This will be a very respectful presentation to anyone who wants to know about Jesus. No challenges. And there will be no criticism of any religion, in any way.
Here are six questions answered in this article:
Has the Bible been changed from its original?
Does God say that one religion will replace another: Judaism, then Christianity, then Islam?
Is it not blasphemy to say God has a Son?
Did Jesus die on a cross?
If Jesus died on a cross, was God dead for 3 days?
Why not view Jesus as a prophet?
1. Is the Bible God’s Word? Or has it been changed, or corrupted over time?
Just as introduction, here are a few statements found in the Bible: “Until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen will by any means disappear, from the Law until everything has been accomplished.”1
The Word of God will not disappear. Everything in it will be accomplished in its entirety till the very end. Again it states, “Heaven and earth will pass away but my words will never pass away.”2
Also, “All scripture is God-breathed and useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness.”3 All scripture is inspired by God.
And, “the grass withers and the flowers fall, but the Word of our God stands forever.”4
We need to ask ourselves, “Is God able to protect his word? Is God able to fulfill these statements, that his word will never disappear, never go unfulfilled?”
Is God capable? Yes, of course. This is God’s word to all people. Are we accusing God himself by saying that He was not able to protect it from being changed?
Nothing has been changed. That is only a rumor.
The Quran does not say the Bible has been changed. Just the opposite. It honors the Torah and the Bible. It mentions the Torah, and the “Zabur” (the Old Testament and Psalms) and the “Injil” (the New Testament) many times.
When Islam began in the 7th century, 600 years after Jesus Christ, the Bible was accepted as true.
So, you might ask, has the Bible changed since the 7th century? No. All you have to do is compare today’s Bible with a Bible written long ago.
We can find complete Bibles, all the way back to 300 A.D., hundreds of years before the Quran. You can find one in the London Museum, in the Vatican, and many other places. If you compare today’s Bible with the Bibles of 300 A.D., the Bible we have today is the same as then.
Did you know that there exists today nearly 25,000 hand-written copies of portions of the New Testament? As historians have compared these manuscripts, they have concluded that the New Testament we have today is at least 99.5% accurate to the original. No change.
(The .5% differences refer to spelling, but no change in meaning.)
Also, you might be familiar with the more recent archeological findings of the Dead Sea Scrolls. These were found in caves of Qumran, just off the northwest corner of the Dead Sea.
Researchers have compared the Bible we have today with what they found, and they remained highly similar, nearly 100% identical.
Don’t let anyone tell you that the New Testament or the Bible has been changed from its original writing. That simply is not historically accurate.
The Bible has not been changed.
Ok, but what about having four Gospels? Aren’t those different Scriptures, different from each other?
Yes, there are four gospels: Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, in the New Testament. These actually help show that the Bible has never been falsified. These are four witnesses, four accounts of Jesus’ life, what he said, what he did.
Imagine if one or two, or let’s say four people, witnessed a car accident on a corner of a street. And each one was asked to write up their account, their witness of the accident for the court. Do you think that each one would give the exact same description, exactly the same witness, word-for-word? Obviously not. Each one would write from his or her own perspective of what he or she saw. And that’s what happened when each of these witnesses wrote their account of Jesus, as eyewitnesses of Jesus.
For centuries judicial systems have involved witnesses. And, on very important matters, it cannot be one person’s word against another’s. Often, you need more than one witness. Here’s a statement in the New Testament, quoting from the Old Testament, “Every matter must be established by the witness of two or three people.”5
Not only are there four witnesses about Jesus who wrote the gospels, but there are many more witnesses. James, Paul, Jude, Peter, and others wrote the rest of the books in the New Testament.
John said, “[We write] what our eyes have seen, what our hands have touched.”6 They were eyewitnesses to Jesus. So they wrote what they saw.
What about all the languages that the Bible is written in, all the translations?
The Bible was written in Hebrew and Greek. Any Bible, no matter what year it was printed, is always a translation from the original Hebrew and Greek languages. (Bibles are never translated English to English, for example. They always start with the original text.)
