When having interfaith dialogues, the word God is often thrown around. “You believe in God? I believe in God!” When in actuality, the “God” spoken of is totally different in the eyes of the respective believer. So it is imperative in these conversations to “define terms”. Ask what does a person mean by God. Ask them who they believe God is.
It’s often said that Christians and Muslims worship the same God. However, the Muslim God has no Son unlike the Christian God. Muslims believe in “Jesus” but their Jesus was not crucified and therefore did not die for the sins of the world. Of course, the Christian Jesus did. These are, in no way, minor differences.
The Mormon god was once a man who is currently married to his heavenly wife. This is a different god.
Jehovah’s Witnesses believe that Jesus is not God but is, instead, the archangel Michael. In Mormonism, he is the spirit child of “God” and his wife and is the brother of Lucifer. This is a drastically different Jesus. Yet, both Jehovah’s Witnesses and Mormons consider themselves Christians.
Many Arabic speaking Christians call God “Allah”. Muslims call their’s “Allah”. It is not the same “Allah”. Though many would have us believe it is.
Many religious groups other than Christians use the term God when speaking of their own deities. Often it is used as a generic term. Even in Christendom, God is actually a title and not a name for Yahweh (YHVH from the Hebrew יהוה). The word “God” actually comes from the German “Gott”.
To some people “God” may just mean some non-personal energy or just the material universe itself. To others we human beings make up the collective “God consciousness”.
To have clear and concise communication in theological discussions, defining terms can make the difference between what we agree on and what we disagree on. It lays the foundation. Understandably, we won’t always be right in everything we discuss. But making the differences known from the beginning can get to the root of the issue.
If a group of believers pray’s for someone to be healed of an illness, and that person dies of that illness, then how are we to take Matthew 18:19?
This question was posed to me a couple years ago. My first thought was that person, if a believer, would be immediately healed upon their death when they leave their body. Also in their glorified bodies after their resurrection they will experience no more pain and sickness. This was my first thought. And while true, I didn’t take the context of the verse into consideration. Rather, I didn’t take the time to study the context.
Matthew 18:19 says, “Again, truly I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything they ask for, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven.”
At first glance this passage seems pretty up front. That whatever two or more believers ask of God, He will do. So if several Christians gather to pray for someone’s physical healing, we can be confident that God will heal them. Some would even say that God is “obligated” to do what’s being prayed for. That’s what many of us hear all the time anyway, especially in America.
This belief seems to be validated when we look at the verse immediately before and the verse immediately after. Verse 18 reads, “Verily I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever ye shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” And verse 20, “For where two or three are gathered in My name, there am I in the midst of them.”
So now we seem to have a good formula for healing in Jesus’ own words. 1) Two or three gather making Christ present, 2) touch and agree, 3) bind and loose [binding sickness or demons and releasing blessing and healing, etc] 4) God will do it.
Sounds pretty cut and dry. But, what about the last part of the question posed at the beginning. “…the person dies…” One could take this sad result several ways:
Someone praying or the one being prayed for didn’t have enough faith (Jesus did just say in chapter 17 that the disciples couldn’t cast out a demon because of their lack of faith).
Or, there was unrepentant sin in someone’s life. John 9:31 says that God does not listen to sinners but those that do His will.
Or, it just wasn’t God’s will at that moment to heal that person (2 Corinthians 12:8). But God is true to His word, so why would there be a promise if God would only keep it sometimes?
So what are we to make of this passage?
In one of my earlier blogs on how to understand the Bible, I mention that we must read scripture in its correct context. Picking a verse out of context can, and often does, lead someone to believe something that was not intended. So let’s apply Matthew 18:18-20 to its proper context.
The words of Jesus beginning with verse 12: What do you think? If a man has a hundred sheep, and one of them goes astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine and go to the mountains to seek the one that is straying? And if he should find it, assuredly, I say to you, he rejoices more over that than over the ninety-nine that did not go astray. Even so it is not the will of your Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones should perish. Moreover, if your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he hears you, you have gained your brother. But if he will not hear, take with you one or two more, that ‘by the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established. And if he refuses to hear them, tell it to the church. But if he refuses even to hear the church, let him be to you like a heathen and a tax collector. Assuredly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven. Again, I say to you that if two of you agree on earth concerning anything that they ask, it will be done for them by My Father in heaven. For where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them.”
Here we have Jesus speaking of what we call “church discipline”. He begins first by speaking about a lost sheep which is, in this case, a brother in sin. Another brother should try to correct the wayward believer in private. If he doesn’t listen then one or two more should try. The reference Jesus gives comes from Deuteronomy 19:15, One witness shall not rise against a man concerning any iniquity or any sin that he commits; by the mouth of two or three witnesses the matter shall be established.” To call a brother out on his sinning there needed to be at least 2 witnesses. And these witnesses would work to restore their brother. If that doesn’t work, then the brother is to be brought before the assembly for the sole purpose of restoration from his sin. If after all that, he refuses to give up his sin then he is to be treated as though he is no brother at all. This is also referenced in 1 Timothy 5:20 and 2 Corinthians 5:4-5.
So what does the “binding and loosing” mean and what does Jesus mean when He says He is “there in the midst of them”?
A couple chapters before, Jesus tells Peter, ” ‘And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.‘ Then he ordered his disciples not to tell anyone that he was the Messiah.” Here we see Jesus establishing His church. His corporate body of believers which at that time consisted of Jews.
Another step of interpreting a text is understanding how the original hearers or readers would have understood the words. For example, in John 3 when Jesus told Nicodemus that he should have understood what being born again meant because he was a teacher of the law, we should ask ourselves where in the Old Testament would he have understood being “born again” to be referenced. The answer is Ezekiel 36:25-27.
