Christian Evidences for God's Revelation through Jesus Christ and the Written Word
by Leland M. Haines
by J. C. Wenger
It was a pleasure to read through the book by Leland M. Haines, Christian Evidences -- How We Know The Bible Is God's Revelation. A particular aspect of the book struck me favorably and forcibly.
It is this: Quoting Scripture freely attests not only to the high view of the Bible held by the author, even more, it gives the Lord an opportunity to use His powerful Word to enable Christians to grow in their understanding of the adequacy of God's grace and in their perception of His ability to transform them into the spiritual image of His Son, the Lord Jesus. What some readers may initially see as a fault will in the long run prove to be a powerful aid in bringing every thought into captivity to the mind of Christ.
A word needs to be said about the charge that treatises on Christian evidences argue circuitously. If by that is meant that the writers are first and last Christian believers who accept the twin truths that God exists and that He has indeed spoken: the stricture is indeed true. It must also be strongly asserted that unbelief is also a closed system. For the Christian every truth is a Christian truth. Every fact is a theistic fact. God attests to the truth of His Word, making assertions live in the hearts of His children, assuring them that His Word can be trusted absolutely. It is therefore a strength in this book that it appeals at every turn to the truth and reliability of "God's Word Written" -- as the Westminister divines called it.
Last of all, allow me to state humbly that the reading of this manuscript was for me a blessing to the inner man.
John C. Wenger
- The First Cause
Search for Revelation
Revelation Recorded in the Bible
- Old Testament Predictions of a Forerunner
John the Baptist - The Forerunner
The Coming of the Christ
4. Read, Read, Read the Bible
In reflecting upon the world and universe, man frequently asks, "Who made the world?" "Why was it made?" Many who have asked these questions have entered into a thought process that can lead to an answer. They have thought about the universe or an isolated event or part of it and sought to explain it in terms of earlier events or objects. If this could be repeated often enough, it would lead to a string of previous events or objects and their causes that reach back in time to a first Cause, a Cause not preceded by an earlier one. This first Cause, which was before the universe existed, must have the power of being within Himself, because He had no cause. This first cause we call God, which has been described as "In the beginning God" (Gen. 1:1), "Even from everlasting to everlasting . . . God" (Ps. 90:2), and "You, LORD, in the beginning laid the foundation of the earth, And the heavens are the work of Your hands" (Heb. 1:10). The nonexistence of this first Cause is inconceivable, because without it there would be no world. And it would be absurd to think the universe has been going on forever. The second law of thermodynamics states that entropy in increasing, that is, energy is degrading -- the universe could not have been going on forever.
These thoughts are easy to understand, forcible, and conclusive. In simple words they argue from what we all know -- something cannot come from nothing. Since we know things exist, there has to be a first cause, which we call God.
Another argument for God's existence is that of design and order--the purpose and harmony we see present in the world. These imply the existence of a great intelligence behind the world, that is, a Great Designer. This Designer would need to exist apart from the universe, and would need an inconceivably great knowledge. He would have to be the Being we call God.
Man throughout history has searched for God and has argued, discussed, and philosophized about the Supreme Being. This has led to a multitude of explanations. If one studies these, he will soon realize that man can never understand God through his own reasoning. To know God and what He does must come from a source outside of one's own thoughts -- God must supernaturally reveal Himself to mankind.
God has revealed Himself in two ways. The first is natural revelation, which comes from nature. Examples of this are the cause and effect, and the design and purpose arguments that point to a First Cause and a Great Designer.
This type of revelation can only give partial knowledge of the attributes of God. For instance, since the First Cause existed before the universe, God must be self-existing and eternal. The immensity of the universe shows God's unlimited greatness and powerfulness. The simplicity and yet intricacy of material and energy points to God's unlimited knowledge. All these show the glory of God.
There is little need to dwell on what can be learned from natural revelation since it is limited and imperfect and can tell little of God's purpose in creating the world or of His moral character. But this aspect of revelation is still valuable because it reveals enough of the nature of God that men want to seek revelation from Him.
To seek to know God is a proper thing to do if the search centers on finding whether God has revealed Himself, and if He has, where this revelation is found. It is reasonable and probable to expect that God would reveal Himself to man. It is unlikely God would have created such a wonderful universe without revealing the Who and Why behind it.
The purpose of this section is to introduce the reader to what God has revealed of Himself in a second way, known as special revelation. This revelation has occurred through direct communication from God and His working through historical events directed to Abraham, Moses, and the other Old Testament prophets, and supremely through His Son, Jesus Christ, and His apostles. This is supernatural revelation because its source is God. This type of revelation given by God's messengers is called special revelation to distinguish it from natural revelation. Special revelation is limited to those who receive it, and their record of it, and it is more detailed and specific than natural revelation. According to Christian teachings, special revelation is recorded in the Bible--the Scripture of the Christian religion.
No one is asked to believe the Bible is God's revelation without evidence that it is factual and true. No one is asked to accept this by "faith" only. Faith is a central Christian teaching, but this does not mean Christianity must be believed without evidence or reason. One aspect of Faith is the persuasion and conviction of the truthfulness of Christianity, but this does not mean Christianity is not based on factual evidence. There is adequate evidence that God has revealed Himself through special revelation.
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First, let us make some introductory comments about the Bible for the benefit of the readers who may be unfamiliar with the Bible's message. These comments should not be considered the starting point of the evidence that will be presented to show that the Bible is God's revelation. They are glances of the Bible taken from the concluding position of this book.
The Bible teaches that when God revealed Himself to man, He did it through historical events. He intervened in history and used men to time to record His revelation. This revelation was progressive, which means His will was revealed gradually to man. He did not reveal complete knowledge of Himself all at once.
The record of God's earliest revelation is the first five books of the Old Testament known as the "Pentateuch" (which means the "five scrolls"), written by Moses. These books cover the period from the creation and the fall of man (his disobedience to God and the results) to the call of Abraham to set aside the people of Israel, through whom He revealed His will and plan of redemption to first, and then to all men. This revelation to the people of Israel is recorded in the Old Testament, which is composed of thirty-nine books, written from about 1850 to 400 B. C.
God's revelation to man climaxed in God's sending His Son Jesus Christ to deliver the human race from their sins, and to give a final revelation of God's will. We have a record of Jesus' life, teaching, and ministry in the first four books of the New Testament, the Gospels. The New Testament was written during the period from approximately A. D. 50 to 100 by Jesus Christ's apostles or their close associates.
The term apostle in Greek means "one who is sent forth as an authorized representative of the sender." Its meaning is close to the English words "ambassador" and "messenger." The apostles were commissioned to preach (Matthew 10; Mk. 3:13-19; Luke 6:12-16) and to be His witnesses (Luke 24:48-49; John 15:27; Acts 1:8). This involved making the Word of God known (Col. 1:25; Rom. 16:25-26; I Corinthians 14:37; I Thessalonians 2:13, etc.). To insure their message was accurate, the Holy Spirit guided the authors in this task (John 14:25-26; 16:12-15; Acts 1:8; Ephesians 3:3-5; I Corinthians 2:10-13).
The Old and New Testaments together form the Bible, a term that comes from the Greek word biblia, which means "books." This plural term biblia was used because the Bible is a collection of 66 books. During church history the term Books became the singular Book, or the Bible. This singular designation shows its main purpose is one, to reveal God and His Son Jesus Christ to mankind. The existence of such a special book to record revelation should be expected since writing is the best way to convey truth. A book can be studied individually or in groups. It can preserve and present anew to each generation a record of God's revelation. This fact is widely attested, since books are the standard method men use today to convey their ideas.
Firstly, God could have revealed Himself directly to each individual instead of through writings. But unless He had forced His revelation into the mind, man would likely have rejected it because it could not be objectively evaluated. Secondly, individuals could claim they received revelation for any ideas they wished to present, and there would be no way to verify their claim. They could claim that any thought coming into their minds was from God, even if it contradicted other revelations supposedly received by other men, creating great confusion. Thus God used a method of recording His revelation that would be fixed and available to all, and could be supported by factual evidence. What are some of the facts that show God revealed Himself in the Bible?
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The Bible was written by about forty different writers over a fifteen-hundred year period. Most of these authors did not know one another because they lived in different locations or at different times. Even though widely separated by distance and time, they presented a consistent message. This unity could never have occurred unless its words were inspired by God. Men do not write with the harmony and unity found in the Bible. They commonly build up their own new views and tend to destroy the arguments of others when they write, even when they live close together in location and time. The only way to explain the Bible's unity is by the Bible's claim that "All scripture is inspired by God" (II Timothy 3:16) and "no prophecy ever came by the impulse of man, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God" (II Peter 1:21).
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The Bible, as stated earlier, is God's revelation, given through historical events. This process of revelation means the Bible contains many historical references and records. Archaeological discoveries have confirmed that the writers accurately recorded these events. None have disproved the Bible's records. This could not have occurred if it had been the mere imaginative work of men. Even today, with all the new processes brought about by science to retrieve data, secular books on history are not written without errors. The Bible was written without these research aids, yet it does not contain errors, proving that it must have been written by inspired writers.
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The Bible was written in a prescientific age, yet it is scientifically accurate. It does not contain the scientific errors that existed when it was written. This is not what one would expect. Men without divine guidance would have reflected the shifting opinions of "science" of their day. Since the Bible does not reflect contemporary opinions, it must have come about through divine revelation.
Below are several examples of how the Bible reflects scientific accuracy.
These rules of health and hygiene reflect sound principles only recently understood. If one compares the Bible to the Papyrus Eber (a 1500 B.C. Egyptian medical book) or any other early medical book, it is very evident that the Bible stands by itself in accuracy. Many of these facts stated in the Bible were not understood by its writers, and it is free from statements like the sun goes around the earth, the earth is flat, the earth rests on a giant turtle or elephant, or other misconceptions. Its writers had so much faith in God's revelation that they did not incorporate a single misconception in it.
It is true that the Bible uses phrases such as "the four corners of the earth" (Isaiah 11:12; cf. Revelation 7:1) and "the sun rises and the sun goes down" (Ecclesiastes 1:5) but these are the same conventional, ordinary expressions we use today when we speak of the sun rising or setting, of morning or evening stars, falling stars, etc.
