When you value something, you make sure it doesn’t get lost. You save something because it has value to you. Humans are of great value to God. But why do we need to be saved?
Humanity has chosen its own downfall, by turning away from the Creator. We are like a branch cut off from a tree. A branch on itself remains fresh and green for a little while but has no future. You can try to make a success of your own life for 70-80 years. But is that really all there is to it? Do you ever wonder that maybe life should have a meaning far beyond that? Take these thoughts seriously. These ideas and feelings don't just come out of the blue. They are pointing to the truth.
A hopeful future is only possible for us if we live in peace with God, the source of all life. We are His creation. But restoring the relationship with Him cannot happen overnight, as if nothing had passed. A lot has gone terribly wrong, both on macro and micro scale. In addition, God is perfectly good. 100%. The Apostle John takes a firm stand against the Gnostic ideas of his day, which claim that God has both a good and an evil side. He says:
“This is the message which we have heard from Him and declare to you, that God is light and in Him is no darkness at all” (1 John 1:5).
God is perfectly good and thus cannot bear any sin. Not even a little lie, a bit of jealousy or a quick gossip.
It is absolutely wonderful that He is so extremely reliable. But it does pose a problem for us. For, with our sinful hearts, we cannot exist before God. How, then, can we ever live in intimate association with Him, let alone for eternity? This question brings us to Jesus of Nazareth, the Son of God.
Jesus has said and done many remarkable things during His public life. His teachings about God's new world are important. The many healings with which He foreshadowed the final restoration in the eternal Kingdom are stunning. But these were not the most important things. All Gospel writers emphasize the last Passover week, the week in which Jesus would die and resurrect. The lead up to it, the days before, the trial and execution, and the resurrection, make up at least half of the Gospel texts. Why are the evangelists unequivocally clear that the Passover week is so crucial?
To understand the meaning of Jesus' death we need to look at the way personal relationships work. How can you restore a relationship where something went wrong? There are basically three ways to make up for a broken relationship: by retaliating, compensating, or forgiving. Do you know how each of these works?
The relationship between God and humans was severely disrupted. Since the break of the friendship in Eden, bad things have been done by humanity in all sorts of ways. Gods’ beautiful creation was ignored and trampled. His people began to harm each other. His name was used in vain. Lies, deceit and jealousy came into the world as people started to think and live as if they were their own god. On the smallest and largest scale, we have caused damage to our own Creator. We have disappointed, forgotten, forsaken, and despised Him. Can God go on with us as if nothing had happened? Especially considering that He is absolutely good, 100% reliable and cannot compromise His holy character?
If He would retaliate, we would be lost. And how would we be able to compensate God for all the mess? No one can stand right before this God. That is our situation, for each and every one of us. A little karma or some good works won't fix that. The only real chance of restoring this relationship is that God will forgive us. But…this means that He would need to bear the damage and consequences Himself. How could He ever do that?
Here we get to the heart of the suffering and death of the Messiah. Two things come to light in Jesus' rejection and death. First, that we humans by nature, reject God as He really is, and have burdened us with guilt. Second, that God chooses to undergo this voluntarily. The death of Jesus was not, as Albert Schweitzer portrayed it, an unfortunate end to a Jewish Messiah. All the Gospel writers are very clear that Jesus knew what was going to happen, even though His disciples did not understand it at all at the time. This had tohappen. Yahweh took all the guilt and sin for his own account through the sacrifice of own Son, Jesus. He chose forgiveness. Only based on this divine sacrifice restoration of the relationship with God is possible! The original promise to Adam and Eve (recorded in Genesis 3), that God would guarantee salvation, was fulfilled. When Jesus died it was finished. And His resurrection is proof of that fact. Whoever entrusts his or her life to this Savior is restored forever.
To understand the real meaning of Jesus' death and resurrection, it is absolutely vital to understand who Jesus is. Not only do the Gospel writers emphasize that Jesus willingly suffered His fate. They also make it crystal-clear that Jesus claimed to be God Himself, in human form, namely the eternal Son of God.
The Bible tells us there are three eternal persons, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. They live in such perfect harmony with each other from eternity, that together they form the one and only true 'God'. They are always attuned to each other in all they do and speak, in an unbreakable relationship of love.
It is really amazing to think about this harmony within God. Within this triune relationship, each one esteems the other more excellent than himself. Jesus always points to His Father and says He does nothing without the Father. The Father in turn gives Jesus all power in heaven and on earth. The Holy Spirit points us to the person and role of Jesus. In turn, Jesus urges His disciples that it is better that He will go, because then the Holy Spirit can come. Together these three-in-one form the heart of the eternal covenant of love. In our forms of relationships, like family, and friendship and especially in marriage between a man and woman, this unity is imitated.
