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Where Is God’s Church Today?
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Jesus said, “I will build My Church…” There is a single organization that teaches the entire truth of the Bible, and is called to live by “every word of God.” Do you know how to find it? Christ said it would:

  • Teach “all things” He commanded
  • Have called out members set apart by truth
  • Be a “little flock”
About the Author
David C. Pack 

Founder and Pastor General of The Restored Church of God, Editor-in-Chief of The Real Truth magazine, and voice of The World to Come program, David C. Pack has reached many millions around the globe with the most powerful truths of the Bible—unknown to almost all. He has authored 80 books and booklets, personally established over 50 congregations, and appeared as a guest on The History Channel. Mr. Pack attended Ambassador College in Pasadena, California, entered the Worldwide Church of God ministry in 1971, and was personally trained by its founder, Herbert W. Armstrong.

The True Jesus Christ

Unknown to Christianity

by David C. Pack

A single book can change people forever. The True Jesus Christ – Unknown to Christianity does this!

There has never been a book like it!

Bringing God’s perspective, and in plain language, it is based entirely on Scripture, and known facts of history. It examines the life, ministry and teachings of Jesus as never before, and excludes popular tradition, theory and opinion—the usual approach to His life.

Do you understand Jesus’ family life, social environment and the first-century world, as well as how He was both God and Man, what His Coming achieved and the purpose of His triumphant Return? Have you comprehended the long, agonizing hours during which Jesus was illegally arrested, tried, humiliated, tortured and subjected to the worst instrument of execution devised by men? What about His clash with Satan, and how this determined the ultimate destiny of all nations? And what of how that battle is tied to the true gospel, the only message Jesus brought—but so few have heard?

The Bible speaks of “Jesus Christ,” but also warns of “another Jesus.” Almost impossible to believe, nearly all worship the wrong one! How does one know the difference—how do you discern which is which?

In-depth knowledge of the true Jesus Christ is about to enter your view for the first time…

Introduction

Opinions range widely about Who and What was Jesus Christ—as well as what He means in today’s world. But few disagree that He forever changed the course of history and civilization.

In the first century A.D., huge throngs of listeners followed Him in every city, in awe of the powerful miracles He performed and the words He spoke. Demons were cast out. People were raised from the dead. Food was multiplied. People were healed. Myths were shattered. Lives were changed.

Through the centuries, thousands of books, stories, television documentaries, films and even novels have been written and produced about Jesus Christ. Hundreds of thousands of churches have been erected in His name. Millions have claimed to be His ministers. Billions have professed Him “Lord and Savior.”

Today, Jesus is renowned the world over, commonly known in one way or another in every culture of the world, whether one professes to be Christian, atheist, or of any other religion. Many have positive comments about Him, regardless of their beliefs about who He was and what He taught. His name also stirs great controversy and debate.

Yet, despite worldwide recognition—despite billions professing to be His followers—despite all the knowledge circulating about Him—Jesus Christ remains unknown—even to Christianity!

We must ask: Is it possible the central figure of a religion could be unknown to almost all who profess to follow Him? If so, how did this happen?

Popular Views

Many have accepted without question what they have heard, read or were taught throughout their lives about Christ and the teachings He brought. These same people usually vigorously defend their beliefs while feeling no need to examine proof of why they believe what they do—or to consider how they came to such beliefs. Human nature follows the crowd, which follows what is popular.

This has been the case with virtually every one of the widely accepted teachings, traditions and practices of mainstream Christianity. Few are aware—or even care—that these have been taken almost entirely from paganism, false customs and human reasoning—and not from the Bible. Most of the teachings of Christendom have no biblical basis whatsoever—and in many cases Jesus actually commands the exact opposite!

Thus, the Jesus Christ of the Bible has been left out of professing Christianity—unknown to vast millions, hidden in a cloud of deceit, confusion, lies and commonly accepted falsehoods.

What is your view of Jesus? What image does His name evoke? Perhaps you picture a weak, long-haired, sickly-looking man in a flowing white robe. Maybe you think of “baby Jesus” in a manger, with three “wise men” giving Him gifts on December 25. You might think of a figure in a loincloth hanging from a cross with trickles of blood oozing from His side and the crown of thorns piercing His head. Maybe Easter eggs and sunrise services come to mind, or the Christmas season.

You might also envision Jesus standing on a street corner pleading with people to give their hearts to Him. Perhaps you hear Him saying, “Love is everything. Show love to all people and accept Me into your hearts to be saved.” You might also picture Jesus walking through villages giving money to the poor, or saying, “Just believe in Me. Obedience is no longer necessary, nor are works of any kind.”

These and other well-known views of Jesus Christ have been driven into the minds of countless billions over the centuries. Though commonly believed—and they are!—these images and perceptions fail the test of careful biblical and historical examination. The popular, mainstream ideas about the supposed Christ of the Bible and what He taught simply do not measure up to the facts—the largely unassembled facts that have always been available—and you will see proof of this beyond doubt.

Truly Unique

Unlike anything ever produced, The True Jesus Christ – Unknown to Christianity accurately examines the life and teachings of the most influential Person in the history of mankind. It takes you on an extraordinary and gripping journey through the corridors of the life and time of Jesus Christ and correctly answers the greatest questions about Him—straight from the Bible and secular history.

You will learn what only a tiny few have understood.

What did the real Jesus look like? What was His life’s purpose—His ultimate mission? When was He born? Why did He need to die? Has He always existed? What did it mean that He was the prophesied Messiah—the Christ? Did He abolish the Ten Commandments? Was the gospel He preached about Himself—or something else? What did He teach of being born again? Did Jesus teach that Christians should observe the Passover—and, if so, how? What about the observance of other days? Who will rule with Him during the Millennium? What is the kingdom of God? Who is the “another Jesus” of whom the apostle Paul spoke?

All these questions—and many more—are clearly answered in plain, easy-to-understand language. As with some movies, the book returns to certain events, in this case regarding Jesus’ life, bringing occasional repetition where additional points must be made.

The most difficult thing for any person is to admit being wrong. Unlearning false knowledge and learning true knowledge in its place is not easy. This can be a painful, shattering experience. Throw aside all preconceived ideas. Do not permit yourself to discount any of this book’s contents simply because you are accustomed to a particular belief, even one held your entire life. Instead, diligently investigate in the pages of your Bible what is revealed. Be like the Berean Greeks who “received the word [the apostle Paul’s preaching] with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so” (Acts 17:11).

Read the book, including every inset, all the way through the stunning conclusion. Prepare to be surprised—if not shocked—at what you are about to learn! As you read with an open mind, you will have absolutely no doubt the true Jesus Christ is unknown to Christianity!

A narrative style in the early chapters best opens the book…

Chapter One – The Early Years

It started with Mary. She was a young Jewish girl engaged to Joseph, a carpenter. Mary thought she had her life planned: marriage, bearing children, raising a family, growing old together with Joseph, one day enjoying her own grandchildren and perhaps great-grandchildren.

Mary had no hint that she had been selected to experience a monumental, life-changing event, a major step that would be part of the overarching Plan of God, affecting all peoples—past, present and future.

At a point, Mary came face to face with an archangel named Gabriel. He, with Michael and originally Lucifer, is one of three Cherubim named in the Bible. Each archangel has charge over one-third of hundreds of millions of angels (Rev. 12:4; 5:11).

God sent Gabriel to Nazareth, a small town in Galilee, to carry out a special mission. “Hail, you who are highly favored,” he greeted young Mary. “The Lord is with you. Blessed are you among women.”

Mary was familiar with Old Testament accounts of God-fearing men and women who had encountered angels. Now she was standing before such a being. Naturally, she was startled, rendered virtually speechless; after all, God rarely sends angels to appear before human beings.

As Gabriel watched her struggle to find the right words in response, he said, “Fear not, Mary, for you have found favor with God.”

The angel’s words put her at ease—though she was taken aback when she heard the almost impossible to comprehend news: “Behold, you shall conceive in your womb, and bring forth a Son, and shall call His name JESUS. He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto Him the throne of His father David: and He shall reign over the house of Jacob forever; and of His kingdom there shall be no end” (Luke 1:31-33).

For centuries, the house of Judah had suffered under the brutal attacks, conquests and oppression of foreign empires: the Assyrians, the Babylonians, the Persians, the Greeks—and now the Romans. With each generation of the Jewish peoples came a national longing for the long-awaited Messiah, or Christ, which means “anointed.”

“Finally,” Mary thought, “the Messiah will arrive and set things right!” Then she thought deeply within herself: “Christ will be born through my flesh?—How can this be? I have never been with a man.”

Mary was a virgin. Truly the conception and birth of this special Child, who “shall be called the Son of God” (Luke 1:35), would be extraordinary—miraculous—unique in all history.

Gabriel explained that her unique pregnancy would be possible by the power of the Holy Spirit—the same limitless power God used to create and sustain the vast, ever-expanding universe (John 1:1-3; Eph. 3:9; Col. 1:16; Heb. 1:2).

Mary had much to think about. There was Joseph, her fiancé, who expected to marry a virgin: Would he believe Mary’s explanation that her pregnancy was of God? There was her family: Would they think Mary had shamed herself and her family members by being unfaithful to Joseph? And there were her friends, neighbors and peers: Would they conclude that she would give birth to an illegitimate child?

To encourage her, Gabriel announced that Elisabeth, Mary’s cousin, “has also conceived a son in her old age: and this is the sixth month with her, who was called barren. For with God nothing shall be impossible” (Luke 1:36-37).

His words strengthened Mary. She replied, “Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to your word” (vs. 38). No matter what she would encounter from this point forward—even possibly being ostracized by Joseph and all her loved ones—Mary was determined to follow God’s will.

Two Cousins—Two Very Special Pregnancies

Mary stayed with Elisabeth for a while, and learned that her elderly cousin had also encountered Gabriel. First, the archangel appeared to Elisabeth’s husband, Zachariah, telling the priest that his wife would give birth to a son, despite her advanced age and never having borne a child.

Gabriel told the parents they were to name the baby “John,” saying the child “shall be called the prophet of the Highest: for [he] shall go before the face of the Lord to prepare His ways” (Luke 1:76).

Zachariah and Elisabeth would rear John to be set apart for special service to God. For the rest of his life he would abstain from wine or strong alcoholic beverages. Also, John was to be filled with God’s Spirit from the womb (Luke 1:15).

Gabriel explained that John, “in the spirit and power of Elijah” (Luke 1:17), was to “prepare the way before…the Lord” (Mal. 3:1)—Christ’s First Coming. (John’s Elijah ministry would be a forerunner of another man to come centuries later—an end-time Elijah—whose ministry God would use to prepare a people for Christ’s Second Coming.)

Character and Genealogy

Three months later, Mary returned home, not knowing how Joseph would react to her noticeable pregnancy. Joseph, quite naturally, was shocked. As she told of her account with Gabriel and that God had chosen her to give birth to His Son, the Christ, Joseph struggled to control his emotions. As much as he wanted to believe Mary, it was hard for him to accept that she had not been unfaithful to him—that she was somehow a virgin, yet obviously pregnant, and that God was the father of her unborn Child.

How could such a thing possibly be? Joseph must have thought.

According to the custom of the day, an engagement was considered a binding agreement, with the engaged couple viewed as virtually married. Thus, Joseph was considered (by tradition) to be Mary’s “husband” (Matt. 1:18-19), except they were not to engage in sexual relations until after their official wedding ceremony. Seeing that Mary was clearly pregnant and knowing he was not the father, Joseph would have naturally felt betrayed. Legally, it was within his rights to publicly humiliate her.

But Joseph possessed very unusual character, and deeply loved Mary. Instead of calling attention to her alleged adultery, he decided to handle the situation honorably by quietly annulling their agreement to marry.

That night, as Joseph weighed the matter in his mind, Gabriel appeared to him in a dream. The archangel confirmed that Mary had not been unfaithful, and that the Child she carried was of God. Joseph awoke and followed Gabriel’s instruction to take Mary as his wife, not to engage in sexual relations until after she gave birth, and to help her rear Jesus into adulthood.

Since God can turn the hearts of kings and commoners alike to fulfill His great purpose (Ezra 1:1 and 6:22), He could have selected any couple to bear and rear His Son. Yet God chose Mary and Joseph for at least two reasons:

First, God foretold long ago that a Messiah—an anointed King, but also a Savior—would come from the Israelite tribe of Judah, born from the line of King David. Both Mary and Joseph were Jews, descended from David; through their genealogy, Jesus could confirm that He descended from the Davidic bloodline both physically (through His mother) and legally (through His human father, who was Jesus’ legal guardian).

Second, though Mary and Joseph were not perfect, they were people of honor and character. Adultery and all other forms of promiscuity were common—yet Mary saved her virginity for her future husband. Also, rather than rebelling against God, she submitted to His will, despite the rumors and whisperings of being an unwed mother. And Joseph, despite initially presuming the love of his life had been unfaithful to him, acted honorably instead of with public indignation (Matt. 1:19).

Jesus’ Birth: Separating Fact from Fiction

Most people are, to varying degrees, familiar with the story about Joseph and a now full-term pregnant Mary journeying to Bethlehem, a small village just outside Jerusalem, to register in an empire-wide census decreed by Rome. According to the account, the couple arrived to find Bethlehem filled with visitors from the region, leaving the young couple without a place to stay at the local inn. Ever resourceful, Joseph and Mary decided to temporarily stay in a stable, where the young mother supposedly gave birth to Jesus on December 25.

Then shepherds out in the fields and pastures witnessed a stunning supernatural event—a great star in the heavens—a sign that the Christ Child was born. Also, a supposed three “wise men” from the East came to Bethlehem to honor Jesus. Herod, Rome’s client king over Judea, felt threatened by Jesus’ existence. Since he could not find the Child, Herod decided to massacre all baby boys that were estimated to be Jesus’ age.

Or so went the account, which grew over the centuries, weaving chapters from the Bible with Christmas myths originating from Babylonian mystery religions practiced by idol worshippers since the tower of Babel! To understand the events surrounding Jesus Christ’s birth and His early years, we must separate fact from fiction.

First, despite what billions today believe, Jesus was not born on December 25, or even in winter. He was, in all likelihood, born in early autumn.

The Adam Clarke Commentary, volume 5, page 370, New York edition, states this: “It was custom among Jews to send out their sheep to the deserts about the Passover [early spring], and bring them home at the commencement of the first rain.” The first rains began in early to mid-fall.

Continuing with this same quote: “During the time they were out, the shepherds watched them night and day. As…the first rain began early in the month of [Heshvan], which answers to part of our October and November [begins sometime in October], we find that the sheep were kept out in the open country during the whole summer. And as these shepherds had not yet brought home their flocks, it is a presumptive argument that October had not yet commenced, and that, consequently, our Lord was not born on the 25th of December, when no flocks were out in the fields; nor could He have been born later than September, as the flocks were still in the fields by night. On this very ground, the nativity in December should be given up. The feeding of the flocks by night in the fields is a chronological fact…See the quotations from the Talmudists in Lightfoot.”

Luke 2:8 explains that when Christ was born “there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.” Note that they were “abiding” in the field. This could not have happened in December, or even close. Both Ezra 10:9-13 and the Song of Solomon 2:11 show that winter was the rainy season, and shepherds could not reside in cold, open fields at night.

Numerous encyclopedias plainly state that Jesus was not born on December 25. Even The Catholic Encyclopedia confirms this!

Then from where did the festival associated with this date originate?

Read the following quote from the Encyclopaedia Britannica, under “Christmas”: “In the Roman world, the Saturnalia (December 17) was a time of merrymaking and exchanging of gifts. December 25 was also regarded as the birthdate of the Iranian mystery god Mithra, the Sun of Righteousness. On the Roman New Year (January 1), houses were decorated with greenery and lights, and gifts were given to children and the poor. To these observances were added the German and Celtic Yule rites when the Teutonic tribes penetrated into Gaul, Britain and central Europe. Food and good fellowship, the Yule log and Yule cakes, greenery and fir trees, gifts and greetings all commemorated different aspects of this festive season. Fires and lights, symbols of warmth and lasting life, have always been associated with the winter festival, both pagan and Christian” (15th Edit. Vol. II, p. 903).

Next is a quote from the December 1984 Toronto Star article: “We owe a lot to Druids, Dutch,” by Alan Edmonds: “The Reformation cast a blight on Christmas. By then, of course, clever ecclesiastical politicians had adopted the pagan mid-winter festival as the alleged birthdate of Jesus, of Nazareth, and thrown in a few other pagan goodies to make their takeover more palatable.”

Why Late December?

Understand. December 25 was not selected because it was the birth of Jesus Christ or because it was near that date. It was selected entirely because the 25th of December coincided with the idolatrous pagan festival Saturnalia!

In any event, we do not know the exact date of Jesus’ birth (though in all likelihood, He was born in the fall). While God certainly could have made it clearly known, He chose to hide it from the world’s eyes.

For years, the birth of Jesus has been shrouded in the pagan trappings of Christmas, whose traditions and practices predate Christ’s earthly ministry by thousands of years!

Billions around the world exchange gifts with each other every December 25, believing they are following the “three wise men’s” custom of giving birthday gifts to Jesus. Yet the “three wise men” of the Xmas myth are called “magi” in the Bible, magicians from the East. Scripture does not specify how many visited Jesus. Also, the magi gave gifts to the Christ Child out of respect and royal tradition: They acknowledged Him to be a king, and thus treated Him as such, practicing the custom of giving gifts to a royal ruler. These were in no sense birthday gifts. By the time the magi visited Jesus, He and His parents were no longer in the stable. They were in a house, and the Bible refers to Christ as a “young child” (Matt. 2:8, 11), not a baby. Much time had passed between Jesus’ birth and the magi’s visit. This is why Herod slaughtered all baby boys up to two years old—it was not evident to him how many years had passed since Jesus had been born!

