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Is Jesus the Son of God?

Is Jesus the Son of God.

Now let us turn our attention to the claims of Christianity. Was and is Jesus the Son of God?. All of the secular world religions teach that Jesus was not the Son of God. Is there proof that He was?. Some even question whether He actually lived. We begin by considering some secular sources as given by Josh McDowell in his book entitled “Evidence that demands a verdict” (pp 84). The following list is abbreviated:

    • Cornelius Tacitus (Born A.D. 52-54) – He was a Roman historian, in 112 A.D. and Governor of Asia. Writing of the reign of Nero, Tacitus alludes to the death of Christ and to the existence of Christians at Rome.

    • Lucian – “A satirist of the second century, who spoke scornfully of Chirst and the Christians. He connected them with the synagogues of Palestine and alluded to Christ as: “… the man who was crucified in Palestine because he introduced this new cult into the world.”

    • Flavius Josephus (Born A.D. 37) – “A Jewish historian, became a Pharisee at age 19; in A.D. 66, he was the commander of Jewish forces in Galilee. After being captured, he was attached to the Roman headquarters. He says in a hotly-contested quotation:

      ‘Now there was about this time Jesus, a wise man, if it be lawful to call him a man, for he was a doer of wonderful works, a teacher of such men as received the truth with pleasure. He drew over to him both many of the Jews, and many of the Gentiles. He was the Christ, and when Pilate, at the suggestion of the principal men among us, had condemned him to the cross, those that loved at the first did not forsake him; for he appeared to them alive again the third day; as the divine prophets had foretold these and ten thousand other wonderful things concerning him. And the tribe of Christians so named from him are not extinct at this day’…”

    • Plinius Secundus, Pliny the Younger – “Governor of Bithynia in Asia Minor (A.D. 132) was writing the emperor Trajan seeking counsel as to how to treat the Christians. He explained that he had been killing both men and women, boys and girls. There were so many being put to death that he wondered if he should continue killing anyone who was discovered to be a Christian, or if he should kill only certain ones. He explained that he had made the Christians bow down to the statues of Trajan. He goes on to say that he also ‘made them curse Christ, which a genuine Christian cannot be induced to do’…”

    • Thallus, The Samaritan-born Historian – “One of the first Gentile writers who mentions Christ is Thallus, who wrote in 52 A.D. However, his writings have disappeared and we only know of them from fragments cited by other writers. One very interesting passage relates to a comment fromThallus. Julius Africanus writes:

      ‘Thallus, in the third book of histories, explains away this darkness as an eclipse of the son—unreasonably, as it seems to me’ (unreasonably, of course, because a solar eclipse could not take place at the time of the full moon, and it was at the season of the Paschal full moon that Christ died).'”

    • Encyclopedia Britannica – The latest edition of the Encyclopedia Britannica used 20,000 word in describing this person, Jesus. His description took more space than was given to Aristotle, Cicero, Alexander, Julius Ceasar, Buddha, Confucus, Mohammad or Napolean Bonaparte.”

From the above, we can, at least, conclude that the movement called Christianity began shortly after the death of Jesus. We can also conclude that His followers were willing to die of their faith.

Perhaps the greatest proof that Jesus was the promised Messiah and Son God came from the Old Testament prophecies. I have used the phrase: “The Old Testament is the New Testament concealed and the New Testament is the Old Testament revealed”. Perhaps this is best understood in light of the prophecies of the Old Testament. The promises of a reigning king and a suffering Messiah are embedded throughout the Old Testament though the written word, types, shadows, patterns and other ways. The Old Testament contains over 300 references to the Messiah that were fulfilled in Jesus during his first advent.

Consider the following: “Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel” [meaning God with us] (Isa. 7:14). “For unto us a Child is born, Unto us a Son is given; And the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of His government and peace there will be no end, upon the throne of David and over His kingdom, to order it and establish it with judgment and justice from that time forward, even forever. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this” (Isa. 9:6-7).

Isaiah also said He would be a suffering Messiah. “He is despised and rejected by men, a Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. And we hid, as it were, our faces from Him; He was despised, and we did not esteem Him. Surely, He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed Him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement for our peace was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed” (Isa. 53:3-5). The prophet Micah told us where he would be born, “But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of you shall come forth to Me The One to be Ruler in Israel, whose goings forth are from of old, from everlasting” (Micah 5:2). Notice that Micah says that the promised Messiah was eternal and that He had been active in the lives of the Jewish people throughout the Old Testament.

