There are three apparent contradictions concerning the promised Messiah that seemed impossible to resolve. A prophecy found in Micah 5:2 (seven centuries before the event) foretells that Bethlehem was to be the birthplace of the Christ (Messiah). However, we also read that God would call His son out of Egypt (Hosea 11:1). To make matters more complicated, it had been spoken by the prophets that He would be a Nazarene.
This dilemma was resolved only in the person of Jesus of Nazareth. Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. Since Joseph and Mary belonged to the house and lineage of David, they were required to leave Nazareth and travel to their family’s town of origin, Bethlehem of Judea. It was during their time in Bethlehem that Jesus was born (Luke 2:1-7). Then, as a child, He was taken by His parents to Egypt to flee Herod’s massacre (Matthew 2:13-18). After the crisis was past, He was called out of Egypt (Matthew 2:19-21) and was raised in Nazareth, and thus called a Nazarene (Matthew 2:22, 23).
One of my favorite places in the Holy Land is the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, the traditional site of Jesus’ birth. This place is special because it attests to the historical birth of Jesus and testifies to His true identity.
Micah 5:2 identifies Bethlehem as the birthplace of the Messiah. The uniqueness of Micah’s prophecy is fourfold: First, the Jewish chief priests and scribes recognized this passage in Micah as prophesying the Messiah (Matthew 2:3-8). Second, this prophecy highlights the exact city where Messiah would be born (Bethlehem Ephrathah). This was important because there was another city named Bethlehem (Joshua 19:15). Third, Micah declared this prophecy more than 700 years before Jesus Christ was born. Fourth, this prophecy was just one of many Messianic prophecies fulfilled during Jesus’ first coming.
Bethlehem was more than just a place where Jesus was born; it helped to identify Him as the promised Messiah.
The following is from “Turning Point Magazine” (used with permission):
700 Years Before Christ
When Jesus was born, there were three major continents known to scholars – Europe, Asia, and Africa. Asia was chosen, but Asia has many countries. Micah selected one country, Israel, with three districts – Judea, Galilee, Samaria. Judea was chosen, but Judea had thousands of villages. Yet seven hundred years before Christ, Micah pinpointed the very town of His birth – Bethlehem.
“Just as it was in the days of Noah, so also will it be in the days of the Son of Man. People were eating, drinking, marrying and being given in marriage up to the day Noah entered the ark. Then the flood came and destroyed them all.” It was the same in the days of Lot. People were eating and drinking, buying and selling, planting and building. But the day Lot left Sodom, fire and sulfur rained down from heaven and destroyed them all. “It will be just like this on the day the Son of Man is revealed” (Luke 17:26-30).
In the above verses Jesus warns believers that He, the Son of Man, will return in circumstances similar to the pre-flood days of Noah and the destruction of Sodom. Specifically, He refers to eating, drinking, marrying, buying, selling, planting, and building. The emphasis of Messiah’s prophetic warning is on the people’s enjoyment of life’s mundane matters so much so that the return of the Son of Man catches them unaware.
We need to take a look at what the days of Noah were like: “God saw how corrupt the earth had become, for all the people on earth had corrupted their ways. So God said to Noah, ‘I am going to put an end to all people, for the earth is filled with violence because of them. I am surely going to destroy both them and the earth’” (Genesis 6:12,13).
The Hebrew word translated “corrupt” means “to ruin” and the verb “always refers to a ruin effected in the realm of community or individual experience” (Theological Lexicon of the Old Testament). The Hebrew word for violence is “hamas,” which means “wrong, do violence to, treat violently.” The lexicon goes on to state that the word “is used almost always in connection with sinful violence . . . [and] is often a name for extreme wickedness” (Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament).
The people living during the time of the flood and the destruction of Sodom had become so involved with, or so tolerant of, corruption and violence that they went on with life as usual. The majority had no idea what was about to overtake them. Eight people were saved from the judgment of the flood and only Lot and his family were saved from the sulfuric destruction of Sodom. Jesus gives us a solemn warning in Matthew 24:44: “So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect Him.”
Do not allow yourself to become so familiar with the corruption and violence of our time that you are not looking for, or are not ready for, the Son of Man’s return! God is a righteous God and He will judge corruption and violence as we have seen in the past. Only a very few people were ready to face God’s past judgments. How about you today?
