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God's Only Law Chapter 8

Jesus Then and Now

 

What does God tell us about Jesus’s two appearances?


One of the most critical themes in the Old Testament points to Jesus’s first appearance. He came that first time, as the lamb of God and the Old Testament provided over three hundred prophecies about Jesus’s first appearance, “Declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times the things that are not yet done, saying, My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure:” (Isa. 46:10), and Jesus told us people would not be persuaded unless they believed Moses and the prophets, “And he said unto him, If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead.” (Lk. 16:31). God gives us the free will to ignore His prophecies or use them to elevate our faith. He wants us to know He is the eternal King and He came to show us His form of reigning; love, not force, “Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion; shout, O daughter of Jerusalem: behold, thy King cometh unto thee: he is just, and having salvation; lowly, and riding upon an ass, and upon a colt the foal of an ass.” (Zech. 9:9), and He is patient enough to wait for us to accept His offer. He will not force it upon us.


God’s prophecies also emphasize the hardened hearts of the religious leaders, who knew them well and still ignored the fact that Jesus fulfilled all of them. Nevertheless, many who saw Jesus believed, including doubting Thomas, albeit only after seeing the wounds in His resurrected body, “Jesus saith unto him, Thomas, because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed.” (Jn. 20:29). However, many others chose to deny the truth Who stood before them, “Jesus answered them, Many good works have I shewed you from my Father; for which of those works do ye stone me? The Jews answered him, saying, For a good work we stone thee not; but for blasphemy; and because that thou, being a man, makest thyself God.” (Jn. 10:32-33), even though they witnessed the miracles. He was not making Himself God. He is God. They ignored the prophecies and His works because they did not want to acknowledge He is the Messiah. Those religious leaders thought Jesus had come to expose their made-up laws and to undermine their authority. However, when they chose to deny Jesus’s deity, were they not at the same time proving He really existed?


Part of the great mystery of Christ is that so many people choose to deny the truth, even some who witnessed His miracles, His healing power, His resurrections of the dead, and the fact this life is better when we live His law of love, “And when he thus had spoken, he cried with a loud voice, Lazarus, come forth. And he that was dead came forth, bound hand and foot with graveclothes: and his face was bound about with a napkin. Jesus saith unto them, Loose him, and let him go.” (Jn. 11:43-44). Many ignore the historical evidence of Jesus’s existence and His sacrifice on the cross, even though plenty of non-Christian references from that period are available today. If Jesus is the Messiah, could anything in this life be more important than examining the evidence? Yet mysteriously, people refuse to consider the evidence and accept unfounded rumors instead.


We can all agree that there is a dispute about which names we should use in our calendar; A.D., B.C., B.C.E., or C.E. I have wrestled with this dispute and continue to wonder why removing any reference to God from these names is so important to some people?  B.C. was first used because they wanted to distinguish between the period “before Christ” and the A.D. period after He first appeared to us, “Anno Domini” in Latin, or “in the year of our Lord” in English. Both Dionysius Exiguus and Pope Gregory XIII tried to sync the calendar with God’s created cycles of the seasons. Their primary purpose was to accurately identify Easter Sunday for future years. Hundreds of years later, the Age of Enlightenment, a period in which some people were desperately trying to remove God from their lives, produced the replacement names of B.C.E., “Before the Current Era,” and C.E., “Current Era.” This period also brought us the false narrative of evolution for the same reason. What good has all of our disobedience produced?


When God placed Adam and Eve in the garden, they experienced what life will be like in heaven. Everything worked together perfectly, “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.” (Rom. 8:28). Satan then came to Eve to create doubt. This doubt grew to disobedience, leading both Adam and Eve away from God’s perfect creation, as they no longer loved God to obedience, “If ye love me, keep my commandments.” (Jn. 14:15), and they had only one commandment to keep. Little did they know that that commandment was the essence of God’s law of love, “For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this; Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.” (Gal. 5:14), for all of the law is fulfilled when we love God.


We can think of this world as our chance to experience both heaven and hell. When we are working together to complete God’s family by living His law of love, everything works together to bring us Jesus’s peace and everyone benefits from our behavior. This is the convergent space where heaven and earth kiss. When we do not love God, we think everything should work together for our own benefit, selfishness rules our hearts. This is where earth and hell converge to produce pain and suffering. It is our disobedience, foolishly displayed, that turns this world into our temporary hell, causing some of us to take our own lives. We therefore, are deciding our own eternal future by choosing to either obey or disobey God’s law of love. And, we cannot love Him or keep His commandments, if we do not believe He exists, “But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.” (Heb. 11:6).


