How did life and all things begin? Who is the Creator

The Biblical doctrine regarding creation is a crucial to the Christian Faith. Though there are many who claim to be Christian who no longer believe the Genesis account, I would have to question why they would even lay claim to being Christian. If God did not create the heavens and the earth as described in the first two chapters of Genesis, then why would one place his or her faith in Christ Jesus, God the Son and Maker of all who came into this world to redeem us from sin and the judgment of God upon us by dying on a cross? If God did not create us, what authority would He have to give us commandments and be our judge? And, if God will not be our judge, why do we need Jesus Christ and His atoning sacrifice for sin?

If God is not our Creator and Judge, Jesus becomes nothing more than a great moral teacher who might be able to guide people into making this world in which we live by chance existence a better place — and Jesus really becomes no better than any other moral teacher or religious faith. And, sad to say, that is exactly what so many churches are teaching these days. For them, being a Christian is nothing more than following the benevolent teachings and example of Jesus to make this world a little bit better.

Being Christian, however, is so much more than looking to Jesus as an example and teacher of love and charity. Being a Christian is to believe what He says in His Word about creation, sin, judgment and the atoning sacrifice He provided. It is to acknowledge our utter sinfulness and guilt before the God who created us and will be our judge; and it is to trust that Jesus Christ, the eternal Son of God made man, fulfilled God’s righteous demands in our place and suffered, in our stead, the just punishment we deserved when He died on the cross and then rose again on the third day.

Therefore, we look at the Bible’s teaching about creation.

How did life and all things begin?

How is it that this world and the universe came to be? How did life begin and why does it go on? Is it all the result of chance over extreme lengths of time? Or is it the result of an intelligent creator who wisely designed and created all things?

While many have speculated and theorized, there is one eye-witness account of how all came to be and who is behind it.

Many scoff and criticize this account and offer alternative theories with no foundation in truth in an attempt to escape the accountability which goes with the creation account, but wisdom calls upon us to seek the truth and accept it, along with any accountability which accompanies that truth.

That one eye-witness account is recorded for all to know in the first two chapters of Genesis. It is the account of the Creator Himself, recorded by Moses for all to read and know the truth.

That account begins in Genesis 1:1-3: “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form, and void; and darkness was on the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters. Then God said, ‘Let there be light’; and there was light.”

Who is the Creator?

Who is the Creator? The Bible, which is God’s inspired account, tells us that “in the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.”

And, who is this God? The Hebrew word, Elohim, which is the plural form of God, is the descriptor used to describe the Creator (cf. Genesis 1:26-27). He is also called by the name Jehovah, often translated LORD. “This is the history of the heavens and the earth when they were created, in the day that the LORD God made the earth and the heavens” (Genesis 2:4).

The Bible further defines God, when it says in 1 Corinthians 8:6: “Yet for us there is one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we for Him; and one Lord Jesus Christ, through whom are all things, and through whom we live.” Thus we see that all things were created by God the Father through Jesus Christ.

God’s creation account also tells us that, in the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth, “the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters” (Genesis 1:2). Thus we see that the Holy Spirit, too, was active in the creation of all things.

The opening verses of John’s Gospel (John 1:1-4) tell us: “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. In Him was life, and the life was the light of men.” Thus we see that the Word, Jesus Christ, identified in v. 14 as God Himself in the flesh and the only begotten Son of the Father, created all things and is the giver of life, both physical and spiritual.

In St. Paul’s letter to the Colossians (Colossians 1:15-17), the inspired Scriptures say of Christ Jesus, that “He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. 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. And He is before all things, and in Him all things consist.”

So, who is the Creator? It is God, the God the Scriptures identify for us as God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit.

Though God is one – “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one” (Deuteronomy 6:4) – God is also three – thus, the command to “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 28:19). This is why the God of the Bible is often called the Triune (three/one) God, because He is one God and yet three distinct Persons. Thus, the Father is God, the Son is God and the Holy Spirit is God. Yet, there are not three Gods, but one God.