Jim Weikal is a Biblical instructor at Bill Rudge Ministries.
While exercising outside in the early morning hours, I noticed the shadow of one of our crosses silhouetted on the lightly snow-covered ground. Looking for the source of this shadow (the security light of our former ministry center – now the Mercer County Area Agency On Aging) it struck me that every person who has ever been born is affected in some way by the Cross.
The crucifixion of Jesus Christ was determined before the creation of the world. Since the Fall of humankind in the Garden of Eden, God promised a coming Messiah and Savior. Those before Christ’s sacrificial death looked forward to the coming of this Promised One, while those after Jesus’ crucifixion look back to His finished work on the cross.
Both Sides of the Cross
Who I was and what I did before coming to Christ is in stark contrast to who I am and what I do after coming to know Him. My philosophy of life, words, behavior and lifestyle have so dramatically changed that they are in diametric opposition to what they were before. Before the Shadow of the Cross passed over my life, my passions were rebellion, violence and pleasure. This side of the cross my zeal is for obedience, compassion and reaching this world for Christ.
Some thought I was hopeless as a teenager but Jesus knew otherwise. I thank Him virtually every day for His amazing grace to me, received many years ago when I was 18.
How has the Cross affected you? What kind of a shadow (influence) has it been on your life? Has the cross drawn you closer to God and the Savior or are you still hiding – running from or rebelling against the LORD of all Creation? You do realize that it’s time for you to come home! Fall on your knees beneath the Shadow of the Cross and surrender your life to Jesus.
Remember, eternity will be determined by your association with the cross. The cross of Christ is our only hope to see our departed loved ones again. For believers, it is a guaranteed promise! As Bill Glass succinctly said, “Christ arose! Your redeemed loved ones will too, and you can spend eternity with them in God’s presence.”
Wendy Wippel is a molecular biologist who specializes in genetics. The following are excerpts from an article in The Lamplighter magazine. Used with permission.
It’s the Christmas season, and amid the baking and the bustling and the bows, it’s easy to lose sight of what the fuss is all about — a baby. As the old carol asks, “What child is this?” There’s a lot riding on your answer. Because that baby is the central figure of human history. Human history, in fact, is divided into two eras (BC and AD) by His existence. (Your birth date? Counted from His.)
• He never traveled more than 100 miles from home, but His followers permeated every country in the world with His story.
• He never wrote a book, but more have been written about Him than anyone else in history, by far.
• The first book about Him, the Bible, has been translated into more than 500 languages, and portions of it into more than 3000 languages.
• He had only 12 disciples, but billions of people discuss His teachings every day.
• He was homeless during His public life, but most of the world’s most beautiful buildings were built in His honor (Notre Dame, Westminster Abbey, Hagia Sophia, Chartres, St. John’s Cathedral, and so on.)
• He died as a criminal, but today thousands of names of cities and countries memorialize His life. (San Salvador, for example, which means Holy Savior.)
• He never married, but more wedding vows have asked His blessing than any other.
• He never had kids, but there’s a really good chance you’re named after one of his family or his friends.
• Untold numbers of people throughout history have willingly gone to their deaths rather than renounce His name.
Jesus is recognized by skeptic and saint alike as the turning point of history. What child IS this? We’ve had 2000 years to speculate: A really moral man? A great philosopher? A champion of social justice? A pacifist? A mythical figure? A revolutionary? An example for all of us to follow?
Those really aren’t the right questions, though. The real question is “Who does He think He is?” And Jesus, tellingly, said none of the above. Jesus said that He came to “seek and save that which was lost” (Luke 19:10). Jesus said that He came to “give his life as a ransom for many” (Matthew 20:28). In fact, He said that He came specifically for one moment in time, His crucifixion (John 12:27).
What child is this? We all have to answer that question for ourselves. And eternity rides on our answer. Why? Because God created humans to be with Him. But you probably know what happened next – Adam and Eve disobeyed the one rule that God established, and humanity became tainted with sin. And as descendants of Adam and Eve, we inherited that condition. We’re all SIN positive.
The problem is that sin can’t survive in the presence of the holiness of God. But that same God still loves us and wants us to be with Him. So Jesus came to seek and save that which was lost. We’re what was lost (John 1:12; 3:16).
