Saturday, December 16, 2017

Lord Jesus Christ

Photo b y Paciana 2011

Our Savior, Son of God, has many titles, but in Scripture, and particularly in the writings of the apostle Paul, three of His Names often appear together: Lord Jesus Christ. These three titles help to describe His relationship to mankind, to the world, and to God’s perfect plan of salvation.

“Lord” refers to His relationship to mankind. He is One Person of the triune God, often referred to in the Old Testament as “LORD,” all in capitals to emphasize His supreme power and preeminence.

He is “Lord” to all who have been born again (John 3:3-8) by trusting in His death, burial and resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:1-4) as the only Way to Heaven (John 14:6). In this mysterious transformation, we are changed from God’s enemies (Romans 5:10) to God’s children, as well as joint heirs with His Son Jesus Christ (Romans 8:14-17) and ambassadors for His kingdom (2 Corinthians 5:20). Should we not fall to our knees in awe and gratitude to our Lord for His unspeakable gift? (2 Corinthians 9:15)

Yet those who pray the sinner’s prayer wanting to escape eternal punishment in hell, but unwilling to surrender their lives completely to Him, may want Him to be their Savior but fail to follow Him as Lord. He is not just our “get out of hell free” card, but our Master Whom we should reverence in total submission and holy fear (Hebrews 12:28).

He is not our “buddy,” even though He is the Friend Who sticks closer than a brother (Proverbs 18:24). He is not some glorified version of Santa to whom we bring our wish lists, even though He is the source of all blessings (James 1:17). We should never refer to Him casually as “the man upstairs,” even though He is seated at the right hand of God the Father, making intercession for us and defending us from Satan’s accusations (Colossians 3:1; Hebrews 10:12; 12:2; 1 Peter 3:22).

The Lord Jesus Christ is our Lord, without Whom we are nothing, have nothing and can do nothing (John 15:5). He deserves our utmost respect; our time, talent, and treasure; and our very life presented to Him as a holy, acceptable, living sacrifice, which is our reasonable service (Romans 12:1).

If we honor Him as our Lord, we will trust in Him and not in our own “wisdom” and acknowledge Him in all our ways (Proverbs 3:5-6). We will love Him with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength (Mark 12:30). How dare we call Him Lord if we do not obey Him? (Luke 6:46)

Those who reject the Lord Jesus Christ in their earthly life of course do not recognize Him as Lord, but the day is coming when He returns in victory as King of Kings and Lord of Lords (Revelation 17:14; 19:16). At that time every knee shall bow to Him and every tongue shall confess that He is Lord, whether they are in heaven, on earth, or in hell (Philippians 2:9-11). There is no escaping or denying His omnipotence and Lordship!

But sadly, the unsaved world does not realize that He is God, the self-existent One Who spoke the worlds into existence (John 1:10), present as part of the Trinity since before the beginning of time (John 1:1; Revelation 1:8; 22:13). They refer to Him merely as “Jesus,” which was the name He had in His earthly ministry, as proclaimed by the angel Gabriel to the Virgin Mary (Luke 1:31).

Some despise the Name of Jesus, even though it is the Name above all names (Philippians 2:9) and the only Name by which we can be saved (Acts 4:12). Others accept the historical presence of Jesus as a man who lived two millennia ago, and may even agree that he was a good man, prophet and teacher (Matthew 16:14). They may believe that he was crucified, but for them the story stops there, falling short of His resurrection giving victory over sin, death and the grave (1 Corinthians 15:12-57).

Interestingly, the disciples of Jesus never referred to Him by His given Name, but always as “Lord,” “Master,” “Teacher” or “Rabbi,” appropriately emphasizing His Lordship and absolute authority over their lives.

The third part of our Savior’s appellation, “Christ,” helps explain His essential role in God’s perfect plan of salvation. The Greek word “Christos” means “Anointed One of God,” and it is the Greek equivalent of the Hebrew word Mashiach, or “Messiah.”