When we separate fact from fiction—that is, biblical truth from the lies and deceits of pagan myth and legend—we get a better, much clearer view of the true Jesus Christ!

Christ’s Ministry—Almost Entirely Overlooked Purpose

When the magi asked Herod, “Where is He that is born King of the Jews? For we have seen His star in the east, and are come to worship Him” (Matt. 2:1-2), Herod “was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him” (vs. 3).

Why? Herod learned from the Jewish religious leaders that Christ was foretold to be born in Bethlehem—this came from God’s Word. You would think that Herod and “all Jerusalem with him” would be excited over the news, not “troubled.”

Herod and the religious authorities of the day felt threatened by Christ’s existence—why?

The story of Jesus Christ’s miraculous conception and birth is known worldwide and has been taught from generation to generation for nearly 2,000 years. But what did it mean? What was its true significance?

The Bible identifies Jesus in His pre-existence before human birth as “the Word,” an eternal, all-knowing, all-powerful God-being who “was with God, and…was God” (John 1:1). “And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us” (vs. 14)—He voluntarily lowered Himself to become limited, corruptible flesh, subject to weariness and death.

Why?

The varying and competing denominations, sects, arms, churches and movements of professing Christianity preach that Jesus came to save the whole world. “For God so loved the world,” their pastors, teachers and religionists frequently recite, “that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16).

Even those who have never opened a Bible are familiar with the biblical account in the book of Genesis, in which Adam and Eve ate forbidden fruit, thus cutting themselves off from the utopian Garden of Eden—and more importantly, from the One who created it: God.

Subsequently, every man, woman and child for the past 6,000 years has had at least one thing in common: “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23). “All” means ALL—not “some,” not “most.” Every human being—even Noah, Abraham, Moses, Job, Daniel and other righteous, faithful servants of God—has sinned.

But what is sin?

Sin Defined

The leaders and instructors of the world’s two billion-plus professing Christians talk almost endlessly about sin—more accurately, they talk around sin, freely promoting their own interpretation and personal opinion of what sin is—yet they do not stand before their listeners, open their Bibles and read aloud I John 3:4—“Whosoever commits sin transgresses also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law.

Grasp this important biblical truth!

Sin is the breaking of the Law—God’s Law, which is “holy, and the commandment holy, and just, and good” (Rom. 7:12) and is “spiritual” (vs. 14). Religionists preach a message of “Come as you are,” shamelessly proclaiming that “Jesus did away with the Law” and has removed “the terrible burden of keeping it.”

Yet the Word of God—“quick [living], and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword” (Heb. 4:12) and “cannot be broken” (John 10:35)—declares the opposite: “For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments: and His commandments are not grievous” (I John 5:3). But many believe they are!

Breaking even one of God’s commandments earns the offender the same penalty as breaking all of them. Notice: “For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all. For He that said, Do not commit adultery, said also, Do not kill. Now if you commit no adultery, yet if you kill, you are become a transgressor of the law” (Jms. 2:10-11).

The penalty of sin—the wages that one earns for breaking God’s Law—is plainly defined: “For the wages of sin is death” (Rom. 6:23). Some critics have sought to rationalize this verse. “This doesn’t literally mean death,” they claim. “It means being cut off from God.”

Yet God declares that man is already cut off from Him! Notice: “Behold, the Lord’s hand is not shortened, that it cannot save; neither His ear heavy, that it cannot hear: But your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid His face from you, that He will not hear” (Isa. 59:1-2).

Because of sin, of lawlessness, humanity is already separated from God. Death is the ultimate state of being cut off from our Maker. This is twice reiterated in the Old Testament: “The soul that sins, it shall die” (Ezek. 18:4, 20).

There are two ways to satisfy the wages of breaking the laws of God:

(A) One can die for his own sins and thus pay the penalty. But there is the obvious problem: Once a sinner is dead, he stays dead.

(B) Someone can die in that person’s stead. However, the rest of Ezekiel 18, verse 20, shows that a human being cannot pay for the sins of others; each person can only pay for his or her own transgressions.

It takes the death of a supreme, innocent, eternal God-being to satisfy the penalty for the sins of all human beings—past, present and future.

Humanity needed a Savior!

Christ’s Pre-existence

Read the full context of what the apostle John wrote: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God” (John 1:1-2). Two divine Beings, both called God.

In Genesis 1:26, it was God—Elohim, a uniplural term in the original Hebrew, indicating more than one were present—who said, “Let Us make man in Our image, after Our likeness.” So few seem to notice the three plural pronouns.

Through the Word, “All things were made…and without Him was not anything made that was made” (John 1:3)—“For by Him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by Him, and for Him” (Col. 1:16).

The Word voluntarily decided to be born of a woman, to become God in the flesh. Because He was the Supreme Creator, His divine life far out-valued His creation. And because He was physical—subject to pulls of the flesh—He was capable of committing sin. Yet if He never strayed, never broke God’s laws, as a God-Being in the flesh, He could offer His sinless, innocent life as the ultimate and perfect sacrifice.

Man would have a Savior.

Incomplete Emphasis

But human beings, who love to go to extremes, focus almost exclusively on Jesus’ role as Savior—and ignore that He was born to be a king! False religious leaders, whether knowingly or unknowingly, assert that Christ’s role as Savior is the “climax of the plan of God for humanity.”

This is not the climax—it is the beginning of God’s Plan and purpose for mankind. A Divine Savior is necessary for sins to be forgiven, for people’s lives to be wiped clean, no longer under the penalty of death. Yet religionists and theologians leap to the conclusion that “the forgiveness of sin will solve man’s problems.” The trends, problems, troubles and ills saturated throughout man’s governments and societies will not suddenly disappear if everyone simply said, “I accept Jesus as my Savior,” and asked God to forgive their sins.

Something else must take place, and Christ set the pattern to follow: One must conform to the laws and ways of the kingdom of God. Throughout His earthly ministry, Jesus preached the gospel of the kingdom of God. He was sent to qualify to replace Satan as world ruler. Upon His Second Coming, Christ will establish God’s government on the earth to rule all nations. During His First Coming, Jesus represented God’s kingdom and instructed all whom His Father would call (John 6:44). He taught them how to obey the gospel (Rom. 10:16; II Thes. 1:8; I Pet. 4:17)—to come out of the world’s ways and become ambassadors of God’s government of peace, following Christ’s command to “Be you therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect” (Matt. 5:48). Of course, all of these things require discussion in greater detail as the book develops.

Remember, Gabriel told Mary that God would give her Son “the throne of His father David: and He shall reign over the house of Jacob forever; and of His kingdom there shall be no end” (Luke 1:32-33).

At the end of His ministry, Jesus said before Pilate, “My kingdom [government] is not of this world” (John 18:36). When asked by Pilate if He were a king, Christ responded, “You say that I am a king. To this end was I born, and for this cause [reason] came I into the world” (vs. 37).

This was foretold in the book of Isaiah: “For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given: and the government shall be upon His shoulder: and His Name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, The Mighty God, The Everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace. Of the increase of His government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even forever” (9:6-7).

For this reason, Herod and “all Jerusalem with him” were troubled. They feared losing their positions of civil and religious leadership that Rome permitted them to enjoy. They were also fearful of how the Roman Empire would react to the appearance of a “rival king” claiming rulership over Judea. Yet these carnal minds did not understand that Christ would not set up His kingdom from Jerusalem in their lifetimes.

Jesus Christ was born into humble circumstances, yet His life and ministry lays the groundwork for man’s incredible future and potential!

Chapter Two – The Missing Years

When most people think of Jesus Christ’s time on Earth as a human being, they think either of a dead Savior hanging from a cross or a helpless baby lying in a manger.

Few picture a growing, energetic boy who played games with His childhood friends and performed household chores. Few imagine God-in-the-flesh—a Man who sweated as He eagerly labored in His human father’s profession. Who may have had to diplomatically rebuff peer pressure from family and friends to get married and start a family—or to participate in any other activities that would have thwarted His supreme Purpose. Who freely laughed and expressed a good sense of humor. Who was unafraid to shed tears in empathy for others. Who enjoyed delicious food and drink, and life in general, yet always with perfect moderation.

Jesus was real—He felt, He spoke, He observed, worked, ate and breathed. He was both Man and God, physical yet divine. During His 33½ years of human existence, Christ experienced life as a baby, then a toddler, boy, teenager and young adult, into manhood. God inspired Matthew, Mark, Luke and John to record the details of Jesus’ 3½-year ministry. Yet, when it comes to His early years, from ages 12 to 30, the Bible reveals very little.

Some, relying on human reasoning and theory, have invented stories about these “lost” years. One tells of a young Jesus learning the mystic arts in Egypt. Another tale has Him journeying across the Atlantic Ocean to preach to the American Indians, who some believe to be the “lost ten tribes” of Israel. But these or other fictional stories are not supported by the Bible.

Scripture gives a few details about Christ’s boyhood and coming of age years—and we should not be surprised. For example, God’s Word provides only a basic outline, along with a few highlights, of the Pre-Flood World, a 2,000-year period from Adam to Noah in which hundreds of thousands—perhaps even millions—of people had lived.

Psalm 12:6 states, “The words of the Lord are pure words: as silver tried in a furnace of earth, purified seven times.” The Bible says exactly what God wants it to say, and the Creator wants human beings, His creation, to focus on the things He requires us to know.

While we cannot know every event that occurred on Christ’s path from adolescence to adulthood, we can piece together certain scriptures, along with history and the traditions of the time, to capture a broad yet clear view of Jesus’ early life. As we do, we will see God’s overarching two-fold Purpose for His Son’s First Coming.

Wrong Expectations

God sent an angel to warn Joseph in a dream that Herod the Great sought to murder the Christ Child (Matt. 2:13). Joseph quickly followed God’s instruction to gather Mary and little Jesus, and take refuge in Egypt, which was outside of Herod’s legal jurisdiction. They returned to Judea after Herod’s death, thus fulfilling the prophecy of Hosea 11:1, in which God said that He “called My Son out of Egypt.”

The Jews, reading Micah 5:2, expected the Messiah to publicly appear from Bethlehem: “But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of you shall He come forth unto Me that is to be Ruler in Israel; whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting.”

However, God had other plans. Though His Son was born in Bethlehem, God chose to rear Him in a place most people least expected: Nazareth, in Galilee, Joseph and Mary’s hometown.

The name “Nazareth” means “separated, crowned, sanctified” and “the guarded one.” Easton’s 1897 The Bible Dictionary describes the town as being “situated among the southern ridges of Lebanon, on the steep slope of a hill, about 14 miles from the Sea of Galilee and about six west from Mount Tabor…The main road for traffic between Egypt and the interior of Asia passed by Nazareth near the foot of Tabor, and thence northward to Damascus.”

The people of Judea, especially citizens of Jerusalem, looked down upon the Galileans, whom they viewed as socially unsophisticated—in effect, “backwoods” people. But God declares, “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways…For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts” (Isa. 55:8-9).

Although the Messiah was foretold to come from Nazareth, when Christ’s ministry began, His Galilee upbringing still became a stumbling block for many in “cosmopolitan” Jerusalem. (See John 1:45-46 and 7:40-42.) Of the many that God would call, only a few would look past physical appearances and social backgrounds and appreciate the hidden treasure (Matt. 13:44) of truth in Christ’s teachings.

Dynamics of Family Life

Jesus had four younger brothers—James, Joses, Simon and Judas—and at least two sisters (Matt. 13:55-56; Mark 6:3). While all of the seven or more siblings were born from the same mother, Jesus’ brothers and sisters were from the union of Mary and Joseph.

After Gabriel first appeared to Joseph in a dream, “Joseph being raised from sleep did as the angel of the Lord had bidden him, and took unto him his wife: and knew her not [did not engage in sexual relations] till she had brought forth her firstborn Son” (Matt. 1:24-25). Joseph married Mary, but did not have marital relations with her until after Jesus was born.

This and other passages disprove the popular—yet unscriptural—tradition of Mary’s “perpetual virginity.” This false doctrine originated from pagan beliefs of various idol-worshipping mystery religions, tracing all the way back to Nimrod and the tower of Babel.

The “perpetual virginity” belief—which falsely teaches that Jesus’ mother “must” have been sinless and perfect for her to give birth to the Son of God—only serves to blur Mary’s true purpose, and elevates her to a godlike status. Today, a billion-plus professing Christians have been deceived into praying to Mary for her intercession in their lives—when it is Christ who is the Mediator between God and man (I Tim. 2:5; Heb. 8:6; 9:15; 12:24).

As do siblings in other families, Jesus’ little brothers and sisters looked up to their big Brother. When they fell into mischief (as little ones tend to do), Jesus was there to set the right example.

Nonetheless, growing up in Joseph and Mary’s household was far from being picture perfect. Wherever there is flesh, there is human nature (Rom. 8:7). Galatians 5:19-21 lists the “works of the flesh”—the natural tendencies of man’s nature. These include “hatred [enmity, hostility, antagonism], variance [quarrel, strife, discord], emulations [jealousy, zealous ill will toward others], wrath [fury, rage, anger], strife [selfish ambition, faction], seditions [division, dissension]” and “envyings.” In a family of at least six siblings, one can expect some degree of rivalry, jealousy and strife during the formative years.

The young Jesus knew He had to rise above this, yet at the same time not allow Himself to fall into self-righteousness. He rejected the pulls and pressures of the flesh, society and Satan, and—being full of God’s Spirit from the womb—actively exercised the power of God to produce the evident fruit of “love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance [self-control]” (vs. 22-23). Jesus was balanced in all things. He had to be—He could not afford to sin, not even once!

No doubt Joseph and Mary told their children on more than one occasion to behave. Perhaps they may have occasionally added, “You should be more like your brother Jesus.” It is likely Jesus’ balanced, good-natured approach to life may have led a brother or sister to feel jealousy or resentment toward Him, as Cain did toward Abel. Carnal nature has a way of accusing the innocent of wrongdoing.

It is not uncommon for a child to receive blame, even punishment, for wrongs he or she did not commit. Sometimes a brother will falsely accuse another, or allow his sister to take the blame for something that was not her fault. Injustices happen in families—and they probably happened to Jesus. If He were wrongly punished, He would not have sought revenge. He allowed injustice to develop and strengthen Him, to keep Him humble.

Such moments served to reinforce in Jesus the patience described in James 1:2-4, defined as “hopeful, cheerful endurance.” It is this godly, patient endurance that builds up holy, righteous character that is “perfect and entire, wanting nothing.”

Christ was the One who inspired the apostle Peter to write, “Servants, be subject to your masters with all fear; not only to the good and gentle, but also to the froward. For this is thankworthy, if a man for conscience toward God endure grief, suffering wrongfully. For what glory is it, if, when you be buffeted for your faults, you shall take it patiently? But if, when you do well, and suffer for it, you take it patiently, this is acceptable with God.

“For even hereunto were you called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps: Who did no sin, neither was guile found in His mouth: Who, when He was reviled, reviled not again; when He suffered, He threatened not; but committed Himself to Him that judges righteously” (I Pet. 2:18-23).

Jesus did not just teach the Way of God—He lived it!

At the Temple

Consider: Mary saving her virginity until marriage. The integrity and mercy Joseph displayed when he thought his fiancé had been unfaithful. Circumcising their Baby on the eighth day (Luke 2:21-24), as instructed in the Old Testament. Clearly, Joseph and Mary feared and worshipped God, and they reared Jesus in a loving, God-fearing, religious household.

As with other Jewish families, they traveled to Jerusalem each spring to observe the Passover season at the Temple (vs. 41). It was an annual pilgrimage that required faith, since their caravan of family, extended family, friends and perhaps acquaintances had to travel through dangerous secluded regions where marauding thieves roamed.

When Jesus was age 12, there was a mix-up: on the return home from the Temple, Joseph and Mary discovered that Jesus was missing. They had assumed He was among the caravan in the company of relatives or friends—but Jesus could not be found.

“The caravan has already traveled a day’s journey from Jerusalem,” Mary said to her husband. “By the time we reach the city, Jesus will have wandered around on His own for two full days!”

Joseph tried to console her, but she said, “He’s only a boy! What is He going to do for food? What if something bad happens to Him?”

Joseph comforted her with reassuring words: “Don’t worry. It will all work out.”

Jesus’ parents returned to Jerusalem and searched the streets for their little Boy for a full day, until they eventually found Jesus where they had last seen Him: in the Temple. Joseph and Mary were amazed to find Jesus “sitting in the midst of the doctors [scholars of the Law], both hearing them, and asking them questions” (vs. 46). Here was the Son of God, a 12-year-old, surrounded by some of the world’s foremost scholars and experts of the Scriptures—“and all that heard Him were astonished at His understanding and answers” (vs. 47).

From the time that He was born, Jesus “grew, and waxed strong in spirit, filled with wisdom: and the grace of God was upon Him” (vs. 40).

Her Son being missing for three days brought mixed emotions for Mary: fear, worry, helplessness, sorrow, and—after she found her Firstborn safe, calm and without a hint of anxiety on His part—a touch of anger. “Son, why have You thus dealt with us?” she demanded. “Behold, Your father and I have sought You sorrowing” (vs. 48).

The preteen calmly replied, “How is it that you sought Me? Know you not that I must be about My Father’s business?” (vs. 49). Jesus had never been irresponsible nor did anything that would have shamed the family. Mary and Joseph knew this. Being a responsible Child, Jesus stayed at the Temple where He would be safe and where He naturally expected His parents to find Him.