Why is it vitally important to understand that in the life of Jesus it was the eternal Son, part of the triune God,that lived among us?
Within pagan religion, a sacrificial system is meant to appease the wrath of the gods. It is of the utmost importance to keep this pagan "vengeance thought" far away. The sacrifice of Christ on the cross has sometimes been presented as a lightning rod. God was so angry, He had to take it out on someone to get rid of His anger. But this is pagan thought in a Christian appearance. Jesus’ sacrifice has nothing to do with it. In fact, nothing is further from the truth than this view on Jesus' sacrifice.
John describes the motivation why God delivered His own Son into the hands of men in this way: “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son…” (John 3:16). God the Father did not send His Son motivated by revenge, John says, but out of love. Anyone who has a son or daughter knows that this sacrifice of the Son was not a matter of passing if off. If you see your own child suffering, you will rather take it over yourself. God the Father did not have to get rid of His vengeance, but He took the consequence of sin Himself in the sacrifice of Jesus of Nazareth.
During God's eternal council decision, the Father, the Son and the Spirit had decided to proceed this way. Before history started, they agreed to lay the foundation for the intended covenant of love and guarantee it [see: the risk of love]. Jesus, in His earthly life, remained faithful to this eternal decision to the very end. The Apostle Paul says:
“(…) that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses to them…” (2 Corinthians 5:19).
It was "for the joy that was set before Him" that Jesus took up the cross (Hebrews 12:2). How can something as horrific as the crucifixion of a perfectly righteous man be the great turning point of world history? Because in this event the Creator of heaven and earth made known the unfathomable depth of His love, grace, and goodness. He not only intended to let us share forever in His glorious future. He also laid the foundation for this future. He chose to undergo the consequences of humanity’s ways, instead of imputing it to us, and in this way restored the covenant relationship.
During the course of this redemption history, the doubts originally casted on Gods intentions (Genesis 3) are forever disproved. The great lie will never have the power to disturb the covenant of love ever again. It’s robbed of its power, with a voluntary and unbreakable covenant as the result. God not only started history [in the beginning], but also guaranteed [the eternal future].
Now that we have emphasized the divine identity of Jesus, it is time to recall that there is an intense spiritual battle raging in history [see: a spiritual battle behind the scenes]. God's temporary adversary, the devil, aims at pushing Jesus from His unique position in world history and disrupting God's global community. He is seducing people in different kinds of manner. But wouldn’t it also be particular effective to discredit the authoritative testimony of God, the Bible? That indeed seems to have happened. Via the links below you can find two interesting, but also disturbing lectures by Dr. Walter Veith, on the history of Biblical manuscripts.
Textus Receptus, Codex Vaticanus and Codex Sinaiticus.
The Bible as we have it in our own common language is a translation based on Hebrew and Greek manuscripts. The Old Testament has a Hebrew basis and the New Testament a Greek basis. The original texts have been lost, so we rely on copies. For many centuries the manuscripts of the so-called Textus Receptus were regarded as the authoritative base text for the New Testament. Thousands of manuscripts and/or fragments have been found from the Receptus collection that correspond in detail. Until recently there was really no discussion about this.
However, a small alternate stream has emerged, much later in history, of manuscripts that differ in many respects from the Receptus text. These are the Codex Vaticanus (a copy 'discovered' in the 15th century in the Library of the Vatican) and the Codex Sinaiticus (discovered in the St. Catherine Monastery in 1844). You can read more about this in the [2300 year – the beginning of the end]). This much smaller stream of manuscripts has become the basis of virtually all modern translations, at the expense of the extensive Textus Receptustradition. In other words, this has been a major text-critical choice. The reason why this change is so widely accepted is that the Vaticanus and Sinaiticus are of a somewhat older date, compared to the oldest know Receptus copies, and are therefore considered to be more reliable. At first glance, this seems logical. It is understandable that age is a weighty criterion in such a case. But having said that, it does raise big questions.
Would God really put the 'wrong' version into circulation for fourteen centuries, only to suddenly put the more original version on the market from the 15th century? From a theological point of view, this seems very improbable and clashes with the transparent and reliable character of God.
It is true that the Vaticanus and Sinaiticus are of an older date. Perhaps they were lost in the Vatican library and in a monastery at some point of time. But initially they were available. Why did the early church not recognize these documents as authoritative texts and kept them save? Did the early church make a big mistake?
