They have pierced my hands and my feet. I can count all my bones; people stare and gloat over me. They divide my garments among them and cast lots for my clothing” (Psalm 22:16-18; cf. Matthew 27:35).
In Isaiah 9:6-7, written 700 years before Christ, the prophecy of the coming Messiah concerns a child to be born who will also be God and who will have an everlasting kingdom. In the Gospels, Jesus claimed that He was that incarnate God and that He would have an everlasting kingdom (Matthew 16:28; 26:64; Luke 22:30; John 6:38-42, 62; 8:42; 10:30, 36-38; 18:36; cf., 2 Peter 1:11).
In Isaiah 53:4-12, the Messiah is prophesied to be crushed and pierced for our transgressions; that God will lay upon Him the iniquity of all mankind. In the Gospels, Jesus claims to fulfill this prophecy (Matthew 20:28; 26:28; cf. Isaiah 53:12). In fact, Jesus repeatedly claimed He was the predicted Messiah by continually claiming He was fulfilling Old Testament prophecies: “You diligently study the Scriptures because you think that by them you possess eternal life. These are the Scriptures that testify about me” (John 5:39; see also Matthew 26:24, 54, 56; Luke 24:25-27,44).
In Micah 5:2, written 700 years BC, the Messiah is said to be eternal, the ruler over Israel, and that He will be born in a very specific location, Bethlehem Ephrathah. No one denies that Jesus Christ was born in Bethlehem Ephrathah, and none can logically deny that He claimed He was Israel’s King and the eternal one (John 5:18; 8:58; Mark 14:60-63).
In Daniel 9:24-27, written 500 years before Christ is born, the Messiah is prophesied to be killed at the exact time Jesus Himself is put to death.
In Zechariah 12:10, also written 500 years before Christ, it is prophesied that God Himself will be pierced by the inhabitants of Jerusalem, who will mourn over Him. The Hebrew word means pierced as with a spear, just as Jesus was pierced by the Roman spear during His crucifixion and had others mourn over Him (John 19:34-37). What is interesting about this prophecy is that God, as Spirit (John 4:24) cannot be physically pierced; hence this prophecy must refer to an incarnation of God.
If we look at the list of prophecies we discuss in the November 2003 issue of the ATRI Journal, we see that Jesus Christ fulfilled all of them. Remember, no one can logically deny that the following are predictions made hundreds of years before He was even born. Whatever one’s view of the Old Testament, one fact is unassailable; The Septuagint, the Greek translation of the entire Hebrew Scriptures, was completed by 247 B.C. Therefore, even critics must acknowledge these prophecies were in existence 250 years before Christ was born. Consider these prophecies:
- Genesis 3:15—Jesus defeated Satan but was wounded during the crucifixion.
- Genesis 12, 17, 22—He was the literal descendant of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in whom all the world was blessed.
- Deuteronomy 18—He was the “prophet like Moses.”
- Psalm 22—He was mocked, insulted, and crucified. His garments were gambled for and His bones were not broken.
- Psalm 110:1—He was David’s Lord. (Jesus used this psalm to prove the Messiah would be both God and man, cf. Matthew 22:41-46.)
- Isaiah 53—He was perfectly innocent and without sin, yet He atoned for the sin of the world. He was resurrected from the dead.
- Jeremiah 23—Because He was God and “justified many,” His proper name is “Jehovah our Righteousness.”
- Daniel 9—He arrived at the specific time given by the prophecy, 483 years after Artaxerxes’ decree to rebuild Jerusalem.
- Micah 5—He was eternal, yet He was born in Bethlehem.
- Zechariah 9—He was the King of Israel who brought salvation; He entered Jerusalem riding on a donkey.
- Zechariah 12—He was Jehovah; He was pierced.
- Malachi 3—John the Baptist prepared the way for Him as He suddenly came to His temple.
Had we space, there are dozens of other prophecies we could discuss that are just as specific. For example, the Bible tells us:
- 1. He would be born of a virgin (Isaiah 7:14; see Matthew 1:23).
- 2. He would live in Nazareth of Galilee (Isaiah 9:1-2; see Matthew 2:23; 4:15).
- 3. He would occasion the massacre of Bethlehem’s children (Jeremiah 31:15; see Matthew 2:18).
- 4. His mission would include the Gentiles (Isaiah 42:1-3, 6; see Matthew 12:18-21).
- 5. His ministry would include delivering those captive and the performing of miracles (Isaiah 29:18-21; 35:5-6; 61:1-2; see Luke 4:16-21; 7:20-23).