Joseph and Mary were aware that Jesus was a special Child, brought into physical existence to fulfill incredible and pivotal roles. In staying at the Temple, Jesus was already preparing Himself for His future ministry, even though it would not start for another 18 years. From a young age, Christ’s life was focused on doing His “Father’s business,” also thought of and known as the Work of God.

Throughout millennia, all of God’s servants have had a part in doing God’s Work. That same Work exists today. The Restored Church of God is preaching and publishing the gospel of the kingdom of God “in all the world for a witness unto all nations” (Matt. 24:14; Mark 13:10), and in feeding, protecting, instructing and leading Christ’s sheepfold, the New Testament Church (John 21:15-17; I Pet. 5:1-4).

Though Joseph and Mary did not seem to fully grasp His future responsibilities (Luke 2:50), Jesus did not allow Himself to feel self-important. He humbled Himself and obediently submitted to their parental authority (vs. 51)—despite being the One who created the earth, moon, sun, stars and everything else in the universe! Christ understood that to someday wield authority one must first learn to respect authority.

“And,” as He walked meekly through boyhood, “Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man” (vs. 52).

Understanding the Plan of God

From His youth, Jesus Christ was well acquainted with the Law of God—His commandments, statutes, precepts and judgments. He should have been, since it was He Who, as the Rock of the Old Testament (I Cor. 10:4), declared the Ten Commandments to Israel from atop Mt. Sinai! Being God, Jesus was also well acquainted with the customs and traditions of the Jews, their origins and how they had developed. He knew which ones to honor and how to properly approach them—and which ones to reject.

For example, Jesus kept the yearly spring and fall Holy Days. His observance of them was far more than just a formality of Jewish tradition. As the One who instituted these millennia earlier among His people, Christ knew the significance of His annual Sabbaths and festivals, for they each represent a step in the fulfillment of God’s great Plan of Salvation:

Passover: On this day God provided the perfect sacrifice to remove all sin: the shed blood and death of Jesus Christ, “our Passover…sacrificed for us” (I Cor. 5:7).

To be born into the kingdom of God, one must first have his or her sins forgiven and be released from the penalty of death.

The Days of Unleavened Bread: This seven-day festival pictures Christ’s followers removing pride, vanity and the way of sin—“the leaven of malice and wickedness” (vs. 8)—replacing these with “the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth” (same verse), which is God’s Law (Psa. 119:142) and Word (Matt. 4:4; John 17:17), the Holy Bible.

God uses the number seven as a sign of perfection. The seven-day Feast of Unleavened Bread pictures the lifelong process of removing sin from one’s life, to “Be you therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect” (Matt. 5:48).

To be born into God’s kingdom, one must live according to the laws governing that kingdom.

The Feast of Firstfruits: Also known as Pentecost, this is the day Christ started the New Testament Church. From righteous Abel down through millennia to John the Baptist, only a few individuals have had the privilege of receiving the Holy Spirit—the awesome power and divine nature of God.

Yet on Pentecost in A.D. 31, God offered His Spirit to thousands, those whom He called to “come out of” (Rev. 18:4) the ways and pagan customs of this “present evil world [age]” (Gal. 1:4)—to become members of the Body of Christ, the Church of God (Col. 1:18) and the New Testament Temple of the Lord (II Cor. 6:16). Without this Spirit actively at work—converting the thoughts and desires of man to develop into holy, righteous, godly character—“the carnal mind is enmity [hostile] against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be. So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God” (Rom. 8:7-8).

For the past 2,000 years, the Father has been sowing “firstfruit”—­spirit-begotten sons who, after having developed His perfect character within them, will be “raised in glory…in power” and “a spiritual body” (I Cor. 15:43-44), inheriting eternal life in the kingdom of God upon Christ’s Second Coming. At that time, God’s firstfruits will rule under Christ as kings and priests—­Spirit-born leaders, judges and teachers who will assist Christ in preparing the rest of humanity for achieving its awesome potential!

To inherit the kingdom of God, one must have God’s Spirit in him: “For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God…The Spirit itself bears witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God: and if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with Him, that we may be also glorified together” (Rom. 8:14, 16-17).

The Feast of Trumpets: This pictures the triumphant day when Jesus Christ returns as “KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS” (Rev. 19:16) to establish the government of God and rule all nations. Also notice: “Behold, the Lord comes with ten thousands of His saints, to execute judgment upon all, and to convince all that are ungodly among them of all their ungodly deeds which they have ungodly committed, and of all their hard speeches which ungodly sinners have spoken against Him” (Jude 14-15).

Those whom God calls now have been granted an opportunity to qualify for eternal life and rulership—to be resurrected into spirit beings at Christ’s Return (I Cor. 15:50-54; I Thes. 4:15-17) and reign with Him in administering God’s government throughout the earth (Rev. 5:10; 20:6).

The Day of Atonement: On this day, the collective sins of mankind will be placed on the originator of carnal nature: Satan the devil, who, for the past almost 6,000 years, as the “prince of the power of the air” (Eph. 2:2), has broadcast every sick, vile, perverse attitude, motive and thought imaginable. With man’s sins placed on him, the devil—and his demons—will be cast by God into the bottomless pit, where they can no longer influence humanity. Finally, man will be at one with his Maker (“atonement” means “at-one-ment”), ready to come under the merciful dominion of God’s supergovernment.

The Feast of Tabernacles: Next is the 1,000-year Reign of Christ, during which He will rule over the wonderful world to come! No more wars—no violence of any kind. No more divorce, adultery, fornication or split families. People will learn to live God’s Way of give—the way of helping, cooperation, teamwork—as opposed to Satan’s way of get—cutthroat competition, stealing, robbing. The terror, despair and insecurity of this modern age will be replaced by true joy, prosperity and security—the fruit of diligently observing God’s Law.

Those whom God calls now celebrate the Feast of Tabernacles each fall—which is a foretaste of an incredible age, to be ruled by God’s kingdom, that is just over the horizon!

The Last Great Day: God will bring back to life every man, woman and child who ever died, described in Ezekiel 37:1-14, Revelation 20:12-13 and Isaiah 65:17-25.

Verse 20 states, “There shall be no more thence an infant of days, nor an old man that has not filled his days: for the child shall die an hundred years old; but the sinner being an hundred years old shall be accursed.” Apparently, mankind will experience a 100-year period of judgment—a lifetime of learning to reject one’s carnal nature and wholeheartedly submitting to God’s will.

Today, God is judging His firstfruits, those He calls now: “For the time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God…” (I Pet. 4:17).

God will judge the rest of humanity after Christ’s millennial rule. Those few called now and the many billions called later will be given an opportunity to qualify for eternal life in His kingdom.

Unlike His contemporaries, Jesus knew the true purpose of the annual Holy Days. They outline the steps by which man can attain his ultimate destiny.

Sadly, very few people today observe these days, believing they were “only for the Jews” and popular teaching that “Jesus did away with them.” As a result, few understand God’s Plan of salvation for mankind.

What Did Jesus Look Like?

For hundreds of years, artists have used their vivid imaginations to illustrate what Jesus looked like as a man. But in doing so, they err in two ways. Some little space will be taken to clarify this.

First, creating illustrations of Jesus breaks the Second Commandment (Ex. 20:4-6; Deut. 5:8-10).

Second, artistic renditions of Christ’s image depict Him as deathly thin, with long hair, soft, effeminate features, and a sentimental, sanctimonious look in His eyes. This is the common portrayal of Jesus found in paintings across the world, which started appearing on the scene hundreds of years after Jesus’ death.

While common as daylight, this depiction is simply not historically accurate on a number of fronts. It should be noted that the New Testament does not explicitly describe what Jesus looked like, and no eyewitness drawings of Him have ever been found. That said, Jesus Christ was Jewish, and as such would have looked like any other Jewish man of His time.

In a 2004 Reuters article, physical anthropologist Joe Zias, who has studied hundreds of skeletons found in Jerusalem, stated, “Jesus didn’t have long hair. Jewish men back in antiquity did not have long hair.”

If Jesus did have long hair, contrary to the accepted style of the time, He would have stood out in a crowd like a sore thumb. Yet on multiple occasions, Jesus managed to slip away amongst the masses and hide from His enemies, who wholeheartedly sought to kill Him (Luke 4:30; John 8:59; 10:39). This would have been most difficult to do if He had been the only man with long hair. Jesus was able to flee because He was an ordinary-looking Jewish man, not a long-haired “exception to the rule.”

Consider the account of Judas’ betrayal of Jesus in the book of Mark: “And he [Judas] that betrayed Him had given them a token [sign], saying, Whomsoever I shall kiss, that same is He; take Him, and lead Him away safely [securely]. And as soon as he was come, he went straightway to Him, and said, Master, Master; and kissed Him. And they laid their hands on Him, and took Him” (14:44-46).

If Jesus had long hair, would it have been necessary for Judas to use a special sign—a kiss—to betray Jesus to His enemies? Of course not. The scribes, chief priests and legionnaires would have easily spotted a singular long-haired person—a kiss would not have been required.

Though not in an obvious way, a particularly strong indication of Jesus’ hair length is given in the Bible, in I Corinthians 11:14. The apostle Paul states, “Does not even nature itself teach you, that, if a man have long hair, it is a shame unto him?” The Greek word for “shame” means disgrace, dishonor, reproach, vile. These are strong words! No doubt, Paul and some of the people to whom he was writing would have seen Jesus face-to-face, or at least heard descriptions of His appearance, including His hair length.

We might ask: Would an individual (Paul) who proclaimed to be an apostle of Jesus Christ make such a statement about hair length if Jesus had long hair? This would seem most foolish for Paul to do. It would have been a blatant contradiction, and would have probably incited anger or at least bewilderment from those in the Corinth congregation.

Further confirming that Jesus did not have long hair is a wall painting that was erected after Jerusalem was captured in A.D. 70 to celebrate Rome’s victory. It pictures Jewish men with short hair being taken into captivity.

An article in the December 2002 issue of Popular Mechanics, titled “The Real Face of Jesus,” also challenged the commonly held view of Jesus’ appearance. The article opens: “From the time Christian children settle into Sunday school classrooms, an image of Jesus Christ is etched into their minds. In North America he is most often depicted as being taller than his disciples, lean, with long, flowing, light brown hair, fair skin and light-colored eyes.

“Familiar though this image may be, it is inherently flawed. A person with these features and physical bearing would have looked very different from everyone else in the region where Jesus lived and ministered.”

The article continues: “Using methods similar to those police have developed to solve crimes, British scientists, assisted by Israeli archeologists, have re-created what they believe is the most accurate image of the most famous face in history.”

Using modern technology, this team recreated a face that appears nothing like traditional artist renderings.

Until about the age of 30, Jesus was a carpenter. The building trade of that time involved strenuous, back-breaking labor. Those who worked in this field were required to move and lift heavy stone (carpenters were also stonemasons at that time) and lumber without power tools or mechanical digging equipment of any kind. Week after week, Jesus cut down trees, hauled lumber and giant rocks, and constructed buildings.

Due to working in such an environment, Jesus would have been a rugged, physically fit, masculine-looking man. And He would have worn durable, practical clothing, which would have helped Him to blend in with the crowd, indistinguishable from the common “blue-collar” fisherman with whom He associated. This was another reason He needed to be identified with a kiss when arrested. Also, since Jesus spent most of His time under the Mediterranean sun, His skin would have been tanned—not pale and even chalky as Christendom portrays.

Only a strong, physically fit human being could have survived being severely scourged (Mark 15:15) and fasting 40 days (Matt. 4:1-2), as Jesus did.

The above article also stated, “From analysis of skeletal remains, archeologists had firmly established that the average build of a Semite male at the time of Jesus was 5 ft. 1 in., with an average weight of about 110 pounds. Since Jesus worked outdoors as a carpenter until he was about 30 years old, it is reasonable to assume he was more muscular and physically fit than westernized portraits suggest.”

Ultimately, if we think about Christ’s appearance at all, we ought to think, in general terms, about how He looks today. Inspired by God, the apostle John in Revelation described Jesus’ present appearance: “His head and His hairs were white like wool, as white as snow; and His eyes were as a flame of fire” (1:14).

Under a Nazarite Vow?

Many have been taught that Jesus had long hair because, they claim, He was a “Nazarite”—but what does the Bible say about this?

History shows that the practice of men wearing short hair has been around for a long time—much longer than most realize. At the time Jesus lived, it was the accepted and general custom. For proof, all one need do is pick up any illustrated history book relating to the period. You will find pictures of busts and statues of famous Greeks and Romans of Christ’s time. In every case, the men are portrayed with short hair similar to what we find today.

Two excellent books that one may reference are A History of the Holy Land (Michael Avi-Yonah, editor) and Daniel to Paul (Gaalyahu Cornfeld, editor). On pages 126 to 127 of the former, you will find pictures of the busts of Roman leaders, such as Augustus, Pompey, and one believed to be Herod. Each has short hair. As a matter of fact, all the carvings and statues of the Roman legionnaires show them as having closely cropped hair. Motion pictures involving stories of this period always portray men with short hair. It would have been quite an oddity for a Roman man to wear his hair long. It used to be the same for all men in our society. The reality is that before, during and after the time of Christ, every Roman emperor from Julius Caesar to Trajan had short hair. And it was the emperor who set the pattern in style and mode of dress for the entire empire.

The Hellenistic Greek culture dominated the Eastern Mediterranean area, influencing Judea before the Romans came on the scene. Quite a large segment of the Jewish population spoke the Greek language and had a Hellenistic view in the time of Christ. (Notice John 12:20 and Acts 6:1.) The style of hair for men of this culture was to wear it short (Cornfeld, pp. 15, 146).

You will find on page 146 of the book Daniel to Paul a picture showing a “marble statuette of an unidentified man of the Hellenistic period—a time of close contacts between the Jewish and Hellenistic civilizations in thought, art, and everyday life. Whether Jewish or Gentile, he evokes his age and environment.” The man shown in the picture of this statuette had short hair. From the comment made by the author, an historian and archaeologist, it is clear that he could not tell if the man was a Jew or a Gentile. Why? Because throughout the Near-Eastern region, the styles were the same—including short hair on men.

Some argue that those Jews who did not have a Hellenistic view may have worn their hair long. However, in the anti-Hellenistic Jewish Talmud is the instruction that every thirty days, all the priests should cut their hair. Why this instruction if they grew their hair long? These priests were well aware of Ezekiel 44:20: “Neither shall they shave their heads, nor suffer their locks to grow long.” God intended that the priests set the example for the rest of the community (Mal. 2:7). Further examination of the Talmud reveals that the hairstyle was “Julian,” or what would be called “a Caesar cut” (Sanhedrin 22b).

Did Jesus Have Brothers and Sisters?

There is a common misconception that Jesus Christ was an only child. In particular, the Catholic Church teaches that it was impossible for Jesus to have brothers and sisters because of the supposed “perpetual virginity” of His mother, Mary.

Yet, Matthew 13:54-56 (NKJV) states, “When He had come to His own country, He taught them in their synagogue, so that they were astonished and said, ‘Where did this Man get this wisdom and these mighty works? Is this not the carpenter’s Son? Is not His mother called Mary? And His brothers James, Joses, Simon, and Judas? And His sisters, are they not all with us? Where then did this Man get all these things?’”

From this single passage we can draw a number of conclusions:

  • Mary was the mother of Jesus
  • Jesus had four brothers
  • Jesus had at least two sisters
  • Jesus and His six or more siblings had a common mother; there is no mention of what would be other half-brothers or half-sisters

These are the most specific verses identifying the family relations of Jesus Christ. If one accepts these verses, it should be impossible to believe that Jesus was an only child, as this would plainly contradict the Bible.

Another passage clearly shows that Mary, who was a virgin at the birth of Jesus, came together in sexual union with her husband after His birth. Matthew 1:18 (NKJV) states, “Now the birth of Jesus Christ was as follows: After His mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Spirit.”

This implies that, as husband and wife, they eventually shared intimate relations.

Continuing in Matthew 1:20: “But while he thought about these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, ‘Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take to you Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit.’”

The angel did not express any words forbidding Joseph to take Mary as his wife, but instead encouraged him with the words “do not be afraid to take to you Mary your wife.” The angel did not say, “Do not dare touch Mary for she is to be a virgin throughout her life.”

The concept of Mary’s perpetual, or lifelong, virginity derived from the early writings of a Catholic scholar named Origen (A.D. 185-254). His claims, based on the apocryphal Gospel of James, which focuses on the childhood of Mary up to the birth and childhood of Jesus, appeared around the middle of the second century.

This idea dates back to the mystical practices of priestesses who worshipped various deities in Rome. The combination of Christianity and ancient pagan religions attracted early converts and became a dominant religious force. Mary’s traditional role as mother was changed and reworked as that of a life-long virgin who should be worshipped as a goddess. This pseudo-Christian ideology made it easier for pagan worshippers to identify with her and, therefore, support the counterfeit religion.

Jesus Christ was never under a Nazarite vow. He did, however, grow up in Nazareth, fulfilling a prophecy that He would be called a Nazarene (Matt. 2:23; Mark 1:9; Luke 1:26; John 1:45). This is why early Christians were sometimes referred to as Nazarenes.

Neither of these words has anything whatsoever to do with a Nazarite vow. Those under a Nazarite vow could not drink wine or touch a dead body. Notice: “Speak unto the children of Israel, and say unto them, When either man or woman shall separate themselves to vow a vow of a Nazarite, to separate themselves unto the Lord: He shall separate himself from wine and strong drink, and shall drink no vinegar of wine, or vinegar of strong drink, neither shall he drink any liquor of grapes, nor eat moist grapes, or dried. All the days that he separates himself unto the Lord he shall come at [touch] no dead body” (Num. 6:2-3, 6).

