Chapter Eight The Final Messenger
As we have seen the Bible reveals the unique nature of Jesus. He cannot be explained in terms of normal human life and personality; He is God self-revealed in human form for the purpose of saving His creatures from their sin. Because of this, His authority over men is absolute and final. In unmistakable language, the Bible teaches the complete finality of Christ.
JESUS CHRIST IS THE FINAL MESSENGER TO MANKIND
In Hebrews 1:1-3 we read, After God spoke long ago in various portions and in various ways to our ancestors through the prophets, in these last days he has spoken to us in a son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom he created the world. The Son is the radiance of his glory and the representation of his essence, and he sustains all things by his powerful word, and so when he had accomplished cleansing for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high. In the periods prior to the coming of Christ, God spoke to men in many different ways through His messengers. Sometimes His Word was conveyed to the prophets in visions and dreams, sometimes by means of an audible voice, and sometimes through angels. But because, in every case, the prophet was an ordinary human being with limited knowledge and capacity, the fullness of Divine Truth could never be perfectly expressed. The prophets had wonderful glimpses of the power, the wisdom, the holiness and the glory of God, but their knowledge was fragmentary and imperfect. In order to present a perfect revelation of the truth about God, after all the prophets had done their work, God spoke finally through Jesus Christ. God has spoken in these last days through His Son.
Remember, Jesus is never called “Son of God” in a carnal or fleshly sense! He did not become Son of God because He was born of the Virgin Mary. He was the eternal Son of God, a member of the Trinity as we saw in the last chapter. The notion that there was anything in the nature of a carnal union between God and the Virgin Mary in order to beget a Son is false and blasphemous. And yet millions of people have been taught that Christians believe such a thing! By a unique miracle, Jesus was born of Mary, in order that He might enter human life as the Savior. He is called “Son of God” and “Son of Man” in the Bible to indicate His unique nature. In some religions, for instance Hinduism, there are stories of the gods taking human form, in a kind of “incarnation” which is vague, shadowy and unreal—in fact more of a “materialization” than an incarnation. But Jesus literally came in human form. Read the following-So when he came into the world, he said, “Sacrifice and offering you did not desire, but a body you prepared for me. “Whole burnt offerings and sin-offerings you took no delight in.” Then I said, “Here I am: I have come—it is written of me in the scroll of the book—to do your will, O God.” (Hebrews 10:5-7). Note especially the words a body you prepared for me. Read also Galatians 4:4, But when the appropriate time had come, God sent out his Son, born of a woman, born under the law. Never make the mistake of thinking that Jesus was a man who “became God.” He was God who “became Man”—a totally different thing!
The Bible speaks of The Eternal Father, The Eternal Son, and The Eternal Spirit, so it is folly to imagine that Jesus “became” the Son of God at birth. Because of the truth of this fact concerning the nature and eternal Deity of Jesus Christ, it is obvious why He has to be the Final Messenger from God to men. He came to bring a perfect revelation of the love and power of God. Human minds cannot really grasp the character of God. But we do know, in some measure, about love, grace, compassion, mercy, power, holiness, immortality and infinitude. The Lord Jesus revealed God’s character along all these lines. We can know what God is like by looking at His Son and listening to Him.
Human beings, being limited to the impressions gained by their five senses, find it impossible to understand invisible realities and spiritual truths in an abstract way. For this reason, Jesus constantly taught by means of parables. A parable is a story in terms we do understand, which explains truths we do not understand. Here is one of the most important parables that Jesus told. “Listen to another parable: There was a landowner who planted a vineyard. He put a fence around it, dug a pit for its winepress, and built a watchtower. Then he leased it to tenant farmers and went on a journey. When the harvest time was near, he sent his slaves to the tenants to collect his portion of the crop. But the tenants seized his slaves, beat one, killed another, and stoned another. Again he sent other slaves, more than the first, and they treated them the same way. Finally he sent his son to them, saying, ‘They will respect my son.’ But when the tenants saw the son, they said to themselves, ‘This is the heir. Come, let’s kill him and get his inheritance!’ So they seized him, threw him out of the vineyard, and killed him. Now when the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those tenants?” They said to him, “He will utterly destroy those evil men! Then he will lease the vineyard to other tenants who will give him his portion at the harvest.” Jesus said to them, “Have you never read in the scriptures: ‘The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone. This is from the Lord, and it is marvelous in our eyes’? For this reason I tell you that the kingdom of God will be taken from you and given to a people who will produce its fruit. The one who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces, and the one on whom it falls will be crushed.” When the chief priests and the Pharisees heard his parables, they realized that he was speaking about them. They wanted to arrest him, but they were afraid of the crowds, because the crowds regarded him as a prophet (Matthew 21:33-46).
