He walked among men and His was the greatest life ever lived. His spotless character, unflawed from any standpoint, brought tribute even from His enemies. His life was unique. No imperfect man could have invented Him. No skeptic can reasonably explain Him. More has been written about Him than any other on & in history, yet on earth He wrote nothing of which we have a record. He had greater impact on history than any other person. He caused it to be divided into periods called B.C. and A.D. (before Christ and
Anno Domini, the year of our Lord). Yet He took no part in politics and commanded no earthly army. He became the most controversial man in history, bitterly opposed, mindlessly persecuted and violently slain. Yet He preached nonviolence and forbade retaliation, vengeance or the sword. He said, “My kingdom is not of this world.” His chief credential was His moral supremacy. The span of all He was, and is, and has done, stretches from an eternity past, through earthly life, to infinity.
His Names. He was called
Jesus, “for He shall save His people
from their sins” (Matthew 1:21). Jesus means “God [Jehovah] saves.” He was the divine
Savior (Titus 2:13; Isaiah 43:11). This Savior was
Lord (Luke 2:11). As Christ or Messiah, the Anointed One, He was the promised Deliverer (John 4:25-26). He often referred to Himself as the Son
of Man (Luke 19:10), expressive of the humanity to which He stooped. But He was also
Son of God, which His enemies understood as a declaration of deity (John 10:33, 36). He was the
Word of God (John 1:1, 14), the
Lamb of God (John 1:29),
Alpha and Omega, Beginning and End, First and Last (Revelation 22:13). Supremely He is called
King of kings and
Lord of lords (Revelation 19:16).
His Eternal Past. He was not a created being but the Creator of all things (John 1:3, 10; Colossians 1:16-17; 1 Corinthians 8:6; Hebrews 1:2, 10). From all eternity, He was with God and
was God (John 1:1-2). The expression “begotten” is not used of Him in the sense of birth. “Only-begotten” (John 1:14, 18; 3:16, 18) means “unique,” as is illustrated in Isaac, who was not an only child (Hebrews 11:17). “First born” describes Him in the sense of priority, as is evident in Colossians 1:18 and Revelation 1:5. The Lord was from eternity (Micah 5:2; Isaiah 9:6; Proverbs 8:22-23). As the “I Am,” He was before all things (John 8:58; Exodus 3:14). He shared the Father’s glory before the world was (John 17:5).
His Old Testament Appearances. The Lord Jesus did not first appear in the New Testament. The Lord expounded in Moses and the prophets the things concerning Himself (Luke 24:27, 44). He was the theme and fulfillment of Scripture. He fulfilled hundreds of prophesies, including His place of birth (Micah 5:2), manner of birth (Isaiah 7:14), and manner of death (Isaiah 53). He was the fulfiller of promises concerning a prophet greater than Moses (Deuteronomy 18:18-19), a priest who would minister forever (1 Samuel 2:35), and a king, greater than David, whose throne would endure forever (2 Samuel 7:12-13). He would fulfill the promises portrayed in the sacrifices and feasts, such as the Passover (1 Corinthians 5:7). It is evident that we have in the Old Testament visible appearances of God, usually as an angel or messenger of the Lord. These are called
theophanies. The actions and works of the Angel of Jehovah are clearly that of God, not a created being. Examples are Genesis 22:11-18; 32:1-30 (cf. Hosea 12:4-5); Exodus 3:2-6 (cf. Mark 12:26); Joshua 5:13-15; Judges 6:11-12; 13:18-22. We further see Christ in the
types. A type is an illustration in the Old Testament of spiritual truth in the New Testament, especially of the Messiah. The brazen serpent in Numbers 21 pictures Christ on the cross as the object of regenerating faith (John 3:14-16). The smitten rock of Exodus 17:6 and Numbers 20:8-12 was the crucified Savior (1 Corinthians 10:4). Melchizedek pictures Christ as the Great High Priest (Genesis 14; Hebrews 5-7).
