Was Jesus Crucified On A Cross – Islamic / Christian Key Point of Interest

Last Saturday, a brother and I attended the Reviving Islamic Spirit event.

We had only one question on our hearts for the person who invited us, but since he was unable to answer it, he referred my question to other Muslims to answer.

This is the question we asked…

——–

The major distinction and point of controversy between Christianity and Islam seems to be the death of Jesus, specifically, his death on the cross.

The Quran says:

That they said (in boast), “We killed Christ Jesus the son of Mary, the Messenger of Allah”;- but they killed him not, nor crucified him, but so it was made to appear to them, and those who differ therein are full of doubts, with no (certain) knowledge, but only conjecture to follow, for of a surety they killed him not:- Nay, Allah raised him up unto Himself; and Allah is Exalted in Power, Wise;-
— Qur’an, sura 4 (An-Nisa) ayat 157-158[8]

The important part of the verse is the “nor crucified him”

This verse completely denies Jesus was ever crucified on a cross altogether.

——-

Conversely,

Jewish historians of the 1st century document Jesus’s death on the cross (Flavious Josephus)

Greek historians of the 1st century document Jesus’s death on the cross (Lucian)

Roman historians of the 1st century record Jesus’s death on the cross (Tacitus 64 A.D)

Pagan historians record Jesus’s death on the cross (Babylonian Talmud)

And of course, we have the four Christian accounts in the Gospels of the historical Christ from the 1st century that state that Jesus was crucified and died on the cross. (Matthew, Mark, Luke, & John)

——-

If the Gospels were revealed in the 1st century by people who lived with, walk with, talked with, and then witnessed Jesus’s death on the cross, and this is historically corroborated by Roman, Greek, Jewish, and Pagan historians, upon what grounds should we believe that the Quran which was revealed through Muhammad just under 600 years later is truthful when it says that Jesus was not crucified on the cross?

Is the sort of “truth” that Allah asks of his followers in the Quran such that goes against previously clearly documented historical record and common sense?

Should not “real” truth be corroborated by historical record and common sense as it does in the Christian worldview and ideology of truth?

——–

Later, knowing that everything had now been finished, and so that Scripture would be fulfilled, Jesus said, “I am thirsty.” A jar of wine vinegar was there, so they soaked a sponge in it, put the sponge on a stalk of the hyssop plant, and lifted it to Jesus’ lips. When he had received the drink, Jesus said, “It is finished.” With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.

Now it was the day of Preparation, and the next day was to be a special Sabbath. Because the Jewish leaders did not want the bodies left on the crosses during the Sabbath, they asked Pilate to have the legs broken and the bodies taken down. The soldiers therefore came and broke the legs of the first man who had been crucified with Jesus, and then those of the other.

But when they came to Jesus and found that he was already dead, they did not break his legs.

Instead, one of the soldiers pierced Jesus’ side with a spear, bringing a sudden flow of blood and water. The man who saw it has given testimony, and his testimony is true.He knows that he tells the truth, and he testifies so that you also may believe. These things happened so that the scripture would be fulfilled: “Not one of his bones will be broken,” and, as another scripture says, “They will look on the one they have pierced.”
John 19:28-37 (80 – 90 A.D) – New Testament

——-

That last bit in bold is a fulfillment of the prophecies given by King David (Approx 1000 B.C) and Zechariah (Approx 500 B.S ) concerning the Messiah:

Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the LORD delivers him out of them all. He keeps all his bones, not one of them is broken
Psalm 34:19-20 Old Testament

“And I will pour out on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem a spirit of grace and supplication. They will look on Me, the one they have pierced, and they will mourn for him as one mourns for an only child, and grieve bitterly for him as one grieves for a firstborn son.
Zechariah 12:10 Old Testament

We have not received an answer but continue to wait for a reply,

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God bless you,

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The Mahatma Ghandi Movie (1982)

If Christians could fully grasp some of Mahatma Ghandi’s practical insights on the teachings of Jesus Christ, the power of our witness and testimony to the truth would be unmatched in all the world.

On the other hand, if Mahatma Ghandi could’ve fully grasped the biblical view of the scriptural Jesus Christ – that more than being just a good moral teacher, He was and is the very Son of God, not only would Ghandi have changed the world in the profound way just as he did through the demonstrations of his life, but he could’ve done so for an eternal prize to the glory of the living God!

 

Ghandi (1982)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_SRbHnfYHaI

 

 

Therefore I make known to you that no one speaking by the Spirit of God says, “Jesus is accursed,” and no one can say, “Jesus is Lord,” except by the Holy Spirit
1 Corinthians 12:3

 

Trust JESUS!

 

Sin: Muhammad Vs Jesus – According to Their Respective Texts

Muhammad The Sinner

(According to the Quran)

 

So be patient, [O Muhammad]. Indeed, the promise of Allah is truth. And ask forgiveness for your sin and exalt [ Allah ] with praise of your Lord in the evening and the morning.
Quran 40:55

So know, [O Muhammad], that there is no deity except Allah and ask forgiveness for your sin and for the believing men and believing women. And Allah knows of your movement and your resting place.
Quran 47:19

That Allah may forgive for you what preceded of your sin and what will follow and complete His favor upon you and guide you to a straight path
Quran 48:2

 

Jesus The Savior!

(According to the Bible)

For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are–yet he did not sin
Hebrews 4:15

He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth
1 Peter 2:22

You know that he appeared to take away sins, and in him there is no sin
1 John 3:5

 

 

For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God!
2 Corinthians 5:21

 

Trust JESUS!

 

 

 

 

Reincarnations Vs Resurrection – The Difference? Eternity!

 What is Buddhism and what do Buddhists believe?

 

Buddhism is one of the leading world religions in terms of adherents, geographical distribution, and socio-cultural influence. While largely an “Eastern” religion, it is becoming increasingly popular and influential in the Western world. It is a unique world religion in its own right, though it has much in common with Hinduism in that both teach Karma (cause-and-effect ethics), Maya (the illusory nature of the world), and Samsara (the cycle of reincarnation). Buddhists believe that the ultimate goal in life is to achieve “enlightenment” as they perceive it.

Buddhism’s founder, Siddhartha Guatama, was born into royalty in India around 600 B.C. As the story goes, he lived luxuriously, with little exposure to the outside world. His parents intended for him to be spared from the influence of religion and protected from pain and suffering. However, it was not long before his shelter was penetrated, and he had visions of an aged man, a sick man, and a corpse. His fourth vision was of a peaceful ascetic monk (one who denies luxury and comfort). Seeing the monk’s peacefulness, he decided to become an ascetic himself. He abandoned his life of wealth and affluence to pursue enlightenment through austerity. He was skilled at this sort of self-mortification and intense meditation. He was a leader among his peers. Eventually, his efforts culminated in one final gesture. He “indulged” himself with one bowl of rice and then sat beneath a fig tree (also called the Bodhi tree) to meditate till he either reached “enlightenment” or died trying. Despite his travails and temptations, by the next morning, he had achieved enlightenment. Thus, he became known as the ‘enlightened one’ or the ‘Buddha.’ He took his new realization and began to teach his fellow monks, with whom he had already gained great influence. Five of his peers became the first of his disciples.

