St. Augustine, early Christian theologian and philosopher whose writings greatly influenced the Christian thought and faith said:
“God has made us unto Himself, and our hearts are restless until they find their rest in God.”
Truly, there is nothing that can satisfy the human soul or the mind: not material possessions, money, intellectual acumen, fame and fortune, sex, political power, etc. The human mind or soul remains restless until they find the knowledge of the living God.
Salvation remains the greatest event in human life. There is nothing that supersedes the knowledge of the Lord as Savior. Humans will boast of their glory, fame and fortune, who they are, until at point of death: then they know who is who not them and their fame.
Here is the end of powerful Queen Elizabeth 1, 1558-1605: recorded by author Alison Weir: “The Life of Elizabeth 1,” and also the author of “The Six Wives of Henry the V111:
“When Elizabeth 1 was dying:
“Her majesty lay upon her back, with one hand on the bed and the other without. The Arch bishop kneeled down beside her and examined her first of faith, and she so punctually answered all his questions, by lifting up her eyes and holding up her hands as if it was a comfort to all the beholders. The good man told her plainly what she was, and what she was come to: though she had been long a great Queen, here upon earth, yet shortly she was to yield an account of her stewardship to the king of kings. After this, he began to pray, and all that were by did answer him.
Whitgift remained at her bedside, holing her hand and offering her spiritual comfort until his knees ached, but as he made to rise, blessing the Queen, she gestured to him to kneel again and continue praying. He did so for another ‘long half hour’, but still Elizabeth will not let him go. So he prayed for half an hour more, ‘with earnest cry to God for her soul’s health, which he uttered with that fervency of spirit, as the Queen, to all our sight, much rejoiced thereat, and gave testimonies to all of her Christian and comfortable end. By the time it grew late, and everyone departed, all but her women who attended her.’ Around ten o’clock that evening, with heavy rain pattering against the windows, Elizabeth turned her face to the wall, and fell into a deep sleep from which she will never wake.”
This is a powerful woman who ruled England, but at the point of death, the glory of man fades. The Scripture says:
“For all flesh is as grass, and all the glory of man as the flower of grass. The grass withereth and the flower thereof falleth away. But the word of the Lord endureth forever.” 1 Peter 1:24&25
Humans can boast and arrogantly declare there is no God-atheists; God created the world and abandoned His creations-deists- or exalt themselves as if they are God, a day of accountability faces the arrogant or the commoner, just like powerful Queen Elizabeth 1 was reminded about facing the king of kings.
1 What is salvation?
It is been redeemed from sin, and knowing the Lord Jesus as Savior: accepting what He did for humanity on the cross. It is God’s greatest gift to mankind to enjoy all the riches He lavished to mankind, especially peace. In salvation is found genuine peace. You can have all the money in the world, have achieved the greatest events in life, you are so famous, you are politically powerful; without peace, you can’s enjoy your riches or fame.
This peace comes from salvation given to humanity by Jesus Christ. God purposely sent His son to die for humanity on the cross so they would have salvation. On that cross, God exchanged his righteousness to our sinful nature. He bore our sins, and gave humanity a new will inclined to righteousness and the life of truth. That was what Jesus did on the cross of Calvary. He paid for our sins with his death on the cross. So when we believe what He did, the following happens to us:
• When we believe what Jesus did for us on the cross: that we are not good people, but wicked andsinful-black or white, red or green, all nationalities of the world:
that we we are sinful.
• But Jesus bought us back and gave His righteous nature to humanity, in place of His death.
• So if you believe this, you realize salvation is not your good works. It is someone else who died to give you a new life of righteousness of doing and inclining your
will to what is just and right, no matter what position you hold in life- you stand for what is just and right.
• You realize you are a sinner by birth, and you can’t justify that.
• You confess your sins, and ask Jesus to forgive your sins.
* You accept all of these through faith in His word.
• You accept what He did for you on the cross. “if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shall believe in thy heart that God hath raised him from the
dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation..”
• When you genuinely do this, the Holy Spirit will blot your sins, no matter what they are, and you will receive a new heart and the Holy Spirit will come in to help
you live a new life, and overcome sin in your life- all your addictions, or whatever sin assails you. The Holy Spirit is the Third Person of the Trinity with equal power
• You will be baptized- a sign of being identified with the Lord Jesus Christ.
2 Living without salvation:
• Living without salvation is the reason why our world is so messed up. When you genuinely know the Lord, and have the Holy Spirit, you will have peace and
wisdom. “The fear of the lord is the beginning of wisdom, and wisdom is to depart from evil.”