- 6. He would be the Shepherd struck with the sword, resulting in the sheep being scattered (Zechariah 13:7; see Matthew 26:31, 56; Mark 14:27,49-50).
- 7. He would be betrayed by a friend for 30 pieces of silver (Zechariah 11:12-13; see Matthew 27:9-10).
- 8. He would be given vinegar and gall to drink (Psalm 69:21; see Matthew 27:34).
- 9. He would be hated without a cause (Psalm 69:4; Isaiah 49:7; John 7:48; John 15:25).
- 10. He would be rejected by the rulers (Psalm 118:22; Matthew 21:42; John 7:48).
Who is the only Person who has fulfilled all of these prophecies—and many more? Only Jesus Christ. There is no way to avoid this fact. Old Testament scholars Delitzsch and Gloag have rightly stated:
So far as we can determine, these prophecies refer to the Messiah only, and cannot be predicated of another. The ancient Jews admit the Messianic character of most of them; although the modern Jews, in consequence of their controversy with the Christians, have attempted to explain them away by applications which must appear to every candid reader to be unnatural… these and other predictions have received their accomplishment in Jesus of Nazareth… the combination of prophecies is sufficient to prove that Jesus is the Messiah.…
In fact, the calculations of mathematical probability reveal these prophecies could have been fulfilled only in the manner they were through the power and omniscience of a sovereign God. The odds of any one man fulfilling just 48 of them are 1 in 10157—infinitely beyond the limits of probability.
Remember, in John 4:25-26 and Mark 14:61-64, Jesus Himself clearly claimed He was the prophesied Messiah. In order to disprove this claim, one only needs to find a single prophecy (out of scores in the Old Testament) that proves Jesus was wrong. Because no one has yet done this and because Jesus filled all of the prophecies relating to His incarnation, and because He resurrected from the dead, no one can logically deny that He was and is the prophesied Jewish Messiah.
Is Jesus really unique in all the creation and all religious history? Has there never been another like Him?
- It is morally as bad not to care whether a thing is true or not, so long as it makes you feel good, as it is not to care how you got your money so long as you have got it.— Edwin Way Teale
- Truth, like surgery, may hurt, but it cures.—Han Suyin
The average non-Christian, and even many Christians, have little understanding of how unique Jesus really is. Messianic prophecy is only a small part of Jesus’ uniqueness. In all the world and throughout all history, there has never been anyone like Him. There never can be. One only needs to read His words in the Gospel to plainly see this.
Anyone who wishes can also read the world’s greatest religious and philosophical literature—the Analects of Confucius, theQur’an of Muhammad, the Vedas of the Hindus, the teachings of the Buddha, or of Taoism, Shinto, Zoroaster or any of the great philosophers like Plato, Socrates, Wittgenstein, Aristotle, Descarte, Hume, Bacon—or any of the greatest scientific minds such as Einstein. One who does this will realize that they all pale in comparison to the words of Jesus. One could argue that all the literature of the world combined hardly matches the quality, character, uniqueness and truth of the words of Jesus, because, compared to the words of Jesus, the words of anyone else are almost lifeless. The light bulb and sun, the glass of water and the ocean, or the atom and the universe; even these comparisons seem in ways inadequate. Indeed, one cannot gauge the gap adequately: it is a chasm that literally separates the infinite from the finite even as the words of God are separated from the words of men. If Jesus really is God incarnate, then this is what one expects. Listen to the response of those who actually heard Him speak, believer and unbeliever, friend and enemy, alike:
- You have the words of eternal life. We believe and know that you are the Holy One of God. (John 6:67-69)
- The Jews were amazed and asked, “How did this man get such learning without having studied?” (John 7:15)
- “No one ever spoke the way this man does,” the guards declared. (John 7:46)
Those with open and closed minds alike should frankly study His words if for no other reason than to prove their uniqueness. Reverent study of the words of Christ and comparison to any or all other religious teachings should logically make one a follower of Jesus.
Probably tens of thousands of commentaries have been written about the words and deeds of Christ and should humanity survive millennia more, tens of thousands more will be written. That His words and deeds can never be exhausted is a testimony to their uniqueness.
In fact, when we look at the person of Jesus and compare Him to Buddha, Muhammad, Confucius, and others, it becomes difficult to even gauge the gap. It is like comparing the sun and the light bulb, the ocean and the glass of water, the universe and the atom. Even these comparisons seem somehow inadequate.