So how would the Jews have understood “binding and loosing”? Matthew Henry’s commentary on Matthew 18 states, “…these, in the common speech of the Jews, at that time, signified to prohibit and permit; to teach or declare a thing to be unlawful was to bind; to be lawful, was to loose.” So once again we see a certain judicial understanding to what this passage in Matthew means.
Henry continues, “When ministers preach pardon and peace to the penitent, wrath and the curse to the impenitent, in Christ’s name, they act then pursuant to this authority of binding and loosing. The key of discipline,which is but the application of the former to particular persons, upon a right estimate of their characters and actions. It is not legislative power that is hereby conferred, but judicial; the judge doth not make the law, but only declares what is law, and upon an impartial enquiry into the merits of the cause, gives sentence accordingly.”
One reference for binding and loosing is found in the Gospel of John. After Jesus resurrection, He reminds His apostles of their authority. In chapter 20, verse 23, we read, “If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.”
Sound doctrine and strict disciple are the two ways church leaders remit and retain sin:
“By sound doctrine. They are commissioned to tell the world that salvation is to be had upon gospel terms, and no other, and they shall find God will sayAmento it; so shall their doom be.
By a strict discipline, applying the general rule of the gospel to particular persons. “Whom you admit into communion with you, according to the rules of the gospel, God will admit into communion with himself; and whom you cast out of communion as impenitent, and obstinate in scandalous and infectious sins, shall be bound over to the righteous judgment of God.’ ” (Henry)
So we see from reading in context what Matthew 18:19 is really about.
So am I saying that we shouldn’t pray for healing or anything else? Not at all. I’m also not saying that gathering together to pray for someone is unbiblical. What I am saying is that whether one lonely believer is praying or 100 are praying together, God hears. James 5:14-15 says, “Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer of faith will save the sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven.” Jesus even mentions how someone was healed through faith of just one person (Mark 5:34, Luke 17:19).
On the other hand, as I mentioned earlier, sometimes God chooses not to heal. In 2 Corinthians 12 Paul writes, “And lest I should be exalted above measure by the abundance of the revelations, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, a messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I be exalted above measure. Concerning this thing I pleaded with the Lord three times that it might depart from me. And He said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”
The context here is Paul telling the Corinthians how he could boast because of his visions of heaven but he chooses not to be a “fool.” Rather, He thanks God for his infirmaries because they keep him humble. Therefore, his boasting will only ever be in Christ. Even though he prayed three times for God resolve this issue, God chose not to. In choosing to say no to Paul’s prayer, God granted Paul the greater benefit of understanding the greater depth of the sufficiency of God’s grace.
Then why should we pray? First, because we are commanded to do so. Matthew 5:44, Romans 12:12, Ephesians 6:18, Philippians 4:6, 1 Thessalonians 5:17, and 1 Timothy 2:1 are among the many commands that we have from God to pray.
We should also pray because it works. When we pray according to God’s will He hears us. The Bible is full of examples when God’s people prayed and God answered. In 1 Samuel 1, a woman named Hannah was in deep, emotional prayer by herself. She was praying for a child. God listened and blessed her with the son that would become the great prophet Samuel. In Acts 12, Peter is in prison and the church is praying for him. An angel appeared and freed Peter from his chains. Afterwards, Peter went to the house where the saints had gathered and were praying. There they were still praying when he shows up. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man (or woman) avails much. (James 5:16)
For more information on prayer, check out Focus on the Family‘s articles on the subject here.
We must also remember that sometimes we don’t see the results of our praying. As stated in Hebrews 11, some people pass on to glory before they see the results of the fruit of their faith.
Lastly, as I stated at the beginning of this blog that healing actually will come to those who place their faith in Christ. That is a promise. By His stripes we are healed. Whether in this life or in the next.
P.S.: All that being said, there is a power in Christian unity. We are the body and when the body joins together, we become a more complete picture of Jesus. All of us as different parts working and praying together, and building each other up.
Colossians 2:9 For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form, . ..
In the Bible we learn that God came down and dwelt in the body of man. He was born of a woman, lived, ate, slept, cried, and died. In theology, this is known as the Doctrine of the Incarnation. The word “incarnation” means to be made into flesh. The Incarnation is one of the vital doctrines of the Christian faith although it has had its critics over the centuries. Here I seek to explore and defend the concept of God in the flesh.
In the Book of Genesis, God tells Eve that her Seed will crush the head of the serpent but the serpent will bruise the Seed’s heel (3:15). This was a promise from God that a man born of a woman would be the one to defeat the serpent, Satan. This gospel is the first revelation of who the Messiah would be. As time goes on in human history we are provided more info on this Man (progressive revelation).
In Isaiah 7:14, we are told that there will be a virgin who will give birth to a Child and His name will be Immanuel. Often in the Old Testament times, a name given to a person was actually a description of that person. Such is the case with Immanuel which means “God with us.” So this will be literally God dwelling among us as a man. Isaiah goes on to say in chapter 9, “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the greatness of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom…” So more is now revealed. God will dwell among man as a man. He will be of the lineage of David and will establish His kingdom. And from Genesis, Satan will bruise His heel but He will defeat Satan.
Now we come to the fruition of the promise made to Eve and to the people of God. The birth of Jesus. The only man born of a virgin, Jesus came to earth as the Immanuel that Isaiah foretold of 700 years before.
Like I’ve stated previously, in Matthew we see that Jesus is the fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy. And in the Gospel of John, He is described as the Word that was with God and the Word that was God (John 1:1). In Colossians 1:15, He is the “image of the invisible God.” In Philippians 2:6, He is the very nature, or form, of God. Hebrews 1:3 says He is “the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature.”