The Bible tells us in 1 John 5:7: “For there are three that bear witness in heaven: the Father, the Word, and the Holy Spirit; and these three are one.”

Though beyond our ability to comprehend, this is how God has revealed Himself to us – it is His account and His word. And it is this God who has created all things and has given us life.

[Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.]

How Should We Pray?

“Lord, do not trouble Yourself, for I am not worthy that You should enter under my roof. Therefore I did not even think myself worthy to come to You. But say the word, and my servant will be healed….” Luke 7:6-7 (Read Luke 7:1-10)

How should we come to God in prayer? Do we come to God and expect Him to grant our prayers because of our works and worthiness? Many would tell us that we should come to God “in faith” and demand that He grant our petitions, and some would even accuse us of a lack of faith if our petitions are not granted in the way or manner we asked of God. But who does Jesus hold up as an example of one praying in faith? He holds up a Roman centurion.

The elders of the Jews came to Jesus with the petition of the centurion for his sick servant, urging Jesus to come because the centurion was worthy. He loved the Jewish people and had even built a synagogue for the Jews.

And when Jesus went with them, what happened? The centurion sent word to Jesus, saying, “Lord, do not trouble Yourself, for I am not worthy that You should enter under my roof. Therefore I did not even think myself worthy to come to You. But say the word, and my servant will be healed. For I also am a man placed under authority, having soldiers under me. And I say to one, ‘Go,’ and he goes; and to another, ‘Come,’ and he comes; and to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.”

The centurion, though accustomed to giving orders, did not count himself worthy to come to Jesus or demand that Jesus come and lay hands on his sick servant and heal him. Rather, he acknowledged that he was unworthy to ask anything of Jesus or to have Jesus come under the roof of his home. But he did have faith in Jesus as the Son of God. He knew and believed it was not necessary for Jesus to come to his house. Jesus could just say the word and His servant would be healed.

Jesus “marveled at him, and turned around and said to the crowd that followed Him, ‘I say to you, I have not found such great faith, not even in Israel!’”

What does this teach us about how we come to God in prayer? Are we worthy because of our works and service? Not at all! When we do serve the Lord Jesus, we are only humble servants doing the will of our Master. Can we come to the Lord Jesus with our prayers? Most certainly! He won for us that right and privilege when He died on the cross for our sins and rose again (cf. 1 John 5:14-15; Galatians 3:26ff.; Romans 8:14-17; Hebrews 10:19ff.).

Can Jesus answer our prayers without coming visibly into our homes and lives? Yes! He is the Son of God and can just say the word, and it will be done (cf. Genesis 1; Jeremiah 32:17). He is still the Son of God who urges us to pray and promises to answer (cf. Matthew 7:7ff.; 28:20; John 14:8-11,13-14; James 1:5ff.; 4:2ff.).

Does He desire to grant our petitions? Yes, He healed the centurion’s servant (v. 10); and, a few verses later, raised the dead son of a widow woman at Nain even before she asked. God’s Word tells us in Isaiah 65:24: “It shall come to pass that before they call, I will answer; and while they are still speaking, I will hear.”

Dear Lord Jesus, grant us humbleness and faith to trust You for life and salvation and to come to You in prayer, for the sake of Your cross. Amen.

[Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.]

Will God judge America?

God does not wish to bring judgment upon America, but He will. God does not wish to condemn anyone to hell, but he will. Why do I say this? Because God Himself says it.

I’ve been reading in Isaiah of late and comparing the burden of the LORD against the nations which were neighbors to Old Testament Israel and Judah and then comparing that to the fulfillment of those prophecies in history. In some cases world powers were overthrown and wiped out in a single night. Nations and kingdoms which were the envy of the civilized world were reduced to rubble and ashes. Again and again, accounts from secular history show the fulfillment of the warnings recorded by the prophets.

And, of course, the warnings of impending judgment for wickedness and pride did not stop with Israel’s surrounding nations and peoples. God warned His own people of the judgment which would come upon them because of their rejection of Him and His Word, for their turning aside into the ways of the world around them. Again, God’s Word was fulfilled. Not only did the neighboring nations harass and threaten God’s people, the Assyrians destroyed Israel and much of Judah and carried away those not killed as captives. And though God spared Jerusalem and Judah from utter destruction under the Assyrians, He sent the Babylonians to conquer and destroy God’s people and carry away a remnant as captives and slaves.