Co-author John Weldon majored in philosophy in college for almost two years, and earned an M.A. degree in Christian Evidences, another Masters in Biblical Studies and a Ph.D. in Comparative Religion. After studying some 70 minor religions and cults, he comments, “For 25 years I have examined or studied competing religions and philosophies. Nothing comes close to the glory and majesty of Jesus. I can say without the slightest possibility of ever being proven wrong that there is no one anywhere like Jesus.”
The Bible also teaches that there is no one who has ever lived who is like Jesus. In John 3:16-18, Jesus declares:
- For God so loved the world that He gave His one and onlySon, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through Him. Whoever believes in Him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.
The words “one and only” are translated from the Greekmonogenes, which literally means “one of a kind.” This word emphasizes the unique nature of the one spoken of. In all human history there is no one else like Jesus because only Jesus is the literal Son of God. In John 5:18, where Jesus called God His (very) own Father, the Greek term means God the Father exists “in a special relation to Jesus which excludes the same relationship to others.”
Because Jesus Christ is God’s only Son, the Apostle Paul discusses His supremacy and preeminence over all creation:
- He [Jesus] is the image of the invisible God, the first born over all creation. For by Him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authority; all things were created by Him and for Him. He is before all things and in Him all things hold together. And He is the head of the body, the church; He is the beginning and the First Born from among the dead, so that in everything He might have the supremacy. (Col. 1:15-18)
The Greek word translated “image” is eikon. Like the wordcharakter in Hebrews 1:3, it means Jesus is the express image of or of identical nature with God. Further, when Jesus is described as the first born over all creation, the word translated “first born” is prototokos and stands in contrast to ktizo(created). By using the word prototokos, the Apostle Paul was emphasizing Christ’s preeminence, priority and sovereignty over all creation, as the context reveals. Paul was not stating, as Jehovah’s Witnesses and some others have maintained, in the attempt to deny Christ’s deity, that Jesus literally came into existence at some point in time. If that had been His intent, He would have used appropriate Greek words teaching that Christ had a beginning.
If the Bible itself teaches that Christ is unique, that there never has been and never will be another like him; if Christ’s own teachings, actions, character and resurrection prove this is true, and if one-fourth to one-half of the world has recognized this fact to varying degrees, then the burden of proof must clearly rest with the critic to prove otherwise. Isn’t it significant that in 2,000 years no critic ever has?
There are some other ways in which Jesus Christ is unique. First, we have already seen some of the amazing statements Jesus made that leave us few options as to His nature; He was either who He claimed, God incarnate, or absolutely crazy.
Jesus made many statements like the following which most people 2,000 years removed rarely understand the weight of when they read them. For example in John 14:7, Jesus says of God the Father, yet referring to Himself, “From now on you do know him and have seen him.” Jesus’ whole point is that the disciples have seen God the Father in His own person. Noted commentator William Barclay remarks, “It may well be that to the ancient world this was the most staggering thing that Jesus ever said. To the Greeks, God was characteristically The Invisible. The Jews would count it as an article of faith that no man has seen God at any time.” As the biblical scholar Leon Morris remarks: “He is claiming something far, far greater than anyone else had claimed.”
Consider some of the other powerful statements made by Jesus. In Matthew 12:8 He claims He is actually the Lord of the Sabbath. In other words, if the Sabbath came from God and if He can overrule the laws of the Sabbath, He must be God. In Matthew 13:41 and 24:31 He claims that He, the Son of Man, will actually send out His angels at the final judgment of humanity. In Matthew 18:20 He declares He is omnipresent—present everywhere. In Matthew 24:35 He declares that the universe would pass away but His words never pass away. In John 5:28-30 He claims He will one day raise all the dead, that is, literally billions, perhaps trillions of people, Himself. In John 12:32 He says that when He is dead He will “draw all men to myself”! Surely, no other man ever made such statements. In John 15:26 He says He will send God the Holy Spirit. In John 18:36-37 He declares He is a king and that His kingdom is not from this world but “from another place.” In Matthew 25:31-34 He declares He is, quite literally, the King of the universe.
Further, consider Jesus’ use of the phrase ego eimi. In the Gospel of John alone, the phrase ego eimi (“I Am”) is used 30 times when recording what Jesus said. What is significant is that, according to the Greek language, when you see the wordAm you know the subject is I; this is not something that is immediately known in the English language, but it happens constantly in the Greek. For example, when Jesus says, “I Am the bread of life,” all He really needed to say was “Am the bread of life.” But what He wanted to do was to emphasize the subject, so he used the pronoun. This emphasis upon “I Am” instead of just “Am” is unique. What did God name Himself to Moses in Exodus 3:14? “I Am who I Am.” When Jesus made these statements He was deliberately using the personal name and style of God. Further, Griffith Thomas points out, “There is scarcely a passage in the gospels without a self-assertion of Jesus coming out in connection with His teaching. His message and His claims are really inextricable.” In other words, the only logical choice is to take all of Jesus or none of Him. To reject His claims is to reject His teachings is to reject Him.