• When you don’t have salvation, you don’t have peace. Peace comes from obedience to God’s will: to those who have accepted the Lord Jesus Christ and
surrendered their will to Him.
• These kinds of people are humble and seek only the glory of God-what will give Him the glory, honor and praise, not their glory.
• Those who know the Lord Jesus Christ experience peace that is not given to you because you are rich or powerful.
• The Scripture says: “There is no peace for the wicked: they are like the troubled sea which cast out mire and dirt. There is no peace for the wicked.”
• Anyone-man or woman who does not abide by God’s will, and does his or her own thing, will never experience that peace which only the Lord gives, even in times
of great trial or tribulations of life. That is the peace our world is looking for, and will never be found in lies, political intrigues, human arrogance, fame and fortune,
sinful life style, etc.
• Eventually, this failure and rejection of salvation has been the fall of great kingdoms and nations of the world, as humans took the glory of God.
• In your personal life, whether you are a king or pauper, you will never experience genuine peace.
At the end of life, without salvation, you lose eternal life:
Some people say, I don’t care about your God, He does not exist for me; some reach the highest pinnacle of fame and live to dishonor God’s laws and principles. Suddenly they crash or they are dying, the reality of eternal life dawns on them, or they are dying very young and they would desire to live their lives in exchange from early death.
Let me tell you God is the greatest reality in life, and in my life. Born in an affluent family of riches and fame, the Lord took me aside when I was very young, coming out of my teens, and showed me the transient and unrealistic nature of fame and fortune. They don’t last. Sooner or later, the rich man or woman fades, and the money passes into other hands. Like Hannah in the Scriptures says: “God alone gives riches and makes poor.” These things are all in His hands. He gives and He takes it back. One of the wisest men in the Scriptures said:
“Naked we came, naked we must go back.”
Have you ever seen a rich man or woman whose money was buried with him or her? While they are dying, their treasures and money are being distributed and fought over for. Some are killed because of their fortune, even by family members. These things don’t last.
The Scripture warns:
Lay not up for yourselves treasures on earth where moth and rust doth corrupt, and thieves break through and steal: But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth or rust doth corrupt, or thieves break through and steal. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” Mathew 6:19-21
When you invest in heavenly treasure, the following will happen:
• Your desire in life will be one purpose: to glorify God in what you do.
• To love your fellow human beings-black or white; see them as God sees them, and do your best to help them understand the knowledge of Jesus Christ.
• Your desire in life will be to help your world and make it a better place, regardless of where the needs are: your country or else where in the world.
• It is to be conscious of living a life that glorifies God and honor Him.
• It is to be conscious of the fact that you are only a pilgrim passing through this world. You don’t allow the norms of men to mold you, but strongly abides by God’s
principles that give peace, favor and wisdom.
• You make others aware of the nothingness of this life and its fading glory.
• You are constantly preparing yourself to see the Lord you deeply love for death can come any moment.
• You know your greatest achievement in life is your salvation, and nothing else. Every other thing will fade and pass away.
• You realize someday, sometime, it will not matter who you are, or what you have, you will stand before God and a day of accountability will come to you.
• You are always ready to meet the Lord.
Salvation remains the greatest event in human life. Sin is forgiven; you are healed, and God restores back what sin has destroyed in your life when you genuinely repent. If those ruling us will seek salvation, our world will be a more peaceful place to live. If we individually will seek salvation, our lives will be more peaceful. Salvation remains the greatest gift God has given to mankind. Humans should not ignore or despise it. It is foolishness to do so.
Rev. Uche Ikpa.
Amarachi Film Production & Publishing
Show: Reaches of God's Grace: Cambridge Television: Thursdays 5 pm
JESUS CHRIST – God’s Greatest Gift to US!
New Testament Teaching
Let us begin by stating the obvious. Only in the New Testament do we read of Jesus as someone who is alive and taking part in the affairs of human beings living on the earth. And, equally importantly, it is only in the New Testament that we read about the God of heaven being described over and over again as “Father”, a term which is extremely rare in the Old Testament Scriptures.
That does not mean that there is no mention of Jesus in the Old Testament. As the coming Jewish Messiah, much is made of the fact that God would send a Saviour and Deliverer. But the Jewish Scriptures only speak of Jesus in the sense of looking forward to his Coming.
He is not spoken of as already existing, but as someone who would exist one day, when the time was right. Let us look at this more closely.