Jesus drank wine (Matt. 11:19) and, on occasion, touched a dead body (Matt. 9:25). If He were under a Nazarite vow, He would not have done either of these things. Those under this vow grew their hair long as a sign of humiliation. Men who wear their hair long today are anything but humble. Rather, they are very proud of their long locks and go to great lengths to show them off. It is a sign of pride—and it is also a sign of defiance against traditional values.

Also notice that when the time of the vow was over, the person under the vow was to shave his head (Num. 6:18)—ending this shameful period!

It is a shame for a man to have his hair long—period! Apart from God’s Word, even nature shows this. A man should not look like a woman! For one thing, long hair is not manageable and would just get in his way. A man’s hair was never intended to grow long. Long hair on a man interferes with the duties and responsibilities that are part of the male role.

Jesus simply would not have grown His hair long. To do so would have contradicted His Word. Remember, it was Christ—the Word (John 1:1)—who inspired the Bible. II Timothy tells us, “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness” (3:16). And since Jesus Christ also inspired I Corinthians 11:14, He would have been true to His word. And that Word guides and instructs us on the matter of hair lengths and styles for men and women.

Married, Divorced, and Now Engaged

When a young man entered adulthood, parents, grandparents, other family members and peers would encourage him to settle down, get married and start a family. No doubt Jesus received the same pressure. But for Him, marriage was not an option. Jesus had already been married—in fact, He was divorced!

Scripture reveals that the One who became Jesus Christ—the Rock of the Old Testament (I Cor. 10:4)—was once married to ancient Israel, the physical “church in the wilderness” (Acts 7:38). But the tribes of Israel—the northern kingdom of the house of Israel and the southern kingdom of the house of Judah—were unfaithful to their Husband. They rejected His divine protection, guidance and instruction, and entered into sociopolitical/religious alliances—spiritual adultery in God’s eyes!—with nations that worshipped idols.

“They say,” the prophet Jeremiah wrote, recording God’s words, “If a man put away his wife, and she go from him, and become another man’s, shall he return unto her again? Shall not that land be greatly polluted? But you have played the harlot with many lovers; yet return again to Me, says the Lord” (Jer. 3:1).

Verses 8-10 states, “And I saw, when for all the causes whereby backsliding Israel committed adultery I had put her away, and given her a bill of divorce; yet her treacherous sister Judah feared not, but went and played the harlot also. And it came to pass through the lightness of her whoredom, that she defiled the land, and committed adultery with stones and with stocks [idols]. And yet for all this her treacherous sister Judah has not turned unto Me with her whole heart, but feignedly, says the Lord.” (Also read Isaiah 50:1 and 54:4-8.)

God used the ancient Assyrians to conquer and deport en masse the house of Israel into national slavery for their habitual unfaithfulness. The Babylonian Empire did the same to Judah decades later, but the Jews were eventually allowed to return to their homeland.

Only upon Jesus’ death was He legally free to marry another. When He returns to establish God’s kingdom on the earth, Christ will marry spiritual Israel, His Church (Rev. 19:7-17).

“I Change Not!”

Again, the Bible does not give explicit details of Jesus’ life from age 12 to the start of His ministry. But piecing together Scripture, history and the customs and practices of the day provides a fuller and better picture of what Christ must have been like as a youth and young adult.

This we do know: Jesus Christ and the Word are the same (John 1:1-2, 14). He declares, “For I am the Lord, I change not” (Mal. 3:6). He is “the same yesterday, and today and forever” (Heb. 13:8). The God of the Old Testament laughed, grieved (Gen. 6:5-6), was brokenhearted (Ezek. 6:9). He felt anger, suffered long with the failing of others, was gentle, astonished by men’s behavior (Jer. 32:32-35; I Kings 21:25-29), and was forgiving.

Jesus lived His physical life in the same manner.

Chapter Three – The Ancient World

When Adam and Eve disobeyed God and ate of the forbidden fruit, they symbolically declared that they and their descendants would reject God—His laws, judgments, instruction and direction—and decide for themselves how to live. Subsequently, man has devised every imaginable form of government, from dictatorships to democratic republics, and varying systems of education, religion, financial institutions, among others—all failing miserably, to one degree or another.

“O Lord, I know that the way of man is not in himself: it is not in man that walks to direct his steps” (Jer. 10:23).

“There is a way that seems right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death” (Prov. 16:25).

Only one government, only one administration of laws and judgment can be fairly executed with perfect impartiality: the kingdom of God, which is the supreme government of God ruled and administered by Jesus Christ and those who will have qualified, in this lifetime, to rule under Him.

Upon His First Coming, Jesus was to live a perfect, sinless life as a flesh-and-blood human being, thus becoming the ultimate sacrifice for the sins of the world. And Christ was to use His earthly ministry to preach the gospel—good news—of the kingdom of God, for which He had to qualify, represent the kingdom to the masses, and then build His Church of future leaders and teachers for when God’s government would be established to rule all nations.

The world of professing Christianity—of which the overwhelming majority has been saturated with pagan symbols, beliefs, customs and traditions, which Jesus called, “the commandments” and “tradition of men” (Mark 7:6-9)—focuses also exclusively on Jesus’ role as Savior, yet does not comprehend the magnitude of, and therefore ignores, Christ’s other pivotal role: that of conquering King of God’s soon-coming government.

Jesus was born into an ancient world of tyranny and political upheaval, widespread religious confusion and superstition, social injustices, pagan cultural influences and endless philosophies. God chose the precise timing of Jesus’ First Coming for a specific purpose, which this chapter will make clear.

A Brief History of Palestine

Let’s get the “big picture” of the world into which Jesus was born. We will start with a brief history of Palestine.

Back in the time of Moses, God delivered the ancient Israelites from slavery in Egypt and brought them into Canaan, the Promised Land. Nearly all people think the Jews and Israelites were the same. In reality, all Jews are Israelites, but not all Israelites are Jews. In fact, most are not. Similarly, all Pennsylvanians are Americans, but not all Americans are Pennsylvanians.

The nation of Israel consisted of 13 tribes, each of which had its own territory in the Promised Land (except for Levi, a tribe of priests and tabernacle workers, to whom God gave a certain number of cities, instead of farmland; these Levitical cities were scattered throughout Israel). From the time of Joshua, who succeeded Moses, to the reign of King Solomon, son of David and Israel’s third king, the 13 tribes were united in one kingdom.

But this changed soon after Solomon’s death. Ten of the tribes broke away and formed their own kingdom: the house of Israel, with Samaria as its capital. The remaining tribes—Judah, Benjamin and largely Levi, with remnants of Simeon and others—formed the house of Judah, whose capital was Jerusalem.

Both Israel and Judah had their own kings and their own religions, though Judah sometimes followed its sister nation’s proclivity to worship the false gods of the surrounding nations. At times, Israel and Judah were at war—in fact, the first time the phrase “the Jews” is mentioned in Scripture, God’s Word records that the Israelites (allied with Syria) were at war with them (II Kings 16:5-6). At other times, Israel and Judah either worked together toward a common goal, or stayed out of each other’s affairs altogether. They were separate nations, yet the peoples of both kingdoms were Israelites.

After centuries of tolerating an endless cycle of national obedience, then disobedience, followed by divine punishment, in turn followed by repentance, back to obedience, and then disobedience, God’s patience wore out. He used the ancient Assyrians—an empire infamous for waging war and committing the severest acts of brutality—to invade and conquer the house of Israel. The Assyrians enslaved Israel and deported the people en masse to Assyria and other foreign lands. The ten tribes of Israel lost their national identity and melted into the pages of history. To this day, their modern descendants mistakenly believe they are Gentiles, not realizing that the abundant national wealth, prosperity and international influence they have long enjoyed are the result of God fulfilling His promise to Abraham (Gen. 17:1-8).

Judah No Different

For the most part, the house of Judah did not learn the lesson of Israel’s spiritual unfaithfulness. The ancient Jews went back and forth, from worshipping God to serving idols, and back again. Theirs was a religious mixture of seemingly pious worship toward the Creator, yet underneath the façade was every abomination imaginable. It was religious hypocrisy and self-righteousness at its worst.

And so, 134 years after the overthrow of the kingdom of Israel, God sent a special punishing tool for Judah: Nebuchadnezzar and the Babylonian Empire. In 587 B.C., the Babylonians overthrew Jerusalem, plundered Solomon’s Temple—originally a grand house of worship for the true God—and carried the people into captivity to Babylon, where the Jews remained for the next 70 years.

They were eventually permitted to return to their homeland and rebuild a second Temple at Jerusalem (Ezra 1:1-4). After this restoration period, the Jews were ruled by Zerubbabel, Ezra and Nehemiah, and then by high priests, assisted by the Sanhedrin (a council of priests, scribes and elders).

Upon his death in 323 B.C., Alexander the Great’s vast empire was divided between his four generals. Egypt, Arabia, Palestine (formerly Canaan) and Coele-Syria came to be controlled by Ptolemy Lagus, who carried away nearly 100,000 of Jerusalem’s inhabitants into Egypt. Though Ptolemy allowed the Jews certain privileges, they suffered cruelty and oppression from Ptolemy’s successors, and later from the successive rulers of Syria. This led to a revolt under the Maccabees (163 B.C.), who reclaimed Jerusalem and the Second Temple (which the Hellenistic Syrians used to worship Zeus), and eventually gained national independence for the Jews.

But their national freedom and self-government came to an end in 68 B.C., when Pompey the Great seized Palestine and turned it into a province of the burgeoning Roman Empire. About 25 years later, the Jews revolted against the Roman yoke, only to be taken over by Herod the Great, who served Rome. At around 20 B.C., Herod began a mass renovation project, rebuilding Jerusalem and restoring and expanding the Temple. Under Herod’s rule and with Rome’s approval, Palestine was divided into four provinces: Judea (in the south), Samaria (in the middle region), Galilee (the north) and Perea (which lay east of the Jordan River and the Dead Sea).

The Roman Empire and the Hellenistic World

By the time Jesus was born, the Roman Empire dominated nearly all the lands that bordered the Mediterranean Sea. As the empire continued to conquer territories and expand its borders over the generations, the Jews spread throughout the Roman and Parthian empires.

Rome had legions stationed in Syria, which were sent to Judea to squash a revolt against the Herodians that arose upon the death of Herod the Great in 4 B.C. As he had done with Herod, Augustus Caesar decided to control Palestine through a client king, a ruler who maintained order at his own personal expense. However, instead of having just one king over such a large territory, the emperor divided the province into regions among Herod’s surviving sons. Archelaus, the heir, received rulership over Judea, Samaria and Idumaea; however, Augustus removed him from power in A.D. 6, and transformed Judea into a larger Roman province, called Iudaea, coming under direct Roman rule.

Rome’s influence was felt throughout Palestine. Roman troops were garrisoned in Jerusalem and in other parts of the region. The people were heavily taxed. And with the empire came the spread of the Greek language and culture (plays, epic poems and philosophies pondering ethics, morality, the nature of reality, of God, and other thoughts of human reasoning). The empire consisted of peoples of foreign cultures, religions and languages who spoke and wrote Greek, akin to the way English is used today as an unofficial international language.

While Rome was quick to squash even the hint of rebellion and did not hesitate to use oppression to achieve its goals, Roman officials did permit the Jewish peoples certain liberties. For example, while inhabitants of other provinces served in their auxiliary forces, the Jews did not. And instead of having to participate in the imperial cult—the worship of dead emperors—the Jews were allowed to substitute a daily sacrifice in the Temple on behalf of the emperor and the Romans.

Nevertheless, Rome did on occasion try to introduce images of its emperors in Jerusalem—even in the Temple. These attempts were always met with staunch resistance, fueled by religious fervor. Though they disagreed among themselves religiously, socially and politically, the Jews were determined to honor no other deity but the God of the Torah.

Ironically, the God they claimed to fear and worship was born among them—Jesus Christ—but they rejected Him and His teachings.

Samaritans and Other Gentiles

Among the inhabitants of Palestine were the Samaritans. When the Assyrian Empire conquered the house of Israel and deported them from Samaria, Assyria replaced the ten tribes with a mixed group of foreigners brought in from Babylon and other faraway lands. This mixed group settled into the largely empty cities of Samaria and racially integrated with the remnant of Israelites who still lived in the land. The inhabitants—who came to be called Samaritans—largely adopted a pseudo-religion, mixing the Old Testament practices of worshipping Israel’s God with the spiritual poison of pagan customs and traditions.

The Jews, upon returning to their homeland after being exiled in Babylon, refused the Samaritans’ offer of help in rebuilding the Temple. Subsequently, hostility arose between the two, with the Samaritans building a rival temple at Mount Gerizim (which was later destroyed), and then at Shechem. Their bitter rivalry continued through the years, and was evident during Christ’s earthly ministry, “for the Jews have no dealings with the Samaritans” (John 4:9).

In Old Testament times, Gentiles were simply viewed as non-Israelites, and were not particularly despised for not having descended from Jacob (Israel). In fact, as soon as God delivered to Israel the Ten Commandments, He also proclaimed statutes—laws that expounded upon the commandments in addressing various areas of life. Among these, God instructed His people, “You shall neither vex a stranger [foreigner], nor oppress him” (Ex. 22:21) and “you shall not oppress a stranger: for you know the heart of a stranger, seeing you were strangers in the land of Egypt” (Ex. 23:9). As long as foreigners lived peaceably among the Israelites, were willing to observe God’s laws, and rejected the worship of idols and other pagan practices, God expected His people to treat the “strangers” among them with equity and justice.

However, after having suffered the destruction of Solomon’s Temple, seven decades of Babylonian exile, then ongoing persecution from foreigners who wanted to blot out their religion and Hellenize them, the Jews came to use the term “Gentile” with contempt. By New Testament times, they saw Gentiles as religiously unclean—therefore, it was considered wrong to associate or be friends with them. While Gentiles could become proselytes of the Judaic faith, they could not be full members. Consequently, there was no love lost among the Greeks and Romans for the Jewish peoples.

Herod Rebuilds the Temple

Herod the Great was a morally corrupt and ruthless client king for Rome, who did not hesitate to murder any enemies (both real and perceived) he thought might threaten his reign. He even had members of his own family put to death. This is the Herod who, in an effort to kill the Christ Child, “slew all the children that were in Bethlehem, and in all the coasts thereof, from two years old and under” (Matt. 2:16). Herod was widely despised all throughout his 37 years of rule—and long after his death.

On the other hand, the Jews (begrudgingly) appreciated the ambitious public works projects he initiated throughout Palestine, such as the great amphitheater in Caesarea and his refurbishing of Jerusalem’s Second Temple, expanding it on a monumental scale. This grand renovation project, which was to rival the greatest manmade wonders of the world, started in 20 B.C. and lasted more than 80 years.

Eight decades of building the Temple served to grow the local economy, as it employed workmen from construction and artisan guilds. It also served to unify the people in worshipping God (as opposed to the Greeks, Romans and other Gentiles honoring hundreds of idols and other false gods).

Yet the Temple also polarized the Jews, who were divided along religious and sociopolitical lines.

“The building itself was very small. The actual building of the Temple could fit inside the infield of any baseball stadium. However, the large structure all around it, the large plaza, the porticos, the columns, the staircases, all of that, were built up by Herod the Great on a monumental scale, filling up, I think something like ten football fields…So we have then a very large, very conspicuous, grandiose, grand…structure in the center of Jerusalem which attracted pilgrims from near and far, both Jews and gentile” (“From Jesus to Christ,” PBS, Shaye I.D. Cohen, Samuel Ungerleider Professor of Judaic Studies and Professor of Religious Studies, Brown University).

The Temple was a center of constant activity. It was operated by priests, who roasted animal sacrifices, splattered blood on the corners of the altar, and performed other religious rituals. Gentiles were provided a reserved area where they could worship God and bring offerings, which Levitical priests offered on their behalf, but only the chief priest could enter the innermost areas of the Temple. The Levites, who assisted the priests, chanted verses from the book of Psalms. Every Sabbath, the Jews visited the Temple to listen to a reading of the Torah. Three seasons a year (Days of Unleavened Bread and Pentecost every spring, and the Feast of Tabernacles in the autumn), Jerusalem overflowed with visitors who had journeyed from the furthermost parts of the empire. Roman troops stationed in the region were brought in for crowd control and to maintain order. Hundreds of thousands of worshippers for Passover meant that tens of thousands of lambs needed to be properly selected and slaughtered. As a result, a rotation of extra priests was established.

“…the Temple played a large role in a collective religious mentality and a collective religion of the people, as a whole. Everybody realized that this was the one most sacred place on earth, the one place on earth where somehow heaven and earth meet, where somehow there is a telephone connection, perhaps we would say, between heaven and earth, where the earth rises up and heavens somehow descend just enough, that they just touch” (ibid.).

It should be briefly noted that three other Herods are mentioned in the Bible: Herod Antipas, Herod Agrippa I and Herod Agrippa II. They are sometimes confused.

Herod Antipas, mentioned in Matthew 14, Mark 6 and Luke 23, was one of the many sons of Herod the Great. He became tetrarch (local governor) over Galilee and Peraea, and ruled from about 4 B.C. until A.D. 39. This was the Herod who ordered John the Baptist to be beheaded at the insistence of Herodias his brother’s wife (Matt. 14:3-11). He also mocked Christ during His trial (Luke 23:11).

