Divine Principle and Its Application
Young Oon Kim
Chapter III - The Mission of Jesus
The life and death of Jesus have presented unfathomable questions. Did he reveal to mankind everything he intended? Was his crucifixion the consummation of his mission? If his teaching was the ultimate revelation and his mission was completed, why do Christians still pray, "Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven?" Let us examine Jesus' life and teachings in the light of God's new revelation.
1. John the Baptist
Malachi, the last prophet of the Old Testament, prophesied: "Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the great and terrible day of the Lord comes." (Mal. 4:5) The prophet Elijah was a most powerful spiritual champion. His mission was to subjugate Satan and drive him out of Israel forever. Elijah defeated all the false prophets in his great battle on Mount Carmel. But after he passed on, the Israelites united with Satan by again worshiping idols. Therefore, Elijah's work had to be redone. In order to prepare for the Messiah, another Elijah was needed, as Malachi prophesied. Hence, the people expected Elijah to come prior to the coming of the Messiah.
According to Jesus' explanation, John the Baptist was the anticipated Elijah. That is, Malachi's prophecy concerning Elijah was fulfilled in John the Baptist. He came to complete Elijah's mission of subjugating Satan and to make preparation for the Messiah.
John had been chosen even in the womb. The angel Gabriel had announced to Zechariah that his wife, Elizabeth, would bear a son who would prepare his people for the Messiah.
And he will turn many of the sons of Israel to the Lord their God, and he will go before him in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready for the Lord a people prepared. (Luke 1:16-17)
God sent special people to pave the way for the coming of the Messiah. Patriarchs, judges, kings, and prophets exhorted, guided, and prophesied-all to this end. John the Baptist was the last and greatest of these forerunners. It was he who was to read the signs and point out the promised one to the Israelites. Everything in John's life was directed to prepare him for this mission. His period in the wilderness, his course of study and meditation, his life of asceticism, and his understanding of the plan of God-these were essential to the success of his mission as the forerunner of the Messiah.
As the people were in expectation, and all men questioned in their hearts concerning John, whether perhaps he were the Christ, John answered them all, "I baptize you with water; but he who is mightier than I is coming, the thong of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie; he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire." (Luke 3:15-16)
The people were so struck by John's dynamic message that they considered him the greatest prophet, and even wondered if he were the Christ.
The Pharisees, upon hearing that Jesus was the Messiah, immediately wondered where the prophesied Elijah was. Jesus' disciples brought the question to him, and Jesus replied that John was Elijah. (Matt. 17:1013) Then the priests and Levites came to John to find out by his own words whether he was Elijah, as Jesus had declared. Contradicting what his father had received about him, John denied that he was Elijah. (John 1:19-21)
Whatever John uttered the people deemed very important, and he became exceedingly influential. His voice had far more authority than that of Jesus, who was only a humble carpenter and was unknown to most people. The people could have accepted Jesus as the Messiah much more readily if John had proclaimed himself to be Elijah, thus bearing witness to Jesus. By denying that he was Elijah, however, John made Jesus an imposter. John made it difficult for the people to follow Jesus.
When Jesus asked John to baptize him, John immediately sensed that he should be baptized by Jesus. John later told his disciples that he had seen the spirit of God descend and remain on Jesus, and that Jesus was the Lamb of God who would take away the sin of the world. (John 1:29) It is therefore apparent that John knew the identity of Jesus. John's mission apart from Jesus should have culminated with his baptism of Jesus. He thereupon should have joined Jesus, become his disciple, and served him as his Master, thus drawing people to Jesus, not to himself. But apparently John was not convinced, for he took a position apart from Jesus. John said, "He must increase, but I must decrease." (John 3:30) Why should John decrease while Jesus was increasing?