The scientific method, when properly applied, does not show that there are errors in the Bible. This does not mean there are not areas where some see a conflict between the Bible and science. But these are mainly in the areas of "beginning," where the scientific method cannot be applied. The scientific method is valid mainly in chemistry and physics, where experiments and observations can be made and repeated. Its application to biological and geological sciences is much more limited. It cannot be applied to areas concerning beginnings of life, or so-called changes in life-form, because man cannot observe the changes or conduct experiments. It is in these areas that some see a conflict between the Bible and science.
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There are many prophecies that show God has revealed Himself through the Bible. However, before showing how He has done this, we must understand what is meant by prophecy.
Firstly, by prophecy we mean predicting future events that are specific, i.e., foretelling unexpected events that could not be predicted by use of scientific, sociological, or psychological principles. Secondly, prophecies are not vague guesses of what will occur in the future, which one could claim fulfilled by any of several later events. Both these qualities of prophecy qualify it to be strong proof that the Bible is the end result of God's revelation.
Prophecy has received major importance in the Bible; it was used as proof that one spoke for the Lord. The Lord knew that the people would ask, "How may we know the word which the Lord has not spoken?" They were told, "When a prophet speaks in the name of the Lord, if the word does not come to pass or come true, that is a word which the Lord has not spoken; the prophet has spoken it presumptuously, you need not be afraid of him" (Deuteronomy 18:21-22). Thus the outcome of prophecy will show its source. This principle was used several times to prove who did not speak for God (Isaiah 41:21-24,26; 43:9-10; 48:14; Jeremiah 37:19; Lamentations 2:14) and who did speak for God (Isaiah 42:9; 45:21; 46:11; 48:3-5).
Approximately one-third of the Bible deals with prophecy. Many of these prophecies have been fulfilled, while the others will be in the future. Below are several examples of these prophecies. The reader will see that their fulfillment clearly indicates the Bible is God's revelation.
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Tyre, a maritime and commercial trade city known for its shipping and commerce and dye and glass manufacturing, had the best harbor on the east coast of the Mediterranean Sea. It became the subject of a prophecy by Ezekiel in 586 B. C. (Ezekiel 26-28:19).
During David's and Solomon's reigns as kings, Tyre was friendly towards Israel but later became hostile towards Jerusalem. God through His prophet Ezekiel, told her,
- Behold, I am against you, O Tyre, and will bring up many nations against you, as the sea brings up its waves. They shall destroy the walls of Tyre, and break down her towers; and I will scrape her soil from her, and make her a bare rock. She shall be in the midst of the sea a place for spreading of nets; for I have spoken, says the Lord God; and she shall become a spoil to the nations; and her daughters on the mainland shall be slain by the sword (Ezekiel 26:3-6).
The reader may wish to read the complete prophecy in Ezekiel 26:1-28:19. It contains many details of the judgment coming to Tyre.
These prophecies against Tyre foretell of the many nations that will come against her, destroying her walls and breaking down her towers (Ezekiel 26:4). The first attack was the thirteen-year siege by Nebuchadrezzar, the king of Babylon. His battering rams finally broke down the walls, and his axes destroyed the towers. His armies entered the city with their mighty array of "horseman and wagons and chariots," destroying the mainland part of the city (Ezekiel 26:10).
The island part of the city located about a half mile offshore was not destroyed. It flourished for two hundred and fifty years, making it appear that the Ezekiel's prophecy would not be completely fulfilled, but then in 332 B.C. came Alexander the Great, the Greek who conquered most of the civilized world. Although Tyre, a sea power, was not a threat to Alexander the Great's large land army, he stopped there several months to subdue it. He possessed no fleet to attack Tyre, but the sea did not stop him; rather it only gave him one opportunity to show what some call his greatest military achievement. To destroy the city he broke down the remaining walls and towers of Old Tyre to built a causeway across the strait to the island. When this did not provide enough material, he scraped the soil from the land to complete it, leaving only barren rocks where the old city once stood. He thus fulfilled the prophecy: "They will break down your walls and destroy your pleasant houses; your stones and timber and soil they will cast into the midst of the waters" (Ezekiel 26:12).
Tyre was rebuilt after its fall to Alexander the Great, but it was only a fraction of its original size. She continued to stand up to other nations until she was completely destroyed by the Mamluks in 1289.
Tyre, the great commerce and maritime power is gone, nearly forgotten. No longer do the sailors sing of her, fulfilling the prophecy: "I will stop the music of your songs, and the sounds of your lyres shall be heard no more" (Ezekiel 26:13). Today the site of Old Tyre remains an uninhabited, bare rocky place, fulfilling the prophecy: "I will make you a bare rock; you shall be a place for the spreading of nets; you shall never be rebuilt" (v. 14). Much of New Tyre now lies covered by the Sea, fulfilling another prophecy: "Now you are wrecked by the sea, in the depths of the waters; your merchandise and all your crew have sunk with you" (Ezekiel 7:34). Its fate has a great significance for us today because the prophecies against her and their fulfillment testify that the Bible is divinely inspired.
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Ezekiel also prophesied against Tyre's sister city, Sidon, but the final outcome of this city was different. He wrote that the Lord said, "I will send pestilence into her, and blood into her streets; and the slain shall fall in the midst of her, by the sword that is against her on every side" (Ezekiel 28:23). Sidon would suffer tribulation and wars, but no mention is made of her destruction. She has suffered throughout history but stands today as a city of 10,000, whereas part of Tyre is bare rocks and the rest is covered by the sea. Who could have prophesied the things that happened to these two cities on their own understanding?
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Edom was a southern neighbor of Israel composed of descendants of Esau (Genesis 36:1-19). When the Israelites left Egypt during the Exodus, they were forbidden to pass through this land and had to go around it (Numbers 20:14-21). Edom continued being hostile towards Israel and mistreated her. Because of Edom's hostility, Isaiah prophesied against her, stating, "A great slaughter in the land of Edom" (Isaiah 34:6-7); "From generation to generation it shall lie waste" (vv. 10, 11).
- Thorns shall grow over its strongholds, nettles and thistles in its fortresses. It shall be the haunt of jackals, and an abode for ostriches. And wild beasts shall meet with hyenas, and the satyr shall cry to his fellow; yea, there shall the night hag alight, and find for herself a resting place. Isaiah 34:13-14
Malachi also prophesied Edom's permanent desolation:
- "I have hated Esau; I have laid waste his hill country and left his heritage to jackals of the desert." If Edom says, "We are shattered but we will rebuild the ruins," the Lord of hosts says, "They may build, but I will tear down, till they are called the wicked country, the people with whom the Lord is angry for ever. Malachi 1:3-4
Once a place of people and activity, Edom today is a desolated land. In fact, it is so barren its location was once lost and many considered it a legendary kingdom. But in recent times its remains have been found. Petra, its capital, is a very interesting city, because many of its buildings were carved out of the mountains. The prophecies against this kingdom were fulfilled, again showing a Great Wisdom behind the writings of the Bible.
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Biblical prophecy involves one of the greatest ancient kingdoms, Egypt, and its predictions remain in effect today. Ezekiel prophesied against her during the Babylonian Captivity period:
- Thus says the Lord God: "Behold, I am against you, Pharaoh king of Egypt, the great dragon that lies in the midst of his streams, that says, 'My Nile is my own, I made it.'" Ezekiel 29:3, 4
Pharaoh's boasting that he made the Nile led to his downfall. Egypt's dry, desert climate would make it a land of sand if it were not for the Nile River; therefore it was held high in the eyes of the people. But when the Pharaoh elevated himself to be its maker and thus made himself a god in the eyes of the people, his days were numbered. Ezekiel spoke out against him with seven prophecies (Ezekiel 29-33). Let us look at just part of one prophecy:
- I will make the land of Egypt desolation in the midst of desolated countries; and her cities shall be desolated forty years among cities that are laid waste. I will scatter the Egyptians among the nations, and disperse them through the countries. For thus says the Lord God: At the end of forty years I will gather the Egyptians from the peoples among whom they were scattered; and I will restore the fortunes of Egypt, and bring them back to the land of Pathros, the land of their origin; and there they shall be a lowly kingdom. It shall be the most lowly of kingdoms, and never again exalt itself above the nations; for I will make them so small that they will never again rule over the nations. Ezekiel 29:12-15
During the time of the Pharaohs, Egypt had a highly developed civilization and was a powerful country, but she fell to Nebuchadnezzar in 572 and 568 B. C. He took her people captive for forty years. When Persia came to power, her people were allowed to return, but she never again rose to the splendor she once had among the nations. She remains a broken reed (II Kings 18:21; Isaiah 36:6) and a lowly kingdom. Even to this day she keeps this status as one of the poorest nations. Thus today we can see the fulfillment of these prophecies against Egypt still in effect after nearly 2500 years.
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Daniel, a youth of Hebrew nobility, was carried away by King Nebuchadnezzar in the Babylonian Captivity in 606 B. C. This deportation was predicted by Jeremiah (II Chronicles 36:11-21) because of Israel's apostasy (Isaiah 39:5-7).
Daniel and his friends resolved they "would not defile" themselves with the king's rich foods or wine. God gave them favor in the sight of the chief of the eunuchs so they would be educated in Chaldean affairs (Daniel 1:8ff). "God gave them learning and skill in all letters and wisdom; and Daniel had understanding in all visions and dreams" (1:17). God used Daniel's wisdom to give us an overview of the great world kingdoms.