What had Gautama discovered? Enlightenment lay in the “middle way,” not in luxurious indulgence or self-mortification. Moreover, he discovered what would become known as the ‘Four Noble Truths’—1) to live is to suffer (Dukha), 2) suffering is caused by desire (Tanha, or “attachment”), 3) one can eliminate suffering by eliminating all attachments, and 4) this is achieved by following the noble eightfold path. The “eightfold path” consists of having a right 1) view, 2) intention, 3) speech, 4) action, 5) livelihood (being a monk), 6) effort (properly direct energies), 7) mindfulness (meditation), and 8) concentration (focus). The Buddha’s teachings were collected into the Tripitaka or “three baskets.”

Behind these distinguishing teachings are teachings common to Hinduism, namely reincarnation, karma, Maya, and a tendency to understand reality as being pantheistic in its orientation. Buddhism also offers an elaborate theology of deities and exalted beings. However, like Hinduism, Buddhism can be hard to pin down as to its view of God. Some streams of Buddhism could legitimately be called atheistic, while others could be called pantheistic, and still others theistic, such as Pure Land Buddhism. Classical Buddhism, however, tends to be silent on the reality of an ultimate being and is therefore considered atheistic.

Buddhism today is quite diverse. It is roughly divisible into the two broad categories of Theravada (small vessel) and Mahayana (large vessel). Theravada is the monastic form which reserves ultimate enlightenment and nirvana for monks, while Mahayana Buddhism extends this goal of enlightenment to the laity as well, that is, to non-monks. Within these categories can be found numerous branches including Tendai, Vajrayana, Nichiren, Shingon, Pure Land, Zen, and Ryobu, among others. Therefore it is important for outsiders seeking to understand Buddhism not to presume to know all the details of a particular school of Buddhism when all they have studied is classical, historic Buddhism.

The Buddha never considered himself to be a god or any type of divine being. Rather, he considered himself to be a ‘way-shower’ for others. Only after his death was he exalted to god status by some of his followers, though not all of his followers viewed him that way.

With Christianity however, it is stated quite clearly in the Bible that Jesus was the Son of God

and behold, a voice from heaven said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased
Matthew 3:17

and

I and the Father are one
John 10:30

One cannot rightfully consider himself or herself a Christian without professing faith in Jesus as God.

Jesus taught that He is the way and not simply one who showed the way as John 14:6 confirms:

“I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except by me.”

By the time Guatama died, Buddhism had become a major influence in India; three hundred years later, Buddhism had encompassed most of Asia. The scriptures and sayings attributed to the Buddha were written about four hundred years after his death.

In Buddhism, sin is largely understood to be ignorance. And, while sin is understood as “moral error,” the context in which “evil” and “good” are understood is amoral. Karma is understood as nature’s balance and is not personally enforced. Nature is not moral; therefore, karma is not a moral code, and sin is not ultimately immoral. Thus, we can say, by Buddhist thought, that our error is not a moral issue since it is ultimately an impersonal mistake, not an interpersonal violation. The consequence of this understanding is devastating. For the Buddhist, sin is more akin to a misstep than a transgression against the nature of holy God. This understanding of sin does not accord with the innate moral consciousness that men stand condemned because of their sin before a holy God (Romans 1-2).

Since it holds that sin is an impersonal and fixable error, Buddhism does not agree with the doctrine of depravity, a basic doctrine of Christianity. The Bible tells us man’s sin is a problem of eternal and infinite consequence. In Buddhism, there is no need for a Savior to rescue people from their damning sins. For the Christian, Jesus is the only means of rescue from eternal damnation. For the Buddhist there is only ethical living and meditative appeals to exalted beings for the hope of perhaps achieving enlightenment and ultimate Nirvana. More than likely, one will have to go through a number of reincarnations to pay off his or her vast accumulation of karmic debt. For the true followers of Buddhism, the religion is a philosophy of morality and ethics, encapsulated within a life of renunciation of the ego-self. In Buddhism, reality is impersonal and non-relational; therefore, it is not loving. Not only is God seen as illusory, but, in dissolving sin into non-moral error and by rejecting all material reality as maya (“illusion”), even we ourselves lose our “selves.” Personality itself becomes an illusion.

When asked how the world started, who/what created the universe, the Buddha is said to have kept silent because in Buddhism there is no beginning and no end. Instead, there is an endless circle of birth and death. One would have to ask what kind of Being created us to live, endure so much pain and suffering, and then die over and over again? It may cause one to contemplate, what is the point, why bother?

Christians know that God sent His Son to die for us, one time, so that we do not have to suffer for an eternity. He sent His Son to give us the knowledge that we are not alone and that we are loved. Christians know there is more to life than suffering, and dying, “… but it has now been revealed through the appearing of our Savior, Christ Jesus, who has destroyed death and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel” (2 Timothy 1:10).

Buddhism teaches that Nirvana is the highest state of being, a state of pure being, and it is achieved by means relative to the individual. Nirvana defies rational explanation and logical ordering and therefore cannot be taught, only “realized”. Jesus’ teaching on heaven, in contrast, was quite specific. He taught us that our physical bodies die but our souls ascend to be with Him in heaven (Mark 12:25). The Buddha taught that people do not have individual souls, for the individual self or ego is an illusion. For Buddhists there is no merciful Father in heaven who sent His Son to die for our souls, for our salvation, to provide the way for us to reach His glory. Ultimately, that is why Buddhism is to be rejected.

 

Trust JESUS

The Lord appeared to us in the past saying: “I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with unfailing kindness
Jeremiah 31:3

 

 

 

 

Special Thanks to GotQuestions.ca

 

The Message: Hebrews

Going through a long line of prophets, God has been addressing our ancestors in different ways for centuries. Recently he spoke to us directly through his Son. By his Son, God created the world in the beginning, and it will all belong to the Son at the end. This Son perfectly mirrors God, and is stamped with God’s nature. He holds everything together by what he says—powerful words!

After he finished the sacrifice for sins, the Son took his honored place high in the heavens right alongside God, far higher than any angel in rank and rule. Did God ever say to an angel, “You’re my Son; today I celebrate you” or “I’m his Father, he’s my Son”? When he presents his honored Son to the world, he says, “All angels must worship him.”

Regarding angels he says,

The messengers are winds,
the servants are tongues of fire.

But he says to the Son,

You’re God, and on the throne for good;
your rule makes everything right.
You love it when things are right;
you hate it when things are wrong.
That is why God, your God,
poured fragrant oil on your head,
Marking you out as king,
far above your dear companions.

And again to the Son,

You, Master, started it all, laid earth’s foundations,
then crafted the stars in the sky.
Earth and sky will wear out, but not you;
they become threadbare like an old coat;
You’ll fold them up like a worn-out cloak,
and lay them away on the shelf.
But you’ll stay the same, year after year;
you’ll never fade, you’ll never wear out.

 

And did he ever say anything like this to an angel?

Sit alongside me here on my throne
Until I make your enemies a stool for your feet.

Isn’t it obvious that all angels are sent to help out with those lined up to receive salvation?

It’s crucial that we keep a firm grip on what we’ve heard so that we don’t drift off. If the old message delivered by the angels was valid and nobody got away with anything, do you think we can risk neglecting this latest message, this magnificent salvation? First of all, it was delivered in person by the Master, then accurately passed on to us by those who heard it from him. All the while God was validating it with gifts through the Holy Spirit, all sorts of signs and miracles, as he saw fit.