If John had truly followed Jesus, he would have been with Jesus in his triumph and glory. However, doubts came to John's mind as he compared his life with that of Jesus. It seemed to him as if Jesus were abolishing the Mosaic Law. Jesus' disciples were simple fishermen and his friends were tax collectors, harlots, and sinners. Jesus and his disciples ate and drank, whereas John and his followers were ascetic. John might have even expected the Messiah to come in glory on the throne of David. But Jesus was a man of humble background.
In prison, however, having heard of Jesus' miracles, John again wondered about him. John sent two of his disciples to inquire. Their question, "Are you he who is to come, or shall we look for another?" offended Jesus. Jesus answered them, saying:
Go and tell John what you have seen and heard: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, the poor have good news preached to them. And blessed is he who takes no offense at me. (Luke 7:22-23)
John should have recognized Jesus at least by his works. John was the greatest prophet of all, in terms of his mission, for he was the very one to give direct witness to the Messiah. Jesus said:
I tell you, among those born of women none is greater than John; yet he who is least in the kingdom of God is greater than he. (Luke 7:28)
In terms of serving Jesus, John was the smallest of all because he did not follow or attend Jesus as the Lord although he had been chosen for that very purpose. Had John followed him after baptizing him, and testified to Jesus ardently enough, the whole of Israel might have turned to Jesus. But John, the principal forerunner of Jesus, had failed in his mission of preparing the way. Because John did not lay a foundation for Jesus, Jesus himself had to withstand the attacks of Satan throughout his forty days of fasting and prayer in the wilderness.
2. The Kingdom of Heaven
Jesus had come in Adam's place to restore the lost Garden of Eden, to establish the kingdom of heaven on earth. He chose twelve disciples and seventy men, with whom he undertook this task. From the beginning of his ministry Jesus proclaimed, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand." (Matt. 4:17b) As Luke reported, "He went on through cities and villages, preaching and bringing the good news of the kingdom of God." (8:1)
Jesus gave many parables pertaining to the kingdom of heaven. He compared it to sowing good seeds in various soils; to a tiny grain of mustard seed which would grow into a large tree; to leaven hidden in meal; to a treasure hidden in a field, which a man found with joy and then bought at the cost of everything he had; to a merchant who, finding one pearl of great value, went and sold all that he had and bought it; and to a net thrown into the sea.
He compared the kingdom of heaven to a king who gave a marriage feast for his son and invited all people, but they would not come; to ten virgins, five wise and five foolish, who took their lamps and went to meet the bridegroom; to a man who called his servants to account for the talents which he had entrusted to them. In the Beatitudes, Jesus described the nature of those who would enter the kingdom of heaven.
To his disciples Jesus partially revealed the secrets of the kingdom, but to the public he spoke always in parables. (Mark 4:11) Jesus said that it was not easy to enter the kingdom. One must be like a child, showing that quality of obedient acceptance. For a rich man it was particularly difficult, so that Jesus compared a rich man entering the kingdom to a camel going through a needle's eye.
Jesus came to bring a physical kingdom into the world, and not merely a spiritual kingdom in the hearts of his followers. Because the kingdom's foundation had to be laid during Jesus' lifetime, its establishment was imminent and urgent. Therefore Jesus directed his followers to seek his kingdom and righteousness first, without giving undue thought to what to eat or wear.
Jesus sent out his disciples, urging them to preach that the kingdom was at hand. In fact, the time was so urgent that Jesus commanded: "Leave the dead to bury their own dead; but as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God." (Luke 9:60) At another time he said, "No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God." (Luke 9:62b) In teaching his disciples how to pray, Jesus' first petition to God was "Thy kingdom come." Jesus proclaimed the arrival of the kingdom of heaven because he was the one by whom the kingdom was to be established. Therefore, the kingdom of heaven was the entire theme of his message.
To enter the kingdom, one must be perfect. As Jesus said, "You, therefore, must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect." (Matt. 5:48) After man attains perfection, he comes under God's Direct Dominion in marriage blessed by Him. Perfected men and women have no need for forgiveness because they have in themselves no sin. Descendants of such parents will be born free from original sin, and therefore will have no need of a savior.
