Category Archives: Apologetics

What Did Early Christians Believe About Hell?

As we seek to understand what the Bible teaches about Hell, it may be helpful to understand what the earliest believers believed and taught. The teachings of some of these believers has been preserved for us in the writings of ancient church leaders (known as the Early Church Fathers). While their writings are neither canonical nor authoritative, they do help us to understand what those closest to the apostles first believed about Hell. As we assemble the teachings of these first church leaders, several patterns emerge related to the nature of Hell. The Early Church Fathers, with very few exceptions, agree with traditional views descriptions of Hell as a place of eternal, conscious torment:

1. Hell is a place of judgment for those who have rejected God and denied Jesus as their Savior
2. Hell is a place of separation from God
3. Hell is a place of torment in which the rebellious are in anguish and pain
4. Hell is a place where the rebellious are tormented forever and are conscious of this torment for all eternity (In fact, the eternal duration of their torment is often compared to the eternal duration of the reward of the saved)

At the same time, the earliest Church Fathers are ambiguous on those areas where the Bible is ALSO ambiguous.

1. The exact nature of the torment of the rebellious is unknown
2. The manner in which the rebellious are kept alive in spite of ‘deathly’ anguish is also un-described

The Early Church Fathers simply reflected the clearest teachings of the Bible. Here is a very brief assessment of several quotes made by early Christians about the nature of Hell:

From “The Epistle of Barnabas” (70-130AD)
The author of the Epistle of Barnabas is unknown, but many consider him to simply be who he said he was, Barnabas, the associate of Paul who is mentioned in the Book of Acts. The letter was written to new converts to Christianity:

The way of darkness is crooked, and it is full of cursing. It is the way of eternal death with punishment. (“Epistle of Barnabas”)

From Ignatius of Antioch (110AD)
Ignatius was a student of the Apostle John, and succeeded the Apostle Peter as the Bishop of Antioch. He wrote a number of important letters to believers in churches in the area:

Corrupters of families will not inherit the kingdom of God. And if they who do these things according to the flesh suffer death. how much more if a man corrupt by evil reaching the faith of God. for the sake of which Jesus Christ was crucified? A man become so foul will depart into unquenchable fire: and so will anyone who listens to him. (Letter to the Ephesians 16:1-2)

From Clement of Rome (150AD)
Clement was Bishop of Rome from 88 to 98AD, and his teaching reflects the early traditions of the Church. “Second Clement” reportedly a recorded sermon, and Clement discusses the nature of Hell:

If we do the will of Christ, we shall obtain rest; but if not, if we neglect his commandments, nothing will rescue us from eternal punishment (“Second Clement” 5:5)

But when they see how those who have sinned and who have denied Jesus by their words or by their deeds are punished with terrible torture in unquenchable fire, the righteous, who have done good, and who have endured tortures and have hated the luxuries of life, will give glory to their God saying, ‘There shall be hope for him that has served God with all his heart!’ (“Second Clement” 17:7)

From “The Martyrdom of Polycarp” (155AD)
This work was written by an Early Church Father (unknown author) and is dated very early in the history of Christianity. It describes the death of Polycarp, a disciple of the Apostle John, and also describes early teachings of the church:

Fixing their minds on the grace of Christ, [the martyrs] despised worldly tortures and purchased eternal life with but a single hour. To them, the fire of their cruel torturers was cold. They kept before their eyes their escape from the eternal and unquenchable fire (“Martyrdom of Polycarp” 2:3)

From Tatian (160AD) 
Tatian was an early Assyrian believer who moved to Rome as a pagan and eventually became a Christian. Interestingly, he read the Jewish Scriptures and from these became convinced that other pagan ideas about the world were simply false. He was a student of Justin Martyr and wrote about the unreasonableness of paganism and the truth of Christianity:

 We who are now easily susceptible to death, will afterwards receive immortality with either enjoyment or with pain. (Ante-Nicene Fathers 1.71)

From Athenagoras of Athens (175AD)
Athenagoras was a philosopher and citizen of Athens who became a Christian (possibly from Platonism) and wrote two important apologetic works; “Apology” or “Embassy for the Christians”, and a “Treatise on the Resurrection”:

We are persuaded that when we are removed from the present life we will live another life, better than the present one…or, if they fall with the rest, they will endure a worse life, one in fire. For God has not made us as sheep or beasts of burden, who are mere by-products. For animals perish and are annihilated. On these grounds, it is not likely that we would wish to do evil. (“Apology”)

From Theophilus of Antioch (181AD)
Theophilus was the Patriarch of Antioch from 169 to 183AD. He was born a pagan and converted to Christianity after reading the scriptures. He was very zealous about protecting the orthodoxy of the earliest believers and he wrote a defense of the faith to a man named Autolycus:

Give studious attention to the prophetic writings [the Bible] and they will lead you on a clearer path to escape the eternal punishments and to obtain the eternal good things of God. . . . [God] will examine everything and will judge justly, granting recompense to each according to merit. To those who seek immortality by the patient exercise of good works, he will give everlasting life, joy, peace, rest, and all good things. . . . For the unbelievers and for the contemptuous, and for those who do not submit to the truth but assent to iniquity, when they have been involved in adulteries, and fornications, and homosexualities, and avarice, and in lawless idolatries, there will be wrath and indignation, tribulation and anguish; and in the end, such men as these will be detained in everlasting fire (“To Autolycus” 1:14)

From Irenaeus (189AD)
Irenaeus was bishop of Lugdunum in Gaul (now Lyon, France) at the end of the second century. He was a disciple of Polycarp and a notable early apologist for the faith. He wrote several volumes defending the faith against Gnosticism and other early heresies of the Church, and he often compared eternal punishment to eternal reward, drawing the conclusion that one endured as long as the other:

…Christ Jesus, our Lord, and God, and Saviour, and King, according to the will of the invisible Father, ‘every knee should bow, of things in heaven,, and things in earth, and things under the earth, and that every tongue should confess’ to Him, and that He should execute just judgment towards all; that He may send ‘spiritual wickednesses,’ and the angels who transgressed and became apostates, together with the ungodly, and unrighteous, and wicked, and profane among men, into everlasting fire; but may, in the exercise of His grace, confer immortality on the righteous, and holy, and those who have kept His commandments, and have persevered in His love, some from the beginning of their Christian course, and others from the date of their repentance, and may surround them with everlasting glory. (“Against Heresies” 1:10:10)

The penalty increases for those who do not believe the Word of God and despise his coming. . . . [I]t is not merely temporal, but eternal. To whomsoever the Lord shall say, ‘Depart from me, accursed ones, into the everlasting fire,’ they will be damned forever (“Against Heresies” 4:28:2)

From Clement of Alexandria (195AD)
Titus Flavius Clemens was the first significant and recorded Christian from the church of Alexandria, Egypt. His parents were Greek and he was raised with a solid, formal Greek education. While he had a tendency to blend Greek and Christian philosophies, his view on the issue of Hell was derived from the scriptures:

All souls are immortal, even those of the wicked. Yet, it would be better for them if they were not deathless. For they are punished with the endless vengeance of quenchless fire. Since they do not die, it is impossible for them to have an end put to their misery. (from a post-Nicene manuscript fragment)

From Tertullian (197AD)
Quintus Septimius Florens Tertullianus was a Romanized African citizen who was born in Carthage (now Tunisia). He became a Christian and was a powerful and influential apologist for the faith, writing prolifically in defense of the doctrines of orthodoxy:

These have further set before us the proofs He has given of His majesty in judgments by floods and fires, the rules appointed by Him for securing His favor, as well as the retribution in store for the ignoring, forsaking and keeping them, as being about at the end of all to adjudge His worshippers to everlasting life, and the wicked to the doom of fire at once without ending and without break, raising up again all the dead from the beginning, reforming and renewing them with the object of awarding either recompense. (“Apology” 18:3)

Then will the entire race of men be restored to receive its just deserts according to what it has merited in this period of good and evil, and thereafter to have these paid out in an immeasurable and unending eternity. Then there will be neither death again nor resurrection again, but we shall be always the same as we are now, without changing. The worshipers of God shall always be with God, clothed in the proper substance of eternity. But the godless and those who have not turned wholly to God will be punished in fire equally unending, and they shall have from the very nature of this fire, divine as it were, a supply of incorruptibility (“Apology” 44:12–13)