God didn’t put angels in charge of this business of salvation that we’re dealing with here. It says in Scripture,

What is man and woman that you bother with them;
why take a second look their way?
You made them not quite as high as angels,
bright with Eden’s dawn light;
Then you put them in charge
of your entire handcrafted world.

When God put them in charge of everything, nothing was excluded. But we don’t see it yet, don’t see everything under human jurisdiction. What we do see is Jesus, made “not quite as high as angels,” and then, through the experience of death, crowned so much higher than any angel, with a glory “bright with Eden’s dawn light.” In that death, by God’s grace, he fully experienced death in every person’s place.

It makes good sense that the God who got everything started and keeps everything going now completes the work by making the Salvation Pioneer perfect through suffering as he leads all these people to glory. Since the One who saves and those who are saved have a common origin, Jesus doesn’t hesitate to treat them as family, saying,

I’ll tell my good friends, my brothers and sisters, all I know about you;
I’ll join them in worship and praise to you.

Again, he puts himself in the same family circle when he says,

Even I live by placing my trust in God.

And yet again,

I’m here with the children God gave me.

Since the children are made of flesh and blood, it’s logical that the Savior took on flesh and blood in order to rescue them by his death. By embracing death, taking it into himself, he destroyed the Devil’s hold on death and freed all who cower through life, scared to death of death.

It’s obvious, of course, that he didn’t go to all this trouble for angels. It was for people like us, children of Abraham. That’s why he had to enter into every detail of human life. Then, when he came before God as high priest to get rid of the people’s sins, he would have already experienced it all himself—all the pain, all the testing—and would be able to help where help was needed.

So, my dear Christian friends, companions in following this call to the heights, take a good hard look at Jesus. He’s the centerpiece of everything we believe, faithful in everything God gave him to do. Moses was also faithful, but Jesus gets far more honor. A builder is more valuable than a building any day. Every house has a builder, but the Builder behind them all is God. Moses did a good job in God’s house, but it was all servant work, getting things ready for what was to come. Christ as Son is in charge of the house.

Now, if we can only keep a firm grip on this bold confidence, we’re the house! That’s why the Holy Spirit says,

Today, please listen;
don’t turn a deaf ear as in “the bitter uprising,”
that time of wilderness testing!
Even though they watched me at work for forty years,
your ancestors refused to let me do it my way;
over and over they tried my patience.
And I was provoked, oh, so provoked!
I said, “They’ll never keep their minds on God;
they refuse to walk down my road.”
Exasperated, I vowed,
“They’ll never get where they’re going,
never be able to sit down and rest.”

So watch your step, friends. Make sure there’s no evil unbelief lying around that will trip you up and throw you off course, diverting you from the living God. For as long as it’s still God’s Today, keep each other on your toes so sin doesn’t slow down your reflexes. If we can only keep our grip on the sure thing we started out with, we’re in this with Christ for the long haul.

These words keep ringing in our ears:

Today, please listen;
don’t turn a deaf ear as in the bitter uprising.

For who were the people who turned a deaf ear? Weren’t they the very ones Moses led out of Egypt? And who was God provoked with for forty years? Wasn’t it those who turned a deaf ear and ended up corpses in the wilderness? And when he swore that they’d never get where they were going, wasn’t he talking to the ones who turned a deaf ear? They never got there because they never listened, never believed.

For as long, then, as that promise of resting in him pulls us on to God’s goal for us, we need to be careful that we’re not disqualified. We received the same promises as those people in the wilderness, but the promises didn’t do them a bit of good because they didn’t receive the promises with faith. If we believe, though, we’ll experience that state of resting. But not if we don’t have faith. Remember that God said,

Exasperated, I vowed,
“They’ll never get where they’re going,
never be able to sit down and rest.”

God made that vow, even though he’d finished his part before the foundation of the world. Somewhere it’s written, “God rested the seventh day, having completed his work,” but in this other text he says, “They’ll never be able to sit down and rest.” So this promise has not yet been fulfilled. Those earlier ones never did get to the place of rest because they were disobedient. God keeps renewing the promise and setting the date as today, just as he did in David’s psalm, centuries later than the original invitation:

Today, please listen,
don’t turn a deaf ear.

And so this is still a live promise. It wasn’t canceled at the time of Joshua; otherwise, God wouldn’t keep renewing the appointment for “today.” The promise of “arrival” and “rest” is still there for God’s people. God himself is at rest. And at the end of the journey we’ll surely rest with God. So let’s keep at it and eventually arrive at the place of rest, not drop out through some sort of disobedience.

God means what he says. What he says goes. His powerful Word is sharp as a surgeon’s scalpel, cutting through everything, whether doubt or defense, laying us open to listen and obey. Nothing and no one is impervious to God’s Word. We can’t get away from it—no matter what.

Now that we know what we have—Jesus, this great High Priest with ready access to God—let’s not let it slip through our fingers. We don’t have a priest who is out of touch with our reality. He’s been through weakness and testing, experienced it all—all but the sin. So let’s walk right up to him and get what he is so ready to give. Take the mercy, accept the help.

Every high priest selected to represent men and women before God and offer sacrifices for their sins should be able to deal gently with their failings, since he knows what it’s like from his own experience. But that also means that he has to offer sacrifices for his own sins as well as the peoples’.

No one elects himself to this honored position. He’s called to it by God, as Aaron was. Neither did Christ presume to set himself up as high priest, but was set apart by the One who said to him, “You’re my Son; today I celebrate you!” In another place God declares, “You’re a priest forever in the royal order of Melchizedek.”

While he lived on earth, anticipating death, Jesus cried out in pain and wept in sorrow as he offered up priestly prayers to God. Because he honored God, God answered him. Though he was God’s Son, he learned trusting-obedience by what he suffered, just as we do. Then, having arrived at the full stature of his maturity and having been announced by God as high priest in the order of Melchizedek, he became the source of eternal salvation to all who believingly obey him.

I have a lot more to say about this, but it is hard to get it across to you since you’ve picked up this bad habit of not listening. By this time you ought to be teachers yourselves, yet here I find you need someone to sit down with you and go over the basics on God again, starting from square one—baby’s milk, when you should have been on solid food long ago! Milk is for beginners, inexperienced in God’s ways; solid food is for the mature, who have some practice in telling right from wrong.

So come on, let’s leave the preschool fingerpainting exercises on Christ and get on with the grand work of art. Grow up in Christ. The basic foundational truths are in place: turning your back on “salvation by self-help” and turning in trust toward God; baptismal instructions; laying on of hands; resurrection of the dead; eternal judgment. God helping us, we’ll stay true to all that. But there’s so much more. Let’s get on with it!

Once people have seen the light, gotten a taste of heaven and been part of the work of the Holy Spirit, once they’ve personally experienced the sheer goodness of God’s Word and the powers breaking in on us—if then they turn their backs on it, washing their hands of the whole thing, well, they can’t start over as if nothing happened. That’s impossible. Why, they’ve re-crucified Jesus! They’ve repudiated him in public! Parched ground that soaks up the rain and then produces an abundance of carrots and corn for its gardener gets God’s “Well done!” But if it produces weeds and thistles, it’s more likely to get cussed out. Fields like that are burned, not harvested.