Jesus came to subjugate Satan, thereby freeing men from evil and from original sin. He came to raise them to perfection-to establish the kingdom of heaven on earth. This kingdom was to be much more than the reign of God in peoples' hearts. He meant to establish a tangible, visible kingdom. It was to be built by the efforts of men filled with divine love and truth. It was to be a Garden of Eden in which true families of perfected parents would live with God in a full relationship of reciprocal love.
3. Glorious Prophecy for the Messiah
God's purpose in sending the Messiah was to establish His kingdom on earth, beginning with Israel. Isaiah prophesied the Messiah's role in God's kingdom.
For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government will be upon his shoulder, and his name will be called "Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace." Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, upon the throne of David, and over his kingdom, to establish it, and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and forevermore. (9:6-7)
From the throne of David, the Messiah was to govern his people with justice and righteousness. He was to reign with wisdom, as Wonderful Counselor; with power, as Mighty God; with love, as the Everlasting Father. And the peace of his kingdom was to last forever. Not only his human followers, but all nature was to dwell in his peace, as Isaiah foretold.
The wolf shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid, and the calf and the lion and the fatling together, and a little child shall lead them. The cow and the bear shall feed; their young shall lie down together; and the lion shall eat straw like the ox. The sucking child shall play over the hole of the asp, and the weaned child shall put his hand on the adder's den. They shall not hurt or destroy in all my holy mountain; for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea. (11:6-9)
Isaiah further prophesied the glorious days the Israelites would see in the kingdom of the Messiah.
Arise, shine; for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you ... Lift up your eyes round about, and see; they all gather together, they come to you; your sons shall come from far, and your daughters shall be carried in the arms. Then you shall see and be radiant, your heart shall thrill and rejoice; because the abundance of the sea shall be turned to you .... Your gates shall be open continually; day and night they shall not be shut; that men may bring to you the wealth of the nations, with their kings led in procession. For the nation and kingdom that will not serve you shall perish; those nations shall be utterly laid waste. The glory of Lebanon shall come to you, the cypress, the plane, and the pine, to beautify the place of my sanctuary; and I will make the place of my feet glorious. The sons of those who oppressed you shall come bending low to you; and all who despised you shall bow down at your feet; they shall call you the City of the Lord, the Zion of the Holy One of Israel .... Violence shall no more be heard in your land, devastation or destruction within your borders; you shall call your walls Salvation, and your gates Praise .... The least one shall become a clan, and the smallest one a mighty nation; I am the Lord; in its time I will hasten it. (Isaiah 60)
This is the glory and joy that the Israelites were to share upon the establishment of the Messianic kingdom. Their long suffering and sorrow would be ended. Their blessing would reach throughout the whole world, and earth would be the Garden of Eden.
Such glorious prophecy is found also in the Gospels.
And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; and of his kingdom there will be no end. (Luke 1:31-33)
The angel Gabriel informed Mary that her son would be the Messiah, fulfilling the long-cherished hope of Israel; that he would rule a kingdom of eternal peace. The wise men of the East came to pay homage to the newborn Jesus as the prophesied King of the Jews. Shepherds in the fields heard from angels that the Messiah was born in Bethlehem. Simeon and Anna were in the temple at Jerusalem when the baby Jesus was brought there. Through the Holy Spirit they immediately recognized him as the promised King and Messiah. Upon hearing of Jesus' birth, King Herod was afraid of losing his position, and sought to have him killed. At last, John the Baptist was sent to prepare the people by his direct witness to the Messiah.
God painstakingly prepared the people of Israel for the Messiah by sending prophets, angels, and witnesses. Thus He sought to assure Israel's recognition and wholehearted acceptance of the Messiah, which the establishment of His kingdom required.