Therefore after this there is neither death nor repeated resurrections, but we shall be the same that we are now, and still unchanged–the servants of God, ever with God, clothed upon with the proper substance of eternity; but the profane, and all who are not true worshippers of God, in like manner shall be consigned to the punishment of everlasting fire–that fire which, from its very nature indeed, directly ministers to their incorruptibility. (“Apology” 48:12)

From Hippolytus of Rome (212AD)
Hippolytus was one of the most prolific writers of the early Church, and he was often at theological odds with the early Popes and church leaders of his time. He appears to have been a student of Irenaeus, and wrote MANY volumes of history, apologetics and Biblical teaching:

Standing before [Christ’s] judgment, all of them, men, angels, and demons, crying out in one voice, shall say: ‘Just is your judgment!’ And the righteousness of that cry will be apparent in the recompense made to each. To those who have done well, everlasting enjoyment shall be given; while to the lovers of evil shall be given eternal punishment. The unquenchable and unending fire awaits these latter, and a certain fiery worm which does not die and which does not waste the body but continually bursts forth from the body with unceasing pain. No sleep will give them rest; no night will soothe them; no death will deliver them from punishment; no appeal of interceding friends will profit them (“Against the Greeks” 3)

From Felix Minucius (226AD)
Felix Marcus Minucius is perhaps the earliest known Latin apologist for the Christian faith. He wrote “Octavius”, a dialogue on Christianity between a non-believer named Caecilius Natalis and a Christian named Octavius Januarius (who was a lawyer, friend and student of Minucius Felix:

I am not ignorant of the fact that many, in the consciousness of what they deserve, would rather hope than actually believe that there is nothing for them after death. They would prefer to be annihilated rather than be restored for punishment… Nor is there either measure nor end to these torments. That clever fire burns the limbs and restores them, wears them away and yet sustains them, just as fiery thunderbolts strike bodies but do not consume them (“Octavius” 34:12–5:3)

From Cyprian of Carthage (252-253 AD)
Thascius Caecilius Cyprianus was bishop at Carthage. He had an excellent Greek education and wrote several key letters and treatises in which he discussed doctrines of the Church:

An ever-burning Gehenna and the punishment of being devoured by living flames will consume the condemned; nor will there be any way in which the tormented can ever have respite or be at an end. Souls along with their bodies will be preserved for suffering in unlimited agonies… The grief at punishment will then be without the fruit of repentance; weeping will be useless, and prayer ineffectual. Too late will they believe in eternal punishment, who would not believe in eternal life (“To Demetrian” 24)

Oh,what and how great will that day be at its coming, beloved brethren, when the Lord shall begin to count up His people, and to recognize the deservings of each one by the inspection of His divine knowledge, to send the guilty to Gehenna, and to set on fire our persecutors with the perpetual burning of a penal fire, but to pay to us the reward of our faith and devotion! (“To Thibaris” 55:10)

From Lactantius (307AD)
Lucius Caelius Firmianus Lactantius was a Latin speaking native of North Africa. He was an expert in rhetoric and he taught the subject in the city of Nicomedia at the request of Emperor Diocletian. He also wrote several apologetic and doctrinal works:

But, however, the sacred writings inform us in what manner the wicked are to undergo punishment. For because they have committed sins in their bodies, they will again be clothed with flesh, that they may make atonement in their bodies; and yet it will not be that flesh with which God clothed man, like this our earthly body, but indestructible, and abiding forever, that it may be able to hold out against tortures and everlasting fire…The same divine fire, therefore, with one and the same force and power, will both burn the wicked and will form them again, and will replace as much as it shall consume of their bodies, and will supply itself with eternal nourishment …Then they whose piety shall have been approved of will receive the reward of immortality; but they whose sins and crimes shall have been brought to light will not rise again, but will be hidden in the same darkness with the wicked, being destined to certain punishment. (“Divine Institutes” 7:21)

From Cyril of Jerusalem (350AD)
Cyril was a well respected theologian of the early Church and a bishop of the church at Jerusalem. He wrote twenty three teaching lectures on the doctrines of the Church and delivered these lectures while he was a presbyter in Jerusalem:

We shall be raised therefore, all with our bodies eternal, but not all with bodies alike: for if a man is righteous, he will receive a heavenly body, that he may be able worthily to hold converse with angels; but if a man is a sinner, he shall receive an eternal body, fitted to endure the penalties of sins, that he may burn eternally in fire, nor ever be consumed… (“Catechetical Lectures” 18:19)

The real and true life then is the Father, who through the Son in the Holy Spirit pours forth as from a fountain His heavenly gifts to all; and through His love to man, the blessings of the life eternal are promised without fail to us men also. We must not disbelieve the possibility of this, but having an eye not to our own weakness but to His power, we must believe; for with God all things are possible. And that this is possible, and that we may look for eternal life, Daniel declares, And of the many righteous shall they shine as the stars forever and ever. And Paul says, And so shall we be ever with the Lord: for the being forever with the lord implies the life eternal. But most plainly of all the Savior Himself says in the Gospel, And these shall go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into life eternal. (“Catechetical Lectures” 18:28)

While this survey of early teachings on the nature of Hell may seem a bit long and laborious, it does help us to understand what the first believers learned and taught about the nature of the eternal conscious torment of those who reject Christ. Over and over again, we see that the Early Church Fathers believed that those who enter Hell are NOT annihilated or destroyed. In summary, these early believers understood the Scriptures to teach that:

1. Souls live on after the grave. Even those who are assigned to Hell are “immortal”, “indestructible” and “abide forever” Those assigned to Hell will be “detained in everlasting fire” for a period of time that is as “equally perpetual and unending” as the eternal life of those who are in Heaven.

2. The rebellious will exist in Hell with an “eternal body, fitted to endure the penalties of sins”. They will “burn eternally in fire” and they will never “be consumed” Those tormented in Hell will never “have respite” and their torment will never “be at an end”. “Souls along with their bodies will be preserved for suffering in unlimited agonies”

3. Souls in Hell will NOT be allowed to die or cease to exist. “They would prefer to be annihilated rather than be restored for punishment”, but this is simply not the case. The fire of Hell is an “unquenchable fire”. It is “clever” and “burns the limbs and restores them, wears them away and yet sustains them, just as fiery thunderbolts strike bodies but do not consume them.”

4. The torment suffered by those in Hell will be incredibly unbearable. It will feel as though “a certain fiery worm which does not die and which does not waste the body” will continually burst forth from the body “with unceasing pain”.

This description of eternal conscious torment in Hell is certainly horrifying. It is hard to believe and even harder to accept. It is not something that we would wish on our worst enemy, and it is not something that we, as believers, can ignore. The Church Fathers affirm the Biblical truth related to the orthodox doctrine of Hell. It is a place of eternal conscious torment and a place that should motivate us to reach others with the truth, even as it motivates us to live a life that is worthy of the God who created us. C.S. Lewis encouraged us to view Hell not only from the eyes of those who don’t believe, but also from our own concerned and cautious position as believers:

“In all discussions of hell we should keep steadily before our eyes the possible damnation, not of our enemies nor our friends… but of ourselves” (C.S. Lewis in “The Problem of Pain”)

J. Warner Wallace is a Cold-Case DetectiveChristian Case Maker, Senior Fellow at the Colson Center for Christian Worldview, and the author of Cold-Case ChristianityCold-Case Christianity for KidsGod’s Crime SceneGod’s Crime Scene for Kids, and Forensic Faith.

Source: What Did Early Christians Believe About Hell?

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Biblical Gospel vs Fake Gospel

The world is awash with fake news, and sadly this is just as true in so many of our churches. Instead of hearing biblical truth, we are getting fake news preached from too many of our pulpits. Indeed, the biggest churches in the West are often guilty of this.

We get feel-good pop sermons about how wonderful we are, how amazing we are, and how terrific we are. Not exactly what Scripture says, but this is now the most popular message heard from so many churches. At such churches one would not think that the Bible ever spoke of sin and the need of a Saviour.