Another unique aspect of Christ is His impact on the Roman world. It is a historic phenomenon that Jesus transformed the Roman Empire and yet, by Roman standards, was a Jew, a despised Jew, a criminal Jew, and a crucified Jew. The fact that Jesus alone could begin a movement that within 300 years had literally converted the most powerful empire in the world is a miracle of history—especially since “the Jews among whom Jesus lived and died, were a strange, remote people, little understood and little liked by most Europeans of the time, more often the butt of Roman humor than of serious interest.” (So why should anyone be surprised that Jesus received such little attention in the Roman history books?) In spite of this, within three centuries the entire Roman Empire had bowed the knee to Jesus. Not by military conquest, as was true for Islam, but solely by preaching a message of God’s love for mankind!
A further unique aspect of Jesus is that during His lifetime. He made predictions about the future that no one else would have dared to make unless they were God—and, in fact, no one else in history ever has made. With predictions like these it is impossible that, had even a few failed, the disciples could ever have trusted Jesus to be the Messiah, let alone God. The nature of these predictions are such that after the disciples heard the predictions they would have seen them proved false and known Jesus could not have been who He claimed.
For example, Jesus frequently told people that their friends or family had been healed, even at great distances. The Roman centurion’s servant who lay at home paralyzed was “in terrible suffering.” Jesus healed him immediately, “Then Jesus said to the centurion, ‘Go! It will be done just as you believed it would.’ And his servant was healed at that very hour” (Matthew 8:13). Concerning the Canaanite woman who begged Jesus to cure her daughter from demon possession, “Then Jesus answered, ‘Woman, you have great faith! Your request is granted.’ And her daughter was healed from that very hour” (Matthew 15:28). When Jesus was in Cana in Galilee a royal official’s son lay dying at Capernaum. The official asked Jesus to heal his son and,
Jesus replied, “You may go. Your son will live.” The man took Jesus at His word and departed. While he was still on die way, his servants met him with the news that his boy was living. When he inquired as to the time when his son got better, they said to him, “The fever left him yesterday at the seventh hour.” Then the father realized that this was the exact time at which Jesus had said to him, “Your son will live.” So he and all his household believed (John 4:50-53).
If Jesus had never really healed these and hundreds of other individuals, everyone would have known it. It would have proved Jesus false. Instead, their accuracy is more evidence of His deity.
Jesus also predicted momentous things about His own future and things about others, both of great weight and little import. On many occasions He predicted His own trials before the authorities and His own suffering and death by crucifixion (e.g., Matthew 17:12). In Matthew 26:2 He accurately foretold His crucifixion would happen exactly two days later. He accurately predicted He would be betrayed in Jerusalem (by Judas, his own disciple), to Jewish leaders who would condemn Him to death, turn Him over the Gentiles who would mock, flog, and crucify Him. Yet He would be raised from the dead (Matthew 20:18-19; 26:21-25; Mark 10:33-34, cf., Matthew 12:4-7; 17:9). In Matthew 20:28 and 26:28, He predicted He would be dying for the sins of the world. In Matthew 24:4-44 He has the boldness to make numerous detailed predictions concerning the events surrounding His claimed return to earth at the end of history. Even before the Sanhedrin, under solemn oath. He declared He was the Messiah and that He would return again: “The high priest said to him, ‘I charge you under oath by the living God: Tell us if you are the Christ, the Son of God.’ ‘Yes, it is as you say,’ Jesus replied. ‘But I say to all of you; in the future you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven’” (Matthew 26:63-64).
In Matthew 26:56, Luke 4:21, and elsewhere He claimed to be the fulfillment of extremely specific prophecies. In Matthew 24:2 and Luke 19:41-44 and 21:6, He predicted the destruction of the massive Jewish temple in Jerusalem. Here He was predicting the military siege by the Roman commander Titus that was literally fulfilled forty years later. As the NIV study note for Matthew 24:2 comments concerning His prediction that not one stone of the temple would be left on top of the other,
Fulfilled literally in a.d. 70, when the Romans under Titus completely destroyed Jerusalem and the temple buildings. Stones were even pried apart to collect the gold leaf that melted from the roof when the temple was set on fire…. Excavations in 1968 uncovered large numbers of these stones, toppled from the walls by the invaders.