4. How Was He Received?
When the Messiah finally came to the people, he was most sadly treated. Even though at one point John had conclusively realized Jesus was the Messiah, he didn't follow through in witnessing to him, but continued on his separate way. Thus he as a forerunner failed in his mission. The populace listened to Jesus and the masses marveled at him, primarily because of his miracles and healing, not the truth he brought. Some fanatics, excited by his demonstrations of power, tried to make him a king in their own way, without knowing the whole implication of Jesus' role. A few came to recognize him by the truth of his words, but the stubborn and arrogant priests, scribes, and Pharisees united with Satan and criticized his teaching as being contrary to the law of Moses. They viewed his miracles as coming from Beelzebub, the devil; they denied his Messiahship by saying that he blasphemed in referring to himself as the Son of God. By constant condemnation of Jesus, they alienated the people from him. Finally, they bribed one of his disciples to betray him.
We speak of what we know, and bear witness to what we have seen; but you do not receive our testimony. If I have told you earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you heavenly things? (John 3:l1b-12)
The heavenly things Jesus wished to speak concerned the establishment of the kingdom of heaven. However, he could not convey them to the people, because they did not believe in him. Jesus had done everything possible with the desire that the Jewish people recognize and believe in him. He had preached about the kingdom of heaven he had come to establish. He had performed mighty works in the hope that they might see who he was. Nevertheless, the stubborn and faithless people refused to accept him as the Messiah, and repudiated his words and works. Finally, brokenhearted, he rebuked them for their unbelief.
Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! for if the mighty works done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. (Matt. 11:21)
You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father's desires. (John 8:44a)
Jerusalem, the city of the temple, had rejected Jesus, the true temple. He wept:
O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, killing the prophets and stoning those who are sent to you! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you would notl Behold, your house is forsaken and desolate. (Matt. 23:37-38)
Would that even today you knew the things that make for peace! But now they are hid from your eyes . . . because you did not know the time of your visitation. (Luke 19: 42-44)
Jesus endeavored to make the Jews recognize him by his words, his works, and his prayers, but it was all in vain. When he saw that it was impossible to establish the kingdom of God during his lifetime, he began to speak about the return of the "Son of man." Jesus did not mention the Second Advent from the beginning of his ministry, but only after he realized the impossibility of fulfilling his mission.
5. The Original Course Changed
To receive guidance concerning his destiny, Jesus went up on a mountain to pray. Peter, John and James accompanied him. During his prayer Moses and Elijah appeared to Jesus, and his inevitable suffering was revealed to him. "And behold, two men talked with him, Moses and Elijah, who appeared in glory and spoke of his departure, which he was to accomplish at Jerusalem." (Luke 9:30-31)
However, Peter and the other disciples were heavy with sleep and did not know what had transpired. Peter said, "Master, it is well that we are here; let us make three booths, one for you and one for Moses and one for Elijah." (Luke 9:33b) At the spiritual manifestation of two great figures of history, Moses and Elijah, Peter was overwhelmed and excited. However, he had missed the whole point.
Also about this time Jesus began to intimate to his disciples that he would have to go to Jerusalem, there to suffer much from the elders, chief priests, and scribes, and finally to be killed. Peter took him by the arm and began to remonstrate with him over this, saying, "God bless you, Master. Nothing like this must happen to you." Peter, the chief disciple, was surprised and even shocked to hear that Jesus would suffer. Why should Peter be so surprised at this if Jesus had been teaching his mission as the suffering Lord? Jesus' remarks concerning his suffering were shocking and upsetting to Peter because such suffering was in complete contrast to everything Jesus had taught up to then.
