JESUS CHRIST – God’s Greatest Gift to US!
New Testament Teaching
Let us begin by stating the obvious. Only in the New Testament do we read of Jesus as someone who is alive and taking part in the affairs of human beings living on the earth. And, equally importantly, it is only in the New Testament that we read about the God of heaven being described over and over again as “Father”, a term which is extremely rare in the Old Testament Scriptures.
That does not mean that there is no mention of Jesus in the Old Testament. As the coming Jewish Messiah, much is made of the fact that God would send a Saviour and Deliverer. But the Jewish Scriptures only speak of Jesus in the sense of looking forward to his Coming.
He is not spoken of as already existing, but as someone who would exist one day, when the time was right. Let us look at this more closely.
From the time when Adam and Eve were in the Garden of Eden through to the end of the Old Testament there are repeated prophecies about the future coming of Jesus. Here are some of them.
Old Testament Prophecies
In the Garden of Eden a ‘Seed' – a descendant of Eve – was promised, who would overcome sin and reverse the problem introduced into the world by Adam and Eve when they disobeyed God.
“I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her Seed; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel” (Genesis 3:15).
In Psalm 22, David wrote about Jesus, using many phrases that pointed forward quite explicitly to the crucifixion. For example “they pierced my hands and my feet” and “They parted my garments among them”.
Once the prophet Isaiah met wicked King Ahaz and made one of the most famous prophecies of the Old Testament. He said that a virgin would one day bear a son:
”Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call his name Immanuel” (Isaiah 7:14).
The prophet Micah predicted that a ruler would come from the town of Bethlehem to reign over the people of Israel , adding something of much interest to our theme.
“You, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of you shall come forth to me the One to be ruler in Israel, whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting” (Micah 5:2). This ruler, he says, has been planned from the beginning of time. We will come back to this point later.
Zechariah predicts the entry into Jerusalem by Jesus, an event that occurred just before Jesus was crucified just outside that very city. He too speaks of Jesus as a king but we know from the events themselves that this prophecy is fulfilled when Jesus is about to suffer his greatest trial (see Zechariah 9:9 and Matthew 21:4-5).
None of the men who wrote these things met Jesus. They did not hear his voice; they did not see him crucified; they do not claim that he existed in their time. They all expected him to appear in the future, at a time to be decided by God himself.
Mortality of Jesus
There is an even more important reason for limiting the existence of Jesus to New Testament times. It has to do with the fact that Jesus came into this world to bring salvation to all people. They had become a mortal race because Adam and Eve disobeyed God and the removal of the curse could only be done if another human being could obey Him perfectly. Jesus came to do this.
For that to really happen it had to be possible for Jesus to be tempted as other humans were, and it had to be possible for him to disobey. That is exactly what happened. His temptations were absolutely genuine and so were his accomplishments.
“For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin” (Hebrews 4:15).
Jesus perfectly obeyed his Father and salvation for mankind was accomplished. Jesus rose from the dead and became immortal – the first to rise from the dead never to go back into the grave again.
God’s Greatest Gift to Mankind
“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” John 3:16
One of the best known verses in the Bible but also one of the least understood as this verse clearly tells us that God’s greatest gift to mankind was His only dearly begotten son.
Exalted by God
The notion that Jesus had lived as a spirit before he was born takes away the power of his triumph over sin and death and the Bible knows nothing of such an idea. Indeed it carefully explains that Jesus was rewarded for his faithful obedience by his Father, who exalted him to sit at His right hand in heaven because he had been faithful. He was not returning to somewhere he had been before, but was being elevated to a new status and position by and with his Father:
"Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made himself of no reputation, taking the form of a servant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross. Therefore God also has highly exalted him and given him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Philippians 2:5-11).
Although he was the Son of God, because God was his Father, Jesus was born a man, lived a life serving others, and was willing to go to the cross – all in obedience to his Father. Then, and only then, did God exalt him and give him a name above every name. It is only at this stage in the plan of salvation that Jesus is given the greatest honour. Again the idea that he had existed before his birth does not fit in with these Bible truths.
In the next article in this series we look at those passages that are sometimes said to teach something quite different about the nature and work of the Lord Jesus.
Did Jesus Christ Pre-Exist?
