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Our Christian faith is based on a person, Jesus Christ. Our life, as Christians, centers on him. He is our Lord as well as our Savior (Romans 10:9). We are told to bring “every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5). Scripture uses powerful images to describe the closeness of our relationship with him. We are in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17) and Christ is in us (Colossians 1:27). We have clothed ourselves with Christ (Galatians 3:27). Paul wrote, “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me” (Galatians 2:20). He wrote that he was “in the pains of childbirth until Christ is formed in you” (Galatians 4:19 NIV).
Hence it is very important to be quite clear who Jesus Christ is and who he is not. Jesus has warned us, “Take heed that no one deceives you. For many will come in My name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and will deceive many” (Matthew 24:4-5). Again he said that, in the end times, “false Christs and false prophets will rise and show great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect. See, I have told you beforehand” (Matthew 24:24-25). I believe that we are close to, if not in, the end times, and that we are seeing a number of false Christs and false concepts of Christ. We need to know clearly who the true Jesus Christ is in order that we not be deceived by the false ones.
Scripture tells us quite a bit about Jesus Christ. This chapter will try to sketch some of what the Bible says about him, and to refute some false concepts of Jesus Christ that have been expressed by some people.
JESUS CHRIST IS GOD
Jesus Christ is God, who once came down to earth and lived in the form of a man. Scripture makes this very clear. His name is “‘…Immanuel’—which means ‘God with us’” (Matthew 1:23 NIV). (Also see Luke 19:44.) Jesus is the Word, the logos, who “was in the beginning with God.” Jesus “was God,” and he “became flesh and dwelt among us” (John 1:1, 2, 14). Paul says the same thing in a different way. “Being in the form of God” Jesus was “found in appearance as a man” (Philippians 2:6, 8). (Also see Romans 8:3.) I don’t see how anything could be clearer. Jesus was and is God, who came down to earth and took on human form.
Other Scriptures confirm this. He is “our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ” (Titus 2:13). He is “over all, the eternally blessed God” (Romans 9:5). When Thomas worshiped him as “My Lord and my God,” Jesus commended him, saying, “Because you have seen Me, you have believed” (John 20:28-29).
Jesus has the attributes of God. He is eternal. Like the Father, he is the First and the Last (Revelation 1:17). He was with God in the beginning, before the physical universe was created (John 1:1; 8:58; 17:5). He took part in the creation; nothing was created without him (John 1:3; Colossians 1:16; Hebrews 1:2). He holds the universe together (Colossians 1:17; Hebrews 1:3). He lives forever (Hebrews 7:23). He is “alive forevermore” (Revelation 1:18).
Jesus is one with the Father. He said, “I and My Father are one” (John 10:30). “He who has seen Me has seen the Father” (John 14:9). (Also see John 8:19; 10:38; 12:45; 14:11.) He said, “All that belongs to the Father is mine…” (John 16:15 NIV). “For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form” (Colossians 2:9 NIV). (Also see Colossians 1:19.)
In John’s great vision, we see “every creature which is in heaven and on the earth and under the earth and such as are in the sea, and all that are in them” worshiping the Father and the Son together, and singing, “Blessing and honor and glory and power be to Him who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb [Jesus] for ever and ever!” (Revelation 5:13).
There are some who assert that Jesus never claimed to be God. They assert that the claim that he is God is something invented by the human authors of Scripture years after his death. This is simply false. A number of the Scripture references quoted in this chapter are the words of Jesus. Many of the things Jesus said about himself could only be said of God.16
Some Scriptures refer to Jesus as the Son of God. (See John 3:16.) This in no sense takes away from the fact that Jesus is God. It merely shows the unity between Father and Son.
We need to be very clear that Jesus is God. There are many who speak of him as a great moral teacher, a great example, a great prophet, etc. He was all of these. But he was much more. He was God who took human form. Because he was God, he was able to make atonement for us, and break the power of sin. There have been many humans who were fine teachers and examples, and some of them sacrificed their lives, but only Jesus could break the power of sin in the world. “For what the law was powerless to do in that it was weakened by the sinful nature, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful man to be a sin offering…” (Romans 8:3 NIV). “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12 NIV).