I’m sure that won’t happen to you, friends. I have better things in mind for you—salvation things! God doesn’t miss anything. He knows perfectly well all the love you’ve shown him by helping needy Christians, and that you keep at it. And now I want each of you to extend that same intensity toward a full-bodied hope, and keep at it till the finish. Don’t drag your feet. Be like those who stay the course with committed faith and then get everything promised to them.

When God made his promise to Abraham, he backed it to the hilt, putting his own reputation on the line. He said, “I promise that I’ll bless you with everything I have—bless and bless and bless!” Abraham stuck it out and got everything that had been promised to him. When people make promises, they guarantee them by appeal to some authority above them so that if there is any question that they’ll make good on the promise, the authority will back them up. When God wanted to guarantee his promises, he gave his word, a rock-solid guarantee—God can’t break his word. And because his word cannot change, the promise is likewise unchangeable.

We who have run for our very lives to God have every reason to grab the promised hope with both hands and never let go. It’s an unbreakable spiritual lifeline, reaching past all appearances right to the very presence of God where Jesus, running on ahead of us, has taken up his permanent post as high priest for us, in the order of Melchizedek.

Melchizedek was king of Salem and priest of the Highest God. He met Abraham, who was returning from “the royal massacre,” and gave him his blessing. Abraham in turn gave him a tenth of the spoils. “Melchizedek” means “King of Righteousness.” “Salem” means “Peace.” So, he is also “King of Peace.” Melchizedek towers out of the past—without record of family ties, no account of beginning or end. In this way he is like the Son of God, one huge priestly presence dominating the landscape always.

You realize just how great Melchizedek is when you see that Father Abraham gave him a tenth of the captured treasure. Priests descended from Levi are commanded by law to collect tithes from the people, even though they are all more or less equals, priests and people, having a common father in Abraham. But this man, a complete outsider, collected tithes from Abraham and blessed him, the one to whom the promises had been given. In acts of blessing, the lesser is blessed by the greater.

Or look at it this way: We pay our tithes to priests who die, but Abraham paid tithes to a priest who, the Scripture says, “lives.” Ultimately you could even say that since Levi descended from Abraham, who paid tithes to Melchizedek, when we pay tithes to the priestly tribe of Levi they end up with Melchizedek.

If the priesthood of Levi and Aaron, which provided the framework for the giving of the law, could really make people perfect, there wouldn’t have been need for a new priesthood like that of Melchizedek. But since it didn’t get the job done, there was a change of priesthood, which brought with it a radical new kind of law. There is no way of understanding this in terms of the old Levitical priesthood, which is why there is nothing in Jesus’ family tree connecting him with that priestly line.

But the Melchizedek story provides a perfect analogy: Jesus, a priest like Melchizedek, not by genealogical descent but by the sheer force of resurrection life—he lives!—“priest forever in the royal order of Melchizedek.” The former way of doing things, a system of commandments that never worked out the way it was supposed to, was set aside; the law brought nothing to maturity. Another way—Jesus!—a way that does work, that brings us right into the presence of God, is put in its place.

The old priesthood of Aaron perpetuated itself automatically, father to son, without explicit confirmation by God. But then God intervened and called this new, permanent priesthood into being with an added promise:

God gave his word;
he won’t take it back:
“You’re the permanent priest.”

This makes Jesus the guarantee of a far better way between us and God—one that really works! A new covenant.

Earlier there were a lot of priests, for they died and had to be replaced. But Jesus’ priesthood is permanent. He’s there from now to eternity to save everyone who comes to God through him, always on the job to speak up for them.

So now we have a high priest who perfectly fits our needs: completely holy, uncompromised by sin, with authority extending as high as God’s presence in heaven itself. Unlike the other high priests, he doesn’t have to offer sacrifices for his own sins every day before he can get around to us and our sins. He’s done it, once and for all: offered up himself as the sacrifice. The law appoints as high priests men who are never able to get the job done right. But this intervening command of God, which came later, appoints the Son, who is absolutely, eternally perfect.

In essence, we have just such a high priest: authoritative right alongside God, conducting worship in the one true sanctuary built by God.

The assigned task of a high priest is to offer both gifts and sacrifices, and it’s no different with the priesthood of Jesus. If he were limited to earth, he wouldn’t even be a priest. We wouldn’t need him since there are plenty of priests who offer the gifts designated in the law. These priests provide only a hint of what goes on in the true sanctuary of heaven, which Moses caught a glimpse of as he was about to set up the tent-shrine. It was then that God said, “Be careful to do it exactly as you saw it on the Mountain.”

But Jesus’ priestly work far surpasses what these other priests do, since he’s working from a far better plan. If the first plan—the old covenant—had worked out, a second wouldn’t have been needed. But we know the first was found wanting, because God said,

Heads up! The days are coming
when I’ll set up a new plan
for dealing with Israel and Judah.
I’ll throw out the old plan
I set up with their ancestors
when I led them by the hand out of Egypt.
They didn’t keep their part of the bargain,
so I looked away and let it go.
This new plan I’m making with Israel
isn’t going to be written on paper,
isn’t going to be chiseled in stone;
This time I’m writing out the plan in them,
carving it on the lining of their hearts.
I’ll be their God,
they’ll be my people.
They won’t go to school to learn about me,
or buy a book called God in Five Easy Lessons.
They’ll all get to know me firsthand,
the little and the big, the small and the great.
They’ll get to know me by being kindly forgiven,
with the slate of their sins forever wiped clean.

By coming up with a new plan, a new covenant between God and his people, God put the old plan on the shelf. And there it stays, gathering dust.

That first plan contained directions for worship, and a specially designed place of worship. A large outer tent was set up. The lampstand, the table, and “the bread of presence” were placed in it. This was called “the Holy Place.” Then a curtain was stretched, and behind it a smaller, inside tent set up. This was called “the Holy of Holies.” In it were placed the gold incense altar and the gold-covered ark of the covenant containing the gold urn of manna, Aaron’s rod that budded, the covenant tablets, and the angel-wing-shadowed mercy seat. But we don’t have time to comment on these now.

Ater this was set up, the priests went about their duties in the large tent. Only the high priest entered the smaller, inside tent, and then only once a year, offering a blood sacrifice for his own sins and the people’s accumulated sins. This was the Holy Spirit’s way of showing with a visible parable that as long as the large tent stands, people can’t just walk in on God. Under this system, the gifts and sacrifices can’t really get to the heart of the matter, can’t assuage the conscience of the people, but are limited to matters of ritual and behavior. It’s essentially a temporary arrangement until a complete overhaul could be made.

But when the Messiah arrived, high priest of the superior things of this new covenant, he bypassed the old tent and its trappings in this created world and went straight into heaven’s “tent”—the true Holy Place—once and for all. He also bypassed the sacrifices consisting of goat and calf blood, instead using his own blood as the price to set us free once and for all. If that animal blood and the other rituals of purification were effective in cleaning up certain matters of our religion and behavior, think how much more the blood of Christ cleans up our whole lives, inside and out. Through the Spirit, Christ offered himself as an unblemished sacrifice, freeing us from all those dead-end efforts to make ourselves respectable, so that we can live all out for God.