His Coming As Man. “The Word was made flesh and dwelt among us” (John 1:14). The incarnation (in-flesh-ment) is this: “He appeared in a body” (1 Timothy 3:16 NIV). When the one God took upon Himself humanity, both divine and human natures were marvelously joined in a single person. Divine attributes were veiled but not surrendered. His humanity was complete. Yet He was without sin (Hebrews 4:15). The union is seen in Philippians 2:6-11; Romans 1:3-4; 9:5; Hebrews 2:14. The Gospel accounts do not always match in emphasis or sequence of events since they approach the subject differently. The Lord Jesus is presented in
Matthew as King of Israel, in
Mark as the Perfect Servant, in
Luke as the Son of Man (emphasizing His humanity), and in
John as Son of God (emphasizing His deity). He was miraculously conceived in the womb of a virgin by the Spirit of God (Isaiah 7:14; Matthew 1:21; Luke 1:34-35). The Child grew in all normal ways (Luke 2:52). We have only one incident of His childhood recorded (Luke 2:42-51). His first 30 years were spent in Nazareth, Israel, except for His
birth in Bethlehem and brief stay in Egypt during His infancy.
His Public Inauguration. The Messiah was to be heralded by one who went before Him to
prepare the way spiritually (Isaiah 40:1-5). John the Baptist was the fulfillment of that prophecy (Matthew 3; Mark 1:1-11; Luke 3:2-18; John 1:19-36). His ministry was a personal call to repentance, without which men cannot be saved (Luke 13:3). The Lord Jesus began His public ministry by
accepting baptism from John, although the prophet felt the Savior should be the baptizer (Matthew 3:14-16). The Lord did this only to “fulfill all righteousness.” He alone needed no repentance. Upon His baptism,
the Spirit of God visibly anointed Him for ministry and the voice of the Father was heard praising His Son. The “years of obscurity” were over. He
called the twelve disciples to be with Him, and began a dramatic itinerant ministry of about three years.
His Temptation And Transfiguration. The Lord Jesus ministered in Galilee, Judea and beyond Jordan, never leaving Israel. Of the many events in the period, two particularly should be noted in their relationship to the glory of His person. He was subjected to Satanic
temptation during an intense 40-day period of fasting in the wilderness (Matthew 4:1-11; Luke 4:1-13). The three areas of this temptation involved appeals to hunger, to spiritual pride and to tempting God by presumptuous action. His successful resistance was evidence of His sinless character. A spectacular manifestation of His divine glory was seen by three disciples on the Mount of
Transfiguration (Matthew 17:1-8; Mark 9:2-9; Luke 9:28-36). There they saw His glory, which was the Glory of God shining through as a great Light. His face gleamed as the sun. Again the voice of the Father was heard proclaiming delight in His beloved Son. Both the temptation and transfiguration displayed the absolute uniqueness of Jesus.
His Miracles And Teaching. Like Moses, Elijah and Elisha in an earlier day, the Lord Jesus did many mighty works. He pointed to these works as a ground of belief (John 14:11). Although miracles can be counterfeited, they are usually seen as occurrences totally beyond any known natural laws. Nicodemus believed the miracles of Jesus proved He came from God (John 3:2). His miracles were varied. He
healed instantaneously a wide range of afflictions and handicaps (the lame, blind, paralyzed, crippled and leprous). He demonstrated
power over nature (walking on the waters, hushing a storm). He
created materials (feeding the 5,000 and turning the water into wine). He
commanded the evil spirits to leave the bodies of their victims. He
raised the dead (Lazarus, the son of the widow of Nain and Jairus’ daughter). His miracles manifested deity and fulfilled Scriptures. They also displayed His compassion for the suffering. He did not perform them to draw crowds or to impress the curious. He often asked the ones cured not to tell anyone.
His teaching method was marked by frequent use of parables. These are brief stories of men or natural events which illustrate spiritual truth. His famous Sermon on the Mount has no equal anywhere (Matthew 5—7). It astonished His hearers (Matthew 7:28-29). His powerful discourses, especially those in John’s Gospel, are beyond anything that ever came from man, especially those which include the “I Am” statements. He charged His disciples to faithfully keep His teachings, and warned that there would be divisions within homes and families because of them (Luke 12:51-53).
