Saturday, April 11, 2009

The Story of the Bible, Part 6

One of the very clear themes of the Old Testament is that man sins, and that his sin demands judgment. Under the Law, blood sacrifices were required. In the prophetic books, judgment for sin was a frequent topic. It was also clear that God would someday send a "Messiah," a Savior or Deliverer, to his people.

Jesus Christ was the fulfillment of all of those Messianic prophecies. The gospels, the first four books of the New Testament, tell us about his life, death, and resurrection.

As we typically hear at Christmastime, Jesus Christ was born of a virgin, Mary, in Bethlehem. He was visited by shepherds and, later, wise men from the East. His childhood up to the age of about thirty receives only a brief mention in Luke 2:40-52. It is the approximately three years of his adult ministry which occupies the majority of the gospel narratives.

Jesus was, and is quite literally, the son of God. This is not true merely because of His virgin birth, but because Jesus is God. He said so Himself (Matt. 26:63-65), and the many miracles performed at His hand testify to it. Even the devil and his demons knew it (Matt. 4:6, 8:29; Mark 3:11; Luke 4:41)! The gospel authors testify of it plainly (Mark 1:1; John 1:1-4, 14, 35). Much of the New Testament that follows the gospels contains the eyewitness accounts of those who saw Jesus on earth.

Jesus preached, taught, and ministered to Jews (primarily) and Gentiles, and many believed on Him. Many, especially those in positions of civil and religious authority, resented Him and eventually began to plot His destruction. This, however, was also prophesied (Zech. 11:12-13)! He was betrayed by one of His twelve disciples, Judas Iscariot, for thirty pieces of silver. Judas led the priests and a large contingent of soldiers to a garden called Gethsemane, where Jesus, knowing full well what was about to happen, was praying (John 17). Each gospel contains an account of the actions that followed: Jesus was questioned by the high priests, by Pontius Pilate, and by Herod; and sent to the cross for death, accompanied by two of the criminals of His day.

On that day, commemorated now as Good Friday, Jesus was crucified. Despite the taunts of the crowd (Matt. 27:39-44), He did not perform another miracle and come down from that cross. He did not do so because He willingly became the Only Perfect Sacrifice for the sins of all mankind throughout all of history. Sin brings judgment, and the Bible teaches that the proper punishment for all of us sinners is eternal damnation in a real, fiery hell. Only a perfect, unblemished sacrifice could save us from this deserved judgment. Jesus Christ was that perfect sacrifice!

On the first day of the week following His crucifixion and death, a day now called Easter, Jesus rose from the grave! Having completed the sacrifice, He demonstrated His Godhood once and for all time. He appeared to a variety of people, including over 500 at one time (1 Cor. 15:3-8). All four gospels conclude with details of what transpired in the weeks after His resurrection.

And then, on the fortieth day after He arose, He ascended back into heaven (Acts 1:3-9) with the disciples watching.

As John says in the final verse of his gospel,

"And there are also many other things which Jesus did, the which, if they should be written every one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that should be written. Amen." (John 21:25)
The entire "gospel" can be summarized briefly this way: Man sinned, and, facing damnation, needed a Savior. God provided such a Savior, prophecying of him extensively in the centuries of the Old Testament. Jesus Christ, God's son, was the Savior who came to earth and paid the sacrifice for the sins of mankind. When a person put his faith in Christ and accepts His sacrificial gift of salvation, He is saved from eternal punishment and promised eternity with Christ in heaven.

The rest of the New Testament teaches us more about doctrine and how to live the Christian life.

The Story of the Bible, Part 7
The Story of the Bible, Part 5
The Story of the Bible, Part 4
The Story of the Bible, Part 3
The Story of the Bible, Part 2
The Story of the Bible, Part 1

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