Why? They disobeyed God’s law and rejected His Word. Instead of trusting in the LORD God who gave them the land, they neglected His Word and walked in the ways of the ungodly nations around them. Did God wish to judge and destroy them? No. He warned them repeatedly and called upon them again and again to repent and return unto Him. Did God judge them? Yes, because they rejected Him and lived according to their own morals and values.

God commanded Ezekiel to say to them (33:11): “‘As I live,’ says the Lord God, ‘I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live. Turn, turn from your evil ways! For why should you die, O house of Israel?’”

Through Isaiah, God said (1:18-20): “’Come now, and let us reason together,’ Says the Lord, ‘Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall be as wool. If you are willing and obedient, you shall eat the good of the land; but if you refuse and rebel, you shall be devoured by the sword’; for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.”

God did not desire to judge and condemn His people. He desired that His people repent and return to Him for mercy and forgiveness and then live in accord with His Word. Why did He then judge? Because, ultimately, the people did not repent and return to Him.

Does God desire to judge America? No, His first and primary desire is that the American people repent and return to Him and the truths of His Word. Will He judge America? Yes. He is a just God who punishes iniquity, transgression and sin (Ex. 20:5; 34:7). How could He not judge America for turning aside from Him and from the Bible and placing trust in our nation’s greatness and military might? How could He overlook the abominations our government protects — the killing of millions of unborn and the perversion of marriage and sexuality? How could He not punish a nation which calls good evil and evil good? Unless America and its people repent, judgment is coming and it may be swift and without mercy!

Does God wish to condemn you or anyone else to hell? The answer, of course, is no. When speaking of God’s delay in judging this world, the apostle Peter wrote: “The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance” (2 Pet. 3:9). Did you get that? God is allowing this sinful and evil world to go on a little longer — He suffers it long — because it is not His will that anyone suffer eternal death and punishment in hell but that all repent and look to Him for mercy and forgiveness in Christ Jesus, who suffered and died for the sins of all and rose again on the third day. God does not desire to judge and condemn you to the fires of hell. He desires that you repent and believe in the Lord Jesus Christ!

Will God judge and condemn people to hell? If you listen to many of today’s preachers, you might think no one will be condemned and hell will be an empty place. But that’s not what Jesus said. According to Jesus, “He will also say to those on the left hand, ‘Depart from Me, you cursed, into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels’” (Matt. 25:41). The apostle Paul wrote to the Thessalonians that the “Lord Jesus [will be] revealed from heaven with His mighty angels, in flaming fire taking vengeance on those who do not know God, and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. These shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power” (2 Thess. 1:7-9). Will people be condemned to the fires of hell? Most definitely!

Since God’s first and primary will is for our salvation, He sent His Son to redeem us and He is giving to each of us and to every other human being living in this world opportunity to consider His Word, repent and trust in the Lord Jesus Christ for forgiveness of sins and for life everlasting in Christ’s heavenly kingdom. But, yes, if we do not repent and look to the Lord Jesus Christ and His cross for mercy and forgiveness, we will be condemned to the eternal fires of hell!

To quote the words of Mark 16:16, “He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned” (cf. John 3:18,36).

By Randy Moll, pastor at Good Shepherd Lutheran Church in Rogers. Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Upon what do you build your life?

“But why do you call Me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do the things which I say? Whoever comes to Me, and hears My sayings and does them, I will show you whom he is like: He is like a man building a house, who dug deep and laid the foundation on the rock. And when the flood arose, the stream beat vehemently against that house, and could not shake it, for it was founded on the rock. But he who heard and did nothing is like a man who built a house on the earth without a foundation, against which the stream beat vehemently; and immediately it fell. And the ruin of that house was great.” Luke 6:46-49

Upon what have you built your life? Is it built upon Jesus Christ and His Word? Or is it built upon some earthly foundation? Jesus told this parable because of those who addressed Him as “Lord” and listened to His teaching but did not do what He taught. They heard Jesus’ words with their ears and called upon Him with their lips, but their hearts were far from Him (cf. Matt. 15:8). They did not trust in Jesus for salvation or seek to live their lives as He commanded.