Because so many deny Jesus is the Son of God, I continually look for proof sources in hopes of being ready to answer the questions people ask about God and the Bible. So, I read “The Resurrection of the Son of God” by N.T. Wright. It is easy to lay down the free will God has given us and accept the lies intended to drive us away from God. However, Wright’s book painstakingly takes us through most of the available evidence of Jesus’s crucifixion and resurrection. In addition, this book identifies many of the historical references available from non-Christian sources, which adequately prove Jesus walked this earth and died, as the Bible tells us. After reasoning with the evidence, I wondered why I ever doubted what I have always felt deep in my heart, “I was not created to live in this world,” there is just too much hatred and strife. Doubt is the devil's disease that leads us away from God to our own death, and Eve was the first one to be infected.


I have since learned; that all the proof I ever needed was available in the Bible. All I had to do was read it, reason with it, and then apply the truths to my daily life to experience the fullness of God’s peace and the proof that He changes lives, “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.” (2 Cor. 5:17), He certainly changed mine.


The Bible tells us Jesus was there before time began, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” (Jn. 1:1). He was later born into our world of a woman in Bethlehem, “But thou, Bethlehem Ephratah, though thou be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of thee shall he come forth unto me that is to be ruler in Israel; whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting.” (Mic. 5:2). God told us it would be a virgin birth, another miracle to be witnessed, “Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.” (Isa. 7:14), and Jesus would be the Prince of Peace for all who accept Him as their Savior, “For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.” (Isa. 9:6).


Jesus would come this first time humbly to announce His kingdom, riding upon the colt of an ass to bring us salvation, “Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion; shout, O daughter of Jerusalem: behold, thy King cometh unto thee: he is just, and having salvation; lowly, and riding upon an ass, and upon a colt the foal of an ass.” (Zech. 9:9).


Jesus spent forty days with His followers, after His resurrection, to leave us plenty of eyewitnesses, proving He had risen and is not some fictional character, “And ye also shall bear witness, because ye have been with me from the beginning.” (Jn. 15:27), and “To whom also he shewed himself alive after his passion by many infallible proofs, being seen of them forty days, and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God … But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.” (Acts 1:3, 8). He is talking about you and me. We do not live in Jerusalem, Judaea, or Samaria; we live in the “uttermost part of the earth.” We are the living proof of the continuing progress of Peter’s work, assigned to him by Jesus, “This is now the third time that Jesus shewed himself to his disciples, after that he was risen from the dead. So when they had dined, Jesus saith to Simon Peter, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me more than these? He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee. He saith unto him, Feed my lambs. He saith to him again the second time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me? He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee. He saith unto him, Feed my sheep. He saith unto him the third time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me? Peter was grieved because he said unto him the third time, Lovest thou me? And he said unto him, Lord, thou knowest all things; thou knowest that I love thee. Jesus saith unto him, Feed my sheep.” (Jn. 21:14-17).


Jesus came to help us understand Him and the Bible. He fully explained His mission, we cannot pretend He came for any other purpose. “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.” - C.S. Lewis (Mere Christianity).


We can use His Word and His prophecies to establish our faith, but only when we are drawn to His love will we hear them, “But ye believe not, because ye are not of my sheep, as I said unto you. My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me:” (Jn. 10:26-27).


One of the most significant themes in the New Testament points us to Jesus’s second coming. He wants us to prepare for eternity, and once we learn God wants to spend eternity with us, we are no longer in a hurry to have our own way, and we can relax and live His selfless law of love.


When Jesus returns, it will be as the Lion of Judah, bringing the host of heaven. A trump shall announce His coming, and those who have chosen to ignore Him will mourn, as they watch those who decided to accept Him rise to meet Him in the sky, “And then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven: and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. And he shall send his angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.” (Matt. 24:30-31). The trump will sound without warning, there will be no time to change our minds, “For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.” (1 Thess. 4:16-17).


It will be like the day Noe entered the ark after 120 years of building it, “For as in the days that were before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noe entered into the ark, And knew not until the flood came, and took them all away; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be.” (Matt. 24:38-39). Apparently, 120 years of warnings were not enough for the people of Noe’s day. Hopefully, 2,000 years have been enough for us, “In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.” (1 Cor. 15:52). Every eye will see His return, and many will wail at their loss, “Behold, he cometh with clouds; and every eye shall see him, and they also which pierced him: and all kindreds of the earth shall wail because of him. Even so, Amen.” (Rev. 1:7). If Jesus suddenly appeared to us and told us He would be coming back tomorrow, would we believe Him? If we knew Jesus was standing next to us, would it change the way we lived? Would we be kinder and more forgiving? How would we respond to the temptations of this world?


