- What Is The Virgin Birth of Christ?
- How Could Jesus Be God and Man At The Same Time?
- How Is Jesus Different From Confucius, Buddha and Mohammed?
- What Makes Jesus' Teaching Unique?
- When Jesus Died On The Cross, Did He Also Die Spritually?
- Is There Life After Death?
What Is The Virgin Birth of Christ?
The Bible says in Isaiah that God would give us a sign: "The virgin shall conceive and bear a Son" (Isaiah 7:14). The word in Hebrew that we translate as "virgin" is almah, and it can mean "virgin or young woman." The word has been translated "virgin," however, because there is nothing unusual about a young woman giving birth, so that would be no sign at all.
But in the New Testament, the word that is used for the Greek translation of almah is parthenos, and that clearly means virgin. It has no other meaning except virgin. The Bible tells us that there was a young virgin named Mary. The angel of the Lord came to Mary and said, "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and ... Overshadow you" (Luke 1:35). He went on to tell her that a child would be formed in her, and she would give birth to the Messiah.
This is the way God entered into humanity to bring a second Adam. God the Son enfleshed Himself--the Holy Spirit bringing about conception, parthenogenesis, the virgin beginning--without the intervention of the normal reproductive cycle of man. That is why Jesus is called the Son of God. He was not the son of Joseph, and He was not the son of a Roman soldier. He was not the son of any human father. He was conceived by the Holy Spirit. God brought about virtually a second creation, a second man, without the original sin of the male line from Adam. Linking Jesus into the family tree of Mary, however, made him a descendant of David and Abraham, which fulfilled the various promises that God had made to them. Further, it was from His mother, Mary, that the Lord received His human nature. So Jesus Christ was unique, conceived by the Holy Spirit, but of "the house and lineage of David" (Luke 2:4).
How Could Jesus Be God and Man At The Same Time?
When we discussed the attributes of God, we said that one way of discussing Him is to say that He is immortal. He is eternal. In other words, He does not have a beginning or an end. We also said that He is invisible, and then we said that He is described in terms of omnis ("all"). He is omnipresent, omniscient, and omnipotent. So the question is really, how can God, who is unlimited, infinite, and immortal, take upon Himself human nature which is finite, mortal, and limited?
One possible clue is to consider that when God created man in His image, there may have been more similarity to the second Person of the Trinity than we have realized. Perhaps the gap between God and sinless man was not as great as we have always imagined. The Bible does tell us in I John 3:2, "We shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is."
Jesus Christ, according to the Bible, is the very essence of God. Jesus is the express image of God, and the Bible says that "in Him all things consist" (Colossians 1:17). But we are also told that He emptied Himself in order to become a man (see Philippians 2:5-8). He did not empty Himself of His love, His goodness, His kindness, or His gentleness; for His divine nature was undiminished in the incarnation. But to become a human infant He did empty Himself of the eternal majesty that He shared in the presence of His heavenly Father. He went through the teen-age years, grew up to be a man, died, and then came back to life again.
Jesus was a flesh-and-blood man, with all that entails, except for sin. When Jesus died on the cross, it was not an illusion. He really died. He suffered as men suffer. He became tired and hungry. He was not some superman, free from pain and discomfort. The Bible says that He was tempted in like manner as we are, yet was without sin (see Hebrews 4:15). He went through all the problems that man can go through; yet He always possessed His divine nature and His awareness of the presence of the Father and the Holy Spirit.
There are some people who say, "Well, He became God when the Holy Spirit came upon Him." But that is not what the Bible teaches. The Bible teaches that He was truly God from the moment of His conception by the Holy Spirit. But at the same time He was fully human (see Philippians 2:5-8, Hebrews 2:14-18, 4:14-16).
How Is Jesus Different From Confucius, Buddha and Mohammed?
Jesus claimed to be God, and he allowed Himself to be worshiped as God. After His resurrection, one of His disciples fell on his knees and said, "My Lord and my God" (John 20:28)! To a good Jew, this would have been blasphemy, but Jesus received it approvingly. Jesus also said, "You will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Power, and coming on the clouds of heaven" (Matthew 26:64). He identified Himself as the Son of God (see John 3:16-18). In His lifetime, He said things about Himself that, if they were not true, would have been the words of a madman.
Jesus said, "I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness" (John 8:12). He said, "I am the bread of life" (John 6:35). He told people, "Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in you" (John 6:53). He made a series of claims about His own divine nature. When people challenged Him on it, He said, in effect, if I denied my deity I would become a liar, as you are (See John 8:55).