Like a will that takes effect when someone dies, the new covenant was put into action at Jesus’ death. His death marked the transition from the old plan to the new one, canceling the old obligations and accompanying sins, and summoning the heirs to receive the eternal inheritance that was promised them. He brought together God and his people in this new way.

Even the first plan required a death to set it in motion. After Moses had read out all the terms of the plan of the law—God’s “will”—he took the blood of sacrificed animals and, in a solemn ritual, sprinkled the document and the people who were its beneficiaries. And then he attested its validity with the words, “This is the blood of the covenant commanded by God.” He did the same thing with the place of worship and its furniture. Moses said to the people, “This is the blood of the covenant God has established with you.” Practically everything in a will hinges on a death. That’s why blood, the evidence of death, is used so much in our tradition, especially regarding forgiveness of sins.

That accounts for the prominence of blood and death in all these secondary practices that point to the realities of heaven. It also accounts for why, when the real thing takes place, these animal sacrifices aren’t needed anymore, having served their purpose. For Christ didn’t enter the earthly version of the Holy Place; he entered the Place Itself, and offered himself to God as the sacrifice for our sins. He doesn’t do this every year as the high priests did under the old plan with blood that was not their own; if that had been the case, he would have to sacrifice himself repeatedly throughout the course of history. But instead he sacrificed himself once and for all, summing up all the other sacrifices in this sacrifice of himself, the final solution of sin.

Everyone has to die once, then face the consequences. Christ’s death was also a one-time event, but it was a sacrifice that took care of sins forever. And so, when he next appears, the outcome for those eager to greet him is, precisely, salvation.

The old plan was only a hint of the good things in the new plan. Since that old “law plan” wasn’t complete in itself, it couldn’t complete those who followed it. No matter how many sacrifices were offered year after year, they never added up to a complete solution. If they had, the worshipers would have gone merrily on their way, no longer dragged down by their sins. But instead of removing awareness of sin, when those animal sacrifices were repeated over and over they actually heightened awareness and guilt. The plain fact is that bull and goat blood can’t get rid of sin. That is what is meant by this prophecy, put in the mouth of Christ:

You don’t want sacrifices and offerings year after year;
you’ve prepared a body for me for a sacrifice.
It’s not fragrance and smoke from the altar
that whet your appetite.
So I said, “I’m here to do it your way, O God,
the way it’s described in your Book.”

When he said, “You don’t want sacrifices and offerings,” he was referring to practices according to the old plan. When he added, “I’m here to do it your way,” he set aside the first in order to enact the new plan—God’s way—by which we are made fit for God by the once-for-all sacrifice of Jesus.

Every priest goes to work at the altar each day, offers the same old sacrifices year in, year out, and never makes a dent in the sin problem. As a priest, Christ made a single sacrifice for sins, and that was it! Then he sat down right beside God and waited for his enemies to cave in. It was a perfect sacrifice by a perfect person to perfect some very imperfect people. By that single offering, he did everything that needed to be done for everyone who takes part in the purifying process. The Holy Spirit confirms this:

This new plan I’m making with Israel
isn’t going to be written on paper,
isn’t going to be chiseled in stone;
This time “I’m writing out the plan in them,
carving it on the lining of their hearts.”

He concludes,

I’ll forever wipe the slate clean of their sins.

Once sins are taken care of for good, there’s no longer any need to offer sacrifices for them.

So, friends, we can now—without hesitation—walk right up to God, into “the Holy Place.” Jesus has cleared the way by the blood of his sacrifice, acting as our priest before God. The “curtain” into God’s presence is his body.

So let’s do it—full of belief, confident that we’re presentable inside and out. Let’s keep a firm grip on the promises that keep us going. He always keeps his word. Let’s see how inventive we can be in encouraging love and helping out, not avoiding worshiping together as some do but spurring each other on, especially as we see the big Day approaching.

If we give up and turn our backs on all we’ve learned, all we’ve been given, all the truth we now know, we repudiate Christ’s sacrifice and are left on our own to face the Judgment—and a mighty fierce judgment it will be! If the penalty for breaking the law of Moses is physical death, what do you think will happen if you turn on God’s Son, spit on the sacrifice that made you whole, and insult this most gracious Spirit? This is no light matter. God has warned us that he’ll hold us to account and make us pay. He was quite explicit: “Vengeance is mine, and I won’t overlook a thing” and “God will judge his people.” Nobody’s getting by with anything, believe me.

Remember those early days after you first saw the light? Those were the hard times! Kicked around in public, targets of every kind of abuse—some days it was you, other days your friends. If some friends went to prison, you stuck by them. If some enemies broke in and seized your goods, you let them go with a smile, knowing they couldn’t touch your real treasure. Nothing they did bothered you, nothing set you back. So don’t throw it all away now. You were sure of yourselves then. It’s still a sure thing! But you need to stick it out, staying with God’s plan so you’ll be there for the promised completion.

It won’t be long now, he’s on the way;
he’ll show up most any minute.
But anyone who is right with me thrives on loyal trust;
if he cuts and runs, I won’t be very happy.

But we’re not quitters who lose out. Oh, no! We’ll stay with it and survive, trusting all the way.

The fundamental fact of existence is that this trust in God, this faith, is the firm foundation under everything that makes life worth living. It’s our handle on what we can’t see. The act of faith is what distinguished our ancestors, set them above the crowd.

By faith, we see the world called into existence by God’s word, what we see created by what we don’t see.

By an act of faith, Abel brought a better sacrifice to God than Cain. It was what he believed, not what he brought, that made the difference. That’s what God noticed and approved as righteous. After all these centuries, that belief continues to catch our notice.

By an act of faith, Enoch skipped death completely. “They looked all over and couldn’t find him because God had taken him.” We know on the basis of reliable testimony that before he was taken “he pleased God.” It’s impossible to please God apart from faith. And why? Because anyone who wants to approach God must believe both that he exists and that he cares enough to respond to those who seek him.

By faith, Noah built a ship in the middle of dry land. He was warned about something he couldn’t see, and acted on what he was told. The result? His family was saved. His act of faith drew a sharp line between the evil of the unbelieving world and the rightness of the believing world. As a result, Noah became intimate with God.

By an act of faith, Abraham said yes to God’s call to travel to an unknown place that would become his home. When he left he had no idea where he was going. By an act of faith he lived in the country promised him, lived as a stranger camping in tents. Isaac and Jacob did the same, living under the same promise. Abraham did it by keeping his eye on an unseen city with real, eternal foundations—the City designed and built by God.

By faith, barren Sarah was able to become pregnant, old woman as she was at the time, because she believed the One who made a promise would do what he said. That’s how it happened that from one man’s dead and shriveled loins there are now people numbering into the millions.

Each one of these people of faith died not yet having in hand what was promised, but still believing. How did they do it? They saw it way off in the distance, waved their greeting, and accepted the fact that they were transients in this world. People who live this way make it plain that they are looking for their true home. If they were homesick for the old country, they could have gone back any time they wanted. But they were after a far better country than that—heaven country. You can see why God is so proud of them, and has a City waiting for them.