In Scripture, “God’s anointed” also refers to a king chosen by God (1 Samuel 24:6), and as it pertains to Christ, it foretells the day when He will rule over all nations while seated on David’s throne in the Millennial Kingdom (Genesis 49:10; 1 Chronicles 17:11-14; Psalm 72: 10-11; Zechariah 9:9; 14:9; Matthew 2:1-12). Christ is God’s anointed King, foretold in prophecy to deliver His people as well as to reign over them (Daniel 9:25; Isaiah 32:1).

Kings were anointed with oil to symbolize their holy calling by God (1 Samuel 10:1), and two women anointed Christ with precious oil and ointment during His time on earth (Matthew 26:6–7; Luke 7:37–38). God Himself anointed Christ with the oil of gladness to demonstrate that He is King of Kings, holy and without equal (Hebrews 1:9), and with the Holy Spirit and with power to do good, for physical healing, and for casting out evil spirits (Acts 10:38).

Isaiah prophesied that Christ would be anointed by the Holy Spirit to bring good news to the poor, to heal the brokenhearted, and set free the prisoners of sin, proclaiming liberty (Isaiah 61:1). This deliverance from the power, the penalty, and ultimately even the presence of sin (Luke 4:18; Romans 6:23) is only possible through our Messiah, the One Who came to this earth to reconcile sinful man to Holy God (1 Timothy 1:15).

By taking on human flesh (John 1:14), He could experience all our sorrow, weakness and frailty, including physical, emotional and spiritual suffering, epitomized by His agony on the cross (Hebrews 4:15). Yet He was without sin, so He was the perfect Sacrifice, the only Lamb of God Who could take away the sins of the world (John 1:29) by paying in full the price demanded by our sin debt (1 Corinthians 6:20; 7:23).

In this Christmas season, church celebrations honor the baby Jesus. But let us not forget that His mission did not begin in Bethlehem nor end at the cross. He is not only Jesus, but the Christ Who saves all Who ask Him (Acts 2:21; Romans 10:13) and Who will return victorious to rule over all nations. May we honor, obey and serve Jesus Christ as our Lord, for He alone is Lord of Lords! 

© 2017 Laurie Collett


Saturday, December 9, 2017

Three Appearings of Christ

During Advent and the Christmas season, we celebrate the first appearing of Jesus Christ, when He left His heavenly throne to clothe Himself in human flesh (John 1:14; Luke 1-2), to appear on Earth. But the New Testament actually refers to three appearings of Christ: past, present and future (Hebrews 9:24-28). Two thousand years ago He appeared on earth at His first coming; currently He appears at the right hand of God the Father to intercede for us; and in the future He will again appear on earth at His second coming.

Before these three appearings of Christ summarized in Hebrews, there were also preincarnate appearances of Jesus Christ in human form, in which He is often referred to as the angel of the Lord, such as when He appeared to Hagar to provide a great promise for her son Ishmael (Genesis 16).   

Predating by millennia His appearance as a Babe in Bethlehem, Jesus Christ appeared to Abraham as a human visitor, accompanied by two angels also in the form of men, to tell him that his wife Sarah would conceive in her old age and that Abraham would thereby be the father of a great nation (Genesis 18). Later the angel of the Lord appeared to keep Abraham from sacrificing Isaac as God had commanded him (Genesis 22:10-12).

Other visible manifestations of God in the Old Testament include the burning bush from which the angel of the Lord spoke to Moses (Exodus 3:2; Acts 7:30), and the Shekinah Glory, or fire inhabited by God, which led the Israelites through the wilderness into the Promised Land (Exodus 13:21).

As prophesied in the Old Testament, the promised Messiah, Son of God and God Himself, would be born of a virgin (Isaiah 7:14), given by God the Father to save us from the penalty of our sins and to reign forever (Luke 1:31-33). This appearance was known by God and actually prophesied since the beginning of the world (Luke 1:67-79) as the solution to redeem man from the curse of sin brought about by Adam’s disobedience (Romans 5:12-19).