His Opposition. All that is good and righteous is expressed in the Lord Jesus. But good is opposed by evil. The Bible shows that resistance was headed by a fallen spiritual being called “Satan” or “the Devil” (Revelation 12:9). Satanic opposition sought to slay the infant Jesus, resisted Him throughout His ministry and finally led the plot to eliminate Him (Luke 22:2-4). Satan variously used others to wickedly oppose Christ.
His Death, Resurrection, Ascension. More space is given to the sufferings and death of Christ in the four Gospels than in any other portion. This is a central issue. Without the death of Christ there could be no forgiveness, salvation and hope in the coming life— the heart of the Gospel proclamation. His sacrifice was a prophetic fulfillment of Isaiah 53, Psalm 22 and other Scriptures. The Lord Jesus foretold His death many times to His uncomprehending disciples (Matthew 16:21; 17:9-12, 22-23; 20:18-19). The bold prediction that He would rise again was heard by His enemies and made the basis of requesting a Roman guard over His tomb (Matthew 27:63-66). Christ later rebuked His disciples for not believing the Scriptures or His own Word (Luke 24:25-27). In view of His coming death and its significance to salvation, He instituted a memorial supper on the final night before His crucifixion (Matthew 26:26-28; Mark 14:22-24; Luke 22:19-20). The betrayal by Judas fulfilled Scripture, even to the price paid (Zechariah 11:12-13). His final prayers and agony in a garden, the plotting of enemies, the flight of His disciples and the mockery of His trial complete His last hours.
The Roman governor could find no fault in Him, but yielding to public pressure, condemned Him to carry His cross to the hill called Calvary or Golgotha. The details of His sufferings and “seven last words” are given in moving descriptions. The final cry, “It is finished!” (John 19:30), celebrated the completion of His saving work. In a mysterious way, the wickedness of man had been used in the eternal purpose of God to save those who would believe, though He was put to death by men. Yet amazingly His sufferings were substitutionary and He fulfilled Scripture as the one afflicted by God (Isaiah 53:4). His death was in the company of two thieves and burial in the tomb of a rich man, also fulfilling prophecy (Isaiah 53:9). The Roman guard and sealed tomb with the great stone did not prevent His rising on the third day, just as He predicted (Matthew 28; Mark 16; Luke 24; John 20). He appeared to several hundred disciples over a period of 40 days before being received up into heaven before their eyes (1 Corinthians 15:6; Acts 1:3-9). The pierced hands, offered to “doubting Thomas,” left no doubt. Christ had risen indeed (John 20:25-28).
His Second Coming And Future Kingdom. Linked with the promises of His resurrection and return to Heaven, was this word: “If I go… /
will come again” (John 14:3). The Lord often spoke of this. The disciples asked, “What shall be the sign of Thy coming?” (Matthew 24:3). The Old Testament predictions of Messiah’s coming fall into two groups: (1) those in which He was to suffer and be rejected, (2) those in which He was to reign. Often these separate events seemingly merged as one (Isaiah 61:1-2; Luke 4:18-21). This often puzzled the prophets (1 Peter 1:10-12). Now it is much clearer. The first coming literally fulfilled all Scriptures regarding the suffering Messiah. The second coming will match the Scriptures with an equally literal fulfillment, namely, an earthly reign of peace and righteousness (Isaiah 11:6-9; 65:18-25). The events of the second coming are as follows: (1) Living and dead believers are caught up into the heavens, meeting Christ “in the air.” This is commonly called “the Rapture” (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17). (2) The period called “the Great Tribulation” begins on the earth (Revelation 7:14). (3) Following the Tribulation, Christ returns with the believers, in glory and judgment. This is commonly called “the Revelation” (Revelation 19:11-16). (4) The Revelation is followed with a thousand-year earthly reign of Christ (Revelation 20:4-6).
