Is Jesus Christ alive? If He is, where is He? What is He doing? What are His future plans? Many call themselves Christians, but surprisingly few know the true Jesus of the Bible, the importance of His life, death and resurrection, and His amazing plan for mankind's future.
Who was Jesus of Nazareth? Was He just an itinerant preacher, or was He the Savior of the world? Can you really know?
Is Jesus Christ alive? If He is, where is He? What is He doing? And what are His future plans?
Fully one-third of Earth's inhabitants call themselves Christian. But even among them, relatively few really know what Jesus taught, and what the Bible reveals about the true Jesus Christ. He Himself said there would be many imitators—He called them "false christs" (Matthew 24:24). The Apostle Paul warned against "another Jesus whom we have not preached… a different spirit which you have not received… [or] a different gospel" (2 Corinthians 11:4). Do you know the true Messiah—the real Jesus Christ?
What does the Bible reveal? Was Jesus just a teacher and a miracle worker? Or was He that and more? In John 4, Jesus is speaking to a woman at Jacob's well near the city of Sychar in Samaria. This woman became convinced that He was the promised Messiah—the Christ. She told the whole community about this man whom, she said, "told me all that I ever did" (v. 39). As a result, many other Samaritans came to hear Jesus speak, and they persuaded Him to stay for two days. What was their impression of Jesus? "And many more believed because of His own word. Then they said to the woman, 'Now we believe, not because of what you said, for we ourselves have heard Him and we know that this is indeed the Christ, the Savior of the world'" (John 4:41-42).
Was Jesus the Savior of the world? One should rather ask: "Is He the Savior of the world?" The proofs of fulfilled prophecy, historical accuracy, the preservation of the text, and the revelation of life's mysteries and meaning, all support the truth that He is. But you need to prove it to yourself. Where do we look for the evidence? If you are not that familiar with the Bible, just start reading the New Testament gospels beginning with the book of Matthew. If you are objective and open-minded, you will be amazed at the teachings of Jesus and the testimony of His disciples who were willing to die for Him and His Way of life.
There are more than 100 prophecies in the Old Testament foretelling the coming of the Messiah. Among them is the prophet Isaiah's prophecy that the Messiah would be a descendant of King David, the son of Jesse (Isaiah 11:1), that the Messiah would be born of a virgin (7:14), that He would live in Galilee (9:1-2), that His mission would include the Gentiles (42:1-4) and that He would die with the wicked (53:9). Other prophecies foretold that He would be born in Bethlehem (Micah 5:2), that He would be betrayed for 30 pieces of silver (Zechariah 11:12-13), that He would enter Jerusalem on a donkey (9:9) and that He would be like a smitten shepherd (13:7). These are just a sampling of the many prophecies about the birth, life and death of Jesus Christ.
As prophecy foretold, Jesus was born of a virgin in the town of Bethlehem (Matthew 1:23; 2:1). "Now the birth of Jesus Christ was as follows: After His mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Spirit" (1:18). An angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and told him: "Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take to you Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit" (v. 20). God the Father begat Jesus—His Son—through the power of the Holy Spirit. "'And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.' So all this was done that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying: 'Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,' which is translated, 'God with us'" (vv. 21-23).
The name Jesus signifies "Savior." Jesus became the Savior of the world. But how did He become so? Remember, He was Immanuel, "God with us"—God in the flesh! Where did He come from? "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made" (John 1:1-3).
This Word of whom the Apostle John spoke was the One who became Jesus Christ in the flesh. Notice: "And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth" (John 1:14).
This Word is the One through whom God created all things. The Apostle Paul plainly states that God "created all things through Jesus Christ" (Ephesians 3:9). Also: "For by Him 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).
Here is an awesome truth of the Bible: the Word—who existed with God and as God—came in the flesh as the begotten Son of God, to become the Savior of the World! His life was worth more than all the human beings who have ever lived, or ever will live. He sacrificed His life to pay for the sins of the world, as only He could do. He was pictured as the sacrificial lamb. Notice how John the Baptist testified of Him: "The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, 'Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!'" (John 1:29).
Perhaps you feel the pain of guilt and sin. There is a way to turn your life around. Jesus, the Lamb of God, took upon Himself your sins. But in order to be reconciled to God, you must believe—and respond to—the true gospel. As Jesus proclaimed: "The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel" (Mark 1:15).