JESUS CHRIST IS SUPREME
Scripture tells us very clearly that Jesus Christ is supreme. He has “all authority” in heaven and on earth (Matthew 28:18). He is “…far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every title that can be given, not only in the present age but also in the one to come. And God placed all things under his feet…” (Ephesians 1:21-22 NIV). In everything he has the supremacy (Colossians 1:17-18). “At the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Philippians 2:10-11).
Jesus Christ is above, and greater than, every evil spirit, including satan himself. “By Him [Jesus] all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him” (Colossians 1:16-17). Jesus Christ is above all spiritual forces of wickedness, including satan. They are created beings; he is their Creator. They must bow the knee to him.
Some New Agers speak of Jesus as one among a number of “Ascended Masters” or as one member of a hierarchy of ruling spirits—a spirit of the earth, of the solar system, of the galaxy, etc. Some Hindus recognize him as one of many “gods.” Muslims recognize him as a prophet. Scripture rejects every such concept. Jesus Christ is not one of many. He is unique. He is supreme in everything. He is above every spiritual power, except the Father himself.
JESUS CHRIST IS ALL-POWERFUL
Because he is God, and is Supreme, it follows that Jesus is all-powerful. Nothing can stand against him. Nothing is impossible for him. We tend often to sentimentalize him, particularly in some of what passes for religious art. Jesus could be very gentle, but it was a gentleness that came from great strength. The disciple John knew Jesus well. He was with Jesus at the Mount of Transfiguration, and he saw the Resurrection and the Ascension, but when he had a vision of Jesus in his glory, he “fell at his feet as though dead” (Revelation 1:17). Revelation speaks of the kings of the earth and other powerful men who hid in caves for fear of the “wrath of the Lamb [Jesus]” (Revelation 6:16). It shows Jesus as a rider on a white horse, leading the armies of heaven, and ruling the nations with an iron scepter. (See Revelation 19:11-16.) We must never sentimentalize Jesus.
JESUS CHRIST IS OUR SAVIOR
Jesus, and only Jesus, saves us from our sin. Jesus, and only Jesus, gives us eternal life with God if we believe in him.
Jesus is the “Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29). The angel said of him, “He will save His people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21). It is through belief in Jesus that we can have eternal life with God (John 3:16). God has reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ (Colossians 1:20-22). “Now, once at the end of the ages, He [Christ] has appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself” (Hebrews 9:26). (Also see Hebrews 9:28, 10:10.) God “sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins” (1 John 4:10). He “sent the Son as Savior of the world” (1 John 4:14).
Scripture declares that salvation is found in no one other than Jesus, and that there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we can be saved (Acts 4:12). No one comes to the Father except through Jesus (John 14:6). We are justified “through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus” (Romans 3:24). Jesus, and only Jesus, was the atonement for our sins (Romans 3:25). We were reconciled to God by the death of his Son (Romans 5:10). (Also see Romans 8:3; 2 Corinthians 5:18; Colossians 1:20, 22.) It is through belief in Jesus, and only through belief in Jesus, that we obtain eternal life (John 3:16). Jesus, and only Jesus, is the second Adam who brought justification that brings life to all who will accept it (Romans 5:12-19). “There is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus” (1 Timothy 2:5). In John’s great vision, Jesus, the Lamb, was the only one who was found worthy to open the scroll (Revelation 5:5, 9).
We find this in the Old Testament also. “There is no Savior besides me” (Hosea 13:4). (Also see Isaiah 43:11.) God is the only Savior. There is no one else alongside him. From the New Testament we learn that Jesus is God. No one else (except the Holy Spirit) is God.
It is because Jesus is God that he could be our Savior. Jesus warned us that there would be “false Christs” (Matthew 24:24). Any attempt to elevate any person to a status even close to being equal to Jesus is totally unscriptural. It is elevating a human to the status of God.
Some New Agers speak of a “Christ consciousness,” which they define as an awareness of one’s unity with god. This vague “consciousness” of one’s unity with an unidentified “god” has nothing to do with the Scriptural Jesus Christ, whom God the Father sent to earth to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins and to reconcile us to him.
IS CHRISTIANITY EXCLUSIVE?
Jesus declared that his Father is the only true God (John 17:3) and that he is the only way to the Father (John 14:6). Peter said that there is no other name by which we can be saved (Acts 4:12).