The “Kingdom of God” or “Kingdom of Christ” (the terms are used interchangeably) has also puzzled believers. His Kingdom represents a rule over His people. There is
& present aspect in that believers are now in the kingdom (Colossians 1:13). The kingdom was present in the person of Christ when He was on earth (Luke 17:20-21 NASB; 11:20; Matthew 12:28). There is also a
future aspect, in which we look for a coming visible reign (Acts 1:6; Revelation 11:15). There will be new heavens and a new earth (Revelation 21:1; Isaiah 65:17). The earth will be filled with the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea (Habakkuk 2:14). Every knee will bow to Him (Philippians 2:10-11).
At present He is the center of Heaven’s worship (Revelation 5:8-14). In a coming day there must be a final judgment. All has been committed into the hands of the Son of God (John 5:22). He will judge the lost for their sins at the Great White Throne (Revelation 20:11-15). He will judge the believers for their life and service at the Judgment Seat of Christ (2 Corinthians 5:10; 1 Corinthians 3:11-15).
Skeptics often question the basis of the truths here set forth. They say that we cannot be sure that Christ is historical. Yet the Jewish historian Josephus and such Roman writers as Tacitus, Suetonius and Pliny wrote of Him within the first 100 years of His earthly life. The reliability of the New Testament documents as genuine copies of the originals has been challenged. Yet no writing of the ancient world can approach it in documentation. Thousands of manuscripts, not to mention fragments, are available—some within a few years of the originals (i.e., the fragment of John’s Gospel now in the library at Manchester, England). By contrast, an interval of 1000 years exists between the original composition and our oldest copy of all major Greek and Roman writers. Moreover, there are only a handful of old copies of these well-accepted historical and literary works. Yet none are seriously questioned. No work has ever been examined so critically, intensively and endlessly as the New Testament. Yet no work has ever been so thoroughly confirmed in many details by historical investigation and archaeology. Our greatest reason for confidence, however, remains in the Word of God itself. The
written Word is confirmed in its multiple prophetic fulfillments. The
living Word, our Lord Jesus, compels us to faith in the magnificence of His person. Beyond Him there is no place to go (John 6:67-68). He is the heart of true Christian belief.
Survey Of Christology
1. How are the names/titles of Jesus Christ in the following verses expressive of His position, character, work?
Matthew 1:21 John 1:29
Luke 2:11 John 10:36
Luke 19:10 Revelation 19:16
John 1:1, 14 Revelation 22:13
Which is your favorite name/title? Why?
2. Paraphrase (write in your own words) Colossians 1:16-17.
How long has Jesus Christ existed (John 1:3,10; Isaiah 9:6; Micah 5:2)? If someone told you that Christ was the first creation of His Father, what would you say?
3. Read Hebrews 1. Explain how the following verses indicate that Jesus is God:
vv. 2, 3, 10
v. 6 (compare with Luke 4:8)
4. What are some attributes of deity ascribed to Jesus in the following verses?
Matthew 28:18, 20 John 5:22, 27
Mark 2:5-7 John 6:64
John 1:1; 17:5 Hebrews 13:8
5. What offices were predicted for Christ (Deuteronomy 18:18-19; 1 Samuel 2:35; 2 Samuel
6. Since Jesus was fully human, in what ways would you expect Him to be like you are?
Matthew 4:2 Luke 2:52
Mark 4:38 John 4:6
7. How was Jesus Christ different from other men?
Matthew 1:23 John 7:46
Luke 7:22 John 8:46
8. What was Christ’s purpose in coming to the earth and how did He fulfill Scripture in doing it (Mark 10:45b; Isaiah 53)?
When was the death of Christ planned (1 Peter 1:19-20)? Who was
ultimately responsible for Christ’s death (Acts 2:23)?
9. What would have been the result if Christ had not risen from the dead (1 Corinthians 15:14-19)? Write a brief paragraph explaining, in your opinion, the importance of Christ’s death and resurrection in regard to your own salvation.
10. What hope is laid out for the Christian in John 14:3; 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17; and Revelation 10:6-9?
What position will Christ have over those who reject Him (John 5:22-23; Revelation 20:11-15)?