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Is Jesus Really the Only Way?

A lot of people believe that all “good” people go to heaven.

“After all, isn’t being good[1] what really matters? If someone is good and sincere in their beliefs then they should go to heaven. Plus, aren’t all religions basically the same?”[2]

“How could a good God allow people to go to hell?”

However, it should be asked, does God want those people to go to hell?[3] And has God provided a way for them to be saved? The answer to the first question we’ll see is no[4] and the answer to the second question is yes.

First, Scripture repeatedly says things like God desires all humans to be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth (1 Tim. 2:4). Here are three more:

“The Lord is… not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance” (2 Pet. 3:9).

“Have I any pleasure in the death of the wicked, declares the Lord God, and not rather that he should turn from his way and live?… For I have no pleasure in the death of anyone, declares the Lord God; so turn, and live” (Ezek. 18:23, 32).

“Say to them, As I live, declares the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live; turn back, turn back from your evil ways, for why will you die, O house of Israel?” (Ezek. 33:11).

So, God’s desire is for people to come to a knowledge of the truth of salvation in Jesus Christ and repent of their sins and be saved. That is God’s desire. However, that’s not it.

Second, God has also provided the way of salvation. The one God has provided the one way of salvation through the man Christ Jesus who is the one mediator between God and man (1 Tim. 2:5).

Imagine we were all on an island that a very wealthy and magnificent man owns. It is on fire and we all have to get off or we will die. Now, imagine that the owner of the island built a very large and sturdy bridge to the mainland so that people could escape. And in making the bridge he himself died.

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The Ascension

“The LORD says to my Lord:
‘Sit at my right hand,
until I make your enemies your footstool.’
2The LORD sends forth from Zion
your mighty scepter.
Rule in the midst of your enemies!
3Your people will offer themselves freely
on the day of your power,
in holy garments;
from the womb of the morning,
the dew of your youth will be yours.
4The LORD has sworn
and will not change his mind,
‘You are a priest forever
after the order of Melchizedek.’
5The Lord is at your right hand;
he will shatter kings on the day of his wrath.
6He will execute judgment among the nations,
filling them with corpses;
he will shatter chiefs
over the wide earth.
7He will drink from the brook by the way;
therefore he will lift up his head.”
—Ps. 110 (cf. Acts 2:33-36)

As we saw in the previous post on the resurrection, Peter looked at Psalm 16 and showed how Jesus’ resurrection was foretold. In Acts 2 Peter goes on to show that Jesus is now at God’s right hand, as Psalm 110 foretold. Jesus Himself had quoted from Psalm 110 and stomped His critics (see e.g. Matt. 22:41-46). And when you look at 110:1 it’s not surprising that they were stomped.

So, we see that Jesus is at God’s right hand until… Until He makes His enemies His footstool. That means that Jesus is coming back—and the New Testament repeatedly says soon—to bring judgment, and pervasive peace through that judgment.[1]

Jesus’ death and resurrection shows that He is indeed the Lord and Messiah.[2] As the Lord and Messiah, He is coming back soon to vanquish every foe and establish His forever reign of peace. In His second coming, He will bring the Kingdom that was expected at His first coming.  Read More…

The Resurrection

“I saw the Lord always before me,
for he is at my right hand that I may not be shaken;
26therefore my heart was glad, and my tongue rejoiced;
my flesh also will dwell in hope.
27For you will not abandon my soul to Hades,
or let your Holy One see corruption.
28You have made known to me the paths of life;
you will make me full of gladness with your presence.”
                           —Ps. 16:8-11/Acts 2:25-28 (cf. Acts 2:22-32)

Peter refers to this Davidic Psalm in Acts chapter 2. He said: “Fellow Israelites, I can confidently speak to you about the patriarch David: He is both dead and buried, and his tomb is with us today” (Acts 2:29). In short, David’s dead and his body rotted. David did, however, as a prophet tell us that one of his descendants would sit on his throne (v. 30). So, David seeing that in advance “spoke concerning the resurrection of the Messiah: ‘His body was not abandoned to the realm of the dead, nor did His body see decay’” (v. 31).

Paul says it a little differently. He says King “David, after he had served the purpose of God in his own generation, fell asleep and was laid with his fathers and saw corruption” (Acts 13:36). King David saw corruption. His body decomposed. So, David is not the “Holy One” that the Psalm refers to.

Paul goes on to say, “But He whom God raised up did not see corruption” (v. 37). Ding, ding, ding! Jesus is the Holy One! He is the long-awaited Messiah and forever King!

David knew that the LORD would place one of his descendants on the throne. How did he know this? Because…

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The Death

“When the righteous cry for help, the LORD hears
and delivers them out of all their troubles.
18The LORD is near to the brokenhearted
and saves the crushed in spirit.
19Many are the afflictions of the righteous,
but the LORD delivers him out of them all.
20He keeps all his bones;
not one of them is broken.
21Affliction will slay the wicked,
and those who hate the righteous will be condemned.
22The LORD redeems the life of his servants;
none of those who take refuge in him will be condemned.”
                                                                        —Ps. 34:17-22 (cf. Jn. 19:28-37)

 

The Righteous One was not delivered. The Righteous One was afflicted and slayed. The Righteous One was condemned, condemned to die the terrible death of a criminal and slave.

Jesus was slaughtered. But it was not a senseless slaughter.