By faith, Abraham, at the time of testing, offered Isaac back to God. Acting in faith, he was as ready to return the promised son, his only son, as he had been to receive him—and this after he had already been told, “Your descendants shall come from Isaac.” Abraham figured that if God wanted to, he could raise the dead. In a sense, that’s what happened when he received Isaac back, alive from off the altar.

By an act of faith, Isaac reached into the future as he blessed Jacob and Esau.

By an act of faith, Jacob on his deathbed blessed each of Joseph’s sons in turn, blessing them with God’s blessing, not his own—as he bowed worshipfully upon his staff.

By an act of faith, Joseph, while dying, prophesied the exodus of Israel, and made arrangements for his own burial.

By an act of faith, Moses’ parents hid him away for three months after his birth. They saw the child’s beauty, and they braved the king’s decree.

By faith, Moses, when grown, refused the privileges of the Egyptian royal house. He chose a hard life with God’s people rather than an opportunistic soft life of sin with the oppressors. He valued suffering in the Messiah’s camp far greater than Egyptian wealth because he was looking ahead, anticipating the payoff. By an act of faith, he turned his heel on Egypt, indifferent to the king’s blind rage. He had his eye on the One no eye can see, and kept right on going. By an act of faith, he kept the Passover Feast and sprinkled Passover blood on each house so that the destroyer of the firstborn wouldn’t touch them.

By an act of faith, Israel walked through the Red Sea on dry ground. The Egyptians tried it and drowned.

By faith, the Israelites marched around the walls of Jericho for seven days, and the walls fell flat.

By an act of faith, Rahab, the Jericho harlot, welcomed the spies and escaped the destruction that came on those who refused to trust God.

I could go on and on, but I’ve run out of time. There are so many more—Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, Samuel, the prophets. . . . Through acts of faith, they toppled kingdoms, made justice work, took the promises for themselves. They were protected from lions, fires, and sword thrusts, turned disadvantage to advantage, won battles, routed alien armies. Women received their loved ones back from the dead. There were those who, under torture, refused to give in and go free, preferring something better: resurrection. Others braved abuse and whips, and, yes, chains and dungeons. We have stories of those who were stoned, sawed in two, murdered in cold blood; stories of vagrants wandering the earth in animal skins, homeless, friendless, powerless—the world didn’t deserve them!—making their way as best they could on the cruel edges of the world.

Not one of these people, even though their lives of faith were exemplary, got their hands on what was promised. God had a better plan for us: that their faith and our faith would come together to make one completed whole, their lives of faith not complete apart from ours.

Do you see what this means—all these pioneers who blazed the way, all these veterans cheering us on? It means we’d better get on with it. Strip down, start running—and never quit! No extra spiritual fat, no parasitic sins. Keep your eyes on Jesus, who both began and finished this race we’re in. Study how he did it. Because he never lost sight of where he was headed—that exhilarating finish in and with God—he could put up with anything along the way: Cross, shame, whatever. And now he’s there, in the place of honor, right alongside God. When you find yourselves flagging in your faith, go over that story again, item by item, that long litany of hostility he plowed through. That will shoot adrenaline into your souls!

In this all-out match against sin, others have suffered far worse than you, to say nothing of what Jesus went through—all that bloodshed! So don’t feel sorry for yourselves. Or have you forgotten how good parents treat children, and that God regards you as his children?

My dear child, don’t shrug off God’s discipline,
but don’t be crushed by it either.
It’s the child he loves that he disciplines;
the child he embraces, he also corrects.

God is educating you; that’s why you must never drop out. He’s treating you as dear children. This trouble you’re in isn’t punishment; it’s training, the normal experience of children. Only irresponsible parents leave children to fend for themselves. Would you prefer an irresponsible God? We respect our own parents for training and not spoiling us, so why not embrace God’s training so we can truly live? While we were children, our parents did what seemed best to them. But God is doing what is best for us, training us to live God’s holy best. At the time, discipline isn’t much fun. It always feels like it’s going against the grain. Later, of course, it pays off handsomely, for it’s the well-trained who find themselves mature in their relationship with God.

So don’t sit around on your hands! No more dragging your feet! Clear the path for long-distance runners so no one will trip and fall, so no one will step in a hole and sprain an ankle. Help each other out. And run for it!

Work at getting along with each other and with God. Otherwise you’ll never get so much as a glimpse of God. Make sure no one gets left out of God’s generosity. Keep a sharp eye out for weeds of bitter discontent. A thistle or two gone to seed can ruin a whole garden in no time. Watch out for the Esau syndrome: trading away God’s lifelong gift in order to satisfy a short-term appetite. You well know how Esau later regretted that impulsive act and wanted God’s blessing—but by then it was too late, tears or no tears.

Unlike your ancestors, you didn’t come to Mount Sinai—all that volcanic blaze and earthshaking rumble—to hear God speak. The earsplitting words and soul-shaking message terrified them and they begged him to stop. When they heard the words—“If an animal touches the Mountain, it’s as good as dead”—they were afraid to move. Even Moses was terrified.

No, that’s not your experience at all. You’ve come to Mount Zion, the city where the living God resides. The invisible Jerusalem is populated by throngs of festive angels and Christian citizens. It is the city where God is Judge, with judgments that make us just. You’ve come to Jesus, who presents us with a new covenant, a fresh charter from God. He is the Mediator of this covenant. The murder of Jesus, unlike Abel’s—a homicide that cried out for vengeance—became a proclamation of grace.

So don’t turn a deaf ear to these gracious words. If those who ignored earthly warnings didn’t get away with it, what will happen to us if we turn our backs on heavenly warnings? His voice that time shook the earth to its foundations; this time—he’s told us this quite plainly—he’ll also rock the heavens: “One last shaking, from top to bottom, stem to stern.” The phrase “one last shaking” means a thorough housecleaning, getting rid of all the historical and religious junk so that the unshakable essentials stand clear and uncluttered.

Do you see what we’ve got? An unshakable kingdom! And do you see how thankful we must be? Not only thankful, but brimming with worship, deeply reverent before God. For God is not an indifferent bystander. He’s actively cleaning house, torching all that needs to burn, and he won’t quit until it’s all cleansed. God is an all consuming fire!

Stay on good terms with each other, held together by love. Be ready with a meal or a bed when it’s needed. Why, some have extended hospitality to angels without ever knowing it! Regard prisoners as if you were in prison with them. Look on victims of abuse as if what happened to them had happened to you. Honor marriage, and guard the sacredness of sexual intimacy between wife and husband. God draws a firm line against casual and illicit sex.

Don’t be obsessed with getting more material things. Be relaxed with what you have. Since God assured us, “I’ll never let you down, never walk off and leave you,” we can boldly quote,

God is there, ready to help;
I’m fearless no matter what.
Who or what can get to me?

Appreciate your pastoral leaders who gave you the Word of God. Take a good look at the way they live, and let their faithfulness instruct you, as well as their truthfulness. There should be a consistency that runs through us all. For Jesus doesn’t change—yesterday, today, tomorrow, he’s always totally himself.

Don’t be lured away from him by the latest speculations about him. The grace of Christ is the only good ground for life. Products named after Christ don’t seem to do much for those who buy them.