From this, some assert that Christianity is “exclusive” and hence narrow, bigoted, ungenerous, intolerant, etc. I do not think the accusation is justified.
The promises of Christianity are open to everyone who will receive them. God “desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:4). He is “not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9). (Also see Titus 2:11.)
But, like any promises, we have to accept them on the giver’s terms. If I offer $500 to anyone who stops smoking for six months, then only those who have actually stopped smoking for six months can receive the $500. Similarly, we can receive the promises of Christianity only if we are willing to accept them on the terms on which they are offered. Among those terms are these: that we believe in the Father as the only true God, and that we believe in and commit our lives to his son Jesus Christ. Anyone who is willing to meet the conditions set by God can receive the promises of Christianity. Christianity will not work for anyone who does not accept God’s terms.
OTHER ASPECTS OF JESUS
Scripture makes it absolutely clear that Jesus did not have an earthly father. He was conceived by having the Holy Spirit overshadow a young woman named Mary. When Mary asked how she could have a child, since she was a virgin, the angel told her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Highest will overshadow you” (Luke 1:35). Another angel told Joseph, “do not be afraid to take to you Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 1:20). Joseph took her as his wife, but he “did not know her [have sexual relations with her] till she had brought forth her firstborn Son,” who was Jesus (Matthew 1:25).
There is no record, in Scripture or elsewhere, of any other person who was so conceived. Because of it, Jesus was and is wholly man and wholly God. There is no other person of whom that can be said.
Some may say, “This couldn’t happen.” It is true that it has never happened before or since. It is unique. But that does not mean it could not happen. With God all things are possible. God’s creation of both Adam and Eve were unique, one-of-a-kind, events. Who is to say that he could not create the man Jesus Christ by another unique event?
My mind cannot comprehend the Incarnation. I can’t understand how the Creator of the universe could become a helpless baby in the womb of one of his creations. I can’t understand how Almighty God could be an infant in a human mother’s arms. But I don’t have to understand it to believe it. I have no right to try to limit what God does to those things that my imperfect mind can understand. Scripture declares unequivocally that this is what happened, and I shall simply accept what Scripture says.
Life Without Sin
Jesus “was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin” (Hebrews 4:15). There is no one else of whom that can be said. “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). It is because Jesus was totally sinless that he, and he alone, was able to make atonement for our sins.
Jesus’ Crucifixion is described in each of the four gospels, and referred to many times in the epistles. There can be no doubt that it occurred and that it was incredibly painful.
I want to make one thing clear about the Crucifixion. Jesus went through it voluntarily. He said, “I lay down My life that I may take it again. No one takes it from Me, but I lay it down of Myself” (John 10:17-18). Jesus knew that Judas Iscariot would betray him, yet he let him go. Then Jesus went to his accustomed place where Judas was apt to find him. As he was being arrested, he said, “Do you think I cannot call on my Father, and he will at once put at my disposal more than twelve legions of angels? But how then would the Scriptures be fulfilled that say it must happen in this way?” (Matthew 26:53-54 NIV). John’s gospel says that when the High Priest’s men came to arrest him, Jesus spoke and “they drew back and fell to the ground” (John 18:6). Jesus simply stood there, and let them get up and arrest him. Jesus could have avoided the Crucifixion. I believe he could have stopped it at any time. But he chose not to because of his astonishing love for us.
It is hard for us to imagine the love that could enable Jesus to endure being scourged (flogged with a whip that had sharp things in it to tear the flesh), being nailed to the Cross, and hanging on the Cross in agony for six hours, when he could have stopped it at any time. “While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). Jesus knew what he was doing. He predicted the Crucifixion many times. He said that he came “to give his life a ransom for many” (Matthew 20:28). He did it willingly. It is also hard to imagine the love of God for us men, such that he could send his beloved son on such a mission and could watch as his son suffered so intensely. God’s love for us “…surpasses knowledge…” (Ephesians 3:19 NIV). We will never fully understand it or grasp its greatness.
There are some who deny that Jesus was resurrected. However, the Scriptural evidence for his Resurrection is overwhelming.