The actual story is easy to understand. Here is the meaning behind it. God had sent His servants the holy prophets to teach Israel the truth about the kind of “harvest” God wanted from men-goodness, truth, purity, love, worship and devotion. Instead of obeying the Word of God, Israel despised the prophets and persecuted them and sometimes even killed them. (This is a simple fact of history, examples of which are recorded in the Old Testament.) Now notice the words in the parable, “Finally he sent his son”! Jesus, the Son of God is the last of all the messengers to mankind. In the parable, the wicked men killed the son. When Jesus came men crucified Him! The story goes on to show that no other messengers will be sent! Those who rejected and despised Jesus will be punished by God. To reject God’s Final Messenger is to reject God Himself.
JESUS CHRIST IS THE FINAL MESSENGER BECAUSE HE IS ALIVE!
He died and rose again and is for evermore a living Savior whose power can never be changed, canceled, abrogated or superseded by any other human being. His power is called the power of an indestructible life. Who has become a priest not by a legal regulation about physical descent but by the power of an indestructible life (Hebrews 7:16). And by being perfected in this way, he became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him (Hebrews 5:9). Every other prophet, every other teacher, every other leader lived and died and other men carried on the work they began. But Jesus, alive from the dead, lives forever and is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them (Hebrews 7:25). Jesus claims this Himself. Read His own words: When I saw him I fell down at his feet as though I were dead, but he placed his right hand on me and said: “Do not be afraid! I am the first and the last, and the one who lives! I was dead, but look, now I am alive—forever and ever—and I hold the keys of death and of Hades!” (Revelation 1:17-18). Could anything be more final than that? Jesus is the Last one! Who has power to save us from sin—dead prophets, or a Savior who died and rose from among the dead and lives forever? Whom should we love and trust—prophets or the living Savior who holds the keys of hell and of death? The resurrection of Christ is the fact that gives Him the place of absolute finality.
It is important that we read 1 Corinthians 15 at this stage (verse numbers have been included for convenience). 1 Now I want to make clear for you, brothers and sisters, the gospel that I preached to you, that you received and on which you stand, 2 and by which you are being saved, if you hold firmly to the message I preached to you—unless you believed in vain. 3 For I passed on to you as of first importance what I also received—that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures, 4 and that he was buried, and that he was raised on the third day according to the scriptures, 5 and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. 6 Then he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers and sisters at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. 7 Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. 8 Last of all, as though to one born at the wrong time, he appeared to me also. 9 For I am the least of the apostles, unworthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. 10 But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me has not been in vain. In fact, I worked harder than all of them—yet not I, but the grace of God with me. 11 Whether then it was I or they, this is the way we preach and this is the way you believed. 12 Now if Christ is being preached as raised from the dead, how can some of you say there is no resurrection of the dead? 13 But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. 14 And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is futile and your faith is empty. 15 Also, we are found to be false witnesses about God, because we have testified against God that he raised Christ from the dead, when in reality he did not raise him, if indeed the dead are not raised. 16 For if the dead are not raised, then not even Christ has been raised. 17 And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is useless; you are still in your sins. 18 Furthermore, those who have fallen asleep in Christ have also perished. 19 For if only in this life we have hope in Christ, we should be pitied more than anyone. 20 But now Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. 21 For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead also came through a man. 22 For just as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all will be made alive. 23 But each in his own order: Christ, the firstfruits; then when Christ comes, those who belong to him. 24 Then comes the end, when he hands over the kingdom to God the Father, when he has brought to an end all rule and all authority and power. 25 For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. 26 The last enemy to be eliminated is death. 27 For he has put everything in subjection under his feet. But when it says “everything” has been put in subjection, it is clear that this does not include the one who put everything in subjection to him. 28 And when all things are subjected to him, then the Son himself will be subjected to the one who subjected everything to him, so that God may be all in all. 29 Otherwise, what will those do who are baptized for the dead? If the dead are not raised at all, then why are they baptized for them? 30 Why too are we in danger every hour? 31 Every day I am in danger of death! This is as sure as my boasting in you, which I have in Christ Jesus our Lord. 32 If from a human point of view I fought with wild beasts at Ephesus, what did it benefit me? If the dead are not raised, let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die. 33 Do not be deceived: “Bad company corrupts good morals.” 34 Sober up as you should, and stop sinning! For some have no knowledge of God—I say this to your shame! 35 But someone will say, “How are the dead raised? With what kind of body will they come?” 36 Fool! What you sow will not come to life unless it dies. 37 And what you sow is not the body that is to be, but a bare seed—perhaps of wheat or something else. 38 But God gives it a body just as he planned, and to each of the seeds a body of its own. 39 All flesh is not the same: People have one flesh, animals have another, birds and fish another. 40 And there are heavenly bodies and earthly bodies. The glory of the heavenly body is one sort and the earthly another. 41 There is one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon and another glory of the stars, for star differs from star in glory. 42 It is the same with the resurrection of the dead. What is sown is perishable, what is raised is imperishable. 43 It is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; 44 it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body. 45 So also it is written, “The first man, Adam, became a living person”; the last Adam became a life-giving spirit. 46 However, the spiritual did not come first, but the natural, and then the spiritual. 47 The first man is from the earth, made of dust; the second man is from heaven. 48 Like the one made of dust, so too are those made of dust, and like the one from heaven, so too those who are heavenly. 49 And just as we have borne the image of the man of dust, let us also bear the image of the man of heaven. 50 Now this is what I am saying, brothers and sisters: Flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. 51 Listen, I will tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed— 52 in a moment, in the blinking of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. 53 For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality. 54 Now when this perishable puts on the imperishable, and this mortal puts on immortality, then the saying that is written will happen, “Death has been swallowed up in victory.” 55 “Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?” 56 The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. 57 But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ! 58 So then, dear brothers and sisters, be firm. Do not be moved! Always be outstanding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord.