The first man in Jesus’ parable, the man who dug down deep and laid the foundation of his house upon the rock, is like the one who hears Jesus’ Word and then trusts in Him and His redemptive work for the forgiveness of sins and life everlasting. As a child of God through faith in Christ’s shed blood, he then seeks to live his life for his Lord and Savior by hearing and doing His Word. When floods of trouble, suffering and persecution come his way, he is not moved because his faith and life are built upon Jesus Christ and His eternal Word.

The second man, who built his house upon the earth without a foundation, is like the man who hears Jesus’ Word and even calls himself a Christian; but he does not trust in Christ alone for forgiveness of sins and eternal life, nor does he truly seek and desire to live in obedience to the Word of God. His life is not built upon Christ, but upon the earth and its vain philosophies. When trouble, suffering or death come his way, his life crumbles because all that his life was built upon washes away.

Upon what have you built your life? Is it built upon Christ and His Word? or upon the unstable sands of this world? If you live your life according to the ways and standards of this world, both you and your works will not stand in God’s judgment. But if you build your life upon Christ and His Word, you will be “as mount Zion, which cannot be removed, but abideth for ever” (Psalm 125:1). Hear Christ’s Word and build upon it!

In faith, Lord, let me serve Thee; tho’ persecution, grief, and pain should seek to overwhelm me, let me a steadfast trust retain; and then at my departure take Thou me home to Thee and let me there inherit all Thou hast promised me. In life and death, Lord, keep me until Thy heav’n I gain, where I by Thy great mercy the end of faith attain. Amen. (TLH, Hymn #381, Verse 3)

[Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.]

Do you hear His voice?

“But you do not believe, because you are not of My sheep, as I said to you. My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me. And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand. My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of My Father’s hand. I and My Father are one.” John 10:26-30 (cf. John 10:1-39)

Jesus is the Good Shepherd. He gave His life for the sheep when He suffered and died on the cross for the sins of the world and rose again in victory (v. 11,17-18). But not all believe on Him as their Savior. Many do not hear His voice calling them to repent and look to Him for pardon, forgiveness and life eternal. They do not hear and recognize His voice and follow Him as do His sheep (v. 3-5). Do you hear Jesus calling, recognize His voice and follow Him? Are you one of Jesus’ sheep? (cf. v.14).

What Has Jesus accomplished for all His sheep – even for the whole world? He gave His life for the sheep! “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned, every one, to his own way; and the LORD has laid on Him the iniquity of us all” (Isaiah 53:6). Jesus, as our sacrifice, made full atonement for our sins and the sins of the whole world (cf. 1 John 2:1-2).

And Jesus, our crucified and risen Savior, calls to us and offers to us forgiveness and life in His name. He seeks us out as a good shepherd does his lost and wondering sheep. Through the word of His Law, He shows us our sinful and erring ways and the end result – eternal death and everlasting punishment (cf. 2 Thess. 1:7-9). And, through the word of His Gospel, He calls to us and offers to us pardon and life, green pastures, still waters and the protection of His rod and staff (cf. Psalm 23; John 10:1ff.; 10:9-10; Isaiah 40:11).

But not all recognize the voice of the Good Shepherd. Those intent on going their own ways, following their own paths and choosing their own pastures and filthy watering holes do not listen to His voice or recognize Him as the Son of God, their anointed Savior. They reject Jesus and the life He offers and gives, even accusing Him of blasphemy (cf. v 25ff.).