Jesus is the “uncreated incarnate Creator of creation”. All things were created from Him, through Him, and for Him (Romans 11:36). Yet, the Creator came to earth and dwelt in His creation. This is referred to as the Hypostatic Union; Jesus being truly God and truly man. Jesus is the two natures of God and man in a single hypostasis(essence, substance, nature). He is the theanthropos, or God-man.
The dual nature of Jesus may sound confusing, but God is not the author of confusion. John 1 calls Jesus the light. Scientists have discovered that light also has a dual nature. The scientific community was once divided on whether light was wave or whether it was particle. However they’ve discovered that it is both wave and particle, something scientists used to consider an impossibility.
Some have argued that Jesus is not God because the Scriptures says He slept and that an all-powerful God does not need to sleep. This argument basically comes from a person who doesn’t take their own premise to its logical conclusion. That is, that God being all powerful can choose to place himself in a human body and limit that human body to the natural laws that govern all other humans; like the need for rest and food and water. He also came as a Jew meaning that He had to obey the spiritual laws He had given Moses about 1,200 years before. And He did so, perfectly.
Some people would say “is this like Hercules who was the progeny of a god and human mother?” NO. Jesus was fully God and fully man. The fictional Hercules was half-god and half-man. Some would say that Hercules only became a god after his death. Unlike Hercules, Jesus the Son was ALWAYS God. He says in the Gospel of John, “Before Abraham was, I am.” Jesus says in the Garden of Gethsemane that He shared the glory with God before the world began (John 17:5). Therefore, there was no progression, or apotheosis, of Jesus to divinity. He was always God.
Jesus came to earth to be the propitiation, or atoning sacrifice, of our sins. He could only be this as a perfect man, but since there is no perfect man, God came to earth to be just that.
As John Piper states, “In order for Jesus to suffer and die, he had to plan way ahead of time, because … he couldn’t die. Immortal. He didn’t have any body, yet he wanted to die … for you. So he planned the whole thing by clothing himself with a body so that he could get hungry and get weary and get sore feet. The incarnation is the preparation of nerve endings for the nails – the preparation of a brow for thorns to press through. He needed to have a broad back so that there was a place for the whip. He needed to have feet so that there was a place for spikes. He needed to have a side so that there was a place for the sword to go in. He needed fleshy cheeks so that Judas would have a place to kiss and there would be a place for the spit to run down that the soldiers put on him. He needed a brain and a spinal column with no vinegar and no gall so that the exquisiteness of the pain could be fully felt. I just plead with you – when you’re reading the bible and you read water toy texts like “he loved you” and “gave himself for you,” you wouldn’t go too fast over it. Linger, linger, linger, and plead with him that your eyes would be opened.“
Further reading: John 1:1-14, Romans 1:2-5, 8:3, 9:5, Philippians 2:6-11, 1 Timothy 3:16, Hebrews 2:14, 1 John 1:1-3, 4:2
The virgin birth of Jesus is one the main tenets of the Christian faith. This miraculous event is recorded in Scripture. Had Jesus not been born of the virgin Mary, He wouldn’t have been the proper sacrifice for our sins. He would have been born into sin and therefore would have sinned. According to the Old Testament, the sacrifice for sin had to be spotless and without blemish. Regarding Jesus, this doesn’t mean spotless physically. This means that He was without sin. His blood did not carry the sin trait that was borne to the rest of us from Adam.
What about His mother? Wasn’t she human born into sin? The Catholic doctrine of the Immaculate Conception teaches that Mary was born without sin in order for her to conceive a sinless Christ. However, there is no biblical proof of the Immaculate Conception (which begs the question; wouldn’t the same logic require Mary’s mother to have been born without sin to conceive a sinless Mary, and her mother before her, and so on and so forth?). Mary needed saving from her sins like we all do. It was believed in the past that the baby in the womb shared his mother’s blood. What we know today, however, is that the baby when in the womb makes his own blood. His blood is unique to himself. That’s why Jesus’ blood, and Jesus’ blood only, has the power to wash away sins. “The fetal blood and maternal blood do not mix. In fact, if this were to be the case, there would be such immunological protest from the mother that she would soon make enough antibodies to the baby’s blood to destroy the pregnancy.” (https://www.babble.com/pregnancy/anatomy-fetus-placenta/)
Jesus was unique in that His father was God. Although the Bible calls the nation of Israel the child of God in the Old Testament (Exodus 4:22, Deuteronomy. 14:1) and those that place their faith in Jesus are His children (Romans 8:16-17) under the New Covenant, only Jesus is called the “only begotten”. Jesus is God’s only son in the same way God called Isaac Abraham’s only son (Genesis 22:2) even though Abraham had another son (Ishmael) prior to Isaac. The Greek word for “only begotten” is monogenēs (μονογενής) which literally means “one of a kind” or “the only of its kind.” In the ancient near East, a person’s lineage was based on who their father was, not their mother. Jesus was, therefore, of His father and not of His mother. This also has scientific bearing today. As this article from Discover magazine puts it “You may have inherited your mother’s eyes, but, genetically speaking, you use more DNA passed down from your father.” If Jesus was born of Joseph and Mary, He could not have been the only begotten son.
One of the main arguments against the virgin birth is that the word for virgin in the Book of Isaiah means “young girl” or “maiden”. Thus the prophecy only means that the Messiah would be born to a young girl.
This argument, however, fails to take a few facts into consideration. In Isaiah chapter 7, verse 14, the prophet foretells of the future Messiah being born of a virgin. The Hebrew word for virgin here is עַלְמָה or “almah”. Almah literally means “a virgin, maiden, a young woman of marrying age.” People dismiss that almah can mean virgin and say that it just means a young woman. And that Mary was just a young “betrothed” woman, not a virgin when she conceived Jesus. However, nowhere in the Hebrew scriptures does “almah” denote a young woman who is not a virgin.