One year ago the Christian satire site Babylon Bee perfectly captured this reality. The article, with this title, “Woman Unsure Why She Needs Jesus After Preacher Spends 30 Minutes Telling Her How Amazing She Is” is a satire piece, but so often satire is a perfect means to convey truth. The article says this:

TWIN OAKS, AZ—According to reports coming out of Hope Community Church, first-time visitor Brittany Wilson remains unsure about why she needed “this Jesus guy” in her life after the pastor spent the entire Sunday sermon reiterating how awesome, amazing, unique, and special she is.
“The message was super-encouraging. It was all about how I need to let the goodness within me shine and ‘just do me,’ without worrying about all the haters,” Wilson said after the service.
“But then the pastor said I needed Jesus, out of the blue. Like, what? It made no sense. I’m not sure what He has to offer that I don’t, based on how wonderful the pastor said I am.”
Wilson, who hasn’t attended church since she was a child, further reported she was “a little hurt” that the pastor would segue into an invitation to add Jesus to her life.
“It really undermined my confidence in myself,” she said, adding she wouldn’t be back anytime soon.

Some will say, “Yeah, but this is just satire. I am not aware of any churches or preachers teaching this.” If so, you are clearly out of touch. Sadly, many are running with this, and as a supreme example, the biggest church in North America specialises in this.

Lakewood Church in Houston, Texas, pastored by Joel Osteen, offers exactly this sort of message week in and week out. He packs the place out each Sunday, and his books have become best sellers. It is all about feeling good about yourself, having your best life now, and thinking happy thoughts. That is his gospel, full stop.

I have often documented this in previous articles. Consider just one of his recent books. In 2015 Joel Osteen released The Power of I Am: Two Words That Will Change Your Life Today. It is simply more of his tried and ‘true’ formula. It is all about feeling good about yourself and being upbeat and positive. That’s it. That is the substance of this book, and all his books. Here are some quotes from the book:

“I am blessed. I am prosperous. I am successful.”
“I am victorious. I am talented. I am creative.”
“I am wise. I am healthy. I am in shape.”
“I am energetic. I am happy. I am positive.”
“I am passionate. I am strong. I am confident.”
“I am secure. I am beautiful. I am attractive.”
“I am valuable. I am free. I am redeemed.”
“I am forgiven. I am anointed. I am accepted.”
“I am approved. I am prepared. I am qualified.”
“I am motivated. I am focused. I am disciplined.”
“I am determined. I am patient. I am kind.”
“I am generous. I am excellent. I am equipped.”
“I am empowered. I am well able.”
“I am a child of the Most High God.”

Um, this is not quite what the Word of God offers us. Far from it. It gives us a much more realistic – and worrying – assessment of who we are. Simply reading the Bible will show us who we really are: we are not wonderful folks who are just peachy, but depraved rebels headed to hell who need to be delivered from our sin and depravity.

Consider what the Bible says about us as sinners. We are:

-spiritually sick (Luke 5:31-32)
-rebellious children (Luke 15:11-32)
-lost (Luke 19:10)
-in darkness (Acts 20:18)
-under the power of Satan (Acts 20:18)
-slaves to sin (Romans 6:22)
-influenced and led astray to mute idols (1 Corinthians 12:2)
-spiritually blind (2 Corinthians 4:4-6)
-God’s enemies (2 Corinthians 5:18-19)
-slaves to those who by nature are not gods (Galatians 4:8)
-dead in your transgressions and sins (Ephesians 2:1)
-objects of wrath (Ephesians 2:3)
-dead in transgressions (Ephesians 2:5)
-darkened in their understanding (Ephesians 4:18)
-separated from the life of God (Ephesians 4:18)
-darkness (Ephesians 5:8)
-in the dominion of darkness (Colossians 1:13)
-alienated from God (Colossians 1:21)
-his enemies (Colossians 1:21)
-idol worshippers (1 Thessalonians 1:9)
-held in slavery (Hebrews 2:15)
-not a people; who had not received mercy (1 Peter 2:10)
-sheep going astray (1 Peter 2:25)

Hmm, not a very flattering portrait of who we are. Indeed, it is a pretty shocking and wretched picture actually. But of course some will protest and say that this book by Osteen is meant just for Christians. But both he and his fans will insist that all of his books, sermons and messages are for everyone.

And even if this was just a feel-good, self-help pep-talk for believers only, again we find the biblical version of events a far cry from this pap. Just consider what the Apostle Paul said of himself. Did he relish in the positive thinking spiel, and adhere to the “every day and in every way I am getting better and better” mantra?

Not at all. Consider these passages in which he describes his spiritual condition. The older he got, the longer he walked with Christ, the more he became aware of his fallen and depraved condition, and the more he needed to cling to the mercy and grace of God:

-“For I am the least of the apostles and do not even deserve to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God.” (1 Corinthians 15:9 – written in mid-50s.)
-“Although I am less than the least of all God’s people, this grace was given me: to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ.” (Ephesians 3:8 – written in early 60s.)
-“Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners–of whom I am the worst.” (1 Timothy 1:15 – written in mid-60s.)

Perhaps even more worrying than Osteen and his message are the zillions of folks who lap up every word he utters. Just consider some of the comments under the book’s amazon page. I looked through many of the 854 “reviews” and it was scary stuff. Usually one or two word comments like “awesome” and “so positive” and “really uplifting” are found. Here are some of the more substantial ones:

“I am not a Christian but the message of this book is for all people. I bought it for me and some of my non Christian friends. It has changed my life. I highly recommend it to anyone.”

“I am not a particularly religious person and I enjoy Joel and his messages.”

“I know Joel is a man of religion but that isn’t why I bought the book. The positive messages we need to send to ourselves eventually spread out far and wide, even in places the good book doesn’t reach.”

“I gave it a 5 stars it speak life. I would recommend this book to everybody and the unbelievers also.”

“I love the positive and no gloom and doom that most preachers give us. Grew up Catholic and no matter what we were going to Hell, so why bother… We can make our own futures and be happy and have plenty and do good.”

And one reviewer nails it:

“The trouble with Joel, and I am not knocking him, cause I actually like him, but his trouble is that if you have read one of his books, you might as well say you have read them all, because his basic premise, and unfortunately writings and stories are truly all the same.”

Notice how plenty of non-Christians just love his stuff. That is most telling. When Jesus and the disciples preached the gospel, they were hated, attacked, abused and killed. The same when the prophets spoke in the name of the Lord. The only popular prophets in the Old Testament were the false prophets.

If Jesus had preached the message that so many of our megachurch pastors are preaching today, he never would have been crucified. Everyone would have loved him. ‘Oh I feel so much better. Thank you. Life is so much rosier now. You are so uplifting and upbeat. I feel so much happier. Thanks Jesus.’

By the way, if you go to see the reviews of a book like The Power of Positive Thinking by Norman Vincent Peale. or even the best-selling New Age books by folks like Oprah Winfrey (a good buddy of Osteen’s), you will find identical comments: “inspiring,” “uplifting,” “awesome,” ‘encouraging,” “so positive,” etc.

These authors all get identical positive reactions because they all preach identical gospels – and they happen to be false gospels. The good news of the gospel is certainly good news. But it means absolutely nothing until we first hear and digest the bad news of the gospel, that we are damnable sinners heading to a lost eternity, and unless we turn to Christ in faith and repentance, we are all lost.

That is one message you will NOT find in the books and sermons by folks like Osteen. As such, they are presenting fake news. And as Scripture makes so clear, such fake news does not give life – certainly not everlasting life. It brings death.

http://babylonbee.com/news/woman-unsure-needs-jesus-preacher-spends-30-minutes-telling-amazing/

Source: Biblical Gospel vs Fake Gospel

The Top 10 Cold-Case Christianity Videos from 2017

This week, we’ve been continuing our annual tradition of posting the most popular resources from the past year. In 2017, our resources were accessed nearly 1,300,000 times by people looking for answers to their questions about the case for Christianity and God’s existence. While they were here, they watched thousands of videos, and many of these videos became popular and were shared across a variety of social media platforms. Here, then, are the most popular videos posted in 2017:

#10. The Question Every Skeptical Naturalist Ought to Ask
J. Warner Wallace is interviewed about the presupposition of naturalism and the limit it places on investigating the evidence in the universe.

#9. What Is the Relationship Between Science and Religious Belief?
Are science and faith hopelessly opposed to one another? Can the scientific method assist believers in determining if God exists?

#8. Why We Know the Story of Jesus Isn’t a Legend
How can we be sure that the story of Jesus wasn’t changed over time?

#7. Why It Took Me A While to Take Christianity Seriously
Warner Wallace is interviewed by Brittany Valadez about his life prior to becoming a Christian and the reason why he was skeptical about Christianity.