Jesus’ sheep – those graciously predestined and chosen of God – hear Jesus calling in His Word, the Bible (v. 27-28). By the Holy Spirit’s working, they come to recognize Jesus’ voice as the voice of God calling them to repent of their wandering ways and look to Jesus, the Good Shepherd who gave His life for the sheep and redeemed them. They hear His voice and follow Him, knowing that He will keep them in the true and saving faith unto life everlasting. No one is able to snatch them from Jesus’ hand; for the Father, who is greater than all (and Jesus and the Father are one), will keep them and preserve them in the faith unto the everlasting joys of heaven (cf. v. 28-30; Rev. 7:1-19; Phil. 1:6; Rom. 8:28ff.; 2 Tim. 4:18).

Dear Lord Jesus, grant that we hear Your voice calling to us and recognize and follow You as our Good Shepherd and Savior. Amen.

[Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.]

How Are the Dead Raised Up?

“But someone will say, ‘How are the dead raised up? And with what body do they come?’” 1 Cor. 15:35 (read 35-58)

Have you ever wondered what kind of body you will have in the resurrection – what you will be like? It’s hard to even begin to imagine what we will be like on that day when Jesus Christ returns and raises up those who have died trusting in His name and changes the living who look to Him for forgiveness and life.

What do the Scriptures say? Jesus had told the Sadducees that in the resurrection there is no marriage: “Jesus answered and said to them, ‘The sons of this age marry and are given in marriage. But those who are counted worthy to attain that age, and the resurrection from the dead, neither marry nor are given in marriage; nor can they die anymore, for they are equal to the angels and are sons of God, being sons of the resurrection’” (Luke 20:34-36).

After pointing out that we will be made like Christ, when He was raised up (1 Cor. 15:35ff., St. Paul wrote: “Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; nor does corruption inherit incorruption. Behold, I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed — in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality” (v. 50-53).

St. Paul also wrote to the Philippians: “For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body that it may be conformed to His glorious body, according to the working by which He is able even to subdue all things to Himself” (Phil. 3:20-21).

So, what will we be like? The best answer I can give you is that we will be like Christ Jesus, who died our death for us and was raised up in glory never to die again. So also, after we die and our sin-corrupted bodies are laid in the grave, the bodies which are raised up will be changed from this corruptible flesh and blood to a glorified and perfect heavenly body made to live with our God and Savior forever. Our bodies which are raised up will be changed so that we are without sin, without aging, without disease, without weakness and without death.

It will be as God’s Word describes it in the Book of Revelation (21:3-4): “Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.”

Even now, we are being changed by the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit into the image of our Savior (cf. 2 Cor. 3:18). And though we do not long for death, we do long for the redemption of our sin-corrupted bodies that we might be fully conformed to the image of Christ Jesus, our Savior (cf. 2 Cor. 5:1ff.; Rom. 8:18-23, 28ff.).

With David, the sweet psalmist of Israel, we say, “As for me, I will see Your face in righteousness; I shall be satisfied when I awake in Your likeness” (Psalm 17:15).

Dear Lord Jesus, grant us faith to believe that as You have been raised up in glory, so we will be raised up with glorified and heavenly bodies, like unto You, and live in Your presence and glorify You, the Father and the Spirit, forever and ever. Amen.

[Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.]

What is the most pivotal point in human history?

There are many pivotal points in human history, events which forever change the course of the world and human life in the world. We might think of such things as the invention of the automobile, the airplane or the computer. We might think of events, like the end of the world wars, the dropping of the first atomic bomb or the landing of men on the moon. If we go back further in history, we might think of such things as the invention of the printing press, the use of gun powder or the development of telegraph or radio.

Yet, there is one event in history which outweighs them all and has more significance to every person who has ever lived or will live than any other. And for many, the observation of the anniversary date of this event goes largely unnoticed. I’m talking about the moment on that first Good Friday when Jesus was dying on the cross and cried out the words: “It is finished!” In the original Greek of the New Testament (John 19:30), it is only one word, “Tetelestai.”

What was so earth-shaking about this particular moment in human history? Well, aside from the fact that the earth did shake and the veil of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom, it is pivotal and most significant because at that very moment in human history the redemption of mankind was accomplished. Jesus the Christ, Son of God and Son of the virgin Mary, had lived a sinless and perfect life in the stead of all mankind and He had suffered upon the cross the full and just punishment for the sins of all mankind. At that very moment, atonement for man’s sin was made, God’s just wrath against sin was satisfied and salvation was won for all mankind. Jesus’ resurrection on the third day was proof of that fact.