There are some Bibles that are paraphrases, not translations. And they are identified as paraphrases. However, translations, are just that — translating what the original Hebrew and Greek text states.
The Hebrew and Greek writings of the Bible have been translated into thousands of languages. Why? Because God wants every person in the world to know the good news of salvation.
And the Bible is not difficult to translate. There are portions of the Bible that are poetic (the Proverbs, the Song of Solomon, the Psalms). But the heart of the Bible itself is a very simple language that deals with our daily lives. It is not hard to translate. The fact that the Bible is a straightforward, simple account is another reason to trust the Bible.
Here’s a true story.
“My son called me one day. He was in another country, in the middle of a big highway, in a car accident. His car was hit by another car, and was turned 180 degrees, landing in the middle of the highway, in the wrong direction.
He said, ‘Dad, I’m ok. But what do I do now?’
He’s in trouble. He needed help. Well, do you think this is the time that I will send him a poetic message? A poem that I have memorized? No.
This is the time to simply say, ‘John, here’s what you need to do. You’re in deep trouble and here is how to get out of it.’ And that really is the heart of the Bible. Humanity is in trouble, heading for hell. For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God. And we need a simple message of salvation. The Bible tells us how we can be forgiven, how we can be brought into a close relationship with God that begins now and lasts eternally. It is a message that changes our lives.
2. Does God say that one religion will replace another?
Does God intend that we would start with Judaism, then change to Christianity, then change to Islam?
No. God has been consistent. He has never been interested in building a religion.
Beginning with Abraham, God has been clear about revealing himself to us so that we could be in relationship with him. A relationship, not a religion, is God’s ultimate purpose in creating us.
Let’s look at the beginning, with Adam and Eve. They had direct communication with God, and all of their needs were met.
Then Satan appeared to Adam and Eve as a serpent, and tempted them. Unfortunately they chose to believe Satan and disobey what God told them. As a result, Adam and Eve fell out of relationship with God.
But do you know what God immediately told Satan? God said that a woman’s child would be Satan’s enemy. God said that Satan would have partial victory, bruising the child’s heel. But the child would deal the final blow, crushing Satan’s head.
Here it is:
“Then the Lord God said to the serpent, ‘Because you have done this, you are cursed more than all animals, domestic and wild. You will crawl on your belly, groveling in the dust as long as you live. And I will cause hostility between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring. He will strike your head, and you will strike his heel.”7
Satan will have a short-lived victory, striking the heel of the woman’s offspring.
Throughout all of history, who is the only man born of a woman, and not from a man and a woman? Jesus, the Son of Mary, right?
Satan would strike the heel of this offspring of a woman. But the offspring would strike a blow to Satan’s head. And the only way to kill a serpent is to strike its head.
What does this mean? There is only one explanation to it.
Satan dealt a blow to Jesus on the cross, when Jesus’ feet and hands were nailed. But Jesus’ delivered the crushing blow to Satan. On the cross, Jesus overcame Satan. Jesus paid for the sins of all humankind, offering everyone forgiveness and a way to come back into relationship with God.
The prophet Isaiah wrote about this offspring:
“He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him. He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows and familiar with suffering.
Like one from whom men hide their faces, he was despised and we esteemed him not.
Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows; yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him and afflicted.
But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities, and the punishment that brought us peace was upon him and by his wounds we are healed.
We all like sheep have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way, and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.”8
Who is the prophet Isaiah talking about? It’s very clear. He is talking about Jesus. And when was this written? More than 700 years before Jesus Christ.
From the beginning, through thousands of years, God always said that Jesus will come and he will die, just like we read from Isaiah. What would you think of God if, at the very last moment, he changed his mind? What if, after thousands of years promising Jesus, God would change his mind and not have Jesus die for us? God does not change his mind.
3. Is it not blasphemy to suggest that God would have a Son?
God is spirit. And Jesus is only God’s Son in a spiritual sense, not in a physical way.