The first of Daniel's predictions involved King Nebuchadnezzar's dream that puzzled him, and he demanded that his wise men explain it, but they could not. Then Daniel came forward promising to explain it. He told the king, "There is a God in heaven who reveals mysteries, and he has made known to King Nebuchadnezzar what will be in the latter days." Daniel then told the king of a great image with a head of gold, breast of silver, lower body of bronze, and legs of iron, and what happened to it when it was smitten by a stone he saw in his dream (Daniel 2:27-35). Daniel interpreted the head of gold as King Nebuchadnezzar (2:37-38). The second kingdom, which the breast of silver symbolized, was the Medo-Persian Empire (identified later in Daniel 5). The third image of bronze, which "shall rule over all the earth," was identified as the Greek empire of Alexander the Great (2:39; 8:5,21; 10:20). The fourth kingdom was to be as "strong as iron" (2:40), yet a divided one, but it was not identified. Following it, the "God of heaven will set up a kingdom which shall never be destroyed, nor shall its sovereignty be left to another people. It shall break in pieces all these kingdoms and bring them to an end, and it shall stand for ever" (2:44). Today we can look back and see that Daniel did predict correctly these kingdoms, and we can see too that some of his predictions are yet to be fulfilled. These predictions were correct because "A great God has made known to the king what shall be hereafter. The dream is certain, and its interpretation sure" (v. 45).
The next dream involved King Nebuchadnezzar's vision of a tree that "grew and became strong" and was chopped down (4:10-18). This dream was divinely interpreted and showed that the king had "grown and become strong. Your greatness has grown and reaches to heaven, and your dominion to the ends of the earth" (4:22). He was to lose his position as king and dwell like "the beasts of the field; you shall be made to eat grass like an ox" (4:25). King Nebuchadnezzar was afflicted with a mental disorder that caused him to think and act like an animal, causing him to eat grass, literally fulfilling this prophecy.
Next there was a prophecy involving Belshazzar, another ruler of Babylon. During a feast he drank from the gold and silver vessels taken from the temple at Jerusalem. Because he defiled these sacred vessels, a "finger of a man's hand appeared and wrote" on the wall. No one could understand these writings, and Daniel was called to interpret the words. He told the king that his days were numbered and that his kingdom would be given to the Medes and Persians. That very night Belshazzar lost his life, and Darius the Mede took over the kingdom. Belshazzar was the "acting" king, serving in place of his father, King Nabonidus. Archaeological discoveries show that the King Nabonidus was gone that evening and his son, Belshazzar, was in charge when Babylon fell to the Medes (5:1-30).
The next predictions Daniel gave involved a dream and a vision that follow the order given in chapter two. He saw four beasts--a lion, a bear, a leopard, and a fourth beast (this one was so different it could not be described as anything about which we know) (7:1-8). Daniel stated, "As I looked, thrones were placed and one that was ancient of days took his seat" (7:9). These four beasts represented four kingdoms (7:17). The first one, the lion, was the kingdom of Babylon under King Nebuchadnezzar (7:4; 2:39). It was followed by the Medo-Persian kingdom (7:5), which was followed by Greece, under Alexander the Great. His kingdom was followed by one with four "heads" (7:6). We know that Alexander's kingdom was divided between four generals after his death.
Daniel was given a vision that contained further details of the visions and interpretations found in chapters 2 and 7. He saw a ram with two horns (8:4) and a he-goat that came against the ram and "struck the ram and broke his two horns" (v. 7). There was also a "great horn," "four conspicuous horns," and a "little horn" (vv. 8, 9). Details were given about these visions. Daniel, of course, was puzzled by it all and "sought to understand it." He was told of their meaning by "one having the appearance of a man." This servant was identified by a voice Daniel heard: "Gabriel, make this man understand the vision." He told Daniel, "Understand, O son of man, that the vision is for the time of the end" (8:15-17). He explained that the two horns were kings of Media and Persia, and that the he-goat was the king of Greece (Alexander the Great). He was told that the horn would break into four, meaning that "four kingdoms shall arise from his nation, but not with his power" (8:20-26).
Daniel was informed next that the length of the desolations of Jerusalem would be seventy years (9:2). He was also told that "seventy weeks of years are decreed concerning your people and your holy city, to finish the transgression, to put an end to sin, and to atone for iniquity, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal both vision and prophet, and to anoint a most holy place" (9:24). This seventy weeks of years (70 x 7 = 490 years) was subdivided into 7, 62, and 1 week of years. The 7 and 62, or 69 weeks of years, was the 483 years between the decree to rebuild Jerusalem and the coming of the anointed one, the Christ (9:25-27).
Daniel also prophesied about kings from the north and the south, giving more details about what follows the third empire, the Greek empire (chapter 11). These prophecies have not been fulfilled, nor has the one concerning the statement that "there shall be a time of trouble, such as never has been since there was a nation till that time" (12:1). But Daniel was not to fear about his people during these troubled days: "at that time your people shall be delivered, every one whose name shall be found written in the book. And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall wake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt" (12:1-2). Daniel predicted that at this time of the end "many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall increase" (12:4). We see this prophecy being fulfilled in our day with the improvement in transportation and increase in scientific knowledge.
Daniel's prophecies have been fulfilled or are coming near fulfillment in our time. These prophecies stand as clear evidence that he bore a message inspired by the Maker, and we can accept this as more evidence that the Bible is God's revelation to mankind. There is no other explanation as to how a man could prophesy so accurately of coming events.
Since the Bible is approximately one-third prophecy, these examples represent only a few of the Old Testament prophecies. There have been whole books written on fulfilled prophecy. The reader may wish to study one of these (see Brunk, Fullfilled Prophecies, Crockett, Ky.: Rod and Staff).
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2. The Coming of the Christ
The Old Testament prophecies do not center only on the Jewish people and their neighbors. There are also many prophecies dealing with a coming Messiah who would be sent to redeem man from the curse of sin (Genesis 3:15). With the introduction of this Messiah, we shift the approach to show how God and Christ entered into history to redeem man, and how Jesus Christ gave clear evidence that He was from the heavenly Father.
Let us introduce the Messiah and the evidence He gave to show that He was sent from God by first looking at one of the last Old Testament prophecies concerning a forerunner to this Messiah brought by Malachi. He proclaimed the final preparation for the Messiah: "Behold, I send my messenger to prepare the way before me, and the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple; the messenger of the covenant in whom you delight, behold, he is coming, says the Lord of hosts" (3:1). This book ends with the announcement, "Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the great and terrible day of the Lord comes. And he will turn the hearts of the fathers to their children and the hearts of children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse" (4:5-6).
An earlier Old Testament book, Isaiah, is the first of the prophetic books and the largest. Isaiah prophesied at the time the Northern Kingdom was destroyed by the Assyrians, some 600 years before the prophecies were fulfilled. Isaiah wrote of the forerunner: "A voice cries: 'In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord, make straight in the desert a highway for our God. Every valley shall be lifted up, and every mountain and hill be made low; the uneven ground shall become level, and the rough places a plain. And the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together, for the mouth of the Lord has spoken'" (Isaiah 40:3-5).
The story of the forerunner and the Messiah is found in the four Gospels. The goal of Luke's gospel is described in its introduction. He compiled his narratives "of the things which have been accomplished among us, just as they were delivered to us by those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word, it seemed good to me also, having followed all things closely for some time past, to write an orderly account for you.... that you may know the truth concerning the things of which you have been informed" (Luke 1:1-4). Luke's goal was to give an accurate and orderly narrative of the Messiah's life and ministry so that we may know the truth about Him. The other three gospel writers undoubtedly had the same goal.
Luke goes on to give an account of the miraculous birth of the messenger whom Isaiah and Malachi had written about. In Judea during King Herod's reign, there was a priest, Zechariah, and his wife, Elizabeth, both were righteous, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless, but they had no children (Luke 1:6-7). And there was no hope they would have any because she was beyond the childbearing age. In this later period of their life, Zechariah was chosen to enter the temple and burn incense. In the temple an angel appeared to him and said he and his wife would have a son, and would name him John. "He will be great before the Lord, and he shall drink no wine nor strong drink, and he shall be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother's womb. And he will turn many of the sons of Israel to the Lord their God, and he will go before him in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready for the Lord a people prepared" (Luke 1:9-17).
Zechariah was puzzled, and when he asked how he could know this was to happen, he was told that he would not be able to speak until the son would be born. "And when he came out, he could not speak to them, and they perceived that he had seen a vision in the temple" (Luke 1:21-22).
The other Gospels also mention this forerunner. Mark begins his account with Isaiah's promise of God's messenger (Mark 1:1-2). This was fulfilled by "John, the baptizer... preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins" (v. 4).
Matthew writes that when John came on the scene, he was "preaching in the wilderness of Judea, 'Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand'" (Matthew 3:1-9; Isaiah 40:3).
The fourth Gospel tells of John's mission. "There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came for testimony, to bear witness to the light, that all might believe through him. He was not the light, but came to bear witness to the light" (John 1:6-8).
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John was an important forerunner, but he recognized his inferior position. "After me comes he who is mightier than I, the thong of whose sandals I am not worthy to stoop down and untie" (Mark 1:7). John was speaking about Jesus Christ, the long-awaited "anointed one"-in Hebrew the Messiah and in Greek the Christos. This latter term is Christ in English. John describes Jesus in these words: "The Word became flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth; we have beheld his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father" (John 1:14-15).
Jesus' birth is recorded in the Gospels in detail, and these accounts disclose that it was accompanied by signs given by Gabriel, an angel sent to a young virgin, Mary, who was betrothed to Joseph. The angel told her, "Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there will be no end" (Luke 1:26-33).
Since she had no husband, Mary was told that "the Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God" (Luke 1:35; cf. Matthew 1:18-23). The Holy Spirit conception would make Him "holy, The Son of God" (Luke 1:35). This conception separated Him from all other men and would enable him to "save his people from their sins" (Matthew 1:21).
The birth of Jesus fulfilled many Old Testament prophecies. The first of these is one by the prophet Micah (5:2), who foretold four hundred years before Christ's birth that He would be born in Bethlehem, the village of David (Matthew 2:6). The Jews knew Jeremiah had prophesied that God "will raise up for David a righteous Branch, and he shall reign as king and deal wisely, and shall execute justice and righteousness in the land" (Jeremiah 23:5-6).
When Herod the Great sought to destroy the Son of God, a second prophecy concerning Him was fulfilled. An angel appeared to Joseph in a dream and told him to flee to Egypt. "This was to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet, 'Out of Egypt have I called my son'" (Matthew 2:13-15; Jeremiah 31:15).