Mohammed believed that he was a prophet. Buddha felt that he was a seeker after truth. Confucius never claimed to be anything but a wise teacher. Only Jesus has made claim to be the eternal Son of God. He is God and He proved His deity.
Jesus Christ was dead and buried, but rose again from the dead (see Matthew 28:7, Acts 13:30-31). He was seen by about five hundred people after His resurrection (see I Corinthians 15:4-8). He had the ability to walk through doors, (See John 20:19, 26) to travel vast distances in an instant, (See John 6:21) and to ascend into heaven (see Luke 24:51, Acts 1:9-11). He had taken on a completely spiritual resurrection body. He reached heaven and sent the Holy Spirit to indwell and empower His disciples. This, as the apostle Peter affirmed, proved that he actually arrived in heaven (see Acts 2:33).
What Makes Jesus' Teaching Unique?
It has been said that if Jesus is not God, then we should worship the man who thought Him up, because never did any man speak that way before or since.
The teachings that I have discovered, especially about the kingdom, have truth that is self-validating. They resonate with the experience of people throughout all the ages. When these principles are put into practice, they lead invariably to peace, harmony, victory, and love. This does not mean that the teachings of Jesus will not bring conflict. Because when someone accepts the teachings of God, there will be conflict with those who wish to continue in evil.
Jesus' words pulsate with wisdom. For example, His concept about civil government: "Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's" (Matthew 22:21). The concept of God as a Spirit: "Those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth" (John 4:24). The Sermon on the Mount: "Love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you" (Matthew 5:44). The greatest commandment: "Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your mind ... Love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets" (Matthew 22:37-40).
Jesus' understanding of the sweep of history was absolutely superb. There has never been anyone in history who has even come close to Him. Above all else, Jesus rose from the dead, appeared to people, sent His Spirit to people, and has transformed the lives of millions. Wherever you find the Gospel, you find progress, freedom, liberty, and family loyalty--all the things that human beings acknowledge as the desires of their hearts. It is not coincidental that the nations that have been characterized as "Christian" have surpassed the rest of the world for centuries in almost every measure of achievement.
It is true that there have been many crimes perpetrated upon humanity in the name of Christianity, but those who did such things did not really know Christ or His teachings. Christ did not lead people to persecute and torture Jews and "heretics." Many so-called "heretics" were actually ones who knew the Lord, and they were being persecuted by zealots who did not know Him.
What happens in religion is that one generation finds Jesus and lives for Him. The next generation learns His teaching by rote. The third generation does not really know it at all, but decides to use religion as a justification for holding on to temporal power. Such people launched the crusades and conducted the Inquisition. They were using religion, but they did not know Jesus. Wherever you find political power and worldly ambition using Christianity, you will often find the absence of New Testament truth. Then there may be sinful excesses done in the name of religion. Neither Jesus nor His teachings should be blamed for sinful excesses committed under cover of His name.
When Jesus Died On The Cross, Did He Also Die Spritually?
A controversy has arisen recently on this point because of a few well-known teachers who erroneously assert that Jesus Christ on the cross died not only physically but spiritually as well. They say that this shows how great His love for us is and how much power He released because He gave up so much for us. Well, that is an interesting thought, but it is an impossibility, a contradiction in terms. By definition, a spirit cannot die. A spirit is an immortal being.
Of course God cannot die either. If God died, the universe would fall apart. And Jesus is God. If the Spirit of Jesus died, then God Himself would have died, and the whole universe would have collapsed.
These teachers say that they mean by "death" a separation from God. According to them, in order for a person's spirit to be redeemed, Jesus' Spirit had to die. However, for Jesus to be separated from God, He would have had to be a sinner. But a sinner could not have been the "lamb without blemish and without spot" offered for the sins of the world (I Peter 1:19). If Jesus--the Son of God and second Person of the Trinity--were truly separated in spirit from the Father, then God Himself would be torn asunder and would cease to be--another impossibility.
The book of Hebrews states: "Therefore, when He came into the world, He said: 'Sacrifice and offering You did not desire, but a body You have prepared for Me. In burnt offerings and sacrifices for sin You had no pleasure. Then I said, 'Behold, I have come--in the volume of the book it is written of Me--to do Your will, O God.' Previously saying, 'Sacrifice and offering, burnt offerings, and offerings for sin You did not desire, nor had pleasure in them' (which are offered according to the law), then He said, 'Behold, I have come to do Your will, O God.' He takes away the first that He may establish the second. By that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all" (Hebrews 10:5-10).
