At Christmas, we celebrate God sending His Son into the world, the prophesied messiah, He being the gift of salvation to all who accept Him.
“And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.” (Luke 2:8-11)
And why was/is a Saviour necessary?
“For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;” (Romans 3:23)
God’s requirement is perfection due to His own perfect righteousness and holiness. None of us can achieve that standard and it’s not even close. God’s perfection requires a perfect, sinless sacrifice to atone for our sins. This reality presents a problem to which there’s only one solution.
“For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” (Romans 6:23)
Why would God offer His Son for us? His great love.
“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16)
This gift of Jesus then was presented at Christmas, but not validated until the events of what’s become known as Holy Week, spanning from Palm Sunday to Resurrection Sunday. Within the Easter narrative is chronicled the arrest, crucifixion, death, burial, and the physical resurrection of Jesus. Each of the four gospels, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, are eyewitness accounts of these events. The Jewish historian Josephus, born four years after Jesus’ crucifixion, also provides historical confirmation of Jesus in his 20 volume work known as “Antiquities”.
“At this time there was a wise man called Jesus, and his conduct was good, and he was known to be virtuous. Many people among the Jews and the other nations became his disciples. Pilate condemned him to be crucified and to die. But those who had become his disciples did not abandon his discipleship. They reported that he had appeared to them three days after his crucifixion and that he was alive. Accordingly, he was perhaps the Messiah, concerning whom the prophets have reported wonders. And the tribe of the Christians, so named after him, has not disappeared to this day.” – Antiquities 18:63
Josephus further mentions Jesus in Antiquities 20:200:
“Having such a character, Ananus (high priest at the time) thought that with Festus (recently deceased roman governor) dead and Albinus (incoming Roman governor) still on the way, he would have the proper opportunity. Convening the judges of the Sanhedrin, he brought before them the brother of Jesus who was called the Christ, whose name was James, and certain others.”
There have been many throughout history that have spawned false religious movements. None of them escaped the inevitability of the grave. Only Jesus said He would and He did! Jesus’ resurrection after His death and burial is as crucial to our faith today as it was to the faith of those who personally witnessed the risen Lord. As the Apostle Paul tells us:
“For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures: And that he was seen of Cephas (Peter), then of the twelve: After that, he was seen of above five hundred brethren at once; of whom the greater part remain unto this present, but some are fallen asleep. After that, he was seen of James; then of all the apostles. And last of all he was seen of me also, as of one born out of due time.” (1 Corinthians 15:3-8)
It’s important to remember that Jesus’ disciples lived daily with Jesus during His ministry, heard his words, conversed with Him, and experienced miracles, the greatest being His physical return upon being raised from the dead. That the disciples believed Jesus to be the Son of God is without question by the measure of their devotion. Each disciple went forth to spread the gospel (gospel meaning “good news”) of Jesus at the risk of their own life, suffering beatings, imprisonment, and ultimately, martyrdom for the Saviour they knew and could not deny. None of this for fame, wealth, or power, but simply because they believed, loved the lost enough to tell them of Jesus, and were charged to do so.
“And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. Amen.” (Matthew 28:18-20)
These words, known as the Great Commission, still apply to every Christian today. Historical accounts indicate all of the disciples except John were martyred in the course of fulfilling the Great Commission. John came to lead the church at Ephesus. He also was tasked, unbeknownst to him at the time, for a special purpose. The new Christian faith was considered subversive by the Roman Empire. John’s bold teachings brought him into conflict with the edicts of Emperor Domitian. Because of this, John was exiled to the island of Patmos. It was there he would once again bear witness to the risen Jesus, John’s experience becoming the last book of the Bible, the prophetic book of Revelation, the Revelation of Jesus Christ. Rest assured that just as Jesus came once into the world, He’s coming again.
Jesus died so that we could live eternally. Our immortality is obtained when we throw off the mortal. Yes, we must still die physically (unless the Lord returns for us first) for the wages of sin is death.
“And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment:” (Hebrews 9:27)
Through Jesus we can be assured of resurrection to eternal life with Him. But there’s another resurrection for the unbeliever.
“Marvel not at this: for the hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice, And shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation.” (John 5:28-29)
All people are triune in nature, that is, composed of three parts; body, soul, and spirit. The body we’re quite familiar with. It’s the mortal physical you in this present world. Your soul is the essential you, your thoughts, person, and emotions; your sentience. Unlike your physical body, your soul is immortal. The relevant question is where your soul, you, get to spend your immortality. That decision is yours to make and God simply honors your decision. Our choices are Jesus or something else, the latter being the default setting for eternal separation from God in hell.
“Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.” (John 14:6)
The third part of our designed nature is the spirit. Our spirit is the part of our being that allows us to comprehend beyond our senses to the higher calling of God and understand that there is God. It’s through our spirit that God beckons and draws us to Himself. If we’re then willing, our spirit allows for us to seek God, believe, and know Him. After we come to a saving faith in Jesus, God sends His Holy Spirit to commune with our spirit, to guide us, instruct us and be our conscience.
A point needs to be made here. Physical life does not equate to spiritual life. Unless saved through the atoning blood of Jesus shed at the cross, the unsaved person is spiritually dead whatever else their concept of religion or spirituality. Satan would have us believe there are many ways to Heaven. As usual, he’s lying.
The perspective of non-Christian are quite different that those of Christians. The sad irony I’ve witnessed at funerals is seeing the physically alive but spiritually dead mourning for the physically dead but spiritually alive souls in Heaven. If only those departed loved ones could witness to their bereaved lost. They can’t, but we can.
I’ll leave you with a wonderful reality. Jesus prayed for His disciples at the Last Supper just prior to His arrest in the Garden of Gethsemane. But He didn’t just pray for them, Jesus also prayed for those of us who believe today. That’s me, and I hope, you.
“Neither pray I for these (Jesus disciples) alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word; That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me.” (John 17:20-21) emphasis added.
Now that’s a faith to live for!