ARCHIVE NUMBER TEN
Are You Sure?
(all spelling and phraseology is UK English)
Are you sure that Jesus died?
This may seem like a silly question if you are a frequent visitor to this site, and you know for sure that Jesus Christ lived, died and rose again.
But some of you may NOT be so sure! At this time of year when the Church traditionally thinks about those dramatic and world-changing events, the British media is ever-eager to present alternative views, in its ongoing attempt to destroy Christianity. Therefore most children and many adults are in doubt.
Did Jesus really live - was he a real historical figure, or just a religious icon invented in the first century AD? If he did come to earth, was he really God? And did he die on the cross, or was he just in a coma, and revived in the cold stone tomb? Did the disciples invent their stories?
The apostle Paul thought that these things were not only important, but CRUCIAL to Christianity, unlike many clergymen who want us to get by without believing anything.
If we have a religion that merely preaches "love one another" and "try to do good" then the historical facts about Jesus are irrelevant.
BUT if we are interested in finding out HOW to "do good" when all we seem to do is fall into sin time and time again, then a deeper examination of the facts is essential, because being a Christian is all about dying and being born again to a new life, just like Jesus.
Historical evidence for death and resurrection of Jesus
Some scholars try to argue that the ONLY documentary evidence for the death and resurrection of Christ is in the bible. (Mind you, that ought to be good enough in itself!) However, there is plenty of extra-biblical documentation from the early centuries showing that Jesus Christ did in fact walk this earth as a real live historical person; that he was indeed crucified by the Romans, and that he did rise again and was seen by many after his resurrection. Just as the bible states!
Here's a selection of websites that offer documentary evidence:
The above book is considered by many a classic apology on the subject of the resurrection. Frank Morison presents a vivid and poignant account of Christ's betrayal, trial, and death. It is a brilliant and well-researched book that is fascinating in its appeal to reason and that successfully sets forth the truth of the resurrection. Morison was an English journalist who originally set out to prove that the story of Christ's resurrection was nothing but myth. However, his probings led him to discover the validity of the Biblical record in a moving, personal, way.
Some contemporary accounts of the historical facts:
Flavius Josephus (37-97 AD), court historian for Emperor Vespasian:
The Treatise On Resurrection, by uncertain author of the late second century, to Rheginos:
Why Did Jesus Have to Die?
Human beings have a terrible and insurmountable problem. They are living in rebellion to God, and cannot please Him - even yet, they want to be prospered and blessed, and go to Heaven when they die!
But God cannot allow this. God is absolutely perfect; he is a righteous Judge who must condemn sin. He is also a loving Father who wants to spare us! But he cannot legally overlook our wrongdoing.
Because of God's absolute perfection, and because of the corruption that Satan introduced into Mankind, if any man or woman sinned, they had to die - starting from Adam and Eve until today.
This decree has never been rescinded. Why? Because anything less than perfect obedience and conformity to God falls short of the glory that God intended for us and replaces God's will with Man's selfish will. The Universe is running according to God's Perfect Will, and all that rebels against and steps outside of that will introduces chaos.
Adam rebelled against God, and since he was the father of all mankind, everyone born since that time has inherited his nature of rebellion. From earliest babyhood we begin to manifest rebellion and wrongdoing - it's our nature!
Oil and water cannot mix: perfection and imperfection cannot be in fellowship with one another, God's will and man's will cannot coexist, no matter how much we'd like that to be the case.
Nothing that is in any way tainted with sin can live in the presence of God nor be related to him; especially something that has the nature of the devil - and we are all in alliance with the devil.
"Death" in reality is SEPARATION from life, and even though physical death of the body does not immediately occur when we sin, our SPIRITS (the innermost essence of ourselves and the part that lives for ever) are completely cut off from the life of God. In effect, we are walking corpses! All because of sin. Our rebellion, lawlessness, and self-willed attitudes have cut us off from God.
The penalty for sin is death:
So, every man and woman on earth had a major problem - they couldn't help but sin, but sin brought eternal separation from God. God was aware of this dilemma and in his love for mankind he found some solutions.
First of all, he agreed to accept the death of an animal in place of the death of a man or woman.
In particular, each year the entire nation of Israel remembered the way that the angel of death passed over the blood-marked doorposts, by sacrificing a perfect spotless lamb. This was known as the Feast of Passover and is now celebrated in the Spring each year at around the same time as the Christian Easter.
A Permanent Solution Needed
But the sacrifice of animals to God could only be a temporary solution. No animal could properly represent mankind, since it was without a spirit, not a man; secondly, no animal was truly perfect.
Moreover, this temporary solution had to be performed everytime man fell into sin, over and over again. It did not permanently remove the sins of mankind, it simply covered them with the blood of a substitute allowing God to turn the other way.