Maybe you’re thinking, “That’s great for you, but it’s just not my thing.” Or, “I have my own faith.” Or, “We all worship the same God.” Then what child is this? One that made some pretty amazing statements:
I am the way, the truth, the life. No man comes to the Father but through Me (John 14:6). All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Me (Matthew 28:18).
Nobody else said things like this. Not Mohammed. Not Confucius. Not Buddha. Nobody. People these days say that makes Christianity exclusive. Except that Jesus also said that whosoever believes in Him can have eternal life. Whosoever.
So what child is this? You can call Him a liar. You can call Him a lunatic. Or you can call Him Lord. “Undecided” isn’t really an option. He didn’t mean for it to be.
Jesus was crucified because He claimed to be the Messiah, a Messiah described in Isaiah as “wounded for our transgressions,” whose chastisement made peace for us with God. Jesus said that He came to give us life as a ransom for many. Nobody else said that. Nobody.
That’s what sets Jesus apart. Only He laid down His life for your sins and mine. And when He died on that cross (a fact documented in Roman records) it would have certainly seemed that was the last history would hear of Him.
But the cross that He died on is now the world’s most common symbol, engraved on tombstones, mounted in and on churches, scattered on hillsides and hung around a whole lot of necks.
So what child is this? That’s the question. And the answer … God, in the form of Jesus, left heaven to seek and save that which was lost, meaning you and me. When He died on the cross, God was saying that He loves you. He Himself came to earth to give His life as your ransom. It was the God of all the universe, whispering into your ears, “I do.” And that God, who still loves you, stands at the altar, waiting for your answer. He’ll wait. He has all eternity to do so. Do you?
One of the prophetic keys to God’s plan before He returns is the restoration of the nation of Israel (Ezekiel 37:21). Through prophets such as Ezekiel, God foretold a day when He would gather the Jewish people from the four corners of the earth and bring them back to the land He had promised them. The fulfillment of this prophecy began in 1948 when Israel became a nation, and continues to this day as more Jews return to the Promised Land.
In biblical times Israel sought assistance from other nations for protection against an impeding enemy. For instance, as the Syrians threatened Israel, King Ahaz called upon the help of Tiglath-Pileser, king of Assyria (2 Kings 16:7). Later, King Hoshea would try and break his alliance with Assyria as he sought the protection of So, king of Egypt. This decision ultimately led to the northern tribes being conquered and exiled from the land by the Assyrians (2 Kings 17).
In the present, Israel has looked to America as its source of help and protection. However, a new political regime could quickly change the relationship between America and Israel. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s speech of several years ago, before a joint session of the United States Congress, accurately noted that Israel may have to stand alone. Their position will ultimately force Israel to recognize that her only true source of protection is God Himself. The following words by the prophet Isaiah should be a reminder to Israel of the dangers that arise when trust is placed in man:
Woe to those who go down to Egypt for help, who rely on horses, who trust in the multitude of their chariots and in the great strength of their horsemen, but do not look to the Holy One of Israel, or seek help from the LORD (Isaiah 31:1).
At the end of his speech Netanyahu quoted the following words by Moses, “Be strong and of good courage, do not fear nor be afraid of them” (Deuteronomy 31:6). It is unfortunate he did not quote the remainder of the verse, because it reminds both Israel and America where this courage comes from: “for the Lord your God, He is the One who goes with you. He will not leave you nor forsake you.”
While many trials and tribulations lay ahead for Israel, God will one day change the hearts of the Jewish people and bring them to a full understanding of their Messiah:
And I will pour out on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem a spirit of grace and supplication. They will look on Me, the One they have pierced, and they will mourn for Him as one mourns for an only child, and grieve bitterly for Him as one grieves for a firstborn son (Zechariah 12:10).
The raising of Lazarus from the dead and numerous other miracles Jesus performed created an intense expectation among the multitudes. The Jewish people were eager for the Messiah (Christ) to come and defeat the Romans and restore Israel to its former power and glory under King David. So at Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem, the crowds welcomed Him with shouts of praise as they spread palm branches, and even their own garments in His path.
During His triumphal entry, Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey, fulfilling Zechariah 9:9. Jesus was proclaiming Himself as King (just as 1 Kings 1:32-35, 44 records that David had Solomon ride on his mule before having him anointed king). The people welcomed Him with shouts of Hosanna, and the words of Messianic Psalm 118:26, “Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord.” Spreading their cloaks on the road was an act of royal homage (2 Kings 9:12, 13).