In our studies so far we have seen the following:
- The Birth of Jesus and important details about his life on earth are often mentioned in the Old Testament, but he is always spoken of there as someone who was to come, when the time was right, not as someone who was already in existence;It was vital that Jesus should be born a mortal man if the purpose of God was to be accomplished – he had to be made like Adam, tempted like him, but obedient – unlike him! As we all know, we inherit characteristics from our father and mother when we are born; Jesus inherited his mortality from Mary, and all that came with that. It was an important part of his makeup; so he could not have lived in heaven before-hand as the same person who then lived on earth – otherwise Mary would have contributed nothing except a mortal body;God rewarded Jesus for his faithful obedience by exalting him to a place at His right hand in heaven. He did not return there because it was his original abode. Scripture says that God his Father, who raised him from the dead, also exalted Jesus to glory.
God’s purpose was known to him from the foundation of the world, as the Bible makes clear: “Known to God from eternity are all his works” (Acts 15:18).
Now and again that Divine foreknowledge is specifically referred to. Jeremiah, for example, said that he was known by God even before he had been born:
“The word of the LORD came to me, saying: ‘Before I formed you in the womb I knew you; before you were born I sanctified you; and I ordained you a prophet to - the nations’” (Jeremiah 1:4,5).
One New Testament passage says that the names of all God’s people were both known and recorded from the beginning, and the same passage tells us something very important about the person and origins of the Lord Jesus. Writing about the Dragon power that will oppose the Lord, the vision reveals that:
“Authority was given him over every tribe, tongue, and nation. And all who dwell on the earth will worship him, whose names have not been written in the Book of Life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world” (Revelation 13:7,8).
It is the description of the Lamb that we particularly need to notice. He is described as having been “slain from the foundation of the world”. What does this mean? It cannot mean that he was slain at the foundation of the world. We know when the crucifixion took place.
We also know that God was able to predict to Adam, Eve and many others that Jesus would come to bring salvation. The only way we can understand this verse in Revelation is to recognise that God knew from the beginning that His Son would overcome and give his life in a most painful way.
The Right Time
The great truth that arises from these things is that God loved the world from the beginning and put His plan in place at the very start of the creation of the world. This plan centred on Jesus – but Jesus would not appear immediately. He would only appear in the fullness of time. Then he would be born of Mary:
“When the fulness of the time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption as sons” (Galatians 4:4,5).
Let us not interfere with the wisdom of God. Clearly Jesus came into existence when the time was right for God’s only-begotten son to be born. He had been in God’s plan and purpose from the beginning; now that plan came into effect.
Jesus before Abraham?
There is a passage in John’s gospel which is perfectly consistent with what we have already considered. Here it is:
“Your father Abraham rejoiced to see my day, and he saw it and was glad.” Then the Jews said to (Jesus), “You are not yet fifty years old, and have you seen Abraham?” Jesus said to them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am” (John 8:56-58).
This passage has often been used to support the idea that Jesus existed before he was born. When reading the Bible we must remember that it always gives us the same message. It is consistent throughout and verses that seem to conflict require closer consideration. If we have questions about a verse we should always look at its setting. In this case one thing is quickly seen.
There are many other references to Abraham in the discussion Jesus is having with the Pharisees. In v33 they boast of their descent from Abraham. In v39 Jesus tells them that they ought to follow in the ways of Abraham if they were truly his descendants.
Because of what Jesus says they ask an important question in verse 53: “Are you greater than our Father Abraham, who is dead?”
Remember that we have a big advantage when answering this question because we know what happened to Jesus after this and those events established him as much greater than Abraham. But, when the question was asked, the Pharisees did not know and Jesus still had to try to convince all Jews that he really was their Messiah. You sense the hostility from v53: “Who do you make yourself?”
Now look at the answer Jesus gives in v56 – ”Your father Abraham rejoiced to see my day, and he saw it and was glad”. How could this be? The Pharisees were dismissive: “You are not yet fifty years old, and have you seen Abraham?” Note the way in which they have changed round the words of Jesus. He did not claim to have seen Abraham, but that Abraham saw his day. What could that mean?
Gospel to Abraham
In Paul’s letter to the Galatians we are told that God could see in advance the way things would work out for the Gentile nations:
“The Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the nations by faith, preached the gospel to Abraham beforehand, saying, “In you all the nations shall be blessed” (Galatians 3:8).