Herod Agrippa I (discussed in Acts 12) was the grandson of Herod the Great, and nephew of Herod Antipas. He ruled from 37 to 44 A.D. as king over the entire region. He gradually gained control over the area Herod the Great had previously ruled by scheming against his own relatives with help from Emperor Caligula, who actually freed him from prison to help him consolidate power. This Herod killed James, the brother of John, with the sword (Acts 12:2). Acts 12:23 reveals his death was caused by being eaten of worms.

Herod Agrippa II, mentioned in Acts 25 and 26, began his reign in A.D. 44 and continued for a number of decades (scholars disagree on the actual date of his death). This was the Herod before whom the apostle Paul made his defense in about A.D. 58. Of all the Herods, Agrippa II was the most humane.

Religious Sects of the Day

Several competing religious and political factions existed among the Jewish peoples, with each movement, party or school of thought promoting its own agenda. The Bible mentions three major factions: the scribes and Pharisees, the Sadducees and (by implication) the Zealots.

  • Scribes and Pharisees: The Pharisees were considered religious scholars and experts in meticulously observing and interpreting the Torah (the first five books of the Old Testament) and oral laws.

    Working with them were the scribes. In the days of the Old Testament, scribes held various offices in conducting the kingdom’s public affairs. They served as secretaries of state, preparing and issuing decrees by the king’s authority. Scribes were also writers for important figures, such as a prophet. After the Babylonian exile, they wrote multiple copies of the Law that were used to teach the people in exile.

    The scribes and the Pharisees added their traditions to God’s laws—their own interpretation of how to, in effect, be even more “righteous” toward God, attempting to avoid a repeat of suffering national captivity in foreign lands. Yet these manmade traditions needlessly burdened the people with exacting and extreme rules of “do’s” and “don’ts.”

    In Mark, chapter 7, the scribes and Pharisees criticized Jesus’ disciples for not ceremoniously washing their hands before eating: “For the Pharisees, and all the Jews, except they wash their hands oft, eat not, holding the tradition of the elders” (vs. 3).

    When they questioned Christ about why His students “failed” to live up to tradition, He answered, “Well has Isaiah prophesied of you hypocrites, as it is written, This people honors Me with their lips, but their heart is far from Me. Howbeit in vain do they worship Me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men. For laying aside the commandment of God, you hold the tradition of men” (vs. 6-8).

    Jesus added that they made “the word of God of none effect through your tradition, which you have delivered: and many such like things do you” (vs. 13).

    Throughout Matthew 23, Christ called the scribes and Pharisees “hypocrites,” “blind guides,” “fools and blind,” “serpents” and a “generation of vipers.” He said that, in meticulously focusing on the smaller matters of the Law, they “have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy and faith: these ought you to have done, and not to leave the other undone” (vs. 23).

    Christ inspired the apostle James to write, “Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world” (Jms. 1:27). God’s Law is based on love—in fact, “he that loves another has fulfilled the law…therefore love is the fulfilling of the law” (Rom. 13:8, 10).

    But the Pharisees and scribes—rather than teaching the people to love God and neighbor by observing the Law—sought to “improve” the laws of God by adding precise, black-and-white restrictions for virtually every scenario. These offered no room for mercy and forgiveness, only burden.
  • Sadducees: Though also religious, the Sadducees were more like a sociopolitical party, consisting of aristocracy and priests who dominated the Sanhedrin, Jerusalem’s “supreme court,” or council. They observed only the Torah, and thus did not believe in the resurrection of the dead, as taught in the other books of the Old Testament. As priests, they were responsible for operating the Temple.
  • Zealots: These were a radical sect of terrorist-subversives who originated with Judas the Galilean: “After this man rose up Judas of Galilee in the days of the taxing, and drew away much people after him: he also perished; and all, even as many as obeyed him, were dispersed” (Acts 5:37). The Zealots were devoted to ending Roman rule, and refused to pay tribute to Rome, staunchly believing this violated the principle that God was the only king of Israel. In rebelling against the Romans, the Zealots were scattered and became bandits roaming the remote countryside.

Anticipating the Messiah

The Jews in the first centuries B.C. and A.D. were very familiar with Old Testament prophecies that describe a coming “Messianic Age” and looked forward to their fulfillment with eager expectation. They well understood that the Messiah would usher in a time unlike any other.

Under years of Roman occupation, the Jews expected the Christ to arrive and free them from Rome’s rule. Conditions for the common Jew were harsh. Peasants had to depend on crops for survival. Not only did they need enough to last until the next harvest, they also needed extra grain to seed the next round of crops, adequate food for their livestock, food to use in trading, and food for religious rituals and celebrations. Many found it difficult to meet these needs.

Making matters more difficult, the Roman government demanded more, taxing the peasants as much as 40% of what they produced. This was in addition to the 10% (tithe) they paid to the Temple. Many peasant families would borrow to survive, which often led to a loss of their land and becoming sharecroppers on the very land they had once owned.

However, not paying tribute was also an undesirable option, as the Roman government viewed this as rebellion and would not hesitate to use military force. On occasion, during times of war the Romans would also pull resources from those under their authority. They could demand additional food from the Jewish province to help other areas fight invaders.

All of this amounted to an impossible situation for the Jews. But the only options left were to (A) accept the oppression of the Romans, or (B) reject it and become enemies of the empire, which would lead to war.

Thus, the idea of one coming to end the tyranny became ever more present in the minds of most Jews. Conditions were ripe for the Christ’s arrival. This led to a number of self-proclaimed false christs rising up and convincing some they were in fact the long-awaited deliverer of Israel, leading insurrections against the Roman government. But they were nothing more than imposters, and all of them failed in their self-appointed missions.

It is in this Messiah-hopeful environment that Jesus was born, in 4 B.C. But it wasn’t until He reached the age of 30 that He began to preach to the masses, in 27 A.D. Over the course of His three-and-a-half-year ministry, only a tiny few believed His claim to being the long-awaited Christ.

Why?

Misinterpreting Old Testament Prophecies

Numerous times throughout His ministry, Jesus informed others that He was the Christ, though usually in a subtle fashion. Most rejected His claim, often citing Old Testament scriptures as proof He could not be the coming Messiah. This rejection generally stemmed from Jewish tradition or from misinterpreting the scriptures.

The first account of this is found in the book of Luke. Just after His baptism and being tempted by Satan in the wilderness for 40 days, Jesus entered a synagogue in Nazareth on the Sabbath and read from the book of Isaiah:

“And there was delivered unto Him the book of the prophet Isaiah. And when He had opened the book, He found the place where it was written, The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because He has anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, to preach the acceptable year of the Lord” (Luke 4:17-19).

When He finished reading these scriptures, Jesus sat down, with everyone in the synagogue looking curiously at Him. Then He said, “This day is this scripture fulfilled in your ears” (Luke 4:21).

Those present were no doubt familiar with this prophecy in Isaiah, and that it was one the Christ would fulfill. The people in the synagogue marveled at His words, asking, “Is not this Joseph’s son?” (Luke 4:22). In other words, “How could Jesus of Nazareth, the son of a carpenter, possibly be the Christ? We have known Him since He was a little boy. This can’t be the Christ.” Jesus simply did not fit their profile of the Messiah.

A common thought was that the Christ would sort of “magically appear.” Many believed that, after His birth, Christ would hide Himself from the masses for a considerable amount of time. Thus when He would begin to preach, no one would know His background.

Notice John 7:27: “Howbeit we know this Man whence [from where] He is: but when Christ comes, no man knows whence [from where] He is.” This thinking can be found in a common Jewish proverb of the time: “Three things come unexpectedly: (1) a thing found by chance; (2) the sting of a scorpion; and (3) the Messiah.” Since many knew Jesus’ parents and even knew Him as a boy, in their minds, He could not possibly be the Christ.

Consider in the book of John another example of why Jesus was rejected. There He explained that He would be “lifted up from the earth,” or crucified (12:32). This idea of the Christ being executed in this manner perplexed some, as they believed the Messiah would live forever: “We have heard out of the law that Christ abides for ever: and how say you, The Son of man must be lifted up? Who is this Son of man?” (12:34).

The Old Testament, which was the only Scripture available during the time of Jesus, nowhere states that the Christ would not die. In reality, it clearly states the opposite, which we will soon see.

However, there are prophecies that show the Christ’s reign—and His kingdom—will endure forever, as found in Daniel chapter 7: “And there was given Him [the Christ] dominion, and glory, and a kingdom, that all people, nations, and languages, should serve Him: His dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and His kingdom that which shall not be destroyed” (vs. 14).

Many read these and other scriptures and correctly noticed that the Messiah’s kingdom was to last forever. They then concluded that, once He appeared, He could not possibly die. To them, His death would appear to directly contradict God’s Word.

Messiah’s Death Foretold Long Ago

Yet Jesus’ death did not conflict with Scripture. In fact, it was clearly foretold! Perhaps more than any other series of verses, the 53rd chapter of Isaiah unmistakably identifies that the Christ was to be killed—and for a reason.

The chapter opens by asking, “Who has believed our report?” Certainly few have believed what God has spoken through the prophets, and ancient Israel had a track record of not heeding their words. It is fitting that this chapter on the Christ opens with this question, as many have not believed this report.

Isaiah 53:2 describes there would be nothing significant about the Christ’s appearance. He would look quite ordinary (as we saw earlier), and there would be nothing beautiful about Him. Verse 3 indicates He would be despised and rejected, and would not be noted as having any value. These verses have been confirmed by history. Jesus was not of noble appearance and was despised and rejected—to the point of being executed.

Verses 5 and 6 explain exactly why the Christ, as Savior, had to suffer: “He was wounded for our transgressions [sins], He was bruised for our iniquities [sins]: the chastisement of our peace was upon Him; and with His stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity [sin] of us all.”

Before coming as a conquering King (upon His Second Coming), the Christ had to first take mankind’s sins—both physical and spiritual—upon Himself (at His First Coming). This happened when Jesus was severely beaten (“wounded for our transgressions” and “bruised for our iniquities”) and crucified. And right before dying on the stake, the Father forsook Jesus (Matt. 27:46), as at that point He took on the sins of humanity, and thus was counted as sin—of which the Father can have no part.

Amazingly, Jesus was viewed by the Jews as having been rejected by God because He was not the Christ. They counted Him as cursed and afflicted by God because of what He did—what He taught. The people did not comprehend that Jesus’ death was necessary. Notice Isaiah 53:4: “Surely He has borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem Him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted.”

The reality was that “it pleased the Lord to bruise Him; He has put Him to grief” for “an offering for sin” (vs. 10). “He [the Father] shall see of the travail of His [the Christ’s] soul, and shall be satisfied: by His knowledge shall My righteous Servant justify many; for He shall bear their iniquities” (vs. 11).

God was pleased to bruise Jesus Christ because it was a necessary part of His overall plan for mankind. If this had not happened, man would have no hope of salvation.

The chapter concludes, “Therefore will I [the Father] divide Him [Jesus Christ] a portion with the great, and He shall divide the spoil with the strong; because He has poured out His soul unto death: and He was numbered with the transgressors; and He bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors” (vs. 12).

Because Jesus was willing to bear “the sin of many,” the Father will provide Him an everlasting kingdom—a divine government that will bring true justice and world peace. Clearly, however, this government has not arrived. This is perhaps the major reason many rejected Jesus as the Christ.

In the eyes of the first-century Jews, Jesus failed to accomplish what they expected the Christ to do—destroy every evil, as well as all of their enemies (the Romans), and establish an eternal kingdom, with Israel as the preeminent nation in the world. The Jews believed that the Christ would deliver them from Roman bondage and set up a kingdom where they would be the rulers. Although they could read the prophecies in Isaiah describing a suffering Christ who would be persecuted and executed, they instead chose to focus on prophecies addressing His glorious victories and time of world peace, accompanying many of them. Since Jesus did not at that time come as the long-awaited conquering King, He was rejected. He “failed” to live up to the people’s expectations of the Messiah. As stated in John chapter 1, “He came unto His own [people], and His own received Him not” (vs. 11).

To this day, followers of Judaism reject Jesus as the Christ, citing similar reasons as their first-century counterparts.

Viewed as Nothing New

In the volatile environment of Roman tyranny, religious hypocrisy, turmoil and falsehood, pagan influences of culture, philosophies and religions, racial tensions and rampant injustice, God chose to have His Son born into the world.

During His three-and-a-half-year ministry, Jesus preached the gospel of the kingdom of God to the masses, and taught a core group of disciples who would go on to become apostles, but also evangelists and other ministers, as well as deacons and deaconesses, along with many faithful, diligent lay members who formed the Church of God. Through His ministers, Christ’s gospel would be spread from city to city, across regions and provinces throughout the Roman Empire.

Rome forbade the emergence of new religions under its rule. But to non-Jews, who worshipped many “gods,” Christianity and Judaism seemed the same. The Jewish peoples had migrated and settled in Gentile areas across the ever-expanding empire; therefore, Roman provinces had grown accustomed to having citizens among them who worshipped only one God. By the time Rome realized that Christianity and Judaism were different, it was too late—Christians could be found living in the emperor’s household.

Suppose the Messiah had appeared during a time when the Mediterranean world was divided into separate, independent kingdoms, each with its own ruler. In such a scenario, the gospel would have gone no farther than Judea. Gentile kingdoms would have shut their borders to a religion that teaches that the governments, systems, societies and religions of men will be replaced by the divine government of God!

But the Roman Empire, to satisfy the peoples they subjugated, permitted their subjects to continue worshipping the endless gods of their particular lands, as long as this did not interfere with Roman affairs or supplant loyalty to the emperor.

Also, Rome interconnected the kingdoms they conquered with highways that still exist today—roads that Christ’s apostles, ministers and other servants used to spread the true gospel and establish congregations in city after city.

The timing of Jesus Christ’s First Coming—which led to establishing the small, but faithful, Church that survived the past 2,000 years and now preaches to all nations the same gospel message Christ taught—was perfect.

Chapter Four – Jesus’ Ministry Begins

John the Baptist spent his short ministry traveling throughout the region preaching a baptism for repentance—that is, a 180-degree change in one’s thinking and conduct. Throngs of people, attracted by his message, journeyed into the wilderness to be baptized and forgiven of their sins.

John’s preaching drew a following large enough to attract the attention of the religious leaders of the day. The Temple priests and Levites went out to question him, asking if he were the Messiah. Some may have feared he was just another terrorist leader in the making, someone who would cause trouble and bring the wrath of Rome upon the land.

John’s answer was plain: “I am not the Christ.”

When pressed further to explain who he was, John replied, “I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness, as written in the book of Isaiah: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make His paths straight. Every valley will be filled, and every mountain and hill will be brought low. And the crooked will be made straight, and the rough ways will be made smooth. And all mankind will see the salvation of God.’”

John the Baptist had come “in the power and spirit of Elijah” to proclaim the First Coming of Christ’s arrival. Speaking of Christ, John declared, “There cometh One mightier than I after me, the latchet of whose shoes I am not worthy to stoop down and unloose” (Mark 1:7).

Why Was Jesus Baptized?

God’s Word plainly teaches that baptism must be preceded by repentance (Acts 2:38) and belief (Mark 16:16; Acts 16:31, 33). Upon repentance, the blood of Christ cleanses one of past sins. Baptism involves being entirely submerged underwater as a symbol of acknowledging one’s sins. When baptized, one figuratively dies with Jesus, our Savior, in a “watery grave”—which typifies the death of the old self and the emergence of a new person with a new life. Rising out of that “grave” is symbolic of the resurrection of the dead; we live a new (righteous) life through Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit actively at work within us (Rom. 6:4; 8:9; Gal. 2:20).

The New Testament is not the first place baptism is found in the Bible. Rather, God used this symbol thousands of years before John the Baptist was born. Noah’s deliverance from the Flood—a watery grave for the sinful world—represented deliverance from the penalty of sin through baptism (I Peter 3:20-21). And Israel’s deliverance from Egyptian bondage through the Red Sea was also considered a type of Christian baptism (I Cor. 10:1-2). In both events, at the Flood of Noah’s time and at the Red Sea, God miraculously delivered His people who looked to and trusted in His deliverance.

Water baptism also requires faith in Christ—faith in His sacrifice, which wipes clear the past sins of the repentant believer. Noah acted on his faith in managing the giant project of building the ark. Moses instructed Israel to move forward to the sea and obeyed God’s instruction to lift up his rod to cause the sea to divide. The truly repentant believer must also act in faith, trusting in the deliverance of Christ to cover his sins and “lift him up” to a new life led by the Holy Spirit. An active, living faith is required.

When the time came for Jesus to start His ministry, John the Baptist was told how he was to recognize the Christ when he would baptize Him at a future time. The baptism of John symbolized the outward expression of sincere genuine repentance of those who would be convicted by the message he preached. Luke 1:77 states John the Baptist came “to give knowledge of salvation unto his people by the remission of their sins.” His ministry focused on the first step of salvation, preparing a people for Christ’s arrival. They did not receive the Holy Spirit; Jesus had not yet been resurrected and glorified so He could not send forth the Spirit according to God’s Plan (John 7:39).

Jesus came to His cousin to be baptized, but John was hesitant. He said to Jesus, “I have need to be baptized of You, and come You to me?” (Matt. 3:13-14). Christ never sinned—never broke any of God’s laws. One of the purposes of His earthly ministry was to set the example for those whom God the Father might call into the difficult long-life journey of Christianity. This is why Jesus permitted Himself to be baptized. Also, His baptism foreshadowed an event that would occur three and a half years later: His death and resurrection.

A Titanic Battle for Rulership

As soon as He was baptized and received His Father’s approval—“You are My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased” (Mark 1:11)—Jesus, led by the Holy Spirit, went into the wilderness, where He “fasted forty days and forty nights” (Matt. 4:1-2).