They Didn’t Understand
Less than a week after the triumphal entry, many of this multitude were shouting for Him to be crucified. Why? What happened? They didn’t understand that it was God’s plan for the Christ to die during His first coming (Romans 11:25, 26). Therefore, they rejected the Messiah and called for His death.
Numerous Old Testament Scriptures foretold the suffering, death, and resurrection of the Messiah (Isaiah 53:5-12; Psalm 22:16; Zechariah 12:10; Psalm 16:10). Nevertheless, the Jewish people and their leaders, as well as Jesus’ disciples, could not understand that God’s purpose was for the Christ to first die as a sacrifice for the sins of the world.
Jesus foretold He was going to be crucified. It was for this purpose He had come (John 12:27). Jesus repeatedly told His disciples He must suffer, die, and on the third day rise again (Mark 10:32-34; Luke 18:31-33), but they were confused and did not comprehend what He meant (Luke 18:34; Mark 9:9, 10, 31, 32).
New Testament scholar, Dr. George Eldon Ladd, writes:
This is also why his disciples forsook him when he was taken captive. Their minds were so completely imbued with the idea of a conquering Messiah whose role it was to subdue his enemies that when they saw him broken and bleeding under the scourging, a helpless prisoner in the hands of Pilate, and when they saw him led away, nailed to a cross to die as a common criminal, all their messianic hopes for Jesus were shattered.
The Hebrew Scriptures mention a suffering servant, especially in Isaiah 53 and Psalm 22. Scripture also tells about the Messiah coming as David’s heir and reigning as King. After centuries of suffering under the yoke of foreigners, and then being under Roman oppression, the Jews of first century Israel yearned for the One who would come and rule on the throne of David forever. Consequently, the Jews of Jesus’ day only focused on the Messiah as coming King.
Peter tried to reprove Jesus for stating that He must suffer, be rejected, be killed, and rise again after three days (Mark 8:31, 32). But Jesus rebuked Peter and said—
Get behind Me, Satan; for you are not setting your mind on God’s interests, but man’s (Mark 8:33).
The animal sacrifices in the Tanakh [Old Testament] were a foreshadow of the death of the Messiah. Hebrews 9:22 says, “…without shedding of blood there is no forgiveness.” Whereas the animal sacrifices were regular occurrences, Christ’s sacrificial death was, “once…to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself” (Hebrews 9:26).
The crucifixion of Jesus Christ was no mistake. It had been determined before the creation of the world. The Hebrew Scriptures foretold this mystery of God which was meticulously fulfilled in Jesus Christ and majestically proclaimed to both Jews and Gentiles.
God’s ultimate sacrifice is undeniable proof of His amazing and incomprehensible love for each of us.
If the resurrection had not occurred: ➔ The Christian faith is a lie. ➔ Jesus was just another person who claimed to be a messenger from God. ➔ There is no hope beyond the grave. ➔ We have no assurance we will see our loved ones again after death. ➔ The resurrection is a myth that has deluded millions with false hope.
If the resurrection really did happen: ➔ The Christian faith is true. ➔ Jesus is the Messiah, God incarnate and the only One who can give eternal life. ➔ Believers in Jesus Christ have a sure hope beyond the grave. ➔ We and our loved ones will rise from the dead and stand before our Creator to have our eternal destiny determined and receive our everlasting rewards. ➔ The truth of Jesus’ resurrection is the most significant event in history, inspiring millions with certain hope.
Christ’s death and resurrection are the means by which believers may cling to hope in spite of the trials and tragedies of life. May you be strengthened by the love of Jesus. Never give up. Always have HOPE:
H old on to the promises of God (Revelation 21:3-4) O pt to trust in God through the challenges you face (Isaiah 40:31) P lace all your cares and concerns upon Him (Psalm 46:1-3) E nter into the loving hands of Jesus Christ (Romans 8:35)
“No one can become My disciple without giving up everything for Me.” Luke 14:33
Once you are convinced that Jesus Christ is the promised Messiah, God uniquely manifest in the flesh, and the only way of salvation, you must count the cost before you give your life to Him. In Luke 14:28-33, Jesus shared the importance of counting the cost before following Him. He said, “One should not start building a tower without counting the cost, lest he run out of money and be ridiculed when unable to finish it. Should not a king about to go to war first consider whether he is able with 10,000 men to oppose a force of 20,000?” In the same way, Jesus said, anyone who wants to be His disciple must count the cost of giving up everything for Him.