An important part of understanding scripture is to understand what other scriptures say concerning the same topic. Let’s just say that we can’t tell whether Isaiah 7:14 is speaking of a virgin or just a young woman. Well we look to see how the authors of the New Testament would have read it. Matthew 1:22 is proof that the Jews of the time knew Isaiah 7:14 was speaking of a literal virgin and Matthew shows that Jesus is the fulfillment of this prophecy. When the angel Gabriel announced to Mary that she would conceive a child, she said “How can this be, since I am a virgin?” If she were just a young and married woman, it would not have come as such a surprise to her. Gabriel also would not have had to say that the child would be conceived of the Holy Spirit. No other place in scripture describes a birth in this fashion. The prophet Samuel was a “miracle child” but scriptures plainly tells us that his parents “knew” each other before he was born (1 Samuel 1:19). Samson was a “miracle child” but He was not conceived of the Holy Spirit or born of a virgin. Isaac was a miracle born to Abraham and Sarah, not because Sarah was a virgin, but because she was too old too conceive.
The whole purpose for the virgin birth, the whole purpose for the incarnation, was the cross. Actually, it was love that led to the cross. The cross is of much importance because of Who was hung on the cross. It was God who became a man. Born of a virgin. Laid aside heavenly pleasure for the likes of earthly pain. Only God could do this. Only He could be the sacrifice for our sins.
As C.S Lewis says, “Now if we had not fallen, that would all be plain sailing. But unfortunately we now need God’s help in order to do something which God, in His own nature, never does at all – to surrender, to suffer, to submit, to die. Nothing in God’s nature corresponds to this process at all. So that the one road for which we now need God’s leadership most of all is a road God, in His own nature, has never walked. God can share only what He has: this thing, in His own nature, He has not. But supposing God became a man – suppose our human nature which can suffer and die was amalgamated with God’s nature in one person – then that person could help us. He could surrender His will, and suffer and die, because He was man; and He could do it perfectly because He was God. You and I can go through this process only if God does it in us; but God can do it only if He becomes man. Our attempts at this dying will succeed only if we men share in God’s dying, just as our thinking can succeed only because it is a drop out of the ocean of His intelligence: but we cannot share God’s dying unless God dies; and he cannot die except by being a man. That is the sense in which He pays our debt, and suffers for us what He Himself need not suffer at all.”
The first two words in Genesis act very much like a Messianic Prophecy, so the story of Jesus as Creator and Savior is outlined in just two words which amazingly happen to be the first two words in the Bible!
There have been several videos on YouTube about this hidden meaning of the first two words in Genesis. This is a brief blog about my personal research into this claim that the first two words, in their ancient language form, are actually a shadow of Jesus.
The claim is basically this; In ancient Hebrew (Paleo-Hebrew) there is an idiographic or pictographic meaning assigned to each letter of the alphabet. These are symbols that depict an idea and because of this, the idea of Jesus as Creator and Savior can be seen in the words themselves. Now, I am no Hebraist so I did some research online from various sources to see if the claim about the first two words in the Bible really did hold up and as far as I can tell (and to my amazement), the claim is true. Now, it’s not a perfect science where hermetically you could apply the same rules to all Biblical texts but this idea is more like a shadow of Christ (in my opinion) but even so I am blown away…
A few things to keep in mind; Hebrew reads from right to left in case anyone looks this up themselves (which I hope everyone will) so don’t let this confuse you. Also, when translated from the Hebrew to English the first verse in Genesis reads: “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” While this is accurate for the English sentence structure, the proper reading of the verse in the original Hebrew would be “In the beginning created God the heavens and the earth.” So here is a breakdown of the first two words in Genesis;
The 1st word Barasheet translated as “In the beginning”
The letters in order are: Beyt Resh Aleph Shin Yud Tav
Beyt + Resh together form the word Bar meaning “Son of”
Aleph = Ox head meaning Power, Authority, Strength; commonly used in the Hebrew Bible for “God”
Shin = Two front teeth meaning Sharp, Press, Eat… (the function of the teeth when chewing; consume/destroy)
Yud = Arm meaning work, make and deed; the functions of the hand
Tav = Crossed Sticks meaning Mark, Sign, Signal, Monument
So the first word in the Bible, in the beginning, holds this idea;
The Son of God (will be) destroyed (by His own) work on a cross. Even from the beginning, the Son of God was to die on a cross for us by His own hand to save us from our sins.
Also, the 2nd word Bara translated as “Created” The letters in order are: Beyt Resh Aleph
Beyt + Resh together form the word Bar meaning “Son of”
Aleph = Ox head meaning Power, Authority, Strength; commonly used in the Hebrew Bible for “God”
The second word in the Bible, “created,” pictographically means Son of God, so as Scripture plainly tells us (John 1:1-3), it can also be seen in the word “created” itself that Jesus was the one who created us; everything that was created was created by Jesus, the Son of God.
The Bible continues to amaze me, even the ancient letters tell us that Jesus is our Creator and our Savior which I find incredible. If you would like to know more about Jesus and how to know Him personally, please email us at Theologetics3.email@example.com
A few things of note; Beyt alone = house or tent as well as family
Resh alone = head meaning man, chief, top, beginning and first, each of which are the “head” of something Shin can basically mean “the function of the teeth when chewing” and other sources say “to destroy” which is what the teeth do to food. Yud basically means functions of the hand which locould be understood as “by His hand”. And Tav which amazingly looks like the cross and can mean “sign”, “mark” and other online sources say “covenant” so it is taking the letter itself as a literal sign of the cross which I find most amazing.