Now let me read the promise made to the Virgin Mary by the angel, Gabriel, “Then the angel said to her, ‘do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bring forth a Son, and shall call His name JESUS. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Highest; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David. And He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of His kingdom there will be no end” (Luke 1:30-33).

Critics, such as the Muslims, have claimed that the Jewish and Christian Holy Scriptures have been rewritten to include the prophecies. For this to be done the entire Old Testament and New Testament would have had to be rewritten with all these prophecies interwoven. If this were true, every copy which has ever been produced would have to be located and either destroyed or rewritten. This would be impossible. Also, we need to remember that the Dead Sea Scrolls, written before Jesus was born, confirmed the accuracy of Isaiah Chapter 53 which says that the Jewish Messiah would be a suffering Messiah.

There is no doubt from today’s New Testament that Jesus claimed to be the Son of God. He referred to Himself as the “Son of Man”, a term used in the seventh chapter of Daniel, which refers to the Jewish Messiah. In the Book of Matthew, we read these words. “When Jesus came into the region of Caesarea Philippi, He asked His disciples, saying, ‘Who do men say that I, the Son of Man, am?’ So they said, ‘some say John the Baptist, some Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.’ He said to them, ‘But who do you say that I am?’ Simon Peter answered and said, ‘You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.’ Jesus answered and said to him, ‘Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father who is in heaven’ ” (Matt. 16:13-17).

Then Jesus began telling his disciples that he was going to be killed and that he would rise on the third day. “Then charged he his disciples that they should tell no man that he was Jesus the Christ. From that time Jesus began to show to His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem, and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised the third day” (Matt. 16:20-21). At least two other times, Jesus told his disciples that he must be killed and raised from the dead but they did not understand him. For more on the claims of Jesus see my Article, “Is Jesus the Son of God?” on this web site. Just click on it.

In, answering the question, was Jesus the Son of God, we need to look at the claims that He arose from the dead on the third day. The Apostle Paul wrote these words to the church at Corinth. “Now if Christ is preached that He has been raised from the dead, how do some among you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ is not risen. And if Christ is not risen, then our preaching is empty and your faith is also empty. Yes, and we are found false witnesses of God, because we have testified of God that He raised up Christ, whom He did not raise up—if in fact the dead do not rise. For if the dead do not rise, then Christ is not risen. And if Christ is not risen, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins! Then also those who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men the most pitiable” (I Cor. 15:12-19).

We must question how reliable were the witnesses to the death and resurrection of Jesus. The witness was given by eleven of the disciples (Judus betrayed Him) who walk with him on earth for more than two years and, also, by the apostle Paul. Up until the death of Jesus, the disciples expected Jesus to set up a physical Messianic Kingdom on earth—this was their mind-set. Though, uneducated men, they thought they would be part of the inter-circle of the new Kingdom. They even argued as to who would sit on His right hand. Listen to Peter’s reaction when Jesus said He was going to die. “Then Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him, saying, ‘Far be it from You, Lord; this shall not happen to You!’ But He turned and said to Peter, ‘Get behind Me, Satan! You are an offense to Me, for you are not mindful of the things of God, but the things of men’” (Matt. 16:22-23).

When Jesus was arrested, most of the disciple fled and hid themselves because of fear. Peter, himself, even denied Jesus three times. When the women, after the resurrection, told the disciples that the tomb was empty, they had doubts about what had happened. Listen, to the words of John as He looked into the empty tomb. “Then the other disciple [probably John], who came to the tomb first, went in also; and he saw and believed. For as yet they did not know the Scripture, that He must rise again from the dead” (John 20:8-9). The witnesses were uneducated men who did not understand what was taking place but they knew exactly what they had witnessed.

After the resurrection, Jesus met and talked with the disciples for forty days. Even after that, we, without a doubt, see their mind-set. “Therefore, when they had come together, they asked Him, saying, ‘Lord, will You at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?’ And He said to them, ‘It is not for you to know times or seasons which the Father has put in His own authority. But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth'” (Acts 1:6-8). Does this sound like men who were about to start a new religion?