By this time Jesus saw no way of fulfilling his original intention, and therefore resolved to endure suffering to salvage what he could. Although to the outer circle of followers Jesus spoke of the kingdom of God only in parables, to his intimate disciples he revealed more. (Luke 8:10) Therefore, his close followers knew that Jesus was working to establish the kingdom of heaven during his lifetime. With this knowledge, James and John once asked Jesus: "Grant us to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your glory." (Mark 10:37) They were not wrong in expecting him to reign in glory upon the throne of David. What the disciples did not know, however, was that on the mountain with Moses and Elijah, Jesus had resolved to confront the imminent crisis. Rejected by the Jews, he was forced to take an alternate course. Thus he was tragically diverted from the victorious way of the Lord of glory prophesied by Isaiah.
6. Prediction of Suffering
If Jesus did not come to be crucified, why then did Isaiah predict his suffering?
Who has believed what we have heard? And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed? . . . He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; . . . Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. (53:1-4)
We must understand that the purpose of God is fully accomplished only when men cooperate with Him. Therefore, if man does not wholeheartedly obey Him, God's will cannot be fulfilled.
God's will is not automatically fulfilled by the coming of the Messiah. His purpose can be accomplished or delayed, depending upon the attitude of the people to whom the Messiah is sent. If the Jews unequivocally received the Messiah, God's will could be fulfilled and His kingdom established on earth. On the other hand, if the people rejected the Messiah in disbelief, Jesus could only suffer at their hands.
God foresaw these two possible responses to the Messiah. The prophecy of the Lord of glory recorded in Isaiah 9 and 60 would have been fulfilled if the Jews had responded to the Messiah wholeheartedly. God desired the fulfillment of this prophecy. The prediction of the suffering servant recorded in Isaiah 53 was one which God never wanted to see fulfilled. He gave this prediction only to warn the Jews not to despise him, in which case he would have to suffer.
Jesus' parable clearly shows that he did not come to die:
There was a householder who planted a vineyard, and set a hedge around it, and dug a wine press in it, and built a tower, and let it out to tenants, and went into another country. When the season of fruit drew near, he sent his servants to the tenants, to get his fruit; and the tenants took his servants and beat one, killed another, and stoned another. Again he sent other servants, more than the first; and they did the same to them. Afterward 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 us kill him and have his inheritance." And they took him and cast him out of the vineyard, and killed him. When therefore the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those tenants? They said to him, "He will put those wretches to a miserable death, and let out the vineyard to other tenants who will give him the fruits in their season." . . . Therefore I tell you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a nation producing the fruits of it. (Matt. 21: 33-43)
In this parable the householder is God. The son He sent is Jesus. God expected the Jews -- the tenants in the parable -- to receive His son with respect and love. Killing him was an outrageous transgression. Jesus' death certainly was not predetermined! If Jesus had not been crucified, he would have fulfilled his mission and restored man in both spirit and body. Despite God's preparation and warning, the Jews frustrated His primary intent.
7. The Cross: A Secondary Choice
Since Jesus could not establish the physical kingdom, the realization of God's will was delayed. Since the fall of man, the heart of God has been filled with grief. Jesus came to relieve the divine sorrow, thus comforting the Father. Unable to succeed completely in this mission, Jesus must have been sorrowful.
The patriarchs and prophets of the Old Testament Age had laid the foundation for the Messiah. These forefathers in the spirit world were eager to see the completion of the works they had started and the glorious fulfillment of God's will.
Israel had undergone repeated trials and had suffered long in preparation for the Messiah. By rejecting him, she lost God's blessing and her long suffering became meaningless. Jesus, who deeply loved his people, felt heartbroken at their bleak destiny.
He foresaw that his followers would suffer as he had suffered. Their suffering must continue until the Lord comes again. Furthermore, since the establishment of God's kingdom was postponed, humanity's suffering in this Satanic world must also continue.
Filled with thoughts of these things, Jesus must have felt desperate anguish.