*Disclaimer: Some Christian organizations teach that Paleo-Hebrew meanings are completely unrelated to the Hebrew language and that it can be dangerous to try to derive meaning from Scripture in this way– to a degree, this is true. But in this blog I’m not condoning or promoting some new secret way to interpret Scripture. I’m not saying this is hermeneutically sound when applied to all words in the Bible, just that it is at the very least, interesting how some key words appear to hold shadows of Christ in their original pictographic form and that it should not be surprising to find that given an almighty, all-knowing God planned Jesus coming to earth from the very beginning, even though it would not have been known to man.
For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me. -1 Corinthians 15:3-8
The crux of the Christian faith hangs on this one issue. Previously, I stated that one of the evidences for Jesus being who He said He is was the fact of the resurrection. Here, I will discuss why we can believe in the resurrection without reservation. I will discuss some of the arguments used against the resurrection and give rebuttals to those arguments.
1. Swoon Theory– This argument against the resurrection states that Jesus did not die on the cross, but was just weak and passed out (or swooned). When His tomb was found empty and He was seen alive after His death, it wasn’t because of a postmortem resurrection. It was because He didn’t die in the first place.
Rebuttal: While it is probable that a person can seem to die and not be dead, it is unlikely that this is what happened to Jesus for the following reasons:
Jesus received the horrible 39 lashes before His crucifixion. This was not just done with a regular whip but with a Roman flagrum. The flagrum had one handle with multiple lashes on the end. It is often called the “cat of nine tails.” However, the difference in the “cat” and the flagrum is the flagrum had barbs, bones, and/or shards of glass on the end of each whip. The cat is less brutal with smooth or knotted lashes. Each blow of the flagrum would have torn at Jesus’ flesh and muscle fibers. Jesus received 39 such blows from the Roman flagrum, and this was before the crucifixion.
Such scourging would have caused profuse bleeding from Jesus’ body. When the Roman soldiers placed the robe on Jesus, it would have created a temporary bandage for the wounds on His back. However, the robe was then ripped off, peeling the scabs that were beginning to form along with more flesh from His body. And this was before the crucifixion.
Next, Jesus was made to carry His cross (most likely just the crossbeam) to Golgotha. The distance from the place of the scourging to Golgotha (the hill of the crucifixion scene) is believed to be about 650 yards, or 6.5 football fields in length. The cross beam would have been approximately 100 lbs of solid wood. Imagine Jesus being made to carry that weight for that length after the beating He’d just received. Imagine the amount of blood He’s lost and is still losing at this point…before the crucifixion.
The crucifixion. Not much needs to be said on just how horrible the crucifixion was on the body. For sake of brevity you can read this PDF from The Journal of the American Medical Association on the details of the crucifixion.
The PDF also includes the spear through Jesus’ side that, by evidence of description, went into His heart. Needless to say the Romans were expert killers and would not have easily mistaken an alive man as being dead as it would have likely meant their life for Jesus’ if they were wrong.
Jesus body was wrapped in burial clothes. When scripture tells us that Jesus called out Lazarus from the dead, He didn’t tell Lazarus to undress himself from his grave wrappings. He knew that others had to undress him. Yet people who hold to the swoon theory would have to believe that will all the trauma inflicted on Jesus’ body, and being in a tomb with no water or food for 3 days to regain His strength, He was able to unwrap Himself. This might be possible for God incarnate, but no mere human.
Jesus would have also have to have rolled the large sealed stone away by himself and sneaked past the Roman guards in His condition.
2. The Stolen Body (or Conspiracy) Theory- This argument states that the disciples stole Jesus to further their cause and give credibility to their Messiah.
Rebuttal: In Matthew 28:11-13, the guards were bribed into saying that the disciples stole the body during the night. But why would they have to be bribed to say that? Why couldn’t they just say it if it were true? Because they knew it wasn’t true. To say that the body was stolen on their watch would have also meant that 1) they were overpowered or 2) they were asleep. If they were overpowered they could have said so, but this presents a problem that I’ll bring up later. If the soldiers fell asleep, they wouldn’t have been paid with a bribe; they would have paid with their lives. This was the case in Acts 12 when the Angel helped Peter escape from jail.
Also, the disciples began to die preaching a resurrected Christ. With Stephen being the first martyr in the Book of Acts, it only makes sense that they would have produced the body to avoid their own deaths. Some people have even argued that, as afraid as they were (Peter, the boldest disciple, denied Jesus 3 times from fear and the other disciples hid in fear), then someone might have produced some other body and claimed it was Jesus to make the persecution stop. But they couldn’t. Jesus had risen, and they knew it.
3. The Hallucination Theory- This theory says that because the disciples were so eager to believe in a risen Savior, they were hallucinating when they saw Jesus.
Rebuttal: One problem with this theory is that the disciples weren’t expecting a risen Jesus. They didn’t understand what He meant when He foretold of His resurrection. Thomas even doubted that He had risen when he was told. Yet, so many people witnessed the risen Jesus on several different occasions, it’s highly unlikely that hallucinations are to blame.
Another problem with this theory is that Jesus was actually touched post resurrection (Matthew 28:9).
Also, followers like Thomas who doubted Jesus had risen, and nonbelievers like James and Paul, who ended up being converted after a post-resurrection encounter, all stand as proof of Jesus rising from the dead. Oh yeah, there’s 500 others who saw the resurrected Jesus, also. That’s why it makes no sense to argue that the soldiers guarding the tomb were overpowered by people who sought to steal the body.
It must also be noted that the first response to news of the empty tomb was not a joyful “He rose like He said He would!” Rather, Jesus’ own disciples became suspicious. They said that the women who first witnessed the empty tomb and spoke with the angel, we’re speaking nonsense (Luke 24:11). And lastly, they thought someone moved Jesus’ body (John 20:2,15).