The Resurrection is absolutely central to much of the teaching in the epistles. Paul declared, “And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith” (1 Corinthians 15:14 NIV). (Also see verse 17.) I believe that a fair reading of Paul’s epistles demonstrates over and over how central the Resurrection was to his thinking. (See, for example, Romans 6:1-14; 1 Corinthians 15:1-34; 2 Corinthians 1:9; Ephesians 1:19-23; Colossians 2:20-3:3; 2 Timothy 2:8.) Paul wrote that belief in the Resurrection is necessary for salvation. “If you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised him from the dead, you will be saved” (Romans 10:9). Peter wrote that God “has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead” (1 Peter 1:3). (Also see Hebrews 13:20.) The Crucifixion and Resurrection go together; without the Resurrection there is no victory.
I believe it can be said that there are few facts of ancient history that are as well documented as the Resurrection of Jesus Christ.17
Forty days after his Resurrection, Jesus was physically taken up into heaven while the disciples watched (Acts 1:9). He is not the only one to whom this occurred. Elijah was taken up bodily into heaven while Elisha watched (2 Kings, chapter 2). Apparently Enoch was also taken up into heaven (Genesis 5:24).
I don’t understand how either the Resurrection or the Ascension could have occurred. But God’s truth is not limited by my inadequate understanding. Scripture says that they happened, and that should be enough.
Living in Heaven
Jesus now lives with God in heaven. He said, “But from now on, the Son of Man will be seated at the right hand of the mighty God” (Luke 22:69 NIV). Stephen “gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God” (Acts 7:55). John had a tremendous vision of Jesus in which Jesus said, “Behold, I am alive forevermore” (Revelation 1:18). Scripture tells us that Jesus always lives to intercede for believers (Hebrews 7:25).
Jesus said that he would come again to earth (Matthew 24:30, 25:31, 26:64). His coming will be very conspicuous. “All the tribes of the earth” will see “the Son of Man [his name for himself] coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory,” with angels, and with a loud trumpet call (Matthew 24:30-31). It will be like lightning, which lights up the entire sky (Luke 17:24). At his Ascension, the angels said, “This same Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will so come back in like manner as you saw Him go into heaven” (Acts 1:11). Paul wrote, “The Lord himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God” (1 Thessalonians 4:16). (Also see 2 Thessalonians 1:7.)
There are some today who say that Christ has returned and is living on earth, unnoticed. Sun Myung Moon, of the Unification Church, claims to be Jesus Christ returned. There are others who make similar claims. Some say that Christ will not return in the flesh; his return will simply be an increase in his spirit in men. None of these assertions fit the Biblical account. Jesus Christ will return, as an adult, in great glory and in a very conspicuous manner.
Jesus said that, when he returns in glory, all nations will be gathered before him and he will judge the people (Matthew 25:31-46). Elsewhere he said that God had entrusted all judgment to him, and that a time was coming when he would judge all those who are in their graves (John 5:22-30). (He will also judge the living, 2 Timothy 4:1.) At the end of the age, Jesus will send out his angels. They will “…weed out of his kingdom everything that causes sin and all who do evil. They will throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father…” (Matthew 13:41-43 NIV). (Also see verses 49-50.)
There are many who do not like the idea of judgment, and of eternal punishment for those who do not believe in Jesus Christ. But Scripture speaks of it repeatedly. It is all through the New Testament. If we would believe Scripture, we must accept the fact that we are responsible to God and will be judged. We should be thankful that God has warned us in advance, and has told us what we need to do to obtain eternal life. The Gospel is very good news for those who believe in Jesus Christ—and very bad news for those who refuse to accept Jesus Christ.
There is much more that could be said about Jesus Christ—his love, his compassion, his gentleness and also his wrath. We can spend a lifetime studying his life as recorded in Scripture, and seeking to become like him. These eight points that I have listed in this section are things that we must accept and believe if we would call ourselves followers of Jesus Christ.
Our salvation, and our eternal life with God, depend on our faith in Jesus Christ. Hence it is extremely important that we have a clear and accurate concept of who Jesus Christ is. There are many false Christs, and Jesus warns us not to be deceived by them. Belief in a false Christ will not save us. Only the true Christ described and identified in Scripture will do that. When Scripture makes it so clear who Jesus Christ is, we ignore or reject its words at our peril.