The truth is Jesus is standing next to each of us, “Let your conversation be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have: for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.” (Heb. 13:5), and Jesus proved it when He walked in the fire with Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, “He answered and said, Lo, I see four men loose, walking in the midst of the fire, and they have no hurt; and the form of the fourth is like the Son of God.” (Dan. 3:25). When we surrender to His love, we become a new person, and the works of the devil no longer have a hold over us, “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.” (2 Cor. 5:17).


God has Peter explain the need for us to be patient during these 2,000 years of waiting for Jesus’s second coming. God does not want any of us to perish without being given every possible opportunity to change our minds, accept His offer, and repent, as Dustin Higgs did. God waits for each of us to come to Him, like a father waiting for his daughter to come home from her first date. The main difference being this Father already knows who will come home to Him. Can we imagine what the father waiting for his daughter would feel if he already knew she would not return that night? My heart aches at the thought. Yet, this is the pain God feels every time one of us refuses to reason with His truth. His longsuffering encourages us to have the patience necessary to wait for our Savior’s return, as He is waiting for us to complete His family. The judgment awaits all; however, only those who willingly accept Jesus as our Savior will be saved, “The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance. But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up.” (2 Pet. 3:9-10).


When we step before our Lord and Savior, on the day of judgment, we will either hear, “His lord said unto him, Well done, good and faithful servant; thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord.” (Matt. 25:23) or “And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.” (Matt. 7:23). In this life, we will choose which of these two greetings we will receive. Jesus wants all of us to choose to be with Him forever; however, He will not force any of us to love Him, “Say unto them, As I live, saith the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked; but that the wicked turn from his way and live: turn ye, turn ye from your evil ways; for why will ye die, O house of Israel?” (Eze. 33:11).


Jesus did not die on the cross and ascend from the grave for no reason. These two events are the most profound moments in all human history. The reason for them is no less profound; He did these things so that we might have a choice. God wants us to know He resurrected Jesus. He desires to do the same for us, “And God hath both raised up the Lord, and will also raise up us by his own power.” (1 Cor. 6:14). Otherwise, we have only the hopelessness that has led so many of us to take our own lives because we no longer want to live in this world. Unfortunately, some of us will choose to live selfish lives, defiantly demonstrating our separation from God, "But your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid his face from you, that he will not hear.” (Isa. 59:2).


So, what is Jesus doing now? He is preparing a place for each of us in His Father’s house, “Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.” (Jn. 14:1-3).


He is holding His creation together, “And he is before all things, and by him all things consist.” (Col. 1:17), and “In whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will:” (Eph. 1:11). And He has shortened this earth’s history, “And except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved: but for the elect’s sake those days shall be shortened.” (Matt. 24:22), because Jesus’s return will come before humanity has the chance to annihilate itself, which became possible when we dropped the first atomic bomb.


The Jewish diaspora ended when Jesus fulfilled prophecy by helping Israel become a nation in 1948, ending thousands of years of exile and calling the Jewish people home to Jerusalem, “And when ye shall see Jerusalem compassed with armies, then know that the desolation thereof is nigh. Then let them which are in Judaea flee to the mountains; and let them which are in the midst of it depart out; and let not them that are in the countries enter thereinto. For these be the days of vengeance, that all things which are written may be fulfilled.” (Lk. 21:20-22), those living before 1948 would not have believed the creation of a Jewish state was likely. But with God, all things are possible, and now Jerusalem is part of the nation of Israel, fulfilling that part of this prophecy.  And Israel is surrounded by enemy armies, who have unsuccessfully attempted to destroy Israel twice, 1967 and 1973.  But God protected Israel both times.


Jesus continues to inspire us to spread His Word to the uttermost part of the earth, “And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come.” (Matt. 24:14). Today, many of God’s servants are working hard to fulfill this prophecy, and it will be completed soon. God had Daniel give

us this prophecy, “But thou, O Daniel, shut up the words, and seal the book, even to the time of the end: many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall be increased." (Dan. 12:4), so 2,500 years later we might experience their fulfillment and thus have our faith bolstered by air travel becoming commonplace and the internet’s continually making knowledge more accessible.


Jesus is patiently waiting for the correct number of us to prepare ourselves for the wedding to come, “Let us be glad and rejoice, and give honour to him: for the marriage of the Lamb is come, and his wife hath made herself ready.” (Rev. 19:7). And it will be a giant celebration. He already knows who among us will choose to live with Him. But, He also knows we need to go through the sanctification process, like David, Moses, and Saul did before they were fit for His kingdom. So, He patiently waits for us.


We could choose to remain trapped in our doubt, or we could allow Jesus to teach us God’s wisdom, which will then lead us to the truth being hidden amongst the lies of this world, “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.” (Jam. 1:5). Jesus is doing exactly what He needs to do. He is calling us to come home to Him.

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