It is amazing how many preachers will tell you to believe, but they will not tell you to repent. Jesus Himself told us all to repent! Our Savior commands every human being on earth to repent and believe. Does God really demand something more than belief? The Apostle Peter said that He does. What did Peter say on the day of Pentecost, addressing thousands in his inspired sermon on the day the New Testament Church began? He said: "Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission [forgiveness] of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit" (Acts 2:38). Thousands who heard him were convicted of their sins, and were baptized on that day, receiving the promised gift of the Holy Spirit.
When I was about 12 years old, I questioned the teachings I heard in church. I said to myself: "I wonder if Jesus even exists?" So, I thought: "Well, I will just read what these biographers Matthew, Mark, Luke and John said about Him." Even as a 12-year-old, I was amazed by what I found, particularly when I started reading the "Sermon on the Mount." For example, Jesus said: "But I tell you not to resist an evil person. But whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also" (Matthew 5:39). I thought: "His teachings are revolutionary!" And in my own limited way, I changed my approach to life, though I would not be called to real repentance until many years later.
Many, when they finally read the Bible for themselves, have experiences like mine. Author Bruce Barton was "turned off" by the false Jesus presented in a Sunday School class. He wrote: "The little boy [Barton, writing about himself] looked up at the picture which hung on the Sunday-school wall. It showed a pale young man with flabby forearms and a sad expression. The young man had red whiskers. Then the little boy looked across to the other wall. There was Daniel, good old Daniel, standing off the lions. The little boy liked Daniel. He liked David, too, with the trusty sling that landed a stone square on the forehead of Goliath. And Moses, with his rod and his big brass snake. They were winners—those three.… But Jesus! Jesus was the 'lamb of God.' The little boy did not know what that meant, but it sounded like Mary's little lamb. Something for girls—sissified. Jesus was also 'meek and lowly,' a 'man of sorrows and acquainted with grief.' He went around for three years telling people not to do things" (The Man Nobody Knows, pp. i-ii).
Like Barton, I once had a false concept of the real Jesus. Perhaps you have, too. But if you will read the Bible for yourself, you may be surprised to discover that many of the popular images, concepts, and teachings often presented as "Christianity" are quite different from the truths found in Scripture.
Barton came to see a contradiction between Jesus' preaching and the world's false image of Him. Barton wrote of his re-discovery of the biblical Jesus Christ: "The more sermons he [Barton] heard and the more books he read the more mystified he became. One day he decided to wipe his mind clean of books and sermons. He said, 'I will read what the men who knew Jesus personally said about him. I will read about him as though he were a new historical character, about whom I had never heard anything at all.' The man was amazed. A physical weakling! Where did they get that idea? Jesus pushed a plane and swung an adze; he was a successful carpenter. He slept outdoors and spent his days walking around his favorite lake. His muscles were so strong that when he drove the money-changers out, nobody dared to oppose him! A kill-joy! He was the most popular dinner guest in Jerusalem! The criticism which proper people made was that he spent too much time with publicans and sinners… and enjoyed society too much. They called him a 'wine bibber and a gluttonous man'…. When the man finished his reading he exclaimed, 'This is a man nobody knows'" (ibid., pp. iii-iv).
Do you know the true Jesus of the Bible? Are you sure? I challenge you to start reading through the New Testament with a fresh, objective view, just as Bruce Barton did. As many of us have found, the image of Jesus that many preachers present to the world is not the Jesus revealed in your Bible!
Often, the attempt to celebrate Jesus' birthday obscures the real purpose of His birth. Do you know why He was born? Do you even know when He was born? Do you know what He taught about keeping the commandments? Do you know which biblical festivals Jesus observed, and expected His disciples to observe?
Why was Jesus born? Notice what the angel told Mary before His birth: "And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bring forth a Son, and shall call His name Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Highest; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David. And He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of His kingdom there will be no end" (Luke 1:31-33).
Jesus' message was about the Kingdom of God on earth! He will return as King of kings and Lord of lords (Revelation 17:14; 19:16). He will sit upon the throne of David, and rule over all the nations. As Isaiah wrote: "Of the increase of His government and peace there will be no end" (Isaiah 9:7). That is great news, and we all need to pray, as Jesus taught us: "Thy Kingdom come!"
When was Jesus born? Was Jesus born in December on Christmas Day? It may be surprising to some, but we can be sure that He was not. Luke recounts that Joseph and Mary had traveled back to Bethlehem for the census mandated by Caesar Augustus. The city was crowded, so Joseph and Mary had to find alternative accommodations. Jesus was born in Bethlehem, and placed in a manger (Luke 2:7). Notice the setting and the time of year: "Now there were in the same country shepherds living out in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night" (v. 8).