Herod, realizing he had been tricked, "in a furious rage... killed all the male children in Bethlehem and in all that region who were two years or under." This resulted in Jeremiah's prophecy (31:15) being fulfilled: "A voice was heard in Ramah, wailing and loud lamentation, Rachel weeping for her children; she refused to be consoled, because they were no more" (Matthew 2:16-18).
After Herod's death, an angel again appeared to Joseph and told him to return to Israel. When they returned they learned that Archelaus, Herod's son, reigned in Judea, and Joseph was again warned in a dream to go to the city of Nazareth. The result was "that what was spoken by the prophets might be fulfilled, 'He shall be called a Nazarene'" (Matthew 2:19-23; cf. Luke 1:26). Since Jesus grew up in Nazareth, the Jewish leaders were able to give Him a name of reproach, the name Nazarene, fulfilling the prophecies that the Messiah would be despised (Psalm 22:6; Isaiah 49:7; 53:3; Lenski, Interpretation of St. Matthew, pp. 88-89.)
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3. Jesus Gives Proof
We have seen that prophecies connecting Jesus' birth and youth with Bethlehem, Egypt, and Nazareth were miraculously fulfilled. This pattern of Jesus' fulfilling Old Testament prophecies continued throughout His life, giving proof that He was the Christ sent from God to redeem man.
During John's ministry, Jesus approached him, asking to be baptized. Immediately after His baptism, "the heavens were opened and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and alighting on him; and lo, a voice from heaven, saying, 'This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased'" (Matthew 3:16-17; cf. Mark 1:9-11). This was clear evidence to those witnessing His baptism that there was a special purpose behind Jesus' coming. John spoke of His baptism, saying, "I saw the Spirit descend as a dove from heaven, and it remained on him. I myself did not know him; but he who sent me to baptize with water said to me, 'He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain, that is he who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.' And I have seen and have borne witness that this is the Son of God" (John 1:32-34).
We will give brief narratives of these along with ones concerning the many signs He did. From these the reader will see that Jesus gave many proofs that He was the Messiah sent by God.
The four Gospels specifically mention in detail some thirty-five miracles and briefly mention many more. These represent only a small portion of Jesus' miracles. As John wrote at the close of his Gospel, "Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book" (John 20:30). Some of these are contained in the other three Gospels, but many are not recorded. John wrote, "There are also many other things which Jesus did; were every one of them to be written, I suppose that the world itself could not contain the books that would be written" (John 21:25). When one considers the fact that the four Gospels record only a small fraction of approximately sixty days of Jesus' three-year ministry (roughly 5 percent of the days), and that many, many books have been written on this ministry, it is evident that an innumerable number of books could be written about the rest of His life and ministry.
We do not have room in this booklet to give narratives of Jesus' signs. (See chapter 4 of the author's book, Christian Evidences, for narratives of these signs.) We will give only a couple of narratives, from which the reader will see the type proofs that Jesus gave to show He was the Messiah. The reader is encouraged to read the four Gospels to see these proofs in their original settings and how they occurred in very reasonable ways -- ways one could easily expect God to use. They were never done in a circus or in a magical atmosphere, but they were always done openly, with good purposes in mind. Thus one should easily accept the conclusion that the miracles point out that Jesus was the Christ sent from God.
The first of Jesus' special signs was done at a marriage celebration in Cana. The wine ran out, and Jesus' mother told Him about it. Jesus initially was reluctant to solve the wine-shortage problem, but He did. He had six stone jars filled with water; and when some was drawn out, it was found the water had become wine. This sign produced the desired results in His disciples. "This, the first of his signs... manifested his glory; and his disciples believed in him" (John 2:1-11).
Those who had seen Jesus' miracles were affected and believed, yet Jesus did not accept their belief at this point. "Now when he was in Jerusalem at the Passover feast, many believed in his name when they saw the signs which he did: but Jesus did not trust himself to them" (John 2:23-24).
During a visit to Samaria, Jesus met a women at Jacob's well who came to draw water, and He asked her for a drink. Jesus told her if she knew who she was talking to, she would ask for living water. After explaining this, He asked her to call her husband. She responded that she had "no husband." Jesus then told her, "You are right in saying, 'I have no husband; for you have had five husbands, and he whom you now have is not your husband.'" She then sensed that He was a prophet. Later she went into the city and told the people, "Come, see a man who told me all that I ever did. Can this be the Christ?" Many Samaritans from the city believed that Jesus was the Christ, "because of the woman's testimony, 'He told me all that I ever did'" (John 4:4-42).
In Cana an official who had a sick son came to Jesus and begged him to heal his son, for he was near death. Jesus told him, "Go; your son will live." He believed and went home. On the way he met some of his servants. and they told him his son was living. He then asked when he began to improve, and he was told, "Yesterday at the seventh hour the fever left him." The father knew this was the time Jesus told him his son would recover (John 4:46-54).
Jesus met a man in a synagogue in Capernaum with a "spirit of an unclean demon," and he cried out to Jesus. Jesus rebuked him and the man was healed. "And they were all amazed and said to one another, 'What is this word? For with authority and power he commands the unclean spirits, and they come out.'" This greatly affected those who had seen the miracle, and "reports of him went into every place in the surrounding region" (Luke 4:33-37; cf. Mark 1:21-28).
During this time Luke notes an incident that occurred when people were pressing to hear during one of Jesus' preaching sessions. Because of the crowding, Jesus got into Peter's boat and went out into the lake a short distance. At the end of His sermon He told Simon to "put out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch." Peter was reluctant to go fishing again because he had fished all night and got nothing. But he did as instructed, and caught a great shoal of fish that filled two boats, so that they began to sink. Simon Peter was astonished and gave recognition to Jesus' power (Luke 5:1-11).
At the beginning of His ministry in Galilee, Jesus went about teaching and preaching the gospel. He backed up these proclamations with evidence that He was sent from God, "healing every disease and every infirmity among the people." This had profound effect on the people; "his fame spread throughout all Syria, and they brought him all the sick ... and he healed them" (Matthew 4:23-24).
After the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus came down from the mountain with crowds following Him. A leper approached Him, telling Him that he knew Jesus could make him well. Jesus then stretched out His hand and touched the leper, and "immediately his leprosy was cleansed" (Matthew 8:1-3; cf. Mark 1:40-45; Luke 5:12-16).
A little later Jesus entered Capernaum and was approached by a centurion who told Him that one of his servants was lying paralyzed at home. Jesus said He would go and heal him. The centurion said he was not worthy to have Him come to his home, but that He only had to say the word. After some positive remarks about the man's faith, Jesus told him, "'Go; be it done for you as you have believed.' And the servant was healed at that very moment" (Matthew 8:5-13; cf. Luke 7:1-10).
Jesus then went to the home of His disciple, Peter, and there He found Peter's mother-in-law lying sick with a fever. He simply touched her hand, and the fever left (Matthew 8:14-15; cf. Mark 1:30-31; Luke 4:38-39). Others learned of this healing, and they brought many ill persons to Him. He "healed all who were sick" (Matthew 8:16).
Jesus not only healed but also showed His power over natural events. He and His disciples were out in a boat, and a great storm came up that about swamped the boat. Jesus was asleep, and the disciples woke Him and asked for help. "He rose and rebuked the winds and the sea; and there was a great calm." This had a profound effect on those who witnessed this; they "marveled, saying, 'What sort of man is this, that even winds and sea obey him?'" (Matthew 8:23-27; cf. Mark 4:36-41; Luke 8:22-25).
Jesus next met "two demoniacs" and He healed them. The result was that a herd of swine rushed over a steep bank into the sea (Matthew 8:28-34; cf. Mark 5:1-17; Luke 8:26-39).
Jesus then returned to His own city, and immediately "they brought to him a paralytic, lying on his bed." Jesus told him that his sins were forgiven and to "rise, take up your bed and go home." He did this, and "when the crowds saw it, they were afraid, and they glorified God, who had given such authority to men" (Matthew 9:1-8; cf. Mark 2:1-12; Luke 5:17-26).
Jesus found by the Sheep Gate pool a multitude of people who were invalids, blind, lame, paralyzed. One of the men had been ill for thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him and knew he had been lying there a long time, He said to him, 'Do you want to be healed?'" He responded and Jesus told him, "Rise, take up your pallet, and walk. And at once the man was healed, and he took up his pallet and walked." Because this occurred on a Sabbath, the Jewish leaders were disturbed, because, according to their laws, it was not permissible to carry a pallet on the Sabbath. Jesus' response to them was, "My Father is working still, and I am working." He explained by stating, "Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of his own accord, but only what he sees the Father doing; for whatever he does, that the Son does likewise" (John 5:1-19).
Later, when Jesus was speaking, a ruler came to Him, stating, "My daughter has just died; but come and lay your hand on her, and she will live." He went with the ruler, and as they went a women who had suffered from a hemorrhage for twelve years came up and touched Him. Jesus turned to her and said, "'Take heart, daughter; your faith has made you well.' And instantly the woman was made well." Then they came to the ruler's house and told the professional wailers there, "'Depart; for the girl is not dead but sleeping.' And they laughed at him." Jesus was left alone with her, and "he took her by the hand, and the girl arose. And the report of this went through all that district" (Matthew 9:18-26; cf. Mark 5:21-43; Luke 8:40-56).
On His way home, Jesus met two blind men and a mute person, and healed them. "The crowds marveled, saying, 'Never was anything like this seen in Israel.'" Jesus continued to go to the cities and villages healing every disease and every infirmity (Matthew 9:27-35).
When Jesus and His disciples approached the city of Nain, they came upon a funeral procession leaving it. A widow was leading the procession, weeping over the death of her only child, being taken to the cemetery for burial. When Jesus saw her, he had compassion and went up to the bier and said, "'Young man, I say to you, arise.' And the dead man sat up, and began to speak." The large crowd saw what happened and was struck by fear of God's presence. "They glorified God, saying, 'A great prophet has arisen among us!' and 'God has visited his people!'" The news of this miracle, since it was done before a large crowd, spread throughout Judea and the surrounding area (Luke 7:11-17). This was the first instance where Jesus raised the dead. Luke's telling of this event is very believable since he told it in a simple narrative style, without exaggeration.