The Bible clearly states, "We have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all." It is His physical death in obedience to the will of the Father that sanctifies us. Jesus' humanity, which knew no sin, tasted the horror of the sin of all humanity. He was offered as a sacrificial lamb before God to pay the price for all of our sins.
After his physical death and before His resurrection, Jesus' Spirit descended into hell and preached to all those who were there, leading "captivity captive" (see I Peter 3:18-20). His Spirit was neither dead nor separated from God. Instead, He was continuing to please and serve the Father, as He is at this moment.
Is There Life After Death?
Yes! Emphatically, there is life after death for all people. How you will spend your life after death depends upon your relationship with God now. Jesus Christ said, "I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die" (John 11:25-26).
The whole message of Jesus Christ was that He broke the power of sin and death, because death was the consequence of sin. Jesus said, "Because I live, you will live also" (John 14:19). That is hope of the world--the resurrection. The apostle Paul said: "I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ ... That I may know Him and the power of His resurrection ... If, by any means, I may attain to the resurrection from the dead" (Philippians 3:8-11).
Not only is there life after death, but God is going to give us new bodies, better than the ones we have now. We are not going to be disembodied spirits. Those who believe in Jesus are going to have bodies just like the resurrection body of Jesus (see I Corinthians 15:35-49).
The Bible says that there will be a resurrection of the good and the resurrection of the evil. Some will arise to honor and some to shame (see Daniel 12:2-3, Matthew 25:46, Revelation 20:11-15).
Those who have lived for God are going to have a body such as Jesus has--a glorious, wonderful body--and they will be with Him forever in glory. Those who have not lived for Him will be in a place of torment and punishment. Yes, there is life after death, but the quality of that life depends upon how we spend our days in this "life before life."
Often, the question arises whether a loving God could really send anyone to hell. Remember that God is always calling people to Himself. He sends signs such as the sun, the moon, the seasons, and harvest to show us that His love is there. He also sends out preachers, teachers, and evangelists to warn those who are living contrary to God's will and to encourage such people to come to Him. Remember, too, that for heaven to be heaven, those in heaven should not be forced to live with the fear of a second satanic rebellion and another cycle of pain, suffering, and death. The only way to eliminate that fear is to see that those who absolutely refuse God and who want no part of His kingdom are given their wishes. Such people do not want to be apart of God's kingdom, and so God says, "your will is to be apart from Me and I am going to let you have it the way you want it."
Apart from God there is everlasting darkness. It is a horrible thing to contemplate, but it is not God's choice to send anyone out into that darkness. Instead, He reluctantly allows people to have what they have shown Him they want. The Bible talks about everlasting fire and eternal darkness when it describes hell (see Matthew 8:12, 25:41). Whether these are literal descriptions, or figures of speech describing the remorse and emotional pain the lost will suffer when they realize that they are separated from God forever, we don't know. We do know that hell is real and forever!
Over the last few years we have had many cases of people returning to life after being "clinically dead" for short periods. Many of them have seen heaven and some have been allowed to see hell. They have seen a living being whom they presume to be God. They have communicated with Jesus. Some have asked to come back to this life, and He has let them; others have asked to stay, and He has told them that they still have a work to do here in this life. For all of them, the experience has been a life-changing one, and this is a uniform testimony to the existence of life after death. Such experiences, of course, are not proof that there is life after death, but they stand as support to the Bible's statement that life continues beyond the grave.
The Bible is also clear in its teaching that we should not attempt to communicate with the dead. Leviticus 19:31 says: "Give no regard to mediums and familiar spirits; do not seek after them, to be defiled by them: I am the LORD your God." Isaiah 8:19 adds this: "And when they say to you, 'Seek those who are mediums and wizards, who whisper and mutter,' should not a people seek their God? Should they seek the dead on behalf of the living?"
When his baby son died, King David said, "I shall go to him, but he shall not return to me" (II Samuel 12:23). When we die we either go to heaven or hell. We will join those loved ones who have gone to heaven or hell. We will join those loved ones who have gone to the same place as we have. Until then, the living are forbidden to attempt contact with the dead. So-called ghosts, or spirits that speak through mediums, are really demons masquerading as the spirits of dead human beings.
If you let them, they will deceive you. They will try to lead you away from God, and--if they can gain a foothold in your life--they will do their very best to take control of you.