The fact that both alternative manuscripts come from Rome does not inspire confidence. Bible prophecy points to Rome as the epicenter of a great spiritual battle [1260 years of V-dominance]. Why trust documents provided by this institute?
The core business of the Catholic Jesuit Order, founded in the 16th century, is to completely defuse the Reformation and reestablish the authority of Rome. You'll find an extract from their startling 'oath' under [the great change of course]. Since all the Reformers based themselves on the Textus Receptus, it was a logical choice to discredit this textual tradition. The Receptus text was even added to a list of banned books in the second half of the Middle Ages (the Index librorum prohibitorum) and the penalty for ownership was death.
Two prominent scholars, Westcott & Hort, released a new basic text for the New Testament in 1881. The Vaticanus and Sinaiticus manuscripts played the leading role in the development of this text, The New Testament in the Original Greek. The work of Westcott & Hort became the basis for the later Nestle-Aland edition, which today is used as the standard in virtually every theological education. However, correspondence is available clearly showing that both gentlemen made deliberate changes to the source text. Small changes with big consequences. In the second lecture (see link below, What’s the Difference Between Bible Versions?) you get examples of this dubious correspondence.
Suppose that the differences between the Vaticanus and Sinaiticus manuscripts and the Receptus version only consists of minor points, such as copying errors, then it’s not a big deal. It makes sense that in such a case the older documents should be the deciding factor. But if it turns out that there is a systematic difference that influences theological ideas, then this suggest that conscious adjustments were made. You will see that this is indeed the case here. In particular, the divine identity of Jesus is, very subtly of course, called into question in the Vaticanus/Sinaiticus stream. This cannot be a coincidence and is hallmark of the anti-Christian spirit.
In view of the above considerations, the assumption that the oldest text is automatically the best text, is questionable. Even in the first century, fake copies and unreliable documents were in circulation. Paul warns the Corinthian church against fake Christians:
“(…) For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into apostles of Christ. And no wonder! For Satan himself transforms himself into an angel of light. Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also transform themselves into ministers of righteousness, whose end will be according to their works” (2 Corinthians 11:13-15).
He closes many letters, written by a scribe, with his own handwritten greeting. By doing so he could – in his time! – prove that it was not a fake document (1 Corinthians 16 : 21 / Galatians 6 : 11 / Colossians 4: 18). As early as the first century, the work of the apostles was threatened by counterfeit versions of the gospel. In particular, Gnosticism, which goes back to the ancient mystery religions [see: Ancient Babylon mingles among the nations], exercised a lot of influence. It is known that Alexandria, among others, was a stronghold of Gnosticism and occultism. The earliest church had to defend itself against this movement, because it threatened to invade its own ranks (the apostle John writes about this in his letters and explicitly connects it to the anti-Christian mindset). In Gnosticism, a form of ancient Babylonian pantheism, the uniqueness of Jesus was misrepresented, because everyone was supposed to be divine.
In short, even if we were to find a manuscript older than the Vaticanus or Sinaiticus, we still don’t have the guarantee that it is automatically a better version. The overall picture must make sense.
1. Why So Many Bible Versions? The UNTOLD Dark History of Bible Translations | Battle of the Bibles
2. What's the Difference Between Bible Versions? The Battle Over Christ's Divinity | Changing the Word
The unique position of Jesus is and remains the great point of controversy towards the end of history. He may be a religious giant, on the shelf next to everyone else. But He can’t be the only true God among men, the Prince of Peace, the One who has 'all power in heaven and on earth'. More information about the climax in this epical clash of minds can be found under [toward unity without Jesus] and [the climax of an ancient conflict] .
The coming of the Messiah was not unexpected. In the timeline you can see the history that preceded it. Yet Jesus' contemporaries did not immediately understand who He really was. They were blinded by false expectations. The Gospel writers emphasize again and again that the disciples of Jesus did not anticipate His death. During His arrest, they all fled. Only later, after His resurrection, they started to see: “(…) and they remembered His words” (Luke 24:8). The Holy Spirit opened the eyes of the early church so that they could understand who Jesus really is and that His coming had long been prepared during the old covenant period. Yahweh Himself had dwelled among men to forgive us and show the way.
Here you find a few links leading from the old covenant to the new covenant.
The national people of Israel were given a unique role in world history. It started with [God's covenant at the crossroads of superpowers], from our perspective 3400 years ago. On the small tract of land in Canaan, amid the superpowers of the time, Israel could become a light to the nations. Israel was destined to show God's original purpose to the rest of mankind. They were to make the peoples of other nations curious about the one and only God. Israel would represent the Creator of heaven and earth, who got out of sight over the centuries due to the introduction of all kinds of fake gods.