And taking with him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, he began to be sorrowful and troubled. Then he said to them, "My soul is very sorrowful, even to death; remain here, and watch with me." And going a little farther he fell on his face and prayed, "My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as thou wilt." (Matt. 26:37-39)
If the crucifixion were God's predetermined course of saving mankind, why was Jesus so sorrowful in accepting it? Why did he pray that the cup of suffering pass from him? Numerous martyrs courageously persevered through severe suffering, praising God. Could Jesus, the Savior of mankind, have less faith than others when he prayed to have the cup taken from him? Certainly not. He desperately prayed, even three times, because he knew his death on the cross was not God's will. In his agony he sought some possible way to fulfill the divine mandate.
If Jesus' crucifixion had been God's predetermined plan, the role of Judas Iscariot, who betrayed Jesus, should have been vital in God's sight. If Judas' action had helped to accomplish God's will, why did he hang himself afterwards? The action of Judas was rebellious, and Jesus clearly displayed his anger at Judas' treachery:
But woe to that man by whom the Son of man is betrayed. It would have been better for that man if he had not been born. (Matt. 26:24b)
It is now clear that the crucifixion was imposed by man; that it was intended neither by God nor by Jesus. Even St. Paul didn't recognize the Messiah and vowed to persecute this new religious sect, but he was dramatically arrested in his path.
Now as he journeyed he approached Damascus, and suddenly a light from heaven flashed about him. And he fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him, "Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?" And he said, "Who are you, Lord?" And he said, "I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting." (Acts 9:3-5)
How shocked and grieved Paul must have been when he discovered the truth! The Messiah, for whose coming Paul had prayed daily, had been crucified. Although Paul had lived at the same time and in the same region as Jesus, he had missed the precious opportunity of serving him directly. Having discovered the truth and realizing what he had done against the Messiah, Paul cried out in self-denunciation and declared himself the chief sinner. Paul expressed his deep regret at the blindness of the people, which he had shared:
None of the rulers of this age understood this; for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. (I Cor. 2:8)
8. Jesus' Last Words
Prior to his arrest, Jesus said to his disciples: "I have yet many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth." (John 16:12-13a) "If I have told you earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you heavenly things?" (John 3:12)
If the people of Israel had fully accepted Jesus, he could have revealed to them the full significance of his mission and the complete schedule for the establishment of his kingdom. Instead, Jesus was alone, for his people had rejected him and one of his disciples was about to betray him. Under these circumstances, Jesus could not give full information, even to his intimate followers. So he told them that God would reveal more in the course of time to guide them into all the truth.
When Jesus was brought before Pilate, he asked Jesus if he was the king of the Jews. Jesus affirmed it (Mark 15:2) and said, "You say that I am a king. For this I was born and for this I have come into the world, to bear witness to the truth." (John 18:37b) Jesus was truly the King, but without a kingdom. His kingdom was "not of this world," that is, not made up of any political, military, or human force then existing. Jesus came to subjugate Satan and establish the kingdom of heaven by divine love and truth. This was the whole purpose of his life. In fact, Jesus' effort to establish a kingdom was so widely known that many ridiculed him as the king of the Jews. Those priests, scribes, and soldiers who mocked his kingship spat upon him, beat him, and crowned him with a wreath of thorns.
John's Gospel reports the last words of Jesus as "It is finished." (John 19:30b) Jesus did not mean by this that he had accomplished the entire scope of his mission. He merely meant that his life and work were over.
Luke records a prayer of Jesus on the cross: "Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do." (Luke 23:34a) This clearly indicates that the Jews had made a tragic error in crucifying Jesus, and had sinned against God. Otherwise, why should Jesus entreat God to forgive them?
Matthew and Mark record the last prayer of Jesus as: "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?" (Matt. 27:46c) Certainly this is not the prayer of a Messiah who has victoriously fulfilled his mission. This is rather the heart-rending cry of the one who undertook the mission of greatest promise, but who now is dying like a criminal, deserted by all, even by God.
If Jesus had established his kingdom, great changes would have come to the world. However, he was unable to bring his kingdom and subjugate Satan completely. Sin and evil still run rampant in the world. The glorious prophecies of Isaiah have not been fulfilled. Israel was never glorified. Indeed, a generation after Jesus' death, Gentiles invaded the promised land, destroyed the temple, and dispersed the Israelites. In order to fulfill the glorious promises of the kingdom of God, Christ must come again.