As a result of what Jesus completed at that moment in time, God reaches out to sinful man with His offer and gift of pardon, forgiveness and life eternal as an alternative to what we all deserve — judgment, condemnation and eternal punishment for sin. Jesus suffered our punishment and, as a result, all who look to Jesus and His cross in faith have pardon, forgiveness and the certain promise of eternal life in heaven!

And this event is pivotal and most significant for all people because Jesus, when He died there on that Roman cross, paid the price for the sins of all, from Adam and Eve to the last human being to be born into this world. The event is significant and most important for everyone because, without it, we would all be condemned to eternal punishment for our sins; but with it, all who repent and look to Jesus in faith have forgiveness and the eternal joys of heaven.

Though many do not wish to face it, this event and what Christ Jesus accomplished when He uttered those words and died upon the cross confronts every human who has ever lived or will live. It confronts each and every one of us with the question of what we do with Jesus and the atonement He accomplished when He died on the cross as the only perfect sacrifice for the sins of the world.

It is as Jesus said in John 3:36: “He who believes in the Son has everlasting life; and he who does not believe the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him.”

Jesus also said in Mark 16:15-16: “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned.”

Christ Jesus died for the sins of all and rose again in triumph; and the Gospel — that good news of what He accomplished for all when He died upon the cross — is and has been preached to all the nations. Those who, by the gracious working of God’s Spirit, come to trust in Christ and the work He accomplished for all are saved. Those who reject or neglect the message of Christ’s sacrifice for the sins of all are condemned for not believing in the name of God’s only-begotten Son and looking to Him for pardon.

What could be more pivotal in human history and have impact on more human lives than what Christ accomplished for all upon the cross!

By Randy Moll

‘Christ the Firstfruits’

“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. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive. But each one in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, afterward those who are Christ’s at His coming.” 1 Corinthians 15:20-23

The evidence is there! We have the testimony of many eyewitnesses and He appeared alive from the dead to hundreds. Jesus did die for our sins as the Scriptures said He would, He was buried, and He did rise again, bodily, as the Scriptures promised (1 Cor. 15:1ff.).

Christ truly is risen from the dead, but what does the resurrection of Christ Jesus mean to you and to me? We are still sinners living in a sin-filled world. And unless Christ returns soon, we all must die and be buried in our own tombs. And what of those many believers – including so many loved ones – who have gone before us? Their bodies decay in their graves!

Christ’s resurrection proves that full atonement has been made for all our sins – indeed, for the sins of the world. When He cried out from the cross the words, “It is finished,” it was. He had paid the price, suffered our full punishment and redeemed all mankind. As the Scriptures say, righteousness “shall be imputed to us who believe in Him who raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead, who was delivered up because of our offenses, and was raised because of our justification.” Our sins have been paid for on the cross; and through faith in Christ, we are no longer accounted guilty before the LORD God; we are forgiven and counted righteous in His sight!

“But now Christ is risen from the dead, and has become the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.” Think of it: “firstfruits.” Firstfruits are, as the name says, the first fruits to grow and ripen. They were presented to the Lord (Lev. 23:10ff.; Ex. 34:22) and were evidence of other fruits yet to grow and ripen before the final harvest when all are gathered in.

Christ is the firstfruits of all those who have fallen asleep, the forerunner of all who died with faith in God’s mercy and forgiveness for Christ’s sake. Yes, unless Christ returns soon, we will die and, like Christ, be laid in our tombs. But, as Christ was raised from the dead on the third day, so also on the Last day, when Christ returns, we shall be made alive and raised up to be with our God and Savior forever (cf. 1 Cor. 15:50-57; 1 Thess. 4:13-18; 2 Cor. 5:1-8).

“For since by man came death, by Man also came the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive. But each one in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, afterward those who are Christ’s at His coming.”