As for the separation that had come between ourselves and God; and the problem of physical death - these things remained! No amount of sacrificial blood could eradicate man's rebellion against God. It was ingrained in his very soul!
In order to perfectly and permanently redeem mankind from sin, it required that a totally perfect MAN had to die, taking the sins of all mankind upon his own head, as a Perfect Substitute.
But the only truly perfect person is of course - God Himself! Only God was capable of perfectly keeping every law, and remaining sinless while living as a man upon a corrupt earth.
So God became incarnate. In-Carnate = In a Body. This means, he took the form of a man and became fully human, for the purposes of redeeming mankind from the power and penalty of sin. While on earth, he took the human name Jesus, as we say it, or in his native tongue Yeshua meaning "he will save". (It is roughly equivalent to the name Joshua.)
God decided to do this simply and solely because he loved mankind and not under any compulsion. He did it knowing what the consequences would be (rejection, hatred and a tortured death). However, as horrifying as this prospect was, Jesus the Saviour submitted to death by crucifixion, laying himself down willingly for the sake of destroying death for EVER!
Jesus Our Sacrifice
At the time of the Jewish Passover, Jesus became the "spotless lamb" that was sacrificed! He was "holy, harmless and undefiled" (Heb 7:26) just like that little lamb, and so became the One who "takes away the sin of the world" by his death.
The difference between animal sacrifices and the ONE Perfect Sacrifice of Jesus was that Jesus Christ (being Man and God) could be a stand-in for ALL MANKIND and DIE to pay the penalty for our sin PERMANENTLY AND FOR ALL TIME.
But that isn't the end of the story. Jesus died, and thereby removed for ever the penalty for sins. He was fully human, and therefore took human nature to the Cross, and to the grave, burying it on our behalf.
Remember that troublesome tendency that we all inherited from Adam? That push to do wrong and rebel against God? The bible calls it our "old man", our "sin nature" and it causes us to live in disobedience, "in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind,...by nature the children of wrath". (Eph 2:2-10)
Well, Jesus (although he never sinned) consciously chose to be a token MAN, a kind of "Adam" - and he took this Adam to the Cross to DIE there. That dealt with our rebellious nature by crucifying it. We are crucified with Christ.
As the bible says: "if One died for all, then all died" 2 Cor 5:14
Jesus the Source of New Life
But if he had remained dead, in the grave, so would Mankind!! Jesus was the ONLY perfect Adam, our ONLY Representative, the ONLY one who had died sinless, the ONLY one who had defeated the powers of sin and death. Therefore the fate of ALL MANKIND lay wrapped up in grave clothes in that dark tomb. If Jesus failed to rise again, we would be lying there forever ourselves - forgiven, cleansed of sin - but dead.
How could the eternal life of Jesus be given to Mankind unless he CAME BACK from the dead to provide it, as a free gift?
And the way he provided it was to make Himself available by the Holy Spirit, (victorious over sin, holy, powerful, righteous, glorious!) to enter in and share Himself and HIS ETERNAL LIFE with everyone who would receive Him.
So not only did Jesus DIE (and we died in him, removing the old nature of rebellion) but he ROSE AGAIN to give us a new life that is FAR BEYOND the previous life that we were living.
Not only did Jesus die and take our sins to the grave, but even more wonderfully, he ROSE AGAIN bringing back new LIFE for all who would receive it. This LIFE of Jesus is not just human life, but ETERNAL LIFE, the very LIFE OF GOD HIMSELF and means that all who receive Jesus LIVE FOR EVER.
This life is described as "abundant life" in the bible, and if you are not living "abundantly" in God then you need to do some serious praying to find out why not. Because that life of God is available to all who believe in Him.
All the qualities of Jesus Christ are imparted to the believer, including ADOPTION into the Family of God; a HEART that is obedient to God; a SPIRIT that is in full communion with God and can hear from Him; a LIFE that is lived in victory over sin and bears fruit; GIFTS and MINISTRIES that enable us to serve Him powerfully and acceptably, and an INHERITANCE after death including a CROWN in heaven to cap all of God's pleasure in his SONS and DAUGHTERS.
Note that these things do not belong to us, by nature. No, they belong to Jesus ("the life is IN THE SON") but Jesus is willing to share Himself with all who believe in Him. As long as we abide in Him, and He abides in us, we walk in His righteousness, wisdom, power, understanding and victory over sin.
Are you sure that YOU are dead?
The above facts are true and real. But many born-again Christians either deny them or do not understand them. Worse, many believers are living lives of futility, defeat, sinfulness, failure and depression because they don't grasp that they are DEAD TO SIN. Is that YOU today?
Do you keep trying to please God, and failing over and over again? Do you keep flogging your poor old flesh to overcome sin, only to find you are falling back into those old habits?