From the time when Adam and Eve were in the Garden of Eden through to the end of the Old Testament there are repeated prophecies about the future coming of Jesus. Here are some of them.
Old Testament Prophecies
In the Garden of Eden a ‘Seed' – a descendant of Eve – was promised, who would overcome sin and reverse the problem introduced into the world by Adam and Eve when they disobeyed God.
“I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her Seed; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel” (Genesis 3:15).
In Psalm 22, David wrote about Jesus, using many phrases that pointed forward quite explicitly to the crucifixion. For example “they pierced my hands and my feet” and “They parted my garments among them”.
Once the prophet Isaiah met wicked King Ahaz and made one of the most famous prophecies of the Old Testament. He said that a virgin would one day bear a son:
”Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call his name Immanuel” (Isaiah 7:14).
The prophet Micah predicted that a ruler would come from the town of Bethlehem to reign over the people of Israel , adding something of much interest to our theme.
“You, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of you shall come forth to me the One to be ruler in Israel, whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting” (Micah 5:2). This ruler, he says, has been planned from the beginning of time. We will come back to this point later.
Zechariah predicts the entry into Jerusalem by Jesus, an event that occurred just before Jesus was crucified just outside that very city. He too speaks of Jesus as a king but we know from the events themselves that this prophecy is fulfilled when Jesus is about to suffer his greatest trial (see Zechariah 9:9 and Matthew 21:4-5).
None of the men who wrote these things met Jesus. They did not hear his voice; they did not see him crucified; they do not claim that he existed in their time. They all expected him to appear in the future, at a time to be decided by God himself.
Mortality of Jesus
There is an even more important reason for limiting the existence of Jesus to New Testament times. It has to do with the fact that Jesus came into this world to bring salvation to all people. They had become a mortal race because Adam and Eve disobeyed God and the removal of the curse could only be done if another human being could obey Him perfectly. Jesus came to do this.
For that to really happen it had to be possible for Jesus to be tempted as other humans were, and it had to be possible for him to disobey. That is exactly what happened. His temptations were absolutely genuine and so were his accomplishments.
“For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin” (Hebrews 4:15).
Jesus perfectly obeyed his Father and salvation for mankind was accomplished. Jesus rose from the dead and became immortal – the first to rise from the dead never to go back into the grave again.
God’s Greatest Gift to Mankind
“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” John 3:16
One of the best known verses in the Bible but also one of the least understood as this verse clearly tells us that God’s greatest gift to mankind was His only dearly begotten son.
Exalted by God
The notion that Jesus had lived as a spirit before he was born takes away the power of his triumph over sin and death and the Bible knows nothing of such an idea. Indeed it carefully explains that Jesus was rewarded for his faithful obedience by his Father, who exalted him to sit at His right hand in heaven because he had been faithful. He was not returning to somewhere he had been before, but was being elevated to a new status and position by and with his Father:
"Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made himself of no reputation, taking the form of a servant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross. Therefore God also has highly exalted him and given him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Philippians 2:5-11).
Although he was the Son of God, because God was his Father, Jesus was born a man, lived a life serving others, and was willing to go to the cross – all in obedience to his Father. Then, and only then, did God exalt him and give him a name above every name. It is only at this stage in the plan of salvation that Jesus is given the greatest honour. Again the idea that he had existed before his birth does not fit in with these Bible truths.
In the next article in this series we look at those passages that are sometimes said to teach something quite different about the nature and work of the Lord Jesus.
Did Jesus Christ Pre-Exist?
In our studies so far we have seen the following:
- The Birth of Jesus and important details about his life on earth are often mentioned in the Old Testament, but he is always spoken of there as someone who was to come, when the time was right, not as someone who was already in existence;It was vital that Jesus should be born a mortal man if the purpose of God was to be accomplished – he had to be made like Adam, tempted like him, but obedient – unlike him! As we all know, we inherit characteristics from our father and mother when we are born; Jesus inherited his mortality from Mary, and all that came with that. It was an important part of his makeup; so he could not have lived in heaven before-hand as the same person who then lived on earth – otherwise Mary would have contributed nothing except a mortal body;God rewarded Jesus for his faithful obedience by exalting him to a place at His right hand in heaven. He did not return there because it was his original abode. Scripture says that God his Father, who raised him from the dead, also exalted Jesus to glory.
God’s purpose was known to him from the foundation of the world, as the Bible makes clear: “Known to God from eternity are all his works” (Acts 15:18).