What does the bodily resurrection of Jesus on the third day mean to those of us who trust in Him? It means we can live our lives and die in the confidence that as Jesus rose from the dead, the firstfruits, we also shall be raised up on the Last Day to everlasting life with Him. It gives us the confidence to profess with Job: “For I know that my Redeemer lives, and He shall stand at last on the earth; and after my skin is destroyed, this I know, that in my flesh I shall see God, whom I shall see for myself, and my eyes shall behold, and not another” (Job 19:25-27).

We give You thanks and praise, Lord Jesus, our God and Savior, that You took on human flesh and blood, died to make atonement for our sins and rose again in triumph. Grant us Your Spirit and give us the confidence that, as your were raised up from the dead on the third day, so You will raise us up on the Last Day to everlasting life in Your glorious kingdom. Amen.

[Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.]

Tetelestai: One word that says it all!

“So when Jesus had received the sour wine, He said, ‘It is finished!’ And bowing His head, He gave up His spirit.” John 19:30 (Read John 19:28-30)

tetelestaiIt is sometimes said that a picture is worth a thousand words, and that may very well be true. But sometimes a single word can also express a truth much better than a thousand; and in one particular case, that is most certainly true.

Before He yielded up His spirit and died upon the cross, Jesus uttered, “Tetelestai.” This single Greek word is translated with three English words, “It is finished!” (John 19:30). And, indeed it was: Jesus Christ, God the Son made man, had fulfilled all that was written of Him in the Scriptures and had paid in full for the sins of the whole world! He had accomplished the redemption of all mankind – God’s just wrath against mankind’s sin had been satisfied and God’s pardon won!

Jesus was hanging in agony during those final moments upon the cross, His mouth dry from gasping for every breath as He lifted Himself yet another time. He asked for a drink; and after receiving sour wine on a sponge, He proclaimed what is expressed in a single Greek word, “tetelestai,” that all was finished and our salvation won.

What does this single word of Jesus mean for you and for me? It means our sins – indeed the sins of the whole world – are paid for in full! It means that God’s favor is won! His just anger against our sins has been appeased and He reaches out to us in grace and mercy for the sake of His Son and His innocent sufferings and death upon the cross in our stead! It means that, no matter what we have done, Jesus paid the price for our sins that we might receive in faith God’s mercy and forgiveness and a place in His everlasting kingdom!

This single word assures us that all is done for us and our salvation in Jesus Christ is sure! There is nothing we need to do or add to Jesus’ completed work! “Tetelestai”! “It is finished”! And Jesus’ resurrection on the third day proves the truthfulness of this single, dying word.

O dearest Jesus, we thank You for bearing upon the cross the full punishment for all our sins, for finishing all that was needed for our salvation. Grant that we believe Your dying word, place our faith in Your perfect and complete sacrifice for the sins of all and live in the confidence that, indeed, “It is finished!” Amen.

[Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.]

Jesus’ Resurrection: Hoax or Historical Fact?

empty_tomb11Christians around the world will celebrate the resurrection of Jesus. And, indeed, the bodily resurrection of Jesus is the key doctrine of the Christian Faith upon which all else stands or falls.

Jesus Himself foretold His own death and resurrection numerous times, saying, “Behold, we go up to Jerusalem; and the Son of man shall be betrayed unto the chief priests and unto the scribes, and they shall condemn Him to death, and shall deliver Him to the Gentiles to mock, and to scourge, and to crucify Him and the third day He shall rise again” (Matthew 20:18-19). He also said, “Because I live, ye shall live also” (John 14:19).

Thus, if Jesus did not rise bodily from the dead on the third day, He can be considered nothing but a liar, and Christianity is a hoax! What hope could any have of everlasting life if Jesus Himself did not rise from the dead on the third day? If Jesus did not rise from the dead, as some — even within the outward pale of churches — have said, Christianity is an empty and worthless religion – a lie!

It is as St. Paul writes to the church in Corinth, “And if Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins. Then they also which are fallen asleep in Christ are perished. If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable” (1 Cor. 15:17-19).