Defeat and failure is NOT the condition of the Christian described in the word of God, the Christian for whom Jesus died, and the one who boldly exclaims: "I can do all things in Christ who strengthens me!" and "thanks be to God who always leads us in triumph in Christ". It is not the position of the Christian who has been made righteous in Christ and who "reigns in life".
You NEED TO KNOW THAT YOU ARE DEAD!
Look at this passage of scripture:
Clearly, a life of sin is not what God intended for Christians. Everybody misses the mark from time to time, but no Christian should be living a life of continual defeat and despair, bound to sin.
Do you see how John says that "Whoever has been born of God does not sin, for His seed remains in him; and he cannot sin, because he has been born of God."
The seed is what produces new life, isn't it? You'd be very surprised if you opened a seed-pod of a chestnut tree and found an acorn there, or a pea!! The seed is Christ, and when we are born again by the Spirit, we RECEIVE THE LIFE OF GOD which is the SEED-life that will eventually lead to our resurrection into the full and perfect image of Christ, a new life born again into the image of that perfect "tree"!
That seed is already within us, according to the scripture. Why isn't it growing for some people? Well, we are responsible for giving that seed the right conditions for growth (faith and submission to the will of God), and if we do, it will grow all by itself, bearing fruit unto righteousness.
The important key in all of this is: we do not achieve righteousness by good works! We attain to the righteousness of the nature that we have already been given, by permitting it to transform us and to overrule our selves. The only life and righteousness we have is that of Jesus Christ, which we receive by faith - NOT THAT OF OURSELVES. Do you see that?
As you know, Paul said that not only the redemption from sins, but also the transformation into Christ-likeness was BY FAITH:
Righteousness and victory over sin is given by grace, received by faith, and NOT achieved or achievable by works of any kind (that includes religiously going to church, piously lashing ourselves into more and more bible studies, praying for hours a day, writing lists of how to do it better, writing out the commandments to try and remind ourselves to do them, copying the lives of other people - and all similar futile attempts to be better.)
Let me re-state the biblical truths that I believe we all need to know:
This is the central and most basic fact of our Christian lives - that WE LIVE BY FAITH. All that we are, all that we have, all that we can ever hope to be, is NOT OF OURSELVES by any means, but received by faith in Christ, and because of his indwelling presence and power.
As we learned above, Jesus Christ died and rose again, in order to SET US FREE from the law of sin and death, and to take our sinful human nature UPON HIMSELF and crucify it, that we might forever after WALK IN RIGHTEOUSNESS, having no longer a nature that compels us to sin continually, but having received BY FAITH his HOLY nature that impels us to obedience to God!
We do indeed have a NEW nature that supercedes the old sin-nature. For we have come into fellowship with the divine nature, by the Spirit:
THAT is our hope in Christ, and it is a real, practical and genuine hope - not just a religious theory. Without that fact, the fact that by the Spirit we have received the perfect nature of Christ, the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ will only be a nice idea, an ideal that we try to live up to (and fail.)
The bible plainly states that WE ARE CRUCIFIED with Christ; and dead men don't sin. The bible also says that the LIFE that now energises us is actually the LIFE OF CHRIST, who is perfectly holy. Dead, buried and raised with Christ!
But for many this is only words, and not a practical daily experience. So HOW can we make it real?
Well, it's BY FAITH.
How did you come to receive forgiveness of sins and the cleansing of the blood? It was BY FAITH. Jesus did it, the deed was done, and all you had to do was accept by faith that it was for YOU personally, and that act of faith made it effective in your life - right?
Well, this is exactly the same way we come to walking in righteousness -
The bible tells us "reckon yourselves dead to sin and alive in Christ". Yes, we have to "reckon" (count on) these truths, but we can't "reckon" until we KNOW it's true. And the only way we come to "know" anything is to receive it by faith. Only then can we count on it.
So the question is, has God revealed this truth to you, so that you can accept it by faith? If not, read Romans and Galatians and other passages asking God to reveal this truth to you - that you are dead and the nature that pulled you continually towards sin has gone to the cross! Once you grasp that, you'll start to REJOICE exceedingly that you are FREE!!!
If you have not already done so, lay down before God your foolish, futile, dead, works-oriented and self-righteous SELF that fails God every time; and ask Him to fill you with HIS holy, righteous, powerful and victorious divine nature, that will transform you into his likeness.
Trust God to work in you his good will, and it will happen. But as much as YOU try to "make it happen" by raising up your flesh and self to "do good works" that is the extent to which you will fail to allow God to work his works IN YOU.
This Easter weekend, make sure that you are not only DEAD because of Jesus Christ (for you were crucified with Him) but ALIVE in Jesus Christ, and living the rich full new life that He intends for you.