Consider His prediction to His own disciples. In Matthew 17:24-27, to pay the Roman taxes, He told Peter to go to the lake, take the first fish caught, open its mouth, and there, in the fish’s mouth, Peter would find a four drachma coin, the exact tax amount required! What do you think Peter, a fisherman, thought of this?
Despite their protests, He predicted in Matthew 26:31 and Mark 14:27 that all the disciples would forsake Him. In Matthew 26:34, despite Peter’s staunch protests. He predicted Peter would disown Him three times. In Luke 5:4-7 He predicted to Peter that a great amount of fish would be caught after an entire night of not catching even a single fish. In Luke 10:17-20 Jesus promised the disciples that He had given them power over demons and, elsewhere, promised them that they could perform miracles in His name. Is there anyone who thinks that the disciples could not easily have determined such claims were false? Either they could do these things or they couldn’t. And obviously, they couldn’t do them before they met Jesus.
In John 20:27, after Jesus had died, we have the account of Thomas placing his hand into Jesus’ sword wound and his fingers into Jesus’ crucifixion wounds. Does anyone think that Thomas wouldn’t have denied this claim far and wide if it were false?
In John 11:3, 11-14 Jesus predicted Lazarus’ death and resurrection four days before it occurred! We are told in verses 18-19 and 45-46 that many believers and unbelievers saw Lazarus come back from the dead and saw the grave clothes unwrapped from him. How easy it would be for something like this to be proven wrong and for the word to get out that the foolish Jesus tried to raise the dead but couldn’t. But no one could deny that these things really happened (see John 12:17-19).
Does anyone think that the account of Jesus raising Lazarus and other people from the dead would not have been denied far and wide if these things never really happened and the apostles had reported them falsely? But again, even the Jewish leaders who were Jesus’ enemies couldn’t deny them:
- Therefore many of the Jews who had come to visit Mary, and had seen what Jesus did, put their faith in him. But some of them went to the Pharisees and told them what Jesus had done. Then the chief priests and the Pharisees called a meeting of the Sanhedrin. “What are we accomplishing?” they asked. “Here is this man performing many miraculous signs. If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him, and then the Romans will come and take away both our place and our nation” (John 11:45-48).
In John 21:5-6, after Jesus had risen from the dead, we read, “He called out to them, ‘Friends, haven’t you any fish?’ ‘No,’ they answered. He said, ‘Throw your net on the right side of the boat and you will find some.’ When they did, they were unable to haul the net in because of the large number of fish” (John 21:5-6). Again, the disciples had not caught a single fish all night (verse 3). Jesus does the same miracle after His death and resurrection that He did when He was alive. What could be more convincing as to Jesus’ resurrection and deity to a group of fishermen?
In John 10:11-18 and 16:16-20, 32, He gives very specific information concerning His death and resurrection and what will flow from it. And in John 7:33, 8:21, and elsewhere He tells the Jews that they will try to find His body but will be unable to do so, for example, “Jesus said, ‘I am with you for only a short time, and then I go to the one who sent me. You will look for me, but you will not find me…’” (John 7:33). And in John 8:21, “Once more Jesus said to them, ‘I am going away, and you will look for me…’” Obviously they would look for His body in an attempt to disprove the disciples’ claims that Jesus had resurrected from the dead. And just as obviously, they never found it.
Now the point of all this is to give some sense of how easy it would have been for Jesus to have been proven wrong on many different occasions. “He predicted something here, but it never happened.” “He tried to do a miracle there but couldn’t.” Why would anyone write all the things we find in the Gospels, miracle after miracle after miracle, if they were obviously false and could so easily be proven false by talking to the crowds who followed Jesus? These things either happened or they didn’t. If they happened, Jesus is who He claimed to be. If they didn’t, we would have known it once and for all 2,000 years ago.
Finally, if we look at the other miracles of Jesus we also see how utterly unique He was. A chart in the NIV Study Bible (p. 1596) lists Jesus’ miracles and their reporting in the different gospels: He healed a man with leprosy, Peter’s mother-in-law, the Roman Centurion’s servant, two men from Gadara, a paralyzed man, a woman with bleeding, two blind men, a man mute and possessed, a man with a shriveled hand, and a man blind, mute, and possessed. He healed a Canaanite woman’s daughter who suffered greatly, a boy with a demon, two other blind men (one named), a deaf mute, a man possessed in the synagogue, a blind man at Bethsaida, a crippled woman, a man with dropsy, ten men with leprosy, the high priest’s servant, the official’s son at Capernaum, the sick man at the pool of Bethesda, and a man born blind. He had complete control over the forces of nature. He calmed storms, walked on water, and fed 5,000 people here, and 4,000 people there from just a few loaves and fish. He withered a fig tree, turned water into wine, and produced miraculous catches of fish. He even brought the dead back to life including Jairus’s daughter, the widow’s son at Nain, and Lazarus. And, as the Apostle John emphasizes, those were only a few of Christ’s miracles (John 21:25).