Matthew 4 and Luke 4 record in detail a monumental battle of wills between Jesus Christ and Satan the devil. The two engaged in a very real outright spiritual war to determine who would ultimately rule the earth and reign over all nations, kingdoms and governments!

To spiritually prepare for this great test, Jesus humbled Himself through fasting, denying His body food and drink for 40 days. Contrary to hunger strikes, used throughout history to gain sympathy from the public and essentially extort the powers-that-be to give in to one’s demands, fasting is different. It is not a method to somehow “twist God’s arm” into rendering a favorable decision, or impress Him with one’s “righteousness,” or gain His sympathy. Fasting—when done in the right way, for the right purpose—is used to lower the self in one’s own eyes, to see himself as God sees him.

The Bible states, “The heart [carnal mind] is deceitful above all things, and is desperately wicked” (Jer. 17:9). Therefore, man cannot “walk to direct his steps” (Jer. 10:23) through life, making decisions that “seem right unto a man, but the end therefore are the ways of death” (Prov. 16:25), for “all the ways of a man are clean in his own eyes” (vs. 2).

When our stomachs are empty and begin to growl, we then realize that life is temporary. “My days are like a shadow that declines,” Psalm 102:11 states, “and I am withered like grass.” King David wrote, “As for man, his days are as grass: as a flower of the field, so he flourishes. For the wind passes over it, and it is gone; and the place thereof shall know it no more” (Psa. 103:15-16).

When compared to the Great God of the universe, “the high and lofty One that inhabits eternity” (Isa. 57:15), this physical, chemical existence humans call life is less than a breath. While God has need of nothing, our physical strength and bodily existence relies on whether we eat. Fasting—denying the body food and drink for at least 24 hours—reminds us we are less than nothing in the grand scheme of things, and that we need our Maker and Sustainer to provide for all our necessities. This humble mindset permits one to be teachable and willing to suppress his will to readily receive God’s direction.

When Satan confronted Christ in the wilderness, the first thing he did was try to tempt Jesus into eating, thus breaking His fast (Matt. 4:3). Yet by making Himself physically weak, Christ actually strengthened Himself spiritually. The devil tried to appeal to Jesus’ ego by saying, “IF you be the Son of God”—in other words, “Prove it!” But instead of relying upon Himself, Jesus wielded the “sword of the spirit” (Eph. 6:17)—that is, He recalled the Holy Scriptures in His mind—and said, “It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God” (Matt. 4:4), quoting Deuteronomy 8:3.

But Satan was not ready to give up the battle. Matthew 4 records that he set Christ on a pinnacle of the Temple, and then quoted Scripture. Again, trying to inflate Jesus’ ego, the devil said, “IF You be the Son of God, cast Yourself down: for it is written, He shall give His angels charge concerning You: and in their hands they shall bear You up, lest at any time You dash Your foot against a stone” (vs. 6).

Yes, the devil can read the Bible. Satan is the master at misusing Scripture to confuse and deceive billions into blindly accepting easily disprovable false doctrines. He has long used false ministers as his human agents to carry out mass deception—religious leaders who seem to be sincere and truthful, but God’s Word calls them “false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ. And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light. Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also be transformed as the ministers of righteousness” (II Cor. 11:13-15).

Satan quoted Psalm 91:11-12, taking the passage out of context. Jesus understood this, and answered with God’s Word rather than trusting in Himself. “It is written again,” He said, “You shall not tempt the Lord Your God” (Matt. 4:7), quoting Deuteronomy 6:16.

One Last Attempt

The devil tried to tempt Jesus one more time. He took Him up to a high mountain and, perhaps primarily through a vision, “showed Him all the kingdoms of the world, and the glory of them; and said unto Him, All these things will I give You, IF You will fall down and worship me” (Matt. 4:8-9).

This epic battle was about rulership. Satan knew Christ was destined to establish God’s government on Earth and rule all nations. In this “present evil world” (Gal. 1:4) of man’s 6,000-year history, the nations, kingdoms, governments, laws, practices, traditions, systems, cultures and societies are influenced by and belong to “the great dragon…that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceives the whole world” (Rev. 12:9). As the “prince of the power of the air” (Eph. 2:2), the devil broadcasts wrong attitudes, thoughts and emotions, which translate into perverse language and conduct in the lives of an unsuspecting humanity.

Satan’s Origin

Before the universe existed, God created hundreds of millions of angels. Like human beings, God granted them free moral agency, permitting the angels the capacity to decide and choose for themselves whether they will obey Him.

God then created all the stars, planets, moons and galaxies in the vast and expanding universe. Millions of these spirit beings sang for joy, especially when God created the earth (Job 38:7), for they knew it would be handed to one-third of all the angels as part of a very special assignment. They were to live on the earth, led by the archangel Lucifer, and take special care of it. If they succeeded, they would eventually be given the entire universe to rule under God.

At first, the angels were happy about their assignment. They wanted to do all they could to make the world a beautiful garden paradise of peaceful meadows, green forests, sandy beaches and sparkling oceans. But as time passed (the Bible does not say how long; it may have taken millions, even billions, of years), something changed.

It all began with Lucifer. Full of wisdom and beauty, he was the most brilliant, perfect being God had ever created (Ezek. 28:11-14). For a while, Lucifer obediently carried out God’s commands and government on the earth. But, at some point, he allowed a wrong thought or attitude to enter his mind. Instead of removing it and replacing it with right thoughts, Lucifer allowed even more wrong ideas and feelings to guide and control his mind. He soon became full of pride (vs. 15).

Instead of being grateful for the assignment God gave him, Lucifer had become bitter and angry. He had come to believe that he deserved more, that God was somehow “limiting” him, not putting his “enormous talents” to better use (and in the process, forgot that his talents came from God in the first place). Lucifer wanted more power, more responsibility, more “respect”—and he wanted it his way, not God’s.

Lucifer’s mind corrupted to the point he believed he knew better than his Maker—and that he was greater than God! Eventually, Lucifer believed he should be God! He reasoned that he needed to take God’s place and remove Him from His heavenly throne (Isa. 14:12-14).

Lucifer’s perverse and twisted thoughts and attitudes led him to sin—to break God’s spiritual laws of love and outgoing concern for others (I John 3:4; Rom. 7:12-14). Thus, he became God’s enemy. Through lies and deception, Lucifer convinced angels around him to believe his way was right and that God’s ways were unfair and unjust. In turn, those angels convinced others of the same lies, eventually twisting the minds of all the angels on the earth—­one-third of the spirit beings that God created rebelled against their Creator (Rev. 12:4; Job 4:18).

Led by Lucifer, the rebellious angels—now demons—invaded heaven to take over God’s throne. But God—armed with the limitless power of His Holy Spirit, and backed by twice as many loyal angels—squashed the invasion. He cast the evil spirits back to the earth, and changed Lucifer’s name, which means “morning star” or “shining one,” to Satan the devil, which means “adversary,” “accuser” and “slanderer” (Ezek. 28:11-19). (Additional facts and description of Lucifer’s rebellion are contained in others of our books and booklets.)

World Under Satan

Ever since he influenced Adam and Eve to reject God’s rule over them, and subsequently their descendants, Satan and his demons have had dominion over mankind’s kingdoms, governments and systems. This world belongs to the devil—and man’s carnal nature, which is naturally hostile to God and His laws (Rom. 8:7), is actually Satan’s nature!

The devil knows that His days as ruler over this perverse, rebellious, anti-God age are numbered. Satan, through Herod, tried to destroy Jesus when He was just a babe. As you will read in this book, the devil on many occasions tried to use his human agents to kill Christ before it was His time to die. And Satan used all his wiles in Matthew 4 to influence Jesus to go his way—but in all strategies he failed!

When Christ successfully defeated His adversary, He qualified to rule over the kingdom of God, the divine government He will establish on the earth to produce true and lasting peace, equity and prosperity for all!

Calling Disciples

Contrary to popular teaching among many churches today, it is God the Father, not Christ, who calls people to come into the Christian way of life (John 6:44). No one can take upon himself this calling—the decision is up to the Father.

At the start of Jesus’ ministry, God called men from different walks of life who would become Christ’s disciples (students), in training to become apostles. These 12 men received intense, and extensive, as well as often private, one-on-one training, which would prepare them to take the gospel to other cities, territories, regions, nations and kingdoms.

Peter: Born with the name Simon, Jesus later renamed him Peter, or “Cephas,” an Aramaic name equivalent to the Greek Petros (Peter), which means “a mass of rock detached from the living rock.”

Simon Peter and his brother Andrew were the sons of Jona (Matthew 16:17). He was a fisherman from Bethsaida, a native town on the western coast of the Sea of Galilee, in Galilee (John 1:44, 12:21). Simon, Andrew, James, and John grew up together as childhood friends, and later became fishing partners.

Though they had some level of religious training and were acquainted with prophetic scriptures about the coming of the Messiah, they did not receive any special rabbinical training. This is why Peter and John, when they were brought before the Sanhedrin, seemed to be “unlearned and ignorant men” in the eyes of the leading religious leaders of the land (Acts 4:13).

Galileans had a reputation for being independent, blunt and impetuous. They spoke a peculiar dialect that seemed harsh and backward in Judea.

Peter and the other apostles were called to become “fishers of men” (Matt. 4:18-19), and ordained “to preach, and to have power to heal sicknesses, and to cast out devils [demons]” (Mark 3:14-15).

Andrew: Once a disciple of John the Baptist, Andrew was the first to follow Christ, and introduced Peter to Him (John 1:40). The brothers became Jesus’ disciples after John the Baptist was imprisoned (Matt. 4:18-19; Mark 1:16-17).

James: He and his brother John were called Boanerges—“sons of thunder”—due to their boldness and intensity. Their parents were Zebedee and Salome. James was called the “greater” (to distinguish him from the other apostle-in-training who had the same name). He also was a fisherman (Matt. 4:21).

John: He may have been younger than his brother James. Zebedee, his father, apparently was a man of some wealth, since he could afford hired servants (Mark 1:20) and possessed at least two fishing vessels (Luke 5:3). John, like his brother and childhood friends, was a fisherman on the Lake of Galilee. He was also influenced by the teachings of John the Baptist, becoming one of his disciples. At John the Baptist’s announcement that Jesus was “the Lamb of God,” John accepted Christ’s offer to follow Him (John 1:36-37). However, John and James temporarily returned to their fishing business before becoming fulltime apostles-in-training (Matt. 4:21; Luke 5:1-11).

Peter, Andrew, James and John grew up together and became business partners in a family fishing venture. Upon being called, they became an “inner circle” around Jesus, to whom He privately shared His thoughts, plans and even a vision of His Second Coming.

Philip: Also native of Bethsaida (John 1:44; 12:21). He responded to his calling without hesitation, and brought with him Nathanael—or Bartholomew (John 1:45, 46). He may have held a prominent place among the apostles, after Peter, James, John and Andrew (Matt. 10:3; Mark 3:18; John 6:5-7; 12:21, 22; 14:8, 9; Acts 1:13).

Bartholomew: The son of Talemai. Some believe that he and Nathanael (John 1:45-51) were the same person. Bartholomew was friends with Philip before being called.

Matthew: He was a tax collector (“publican”) at Capernaum, the son of Alphaeus. He became one of Christ’s disciples when Jesus passed the custom-house (“receipt of custom”) where Matthew worked for Rome in collecting taxes that the empire levied on the Jews. The people despised publicans, since they willingly worked for the Romans. Matthew was originally called Levi (Mark 2:14; Luke 5:27).

Thomas: Also called Didymus (John 11:16; 20:24). Since Thomas is always mentioned along with Matthew, the son of Alphaeus, when the apostles are listed, always followed by James, who was also the son of Alphaeus, there has been speculation that Matthew, Thomas and James were brothers.

James: The son of Alphaeus (or Cleopas), he is known as “James the Less” or “the Little.”

Thaddeus: Also called “Lebbaeus” in the book of Matthew.

Simon: Also called “the Canaanite” (Matthew 10:4; Mark 3:18), derived from the Syriac word Kanean or Kaneniah, the name of a Jewish sect. He was also called “Simon the Zealot” or “Zelotes” (Luke 6:15; Acts 1:13); before his calling to become an apostle, Simon was a member of the Zealots, a fanatical sect.

Judas Iscariot: It is possible that the name Iscariot refers to the Judean town of Kerioth (Joshua 15:20-25) or to the sicarii (Jewish nationalist insurrectionists). The Bible also calls this man “Judas…the son of Simon” (John 6:71; 13:2, 26). The treasurer among Jesus and the disciples, he later betrayed Christ (Mark 3:19), and then committed suicide. Matthias replaced him as one of the original apostles shortly after Christ’s resurrection.

With the apostles and many other disciples learning from Him, Jesus was planting seed that would sprout into the first century Church on Pentecost A.D. 31.

Chapter Five – Details of Jesus’ Ministry

John the Baptist, from prison, sent two of his disciples to ask Jesus, “Are You He that should come? Or look we for another?” (Luke 7:19-20). They wanted to know whether He was the Messiah foretold to come.

Jesus replied, “Go your way, and tell John what things you have seen and heard; how that the blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, to the poor the gospel is preached” (vs. 22). Christ also “cured many…of evil spirits”—He cast out demons (vs. 21).

But why? How did healing the infirm, resurrecting the dead, freeing the demon-possessed, and other miracles, along with preaching the good news of the kingdom of God to the poor, define Jesus’ ministry?

Why Healing?

The four gospel accounts record that Christ performed astounding miracles. Many of His most dramatic were healings. Jesus made the lame walk, gave sight to the blind, healed lepers and other diseased people, and “healed all that were sick” (Matt. 8:16).

The record demonstrates that Jesus healed large numbers of people and captured the attention of constantly growing masses. Yet when Lazarus, a dear friend, was seriously ill, and then died before Christ came to visit him, family and friends grieved. They did not understand what Jesus meant when He said, “I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believes in Me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: and whosoever lives and believes in Me shall never die” (John 11:25-26).

They understood there would come a time when God would resurrect all human beings back to physical life. But they did not grasp that Jesus Christ not only had the power to heal, He possessed the authority to resurrect—not just at His Second Coming, but right then and there while He was in the flesh! (Read verses 38-45.) Jesus is God. His power to heal and resurrect came from His Father, who also is God. Together, they are one God, one divine Family that is adding to its membership begotten children who will one day be born into that Family.

The ability to raise people back to physical life is a type of the ultimate healing to come: the resurrection. Jesus said, “Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God” (John 3:3). This was not some emotional religious “high” millions have been deceived into accepting. Christ was talking about being born again literally! But not from physical to physical—rather from physical to spirit: “That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit” (vs. 6). God’s Word declares, “Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God” (I Cor. 15:50).

While Jesus’ miraculous power to heal drew crowds, it also drew the ire of the scribes and Pharisees, who felt their status and influence over the people threatened. These spiritually blind religious leaders were much more concerned with elevating their “righteousness” in the eyes of the people than in sincerely serving their needs. Their focus was entirely wrong! They emphasized the importance of meticulously observing the “exactness” of the Law, which they made into a terrible burden with their unscriptural codes of “do’s and don’ts.”

For example, when Jesus healed on the Sabbath, the Pharisees were so focused on observing this weekly holy day their way that they failed to see the Law’s spiritual intent: Love, first toward God, then neighbor.

God’s Law is not a burden—it is “spiritual” (Rom. 7:14) and “the commandment [is] holy, and just, and good” (vs. 12). Keeping the Ten Commandments expresses selfless, outgoing concern toward God and neighbor, “therefore love is the fulfilling of the law” (Rom. 13:10).

Remember Adam and Eve. They had two trees set before them—symbolically, two polar opposite ways of life—and the decision of colossal magnitude. Eating of the Tree of Life meant choosing a lifetime of faithful obedience to God, trusting in the Creator for His divine guidance, direction, knowledge, understanding and wisdom. But eating of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil meant rejecting God for guidance, and relying on oneself for judging how to live.

Man ate the fruit of the wrong tree—and for the past 6,000 years humanity has decided for itself what religious practices to embrace, what kinds of food to eat and how often, what types of governments and laws to administer, his own forms of education, whether men would look to God for healing or rely on complex medicines to overcome health issues, etc.

Today, similar to Christ’s time, people are sickly, diseased, overworked, overstressed, overweight and physically inactive. Usually people get sick because they have broken God’s laws and principles governing good health.

Laws and principles governing…

Communicable diseases: Lev. 5:2-3; 7:19, 21; 11:24-28, 31-40; 13:2-59; 14:2-3, 8-9, 34-48, 54-57; 15:2-13, 16-28, 32-33; 22:4-8; Num. 5:2-4; 9:6, 10; 19:11-16, 22; 31:19-20; Deut. 23:10-11; 24:8

Venereal diseases: Lev. 15:2-13, 16-28, 31-33; 22:4, 6

Quarantining the sick and diseased: Lev. 13:2-5, 31-33, 45-46; 14:2-3, 8, 34-38; 15:19; Num. 5:2-3; 31:11-20; Deut. 23:10-11

Disinfections: Lev. 2:13; 7:19; 11:24-40; 13:6, 34, 47-59; 14:8-9, 34-48, 54-57; 15:2-13, 16-28; Num. 31:19-20, 22-24

Sanitation: Ex. 29:14, 34; Lev. 4:11-12, 21; 6:30; 7:17, 19; 8:17, 32; 9:11; 16:27-28; 19:6; Deut. 23:12-13; Heb. 13:11

Food: Lev. 3:17; 7:15-19, 23-27; 11:2-23, 26-27, 29-43, 46-47; 17:10-15; 19:5-8, 26; 22:8; Deut. 12:16, 20-25; 14:3-21, 26; 15:22-23

Uncleanness: Lev. 20:2-6, 10-21; Deut. 27:20-23

Alcohol consumption: Isa. 5:11, 22; Prov. 23:19-20, 29-35

Disease resulting from gluttony: Num. 11:18-20, 31-33

Overcrowded living conditions: Isa. 5:8

Sometimes people inherit diseases, or the propensity to acquire them, from ancestors who brought on the effects of transgressing against the biblical principles of healthy living.