Finally, hallucinations last for short moments, seconds to minutes at a time. If the resurrected Jesus was just a hallucination, it lasted for 40 days!
4. The Argument from Low Probability- One of the most common arguments I’ve heard is that history isn’t based on events of low probability. “People can’t rise from the dead, therefore Jesus couldn’t rise from the dead.” Lawrence Shapiro professor in philosophy at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, states “…we’d say that the ‘base rate’ for rising from the dead appears to be small indeed: one in several billion, at best, I should think.”
Rebuttal: What people really mean is that they don’t believe in miracles, or, “Based on my naturalistic worldview, Jesus couldn’t have risen from the dead.” However, this same worldview makes the highly improbable claim that life evolved from non-life and that these elements came from nothing. Regarding the probability of life evolving from non-life, “The probability of [a self replicating peptide] forming randomly, in sequential trials, is approximately 1 in 1040” In his interview with Lee Strobel, Dr. Stephen Meyer claims that “The probabilities of forming a rather short functional protein at random would be one chance in a hundred thousand trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion. That’s a 10 with 125 zeros after it!”
As we can see the odds for the resurrection are exponentially better than what we are being taught concerning the origins of life from a naturalistic worldview. They say the resurrection is unbelievable because it’s a miracle yet they push the idea that life came from non-life which would be a far greater miracle!
After Lee Strobel examined the evidence for the Resurrection he turned from his atheism. “In short, I didn’t become a Christian because God promised I would have an even happier life than I had as an atheist. He never promised any such thing. Indeed, following him would inevitably bring divine demotions in the eyes of the world. Rather, I became a Christian because the evidence was so compelling that Jesus really is the one-and-only Son of God who proved his divinity by rising from the dead. That meant following him was the most rational and logical step I could possibly take.”
The evidences are overwhelming for the Resurrection. It is arguably the single most significant event in all of human history. No other prophet, priest, or king that died is alive again. Only the God-man Jesus Christ had the power to conquer death and the grave. Because of this fact we can have hope that death is not the end. That our bodies in all their frailties will be glorified and we will no longer be bound by sickness and decay. Believe on the One who made this possible. The Bible calls Jesus the firstborn from the dead, meaning all who believe in Him will follow this example.
“I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?” -Jesus
In my last blog I stated that in the realm of spiritual truths, having the right answer matters, especially in regard to an eternity with or apart from God. Jesus made claims that must be examined. He claimed to be the only way to the Father. If what He said is true then all other beliefs are false.
When anyone makes a claim of who they are then they must be able to back up those claims in order to persuade others. A person who claims to be a doctor will have proof of receiving his doctorate. A company asking for proof of who you are may ask for identification or proofs of residence. A man claiming to be the one way to God must prove to be from God and of God. Here I offer such proofs of Jesus being who He claimed to be.
1. Jesus healed and raised the dead on His own authority. We are shown often in the Scriptures that God’s prophets and apostles have healed people. The difference between them and Christ is that they did not do so of their own power or authority. They had to pray before doing so (ex. 2 Kings 4:33, 1 Kings 17:20). Or they did so “in Jesus name” (Acts 3:6). Jesus never had to appeal to a secondary means of authority.
2. The Seven Witnesses: In the Gospel of John there are seven witnesses listed that validate Jesus’ claims. Deuteronomy 19:15 states that a single witness does not suffice. Knowing this, the Pharisees told Jesus in John 8:13, “Here you are, appearing as your own witness; your testimony is not valid.” However, John the Apostle shows us there are more than enough witnesses to corroborate that Jesus is who He says He is.
John the Baptist: John 1:34 And I have seen and have borne witness that this is the Son of God.
Jesus Himself: John 8:14 Even if I do bear witness about myself, my testimony is true, for I know where I came from and where I am going, but you do not know where I come from or where I am going.
God the Father: John 5:37 And the Father who sent me has himself borne witness about me. His voice you have never heard, his form you have never seen (Matthew 3:17, Luke 9:35)
The Holy Spirit: John 15:26 But when the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness about me.
The prophets of the Old Testament: John 5:39 You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me
Jesus’s miracles (works): John 10:25 I told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in my Father’s name bear witness about me (Matthew 14:20, Matthew 17:27, Mark 4:39-41, John 2:7-9)
The witness of believers: John 15:27 And you also will bear witness, because you have been with me from the beginning.
3. The Resurrection. This is perhaps the most important of all that substantiate Jesus’ claims. While the Bible states that others have been raised from the dead, only Christ was raised of His own power. He said, ” Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up again.” (John 2:19). He also said, regarding His life, that He has the “authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again.” (John 10:18).
4. Doubting Thomas, Jesus-hating-Saul, and Unbelieving James end up worshiping Jesus as God.
After word was getting around that Jesus had risen from the dead, His disciple, Thomas, refused to believe it until he saw with his own eyes and felt the nail scars with his own hands (John 20:25). After Jesus appeared to Thomas, He told him that he could touch His wounds. We aren’t told whether Thomas did actually touch, but we do know that just the sight of Jesus made him believe. And in believing he called Jesus “My Lord and my God.” (John 20:28)
Paul, who was not only skeptical of Jesus but persecuted His followers, was also visited by the risen Savior. This event was so miraculous that it changed Saul from a hater of Christians to Paul, one of Christianity’s most prominent missionaries. Paul, who wrote 13 of the 27 New Testament books. In these books he calls Jesus God and describes divine attributes of Jesus: Romans 8:3; 1 Corinthians. 8:6; 10:4; 15:47; 2 Cor. 8:9; Galatians 4:4, Philippians 2:5-6, Colossians 1:16-19.