After this Jesus gave His disciples authority "to heal every disease and every infirmity" (Matthew 10:1-8). We will see later that this commission would make it possible for them to prove that they also were sent by God.
John the Baptist was put in prison for his preaching and denouncing of sin.
- When John heard in prison about the deeds of the Christ, he sent word by his disciples and said to him, "Are you he who is to come, or shall we look for another?" [Jesus did not answer this question directly but told them], "Go and tell John what you hear and see; the blind receive their sight and the lame walk, lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up, and the poor have good news preached to them. And blessed is he who takes no offense at me." Matthew 11:2-6
Jesus' actions were proof of who He was, and He knew this would enable John to answer his own question.
Jesus realized that not everyone accepted His mighty works as proof that He was sent from God, and He pointed out the consequence of their unbelief. "Then he began to upbraid the cities where most of his mighty works had been done, because they did not repent. 'Woe to you, Chorazin! woe to you, Bethsaida! for if the mighty works done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes'" (Matthew 11:20-24). Chorazin and Bethsaida were located on the north end of the Sea of Galilee and were in the region where Jesus' Galilean ministry occurred (Matthew 3-18; Mark 1-9; Luke 3-9:50). The people in these cities had seen or heard about Jesus' mighty works (Mark 3:7-8 states that even early in Jesus' ministry great multitudes from a very wide area had heard of Him and came to see Him.) These works were clear evidence that Jesus was the Christ and the hearers should have repented.
The blind eyes of the skeptics did not cause Jesus to stop His mighty works. He went to the synagogue and there met a man with a withered hand. The Pharisees who were standing there had seen enough of Jesus' works that they knew He could heal. They asked Him, "Is it lawful to heal on the sabbath?" They were not concerned about the crippled man but only about finding fault with Jesus. After explaining why it was lawful to do good on the sabbath, Jesus simply told "the man, 'Stretch out your hand.' And the man stretched it out, and it was restored, whole like the other" (Matthew 12:9-13; cf. Mark 3:1-5; Luke 6:6-10).
Jesus, being aware of the Pharisees' opposition, withdrew, but "many followed him, and he healed them all, and ordered them not to make him known. This was to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet Isaiah: 'Behold, my servant whom I have chosen, my beloved with whom my soul is well pleased. I will put my Spirit upon him, and he shall proclaim justice to the Gentiles'" (Matthew 12:15-21; cf. Mark 3:20-22). Because the Pharisees' opposition to Jesus' ministry was increasing, He asked those healed not to tell others. He wished to withdraw and get away from the plotting Pharisees for now. Later their evil would result in the greatest proof that Jesus was the Christ-His resurrection from the dead.
"Then a blind and dumb demoniac was brought to him, and he healed him, so that the dumb man spoke and saw." This amazed the people and they asked the question, "Can this be the Son of David?" But the Pharisees claimed that He healed by demon power. Knowing their thoughts, He said, "Every kingdom divided against itself is laid waste... if Satan casts out Satan, he is divided against himself." Jesus told them to judge this matter, and "if it is by the Spirit of God that I cast out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you" (Matthew 12:22-32).
Jesus' answer did not satisfy the Pharisees, and they told Him they wanted a sign from him. They were already seeing miracles, but by asking for one they were trying to make it appear they had an excuse for not believing. He responded by pointing out the strongest one yet to come. "An evil and adulterous generation seeks for a sign; but no sign shall be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the whale, so will the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth." He then pointed out that at the judgment the men of Nineveh will condemn their generation, for "they repented at the preaching of Jonah, and behold, something greater than Jonah is here" (Matthew 12:38-42).
Concerning the failure of Israel's leaders to see, hear, and understand His parables and see that He was the Christ, Jesus quoted Isaiah, "You shall indeed hear but never understand, and you shall indeed see but never perceive. For this people's heart has grown dull, and their ears are heavy of hearing, and their eyes they have closed, lest they should perceive with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their hearts, and turn for me to heal them" (Matthew 13:14-15; cf. Isaiah 6:9-10; Mark 8:18).
Later Jesus again spoke about His use of parables. He said, "This was to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet: 'I will open my mouth in parables, I will utter what has been hidden since the foundation of the world'" (Matthew 13:35; cf. Psalm 78:2).
After returning to His own country from Capernaum, "he taught them in their synagogue, so that they were astonished, and said, 'Where did this man get this wisdom and these mighty works?'" They knew His background as a carpenter's son, and His family, "and they took offense at him." Jesus pointed out to them that "a prophet is not without honor except in his own country and in his own house." Because of their unbelief, "he did not do many mighty works there" (Matthew 13:53-58; cf. Mark 6:1-6; Luke 4:16-30).
The fame of Jesus was not just among the common people; it soon reached Herod, the king of Judea. He thought Jesus was John the Baptist raised from the dead. Herod had ordered John killed and his conscience condemned him (Matthew 14:1-12; cf. Mark 6:14; Luke 9:7-9).
When Jesus heard that John the Baptist was killed, He withdrew to a lonely place, but the crowds still followed Him. Jesus had "compassion on them, and healed their sick." Because the crowds remained until evening, they could not be sent away without food, but there were only five loaves and two fish present among them. Jesus asked the crowd to sit down and took the five loaves and two fish and blessed them. After the crowd of five thousand plus women and children ate, there was twelve baskets full of the broken pieces left over (Matthew 14:13-21; cf. Mark 6:32-44; Luke 9:10-17; John 6:1-13).
Once after speaking to a crowd, Jesus had His disciples get into a boat and leave, and He went into the hills to pray. Returning at evening time, He found the boat a long distance from land because of the wind. So "He came to them, walking on the sea. But when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were terrified, saying, 'It is a ghost!'" He told them not to fear, "It is I." Peter then wanted to walk on the water to Him, and Jesus told him to come. "Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water." Then when he saw the wind, he became afraid and lost his confidence, and begin to sink. Jesus reached out and caught him. They then got into the boat, and the wind ceased. This event caused "those in the boat [to] worship him, saying, 'Truly you are the Son of God'" (Matthew 14:22-33; cf. Mark 6:45-51; John 6:16-21).
When they got to the other side of the lake, Jesus and His disciples were recognized, and "they sent round to all that region and brought to him all that were sick, and besought him that they might only touch the fringe of his garment; and as many as touched it were made well" (Matthew 14:34-36; cf. Mark 6:53-56).
Jesus then went to Tyre and Sidon, and a Canaanite woman came to Him, asking that her daughter be healed. He did not answer her, but after she continued crying for help, He explained to her that He had come to help only the house of Israel. But since the woman showed such faith, He told her, "'Be it done for you as you desire.' And her daughter was healed instantly" (Matthew 15:21-28; cf. Mark 7:24-30).
When Jesus was in the vicinity of Sea of Galilee, He left the area and went into the hills. "Great crowds came to him, bringing with them the lame, the maimed, the blind, the dumb, and many others, and they put them at his feet, and he healed them, so that the throng wondered, when they saw the dumb speaking, the maimed whole, the lame walking, and the blind seeing; and they glorified the God of Israel" (Matthew 15:29-31).
Jesus then called His disciples together and told them; "I have compassion on the crowd, because they have been with me now three days, and have nothing to eat; and I am unwilling to send them away hungry, lest they faint on the way." The disciples wondered where they could get food in the desert for such a crowd. Jesus then asked how many loaves they had, and He was told they had seven and a few small fish. Jesus then had the crowd sit down, gave thanks, and had the fish given to the crowd of four thousand plus women and children. After they ate, seven baskets full of broken pieces were picked up (Matthew 15:32-38; cf. Mark 8:1-9).
When Jesus went to Decapolis, a deaf man with a speech impediment was brought to Him. Jesus healed him: "his ears were opened, his tongue was released, and he spoke plainly." Jesus asked that they tell no one about what happened, but "more zealously they proclaimed it. And they were astonished beyond measure, saying, 'He has done all things well; he even makes the deaf hear and the dumb speak'" (Mark 7:31-37).
When Jesus and His disciples came to Bethsaida, a blind man came to Him and begged Him to touch him. He took the blind man out of the village a spit on his eyes, and laid his hands upon his eyes. His light was restored, and he saw everything clearly" (Mark 8:22-26).
On their way to Caesarea Philippi, Jesus asked his disciples, "Who do men say that the Son of man is?" They replied, and He then pressed them for their own opinion. Then Peter replied, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God." Jesus told Peter that "flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven" (Matthew 16:13-23; cf. Mark 8:27-31; Luke 9:18-22). It was God who revealed this truth, doing this, in part, by empowering the works Jesus was doing. John, in his gospel, records Jesus' explanation that "the works which the Father has granted me to accomplish, these very works which I am doing, bear me witness that the Father has sent me. And the Father who sent me has himself borne witness to me" (John 5:36-37; cf. John 9:4, 14:10). He also recorded Jesus' statement, "the works that I do in my Father's name, they bear witness to me" (John 10:25; cf. vs. 32, 38).
A special miracle occurred, known as the Transfiguration, in which God confirmed that Jesus was the Son of God. Jesus had gone with Peter, James, and John to the top of a high mountain, and there "he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his garments became white as light. And behold, there appeared to them Moses and Elijah, talking with him." This clearly was a new experience for His disciples, and they reacted by wanting to build booths for the three. At this point "a bright cloud overshadowed them, and a voice from the cloud said, 'This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him'" (Matthew 17:1-13; cf. Mark 9:2-13; Luke 9:28-36). Peter later recalled this event in his second epistle: "For we did not follow cleverly devised myths . . . we were eyewitnesses of his majesty. For when he received honor and glory from God the Father and the voice was borne to him by the Majestic Glory, 'This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased,' we heard this voice borne from heaven, for we were with him on the holy mountain" (2 Peter 1:16-18). This transfiguration was one of two events that included a verbal witness from God.
After returning from the mountain, a man approached Jesus, asking for help for his epileptic son. The man had taken his son to the disciples, but they could not help him. Now he appealed to Jesus for help. Jesus cured the boy instantly. The disciples then asked why they could not cure him, and Jesus said it was because of their little faith (Matthew 17:14-21; cf. Mark 9:17-29; Luke 9:38-43).