Is there anyone else in human history who did miracles like this? Again, if Jesus never did these miracles and yet the early apostles and Christians falsely claimed He did, don’t you think everybody would have known the claims were false since all the miracles were claimed to have been done publicly, often with large crowds around? When Jesus Himself claimed that the miracles proved Him to be God and Messiah, don’t you think this would have proven Him a fraud had they never really occurred? To those who skeptically asked if He was the Messiah, “Jesus answered, ‘I did tell you, but you do not believe. The miracles I do in my Father’s name speak for me…’” and “Jesus said, ‘I have shown you many great miracles… For which of these do you stone me?’” and “Do not believe me unless I do what my Father does. But if I do it, even though you do not believe me, believe the miracles, that you may know and understand that the Father is in me, and I in the Father” and “Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; or at least believe on the evidence of the miracles themselves” and “If I had not done among them what no one else did, they would not be guilty of sin. But now they have seen these miracles, and yet they have hated both me and my Father” (John 10:25,31-32,36-38; 14:11; 15:24).
The truth is that Jesus hasn’t left us any choice.
Is Jesus really God? Is He the only incarnation of God there is or ever will be?
- The high-minded man must care more for the truth than for what people think.—Aristotle
In what other religion in the world do we find an incarnation like that of Jesus—or even an incarnation at all? At best, there is the idolatrous religion of Jainism which claims, unconvincingly, an incarnation (from a polytheistic heaven) of its god and founder, Mahavira. But, in fact, Mahavira himself denied theism and condemned the practice of praying to or even having discussions about God. The only other conceivable shadow of the biblical concept of incarnation is found in Hinduism, but here the incarnations are of mythical gods, forever cyclical, and just as forever meaningless. According to the influential advaita school of Vedanta, the Hindu gods’ incarnations are, finally, also part of the duality and maya (illusion) of the world and thus never redemptive in the sense of a true propitiatory atonement. There is no concept of incarnation in Buddhist belief unless we consider the later Mahayanists belief in an alleged Buddha nature, supposedly inherent in all men, to be an “incarnation” of a mythically deified Buddha. Judaism has no incarnation; in Judaism the idea of Jesus as the incarnate Son of God is adamantly rejected. Taoism has only an impersonal principle, the Tao, as an ultimate reality and no need or place for an incarnation. In Sikhism, Guru Nanak taught that God is unborn and non-incarnated; in Parsism (Zoroastrianism) the god Ahura Mazda is not incarnated; and in Islam the thought of an incarnation is blasphemous. In Confucianism, Confucius acknowledged himself as only a sinful man. Although he was later worshipped, he was never incarnate. Of the 11 or 12 classical world religions, there is no concept of incarnation except in Jainism and Hinduism, and both of these involve only myths.
In the words of G. K. Chesterton in The Everlasting Man, the incarnation of Christ “makes nothing but dust and nonsense of comparative religion.” Thus, Chesterton was right when he asserted that only the Apostles have good news for the rest of the world: “Nobody else except those messengers has any Gospel; nobody else has any good news, for the simple reason that nobody else has any news.”
This is the gospel, the good news—that we can know God. The Creator of the universe is, obviously, worth getting to know. As J. I. Packer states,
Knowing God! Is there any greater theme to study? Is there any nobler goal to aim at? Is there any greater good to enjoy? Is there any deeper longing in the human heart than the desire to know God? Surely not. And Christianity’s good news is that it can happen! That is why the Christian message is a word for the world. To know God is the biggest and best of the blessings promised in the gospel.
If the incarnation is true, then men can know God. Jesus Himself declared, “This is eternal life, to know Thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom thou hast sent” (John 17:3). Further, if the incarnation is true, men have no other option than to know Christ and accept His claims on their life. People cannot refuse the claims of God on their life and think it will never matter. If Jesus is the only incarnation of God ever to appear, He absolutely must be listened to (cf. John 3:16, 18; 10:1-13, 25-30).
Adherents of other religions often claim that their religious founders are unique, but the uniqueness is either invented or contrived. Where is the proof of uniqueness? There is none because the founders of other religions all acknowledge themselves as sinful men, despite the subsequent worship or deification not infrequently given them by their followers. “Certainly one might at least ask whether or not such embellishment is fair. Is it expressing adequate reverence for one’s own religious founder to make him into something he never claimed to be, and, indeed, would probably be horrified to learn of?”