The apostle Paul lists some of the striking facts about the resurrection of Christ from the dead. Notice the following points:
a. The resurrection was foretold in the Old Testament (verse 3).
b. It was verified by hundreds of witnesses (verses 5-8).
c. It is the guarantee that true believers in him will rise from the dead (verses 16-22).
d. It explains how the dead will be raised up (verses 35-49).
One striking fact in these verses is the contrast made between Adam and Jesus. What does this mean? Adam was the first man on earth and was therefore the federal head of the human race. He was created by a Divine miracle and appointed to govern the earth for God. But as we have seen in earlier chapters, Adam sinned, and every human being has inherited as a result a sinful human nature which brings death. Paul puts it this way: So then, just as sin entered the world through one man and death through sin, and so death spread to all people because all sinned (Romans 5:12). To fulfill God’s promise Jesus came into the world to deal with sin and its effects in human life. He was born of the Virgin Mary by a special Divine miracle so that He might become the Head of a new race of spiritual men and women whose sins have been forgiven. From Adam to Jesus, death reigned over all men, but Jesus overcame death and rose from among the dead. The contrast is made very clear. Adam, the first head of the natural human race, brought sin and death to man. Jesus, Head of the new spiritual “race,” composed of those who receive eternal life, has has broken the power of death and brought life and immortality to light (2 Timothy 1:10). Adam was tempted by Satan and caused sin to enter human experience (Genesis 3). Jesus was tempted by Satan but did not sin (Matthew 4:1-11) and thus is qualified to be the Savior of sinners.
Adam was created as a living person, but Jesus is a life-giving Spirit (Corinthians 15:45), who has the power to give eternal life to all who trust Him as Savior. John says, I give them eternal life, and they will never perish; no one will snatch them from my hand (John 10:28). This is why we find the expressions “The first Adam” and “the last Adam” (Jesus). Through the first Adam we all inherit mortal life and a sinful nature. Through the last Adam we all may inherit eternal life. Notice the importance of 1 Corinthians 15:50 which makes it clear that “flesh and blood” (mere human nature) can never inherit the kingdom of God. Then how may we enter that glorious spiritual and everlasting kingdom? The answer is given by Jesus Himself— Jesus replied, “I tell you the solemn truth, unless a person is born from above, he cannot see the kingdom of God” (John 3:3). But to all who have received him—those who believe in his name—he has given the right to become God’s children —children not born by human parents or by human desire or a husband’s decision, but by God (John 1:12-13).
JESUS CHRIST IS THE FINAL MESSENGER BECAUSE HE IS COMING AGAIN!
Every other prophet fulfilled his service for God and then died, and new prophets were raised up to speak God’s Word. Death brought their work to an end. But Jesus died and rose from among the dead and went into the presence of God where He is today as a living Savior. Other prophets were simply human instruments by which God gave His Word to the world, but Jesus is Himself “The Word of God.” As you read the following verses remember that “the Word” is one of the great Names of Jesus. He is not just a “messenger with God’s words”; He is “The Word of God”! In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was fully God. The Word was with God in the beginning. All things were created by him, and apart from him not one thing was created that has been created. In him was life, and the life was the light of mankind. And the light shines on in the darkness, but the darkness has not mastered it. A man came, sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness to testify about the light, so that everyone might believe through him. He himself was not the light, but he came to testify about the light. The true light, who gives light to everyone, was coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world was created by him, but the world did not recognize him. He came to what was his own, but his own people did not receive him. But to all who have received him—those who believe in his name—he has given the right to become God’s children—children not born by human parents or by human desire or a husband’s decision, but by God. Now the Word became flesh and took up residence among us. We saw his glory—the glory of the one and only, full of grace and truth, who came from the Father. John testified about him and shouted out, “This one was the one about whom I said, ‘He who comes after me is greater than I am, because he existed before me.’” For we have all received from his fullness one gracious gift after another. For the law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came about through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God. The only one, himself God, who is in closest fellowship with the Father, has made God known. (John 1:1-18).