James, the Brother of Jesus, did not believe in Him (John 7:5). 1 Corinthians 15:7 states that Jesus appeared to James and the other apostles after His resurrection. Afterwards, James became a follower (and worshipper) of his brother and went on to write the New Testament epistle that bears his name. Historian, Flavius Josephus even records that James was martyred because of the truth of his brother that he spread to others, ” the brother of Jesus, who was called the Christ…was delivered to be stoned” (Antiquities, 20.9.1)
So, as we see Jesus didn’t just make outrageous claims; He backed them up. We see that He had witnesses and His own works to validate what He said about Himself. As C.S. Lewis famously states, “I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept his claim to be God. That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic — on the level with the man who says he is a poached egg — or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse. You can shut him up for a fool, you can spit at him and kill him as a demon or you can fall at his feet and call him Lord and God, but let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about his being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.”
With so many people in the world and so many different worldviews and conflicting religions, it’s hard for many people to grasp the idea that only a small portion of the population could be “right” about what many would say really matters, the purpose of life and what happens when we die. Nineteeth century poet John Godfrey Saxe wrote a poem titled Blind Men and the Elephant:
It was six men of Indostan, To learning much inclined, Who went to see the Elephant (Though all of them were blind), That each by observation Might satisfy his mind.
The First approach’d the Elephant, And happening to fall Against his broad and sturdy side, At once began to bawl: “God bless me! but the Elephant Is very like a wall!”
The Second, feeling of the tusk, Cried, -“Ho! what have we here So very round and smooth and sharp? To me ’tis mighty clear, This wonder of an Elephant Is very like a spear!”
The Third approach’d the animal, And happening to take The squirming trunk within his hands, Thus boldly up and spake: “I see,” -quoth he- “the Elephant Is very like a snake!”
The Fourth reached out an eager hand, And felt about the knee: “What most this wondrous beast is like Is mighty plain,” -quoth he,- “‘Tis clear enough the Elephant Is very like a tree!”
The Fifth, who chanced to touch the ear, Said- “E’en the blindest man Can tell what this resembles most; Deny the fact who can, This marvel of an Elephant Is very like a fan!”
The Sixth no sooner had begun About the beast to grope, Then, seizing on the swinging tail That fell within his scope, “I see,” -quoth he,- “the Elephant Is very like a rope!” And so these men of Indostan Disputed loud and long, Each in his own opinion Exceeding stiff and strong, Though each was partly in the right, And all were in the wrong!
MORAL, So, oft in theologic wars The disputants, I ween, Rail on in utter ignorance Of what each other mean; And prate about an Elephant
Not one of them has seen!
All the men in this poem are blind men making the best guess they can with the information they are given. Are we like these men? Are the different religions of the world basically men grabbing at different parts of the “Elephant” which they cannot see? All the men in the poem were essentially wrong. But is all of mankind wrong? For those who are sincere seekers of truth yet end up with the wrong answer based solely on the limited information they are given, does eternal damnation await them?
This is an important question for the Christian and the non-Christian. For the Christian because it will effect his evangelism. If he believes he has the only right answer and those who don’t will perish for eternity, then he will be driven to share his faith with others. If he believes we are all just doing the best we can and that his faith may be as valid as other faiths, then he is likely to have a laissez-faire approach when it comes to matters of faith. He probably will not put much stock in Jesus’ command to go into all the world and make disciples of all men. Both Christian and non-Christian will have an attitude that says “You believe whatever you want. As long as you are truly seeking the truth and have a sincere heart, God will not punish.”
Does God hold us accountable if we seek the truth but come to a wrong conclusion? Is there a wrong conclusion? The answer matters. In school we learn at a very young age that there are right and wrong answers. On an assignment, getting one wrong answer will get points taken off. Getting too many wrong answers will get a failing grade. On some tests, some answers could be worth more points than others (like essay questions verses multiple choice questions). The important thing we learn, however, is that THERE IS A RIGHT ANSWER AND THERE IS A WRONG ANSWER. In the realm of belief systems some questions have more value than others. For example, in Christianity some believe that speaking in tongues is one proof of salvation today, while others believe that speaking in tongues is one gift of many that a believer may or may not have, and yet others believe that speaking in tongues was only for the New Testament church. This is what we consider nonessentials. Nonessentials are things we may disagree on but will not get anyone to heaven or condemn anyone to hell. Things of “minor points”.
In the Bible, Jesus tells us in John 14:6, “I am the way, the truth, the life. No man comes to me unless the Father draws him.” This is a pretty exclusive claim. For someone to believe in the claims of Christ they must believe that Jesus is the one door. The one right answer. Jesus didn’t say He was A way, but THE way. And that no one comes to the Father except through him. He also says that “no one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him” in John 6:44. He repeated this sentiment in John 6:65 “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father.” Jesus also says “I am the door (gate). If anyone enters by Me, he will be saved.” John 10:9
It is to be noted that although many disciples rejected Jesus’ claims immediately after he made them (John 6:66) His disciples took them to be the words of life (John 6:68-69). In the book of Acts 4, Peter said with boldness “And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men, by which we must be saved.” Paul tells Timothy that “there is one God, and one mediator also between God and men, the man Jesus the Messiah.” 1 Timothy 2:5
So with all the claims of Christ to have the sole key to salvation, any other religion that claims otherwise is saying Jesus’ claims are false. That being said, anyone who claims all faiths are basically the same and equally valid fail to see that Jesus is not and cannot be just one valid choice among many. In the multiple choice world of religions, there is only one right answer and it is Jesus the Christ. Jesus didnt just make these claims, He backed them up. In my next blog I will dive into the reasons His claims are valid.
More exclusive claims of Christ: 1 John 2:23, 1 John 5:11-12, Luke 10:16, Luke 12:8-9 , John 3:18, John 3:36, John 8:24, and John 10:7-8b.