The group next moved on to Capernaum, and there the tax collector of the half-shekel tax asked the disciples, "Does not your teacher pay the tax?" Later, when Jesus returned, they asked Him about it. Jesus asked them a question about who pays taxes, the king's sons or others, and then explained that He was free since He was a Son. He then told them in order "not to give offense to them, go to the sea and cast a hook, and the first fish that comes up, and when you open its mouth you will find a shekel; take that and give it to them for me and for yourself" (Matthew 17:24-27).
During this period of His ministry, Jesus was staying out of Judea because the Jewish leaders tried to kill Him. But when the Jewish Feast of Tabernacles come. He went to Jerusalem. During this visit, Jesus got into a discussion with the Jewish leaders who were rejecting Him. Even though they rejected Him, "many of the people believed in him; they said, 'When the Christ appears, will he do more signs than this man has done?'" (John 7:31). They recognized that His signs clearly showed He was the Christ.
Once, when Jesus was teaching in a synagogue, a woman was there who had an infirmity for eighteen years. When Jesus saw her, He said to her, "Woman, you are freed from your infirmity." When He laid His hands on her, she was immediately healed (Luke 13:11-17).
The fourth Gospel, written by John, has two rather lengthy descriptions of Jesus' miracles. The first of these concerns a man blind from birth. After His disciples asked about him, Jesus "spat on the ground and made clay of the spittle and anointed the man's eyes with the clay, saying to him, 'Go, wash in the pool of Siloam' (which means Sent). So he went and washed and came back seeing" (John 9:1-34).
The second of John's lengthy discourses involved Jesus' close friends Lazarus and his two sisters, Mary and Martha. Once Lazarus became ill, and the two sisters informed Jesus of the illness, hoping He would heal their brother. Jesus did not rush to Lazarus, but lingered for a couple days. Then, before He left to go to Lazarus, He told His disciples, "Lazarus is dead; and for your sake I am glad that I was not there, so that you may believe." When Jesus and His disciples arrived, they found that Lazarus had been in a tomb for four days. When Martha heard He was coming, she went and met Him and told Him, "Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. And even now I know that whatever you ask from God, God will give you." When Jesus saw them and their Jewish friends weeping, "he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled." He then asked where Larazus was buried-and wept too.
Jesus then went to the tomb and asked that the stone in front of the grave be rolled away. Martha responded that by this time there would be an odor. Jesus asked her, "Did I not tell you that if you would believe you would see the glory of God?" They then rolled away the stone at the mouth of the tomb, and Jesus prayed, "Father, I thank thee that thou hast heard me. I knew that thou hearest me always, but I have said this on account of the people standing by, that they may believe that thou didst send me." He then cried, "Lazarus, come out." And Lazarus did come out, with his hands and feet still in burial bandages. Again Jesus gave proof of His divinity, and many of the Jews seeing this "believed in him." But some apparently didn't accept His claim because they went and told the Pharisees what had happened (John 11:1-48).
Jesus went to Bethany just before the Passover, and Lazarus was there with Him. Great crowds came there, "not only on account of Jesus but also to see Lazarus, who was raised from the dead." Because of Lazarus' rising from the dead, many Jews believed in Jesus (John 12:9-11).
On the sabbath, Jesus went to dine at a ruler's home, and found a man there with dropsy (edema). Jesus healed him" (Luke 14:1-4).
While Jesus was on His way to Jerusalem, ten lepers asked Him to have mercy on them. They must have heard that God was at work in Jesus. He told them, "'Go and show yourselves to the priests.' And as they went they were cleansed. Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice; and he fell on his face at Jesus' feet, giving him thanks" (Luke 17:11-19).
Most of Jesus' ministry that has been reviewed above was carried out in Galilee. When He left Galilee and entered Judea, "large crowds followed him, and he healed them there" (Matthew 19:2; cf. Mark 10:1). People in Judea apparently had heard about His Galilean ministry and were thus quick to follow Him and seek healing.
The first three Gospels tell of Jesus restoring the sight to blind persons near Jericho. Some treat these accounts as one event thus enabling them to point out discrepancies between the accounts. The problem with their interpretation is that there is no reason to treat these as one event.
Luke wrote that "as he [Jesus] drew near to Jericho, a blind man was sitting by the roadside begging," and hearing a crowd, he inquired about what was happening. He was told that, Jesus of Nazareth was passing by. The blind man then called out for mercy, and Jesus asked him want he wanted, and he immediately received his sight, "and followed him, glorifying God; and all the people, when they saw it, gave praise to God" (Luke 18:35-43).
The other two writers describe men receiving their sight as Jesus and His disciples and the crowd left Jericho. Apparently Jesus and His disciples spent the night there (Luke 19:1-10).
Accepting these two accounts as written would make them different events, since Matthew writes about two men, and Mark about one man named Bartimaeus. It is credible to believe that Jesus' healed these three because the blind man who received his sight as He came to Jericho, created a lot of attention. Other blind persons in the area, hearing about this man receiving his sight, would come to the road leaving Jericho hoping to find Jesus so they too could receive their sight.
Matthew wrote about two blind men sitting by the roadside, who cried out for help. Jesus stopped and asked them, "What do you want me to do for you?" They asked to have their eyes opened, and Jesus "touched their eyes, and immediately they received their sight and followed him" (Matthew 20:29-34).
Mark wrote about Bartimaeus, asking to receive his sight as Jesus was leaving Jericho. Jesus told him, "'Go your way; your faith has made you well.' And immediately he received his sight" (Mark 10:46-52).
The next day, when Jesus entered Jerusalem, the crowd came out to meet Him with palm branches, crying, "'Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel! . . . The reason . . . the crowd went to meet him was that they heard he had done this sign" (John 12:12-18; cf. Matthew 21:1-9; Mark 11:1-10; Luke 19:29-38; Zechariah 9:9; Psalm 118:25-26).
The Jewish leaders still did not respond. "Though he had done so many signs before them, yet they did not believe in him; it was that the word spoken by the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled: 'Lord, who has believed our report, and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?'" (John 12:37-40; cf. Isaiah 53:1).
When in Jerusalem, "the blind and the lame came to him in the temple, and he healed them." This was done openly, and "the chief priests and the scribes saw the wonderful things that he did, and the children crying out in the temple, 'Hosanna to the Son of David!' they were indignant." The leaders did not accept the evidence, but the people did. Jesus pointed out to them, "Yes; have you never read, 'Out of the mouth of babes and sucklings thou hast brought perfect praise?'" (Matthew 21:14-16, cf. Psalm 8:2).
The next morning, as they returned to the city, Jesus was hungry and passed a fig tree. Finding no fruit on the tree, He said, "'May no fruit ever come from you again!' And the fig tree withered at once" (Matthew 21:18-22; cf. Mark 11:12-14; 20-26). This tree's leaves indicated it had fruit; the leaves follow the fruit on the fig tree. But because it lacked fruit, Jesus said it would never produce fruit again.
As has been noted above, the Jewish leaders did not accept Jesus' signs as showing that He was the Christ, long expected by the Jewish people. Jesus pointed out that this rejection had been prophesied. "Have you never read in the scriptures: 'The very stone which the builders rejected has become the head of the corner; this was the Lord's doing, and it is marvelous in our eyes?'" The implication of their rejection was that "the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a nation producing the fruits of it" (Matthew 21:42-43; cf. Mark 12:10-11; Luke 20:17; Psalm 118:22-23; I Peter 2:7). The chief priests and the Pharisees heard this parable and knew He was speaking about them. But they did not change their attitude, but only tried to arrest Him so they could do away with Him.
Later, when the Jewish leaders went out to arrest Jesus at night, one of His twelve disciples took a sword and "struck the slave of the high priest and cut off his right ear. But Jesus said, 'No more of this!' And he touched his ear and healed him" (Luke 22:50-51; cf. Matthew 26:51-56).
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The previous Scriptures point out the some thirty-five signs of Jesus as they occurred. As we have seen, these signs occurred in very reasonable ways -- ways that one could easily expect God to use. They were always done openly, with good purposes in mind. Thus one should easily accept the conclusion that these miracles point out that Jesus was the Christ sent from God.
The people who saw the signs fall generally into two classes: the common people who believed, and the Jewish leaders who rejected Jesus. We can see the common people's response in the following Scriptures:
- They were astonished beyond measure, saying, "He has done all things well; he even makes the deaf hear and the dumb speak." Mark 7:36-37
Many believed in his name when they saw the signs which he did. John 2:23
And a multitude followed him, because they saw the signs which he did on those who were diseased. John 6:2
Many of the people believed in him; they said, "When the Christ appears, will he do more signs than this man has done?" John 7:31
It was declared at first by the Lord, and it was attested to us by those who heard him, while God also bore witness by signs and wonders and various miracles and by gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to his own will. Hebrews 2:3-4
But not everyone believed. This is seen in the following Scriptures:
- And the Pharisees and Sadducees came, and to test him they asked him to show them a sign from heaven. . . .You know how to interpret the appearance of the sky, but you cannot interpret the signs of the times. Matthew 16:1-4
When the Pharisees heard it they said, "It is only by Beelzebul, the prince of demons, that this man casts out demons." Knowing their thoughts, he said to them.... "if it is by the Spirit of God that I cast out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you." Matthew 12:24-28; cf. Luke 11:15
Herod ... was hoping to see some sign done by him. Luke 23:8
Though he had done so many signs before them, yet they did not believe in him. John 12:37
In summary, one finds that the miracles of Jesus were overwhelmingly accepted by the common people, but less so by the leaders. Even some of the leaders, however, did not deny Jesus had done the miracles, rather, they sought other explanations for them (Matthew 9:34; Mark 3:22). In coming to Jesus and asking for a sign, the leaders indicated they thought Jesus could do miracles. At least they must have gathered some idea He could work miracles. If they thought Jesus could not do them, they would never have approached Him and asked for a sign (Matthew 16:1-4). We can also see that the Gentile king, Herod, believed that Jesus could do signs because he "was hoping to see some sign done by him" (Luke 23:8). These testimonies by the common people and leaders gives us ample reason to believe that Jesus was the Messiah. But there is yet another even greater sign that needs to be considered -- His resurrection.