The altar from which God gives us the gift of himself is not for exploitation by insiders who grab and loot. In the old system, the animals are killed and the bodies disposed of outside the camp. The blood is then brought inside to the altar as a sacrifice for sin. It’s the same with Jesus. He was crucified outside the city gates—that is where he poured out the sacrificial blood that was brought to God’s altar to cleanse his people.

So let’s go outside, where Jesus is, where the action is—not trying to be privileged insiders, but taking our share in the abuse of Jesus. This “insider world” is not our home. We have our eyes peeled for the City about to come. Let’s take our place outside with Jesus, no longer pouring out the sacrificial blood of animals but pouring out sacrificial praises from our lips to God in Jesus’ name.

Make sure you don’t take things for granted and go slack in working for the common good; share what you have with others. God takes particular pleasure in acts of worship—a different kind of “sacrifice”—that take place in kitchen and workplace and on the streets.

Be responsive to your pastoral leaders. Listen to their counsel. They are alert to the condition of your lives and work under the strict supervision of God. Contribute to the joy of their leadership, not its drudgery. Why would you want to make things harder for them?

Pray for us. We have no doubts about what we’re doing or why, but it’s hard going and we need your prayers. All we care about is living well before God. Pray that we may be together soon.

May God, who puts all things together,
makes all things whole,
Who made a lasting mark through the sacrifice of Jesus,
the sacrifice of blood that sealed the eternal covenant,
Who led Jesus, our Great Shepherd,
up and alive from the dead,
Now put you together, provide you
with everything you need to please him,
Make us into what gives him most pleasure,
by means of the sacrifice of Jesus, the Messiah.
All glory to Jesus forever and always!
Oh, yes, yes, yes.

Friends, please take what I’ve written most seriously. I’ve kept this as brief as possible; I haven’t piled on a lot of extras. You’ll be glad to know that Timothy has been let out of prison. If he leaves soon, I’ll come with him and get to see you myself.

Say hello to your pastoral leaders and all the congregations. Everyone here in Italy wants to be remembered to you.

Grace be with you, every one.

 

 

The Lust of the Eyes

“Jesus calls us from the worship
Of the vain world’s golden store;
From each idol that would keep us,
Saying, ‘Christian, love Me more.’”
Cecil Alexander

 

The phrase “lust of the eyes” is found in 1 John 2:15-17: “Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in him. For everything in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—comes not from the Father but from the world. The world and its desires pass away, but whoever does the will of God lives forever.” What is this “lust of the eyes”?

Simply put, the lust of the eyes is the desire to possess what we see or to have those things which have visual appeal. This coveting of money, possessions, or other physical things is not from God, but from the world around us. John emphasizes that these physical things do not last; they will pass away. In contrast, the child of God is guaranteed eternity.

The Ten Commandments addressed the lust of the eyes in its prohibition against coveting. Exodus 20:17 commands, “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his male servant, or his female servant, or his ox, or his donkey, or anything that is your neighbor’s.” Coveting can include a desire to have people, possessions, or status.

Satan uses the lust of the eyes as one avenue of temptation. Part of the reason Eve listened to the serpent in the Garden was that she looked at the forbidden fruit and saw that it was “pleasing to the eye” (Genesis 3:6). Satan used a visual image to help entrap her. Satan tried a similar tactic on Jesus. One of his temptations in the wilderness was an attempt to make Jesus covet earthly power. Satan used a visual: he “showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor” (Matthew 4:8). He then promised to give them to Jesus—for a price. Of course, Jesus did not succumb to the lust of the eyes, and Satan was defeated (verses 10 and 11).

We must follow Jesus’ example and, in the power of the Holy Spirit, resist the lust of the eyes. The world is full of “eye candy,” glamor, and gaudiness. Materialism beckons with its promise of happiness and fulfillment. A media-saturated society bombards us with advertising campaigns that might as well say, “Covet this!”

All that glitters is not gold, and the child of God knows that fame, fortune, and finery quickly fade.

Cast but a glance at riches, and they are gone, for they will surely sprout wings and fly off to the sky like an eagle
Proverbs 23:5

Our focus is not the newest product or latest fashion. Our goal is not to keep up with the Joneses or to surround ourselves with the trappings of glittering magnificence. Instead, our goal is “to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings” (Philippians 3:10). Our eyes are set on Jesus (Hebrews 12:2). Our view is to eternity.

 

“This life’s dim windows of the soul
Distorts the heavens from pole to pole
And leads you to believe a lie
When you see with, not through, the eye”

William Blake

 

 

 

 

Answering Islam According to the Quran – Truth IS Objective!

Where Did Jesus Say, “I Am God, Worship Me”?

The Qur’an commands Christians to judge by the Gospel:

Qur’an 5:47—“Let the people of the Gospel judge by what Allah hath revealed therein. If any do fail to judge by (the light of) what Allah hath revealed, they are (no better than) those who rebel.”

Thus, when Christians present their beliefs, it makes sense for Muslims to ask, “Could you show us where the Bible says that?” Christians should therefore be eager to present evidence from the Gospel, because Muslims cannot condemn us for doing what the Qur’an commands. Indeed, since the Qur’an affirms not only the Gospel, but also the Torah (Qur’an 5:43), Muslims cannot ignore what the Bible says without thereby rebelling against Islam.

Muslims around the world are being trained to ask Christians, “Where did Jesus say, ‘I am God, worship me,’ in those exact words?” However, if Muslims are suggesting that Jesus could only claim to be God by uttering a specific sentence, we may reply by asking, “Where did Jesus say, ‘I am only a prophet, don’t worship me,’ in those exact words?” The unreasonable demand for a particular statement, if applied consistently, would thus force Muslims to reject their own view.

Fortunately, we have a simple way to examine what Jesus said about himself. According to both the Bible and the Qur’an, there are certain claims that only God can truly make. For instance, God alone can correctly state that he created the universe. Of course, a mere human being can pronounce the words, “I created the universe,” but the statement would be false coming from anyone other than God.

Hence, if Jesus said things that can only truly be said by God, we must conclude that Jesus claimed to be God. Interestingly, Jews, Christians, and Muslims agree on many of the claims that cannot be properly made by (or about) mere human beings. Let us consider a few of these.

THE FIRST AND THE LAST

Surah 57:3 of the Qur’an refers to Allah as “the First and the Last, the Most High and the Most Near”. The Old Testament agrees that God is the “First and the Last”, as we read in the Book of the prophet Isaiah:

Isaiah 44:6—Thus says the LORD, the King of Israel and his Redeemer, the LORD of hosts: “I am the first and I am the last, and there is no God besides Me.”

When “LORD” is written in all capitals in the Old Testament, the term refers to Yahweh, the creator of the universe. Since both the Bible and the Qur’an give the title “the First and the Last” to God, it should be quite shocking for Muslims to open the New Testament and read Revelation 1:17-18, where Jesus says:

“Do not be afraid; I am the first and the last, and the living One; and I was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of death and of Hades.”

Would a mere prophet claim to be the “First and the Last”?

 

WHO FORGIVES SINS?


While one human being may sin against another human being, there is a sense in which all sin is rebellion against God. Similarly, while you and I may forgive one another for the wrongs we commit, only God can offer the ultimate forgiveness. Thus, the prophet David could say to God “Against You, You only, I have sinned and done what is evil in Your sight” (Psalm 51:4), and the prophet Daniel could declare “To the Lord our God belong compassion and forgiveness, for we have rebelled against Him (Daniel 9:9)

The Qur’an agrees that ultimate forgiveness belongs to God, for it asks, “Who can forgive sins except Allah?” (3:135).