As the centurion nearby Jesus acknowledged, something more was going on behind the scenes. The centurion would have observed many deaths and many crucifixions. And so, he is in a unique position to recognize the purity and power of Jesus. The centurion said, “Certainly this man was innocent and the Son of God! (Lk. 23:47/Matt. 27:54; Mk. 15:39)

The centurion responded in that way after he saw Jesus call out and say, “It is finished. Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!” and breathe his last (Jn. 19:30/Lk. 23:46). The centurion must have been amazed by Jesus’ composure and everything else that had taken place surrounding Him. The centurion may have seen the way Jesus treated His enemies (Lk. 23:34), His promise to the criminal on the cross (v. 43), His prayer to God (v. 46), not to mention the ominous darkness (v. 44).[1]

Jesus’ death was not senseless, but according to Scripture. The Righteous One was slain in between two criminals. Jesus was, as Isaiah says, “numbered with the transgressors.” Yet in being cursed Jesus was carrying out a rescue plan that had long since been written (Rev. 13:8). “When He was hung on the cross, He took upon himself the curse for our wrongdoing. For it is written in the Scriptures, ‘Cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree’” (Gal. 3:13).

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The Crucifixion

“Many bulls have compassed me:
strong bulls of Bashan have beset me round.
13They open wide their mouths at me,
like a ravening and roaring lion.
14I am poured out like water,
and all my bones are out of joint;
my heart is like wax;
it is melted within my breast;
15my strength is dried up like a potsherd,
and my tongue sticks to my jaws;
you lay me in the dust of death.
16For dogs encompass me;
a company of evildoers encircles me;
they have pierced my hands and feet—
17I can count all my bones—
they stare and gloat over me;
18they divide my garments among them,
and for my clothing they cast lots.”
                                             —Ps. 22:12-18 (cf. Jn. 19:17-24)

Psalm 22 has an amazing amount of parallels with Jesus’ experience on the cross on Good Friday. It says he is surrounded by rough enemies that want to harm him (v. 12), he is attacked by their words (v. 13), he is exhausted and close to death (v. 14), he experiences fatal dehydration (v. 15), his hands and feet are pierced (v. 16), his bony frame is exposed (v. 17), and his garments are divided and cast lots for (v. 18 cf. Matt. 27:35).[1]

Reading this Psalm you almost expect David to say something close to “Father, forgive them”[2] because the account of Jesus’ crucifixion is foreshadowed so many times (see also Ps. 69:4, 9, 21). Instead, in somewhat of a parallel passage to this Psalm and in great contrast to Jesus, David calls for God’s burning anger to overtake his enemies (69:24), he pleads that God would “add to them punishment upon punishment” (v. 27), and that they would be “blotted out of the book of the living” and “not be enrolled among the righteous” (v. 28).

Messiah Jesus instead Himself receives punishment upon punishment, His life is blotted out, and He joins the unrighteous on a cursed cross (see Is. 53:9 and Matt. 27:38) to save His enemies, those who are far from Him. Jesus is the perfect lamb of God, the lamb without blemish, that takes away the sin of the world (Jn. 1:29; 1 Pet. 1:19).[3]

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The Trial and Mocking

“Let not those rejoice over me
who are wrongfully my foes,
and let not those wink the eye
who hate me without cause.
20For they do not speak peace,
but against those who are quiet in the land
they devise words of deceit.
21They open wide their mouths against me;
they say, ‘Aha, Aha!
Our eyes have seen it!’”
                                —Ps. 35:19-21 (cf. Matt. 27:24-34)

Jesus is on trial. He who calmed the storm and reached out and touched and healed lepers is on trial. Jesus could have answered as God had once before when He was questioned.

He could have said, “’Who is this that darkness counsel by words without knowledge?!” (Job 38:2). He could have said, “Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth?! (v. 4). Do you make the sun rise? (v. 12). Can you send forth lightening? (v. 35). Do you give the horse his might? (39:19). Is it by your understanding that the hawk soars? (v. 26).

And yet the One who created the universe by the word of His power and holds it together (Heb. 1:3), is on trial and even mocked. And the people cry out: “Crucify, crucify Him!”

Jesus is hated without cause (Ps. 35:19; 69:4) and people are wrongfully His foe because He never did a single thing that was wrong (1 Pet. 2:22; Heb. 4:15; 1 Jn. 3:5). And so, because He has never done anything wrong, He is attacked with lies and words of deceit (Ps. 35:20; 69:4). Jesus’ accusers said, “Aha, Aha! Our eyes have seen it!” (Ps. 39:21). But they hadn’t. They hadn’t because Jesus was without sin.

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The Betrayal and Rejection

“Even my close friend in whom I trusted,
who ate my bread, has lifted his heel against me”
                                                    —Ps. 41:9 (cf. Jn. 13:18).

 

Jesus came to His own people and they did not receive Him (Jn. 1:11). Jesus was hated, rejected, and persecuted (Is. 53:3; Jn. 15:18). His friends abandoned Him (Ps. 88:8, 18; Matt. 26:56), even after making a pledge of undying loyalty. Yet, even while He Himself was being betrayed He protected His friends (Jn. 18:7-8)

Jesus, as Hebrews says, can sympathize with us (Heb. 4:15). He knows what it is like to experience betrayal of the worst kind.

Jesus was troubled in His spirit because one of His dear friends would betray Him. And it’s no wonder that He was troubled. Have you ever been hurt by a close friend? It hurts.

Yet Jesus was betrayed, as the Scriptures said He would be (Jn. 13:18).

Judas, Jesus’ “familiar friend” (Ps. 55:13), betrayed Him with a kiss[1] (Matt. 26:48-49). Jesus used to walk with Judas in the very same garden in which He was betrayed (Jn.18:2-3). Jesus had also recently shared bread with Judas.[2]

Jesus felt the blow of a backstabber but His pain would be far worse than any knife could inflict.

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