Even in the Quran Jesus is called “Kalimat’ullah”—the Word of God! Could “The Word of God” be untrue? Could God’s Word be false? Impossible! It is thus of tremendous importance to see that this “Faithful Witness” Himself said that He is coming again to this earth! In John 14:3 He said, I will come again. In Acts 1:11 an angel repeated the same message! Men of Galilee, why do you stand here looking up into the sky? This same Jesus who has been taken up from you into heaven will come back in the same way you saw him go into heaven. In about 300 places in the New Testament there are references to the fact of the coming of Christ the second time!
Of course there are many predictions about this fact in the Old Testament also. It was this aspect of prophecy which confused the Jews. They were enthusiastic about the prophecies which foretold the coming of Christ in power and glory, but they had overlooked the clear predictions which foretold that at His first coming to earth He would suffer, die and live again. At the end of this age, He is coming back. Luke says, So he said to them, “You foolish people—how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Wasn’t it necessary for the Christ to suffer these things and enter into his glory?” Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them the things written about himself in all the scriptures (Luke 24:25-27). He came once to die for our sins; He will come again to reward all those who love and obey Him and to punish those who reject Him. Here is an important statement about that: And to you who are being afflicted to give rest together with us when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with his mighty angels. With flaming fire he will mete out punishment on those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. They will undergo the penalty of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his strength, when he comes to be glorified among his saints and admired on that day among all who have believed—and you did in fact believe our testimony (2 Thessalonians 1:7-10). This great Savior is coming again that is certain. Peter says, Dear friends, this is already the second letter I have written you, in which I am trying to stir up your pure mind by way of reminder: I want you to recall both the predictions foretold by the holy prophets and the commandment of the Lord and Savior through your apostles. Above all, understand this: In the last days blatant scoffers will come, being propelled by their own evil urges and saying, “Where is his promised return? For ever since our ancestors died, all things have continued as they were from the beginning of creation.” For they deliberately suppress this fact, that by the word of God heavens existed long ago and an earth was formed out of water and by means of water. Through these things the world existing at that time was destroyed when it was deluged with water. But by the same word the present heavens and earth have been reserved for fire, by being kept for the day of judgment and destruction of the ungodly. Now, dear friends, do not let this one thing escape your notice, that a single day is like a thousand years with the Lord and a thousand years are like a single day. The Lord is not slow concerning his promise, as some regard slowness, but is being patient toward you, because he does not wish for any to perish but for all to come to repentance. But the day of the Lord will come like a thief; when it comes, the heavens will disappear with a horrific noise, and the celestial bodies will melt away in a blaze, and the earth and every deed done on it will be laid bare. Since all these things are to melt away in this manner, what sort of people must we be, conducting our lives in holiness and godliness, while waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God? Because of this day, the heavens will be burned up and dissolve, and the celestial bodies will melt away in a blaze! But, according to his promise, we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth, in which righteousness truly resides. Therefore, dear friends, since you are waiting for these things, strive to be found at peace, without spot or blemish, when you come into his presence. And regard the patience of our Lord as salvation, just as also our dear brother Paul wrote to you, according to the wisdom given to him, speaking of these things in all his letters. Some things in these letters are hard to understand, things the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they also do to the rest of the scriptures. Therefore, dear friends, since you have been forewarned, be on your guard that you do not get led astray by the error of these unprincipled men and fall from your firm grasp on the truth. But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be the honor both now and on that eternal day. (2 Peter 3). What will the return of Jesus mean to you? Will you rejoice to see Him and welcome Him as a Savior you have loved and obeyed, or will you tremble as an unbeliever because you rejected Him and mocked at His claims to be the Final Messenger to mankind?
Toward the end of the Bible we read of a vision God gave to the apostle John concerning the final judgment. It says, Then I saw heaven opened and here came a white horse! The one riding it was called “Faithful” and “True,” and with justice he judges and goes to war. His eyes are like a fiery flame and there are many diadem crowns on his head. He has a name written that no one knows except himself. He is dressed in clothing dipped in blood, and he is called the Word of God. The armies that are in heaven, dressed in white, clean, fine linen, were following him on white horses. From his mouth extends a sharp sword, so that with it he can strike the nations. He will rule them with an iron rod, and he stomps the winepress of the furious wrath of God, the All-Powerful. He has a name written on his clothing and on his thigh: “King of kings and Lord of lords. (Revelation 19:11-16). Who is the One coming to judge mankind? His Name is called “The Word of God” and He is seen as KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS.
What tremendous issues depend upon your attitude to Jesus Christ now! You are determining your eternal relationship to God’s Son.