Now, just 10 days later, we see a complete new mind-set. At the feast of Pentecost, the Holy Spirit came upon the disciples and they began to speak with boldness. These were the words of Simon Peter, “Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a Man attested by God to you by miracles, wonders, and signs which God did through Him in your midst, as you yourselves also know— Him, being delivered by the determined purpose and foreknowledge of God, you have taken by lawless hands, have crucified, and put to death; whom God raised up, having loosed the pains of death, because it was not possible that He should be held by it” (Acts 2:22-25). It is completely unnatural for men to have a change in mind-set and boldness such as this especially in such a short period of time. This was God directed through the power of the Holy Spirit.

These men continued to preach with great boldness and without fear to the same men who had put Jesus to death. They moved out into different parts of the world and continued preaching, Jesus resurrected. Eventually, all except John were martyred for their faith. Over the years many more have died defending the claims of Christianity. How many are willing to die for claims that they know are lies?

Early in the history of the Christian movement, a highly educated young Pharisee had a different mind-set. He was zealous for the Jewish legal system and he considered the claims of Christianity as blasphemy against a Holy God. His name was Saul of Tarsus and he persecuted the Christians—putting many to death. As the Christians scattered to other parts of the country, he followed them.

Obtaining warrants for the arrest of Christians, he traveled to Damascus. Before he arrived, he had an encounter with the risen Christ. “As he journeyed he came near Damascus, and suddenly a light shone around him from heaven. Then he fell to the ground, and heard a voice saying to him, ‘Saul’, the Lord said to him, ‘Arise and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do. Saul, why are you persecuting Me?’ And he said, ‘Who are You, Lord?’ Then the Lord said, ‘I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. It is hard for you to kick against the goads.’ So he, trembling and astonished, said, ‘Lord, what do You want me to do?’ Then the men who journeyed with him stood speechless, hearing a voice but seeing no one. Then Saul arose from the ground, and when his eyes were opened he saw no one. But they led him by the hand and brought him into Damascus. And he was three days without sight, and neither ate nor drank” (Acts 9:3-9).

On that day Saul, whose name was changed to Paul, had a sudden change in mind-set. Later, upon entering the city, he received his sight and was baptized. From that day forward, he became an apostle of Jesus and went on to write much of the New Testament. Over the years, he was beaten, imprisoned and later died as a martyr for Christ. The sudden change in the life of Saul is, without a doubt, a testimony to the claims of the resurrection.

Some have questioned as to how early was the history of the resurrection recorded. Dr. Craig Blomberg, author of the Historical Reliability of the Gospels, through the writing of Lee Strobel, says very early. It is noted by several Christian historians that Paul incorporated some of the very early creeds into his letters. One of these creeds probably was given to Paul on his first visit to Jerusalem where he went to meet with Peter, John, James and perhaps others.

Paul incorporated this creed in his letter as he wrote to the church at Corinth. “Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand; By which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain. For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures: And that he was seen of Cephas, then of the twelve: After that, he was seen of above five hundred brethren at once; of whom the greater part remain unto this present, but some are fallen asleep. After that, he was seen of James; then of all the apostles. And last of all he was seen of me also, as of one born out of due time. For I am the least of the apostles, that am not meet to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God” (1 Cor. 15:1-9). Paul says that many of those who witnessed the resurrection of Jesus were still living at the time he wrote this letter. If the resurrection had not taken place, it most definitely would have been publicly reputed.

Over the years there have been several skeptics and atheists who have questioned the claims of the resurrection and then subsequently investigated so that they could refute the claims—as a result of these investigations, many have been convinced that the claims are true and thus have become believers. One such man is Lee Strobel, a former legal investigative reporter for the Chicago Tribune. Lee’s wife, Leslie, challenged Lee to apply his investigative skill to disprove or prove the claims of the New Testament. Lee began a careful investigative of critics claims that the New Testament is fallible. He sought out and interviewed the best historians in the field. The following is a list of the areas of concern that he investigated.