Although Jesus would be tempted and tested as we all are, He would never sin (Hebrews 4:15), and therefore was the perfect atoning Sacrifice to pay our sin debt in full (Romans 3:25). Holy God could not allow sinful man into Heaven without Jesus Christ taking on Himself the burden of all our sin as He died on the cross (2 Corinthians 5:21).

Before Christ’s first appearing, the high priest had to enter the most holy place in the temple once every year with an animal sacrifice to temporarily cover the sins of himself and of the people (Hebrews 9:6-15). But the Lamb of God, Who takes away the sins of the world (John 1:29), then “appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself” (Hebrews 9:26).

The Greek word used here for “appeared” is “phaneroo,” meaning to become evident or visible after being hidden. The Triune God knew that God the Son would appear in this specific form for the specific purpose of salvation for all who trusted Him, and spoke of it in veiled terms through the prophets. Yet His actual appearing was a mystery hidden through the ages until the fullness of times had arrived (Ephesians 1:10).  

Jesus cried out “It is finished,” as the agony of His crucifixion ended, for His work on the cross abolished the need for animal sacrifice or for any work as an attempt to obtain salvation (John 19:30). We are saved only by His grace through our faith in Him, and not by our works (Ephesians 2:8-9). All who trust in His death, burial and resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:1-4) as the only Way to Heaven (John 14:6) will therefore have eternal life (John 3:16).

Once Jesus Christ arose from the dead and ascended into Heaven, His second and present appearing is in the presence of God (Hebrews 9:24). He is now seated at the right hand of the Father (Hebrews 10:12), constantly making intercession for us (Romans 8:34) to the Father as the Holy Spirit brings our prayer requests to Him (Romans 8:26). There He is also our advocate with the Father (1 John 2:1), defending us against the accusations of the devil. In this active and vocal role it is fitting that the Greek word for “appear” is “emphanizo,” meaning to be manifest or declare openly.

The third appearing of Christ Jesus (Hebrews 9:26) refers to His future appearing, or Second Coming, when born-again Christians (John 3:3-8) eagerly anticipating the blessed hope of the Rapture (1 Thessalonians 4:14-17) shall see Him face to face (1 Corinthians 13:12). How appropriate that the Greek word translated here as “appearing” is “optomai,” meaning to gaze at face to face!

In our glorified bodies we will be freed not only from the power and penalty of sin, but even from the very presence of sin (1 Corinthians 15:35-50). Our justification (Romans 3:24-28), sanctification (1 Corinthians 1:30), and salvation (Romans 1:16) shall be perfected and made complete, for we shall sin no more! At the Rapture, or first phase of Christ’s future appearing, that appearing will be evident only to God’s children, for those who are left behind will not witness His presence or our ascent to meet Him.

But in the second phase of Christ’s future appearing, all will see the King of Kings return to earth in all His glory, and we shall accompany Him in glory as His troops (Revelation 17:14) when He defeats sin, death and Satan! The apostle Paul writes: When Christ, Who is our life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with Him in glory (Colossians 3:4).

The Greek word used here for “appear” is also “phaneroo,” as used to describe His first appearing in human form in Bethlehem, meaning to become evident or visible after being hidden. Clearly all will then witness Jesus Christ in physical, tangible form, just as experienced by those Jesus encountered in His earthly ministry.

While those who walked the earth with Jesus.saw Him as a frail newborn (Luke 2:12), humble servant (John 13:5), and suffering Savior (Hebrews 12:2), all who see His future appearing shall witness the King of Kings in all His power, glory and righteous judgment. May all trust Him now in His present appearing to hear the plea of a sinner seeking salvation, to ensure that they will one day appear with Him in glory!

© 2017 Laurie Collett