Before I was a Christian, I thought I was god. Not God the Creator, but god in the sense that I was invincible. I did some crazy things because of that philosophy. Deceived by the same lie Satan used on Adam and Eve, I was walking in rebellion against the one true God.
But I came to the realization that I was not god — that Jesus Christ was God’s unique revelation of truth. He was the One I needed as my Savior and Lord.
I Made the Choice
Once I examined the evidence, and was convinced who Christ is, I had to make a choice. Do I reject Him and walk away in rebellion and self-deluded pride? Or do I humble myself, admit my rebellion, and trust in Him for my salvation?
By God’s grace, I chose to give Christ my life. Making a 180-degree turn, I began following Him as Savior and Lord. It’s called repentance. It’s dying to self and living for Christ. We must dethrone self, quit playing God, and place Christ in His rightful position as Lord of our lives. Then His goals become our goals. His desires become our desires. His will becomes our will.
To illustrate, let’s pretend you are on one trapeze and Jesus is on another. You have one hand holding onto your trapeze, and one hand holding onto Christ. You want to live for Christ, but you also want to live for self. You want to obey the Lord, but you also want to have your own way and do your own thing. You want Him to be your God, but you also want to be your own god. You want to run your own life, make your own decisions, have your own goals, and fulfill your own desires. But you can’t hold onto both. Eventually the two trapeze bars go in opposite directions. If you try to both live for self and for the Lord it will tear you apart.
That’s why there are so many neurotic Christians walking around confused, depressed, and discouraged, not knowing what they believe or what God’s will is. When Christians are only half-committed (trying to live for self and trying to live for the Lord) they are the most miserable of people. They go out to witness and say, “Don’t you want what I have?” The non-Christian says, “No thanks, I have enough problems already.” Instead of having an impact on their world for Christ, as the first century believers did, their compromised lives tend to turn people off. That’s why we will never influence our world for Christ unless we ourselves are first totally sold out to Him.
There is no middle road. You can’t straddle the fence. You must totally accept or reject Him. And to not totally accept Him is to reject Him. Don’t let Jesus’ words in Revelation 3:16 be true of you:
So, because you are lukewarm – neither hot nor cold – I am about to spit you out of My mouth.
You must count the cost and then make a wise choice – total commitment to Christ as Lord!
Excerpted from Reaching Your Maximum Potential in Christ (which is being updated and expanded for its third printed edition and E-book).
There is an accurate saying that Satan will use nine truths to get one lie across. The primary lie he attempts to propagate concerns the identity of Jesus Christ – the One before whom every knee shall bow and every tongue confess that He is Lord. Satan’s ultimate deception is to suggest you do not need to accept Christ, or try to cause you to follow “another Jesus” other than the Jesus of the Bible (2 Corinthians 11:3, 4).
While some demote Jesus to merely a great teacher or prophet, others say we all have the potential to become another Christ, still others will simply substitute Jesus with someone or something else. Attempts are made to minimize, distort, deny or replace Him: All have eternal implications (John 8:24). Anyone who denies that Jesus Christ is the promised Messiah, God incarnate in human flesh and the only way of salvation can be scripturally identified as a false prophet or teacher (1 John 4:1-3; 1 John 2:22, 23 ). As Jesus ascended to heaven, two angels said to the disciples:
Men of Galilee, why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen Him go into heaven (Acts 1:11).
Please notice, it will not be another Jesus or a reincarnation of the Christ spirit, but the same Jesus who ascended into heaven from the Mount of Olives. He will be returning in all His glory. At His Second Coming, biblical evidence, cataclysmic signs and physical transformation of believers will undeniably confirm Jesus Christ to be the true Messiah.
The time is soon coming when “the kingdom of the world will become the Kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ” (Revelation 11:15). Jesus will establish His righteous Kingdom wherein true believers will rule and reign with Him for eternity and inherit all God has prepared for those who love and obey Him. Do not settle for an imitation or counterfeit when you can know the TRUE ONE Who leads to eternal life.