God knew that Jesus would come into the world and that, through faith in him, all nations would then have the opportunity to be saved. This plan was given to Abraham through one of the major promises of God: "In you shall all nations be blessed" (Genesis 12:3) and, Paul says, this was the gospel preached to Abraham. Note carefully the fact that this development was foreseen by God and was told to Abraham as something yet in the future, something we know was due to happen "in the fullness of time" (Galatians 4:4).
In John chapter 8 therefore – the passage we were looking at – we are told that Abraham saw Jesus' day – he looked forward to it as something that would happen in the future and, because that day contained so much promise, he rejoiced in the knowledge that he would be there to see the purpose of God come to its fulfilment, when he was raised from the dead.
This the Pharisees did not understand, so Jesus had to spell it out for them. When he said "Before Abraham was I am" he was gently explaining to them that he is more important than Abraham in the purpose of God, because God has built His whole plan of salvation around the Lord Jesus. It was a matter of who has the pre-eminence; not of who pre-existed.
We do well to recognise the truth of God's plan ourselves, so that we can take our place alongside Abraham and many others who are looking forward to the day when Jesus will be revealed as the Saviour of the world.
God’s Greatest Gift
God’s greatest gift to man is eternal life—also known as salvation, being saved, or being born again. You receive this gift the instant you believe that Jesus Christ is God’s Son, and accept Him into your life.
“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.”1
None of us are perfect. We’re all sinners by nature, and our sins separate us from God.2 The only way we can be reconciled with God is if our sins are atoned for; and only Jesus, who was Himself perfect, could do that. Jesus left heaven to come to earth and live as we do, to experience the things we experience, to feel joy and pain as we do, and to show us the ultimate proof of God’s love by dying in our place, that we might live. He gave His own life “a ransom for many.”3 He died so everyone could obtain forgiveness and be reconciled with God.
Jesus died so all could have eternal life, but He would have done it for you alone! God loves you so much that He gave His only Son to die in your place. And Jesus loves you so much that He did that, willingly.
That’s the truth, plain and simple. God meant for salvation to be simple—so simple, in fact, that even a child could understand and receive it.
You can accept salvation by simply saying yes to God’s offer. Then, through further study of what God has to say about it in His Word and the marvelous changes it brings to your life, you will find out for yourself just how real and valuable this gift is.
Would you like to know beyond a shadow of a doubt that Jesus Christ really is the Son of God and the way to salvation? Just try Him! If you haven’t yet received Jesus as your Savior, you can do it right now by praying a simple prayer like the following:
Dear Jesus, thank You for dying for me. I now open the door of my heart and I ask You, Jesus, to please come into my life and give me Your free gift of eternal life. Amen.
If you prayed to receive Jesus, you can be assured that He heard and answered. “As many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name.”4 You have the gift of sal- vation. “Whoever believes in the Son [of God] has eternal life.”5 Congratulations! You’ve taken your first step into a wonderful new life of love that will never end—ever!
God alone can satisfy your deepest yearning for total love and complete understanding
Do you sometimes feel lonely, empty, dissatisfied? Are you longing for love you have never known before—true love, sincere love, genuine love, the truly great love of your life, love that will never leave? The answer is waiting for you if you’re willing to receive it.
There is something more than the physical you. There is the spirit—the real you that lives inside—and it will never be satisfied with the things of earth. It must have the things of the spirit; it must have God. Within each heart, God has created a vacuum that can only be filled spiritually. Only God and His true love can ever fill that aching spiritual void of your heart, which He created for Himself alone.
He can give you everything you’ve always longed for, including forgiveness of sins, faith in God, love in Christ, peace of mind, health of body, and joy and happiness and love and laughter for- ever after. He’ll meet all your needs and solve all your problems. He’s just that wonderful and it’s all just that simple!—D.B.B.
Jesus suffered so we wouldn’t have to
Christ suffered far more than physical agony when He was crucified. He also suffered the spiritual agony of the lost sinner, dying without salvation, without God—only in His case He wasn’t dying for His own sins, He was dying for the sins of the world—for all the sins of everyone who has ever lived.6 He did that so that you and I won’t have to go through that horror of dying a sinner’s lonely death. Those who reject Christ’s atonement have to suffer for their own sins, but those who receive Jesus now are completely forgiven and completely relieved from the punishment of sin. “The blood of Jesus Christ cleanses us from all sin.”7—D.B.B.
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1. John 3:16
2. Isaiah 59:2
3. Matthew 20:2
4. John 1:12
5. John 3:36 NIV
6. John 1:29
7. 1 John 1:7