Do you mortify; do you make it your daily work; be always at it while you live; cease not a day from this work; be killing sin, or sin will be killing you.- John Owen
For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if BY THE SPIRIT you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.- Romans 8:13
Jesus said that sin begins in our minds. He said that if we hate our brother then we have committed murder. If we look with lust at a woman then we have committed adultery. While these things are sins in and of themselves, it would behoove us to understand that Jesus is also saying that these thoughts will ultimately manifest themselves physically if we do not check them.
2 Corinthians 10:5 says that we should take every thought captive to the obedience of Christ. When we don’t check our thought patterns and examine the worldviews that shape them, we are in danger of our thoughts leading to sin.
Every action first begins with our thoughts. Many times we say that we slipped into sin and often times it is true. But what of those times when one thought led to an unwise action (not particularly sin), that led to another unwise action, and so forth until… lo and behold we’re committing sin. Ashamed and with Satan accusing and laughing at us.
…sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must rule over it.- Genesis 4:7
Where I’m from there is a criminal charge called ‘malice murder’. In some jurisdictions it can be called premeditated murder. It means that the suspect actually had the intention of committing the crime and made plans to carry it out. It wasn’t a ‘crime of passion’ where a person’s overwhelming emotions clouded their thoughts and in a moment lashed out. Instead it was premeditated which literally means to think out or plan beforehand.
If we are honest and think about our actions throughout the day and some of the “sins that so easily beset us”, how much of our sins are totally premeditated?
But, we may think that we don’t plan on sinning throughout the day, right? Well, say for instance that I have a drinking problem and the Holy Spirit has dealing with me to stop. But, instead, I go through a series of unwise steps that get me to the sin my flesh loves but my spirit hates.
Step 1. Go to the store.
Step 2. Pick out an alcoholic beverage.
Step 3. Pay at the cash register.
Step 4. Take the alcoholic drink home.
Step 5. Open the drink.
Step 6. Take a sip.
These steps and every sip afterward is a conscious action made. Therefore I drank because of my premeditated actions.
As far as step 1 goes, before I went to the store I first had to have the desire to drink. BEFORE step 1 is when it is vitally crucial to take that desire and crucify the flesh. Before step 1 is when it is vitally crucial to take the thought and make it captive to obedience to Christ.
Remember that one mark of a Christian is a life of repentance. A Christian can do all things through Christ who strengthens him or her. Christians are mandated to live to soberly and holy lives. We are to not be enslaved by anything and to walk according to the Spirit. We who are children of God are to walk in the light where darkness cannot hide and we are not to continue in sin. And, if we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.
I have said these things to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.- Jesus
Philippians 4:13, Titus 2:12, 1 Corinthians 6:12, Galatians 5:16, Romans 8:17, John 1:5, 8:12; Romans 6:1, 1 John 1:9, Romans 8:1, John 16:33, Matthew 5:30, Colossians 3:1-17, Proverbs 24:16
These sayings are often thrown around in our culture. They seem to be used more often than not to say that no one has the right to say that anyone else is wrong for what they do or believe. What’s ironic is that the person saying that you’re wrong for judging is at the same time judging you.
“Judge not” comes from Matthew 7:1, “Judge not that you be not judged.” But, people usually leave off or have never read the next few verses. Verses 1 through 5 specifically speaks of not judging hypocritically. It speaks of having a beam in your own eye while trying to take the speck out of someone else’s eye. Jesus tells us in this chapter to FIRST take the beam out of your own eye then you can help take the speck out of someone else’s eye. To do so, requires an amount of judging. First to judge yourself so you can receive correction, then your judgement will be clear enough to help others.
Now judging is often translated or contextualized as the word “condemn”. In the sense of salvation, we are right to “judge not”. Since only God knows the intentions, thoughts, and heart of a man. (1 Kings 8:39)
However we are told both directly and by example to judge the actions and teachings of others. By judging I mean saying what someone said or did is wrong.
Another definition of judging is to pronounce an opinion concerning right and wrong. One popular example in scripture is when Paul opposed how Peter was acting towards Jewish verses Gentile believers (Galatians 2:11-14). Also the Bereans in Acts 17 verse 11 judged Paul’s teachings according to the rest of scripture.
Scripture also gives us criteria on how to judge whether a prophet is of God. Jesus said you will know a false prophet by his fruit (Matthew 17:15). Deuteronomy 13 says we will know a false prophet of he comes with signs and wonders but tells you to follow other gods. In Galatians 1:8-9 Paul tells is judging people who are teaching a contrary gospel.
So it is clear that in some instances we are right to judge. There is a such a thing as right and wrong, falsehood and truth. But, people shouldn’t throw stones when living in a glass house. In other words, don’t criticize others when you have a similar weakness. Remember we ALL deserve or have deserved condemnation from God. If He has saved you from a life of sin, then don’t look down on others who haven’t received God’s gift of salvation. You were once in their shoes (1 Corinthians 6:11).
Some other scripture concerning judging:
Matthew 18:15-20 (on church discipline) If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector. Truly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. Again I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything they ask, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.”
John 7:24 Judge not according to appearance but judge with righteous judgement.
Romans 2:21-24 You then who teach others, do you not teach yourself? While you preach against stealing, do you steal?You who say that one must not commit adultery, do you commit adultery? You who abhor idols, do you rob temples?You who boast in the law dishonor God by breaking the law.For, as it is written, “The name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you.”
1 Corinthians 5:3 For though absent in body, I am present in spirit; and as if present, I have already pronounced judgment on the one who did such a thing.
1 Corinthians 15:12-13 For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge? God judges those outside. “Purge the evil person from among you.”