Because Jesus Himself so clearly claimed that He was God incarnate, the other authors of the New Testament writings stress this unparalleled assertion. First, Jesus clearly claimed to be God. In John 10:30, he said, “I and the Father are one.” The word “one” in the Greek (hen), according to Greek authority A. T. Robertson, means not just one in the sense of agreement, but that Jesus was saying He and God are “one essence or nature.” Second, Jesus’ claim to be God was understood by all men, including His enemies. Jesus said, “I showed you many good works from the Father; for which of them are you stoning me?” (John 10:32). The response of His enemies was, “… because you, being a man, make yourself out to be God” (John 10:33). In John 8:58, Jesus said, “Before Abraham was born, I am.” The Greek is ego eimi. Jesus was referring to Exodus 3:13-14 where God identified Himself as the “I am”. Jesus applied the unique divine name to Himself, not only on this occasion but many others. That His hearers understood His claim to be God is evident when they again tried to stone Him to death (John 8:59). His continual identification of Himself with God and His ascribing to Himself divine prerogatives and attributes leave us little choice. Jesus clearly claimed He was the God of the universe: “‘My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I, too, am working.’ For this reason the Jews tried all the harder to kill him; not only was he breaking the Sabbath, but he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God.” (John 5:17-18) Jesus, the perfect man, was the incarnation of God.
Is Jesus Christ the world’s only proven Savior who died for our sins on the cross and who offers eternal salvation as an entirely free gift?
- Jesus Christ is the centre of all, and the goal toward which all tends. —Blaise Pascal
In spite of the many claims by people today that there are many saviors, many “gurus,” and many ways to God, Jesus Himself taught that He alone was the way to God. He declared, “I am the way, the truth and the life, no man comes unto the Father but by Me” (John 14:6). He emphasized, “I tell you the truth, I am the gate for the sheep…. I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved…. I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep” (John 10:7-11).
Jesus clearly claimed that He was an atoning sacrifice for the world’s sin, “…the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Matthew 20:28); “This is my blood of the covenant which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins” (Matthew 26:28). Because Jesus is the only incarnation of God, God’s only begotten Son, when He died on the cross for human sin, He became the only possible way of salvation for men and women. In other words, no one else paid the penalty of divine justice against human sin. This is why the Bible teaches, “Salvation is found in no one else, for there isno other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12). Further, “This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all men to be saved and come to a knowledge of the truth. For there is one God and one mediator between God and man, the man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself as a ransom for all men—the testimony given in its proper time” (1 Timothy 2:3-6). Perhaps all this is why Jesus Himself warned, “…if you do not believe that I am the one I claim to be, you will indeed die in your sins” (John 8:24).
In addition, Christ offers a salvation unlike that in any other religion. Forgiveness of sins and eternal life are freely given without cost to the benefactor. Indeed, Jesus claimed that He would personally raise the dead and give eternal life to those who believed on Him:
- For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. (John 6:40)
- For just as the Father raises the dead and gives them life,even so the Son gives life to whom he is pleased to give it. (John 5:21)
- I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life. (John 5:24)
- I tell you the truth, he who believes has everlasting life. (John 6:47)
- This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God and are justified freely by his grace through redemption that came by Christ Jesus. (Romans 3:22-24)
- …he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy… (Titus 3:5)
In the history of men, nothing like this has ever been proclaimed outside Christianity. As Martin Luther once noted, there are only two religions in the world—the religion of works and the religion of grace.
Some people may find it difficult to believe that among all the world religions, Christ alone is the way to God, and that men must believe in Him for salvation if they are to be saved. But if Jesus was correct when He said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me” (Matthew 28:18), then no other option remains. Even a brief examination of what other religions teach indicates the necessity for such a conclusion. Regardless, this exclusivism is not as difficult as it seems at first glance, nor is it disharmonious with our general experience in life. Usually for success in an endeavor, the important things in life must be done properly—especially if there are consequences for doing things wrong. Jesus is the only way to God, whether we like it or not. (For a fuller discussion of this point, see Knowing the Truth About Salvation.)
Is Jesus the final judge: The One who will personally and visibly return to earth and judge every person who has ever lived on the Last Day?