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The Bible teaches that Jesus came into the world to redeem man through His death and resurrection. His resurrection became a major proof of His Messiahship. As Paul stated, He was "designated Son of God. . . by his resurrection from the dead" (Roman 1:4). Before we look at His resurrection, let us review the prophecies Jesus gave of His death and resurrection.
An early prophecy concerning Jesus death and resurrection was given in His answer to the Jews' request for a sign. At the time of Jesus' first cleansing of the temple, He told them, "Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up." The Jews thought He was speaking of the Jerusalem temple, but He was speaking of His body. John explained that when "he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this; and they believed the scripture and the word which Jesus had spoken" (John 2:13-22).
In answer to a second request for a sign, Jesus stated that none would be given except "the sign of the prophet Jonah . . . as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the whale, so will the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth" (Matthew 12:38-42; cf. 16:4; Mark 11:11-12).
Soon after Peter's confession that Jesus was "the Christ, the Son of the living God," Jesus told the disciples that He "must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised" (Matthew 16:21; cf. Mark 8:31; Luke 9:22). He repeated this to them again in Galilee (Matthew 17:22-23; cf. Mark 9:30-31; Luke 9:43-44; Luke 17:25).
During Jesus' last week with the disciples in Jerusalem, He told them, "You know that after two days the Passover is coming, and the Son of man will be delivered up to be crucified" (Matthew 26:2). Soon after this He told them that they would "all fall away because of me this night; for it is written, 'I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock will be scattered.' But after I am raised up, I will go before you to Galilee" (Matthew 26:31; cf. Mark 14:27-28; Zechariah 13:7). The most serious falling away involved Judas's betrayal, which fulfilled "what had been spoken by the prophet Jeremiah, saying, 'And they took the thirty pieces of silver, the price of him on whom a price has been set by some of the sons of Israel, and they gave them for the potter's field, as the Lord directed me'" (Matthew 27:9-10; cf. Jeremiah 32:6-15; 18:2-3).
"Before the feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart," Jesus had a special supper for the disciples (John 13:1). Jesus took bread, broke it, and passed it out saying, "this is my body." He also took a cup, telling them this was "my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sin." He then said that it was written, "'I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock will be scattered.' But after I am raised up"-referring to His death and resurrection (Matthew 26:26-32). He also told His disciples He was going away and they could not follow Him (John 13:36-38). Jesus told them. "Yet a little while, and the world will see me no more, but you will see me; because I live, you will live also" (14:18-19). Soon after this Jesus told them "I am going to him who sent me. . . . A little while, and you will see me no more; again a little while, and you will see me. . . . I came from the Father and have come into the world; again, I am leaving the world and going to the Father" (16:5, 16, 28).
Not only was Jesus' death foretold, but some special circumstances surrounding it were too, giving additional proof of His Messiahship. John gives two instances that occurred at the crucifixion to show how Old Testament prophecies were fulfilled. He writes that the soldiers divided Jesus' garments into four parts, but not his tunic, because it was seamless. "They said to one another, 'Let us not tear it, but cast lots for it to see whose it shall be.' This was to fulfill the scripture, 'They parted my garments among them, and for my clothing they cast lots'" (John 19:24; cf. Exodus 28:32; Psalm 22:18).
Since the Jews did not want the bodies (Jesus, and the two criminals crucified with Him) to hang on the cross over the approaching Sabbath day, they asked Pilate to break their legs to hasten their death. This request was granted, "But when they came to Jesus and saw that he was already dead, they did not break his legs. But one of the soldiers pierced his side with a spear, and at once there came out blood and water. . . . For these things took place that the scripture might be fulfilled, 'Not a bone of him shall be broken.' And again another scripture says, 'They shall look on him whom they have pierced'" (John 19:33-37; Exodus 12:46; Numbers 9:12; Psalm 34:20; Zechariah 12:10).
When Jesus was dying, bystanders derided Him, telling Him to save Himself, and if He could, they would believe. He did not come down, but He stayed there and died (Matthew 27:39-44). His resurrection became an even greater proof than His coming down from the cross could ever had been.
Special circumstances happened at the time of Jesus' death. Matthew writes,
- from the sixth hour there was darkness over all the land until the ninth hour . . . the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom; and the earth shook, and the rocks were split; the tombs also were opened, and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised, and coming out of the tombs after his resurrection they went into the holy city and appeared to many. These signs had an immediate effect on the centurion and soldier who were watching; "they were filled with awe, and said, 'Truly this was the Son of God.'" Matthew 27:45; 51-54; cf. Mark 15:33-41; Luke 23:44-54
After Jesus' death, the body had to be removed quickly from the cross and buried, since the Sabbath was near. Joseph of Arimathea asked Pilate for the body, and was given permission to remove it and place it in a tomb. He removed the body and wrapped it in the customary Jewish linen burial shroud but did not anoint it with the usual spices and ointments. The body was then placed in Joseph's own new tomb, which was close at hand (Matthew 27:57-61; Mark 15:42-47; Luke 23:50-56; John 19:38-42).
The Pharisees remembering that Jesus said, "After three days I will rise again," requested that Pilate place a guard at the tomb. This was done so that none of the disciples could steal His body "and tell the people, 'He has risen from the dead.'" Pilate granted them their request: "'You have a guard of soldiers; go, make it as secure as you can.' So they went and made the sepulcher secure by sealing the stone and setting a guard" (Matthew 27:62-66). But since Jesus' disciples had fallen away and were scattered, it was very unlikely they would have stolen His body.
All four Gospels give detailed accounts of women coming to the tomb on the first day of the week and finding their Lord risen, but these accounts are not identical. Clearly, each gives only a part of what occurred that morning. These accounts can be combined to give a more complete picture. If each piece of information is treated as true, they snap together like pieces of a puzzle, to give a complete picture. In the following narrative we will fit these pieces together, although in some cases not enough information is given to know precisely how the pieces blend. We will point this out where it occurs.
The women believed they needed to return quickly to the tomb to properly prepare Jesus' body for burial, not thinking about His resurrection. Several times Jesus had told the disciples He would die and rise again, but they were slow to understand what He was saying. Luke writes that when the apostles were first told of His resurrection, "these words seemed to them an idle tale, and they would not believe them" (Luke 24:11). Perhaps this was because so much happened that week. Jesus and the disciples started the week with His triumphant entry into Jerusalem, and it ended with His crucifixion. The shock of this turn of events must have caused them to forget, and not to think clearly, about what was taking place. Their falling away was also foretold, as was mentioned earlier (Matthew 26:31; cf. Mark 14:27-28). This falling away undoubtedly resulted in them not understanding what Jesus had told them several times, that He would "be killed, and on the third day be raised" (Matthew 16:21, etc.).
Jerusalem has a warm climate and these women no doubt believed corruption would soon set into the body; so they hurried to the tomb early on this first day of the week. Matthew writes that it was "toward the dawn," Mark "very early," Luke "at early dawn," and John "came to the tomb early." Mark mentions that "they went to the tomb when the sun had risen," but John states that "it was still dark." These latter statements are both correct; it depends on what the men were are writing about. Their trips could have started in darkness, and they arrived when it was light. Or as John writes, Mary Magdalene may have arrived when it was dark, and seeing the tomb opened, left and told Peter and John about it. Then when she returned again, it was light.
Mark writes that the women wondered on their way to the tomb "who will roll away the stone for us from the door of the tomb?" A large disk-shaped stone was rolled in front of the tomb's opening, and it was too large for these women to roll back. Matthew explains that "there was a great earthquake; for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven and came and rolled back the stone, and sat upon it. His appearance was like lightning, and his raiment white as snow" (Matthew 28:2-3). It was not just moved down the groove or track, but "the stone had been taken away from the tomb" (John 20:1). Thus these women found the tomb open when they arrived there.
As John writes, "Mary Magdalene came to the tomb early, while it was still dark, and saw that the stone had been taken away from the tomb. So she ran, and went to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved, and said to them, 'They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him'" (John 20:1-2). We are not told how this event fits into the activities reported in the other three Gospels. Apparently Mary Magdalene did not stop to investigate the open tomb, but ran. Apparently she returned after talking to Peter and John and investigated further, when the other women were present, as Matthew's and Mark's accounts indicate.
The four Gospels have some variation in these women's names. Matthew reports Mary Magdalene and Mary (mother of James); Mark gives these names but also adds Salome's name. Luke does not give any names but refers to them as "they." These can be identified by the preceding paragraph as "the women who had come with him [Joseph of Arimathea] from Galilee (Luke 23:55, 50). John mentions only Mary Magdalene, but his statement "we do not know where they have laid him" (John 20:2) indicates others were with her. Thus there were at least two groups of women present. Perhaps these two groups planned to meet at the tomb while they were together at the time Jesus was laid in the tomb (Matthew 27:61; Mark 15:47; Luke 23:55).
Luke writes that "Mary Magdalene and Joanna and Mary the mother of James and the other women with them" told the apostles about Jesus' resurrection (Luke 24:10). This statement is about who told the apostles and does not indicate that Joanna had gone to the tomb with Mary Magdalene and Mary. His mentioning Joanna does not mean Mark was wrong in mentioning Salome as being with them.
Matthew writes that an angel told Mary Magdalene and Mary, "Do not be afraid; for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. He is not here; for he has risen, as he said. Come, see the place where he lay" (Matthew 28:5-6). Mark mentioned that they entered the tomb and "saw a young man sitting on the right side, dressed in a white robe; and they were amazed. And he said to them, 'Do not be amazed; you seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has risen, he is not here; see the place where they laid him'" (Mark 16:5-6). These two statements do not necessarily refer to the same event. Matthew apparently wrote about when they were outside the tomb, and Mark about when they were in the tomb. The other women (those who came with Joseph), which Luke writes about, must have come to the tomb at a different time (maybe a little later?) and were perplexed. Then "two men stood by them in dazzling apparel; and as they were frightened and bowed their faces to the ground, the men said to them, 'Why do you seek the living among the dead? Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee, that the Son of man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and on the third day rise'" (Luke 24:4-7).