Now and again that Divine foreknowledge is specifically referred to. Jeremiah, for example, said that he was known by God even before he had been born:
“The word of the LORD came to me, saying: ‘Before I formed you in the womb I knew you; before you were born I sanctified you; and I ordained you a prophet to - the nations’” (Jeremiah 1:4,5).
One New Testament passage says that the names of all God’s people were both known and recorded from the beginning, and the same passage tells us something very important about the person and origins of the Lord Jesus. Writing about the Dragon power that will oppose the Lord, the vision reveals that:
“Authority was given him over every tribe, tongue, and nation. And all who dwell on the earth will worship him, whose names have not been written in the Book of Life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world” (Revelation 13:7,8).
It is the description of the Lamb that we particularly need to notice. He is described as having been “slain from the foundation of the world”. What does this mean? It cannot mean that he was slain at the foundation of the world. We know when the crucifixion took place.
We also know that God was able to predict to Adam, Eve and many others that Jesus would come to bring salvation. The only way we can understand this verse in Revelation is to recognise that God knew from the beginning that His Son would overcome and give his life in a most painful way.
The Right Time
The great truth that arises from these things is that God loved the world from the beginning and put His plan in place at the very start of the creation of the world. This plan centred on Jesus – but Jesus would not appear immediately. He would only appear in the fullness of time. Then he would be born of Mary:
“When the fulness of the time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption as sons” (Galatians 4:4,5).
Let us not interfere with the wisdom of God. Clearly Jesus came into existence when the time was right for God’s only-begotten son to be born. He had been in God’s plan and purpose from the beginning; now that plan came into effect.
Jesus before Abraham?
There is a passage in John’s gospel which is perfectly consistent with what we have already considered. Here it is:
“Your father Abraham rejoiced to see my day, and he saw it and was glad.” Then the Jews said to (Jesus), “You are not yet fifty years old, and have you seen Abraham?” Jesus said to them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am” (John 8:56-58).
This passage has often been used to support the idea that Jesus existed before he was born. When reading the Bible we must remember that it always gives us the same message. It is consistent throughout and verses that seem to conflict require closer consideration. If we have questions about a verse we should always look at its setting. In this case one thing is quickly seen.
There are many other references to Abraham in the discussion Jesus is having with the Pharisees. In v33 they boast of their descent from Abraham. In v39 Jesus tells them that they ought to follow in the ways of Abraham if they were truly his descendants.
Because of what Jesus says they ask an important question in verse 53: “Are you greater than our Father Abraham, who is dead?”
Remember that we have a big advantage when answering this question because we know what happened to Jesus after this and those events established him as much greater than Abraham. But, when the question was asked, the Pharisees did not know and Jesus still had to try to convince all Jews that he really was their Messiah. You sense the hostility from v53: “Who do you make yourself?”
Now look at the answer Jesus gives in v56 – ”Your father Abraham rejoiced to see my day, and he saw it and was glad”. How could this be? The Pharisees were dismissive: “You are not yet fifty years old, and have you seen Abraham?” Note the way in which they have changed round the words of Jesus. He did not claim to have seen Abraham, but that Abraham saw his day. What could that mean?
Gospel to Abraham
In Paul’s letter to the Galatians we are told that God could see in advance the way things would work out for the Gentile nations:
“The Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the nations by faith, preached the gospel to Abraham beforehand, saying, “In you all the nations shall be blessed” (Galatians 3:8).
God knew that Jesus would come into the world and that, through faith in him, all nations would then have the opportunity to be saved. This plan was given to Abraham through one of the major promises of God: "In you shall all nations be blessed" (Genesis 12:3) and, Paul says, this was the gospel preached to Abraham. Note carefully the fact that this development was foreseen by God and was told to Abraham as something yet in the future, something we know was due to happen "in the fullness of time" (Galatians 4:4).
In John chapter 8 therefore – the passage we were looking at – we are told that Abraham saw Jesus' day – he looked forward to it as something that would happen in the future and, because that day contained so much promise, he rejoiced in the knowledge that he would be there to see the purpose of God come to its fulfilment, when he was raised from the dead.
This the Pharisees did not understand, so Jesus had to spell it out for them. When he said "Before Abraham was I am" he was gently explaining to them that he is more important than Abraham in the purpose of God, because God has built His whole plan of salvation around the Lord Jesus. It was a matter of who has the pre-eminence; not of who pre-existed.
We do well to recognise the truth of God's plan ourselves, so that we can take our place alongside Abraham and many others who are looking forward to the day when Jesus will be revealed as the Saviour of the world.