- The modern world, because it is indifferent to dogmatic truth, has logically become indifferent to ethical truth— Bertrand L. Conway
- Pure truth, like pure gold, has been found unfit for circulation, because men have discovered that it is far more convenient to adulterate the truth than to refine themselves. — Charles Caleb Colton
No man can claim to determine the eternal destiny of his fellow creatures, but this is just what Jesus claims. Because Jesus is God, and because He was the very one who died for the world’s sin, He is also the one who will judge each man and woman who has ever lived and make the final determination of each one’s destiny:
- Moreover, the Father judges no one, but has entrusted all judgment to the Son, that all may honor the Son just as they honor the Father. He who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent Him. I tell you the truth, whoever hears my Word and believes Him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life. I tell you the truth, a time is coming and has now come when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God and those who hear will live…. do not be amazed at this, for a time is coming when all who are in their graves will hear His voice and come out—and those who have done good will rise to live, and those who have done evil will rise to be condemned. (John 5:21-29)
Jesus also taught:
- When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the angels with Him, He will sit on His throne in heavenly glory. All the nations will be gathered before Him, and He will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on His right and goats on His left. Then the King will say to those on His right, “Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world….” Then He will say to those on His left, “depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels….” Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.” (Matthew 25:31-34, 41, 46)
These teachings of Jesus are why the New Testament emphasizes the fact that Christ will judge the entire world. The Apostle Paul referred to his living “In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead,…” (2 Timothy 4:1). The Apostle Peter emphasized that God “commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that He [Jesus] is the One who God appointed as judge of the living and the dead” (Acts 10:42). Indeed, God promises each of us that the proof of coming judgment can be had in Christ’s resurrection. In other words, the future judgment is just as certain as Christ’s own resurrection: “In the past God overlooked such ignorance, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent. For he has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed. He has given proof of this to all men by raising him from the dead” (Acts 17:30-31). Indeed, the Bible has warned all men:
- We must pay more careful attention, therefore, to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away. For if the message spoken by angels was binding, and every violation and disobedience received its just punishment, how shall we escape if we ignore such a great salvation? This salvation which was first announced by the Lord, was confirmed to us by those who heard him. God also testified to it by signs, wonders and various miracles, and gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to his will…. Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account. (Hebrews 2:1-4; 4:13)
In light of this, perhaps non-Christians should reconsider the “win-win wager” of the philosopher Pascal: If the Christian God does not exist, the Christian loses nothing by believing in God; if God does exist and he believes, he gains everything in eternal life.
Of course, if God exists and the non-Christian rejects Him, then everything is forfeited in hell. There will be nothing worse for the unbeliever if Christianity turns out to be true: “What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul? Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul?” (Matthew 16:26-27)
- Unless otherwise indicated citations were taken from various books of contemporary or historical quotations, i.e., Rhoda Tripp (compiler), The International Thesaurus of Quotations; Ralph L. Woods (compiler and ed.), The World Treasury of Religious Quotations; William Neil (ed.), Concise Dictionary of Religious Quotations; Jonathan Green (compiler), Morrow’s International Dictionary of Contemporary Quotations.
- Based upon 1) the Scriptural lunar calendar year of 360 days, 2) the Hebrew word shabuim referring to units of seven years, and 3) the decree to “restore and rebuild Jerusalem” referring to the decree of Artaxerxes to Nehemiah in 444 B.C. For documentation see our November 2003 issue, The Case for Jesus the Messiah. See also the in-depth treatment by Sir Robert Anderson in The Coming Prince (Kregel, 1977).
- J. Barton Payne, Encyclopedia of Biblical Prophecy(Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 1989); Franz J. Delitzsch and Paton J. Gloag, The Messianic Prophecies of Christ(Minneapolis: Kloch & Kloch, 1983, rpt.).
- Delitzsch and Gloag, pp. 123-124.
- Emile Borél, Probabilities and Life (New York: Dover, 1962), chs. 1, 3.
- Gerhard Kittel (ed.,) q.v., monogenes, Theological Dictionary of the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1978), Vol. 4, pp. 740-41.
- Colin Brown (gen. ed.), The New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1976), Vol. 2, pp. 286-288.
- In Ajith Fernando, The Supremacy of Christ (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 1995), pp. 28-29.
- Ibid., p. 52.
- Ibid., p. 64, citing R. T. France, The Evidence for Jesus (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1986), p. 20.
- G. K. Chesterton, The Everlasting Man (Garden City, NY: Image, 1985), p. 272.
- Ibid., p. 274.
- J. I. Packer, Knowing Christianity (Wheaton, IL: Harold Shaw, 1995), p. 1.
- Ibid. See also Mortimer Adler, Truth in Religion(Macmillan, 1990).
- A. T. Robertson, Word Pictures in the New Testament (Nashville, TN, 1932), Vol. 5, p. 186.