Most Bible scholars plainly admit that shepherds were not in the field in December. The cold, rainy season began long before December 25. Jesus was probably born in late September or early October, as most reputable Bible commentaries acknowledge. Why do we so often accept traditions and teachings without checking up on them? Some of our concepts and ideas disagree with the Bible! Jesus never observed His birthday, and neither did the Apostles! As the Encyclopaedia Britannica states: "According to a Roman almanac, the Christian festival of Christmas was celebrated in Rome by AD 336" ("Christmas," p. 903). Notice also the following: "The Fathers of the 2nd and 3rd centuries, such as Clement of Alexandria, Origen, and Epiphanius, contended that Christmas was a copy of a pagan celebration" ("Christianity" p. 499).
When you read the book of Acts, you see that the Apostolic Church of the first century—the New Testament Church—never observed Christmas or the birth of Christ. The true Apostolic Church of the first century observed the biblical festivals: the New Testament Passover, Pentecost, the Feast of Trumpets, the Day of Atonement, the Feast of Tabernacles and the Last Great Day. Scripture records plainly that Jesus Christ observed the Last Great Day of the Feast. The Apostle John referred to this Feast day when he wrote: "On the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out, saying, 'If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink. He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water'" (John 7:37-38).
Jesus observed the biblical festivals, and genuine Christians strive to follow His example. As the Apostle Peter stated: "For to this you were called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps" (1 Peter 2:21).
Is traditional Christianity following in Jesus' steps? Is it observing the weekly Sabbath—the seventh day of the week—as Jesus did? Christ stated that He, "the Son of Man, is also Lord of the Sabbath" (Mark 2:28). As we know from Genesis 2:3, God sanctified the seventh day at creation. And for whom was the Sabbath made? Jesus stated: "The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath" (Mark 2:27). The Sabbath was made for all humanity as a day of rest, and as a memorial of God's great creation. Remember, God created all things, including the Sabbath day, through Jesus Christ (Ephesians 3:9).
The Jewish historian Josephus referred to Jesus' brother, the Apostle James, who wrote the New Testament book of James. In the first century ad, Josephus wrote the following: "Festus was now dead, and Albinus was but upon the road; so he assembled the Sanhedrin of judges, and brought before them the brother of Jesus, who was called Christ, whose name was James, and some others, [or, some of his companions]; and when he had formed an accusation against them as breakers of the law, he delivered them to be stoned" (Antiquities of the Jews, Bk. 20, chap. 9, sec. 1).
Yes, there is historic evidence for the existence of Jesus Christ. Amazingly, some will accept the testimony of a historian like Josephus, yet ignore the eyewitness testimony of Jesus' contemporaries. Matthew, Mark, Luke and John all wrote and testified about the life, miracles, and teachings of our Savior. The Apostle John even wrote: "That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, concerning the Word of life; the life was manifested, and we have seen, and bear witness, and declare to you that eternal life which was with the Father and was manifested to us."
The Apostle John testifies in this passage that not only did he and the other Apostles hear and see the Word of Life—Jesus, the Messiah—but they also touched him. After His resurrection, Jesus told doubting Thomas to put his hand into the spear wound that killed Him. He commanded: "Reach your finger here, and look at My hands; and reach your hand here, and put it into My side. Do not be unbelieving, but believing" (John 20:27). What was Thomas' response? "And Thomas answered and said to Him, 'My Lord and my God!'" (v. 28).
Jesus Christ died and was resurrected. He is alive today. If He were not, we would still be in our sins. As Paul wrote: "For if the dead do not rise, then Christ is not risen. And if Christ is not risen, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins!" (1 Corinthians 15:16-17). But the good news is stated next: "But now Christ is risen from the dead, and has become the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For since by man came death, by Man also came the resurrection of the dead" (vv. 20-21).
So who is Jesus? He is our living Savior! He is our great High Priest, as the Apostle Paul explains (Hebrews 3:1; 4:14). He is at the right hand of God in heaven, where He "makes intercession for us" (Romans 8:34). He will soon come back to Earth as King of kings and Lord of lords, to establish the Kingdom of God on Earth, and to bring us world peace! Will you be ready for His return? Will you accept His sacrifice and shed blood for the payment of your sins? Thank God that the Bible reveals the Savior of the world, Jesus Christ—our living Savior!