#6. How Can We Share the Gospel with People Who Don’t Seem Willing to Listen?
How are we to engage people who are even opposed to the claims of Christianity?

#5. Why Are So Many Young People Leaving the Church?
Warner Wallace discusses the reason so many young Christians take a break from the Church in their college years.

#4. Why Christians Need to Test Themselves to Make Sure They Are Ready to Answer the Tough Questions
How can we prepare ourselves to answer these objections and help our kids be more confident as Christians?

#3. I’m a Christian Because…
Why are you a Christian? Would your answer persuade others to seek the truth?

#2. Does an Extraordinary Claim Like the Existence of God Require Extraordinary Evidence?
Shouldn’t Christians be able to provide extraordinary evidence to support the extraordinary claim that God exists?

And here it is, the most popular video posted in 2017:

#1. How God Uses Evil to Develop Our Character
What kind of world would God have to create to develop the kind of character most of us would recognize as virtuous?

These ten videos, all posted in 2017, became the most viewed and most shared videos on our website. I hope you got a chance to view them as well, but if you didn’t, here is your opportunity. Thanks so much for making Cold-Case Christianity a part of your Christian experience. We hope we’ve helped you to become a better Christian Case Maker.

J. Warner Wallace is a Cold-Case DetectiveChristian Case Maker, Senior Fellow at the Colson Center for Christian Worldview, and the author of Cold-Case ChristianityCold-Case Christianity for KidsGod’s Crime SceneGod’s Crime Scene for Kids, and Forensic Faith.

Source: The Top 10 Cold-Case Christianity Videos from 2017

The Top 10 Cold-Case Christianity Articles from 2017

Here we are again, at the end of another year. It’s been our busiest yet at Cold-Case Christianity, with more speaking events than ever before, even as we published Forensic Faith, the Forensic Faith Curriculum Kit, and God’s Crime Scene for Kids. In addition, we updated the Case Makers Academy and finished two student academies designed to help your kids make the case for Jesus and the existence of God. Along the way we also posted over 250 new articles, videos and broadcasts. In keeping with our annual tradition, here are the ten most popular articles posted in 2017 (including the links to each article):

#10. Is the Raising of Lazarus Fictional?
Why is the raising of Lazarus missing from the other gospel accounts? Does the account contain exaggerations that expose it as fiction?

#9. The Case for the Historicity and Deity of Jesus (Free Bible Insert)
A helpful brief summary of the cumulative case for the historicity and deity of Jesus (also available as a free downloadable Bible Insert).

#8. Who Is Jesus, According to Other Religions?
If you’re interested in a quest for truth, it would be wise to start with the faith system best describing the man many other systems already acknowledge.

#7. Christian Worldview: What Does It Mean to Be “In the World” but Not “Of the World”?
What does it really mean to live as a Christian in a non-Christian environment? What happens when our “point of location” becomes our “source of information”?

#6. The Best Question to Ask When Starting a Conversation About God
Ever struggle to find a way to start a conversation about God? This one important question will get you started.

#5. Three M’s That Naturalism Can’t Provide
I once called myself a naturalist while embracing three characteristics of reality that simply cannot be explained by naturalism.

#4. UPDATED: Are Young People Really Leaving Christianity?
Some deny the flight of young people altogether, but the growing statistics should alarm us enough as Church leaders to do something about the dilemma.

#3. The Challenges Facing Young Christians
Young Christians face challenges from a very early age. Many struggle to hold on to their faith, or leave Christianity altogether. How is the Church responding?

#2. Is There Any Evidence for Jesus Outside the Bible?
The ancient non-Christian interpretations (and critical commentaries) of the Gospel accounts serve to strengthen the core claims of the New Testament.

And here it is, the most popular article posted in 2017:

#1. Is Jesus Simply a Retelling of the Horus Mythology?
Is Jesus simply a retelling of the Horus myth? How similar is Horus to Jesus upon close examination? Do these similarities invalidate the historicity of Jesus?

These ten articles, all posted in 2017, became the most read, most popular articles on our website. They were viewed and shared thousands of times. I hope you got a chance to read them as well, but if you didn’t, here is your opportunity. Thanks so much for making Cold-Case Christianity a part of your Christian experience. We hope we’ve helped you to become a better Christian Case Maker.

J. Warner Wallace is a Cold-Case DetectiveChristian Case Maker, Senior Fellow at the Colson Center for Christian Worldview, and the author of Cold-Case ChristianityCold-Case Christianity for KidsGod’s Crime SceneGod’s Crime Scene for Kids, and Forensic Faith.

Source: The Top 10 Cold-Case Christianity Articles from 2017

December 9, 2017 Worldview and Apologetics in the News

Donald Trump’s Christmas Statement Shows How Little He Understands About Christianity

Christian baker vs. the state of Colorado: Most anticipated Supreme Court case begins oral arguments

Ravi Zacharias Responds to Sexting Allegations, Credentials Critique 1  Ravi’s statement is here.

Who Is Jesus, According to Other Religions?

Who Is Jesus, According to Other ReligionsPeople trying to discover the truth about God would be wise to take a hard look at Jesusbefore looking anywhere else. While that may sound like a bold assertion in and of itself, it really isn’t when you consider Jesus is the one religious leader who is most frequently mentioned by religious groups, whether or not they happen to be Christian. Every major religious movement considers Jesus to be an important religious figure. Every movement makes some effort to account for His existence and teaching. This ought to give seekers a reason to pause and consider the life of Jesus seriously.

All the world’s major religions feel compelled to account for Jesus in one way or another:

Jews believe Jesus was Mary’s son, was a teacher (Rabbi), had many disciples, was respected, performed miracles, claimed to be the Messiah and was crucified on the cross. They also acknowledge His followers reported Jesus was raised from the dead.

Muslims believe Jesus was born of a virgin, is to be revered and respected, was a prophet, a wise teacher who worked miracles, ascended to heaven, and will come again.

Ahmadiyya Muslims believe Jesus may have been born of a virgin, was a prophet and wise teacher, worked miracles, and was crucified on a cross.

Bahá’í believe Jesus came from God, was a wise teacher who had a divine and human nature, worked miracles, and was crucified and resurrected as an atonement for humanity.

Hindus believe Jesus was a holy man, a wise teacher, and is a ‘god’.

Buddhists believe Jesus was an enlightened man and a wise teacher.

New Age believers maintain Jesus was a wise moral teacher.

Is He Worthy of An Investigation?
Given Jesus is a common feature of the major religions of the world, it might be important for us to learn more about the man whom everyone feels the need to describe. While the world’s religions account for Jesus tangentially, only one faith system is established on the authentic, attested eyewitness accounts of Jesus’ life, teaching and ministry. If one was inclined to begin a spiritual quest for truth, it would be wise to start with the faith system best describing the man all other faith systems find themselves compelled to explain. Christianity is founded on the reliable record of the man-God we know as Jesus and ought to be the first stop in any seeker’s journey of faith.

J. Warner Wallace is a Cold-Case DetectiveChristian Case Maker, Senior Fellow at the Colson Center for Christian Worldview, and the author of Cold-Case ChristianityCold-Case Christianity for KidsGod’s Crime SceneGod’s Crime Scene for Kids, and Forensic Faith.

Read more: Who Is Jesus, According to Other Religions?

What Happens When Christianity Doesn’t Work

Christianity is not true because it works, says Dr. Michael Horton. “That is to say, it does not solve all of the problems that we think it should solve. Those who become Christians because they were told it would fix their marriages, only to find themselves in divorce court, might well give up on Christianity. Those who expected to be free of sinful habits and desires after a conversion in which ‘sudden victory’ was promised may find themselves disillusioned with God altogether soon thereafter, when they realize that they are still sinners saved by grace.”

Dr. Horton, J. Gresham Machen professor of apologetics and systematic theology at Westminster Seminary and host of the White Horse Inn, offers hope in the midst of suffering. His must read piece is posted over at CCC Discover:

So often, when people come to Christ, they are promised “victory in Jesus.” Smiling, happy people tell about how they once were unhappy, and now they are filled with buoyant exultation. Broken marriages are fixed, wayward children are returned to the straight and narrow, and depression is banished to the old life, but what happens when Christianity doesn’t work?