And in some cases, no one is at fault: “And as Jesus passed by, He saw a man which was blind from his birth. And His disciples asked Him, saying, Master, who did sin, this man, or his parents, that he was born blind?

“Jesus answered, Neither has this man sinned, nor his parents: but that the works of God should be made manifest [revealed, made obvious] in him” (John 9:1-3).

When Christ healed, it drew attention. It caused great numbers to stop and consider the power of God, and to listen to His message. Jesus, as the Lord of the Old Testament, was the One who led ancient Israel through the wilderness into the Promised Land—and therefore the One who announced, “I am the Lord that heals you” (Ex. 15:26).

Why Casting Out Demons?

The religious leaders of the day avoided talking about the spirit world, the true nature of angelic beings and evil spirits. Consequently, in ignorance, people involved themselves in the dangerous world of the supernatural, resulting in demonic influences—even demonic possession.

Addressing such cases, Jesus performed healings of the mind, casting out demons from people who were possessed. These evil spirits were former angels who joined Lucifer (now Satan) in rebelling against their Creator.

Amazingly, when the Pharisees saw Christ miraculously release someone from the bonds of demonic possession, they actually attributed the power He wielded to the devil (Matt. 12:22-24)!

But Jesus answered, “Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation; and every city or house divided against itself shall not stand: And if Satan cast out Satan, he is divided against himself; how shall then his kingdom stand?” (vs. 25-26).

Satan is the author of this world’s confusion and self-deception among man’s governments, religions, institutions, businesses and societies. Yet the devil’s kingdom is not divided—it is actively working against the Plan of God, which is to ultimately bring salvation to mankind.

Though Jesus qualified to rule God’s kingdom, this world—its governments, systems and ways of living—still belong to Satan, who “deceives the whole world” (Rev. 12:9).

Throughout man’s history, demons have entered many of the minds of those who have delved into witchcraft, magic and the supernatural; people who opened their thoughts to malicious powers that can drive one to commit unspeakable violence and mayhem. This curiosity with the paranormal is so ingrained within man’s nature, the Bible lists witchcraft as one of “the works of the flesh” (Gal. 5:19-20).

God’s Word also warns “that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God” (vs. 21).

The scribes, Pharisees and other religious leaders were powerless to help the demon-possessed. But Jesus Christ, backed by God the Father, held real power and authority. He could command even the most rebellious fallen spirit being to obey His orders.

Another way demons enter the unguarded mind is through wild, unrestrained emotions and attitudes. Notice:

“He that has no rule over his own spirit is like a city that is broken down, and without walls”—spiritually defenseless (Prov. 25:28).

“He that is slow to anger is better than the mighty; and he that rules his spirit than he that takes a city” (Prov. 16:32).

Man was created spiritually incomplete. While animals live without “brainpower” and are “programmed” by instinct, man has power of mind, via the “spirit of man” (I Cor. 2:11), which provides human beings with creative thinking and analysis. Yet the “spirit of man” is limited to comprehending only the physical. Thus, man cannot comprehend spiritual matters, “for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned” (vs. 14).

The Holy Spirit must be actively at work in the mind, converting carnal thoughts, attitudes and desires into spiritual ones. Only then can human beings successfully wage the same lifelong spiritual battles that Christ overcame in the flesh: “For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war after the flesh: (For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds [castles in the mind];) casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ” (II Cor. 10:3-5).

Those who guard their minds with God’s Spirit are able to withstand demonic influences.

Does Satan Have the Power to Heal?

Speaking of ministers who falsely speak in Jesus’ name, Paul wrote this: “For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ. And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light. Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also be transformed as the ministers of righteousness; whose end shall be according to their works” (II Cor. 11:13-15).

One of the ways Satan makes his ministers appear as true ministers of God is through demonstrating certain “miracles,” including acts of apparent healings. (Also notice Rev. 13:11-14.)

Exodus 5 records that Pharaoh’s court magicians were able to perform certain acts similar to the miracles God performed through His servant Moses. These were things that God allowed Satan to do, through Satan’s servants, as part of the process of hardening Pharaoh’s heart (Ex. 4:21; 7:3; 14:4), so that Pharaoh would be witness to God’s power in delivering Israel from Egypt.

The dramatic public “healings” promoted by many of this world’s ministers are the same kind of displays, in which individuals who suffer from various crippling diseases are really bound by a demon. An example of this condition is found in Luke 13:11-13: “And, behold, there was a woman which had a spirit of infirmity eighteen years, and was bowed together, and could in no wise lift up herself. And when Jesus saw her, He called her to Him, and said unto her, Woman, you are loosed from your infirmity. And He laid His hands on her: and immediately she was made straight, and glorified God.”

This is an example of an individual who did not have a physical handicap or disease, but whose body was in the grip of a demon. Christ cast the demon from her, and she was restored to a normal condition.

Forward or Backward

Also consider that often, at the climax of many supposed “healings,” the individuals involved will seemingly lose self-control and fall backward, usually with people anticipating this and already in place to catch them. But notice the following scriptures:

“And Abram fell on his face: and God talked with him…Then Abraham fell upon his face…” (Gen. 17:3, 17).

“And Jehoshaphat bowed his head with his face to the ground: and all Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem fell before the Lord, worshipping the Lord” (II Chron. 20:18).

“And He [Christ] went a little farther, and fell on His face, and prayed…” (Matt. 26:39).

“…and so falling down on his face he will worship God…” (I Cor. 14:25).

The above scriptures demonstrate that those who come before God’s presence to worship Him bow forward. Yet other scriptures show that those acting under the influence of a demon tend to fall backward. Notice: “As soon then as He [Christ] had said unto them, I am He, they went backward, and fell to the ground” (John 18:6).

Why? “And there was in their synagogue a man with an unclean spirit; and he cried out, saying, Let us alone; what have we to do with You, You Jesus of Nazareth? Are You come to destroy us? I know who You are, the Holy One of God” (Mark 1:23-24). Rather than yielding to Jesus, those with demons draw back from His power and authority.

Also note that nowhere in Scripture are people struck on the forehead and knocked backward! God’s ministers anoint—never strike—the sick. They lay hands on them. Think for a moment of the images of today’s so-called “faith healers,” who are actually performers, swaggering arrogantly before audiences who do not understand what they are witnessing.

Violent, noisy reactions are typical of those who are plagued by demons. Now notice verse 26: “And when the unclean spirit had torn him, and cried with a loud voice, he came out of him.” The Greek word translated “torn” is sparasso, meaning a spasmodic contraction. Compare this to the often wild outbursts of “Hallelujah!”, “Amen!” and “Thank You Jesus” exclamations, usually accompanied by gyrations or other displays of seemingly uncontrolled behavior, which are standard fare at organized “healing revivals.”

Also notice Acts 19:15-16, which records the tragic result of individuals carelessly—or recklessly—invoking Jesus’ name to cast out demons. They presumptuously took action, without Jesus Christ’s authority.

While Scripture makes clear that Satan does not cast out his demons (Mark 3:23-26), it would certainly work to his advantage (as “the god of this world” – II Cor. 4:4) to make his ministers appear to have healing power. Keep in mind that Satan can do whatever God allows him to do. (See Job 1:12; 2:6.) And, as Matthew 12:43-45 shows, if a person possessed by a demon is freed from it, and the person’s mind is not receptive to the truth from God’s Word, then that demon can return and bring with him “seven [spirits]…more wicked than himself.”

Also consider that Satan does not have our best interests at heart (I Pet. 5:8). “He knows that he has but a short time” (Rev. 12:12) before Christ returns. He knows that our ultimate potential, as those made in the image of God (Gen. 1:26), is to rule with Christ in the kingdom of God. Not only does the devil have no desire to physically heal anyone of anything (even if he had such power), he also seeks to deceive all people and blind them to God’s Purpose: to spiritually heal the entire world.

Most importantly, understand that healing involves—and requires—the forgiveness of sin. Satan has no such power!

Faith, Authority and Power

In addition to healings, Jesus performed countless other miracles: turning water into wine, walking on water, calming a raging sea, etc. These awe-inspiring events were not “parlor tricks” designed to “wow” the masses. They had meaning—purpose—intent. They revealed the awesome, unlimited power of the almighty God! The same power by which all nations will one day submit to Jesus Christ’s authority when He establishes God’s kingdom on Earth! The very same power that will convert the stubborn, rebellious hearts of men, starting with Israel, then the rest of the world! He also wanted individuals to know they could access such power.

Consider the account of feeding 5,000 men with only a handful of fish and bread. A great multitude of tens of thousands came to hear Jesus teach after they witnessed Him heal the diseased. When His message was finished, Jesus did not send them away hungry; He had His disciples gather all of the food that was available: “five barley loaves, and two small fishes” (John 6:9). The Bible states that there were “about five thousand” men among the multitude (vs. 10), but this does not take into account the women and children who undoubtedly would have accompanied them. Thus, there most likely would have been at least 20,000 people in the crowd that was fed.

Through a miracle, Jesus multiplied the meager amount of food to feed everyone. “When they were filled, He said unto His disciples, Gather up the fragments that remain, that nothing be lost. Therefore they gathered them together, and filled twelve baskets with the fragments of the five barley loaves, which remained over and above unto them that had eaten” (John 6:12-13).

The people were so amazed by the miracle that Jesus had to remove Himself from their presence, lest “they would come and take Him by force, to make Him a king” (vs. 15)—contrary to God’s Plan. Note that the account reveals the common thinking of the masses.

But the crowd followed after Christ to the other side of the Sea of Galilee. To the disciples, the throngs of people may have seemed zealous, willing to be taught God’s Way. But Christ perceived their true motives: “Verily, verily, I say unto you, You seek Me, not because you saw the miracles, but because you did eat of the loaves, and were filled” (vs. 26).

Their carnal minds focused on the physical. The words of Jesus Christ offered something far greater: “Labor not for the meat which perishes, but for that meat which endures unto everlasting life, which the Son of man shall give unto you: for Him has God the Father sealed” (vs. 27).

These tens of thousands sought after Christ, pretending (perhaps even convincing themselves) that they were prepared to receive His teachings. But what Jesus taught was spiritual; the minds of His listeners were carnal. They could not drink in the words that led to eternal life. Most of Jesus’ miracles were conducted to draw attention to God and His kingdom, and to teach that true faith is tied to authority and power.

Revealing Account

Take, for example, the account of the Roman centurion whose servant was deathly ill. This Gentile military commander had a good reputation among the Jewish leaders, who petitioned Christ on his behalf. The centurion met Jesus on His way to the man’s home, and said, “Lord, trouble not Yourself: for I am not worthy that You should enter under my roof: Wherefore neither thought I myself worthy to come unto You: but say in a word, and my servant shall be healed. For I also am a man set under authority, having under me soldiers, and I say unto one, Go, and he goes; and to another, Come, and he comes; and to my servant, Do this, and he does it” (Luke 7:6-8).

The reaction?

“When Jesus heard it, He marveled, and said to them that followed, Verily I say unto you, I have not found so great faith, no, not in Israel” (Matt. 8:10).

“And Jesus said unto the centurion, Go your way; and as you have believed, so be it done unto you. And his servant was healed in the selfsame hour” (vs. 13).

The centurion understood authority and power. As a commander, he gave orders and expected soldiers under him to obey. Likewise, he responded to the orders of those in authority above him. He believed that Jesus carried authority from God the Father, who empowered His Son to perform miracles. Therefore, the centurion did not need to see Christ actually lay hands on the sickly servant. In the centurion’s mind, all he needed to know is whether Christ would exercise His authority to heal—“but say in a word, and my servant shall be healed.” Real faith understands the connection from authority over miracles to recognition—simple belief—faith—that they will occur.

What Peter Forgot

Let’s look at another example: Peter walking on water. As Jesus’ disciples were aboard a ship being tossed about in a raging storm at sea, they saw their Master coming toward them, walking on water. They were so amazed they assumed He was a ghost, and cried out in fear.

Jesus tried to calm them down, saying, “Be of good cheer; it is I; be not afraid” (Matt. 14:27).

But Peter was not quite sure. He answered, “Lord, if it be You, bid me come unto You on the water” (vs. 28). He knew that if this was Christ, then He would have the authority to empower Peter to do the humanly impossible.

When Christ said, “Come,” Peter stepped out of the ship and locked his eyes on the One who represented the supreme authority of the God who created the universe and the physical laws that sustain it. Because he had the right focus, Peter’s belief in Christ’s authority—his faith that Jesus would keep His word to allow him to defy the physical laws of nature—gave him the power to walk on the sea!

But something went wrong. Peter’s focus shifted. He allowed the sounds of the howling wind and the splash of ocean spray to distract him. He gradually lost his full attention on the One who represented the government of God…and started to sink into the water.

Peter cried out to Christ to rescue him. “And immediately Jesus stretched forth his hand, and caught him, and said unto him, O you of little faith, wherefore did you doubt?”

“From Faith to Faith”

Jesus Christ’s miracles were designed to boost people’s faith. But Peter, who was unconverted at the time, proved that temporary human faith is not enough. Those who follow and obey Christ—Christian soldiers who (II Tim. 2:3-4) wage spiritual warfare against the wiles of the devil, the pulls of the flesh and the cares of Satan’s seductive world—must have the faith of Jesus in them.

Paul wrote, “For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith” (Rom. 1:17). There is a kind of human faith that all people have at certain times in their lives—but this must eventually be replaced by the permanent faith that comes only by the Spirit of God in converted minds (Gal. 5:22-23; 2:16).

Christ healed many people, and praised their faith—yet none had the Holy Spirit. However, they did have human faith! It takes human faith to believe you will be forgiven by Christ’s sacrifice—that God has called you to live His way of life—that you will receive His Spirit—belief that is necessary prior to baptism.

Yet after conversion, a Christian must live by the faith of Jesus Christ in him. He must go “from faith to faith” (Rom. 1:16). And God’s servants must grow in Christ’s faith, a lifelong process.

What Christ Gave the Poor

A common assumption exists today that Jesus both gave money to the poor and taught His followers that they should do the same—that this was the very essence of Christianity. This is simply not true, because the Bible nowhere says either of these things. However, Christ did give something to the poor, and it had infinitely greater worth than money.

Do you know what it was? Are you aware of what almost no one else knows?

Why do so few understand what the Father commissioned—directed—Christ to do? “The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because He has anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised” (Luke 4:18).

On another occasion, and this was briefly referenced earlier, when John the Baptist was questioning His works, Jesus cited the fulfillment of this commission—preaching [giving] the gospel to the poor—as proof He was the Messiah: “The blind receive their sight, and the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, and the poor have the gospel preached to them” (Matt. 11:5).

On yet another occasion, when the disciples thought that precious spices could have been sold for monies that could have gone to the poor, Jesus actually discouraged this action, and corrected their thinking—saying “the poor you have with you always.” Again, why are so few aware of this central feature in the thinking of the true Jesus Christ of the Bible?

Why Preach to the Poor?

Did you know that in a sense there are four versions of you? (1) The way you see yourself; (2) the way others see you; (3) the way God sees you; and (4) the person that God sees you can become IF you submit to His will and allow Him to develop within you His perfect, holy, righteous character.

The vast majority of people see themselves as being “basically good”—but that is not how God sees humanity: “Verily every man at his best state is altogether vanity. Surely every man walks in a vain show” (Psa. 39:5-6).

We saw that God makes clear that “ALL have sinned, and come short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23). No matter how noble, no matter how humble or sincere people may seem, “There is none righteous, no, not one: There is none that understands, there is none that seeks after God. They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that does good, no, not one” (vs. 10-12).

But those who are “poor in spirit” will inherit the kingdom of God (Matt. 5:3). They do not look in the proverbial mirror and give themselves a passing grade—they allow God to help them see themselves as HE sees them: as they truly are! Those who are poor—that is, “poor in spirit,” not always necessarily monetarily poor—see that no matter their collection of material possessions, social prominence and influence, they are in real need.

Instead of living the attitude of “eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow we die,” they need to know why they exist—whether there is something more to this temporary existence than “dying with the most toys”—if and how they fit in the overall Plan of God. They recognize things in their flesh that must be rooted out, but are powerless to do so without help from above.

They yearn to understand why so many billions have indiscriminately and often brutally suffered down through history, while others—time and again, the most callous, immoral and cruel—seemed to prosper.

Called from the “Bottom”

God uses the gospel—the good news of the kingdom of God—to call what would also be the “poor in spirit” to come out of this world and its ways (Rev. 18:4), and onto the path toward inheriting eternal life in His kingdom.

Those who respond eventually come to recognize that “God has chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise…the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty; and base things of the world, and things which are despised…things which are not, to bring to nothing things that are” (I Cor. 1:26-28).

Verse 29 tells why: “That no flesh should glory in His presence.” No one is called because of their “greatness” or “righteousness.” Christ preached the gospel to the poor to give them hope for a better world, a better future—to call those whom God can train to become kings, judges and priests in His kingdom. The “poor in spirit” are ever aware that they need God, His laws and His kingdom—not vice-versa.

Why Parables?

Of the masses who heard Jesus preaching the gospel, God the Father was only calling a handful. Almost all churches today campaign to “save souls” or to “turn hearts to Jesus,” believing Jesus spoke in parables in order for the majority of people to better understand what He was saying.