9. After The Resurrection
Satan's greatest effort was directed toward destroying Jesus. By so doing he could nullify God's entire dispensation up to the time of Jesus. It was neither God's will nor Jesus' fault that he was handed over to Satan. He was condemned because of the conditions made by the failure of John the Baptist, the betrayal of Judas Iscariot, the faithlessness of his disciples, and the disbelief of the people.
Satan exercised all his power, crucified Jesus, and fulfilled his desires. A condition was thus established for God to exercise His divine power according to the principle of restitution. Satan, by exercising his power, crucified Jesus. God, in turn, by exercising His power, raised Jesus from the dead. Hence, the resurrection of Jesus was beyond Satan's accusation and constituted a realm completely separated from Satan's interference. The cross of Jesus had been a victory for Satan, but the resurrection was God's victory and cancelled Satan's former claim on Jesus. After the resurrection, Satan could no longer find a basis for accusation or invasion of Jesus. From this time on Satan was on the defensive, and Jesus in the aggressive position spiritually. Although Jesus could not accomplish the universal restoration both spiritually and physically, God was able to start a new dispensation of spiritual salvation through the resurrected Jesus.
The forty-day foundation which Jesus had laid in the wilderness had been invaded by Satan and was destroyed with Jesus' crucifixion. In order to start a new dispensation of spiritual salvation, Jesus had to establish another foundation based on the number forty. Hence, the risen Jesus did not ascend into heaven immediately, but remained on earth with his disciples for forty days, exhorting them and strengthening their faith. Because of this new foundation of forty days, the descent of the Holy Spirit was possible, and God could begin a new dispensation with the risen Jesus and the Holy Spirit.
The Christian Church was established on this foundation. Whoever unites with the risen Jesus and the Holy Spirit stands on the same foundation as Jesus, and is freed spiritually from the accusation of Satan. The crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus established a condition of restitution for those who believe in Jesus.
Since Jesus achieved only spiritual salvation, the physical restoration of the world, the kingdom of heaven, is yet to come. To complete Jesus' unfinished mission, the Second Advent of Christ must come to pass. This Jesus prophesied and promised.
Note on the Gospels
Those who have studied the formation of the Gospels know that they were written to meet specific needs of the early Christians. Most evangelists of the time boldly interpreted the life and teachings of Jesus with an intent of conversion rather than presentation of an objective, historical account. Many of the disciples anticipated Jesus' immediate return and thus didn't bother to write down their recollections of his words and works, but passed them on to their followers by word of mouth. As the years passed and Jesus did not return, it was decided to compile various oral accounts and to put them down in writing. Four of these are in the Bible: Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. As representative accounts let us examine the Gospels of Matthew and John.
A. The Gospel of Matthew
The disciple Matthew is not the author of Matthew's Gospel! It was written by an unknown author about 80 A.D. Although there is no real clue to the author's identity, his style of writing and point of view indicate a man of Jewish blood.
The author wrote the Gospel to clarify a perplexing problem. In presenting the Christian gospel to the Greek world, Christian leaders of the first century were increasingly embarrassed by the fact that the Jewish people, among whom Christianity had arisen, did not in any large numbers accept it. Christianity had failed in its first campaign. The Gentile Christians had accepted the Jewish scriptures (Old Testament) as their Bible, but the prophetic program of redemption presented therein was not coming to pass. The chosen people had rejected Jesus' message, and the Greeks were accepting it. Christianity was, in fact, rapidly becoming a Greek religion. Christianity's success in the Greek world only increased the difficulty of the problem. Events were occurring in a manner that was completely contrary to that predicted by the Old Testament prophets. Several decades after the Jews' rejection of Jesus, the Roman Empire destroyed the holy city of Jerusalem and chased the Jews out of Judea, extinguishing their existence as a holy nation.