View article →

Source: What Happens When Christianity Doesn’t Work

Here are Some Great Videos on the Five Solas from the Faculty of Reformed Theological Seminary – Canon Fodder

Last month RTS Charlotte and Christ Covenant Church came together to host a Reformation conference entitled, The Gospel of Grace and Glory: The Reformation at 500 and Counting.

The five plenary sessions of this conference were on the five solas of the Reformation: Kevin DeYoung (Sola Fide), James Anderson (Sola Gratia), Blair Smith (Solus Christus), Derek Thomas (Soli Deo Gloria), and myself (Sola Scriptura).

I might add that all these speakers (except myself!) are Systematic Theology profs at Reformed Theological Seminary.

And Keith and Kristyn Getty capped off the weekend with a concert that Sunday night.

Over the years (and even this year) I’ve heard a number of talks on the five solas.  And I have to say that the four talks given by my colleagues are some of the best I’ve ever heard.  They were insightful, profound, enlightening, convicting and encouraging.

The good news is that we have these talks on video.  Feel free to skip over mine and get onto the good ones! Here they are:

Session 1 | Sola Scriptura

Mike Kruger — “The Foundation for the Reformation, the Church, and All of Life”
https://player.vimeo.com/video/240278500

Session 2 | Sola Fide

Kevin DeYoung — “Why the World Desperately Wants the Doctrine of Justification (But Doesn’t Realize It Yet)”
https://player.vimeo.com/video/240330646

Session 3 | Sola Gratia

James Anderson — “The Glorious Offense of God’s Gospel Grace”
https://player.vimeo.com/video/240668864

Session 4 | Solus Christus

Blair Smith — “Against the Idol Making Factory”
https://player.vimeo.com/video/240672545

Session 5 | Soli Deo Gloria

Derek Thomas — “Worshiping the God Who is Worthy”
https://player.vimeo.com/video/240676752

View Videos

Four Truths About the Universe You Can Share with Your Kids to Demonstrate the Existence of God

If you’ve raised your children to believe Christianity is true, you probably want them to continue to believe it’s true, especially through their critical university years. There are good reasons to be concerned for young Christians once they leave our care. Statistically, most will walk away from the Church (and their belief in God) during their college years. What can we, as parents, do to address this growing problem? How can we help them know that God exists?

As a cold-case detective, parent, and prior youth pastor, I have a suggestion: master the case for God’s existence and start sharing it with your kids at an early age. Sounds simple, right? Maybe, or maybe not. If your kids asked you to defend the existence of God right now, what would say? What evidences would you provide? Are you ready to make the case for what you believe, even as the world around us often makes the case against God’s existence? Don’t panic, you don’t have to be a theologian, philosopher or scientist to defend the truth. All you need to be is interested.

It’s not hard to be interested when the spiritual fate of our kids is hanging in the balance. Make a commitment to investigate the case for God’s existence so you can communicate it to your kids. The Apostle Paul was correct when he said that God’s “invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made” (Romans 1:20). We’ve written God’s Crime Scene for Kids to help you and your children investigate everything “that has been made.” Along the way, you’ll discover four truths that will help your kids demonstrate the existence of God:

Our Universe Requires a Divine “First Cause”
Scientists have determined that our universe is not infinitely old. In fact, they now believe that everything in the universe, all space, time and matter, had a beginning in the distant past. Everything that begins to exist must have a causeWhat could account for the beginning of the universe?

One thing is certain: whatever caused the cosmos must be something other than space, time or matter (since these didn’t exist prior to the beginning of the universe). That means we’re looking for something non-spatial, non-temporal, non-material, and incredibly powerful. Sounds a lot like God, doesn’t it?

Life in the Universe Requires a Divine “Author”
Scientists have also determined that life in the universe is formed and guided by information. Biological organisms (like humans) possess deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) molecules. The nucleotide sequence in DNA is an incredibly long (and sophisticated) code that guides the growth, development, function and reproduction of every living organism.

But where does the information in DNA come from? Did this incredibly complex series of instructions come about by chance? Was it caused by the laws of physics or some process of evolution? No. The best explanation for information is intelligence. The information in DNA requires an intelligent author. Once again, God is the most reasonable explanation.

Moral Laws in the Universe Require a Divine “Law Giver”
All of us recognize the existence of moral laws and obligations. While some behaviors (like stealing or lying) may be justified on rare occasion (to save the life of an innocent person, for example), it’s never morally acceptable to steal or lie for the fun of it. This is true for all of us, regardless of when we have lived in history or where we have lived on the planet. These objective moral laws also describe obligations between persons. No one, for example, is morally obligated to the laws of physics or chemistry.

All laws such as these require law givers. Objective laws and obligations that transcend all of us require an objective, personal law giver who transcends all of us. Once again, God is the best explanation for the moral laws and obligations we all recognize.

Evil in the Universe Requires a Divine “Standard”
Some people point to evil as an evidence against the existence of God. Why would an all-powerful, all-loving God allow bad things to happen? Is He unable to stop them? Is He simply unwilling to prevent them? In either case, the existence of evil seems to invalidate our definition of God as an all-powerful and all-loving Being.

But what defines something as evil in the first place? Is something “evil” simply because we don’t personally approve of it, or do we believe some acts are truly evil, regardless of our opinion? If the latter is true, we would need an objective, transcendent standard ofgood by which to judge any particular act. The existence of God offers such a standard, and God often allows and uses temporal evil to develop our eternal character, draw us to himself, and achieve a greater good (if not immediately, over the course of history). Evil doesn’t disprove God’s existence, but instead requires a standard of good to be anything more than a matter of opinion. Only God can provide such a standard.

There’s much more to examine in the universe, and you can help your kids make the case for God at http://www.CaseMakersAcademy.com. They’ll solve an intriguing mystery, as they also learn how to investigate the truth about the cosmos. They’ll also have a chance to become Case Making Cadets and earn a Certificate of Graduation after completing our free Case Makers Academy. It’s never too early to master the truth. Help your kids defend with they believe so they can worship God with their hearts, souls, andminds.

This article first appeared at Crosswalk.com.

J. Warner Wallace is a Cold-Case Detective, Senior Fellow at the Colson Center for Christian Worldview, Adj. Professor of Apologetics at Biola University, and the author of Cold-Case ChristianityCold-Case Christianity for KidsGod’s Crime SceneGod’s Crime Scene for Kids, and Forensic Faith.

Source: Four Truths About the Universe You Can Share with Your Kids to Demonstrate the Existence of God

CultureWatch: Two Humanities, Two Destinies

I remember some years ago a very liberal Christian attacked me for suggesting that there are actually two classes of humanity: the people of God, and those who are not God’s people. He thought that this was an unloving, judgmental and divisive thing to believe and say.

He believed that we are all one big happy family, and there should be no talk about two humanities, or two destinies, or the saved and the lost, or the righteous and the unrighteous, or sinners and saints. He felt that God was an inclusive God who embraces everyone, and we make things hard on sinners if we speak of two humanities.

Sadly many folks believe this lie, including some very popular Christian leaders of today. One noted writer whose books and films have been adored by countless Christians is William Paul Young. But he is one of those who believe that at the end of the day we are included in God’s love.

He is a universalist in other words, who thinks we all are ultimately saved, whether we like it or not. And the very hell he seeks to deny is where millions of folks will go, including those who believe his false teachings. I have written about his older book The Shack as well as his newest book. See here:

http://www.billmuehlenberg.com/2008/04/11/a-review-of-the-shack-by-william-young-part-one/
http://www.billmuehlenberg.com/2008/04/11/a-review-of-the-shack-by-william-young-part-two/
billmuehlenberg.com/2017/04/20/william-paul-young-heretic-part-one/
billmuehlenberg.com/2017/04/20/william-paul-young-heretic-part-two/

two roads 4Many others have written about him and his damaging views, including James De Young. In addition to his earlier helpful writings about William Paul Young, he has recently penned an article which looks at his long-standing universalism which is well worth reading: burningdowntheshackbook.com/truth-versus-lies/

One sure way to dispel this faulty notion of one humanity which is all happily reconciled to God is to simply read what the Word of God has to say about this. When we do, we find that from Genesis to Revelation there is always talk about two humanities.