If someone says, “You are the Son of the Cedars” it means that person is from Lebanon. Or, if from Egypt, “You are the Son of the Nile.” To say that Jesus is the Son of God, means that Jesus is from God. It is like a title. When the angel appeared to Mary, the angel said, “the holy One to be born will be called the Son of God.” A title. Christians do not believe that God had any sexual relationship with any woman.
Isaiah said, “For a child is born to us, a son is given to us. The government will rest on his shoulders. And he will be called: Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”9
He is God, who became a man, through Mary. He is God and Son at the same time, born of the virgin Mary.
Why do you think God allowed Jesus to be born from a virgin Mary?
To be born of a woman, and not from a man & woman, means he did not take on the sinful nature of Adam and Eve. When Adam and Eve fell into sin, they passed on the sinful nature from one generation to another, through their own children, down to us.
We are all born as sinners. We’re all born with a tendency toward doing things our way, instead of God’s way. We all sin. That’s why the prophet David cried out, “With sin, my mother conceived me.” We all were born with sin. We live as sinful people and we all need a redeemer.
But for Jesus to redeem us, he needed to have a different nature. He needed to be from the spirit of God, the Holy Spirit, no sinfulness at all. Isaiah said, “No deceit was found in him.” No sin in him.
In Scripture, God took on the form of a burning bush when revealing himself to Moses. He took on the voice of heaven when speaking to Abraham. Who is to say that God is not allowed to take on the form of man in order to reveal himself to us?
4. Did Jesus die on the cross or not?
How did God test Abraham? He asked Abraham to put his son on the altar. As they were going up the mountain, the son asked, “Where is the offering?” Abraham answered, “God will see to it. He will provide the offering.” And God did provide a lamb, which Abraham then sacrificed to God.
Look at the consistent message God gives us.
God spares, he saves the son of Abraham with one lamb.
Then in Exodus, we see the importance of a lamb again. In Exodus, God warns his people in Egypt that he is going to strike the Egyptians. If those who believe in God will put the blood of a lamb on their doorpost, God would have the angel of death go past them, saving them from death. A nation of believers were saved by one lamb.
Then we see a lamb again in Leviticus. Every year the priest is told to take one lamb out of the city and sacrifice it for the sins of those people who believe in God. Each year, one people saved again by one lamb.
Then we hear John the Baptist addressing a crowd, saying this about Jesus: “Look! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!”10 One lamb, who will save the whole world, for all who will believe in him.
What would have happened if Abraham had not listened to the voice of God, or had not believed that God was speaking to him? That’s right, his son would have been killed!
What if the people did not believe God and did not put the blood of the lamb on their doorpost?
So now is the question. Some 2,000 years ago, Jesus, the Lamb of God, hung on a cross, and gave his life for you. We are clearly told, “God shows his love for us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”11
What if you said, “No, they did not crucify him. He was not killed.” This Lamb of God was sacrificed to pay for your sins, and the sin of all the world. What if you say that he was not killed, that this Lamb of God did not die for your sin, for your forgiveness?
5. If Jesus died on the cross, and was buried for three days, does this mean that God was dead for three days?
A great question. An illustration will help answer it.
Let’s say we have a vase. It has no flowers, no water in it. It is merely full of air. What is the difference between the air outside the vase and the air inside the vase? The air inside the vase has shape, right? It is the same air in composition, but the air inside the vase has shape.
If we take that vase and smash it against the wall, what happens to the air inside of it? Does it die? No, air cannot die. The vase can be in thousands of pieces, but nothing happens to the air, except lose its shape.
When Jesus died on the cross, his body died, but the Spirit of Jesus, the Spirit of God never dies. God took on the form of man, in Jesus. He took on the shape of man, but Jesus was never only man.
On the cross, Jesus paid for our sin and removed the barrier that stood between us and him. Because of his death, we can be at peace with God. Though we were guilty, the justice of God was fully met by Jesus, the Lamb of God who suffered for us. And the love of God was fully expressed in that Jesus willingly laid down his life for us.