But apart from some highlights, it didn't get off the ground. Instead of being a light to the nations, Israel wanted to resemble the surrounding nations. Power, corruption, greed for money, sex derailed, occultism and international unions were the order of the day. Yahweh, the God of Israel, put a temporary stop to this project. The people were taken out of the land and taken to Assyria and Babylon. The assignment to be a light for the world was put on hold.
In the period after the return from the exile, the people of Israel were given a second chance [490 - Israel]. Unfortunately, it didn't get much better. In the centuries that followed nationalism arose. Protection of the tradition and heritage became the most important. The essence of God's law was forgotten, and instead countless additional laws and regulations began to function as identity markers. It became a means of rebelling against those vile, wicked heathens. Instead of being a light to the nations, Israel thus became an unreachable island. That is the situation when Jesus begins His ministry. In the end, it was not the people of Israel that lived up to the calling. They forsook the covenant. It is the Messiah who came forth from this people, Jesus of Nazareth, who did it.
So, Jesus, as it were, takes over the baton from national Israel. Paul explains this in his letter to the Galatians. He first recalls the great promise God made to Abraham:
“…In you all the nations shall be blessed” (Galatians 3:8).
How did that come about? Not by a national people who have kept the law so well in Canaan. That didn't go well at all. Paul even calls this period a 'prison' (3:23). It was a burden, an impossible task that would never succeed. But in the end, God Himself would provide a solution, to carry out His plan! He did so in that one great Descendant of the people:
“Now to Abraham and his Seed were the promises made. He does not say, “And to seeds”, as of many, but as of one, “And to your Seed”, who is Christ” (Galatians 3:16).
Paul points to the singular here. The promise to Abraham that he would become a blessing to the nations is tied to one descendant. God's original purposes for the nation of Israel are all fulfilled in the great Descendant of this nation. This was a fantastic discovery for Paul. In the past he clung to Judaism and to the heavy task the Jewish people had in world history (1:13-14). But he learned that Jesus of Nazareth has taken over that role.
In Him all nations are blessed. He is the light of the world. The commission given to the nation of Israel (1400 years earlier), to become a light to all nations in the land of Canaan, has come to an end. It is no longer necessary. The torch has been passed. A burden is lifted from his shoulders! This passionate, religious Paul knew too well that the people could never have fulfilled God's covenant by their own strength. However fanatical you are, whatever system or tradition you follow, sooner or later you will get stuck on your own sinful heart. But what men cannot do, God can! From the very beginning he promised to provide the solution. Therefore, "the just shall live by faith," the faith that God will do it.
Paul, who tried to bring God's Kingdom to earth by meticulously following Jewish traditions, sees things totally differently since his encounter with Jesus:
“For all the promises of God in Him are Yes, and in Him Amen, to the glory of God through us” (2 Corinthians 1:20).
Participating in God's plan is no longer a matter of a historical people. Therefore, the pagans do not have to abide by the rules and traditions that were specific to the role of the national people of Israel. In the period from 1400 BC until the coming of Jesus, those rules were in effect to shape Jewish society. This is the time when the people lived 'under the law'. But Paul points to the fact that God's promises were given to Abraham already long before that time. And even before that to Noah and to Adam & Eve. The promise of God's deliverance has always been the foundation, from the very beginning of world history. The believing Jew has always known this and lived, even in the old covenant, from the goodness and grace of God.
Being a part of God's worldwide community has never been a matter of biological origin or conformity to outer religious rules. Paul is very clear about this when he defines who counts for God as the descendant of Abraham:
“(…) and if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise” (Galatians 3:29).
Truly, in the Messiah God's plan and the covenant promise is fulfilled.
Jesus' disciples are given the same task that the Jewish nation was given 1400 years earlier. In Jesus' commission you hear the echo of the Torah:
"Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:16).
Just as Israel was assigned to be a compass for the nations in its own time and context, so now the worldwide community of God may fulfill that role. It is not without reason that Jesus chose exactly twelve disciples, to make clear that what He started is the continuation of the twelve tribes of Israel. It's one story. Would you like to understand more about this shift in world history? Go to [490 - Israel].
Paul explains that with the coming of Jesus the period in which Israel lived 'under the law' (1400 BC – 31 AD) has come to an end. Many churches nowadays take this as if the old covenant law of God has been completely done away with and has now been replaced by the era of grace and love. But is a distortion of Pauls’ view? Go to [the great change of course] and find out the connection between grace and rules yourself!