We have the saved and the unsaved. The godly and the ungodly. The righteous and the unrighteous. The redeemed and the lost. And this is found in the earliest biblical accounts of man. Just as soon as Adam and Eve fell, God told them about a divided humanity which would be continuous, extending throughout the generations. Genesis 3:15 says:

And I will put enmity
Between you and the woman,
And between your seed and her Seed;
He shall bruise your head,
And you shall bruise His heel.

Here we have talk about a godly seed or line, and an ungodly seed or line. And the fact that God chooses some people to be his own also demonstrates how we have two main groups of people. The choice of Israel over all other nations is a prime example of this. We find this often discussed in Scripture.

In Exodus 8:22-23 for example we read this: “But on that day I will deal differently with the land of Goshen, where my people live; no swarms of flies will be there, so that you will know that I, the Lord, am in this land. I will make a distinction between my people and your people. This sign will occur tomorrow.”

Other texts speak of the crucial division between Israel and non-Israel. Exodus 11:6-7 says, “There will be loud wailing throughout Egypt—worse than there has ever been or ever will be again. But among the Israelites not a dog will bark at any person or animal. Then you will know that the Lord makes a distinction between Egypt and Israel.”

And we find this in Leviticus 18:3: “You must not do as they do in Egypt, where you used to live, and you must not do as they do in the land of Canaan, where I am bringing you. Do not follow their practices.” Consider as well Leviticus 20:22-26:

Keep all my decrees and laws and follow them, so that the land where I am bringing you to live may not vomit you out. You must not live according to the customs of the nations I am going to drive out before you. Because they did all these things, I abhorred them. But I said to you, “You will possess their land; I will give it to you as an inheritance, a land flowing with milk and honey.” I am the Lord your God, who has set you apart from the nations. You must therefore make a distinction between clean and unclean animals and between unclean and clean birds. Do not defile yourselves by any animal or bird or anything that moves along the ground—those that I have set apart as unclean for you. You are to be holy to me because I, the Lord, am holy, and I have set you apart from the nations to be my own.

The wisdom literature is of course filled with talk of the two humanities. Let me offer just a few of these passages:

-Psalm 1:1 Blessed is the one who does not walk in step with the wicked or stand in the way that sinners take or sit in the company of mockers.
-Psalm 11:5 The Lord examines the righteous, but the wicked, those who love violence, he hates with a passion.
-Psalm 37:17 for the power of the wicked will be broken, but the Lord upholds the righteous.
-Psalm 37:37-38 Consider the blameless, observe the upright;
a future awaits those who seek peace.
But all sinners will be destroyed;
there will be no future for the wicked.
-Proverbs 3:33 The Lord’s curse is on the house of the wicked, but he blesses the home of the righteous.
-Proverbs 10:3 The Lord does not let the righteous go hungry, but he thwarts the craving of the wicked.
-Proverbs 15:29 The LORD is far from the wicked, but he hears the prayer of the righteous.

The prophets too spoke about this. Let me offer just two texts, the first one being Daniel 12:10: “Many will be purified, made spotless and refined, but the wicked will continue to be wicked. None of the wicked will understand, but those who are wise will understand.”

The second is Malachi 3:18:

Then you shall again discern
Between the righteous and the wicked,
Between one who serves God
And one who does not serve Him.

Things remain the same when we get to the New Testament. The gospels often dwell on this. Jesus led the way in emphasising this. As he said in Matthew 7:13-14: “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.”

And consider Matthew 25:31-46 which speaks about the judgment between sheep and goats. Other gospel texts that can be mentioned include:

-Mark 8:35 For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it.
-John 1:12 But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God
-John 3:18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.

And in John 8:31-47 we read about the dispute concerning whose children Jesus’ opponents are. In verse 39 they say, “Abraham is our father”. But in verse 44 Jesus replies, “you are of your father the devil”. Whom, sure sounds like two different lines there – a godly and an ungodly line.

Jesus and the disciples also spoke about the two humanities in terms of the future resurrection and judgment. As we find in Acts 24:15: “I have the same hope in God as these men themselves have, that there will be a resurrection of both the righteous and the wicked.”

Paul too speaks in such terms. In 1 Corinthians 1:18 he writes, “For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” And in 1 Corinthians 6:9-11 he says, “Or do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor men who have sex with men nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.”

Peter also speaks about the two humanities. For example, 1 Peter 2:10 puts it this way: “Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.” And this is clearly spelled out in the book of Revelation. Consider Revelation 20:11–15:

Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. From his presence earth and sky fled away, and no place was found for them. And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Then another book was opened, which is the book of life. And the dead were judged by what was written in the books, according to what they had done. And the sea gave up the dead who were in it, Death and Hades gave up the dead who were in them, and they were judged, each one of them, according to what they had done. Then Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire. And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.

This is just a small selection of the numerous passages which clearly delineate the two humanities and the two destinies. We are not all one big happy family of God. We are all born sinners, but only those who repent and put their faith in God can claim to be part of his household.

People may squabble over competing sports teams and boast about which side they are on. And folks can claim allegiance to a nation or a philosophy or a lifestyle, over against all the others. But the one thing that really matters is which side you are on when it comes to the two humanities.

That is the most important issue we need to deal with. Moses put it this way: “This day I call heaven and earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live” (Deuteronomy 30:19).

Joshua put it this way: “But if serving the LORD seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your forefathers served beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD” (Joshua 24:15).

Jesus put it this way: “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6). And John put it this way: “And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life” (1 John 5:11-12).

Please choose wisely.

[1910 words]

The post Two Humanities, Two Destinies appeared first on CultureWatch.

Free E-Book: The Case for the Creator by Lee Strobel

One of my favorite features on Truthbomb is our Free Apologetics E-book Library located here.

We have recently added a Free PDF version of Lee Strobel’s book The Case for a Creatorfrom Northwestern Theological Seminary’s free online resources. 

For those who haven’t read this work, it features compelling arguments for the existence of God.

You can get it here.

Is Jesus the Messiah? An Outline on Jewish Messianism

The Messiah Concept

1. What does the word Messiah mean? Messiah means “Anointed One” (Heb. messiah) (Gk. Christos) and  is derived from verbs that have the general meaning of “to rub something” or, more specifically, “to anoint someone.”

2.The Hebrew Bible records the anointing with oil of priests ( Exod 29:1-9 ), kings ( 1 Sam 10:1 ; 2 Sam 2:4 ; 1 Kings 1:34 ), and sometimes prophets ( 1 Kings 19:16b ) as a sign of their special function in the Jewish community. “Anointed One” almost never refers to the Messiah in the Hebrew Bible.

3. The messianic concept also has a wider dimension than the royal, priestly, and/or prophetic person. Included in this wider view are the characteristics, tasks, goals, means, and consequences of the messianic person.

4. Remember that words and concepts are separate entities. “Word-bound” approaches to what really are concept studies can lead us astray.

5. The image of the Messiah and the idea of messianism comprise a broad concept that far outreaches the few instances where the term “anointed” is used. It is the concept that we are seeking to define, not merely one particular word.  This can only be achieved by reading not only the Bible but extra-biblical Jewish literature including the Apocrypha, The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha, Philo, Josephus, and the Dead Sea Scrolls. The Targumim, etc. (see Craig Evans handout on Introduction to Ancient Texts for New Testament Studies).

6. Before 70 CE, we can hardly find any occurrence of the absolute term “the Messiah”; instead the word in Greek or Hebrew occurs with a genitive or possessive pronoun like “Messiah of Israel,” “Messiah of the Lord,” “Messiah of Aaron,” “Messiah of the Lord,” etc;  no single meaning is ever assumed.

7. Other names were used to describe the messianic person other than the “Messiah.” Some of the names include  “Son of David,” “ Son of God,” “ Son of Man,” “  Prophet,” “Elect One,” “Servant,” “ Prince,” “ Branch,” “Root,” “Scepter,” “Star,”  “Chosen One,” and “ Coming One.” (See section on messianic titles).

The Messianic Task:  Traditional Jewish Views

1. A personal Messiah is irrelevant; many Jewish people don’t see the need for a Messiah to fix the problems of the world.

2.  The Messiah is not divine-he is an earthy figure “anointed” to carry out a specific task.

3. The Messiah will enable the Jewish people to dwell securely in the land of Israel (Is.11:11-12; 43:5-6; Jer.23: 5-8; Mic.5:4-6), and usher in a period of worldwide peace.