But Jesus’ own words refute this claim: “And when He was alone, they that were about Him with the twelve asked of Him the parable” (Mark 4:10). Christ was talking to His disciples and a few others around Him. The multitudes mentioned in verse 1 were already away from Jesus.

Then He said, “Unto you [His disciples] it is given to know the mystery of the kingdom of God: but unto them that are without [those unconverted, those He was not calling to understand], all these things are done in parables” (vs. 11).

Understand. Jesus used parables to conceal—to hide—the true meaning of His teaching so those God was not calling would not understand. Continue in verse 12: “That seeing they may see, and not perceive; and hearing they may hear, and not understand; lest at any time they should be converted, and their sins should be forgiven them.”

Christ taught through parables to make it more difficult to understand—not easier, as most assume!

Christ preached the gospel to the masses as a witness (Matt. 24:14), not to convert them. It is this same commission that His Church has today: “Go you therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy [Spirit]: teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen” (28:19-20).

Knowing the vast majority were not yet ready to accept God’s treasure-trove of truth, explaining these in great detail would have been a waste of time, giving “that which is holy unto the dogs” and casting “pearls before swine” (Matt. 7:6)—that is, giving priceless spiritual understanding to those who would trample rather than appreciate it.

Even worse, they then would have been accountable for not acting on that precious knowledge. James 4:17 states, “Therefore to him that knows to do good, and does it not, to him it is sin”; and we saw “the wages of sin is death” (Rom. 6:23).

To those whom God was calling, Christ always explained such parables to His disciples privately. But there were times when Jesus used parables directly aimed at the scribes and Pharisees, who did know the spiritual intent of the messages.

During His early ministry, Jesus told the people of the region what might be called the “Galilean Parables”: the Parable of the Sower and Soil; the Wheat and Tares; the Lamp Under the Bushel; the Grain of Mustard Seed; the Kingdom Like Leaven; the Seed Cast into the Ground.

But most of the parables He presented were not for the people at large, but to His disciples: the Hidden Treasure; the Merchant Seeking Pearls; the Net Cast into the Sea; the Householder and His Treasure.

Whether meant to the world or to His followers, the parable messages Jesus Christ related carried one common theme: the kingdom of God.

Does God Show Favoritism?

When a Gentile woman pleaded with Christ to heal her demon-possessed daughter (Matt. 15:22), He was presented with a perfect opportunity to preach the gospel to her.

Instead, Jesus “answered her not a word” (vs. 23).

But the woman was persistent. As she continued to cry after Christ for help, the disciples urged Him to send her away. Finally, Jesus said to her, “I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel” (vs. 24).

Christ and the original apostles preached the good news of God’s kingdom first to the Jews and to others who descended from Israel. It was not until sometime later when God made it clear to Peter through a vision—Acts 10—that the gospel was also to be taken to the Gentiles.

Does God show favoritism?

No. Peter, in verse 34, declared, “Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons.”

Then why did the Jews receive the gospel—and an opportunity to be called unto salvation—first, then the Gentiles?

Recall that the Jews in Jesus’ time constituted the house of Judah, which was largely comprised of the tribes of Judah and Benjamin, with Levi and remnants of Simeon. After the death of King Solomon, ancient Israel divided into two kingdoms: Israel and Judah. The house of Israel rebelled against God from the very start, exchanging God’s laws and statutes for pagan customs and traditions. We saw that the house of Judah, on the other hand, had an “on again, off again” relationship with God: righteous kings stirred Judah into faithful obedience, and wicked kings led God’s people astray. Judah fell into a repeating cycle of worshipping the true God, falling into idolatry and rebellion, receiving punishment from God, crying out for mercy and relief, receiving deliverance, then back to worshipping the true God, etc.

Special Covenant

God sent Israel into captivity, during which they largely lost their ancient identity. This was the result of Israel refusing to “Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy,” the Fourth Commandment.

During the years of wandering through the wilderness, the Israelites entered into a special covenant with God: “Verily My Sabbaths you shall keep: for it is a sign between Me and you throughout your generations; that you may know that I am the Lord that does sanctify [set apart] you…Wherefore the children of Israel shall keep the Sabbath, to observe the Sabbath throughout their generations, for a perpetual covenant. It is a sign between Me and the children of Israel forever” (Ex. 31:13, 16-17).

The seventh-day Sabbath is a special sign that identifies the true God and His people. By not observing the day God set apart for holy observance, the Israelites (and their countless descendants over the course of history) no longer remembered who they were. Today, approximately 600 million Israelites believe they are Gentiles, and have no idea that they have been recipients of the material national blessings God promised to Abraham’s descendants.

The Jews were sent into Babylonian captivity, but returned to their former homeland 70 years later. But since they kept the Sabbath (though far from faithfully), the Jews have retained their ancient identity.

But did God pick Israel to be His chosen people, “holy” and “special…above all people that are upon the face of the earth” (Deut. 7:6), because they were inherently more powerful or superior to everyone else?

Notice: “The Lord did not set His love upon you, nor choose you, because you were more in number than any people; for you were the fewest of all people: But because the Lord loved you, and because He would keep the oath which He had sworn unto your fathers, has the Lord brought you out with a mighty hand, and redeemed you out of the house of bondmen, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt” (vs. 7-8).

Just as He calls the “foolish,” “base,” “weak” and “the things which are despised” into His Way of Life, to confound “the wise, mighty and noble” of this world, God called Israel—a slave nation within Egypt—to achieve greatness by His power. From one man, Abraham, roughly 600 million Israelites now exist, consisting of the majority of the world’s richest nations.

During Christ’s earthly ministry, the gospel of the kingdom of God was preached to Galilee and Judea. Today, that good news is being proclaimed to every nation and territory on Earth. And from a tiny flock that He is calling out from the world, God will use trained, tried and proven teachers, judges and rulers in the world tomorrow to lead, guide and direct untold billions onto the path that leads to eternal life.

Matthew 19:30 states, “But many that are first shall be last; and the last shall be first.” You may also read Matthew 20:16, Mark 10:31 and Luke 13:30. All three verses contain a statement similar to “the first shall be last and the last shall be first.” These verses have dual meanings.

One meaning is that people who are first—“important”—in this life, will not necessarily have such status in the kingdom of God. Those who are of lesser standing—“the weak of the world”—are normally those God calls (I Cor. 1:27). It is, then, these individuals who will have top—FIRST—positions in God’s kingdom.

Another meaning of this verse can be found by reading verses 24-30 of Luke 13. During the life of Christ, the Jews were the first to hear the gospel of God’s kingdom. However, most did not accept Him or believe His message.

But when Jesus opened the gospel to the Gentiles, many accepted it. They believed and followed God. In this example, even though the Gentiles were LAST to receive the gospel and the chance to be in the kingdom, they will be among the FIRST to enter it!

God does not show favoritism. All people will be called to salvation: a handful during mankind’s 6,000 years of self-rule; later, the rest of humanity during the Millennium and Last Great Day. Likewise, God will build the future physical Israelite tribes—with the assistance of spiritual Israelites, those called into the Church and born into God’s kingdom at Christ’s Return—into a model nation that will lead all other nations in attaining universal success, prosperity, peace and joy!

But this time of worldwide happiness and prosperity is also available now.

The Abundant Life!

No chapter on the teachings of Jesus could be considered complete without the inclusion of one of His truly greatest teachings, one also largely unknown to those who profess to follow Him.

Many think the correct Christian view of this life is that it is burdensome, sort of going without and enduring a life of hardship in anticipation that “God makes up for this when we go to heaven.” Millions view Christianity as little more than a series of “Thou shalt nots,” rather than as the path to enjoying a wonderful, abundant life. These same millions often think of sin as the fun that will end if they obey God. They think that “accepting Jesus” also means accepting a life of almost morbid gloom and doom.

This view could not be more wrong.

Jesus declared, “I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly” (John 10:10). Have you ever seen—or even heard of—this verse before? Probably not. Christ came bringing the abundant life—and He said so plainly!

Why then do so many believe that Christianity is supposed to be endured instead of enjoyed. Why do they not understand that the radiant, abundant life can be theirs—if they will follow God’s formula to achieve it?

God never instructs or commands His people to avoid anything unless it is for their own good. Many things seem like fun, but carry a delayed penalty, and terrible price, for having done them. God instructs us on what to avoid so that we will not get hit later by an unexpected “boomerang”!

Knowledge of the abundant life is available to those who know the true Jesus Christ.

Chapter Six – By Whose Authority?

The New Testament records numerous accounts of Jesus Christ visiting Jerusalem’s Temple. It was there where Joseph and Mary, observing Old Covenant statutes, presented the Christ Child after He had been circumcised, and offered a sacrifice (Luke 2:21-24). At age 12, Jesus was in the Temple asking religious scholars probing questions. These “authorities” were taken aback by the young Boy’s inquisitive nature and wisdom (vs. 46-47). Jesus also visited the Temple several times during His earthly ministry, amazing onlookers by His words and actions. Some concluded He was, indeed, the Messiah. Many others, on the other hand, disbelieved and conspired to take His life.

In the first year of His ministry, when Jesus and His disciples came to Jerusalem to observe the Passover season, they “found in the temple those that sold oxen and sheep and doves, and the changers of money sitting” (John 2:13-14).

Christ was livid at what He witnessed. The Temple was built as a religious center to worship the God of the universe—not for exchanging currency for personal profit!

So what did Jesus do? “And when He had made a scourge of small cords, He drove them all out of the temple, and the sheep, and the oxen; and poured out the changers’ money, and overthrew the tables” (vs. 15).

Why? “And said [He] unto them that sold doves, Take these things hence; make not My Father’s house an house of merchandise. And His disciples remembered that it was written, The zeal of Your house has eaten Me up” (vs. 16-17). They remembered Psalm 69:9, a prophecy describing the zealous nature of a righteous Servant foretold to be consumed with doing the will of God.

This was just one of numerous Old Testament prophecies that the Christ was to fulfill, during both His earthly ministry and later at His triumphant Return to rule God’s government across the earth.

Recall for an additional point of understanding how Jesus Christ healed people. He made the blind see, the deaf hear, the mute speak and the lame walk. He fed untold thousands from only a handful of fish and bread. He walked on water, turned water into wine, released people from the bonds of demon possession and performed countless other miracles. Jesus Christ boldly preached the gospel, delivered prophetic warnings and taught tens of thousands about God’s Law, spiritually magnifying its intent.

Everything Christ said and did was with strength—boldness—power—and authority!

The apostle John wrote, “And there are also many other things which Jesus did, the which, if they should be written every one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that should be written” (John 21:25).

Some believed Jesus was the long-awaited Messiah. Some were undecided. Others—the religious powers of the day—felt threatened. They had no doubt that Jesus was a “teacher come from God” (John 3:2). They witnessed the mighty miracles He performed and were amazed by their effects. They admitted among themselves, “No man can do these…except God be with him” (same verse).

But the scribes and Pharisees refused to believe Jesus was the Christ—that He had divine authority. They were righteous in their own eyes, measuring their righteousness by how well they observed minute, manmade laws and traditions, which we saw unnecessarily made the Way of God burdensome. Since Jesus did not “measure up” to their idea of obedience, they concluded He could not have been Christ—and they were more than willing to lie about, slander, and falsely accuse Him, and even plot His murder!

Why? “For [Jesus] taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes” (Matt. 7:29).

By Old Testament Prophecies

Psalm 2:7 states, “I will declare the decree: the Lord has said unto Me, You are My Son; this day have I begotten You.” Jesus was the Son of God. Of all people ever born, only He was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit (Matt. 1:20). The Father, using an angelic being to represent His voice, publicly confirmed that Jesus was His Son: “And Jesus, when He was baptized, went up straightway out of the water: and, lo, the heavens were opened unto Him, and He saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and lighting upon Him: and lo a voice from heaven, saying, This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased” (Matt. 3:16-17).

As we saw in Chapter One, Jesus’ birth was foretold throughout the Old Testament. He was born of a virgin (Isa. 7:14; Matt. 1:22-23; Luke 2:7), in Bethlehem (Mic. 5:2; Matt. 2:1; Luke 2:4-6), later called out of Egypt (Hos. 11:1; Matt. 2:15) and reared in Galilee.

He was born to become King over the government of God (Isa. 9:6-7)—a position for which He qualified to replace Satan as this world’s ruler (Matt. 4:1-11). When Pilate asked Jesus if He was a king, Christ replied, “You say that I am a king. To this end was I born, and for this cause came I into the world, that I should bear witness unto the truth. Every one that is of the truth hears My voice” (John 18:37).

He also said, “My kingdom is not of this world: if My kingdom were of this world, then would My servants fight, that I should not be delivered to the Jews: but now is My kingdom not from here” (vs. 36). During His First Coming, Christ was also an ambassador, or representative, for God’s kingdom. He was a divine Messenger bringing a message from heaven—good news!—about the government He represented. At Christ’s Second Coming He will replace the governments of men with the government of God (Dan. 2:34-36, 44-45).

Yet billions of professing Christians today mistakenly believe Jesus’ message was about the Messenger! (This will be thoroughly covered in Chapter Sixteen.)

As the Son of God, Jesus was foretold to be born from the seed of Abraham and through the line of King David (Psa. 132:11). His genealogy was confirmed physically from the line of Mary, and legally through that of Joseph.

Christ was also a prophet “like unto” Moses (Deut. 18:15-18), of whom Peter declared, “And He shall send Jesus Christ, which before was preached unto you: whom the heaven must receive until the times of restitution of all things, which God has spoken by the mouth of all His holy prophets since the world began. For Moses truly said unto the fathers, A Prophet shall the Lord your God raise up unto you of your brethren, like unto me; Him shall you hear in all things whatsoever He shall say unto you” (Acts 3:20-22). Jesus partially fulfilled this at His First Coming.

Jesus Christ was a High Priest, not of Aaron, but of a priesthood that had no beginning or end, “after the order of Melchizedek” (Psa. 110:4; Heb. 5:5-6; 6:20; see inset in Chapter Seven.)

And, of course, He was, and is, mankind’s Savior. Prophecy explained Jesus would be hated and rejected, a stone of stumbling (Psa. 69:4; 118:22; Isa. 8:14)—betrayed by a friend (Psa. 41:9; 55:12-14) and sold for 30 pieces of silver (Zech. 11:12-13)—forsaken by His disciples (Zech. 13:7)—even forsaken by God (Psa. 22:1), as Jesus took on the penalty of death upon His sacrifice, becoming sin. God cannot dwell with sin (Isa. 59:2).

The inset about prophecies Christ fulfilled expands this list.

By the Sign of Jonah

The people witnessed Jesus’ miracles. They heard His unique understanding and wisdom, and saw that He spoke with great power and authority. And they watched as His followers changed their lives for the better.

Yet most, especially the religious leaders, were unconvinced. Their hearts were too hardened to believe Jesus was the Christ. Unbelievers pressed Him with questions, attempting to trip Him up, to somehow stump Him.

But Christ knew that miracles, the fruit of His ministry and the plain truth of His teachings did not matter to hardened hearts. So when the scribes and Pharisees demanded that Jesus produce a sign proving His authority, that He was the Messiah, He answered, “An evil and adulterous generation seeks after a sign; and there shall no sign be given to it, but the sign of the prophet Jonas: for as Jonas was three days and three nights in the whale’s belly; so shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth” (Matt. 12:39-40).

Being dead, in the grave, for three days and nights—not a minute more or less—and then being resurrected by God was the only sign Jesus Christ gave!

Old Testament Prophecies Point to Jesus of Nazareth

Throughout the past 2,000 years, there have been about 40 cases of individuals claiming to be the Messiah, but only one is backed 100% by Scripture: Jesus of Nazareth. And only He has used those Scriptures to prove His claims and has fulfilled every prophecy in thorough detail.

Recorded hundreds of years before Jesus’ arrival, as many as 60 major prophecies concerning the Christ can be found in the Old Testament. Twenty-nine of these were fulfilled within the final 24 hours before Jesus’ crucifixion.

Here is a sampling:

Jesus would be betrayed by a trusted friend. Judas Iscariot’s betrayal of Jesus was prophesied in Psalm 41:9: “Yes, My own familiar friend in whom I trusted, which did eat of My bread, has lifted up His heel against Me.”

In John 13:18 and 26, Jesus explains this prophecy would be fulfilled by Judas Iscariot. He said that the disciple to whom He would give a piece of bread would be His betrayer: “He that eats bread with Me has lifted up his heel against Me. He it is, to whom I shall give a sop, when I have dipped it. And when He had dipped the sop, He gave it to Judas Iscariot, the son of Simon.”

Jesus explained why He informed the disciples of this prophecy: “Now I tell you before it come, that, when it is come to pass, you may believe that I am He [the Christ]” (13:19). Jesus knew He was the long-awaited Christ, but wanted to ensure that His disciples, both then and throughout the centuries, would believe Him.

The price of the betrayal would be 30 pieces of silver. The silver paid to Judas for the betrayal of Jesus was prophesied in Zechariah 11:12: “So they weighed for my price thirty pieces of silver.”

The fulfillment is found in Matthew 26: “Then one of the twelve, called Judas Iscariot, went unto the chief priests, and said unto them, What will you give me, and I will deliver Him unto you? And they covenanted with him for thirty pieces of silver” (vs. 14-15).

Jesus’ disciples would forsake Him. “Smite the Shepherd, and the sheep shall be scattered” (Zech. 13:7). Upon being arrested, the disciples (sheep) of Jesus (Shepherd) “all forsook Him, and fled” (Mark 14:50).

Jesus would not retaliate when being accused. “He was oppressed, and He was af