John writes that Peter and John, after Mary Magdalene told them about the open tomb, ran to investigate. We do not know exactly where this piece of information fits into the total picture. We will mention it here, but we should keep in mind these events may have occurred at another time. John arrived first, and
- stooping to look in, he saw the linen cloths lying there, but he did not go in. Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb; he saw the linen cloths lying, and the napkin, which had been on his head, not lying with the linen cloths but rolled up in a place by itself. Then the other disciple, who reached the tomb first, also went in, and saw and believed; for as yet they did not know the scripture, that he must rise from the dead. Then the disciples went back to their homes. John 20:3-10
During this time
- Mary stood weeping outside the tomb, and as she wept she stooped to look into the tomb; and she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had lain, one at the head and one at the feet. They said to her, "Woman, why are you weeping?" She said to them, "Because they have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him." Saying this, she turned round and saw Jesus standing, but she did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to her, "Woman, why are you weeping? Whom do you seek?" Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, "Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away." Jesus said to her, "Mary." She turned and said to him in Hebrew, "Rabboni" (which means Teacher). . . . Mary Magdalene went and said to the disciples, "I have seen the Lord"; and she told them that he had said these things to her. John 20:11-18
After learning that Jesus had risen, Matthew and Mark write that these women were told to go and "'tell his disciples that he has risen from the dead, and behold, he is going before you to Galilee; there you will see him'. . . .they departed quickly from the tomb with fear and great joy, and ran to tell his disciples" (Matthew 28:7-8; cf. Mark 16:7-8). Matthew mentions that on their way they met Jesus. "And behold, Jesus met them and said, 'Hail!' And they came up and took hold of his feet and worshiped him" (Matthew 28:8-9).
The Gospels tell of several instances where Jesus was seen by His disciples. Luke writes about an instance that occurred on the road to Emmaus that very day. Two disciples were on this road
- talking with each other about all these things that had happened. While they were talking and discussing together, Jesus himself drew near and went with them. But their eyes were kept from recognizing him. And he said to them, "What is this conversation which you are holding with each other as you walk?" And they stood still, looking sad. Then one of them, named Cleopas, answered him, "Are you the only visitor to Jerusalem who does not know the things that have happened there in these days?" And he said to them, "What things?" And they said to him, "Concerning Jesus of Nazareth, who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, and how our chief priests and rulers delivered him up to be condemned to death, and crucified him. But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel. Yes, and besides all this, it is now the third day since this happened. Moreover, some women of our company amazed us. They were at the tomb early in the morning and did not find his body; and they came back saying that they had even seen a vision of angels, who said that he was alive. Some of those who were with us went to the tomb, and found it just as the women had said; but him they did not see." And he said to them, "O foolish men, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory? And beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself." They then went to the village and He went with them to their home. "When he was at table with them, he took bread and blessed, and broke it, and gave it to them. And their eyes were opened and they recognized him; and he vanished out of their sight. Luke 24:13-31
John writes that
- eight days later, his disciples were again in the house, and Thomas was with them. The doors were shut, but Jesus came and stood among them, and said, "Peace be with you." Then he said to Thomas, "Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side; do not be faithless, but believing." Thomas answered him, "My Lord and my God." Jesus said to him, "Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe." John 20:26-29
After this Jesus revealed himself again to the disciples by the Sea of Tiberias; . . . Simon Peter said to them, "I am going fishing." The others decided to go along. And when they were out in the boat, Jesus stood on the beach . . . [and said] "Cast the net on the right side of the boat, and you will find some." So they cast it, and now they were not able to haul it in, for the quantity of fish. That disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, "It is the Lord!" John 21:1-7
Luke writes in Acts that "he presented himself alive after his passion by many proofs, appearing to them during forty days, and speaking of the kingdom of God" (Acts 1:3).
Paul summarized Jesus' appearances for the Corinthians, stating:
- For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brethren at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me" (I Corinthians 15:3-8).
Considering that the apostles fell away and were scattered during Jesus' trial and crucifixion, and noting the radical change that took place in them after His resurrection, there can be no doubts the reality of His resurrection. Matthew writes that the Jewish leaders paid the guards to tell the people that the disciples stole Jesus' body (Matthew 28:11-15). This could hardly have been the case in light of the disciple's falling away. They would never have come back to the tomb and taken the body of the one whom they rejected.
- All men can die, but Jesus' resurrection makes Him unique among men. It offers absolute proof of His Messiahship. And we have ample evidence that Jesus was raised from the dead. He appeared several times to the disciples, and this completely changed their lives, and caused them to preach the good news as Jesus had commanded them (Matthew 28:16-20).
Jesus' resurrection was central in the early church's preaching. It was the force of their faith. In Peter's first sermon at Pentecost, he said that "God raised him [Jesus] up, having loosed the pangs of death" (Acts 2:24), and that "he [David] foresaw and spoke of the resurrection of the Christ, that he was not abandoned to Hades, nor did his flesh see corruption. This Jesus God raised up, and of that we all are witnesses. . . . Let all the house of Israel therefore know assuredly that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified" (vs. 31-32, 36). Peter later told the people that they had killed "the Author of life, whom God raised from the dead. To this we are witnesses" (3:15). "God, having raised up his servant, sent him to you first, to bless you in turning every one of you from your wickedness" (v. 26). Soon after this Luke wrote that the leaders were annoyed because "they [the apostles] were teaching the people and proclaiming in Jesus the resurrection from the dead" (4:2). Peter and John told them "Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified . . . God raised from the dead" (v. 10). Luke summarized the apostles' activities by stating that "with great power the apostles gave their testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus" (v. 33). Peter told the council that "The God of our fathers raised Jesus whom you killed by hanging him on a tree. God exalted him at his right hand as Leader and Savior" (5:30-31).
Peter told Cornelius,
- They put him to death by hanging him on a tree; but God raised him on the third day and made him manifest; not to all the people but to us who were chosen by God as witnesses, who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead. . . . To him all the prophets bear witness that every one who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name. Acts 10:39-43
At Antioch Paul spoke in the synagogue that
- we bring you the good news that what God promised to the fathers, this he has fulfilled to us their children by raising Jesus; as also it is written in the second psalm, "Thou art my Son, today I have begotten thee." And as for the fact that he raised him from the dead, no more to return to corruption, he spoke in this way, "I will give you the holy and sure blessings of David." Therefore he says also in another psalm, "Thou will not let thy Holy One see corruption. . . he whom God raised up saw no corruption." Acts 13:32-37
In Paul's trial before Agrippa, the accusers talked "about one Jesus, who was dead, but whom Paul asserted to be alive" (Acts 25:19). Later Paul asked Agrippa, "Why is it thought incredible by any of you that God raises the dead?" (26:8). He told him "what the prophets and Moses said would come to pass: that the Christ must suffer, and that, by being the first to rise from the dead, he would proclaim light both to the people and to the Gentiles" (vs. 22-23). Thus we see that in the book of Acts, the book on the early church's history, there are many statements showing the resurrection was central in their preaching and teaching.
There are many other references to Jesus' resurrection in the New Testament. These are too numerous to give a narrative on each, so they will just be listed below.
- [He was] designated Son of God . . . by his resurrection from the dead. Romans 1:4
Christ was raised from the dead. Romans 6:4
Is it Christ Jesus, who died, yes, who was raised from the dead, who is at the right hand of God. Romans 8:34
Christ died and lived again. Romans 14:9
And God raised the Lord. I Corinthians 6:14
Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the scriptures. I Corinthians 15:3-4; cf. 15:12, 14, 17
"Knowing that he who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus. I Corinthians 4:14
For him who for their sake died and was raised. II Corinthians 5:15
But through Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised him from the dead. Galatians 1:1
In Christ when he raised him from the dead and made him sit at the right hand in the heavenly places. Ephesians 1:20
He who descended is he who also ascended far above all the heavens, that he might fill all things. Ephesians 4:10
And being found in human form he humbled himself and became obedient unto death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name which is above every name. Philippians 2:8-9
That I may know him and the power of his resurrection. Philippians 3:10
He is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning, the first-born from the dead. Colossians 1:18
Through faith in the working of God, who raised him from the dead. Colossians 2:12
To wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come. I Thessalonians 1:10
We believe that Jesus died and rose again. I Thessalonians 4:14
Great indeed, we confess, is the mystery of our religion: He was manifested in the flesh, vindicated in the Spirit, seen by angels, preached among the nations, believed on in the world, taken up in glory. I Timothy 3:16
Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, descended from David, as preached. II Timothy 2:8
Now may the God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant, equip you with everything good that you may do his will. Hebrews 13:20
By his great mercy we have been born anew to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. . . . Through him you have confidence in God, who raised him from the dead and gave him glory. I Peter 1:3, 21
For Christ also died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit...through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God. Peter 3:18, 21, 22
Jesus Christ the faithful witness, the first-born of the dead, and the ruler of kings on earth. Revelation 1:5
When the tomb was found empty and the disciples found that "he has risen," Jesus' resurrection became a major proof of His Messiahship. Today we can have confidence that Jesus was God's Son, and that He brought redemption and revelation to mankind because of His resurrection.
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This booklet has show how God and Jesus Christ have revealed themselves to man, and made it possible for him to be redeemed and have fellowship with God the Father and live in harmony with His laws. The reader is encouraged to turn to the Bible and read and search its passages to understand its message on redemption and God's will for your life.
The reader may wish to start a Bible study program by reading first the Gospels, especially Matthew and John. We should constantly read and study the Bible. To learn about God and His plan for us, we need to read, read, and read the Scriptures. Only then can we see for ourselves what Scripture teaches.
One who studies the Word in humility, sincerely and prayerfully, will find truth there. And there he will find Jesus Christ and the necessary grace to live a life in obedience to God's word.
May grace and peace from God be with the reader!
This is a shorten version of Christian Evidence - How we know the Bible is God's Revelation, © copyright 1991 by Leland M. Haines.