4.  The Messiah is supposed to put an end to all oppression, suffering and disease (Is.2:1-22; 25:8; 65:25; Mic.4:1-4) and create a pathway for universal worship to the God of Israel (Zeph.3:9; Zech.9:16; 14:9).

5. The Messiah will spread the knowledge of the God of Israel to the surrounding nations (Isa.11:9; 40:5; 52:8).

 The Maimonides view of Messiah: Maimonides was a medieval Jewish philosopher whose writings are considered to be foundational to Jewish thought and study. Here are some of his messianic expectations:

1.  The Messiah will be a king who arises from the house of David

2.  He helps Israel follow Torah

3.  He builds the Temple in its place

4. He gathers the dispersed of Israel

 The Messiah in Rabbinical Literature

1Messiah Ben Yossef and Messiah Ben David: The prophecy of Zech. 12:10 is applied to Messiah ben Yossef in that he is killed and that it will be followed by a time of great calamities and tests for Israel. Shortly after these tribulations upon Israel, Messiah ben David will come and avenge the death of Messiah ben Yossef, resurrect him, and inaugurate the Messianic era of everlasting peace.

2.What is interesting is that R. Saadiah Gaon elaborated on the role of Messiah ben Yossef by starting that this sequence of events is contingent. In other words, Messiah ben Yossef will not have to appear before Messiah be David if the spiritual condition of Israel is up to par.

3.This is why it says in the Talmud, “If they [the people of Israel]  are worthy of [the Messiah] he will come ‘with the clouds of heaven’ [Dan 7:13] ;if they are not worthy, ‘lowly and riding upon a donkey’ [Zech. 9:9]” (b. Sanhedrin 98a

Messianic Fulfillment Depends on Moral Regeneration

1. The advent of Messiah will not be heralded by the actions of a pagan or Christian king.

2. Israel’s salvation depends on Israel itself.

3.The Messiah will be a sage who will only come when Israel fully accepts God’s sole rule.

4.The coming of the Messiah is not dependent on historical action but on moral regeneration. How about reading John 3:3-8?

 The Davidic Messiah

The capitalized term “Messiah” is often confined to a precisely delineated concept, viz., the anointed king of the Davidic dynasty who would establish in the world the definite kingdom intended by God for Israel. Such a notion of the Messiah is the product of a long development traceable in three stages:

First Stage: Before Eighth Century BC

1. God promised that Israel would have an earthly king (Gen. 17:6; 49:6; Deut.17: 14-15)

2. Gen 49:9-12: alludes implicitly to the reign of David; this prophecy says the Messiah will have to come before the Tribe of Judah loses its identity.

3. The Davidic Covenant: David is promised that one of his descendants would rule on his throne forever (2 Sam.7:12-17; 1 Chr.17:7-15; Ps. 89:28-37). In 2 Samuel 7:12-17, the immediate prophecy is partially fulfilled in David’s son Solomon. However, the word “forever” shows there are future descendants to come.

4. The Royal Psalms:Psalm 2;72;110 are considered part of this first stage of messianism.

Second Stage:  Eighth Century BC to the Babylonian Exile

1. Messianic Expectation centers on the re-establishment of the throne of David and deliverance of Israel from its foreign oppressors.

2. This expectation resulted from disappointment at the destruction of Jerusalem and suspension of Davidic dynasty.

3. Isaiah: speaks of the time when God that would revive the Davidic dynasty and ensure its permanence. God would raise up a successor of David who would be unlike any past Davidic king (Is.7:14-17; 9:6-7;11:1-10), but he is not spoken of as “The Messiah.”

4. Micah 5:1-6 speaks of the new David coming from Bethlehem; Jer.23:5-6 uses messianic titles such as “branch” or “shoot” to describe this figure.

5. Amos likewise proclaimed that a figure would emerge from the Davidic lineage who would fulfill God’s covenant promises to the nations (9:11-15).Ezekiel spoke of a new David who would be a shepherd as well as a “prince” and a “king” to Israel (Ezek: 34:23-24; 37:24-25). This king’s function would help restore the Davidic dynasty after the exile.

Third Stage: From the Exile to NT Times           

The Psalms of Solomon (a Pharisaic composition written about 50 B.C.) describes the Davidic messianic expectation: The “Son of David” will:

1. Violently cast out foreign nations occupying Jerusalem (Pss.Sol:15,24-25,33)

2. Judge all the nations of the earth (Pss.17:4;31;38-39, 47) and cause the nations to  “serve him under his yoke” (Pss.Sol.17:32)

3. Reign over Israel in wisdom (Pss. Sol.17:23,28,31,35,41,18:8), which involves  removing all the foreigners from the land (Pss. Sol.17:31) and purging the land of unrighteous Israelites (Pss. Sol. 17:29, 33, 41) in order to eliminate all oppression (Pss. Sol.17:46) and gather to himself a holy people (Pss. Sol.17:28, 36;18:9).

Jesus as The Davidic King

1.  Jesus is of the “seed of David,” who was sent by God to restore God’s kingship over mankind (Matt. 1:1; Acts 13:23; Rom. 1:3,4; Rev. 22:16). Jesus  is both the son of David and the one greater than David (Psalm 110:1-4).

Let’s look at Romans 1:1-5

“Paul, a bond-servant of Christ Jesus, called as an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God, which He promised beforehand through His prophets in the holy Scriptures, concerning His Son, who was born of a descendant of David according to the flesh, who was declared the Son of God with power by the resurrection from the dead, according to the Spirit of holiness, Jesus Christ our Lord, through whom we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith among all the Gentiles for His name’s sake, among whom you also are the called of Jesus Christ; to all who are beloved of God in Rome, called as saints:Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.”

We see the following:

Paul says through the resurrection, Jesus is installed (by God) as the Son of God (Rom. 1:4). Paul is not saying Jesus is being appointed as The Son of God is a change in Jesus’ essense. The appointment is not in terms of his nature but in terms of his work as a mediator—the messianic age has dawned. Jesus is the Lord—the anti-type of the previous “sons” in the Old Testament (Adam, David, Israel).

Remember, the New Testament authors unanimously declare Jesus as the one who is from the “seed of David,” sent by God to restore God’s kingship over mankind (Matt. 1:1; Acts 13:23; Rom. 1:3,4; 2 Tim:2:8; Rev. 22:16). As seen in 2 Samuel 7:12-17, the immediate prophecy is partially fulfilled in David’s son Solomon. However, the word “forever” shows there are future descendants to come. God promised David that his “seed” would establish the kingdom. There were two ways for this prophecy to come to pass. Either God could continually raise up a new heir or he could have someone come who would never die. Does this sound like the need for a resurrection?

2. In following the pattern of the Hebrew Bible, Jesus (as the Davidic King) will return to this present earth and after the complete removal of all man’s kingdoms (cf. Dan 2:35;44;7:13-14; Zech 9:10;14:1-4;9-11;Matt24;27-31;25:31-33; Rev:11:15;19:11-16;20:1-6).

3. Remember Prophetic Telescoping:  Telescoped prophecy bridges the first and second appearances of Yeshua. In the second coming, “the obedience of the nations will be his,” and “His everlasting dominion will not pass away, his kingdom is one that will never be destroyed”; Gen 49:10-12: Dan 2:37-44;7:13-14; Psalm 2: Isa.9-6-7;11:1-10.

Messianic Expectations (cont):  Priestly Messiah: The priest (Heb. cohanim) was anointed in his role as a mediator between God and the Jewish people because of his ability make to make atonement (Lev.4:26;31,35;5:6,10; 14:31).

1. There are implicit passages in the Hebrew Bible that discuss a priestly aspect of the Messiah (Hag:1:12-14; 2:2-4; 20-23; Zech:3:6-10;4:2-5,11-14).

2. In the Qumran community which predated the time of Yeshua was convinced there were possibly two Messiahs, one priestly and one royal (1QS 9.11; CD 12.22-23; 13. 20-22; 14. 18-19; 19.34-20.1; CD-B 1.10-11; 2.1; 1Q Sa 2. 17-22).

3. Forgiving sins was a prerogative of God alone (Exod. 34: 6-7; Neh.9:17; Dan. 9:9;) and it was something that was done only in the Temple.