It might surprise Muslims to learn that, in the New Testament, Jesus claims the ability to forgive sins. In Mark 2, a paralyzed man is brought to Jesus in order to be healed. Jesus’ response leads the religious leaders to accuse him of blasphemy:

Mark 2:5-7—And Jesus seeing their faith said to the paralytic, “Son, your sins are forgiven.” But some of the scribes were sitting there and reasoning in their hearts, “Why does this man speak that way? He is blaspheming; who can forgive sins but God alone?”

The scribes correctly recognized that only God can forgive sins. Yet Jesus (who referred to himself as the “Son of Man”), knowing their thoughts, replied that “the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins” (Mark 2:10). He then healed the paralytic, proving that his claims were true.

THE LIGHT

In Psalm 27:1, the prophet David proclaims “The LORD is my ligth and my salvation”. Similarly, the Quran declares that “Allah is the light of the heavens and the earth” (24:35) Yet Jesus tells his listeners that he is “the Light”

John 8:12—“I am the Light of the world; he who follows Me will not walk in the darkness, but will have the Light of life.”

THE TRUTH

The prophet David refers to Yahweh as the “God of Truth” (Psalm 31:5). According to the Qur’an, “Allah is the Truth” (22:6). Jesus, however, applies this as a title for himself:

John 14:6 —Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.”

How can a mere human being claim to be “The Truth”?

THE FINAL JUDGE

In Chapter 3 of the Book of the prophet Joel, Yahweh declares that the nations will be gathered and that he “will sit to judge all the surrounding nations”(V. 12) According to the prophet David, “the LORD abides forever; He has established His throne for judgement and He will judge the world in righteousness (Psalm 9:7-8)

The Qur’an maintains that Allah will judge the world, rewarding believers and punishing unbelievers:

Qur’an 22:56-57—The kingdom on that day shall be Allah’s; He will judge between them; so those who believe and do good will be in gardens of bliss. And (as for) those who disbelieve in and reject Our communications, these it is who shall have a disgraceful chastisement.

So why, we may wonder, would Jesus tell his followers that he will be the final judge of all people?

Matthew 25:31-32—“But when the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the angels with Him, then He will sit on His glorious throne. All the nations will be gathered before Him; and He will separate them from one another, as the shepherd separates the sheep from the goats.”

Jesus goes on to say that he will admit certain people to heaven and cast others into hell. Isn’t this something only God can do?

THE RESURRECTION

The Bible and the Qur’an agree that God is the one who will raise the dead

1 Samuel 2:6—The LORD kills and makes alive; He brings down to Sheol and raises up.

Qur’an 22:7 Allah will resurrect those who are in the graves

Since God will raise the dead at the resurrection, why would a mere prophet tell his followers that he will resurrect the dead?

John 5:25-29—“Truly, truly, I say to you, an hour is coming and now is, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live. For just as the Father has life in Himself, even so He gave to the Son also to have life in Himself; and He gave Him authority to execute judgment, because He is the Son of Man. Do not marvel at this; for an hour is coming, in which all who are in the tombs will hear His voice, and will come forth; those who did the good deeds to a resurrection of life, those who committed the evil deeds to a resurrection of judgment.”

John 11:25 – Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me will live even if he dies.”

GOD’S GLORY

The Qur’an tells us that “Whatsoever is in the heavens and the earth glorifies Allah (57:1)

In the Old Testament, we find that Yahweh will not share his glory with anyone.

Isaiah 42:8—“I am the LORD, that is My name; 
I will not give My glory to another.” (Cf. Isaiah 48:11—“My glory I will not give to another.”)

Yet Jesus claimed, not only that he would be glorified with the Father, but that he had glory with the Father before the world was created!

John 17:5—“Now, Father, glorify Me together with Yourself, with the glory which I had with You before the world was.”

How can anyone see this as anything other than a claim to deity?

FURTHER EVIDENCE

In Mark 2:28, Jesus calls himself the “Lord of the Sabbath.” In Matthew 22:41-45, he proves that he is the Lord of the prophet David. In John 8:39-58, Jesus says that he has seen the prophet Abraham. In Matthew 12:6, Jesus claims to be greater than God’s temple

Jesus tells us that he has an absolutely unique relationship with the Father (Matthew 11:27), that he can answer prayers (John 14:13-14), that he is present wherever his followers are gathered (Matthew 18:20), that he has “all authority in heaven and on earth” (Matthew 28:18), and that he is with his followers forever (Matthew 28:20). He even makes the startling declaration that “All things that the Father has are Mine” (John 16:15).

According to Jesus, all people must honor him just as we honor the Father:

John 5:21-23—“For just as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, even so the Son also gives life to whom He wishes. For not even the Father judges anyone, but He has given all judgment to the Son, so that all will honor the Son even as they honor the Father. He who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent Him.”

Since one of the ways we honor the Father is by worshiping him, it should come as no surprise that Jesus’ followers worshiped him on numerous occasions. Indeed, the Gospel tells us that Jesus was worshiped throughout his life: shortly after his birth (Matthew 2:11), during his ministry (Matthew 14:33, John 9:38), after his resurrection (Matthew 28:17), and after his ascension to heaven (Luke 24:52). Jesus’ disciple Thomas even addressed him as “my Lord and my God” (John 20:28).

ASSESSMENT

Where did Jesus say “I am God, worship me?” As we have seen, Jesus claimed to be the First and the Last, the forgiver of sins, the Light, the Truth, the Final Judge, and the Resurrection. Jesus proclaimed that he had glory with the Father before the world was created, that he is the Lord of the Sabbath and of King David, that he had seen Abraham, and that he is greater that God’s temple. Jesus has a unique relationship with the Father, he can answer prayer, he is with his followers no matter where they are, he has total authority on earth and in heaven, he is with his followers forever, and he owns everything. Jesus even demanded that he be honored just as the Father is honored. Clearly these are not the claims of a mere human being. They are not even the claims of a mighty prophet. These are the claims only God can truly make. this is why Christians believe that Jesus is God.

POSTSCRIPT: THE ISLAMIC DILEMMA

Since the Bible obviousl supports the Christian view of Jesus, Muslims who want to deny the deity of Christ will have to argue that the Gospel has been corrupted. but if the Gospel has been corrupted, why does the Qur’an command Christians to judge by the Gospel? By commanding us to judge by what we find in the Gospel, the Qur’an has inadvertently ordered Christians to reject Islam.

But it gets worse for Muslims. The Qur’an affirms the inspiration and reliability of the Christian Scriptures (3:3-4, 5:47, 5:66, 7:157, 10:94), as well as man’s inability to corrupt God’s Word (6:114-115, 18:27). Muslims therefore cannot reject what the Gospel says, which leaves them with quite a dilemma. If the Gospel is reliable, Islam must be false, since the Gospel presents Jesus as God. Alternatively, if the Gospel is unreliable, Islam must be false, because the Qur’an tells us that the Gospel is the Word of God. Either way, Islam is false, and anyone who is searching for the truth will never find it in the Qur’an.

 

By David Wood