To the author of Matthew, the lesson was obvious. Jesus had truly been the long-awaited Messiah. He had presented himself to the chosen people, but they had rejected him and in so doing had sealed their fate. They had now in turn been rejected and punished. The kingdom of heaven, initially the rightful inheritance of the Jewish people, had been taken from them and given to those who saw its value -- the Greeks.
To present this philosophy of history, the author planned a book. He determined to present the life of the Messiah, from his ancestry and birth to his resurrection, in terms of Jewish prophecy in order to show that Jesus' words and works did fulfill the great promises of the prophets. With the long genealogy, the author intended to convince the reader that Jesus was descended from King David and thus qualified for Messiahship. To emphasize his point that whatever Jesus did was to fulfill prophecy, the author often adds his comment, "All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet." Because of the author's slanted viewpoint, many who read Matthew's Gospel are convinced that Jesus' crucifixion was necessary in that it fulfilled prophecy.
B. The Gospel of John
The Gospel according to John was also written for a specific purpose. The style and content of the Gospel indicate that the author was certainly not the disciple John but a Greek who probably wrote the Gospel around 100-110 A.D. By writing this Gospel, the author was attempting to convey the Jewish message of salvation in terms of Greek thought. The early followers of Christianity used Jewish terminology in presenting their message. To understand what they were saying, one had to be familiar with Jewish apocalyptic and Messianic thought. The times demanded that Christianity be transplanted to Greek soil and translated into universal terms. The Gospel of John is the response to this demand. The author attempted to interpret the Christian Gospel to his Gentile readers in language and concepts that were more meaningful than strictly Jewish terms. For this reason, the differences between John and the other Gospels are quite striking.
The author of John changed the chronology of events. He put the cleansing of the temple at the beginning of Jesus' ministry rather than at the close. The ministry of Jesus lasts about three years rather than one or two, as implied by the other Gospels. The scene of much of Jesus' activity was shifted from Galilee to Judea and Jerusalem.
Even more noticeable are the changes that the author has made in the form and content of Jesus' teaching. The parables and short prophetic utterances are gone, and in their place we find long discourses using symbolic language which gives words and events a double meaning. The themes of the other Gospels -- the kingdom of God, righteousness, repentance, forgiveness -- are replaced by the themes of eternal life, light, truth, freedom, blindness, darkness, and glory. In the Gospel of John, Jesus declares that he has completed the work God had given him to do (John 17:4) , and his last words on the cross are, "It is finished!" (John 19:30) But this view conflicts with that of Paul, who believed that the supreme function of the Messiah was to judge the world and that Jesus would therefore return to complete his Messianic work. Matthew's gigantic canvas of the final judgment following the Second Coming disappears, and is replaced by another kind of judgment, that which occurs within the human soul. In John, the Resurrection, the Second Coming, and the gift of the Spirit (Comforter) are made one. In John no mention is made of Jesus' birth, baptism, temptation, transfiguration, agony in the garden, or ascension. Jesus' human qualities disappear, and he moves through the successive scenes of the gospel, perfect master of every situation, until at the end he goes of his own accord to his crucifixion and death.
We must realize that the author wanted to reinterpret the life and death of Jesus in the light of his own belief. He sought to determine the place of Jesus in the spiritual universe and his relations to eternal realities. (John 1:1-18) These were the matters that interested and absorbed him, not what Jesus actually said or did. Although the Fourth Gospel may serve as great devotional material, it cannot be used as a historical, factual source for Jesus' life. (See Edgar J. Goodspeed, Introduction to the New Testament.)
We must depend upon the synoptic Gospels (Mark, Matthew, and Luke) for a historical source of Jesus' life and teachings. The results from theological study of the synoptic Gospels fully support the conclusion that Jesus' original intention was not fulfilled, and that his mission was left uncompleted.
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