But, in spite of the skepticism of some, there is solid evidence for the bodily resurrection of Jesus. Not only was the resurrection of the Messiah prophesied in the Old Testament Scriptures, it is attested to by the New Testament apostles and evangelists with claims of seeing, touching and talking to the risen Christ Jesus. Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Paul, Peter, James, Jude, and the writer of Hebrews all attest to the resurrection of Jesus.

Not only did Jesus appear alive to Mary Magdalene and the other women, He appeared to Peter, to the two disciples on the road to Emmaus, to the eleven on numerous occasions, to James, to the Apostle Paul on the road to Damascus, and to over 500 believers at one time. At the time when Paul wrote to the Corinthian church, most of these eyewitnesses were still alive and could be questioned by any who had doubts — Paul invited them to do so.

Now, nearly two thousand years removed, some have said that Jesus did not actually die but swooned on the cross and later revived in the tomb — a foolish hypothesis since the Roman soldiers were well experienced with death and especially with death by crucifixion since they regularly crucified both criminals and rebels. Crucifixion victims had to lift themselves up to breathe. Hanging motionlessly meant breathing also stopped and life ended. The spear thrust into Jesus’ side left no doubt. Jesus indeed died upon the cross (John 19:32-34)!

And, even if it were somehow possible for one to be crucified and not yet be dead after hanging motionless, ceasing breathing and having a spear thrust into his side, would lying in a tomb, wrapped in burial cloths and receiving no medical attention enable one to survive scourging, crucifixion, and a spear wound to the chest? Certainly not!

Some have said — indeed, right from the beginning (Matthew 28:11ff.) — that Jesus’ disciples came and stole the body and moved it to another tomb where it probably still lies to this day. This too makes no sense at all and doesn’t explain His resurrection appearances.

It’s entirely unlikely that followers of Jesus who fled when Jesus was arrested and then hid behind locked doors would risk death at the hands of the Roman soldiers who guarded the tomb in order to steal a dead body just to bury it somewhere else and claim Jesus was alive.

And, while people may risk all and suffer death for something they mistakenly believe to be true, would all of Jesus’ apostles willingly face death and persecution for something they knew was a lie? Again, it’s not likely! Not only did Jesus’ disciples suffer persecution and agonizing deaths, they gave up the comforts and pleasures of this life as well. They had nothing to gain by preaching the resurrection of Jesus if indeed He did not rise.

And what of those who spread the stories of Jesus’ body being stolen away? They could easily have put a stop to the spread of Christianity if they simply produced the body of Jesus. But did they? No! There is no record of any attempt or claim to produce the body of Jesus. Why? Because the tomb was empty and even the enemies of Christianity could not refute the bodily resurrection of Jesus!

So, what does the resurrection of Jesus mean for us today? Well, it proves that Jesus is who He claimed to be, God the Son and the Messiah and Savior of the world! It proves that His teaching is true. His resurrection proves that He did indeed take the punishment for the sins of the world that we might have pardon and peace though faith in Him. His resurrection proves that those who fall asleep in Him — those who die trusting in Him for forgiveness of sins and life everlasting — will be raised up on the Last Day to the eternal joys of heaven just as He promised!

And, of course, it also proves that he will return to judge the living and the dead as He has said, and that those who have not relied upon Him for forgiveness and life will be condemned to everlasting punishment in the eternal fires of hell.

The only real hoax in regard to Jesus’ resurrection is the argument that he did not rise. It’s a hoax advanced to destroy the faith of those who trust in Jesus for forgiveness and life everlasting. It’s a hoax advanced by those who do not wish to accept the testimony of eye witnesses who both saw Jesus crucified and then alive again on the third day and the subsequent 40 days. It’s a hoax advanced by those who do not wish to one day be accountable to the risen and glorified Jesus.

The resurrection of Jesus is a historical event which affects every human being in this world. Those who consider it and place their hope in Jesus and His resurrection shall receive, as Jesus says, the forgiveness of sins He won for all by His sufferings and death upon the cross, and life everlasting because He rose from the dead and is “the Resurrection and the Life” (John 11:25). But those who neglect or spurn it face a most miserable eternity with no hope, no blessing and no joy!