4. The Messiah’s priestly work is seen in Psalm 110:1-4.

5. As with Melchizedek, Jesus was without the ancestral, genealogical credentials necessary for the Aaronic priesthood ( Hebrews 7:3 Hebrews 7:13 Hebrews 7:16 ), he was also before Aaron and the transitory, imperfect law and Levitical priesthood  ( Hebrews 7:11-12 Hebrews 7:17-18 ; 8:7 ). Melchizedek, Aaron, and his descendants all died, preventing them from continuing in office ( 7:23 ). Jesus has been exalted to a permanent priesthood by his resurrection and enthronement at the right hand of God in the heaven ( 8:1 ).

 The Suffering/Atoning Messiah

1. There are several texts that speak to the possibility of a suffering Messiah (Zech 13:7; Dan 9:26; Tg.Isa.53; T.Benj.3:8; 4Q521frgs.9, 24; 4Q285 5.4; 4 Ezra7:29-30;2 Bar.30:1).

2. There are also several expressions of the belief that the death of the righteous will benefit, or even save, God’s people (1 Macc: 6:26-28 17:20-22; T Moses 9-10).

The Prophetic Messiah

1. The characteristics of the prophet (Heb. nabi) of Deuteronomy 18:15-19: (1) He would be an Israelite; (2) he would be like Moses; and (3) he would be authorized to declare the word of God with authority.

2. Emphasis on listening to the Prophet: See Mathew 17:5

3. Jesus says “I say to you,” thirteen times in this one sermon (Matt. 18,20,22,28,32,34,39,44;6:2,5,16,25,29). He even challenged his hearers to base their own lives on his words (Matt. 7:24,26). Yeshua cites not one single rabbi or religious authority. Scholars have found no precedent in the Tanakh, nor have scholars found any precedent in the rest of ancient Jewish literature.

4. Miracles have a distinctive purpose: to glorify the Creator and to provide evidence for people to believe by accrediting the message of God through the prophet of God. Miracles confirmed the prophetic claim: Moses (Ex. 4:1-5; 8-9); Elijah (1 Kings 18:38–39).

5.  Miracles confirmed the Messianic claim of Jesus  (Matt 12: 38-39; John 3: 1-2; Acts 2: 22).

6.  Matt. 11:4-6: Jesus’s evidential claim can be seen in the following syllogism:
1. If one does certain kinds of actions, then one is the Messiah.
2. I am doing those kinds of actions.
3. Therefore, I am the Messiah.

Michael Bird’s excellent book Are You the One Who Is to Come?: The Historical Jesus and the Messianic Question, has some insight about this issue as well. Bird says:

“It is historically naive to depict first-century Palestine as ravaged with continual uprisings and to posit some Roman occupying forces as having to put down one messianic pretender after another. Alternatively, it is equally reductionistic to suppose that many of the tumultuous events of the first century were untouched by messianism. The death of Herod the Great led to several uprisings; although things cooled for a while, in the period 4 BCE to 66 CE, there were many socioreligious movements at the time of the procurators that show expectation and hope for God’s miraculous interventions and gradually a spirit of zealotry beginning to emerge. I doubt that we have to wait as long as Simon ben Kosiba in 135 CE to find another messianic leader after the death of Jesus. The following lists indicate messianic expectations that are explicitly titular or implicitly messianic.”-Are You the One Who Is to Come?: The Historical Jesus and the Messianic Question, pgs 47-49.

Bird goes onto list the expectations using the title “Messiah.” Notice that Bird knows  in order to understand messianism, we need to read the Bible but also read extra-biblical Jewish literature including the Apocrypha, The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha, Philo, Josephus, The Dead Sea Scrolls,  and the Targumim, etc, (see Craig A Evans: “Introduction” to Ancient Texts for New Testament Studies: A Guide to the Background Literature).

“Messiah of Aaron and Israel” (CD 12.23–13.1; 14.19; 19.10–11; 20.1; 1QS 9.11)

“Messiah of Israel” (1QSa 2.12, 14, 20)

“Messiah of righteousness” (4Q252 frg. 1 5.3–4)

“Heaven and earth will obey his Messiah” (4Q521 2.1)

“Their king shall be the Lord’s Messiah” (Pss. Sol. 17.32; cf. 18.7)

“May God cleanse Israel for the day of mercy and blessing for the appointed day when his Messiah will reign” (Pss. Sol. 18.5)

“Lord of the Spirits and his Messiah” (1 En. 48.10)

“authority of the Messiah” (1 En. 52.4)

“For my son the Messiah shall be revealed with those who are with him” (4 Ezra 7.28) “

“This is the Messiah whom the Most High has kept until the end of days, who will arise from the offspring of David” (4 Ezra 12.32) “The Messiah will begin to be revealed” (2 Bar. 29.3) “when the time of the appearance of the Messiah has been fulfilled” (2 Bar. 30.1) “the kingship of the house of David, thy righteous Messiah” (Shemoneh ‘Esreh 14)

Son of Man: (Dan. 7:13–14; 1 En. 46.1–5; 48.2; 62.1–15; 63.11; 69.27–29; 71.14–17; 4 Ezra 13.1–13, 25–26; Justin Martyr, Dial. 31–32)

Man/Ruler: (Philo, Rewards 95; Num. 24:7, 17 LXX) Rod (CD 7.19–20; Justin Martyr, Dial. 100, 126) Prince (Ezek. 34:24; 37:25; Dan. 9:25–26; CD 7.20; 1QSb 5.20; 1QM 3.16; 5.1; 4Q285 frgs. 4–6; Jub. 31.18; Sib. Or. 3.49–50)

Branch of David: (4Q161 frgs. 8–10.15, 22; 4Q252 5.3; 4Q285 frg. 5.3–4; T. Jud 24.4–6) Scepter (1QSb 5.27–28; 4Q161 frgs. 2–4 2.9–13; frgs. 5–6 3.17; frgs. 8–10, 22–26; 4Q252 5.2)

Son of God :(4Q246 1.9; 2.1; Mark 15:39)

Elect/Chosen One (1 En. 39.6; 40.5; 45.3; 48.6; 49.2, 4; 51.3, 5; 52.6, 9; 53.6; 55.4; 61.5, 8, 10; 62.1; Apoc. Abr. 31.1)

King (Mark 15.32 and par.; Sib. Or. 3.286–87, 652) Snow-white cow/horned ram (1 En. 90.9–12, 37–38) Star (T. Levi 18.3; T. Jud. 24.1; Sib. Or. 5.158–60)

Righteous One (Acts 3:14; 22:14; 1 John 2:1; 1 En. 38.2; 53.6)

Historical figures referred to as “Messiah”:

Jesus of Nazareth

Simon ben Kosiba

Implicitly messianic historical figures not referred to as “Messiah”:

Judas the Galilean Simon the servant of Herod

Athronges Menahem Simon bar Giora-

 

 Figures who claimed royal prerogatives between 4 B.C.E and 68-70 C.E but are not called “the” or “a” Messiah:

1. In Galilee 4 B.C.E.: Judas, son of bandit leader Ezekias (War 2.56;Ant.17.271-72)

2. In Perea 4 B.C.E.: Simon the Herodian slave (War 2.57-59;Ant 17.273-77)

3. In Judea 4 B.C.E.: Athronges, the shepherd (War 2.60-65;Ant 17.278-84)

4. Menahem: grandson of Judas the Galilean (War 2.433-34, 444)

5. Simon, son of Gioras (bar Giora) War 2.521, 625-54;4.503-10, 529;7.26-36, 154)

Sources:

1. Berger, D. The Rebbe, The Messiah, And The Scandal Of Orthodox Indifference. Portland, Oregon: The Littman Library of Jewish Civilization. 2001, 171-173.

2 Bird, M.F.,Are You The One To Come? The Historical Jesus and the Messianic Question. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2009.

3.  Brown, R.E. An Introduction to New Testament Christology. Mahwah, N.J.: Paulist Press, 1994, 155-161.

4. Evans, C.A. and P. W. Flint. Eschatology, Messianism, and the Dead Sea Scrolls. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co. 1997.

5.  Elwell, W. Baker’s Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology.Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 1996.

6.  Schochet, J.I. Mashiach: The Principle of Mashiach and the Messianic Era in Jewish Law and Tradition. New York: S.I.E. 1992, 93-101.

7.  Zannoni, A. Jews and Christians Speak of Jesus. Minneapolis: Fortress Press.1994, 113-114.

Source: Is Jesus the Messiah? An Outline on Jewish Messianism