You may say, “That’s not fair.” And you’re right. We don’t deserve Jesus’ dying for us. But this was God’s solution for us. Do we tell God how it must be?
Jesus paid our penalty of death, so that we would not need to die for our sins. He wants us to come into relationship with him, to know his love, and to have eternal life.
One more story. A true story, to help you understand what Jesus did for us.
There was a righteous judge who would not take bribes. He was just. Honest. A lady was caught and brought before him. The penalty she might have to pay was a life sentence or a huge sum of money which she did not have.
The judge asked her, “Are you guilty or not?”
And she cried out, “Your honor, I cannot pay the sentence. I cannot pay the money. Please have mercy on me.”
The judge said, “I am asking you, ‘Are you guilty or not? Do you confess?'”
Finally the young lady said, “Your honor, yes, I am guilty.”
He said, “Then you pay the price. Life sentence or the sum of money.” And he closed the case.
She starts screaming and wailing, and they dragged her out of the courtroom to prison. The judge took off the robe, and walked out of the court. He then walked to the treasury. And right there at the treasury, he paid all the money he had and paid the ransom for that girl. Why? Because he loved the girl very much. She was his daughter. And he redeemed his daughter himself, with everything he had.
When the judge took off his robe, he became like any other man. And that’s exactly what Jesus did. He left heaven, took off the robe of glory, and became like any other man. And he died for us, so our sins would no longer condemn us and keep us eternally separated from God.
All the prophets said that Jesus would come and die for the sins of the world. Jesus is the only hope for mankind to have eternal life.
Back at the beginning with Adam and Eve, God told Satan that an offspring of a woman would crush Satan’s head, and mankind would be redeemed. Jesus’ death and resurrection overcame the power of Satan. Jesus overcame sin, death, and our separation from God…delivering a crushing blow to Satan.
6. Why not view Jesus as a prophet?
There is only one God. Here is what we know is true of God:
God is eternal – has always existed, exists now, and will always exist.
God is holy – without fault, perfect.
God is truth – his word stands always, unchanging, reliably true.
God is present – everywhere, at all times.
God is powerful – no limit to his power.
God is all-knowing – he has full knowledge of everything, always.
God is creator – nothing exists that is not created by him.
There is only one God. And all of the above is true of him. We know this because Scripture reveals this to be true of God. He has chosen to make himself known to humankind, to reveal this about himself to us.
Scripture also reveals that Jesus possesses these exact same characteristics as God. As does the Spirit of God. For example, let’s take eternal.
Scripture says of Jesus, “He existed in the beginning with God. God created everything through him, and nothing was created except through him.”12
Also, “He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities–all things were created through him and for him.”13
But, if there is only one God, how could Jesus also be God?
On earth, we live in a three-dimensional world. Each person has height, width and depth. Two people might look something like each other. They might have similar interests, similar occupations. But a person cannot actually be the same as another person. They are distinct individuals.
God, however, lives without the limitations of a three-dimensional universe. He is spirit. And he is infinitely more complex than we are. That is why Jesus the Son can be different from the Father. And, yet the same.
The Bible clearly speaks of: God the Son, God the Father, and God the Holy Spirit. But it also clearly tells us that there is only ONE God. If we were to use math, it would not be, 1+1+1=3. It would be 1x1x1=1. God is one.
When Isaiah stated, “Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.”14 Immanuel literally means “God with us.”
Jesus said that to know him was to know God. To see him was to see God. To believe in him was to believe in God.
However, there is something else about God that you should know. He loves you and cares about you.
Jesus tells us, “”As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.”15
Jesus invites us, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”16
All of the struggles to try to do enough for God…Jesus offers us a new freedom. We experience his love, and we have a new motivation to please God. It is not out of fear, but out of joy in knowing him.
One of Jesus’ followers, Paul, experienced this and commented:
“For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”17