    • How reliable was the eyewitness evidence?
    • Can the biographies of Jesus be trusted?
    • Were Jesus’ biographies reliably preserved and have those equally accurate biographies been suppressed by the church?
    • Is there credible evidence for Jesus outside His biographies?
    • Does archaeology confirm or contradict Jesus’ biographies?
    • Is the Jesus of History the same as the Jesus of Faith?
    • Was Jesus really convinced that He was the Son of God?
    • Was Jesus crazy when He claimed to be the Son of God?
    • Did Jesus fulfill the attributes of God?
    • Did Jesus—and Jesus alone— match the identity of the Messiah?
    • Was Jesus’ death a sham and his resurrection a hoax?
    • Was Jesus’ body really absent from the tomb?
    • Was Jesus seen alive after his death on the cross?
    • Are there any supporting facts that point to the resurrection?
    • What does the evidence establish and what does it mean today?

Lee documents his investigation and findings in his book entitled “The Case for Christ“. He found the claims of the New Testament were true. Today, he is convinced that Jesus was the Son of God, indeed died for our sins and was raised from the grave. He has become an apologist for the claims of Christ. I highly recommend his book for the serious student.

Visions and Apparitions

The Old Testament records a number of incidences where God’s saints have had encounters with God and the spirit world. If we read carefully, the Old Testament clearly shows that the preincarnated Christ was active throughout the Old Testament. However, both the Old and New Testaments clearly warn that man is not to practice sorcery—the initiative of mankind to contact the dead and the spirit world. However, many times God has taken the initiative.

We also find God has taken the initiative in the New Testament. We note that the risen Christ appeared to Saul of Taurus. Angels also released Peter and John from the bonds of prison. The angels and demons have manifested their presence in visual forms over the last two thousand years. At least one of my close friends has seen an angel. Today, their appearances seem to have increased.

Perhaps, it is because of the increase of Satanic activity and also, perhaps, it is because we are living in the last days of history.

For many years, history has documented deathbed visions where the veil which separates this world form the next disappears. Sometimes, there is a span of time when the dying person seems to be in both worlds. During this time, they have reported seeing the risen Christ, angels and departed love ones. Trained nurses have reported this phenomenal frequently among hospice patients.

As D.L Moody was dying, he had visions of both worlds and reported on what he was seeing to those present. At one time, he said, “No Pain! No valley” “If this is death, it’s not bad at all! It’s sweet!” “This is my coronation day. It’s glorious!” Another dying person said, “Oh, they are so beautiful?” “What do you see?” “Angels—and they are so beautiful” “They have wings” “They sing the sweetest of anything I have ever heard.” “I see the holy city.” “I see Christ and oh, He is so beautiful.” “A lot of people—Uncle George and a lot more.” Critics have argued that the patients were hallucinating; however, this does not appear to be the case.

We are living in a time when people are being resuscitated after their heart stops. As a result, many are have near death experiences or out of body experiences. During this time both believers and nonbelievers are encountering spiritual beings such as angels, visions of heaven, family members, conversations with Christ and probably demons appearing as angels of light. We need to be very careful in discerning who these spiritual being are as Satan and his demons do appear as angels of light and deceive us. However, it does prove that there is a spirit world as well as a physical world.

In 1989, Don Piper, a Baptist pastor, was in an automobile accident and was pronounced dead by the paramedics. Ninety minutes later he was back in his body and after many months of recovery he went on to tell and write (90 Minutes in Heaven) about his visit to heaven. There he met many family members and friends. In 1998, Bill Wiese, a Christian, was taken to the depths of hell to see and experience the reality of hell. Then he was lifted out and had an encounter with the risen Christ who told him to return to earth and tell all about the reality of hell. He recorded his experience in his book “23 Minutes in Hell”. There are a number of children who have met Christ in an out of body experience. Todd Burpo, a Wesleyan church pastor, writes about his son’s Colton’s experience in his book “Heaven is for Real”. There are unbelievers who have had Out of Body experiences where they have met Christ and have been told to return to earth and witness to the world about the reality of Christ. Most have become strong believers.

There are many reported cases where Christ has appeared suddenly and has spoken to an individual. Most have received words of encouragement. Jesus is appearing to some Muslims who are searching for the truth regarding Christ. After the encounter, most have converted to Christianity and have become strong witnesses.

For more on this subject see the “Visions” section of my article: “The Afterlife” on this web site. Just click on the title.