No other man, born of a woman, has gathered around His claims and character such a large amount of literature as Jesus Christ. The Apostle John made the statement that "the world could not contain the books that should be written" about His accomplishments (John 21:24,25). Libraries all over the world contain a mountain of books that been written of Him who came as -
- The promised Messiah and Savior of the world;
- The Founder of Christianity;
- The Lord and Head of the Christian Church;
- The complete Revelation of God to man.
Theologians, philosophers and poets have written about Christ, one way or the other, often forgetting that our concept of Him cannot be over-estimated because what He is determines what Christianity is., which stands or falls with Him. In all that He is, in Himself, the cornerstone of the Christian faith, the key to the battle between faith and unbelief.
Now, because the doctrine concerning Jesus Christ is so vast in its range, it is no easy task to classify it. But in thinking about all that is associated with Jesus Christ as a whole, we can examine the facts in a a threefold way.
- His past manifestation, which takes us back to the dim, eternal past - to the Old Testament history - to His entrance into our humanity - to His return to heaven.
- His present ministry, which bids us dwell upon all that He is accomplishing on His church's behalf in the Father's heavenly abode.
- Hs prospective majesty, which covers all the future has for His church, the world, and the eternal ages.
The last two of these will be examined in two seperate articles behind this one. Before I deal with His past manifestation, I would like to deal with Jesus Christ's two natures:
The Great Mystery of godliness which the Apostle Paul reminds us of is "God manifested in flesh" (I Timothy 3:16), and throughout the Bible, Christ is represented as a Person having two natures, one divine - the other human. In His incarnation He became the possessor of a true humanity in union with His eternal deity. As God, He did not enter a human body or join Himself to man. He became Man, that is, He belonged to the stock of humanity when, as the Word, He became flesh (John 1:14). Of the unity of two natures in one Person, Dr. Louis Berkhof writes:
- "Christ has a human nature, but He is not a human person. The Person of the Mediator is the unchangeable Son of God. In the Incarnation He did not change into a human person; neither did He adopt a human person. He simply assumed, in addition to His divine nature, a human nature, which did not develop into an independent personality, but became personal in the Person of the Son of God."
At His incarnation Christ added to His already existing divine nature a human nature, and became the God- Man. At our regeneration, there was added to our already existing human nature, a divine nature and we thus became partakers of the divine nature (II Peter 1:4). Thus, like Christ, every true Christian is divine-human.
His Humanity: The human nature Jesus Christ assumed was not absorbed by or fused into the divine, and that the divine alone remained. In so many ways His full and perfect humanity is manifested. He was born a babe, and needed infant's clothing and a mother's nursing and care. He spoke of Himself as a man, and was so called by others (Acts 2:22; Romans 5:15; I Corinthians 15:21; John 8:40). Then He had the essential elements of human nature - a body and a soul (Matthew 26:26,38; Luke 24:39; Hebrews 2:14). Further, He was subject to the ordinary laws of human development, and to human wants, emotions and sufferings (Matthew 4:2; 8:24; Luke 2:40,52; 22:44; John 4:6; 11:35; 12:27; Hebrews 2:10,18; 5:7,8).
His Deity: Both Old and New Testaments offer convincing proof of Christ as "the Mighty God" (Isaiah 9:6; Jeremiah 23:6; Matthew 11:27; John 1:1; Hebrews 1:1-3; Revelation 19:16). The Ebionites of the Early Church and the Unitarians and Modernists of our time, deny the deity of our Lord. To them, He is only a man - a good, holy, exemplary man, but only a man. Thus, the crown of deity is snatched away from Him. But His deity is proven by all He is in Himself, and is able to accomplish -
- There is His self-existence (John 1:4; 5:26; 10:30; 14:10; Philippians 2:6)
- His eternal existence (John 1:1-3; 8:58; Colossians 1:16,17; Hebrews 1:8-12; 7:3; 13:8; Revelation 1:8-18)
- His immutability (Hebrews 1:10-12, 13:8)
- His omnipresence (Matthew 28:26; John 1:48; 3:13)
- His omniscience (Matthew 9:4; 12:25; Luke 6:8; 9:47; 11:17; Colossians 2:3)
- His omnipotence (Mark 1:27; John 5:19-21; 1 Peter 3:21,22)
His Manifold Works: Did He not declare that as the God-Man, all power was His? And such power was manifested in different ways -
- As the Lord of the Sabbath (Mark 2:28; cf. Genesis 2:2,3; Luke 6:5).
- As the Commissioner and Controller of angels (Matthew 13:41; Revelation 1:1; 22:6).
- As the Forgiver of sin (Matthew 9:2; Mark 2:5-7,10; Luke 5:20-24; 7:48).
- As the Commander of death and Hades (Matthew 9:24; Luke 7:14; John 11:43,44; Revelation 1:18).
- As the Creator and Preserver of all things (John 1:3,10; Ephesians 3:9; Colossians 1:16-18; Hebrews 1:2).
- As the Judge of all men (Matthew 13:39-43; 16:27; 25:31-33; John 5:22,23; Acts 10:42; II Corinthians 5:10).
A remarkable feature of this twin nature of our Lord is that wherever His deity is mentioned, His humanity lingers in the shadows, and vice versa. For instance, as the man He needed sleep, and in the boat slept soundly. But when the storm arose, He arose and as God calmed the angry sea. As the man, He wept with the sorrowing friends of Lazarus because He, too, had lost a companion He loved. But as God, He was able to call Lazarus back from the grave. As man, He knows all about your human needs, and as God He is able to satisfy them all.
Further, in connection with our Lord's dual nature, there are two designations which must be considered. His titles are manifold and meaningful but here are two conspicous one:
1. The Son of God. This pre-eminent title, give to Jesus by Nathanael, carrying with it the transcendental associations of John's prologue (1:1,14,18), conveys the idea of super-human dignity and unique relationship. All the truths of pre-existence, deity and Messiahship are contained in this name (Matthew 11:27; 24:36; 26:63; Luke 1:35; John 5:18; 9:35-37; 10:33,36). It is the name expressing Christ's relationship to God (Matthew 26:24).
Coeternal with the Father, and with the Holy Spirit, the beginning of the revelation of Christ goes back beyond the beginning of creation and of man. "In the beginning (a beginning before Genesis 1:1) was the Word" (John 1:1). Claiming for Himself powers and attributes belonging only to God, Christ asserted His pre-existence. When among men, He could claim, "Before Abraham was, I am" (John 8:58). John also reminds us that Jesus dwelt in "the bosom of the Father" (1:18), which, strange though it may seem, declares that Jesus lived before He was born. He, Himself, could say that He "came forth from the Father" (John 16:28). He also prayed, "Father, glorify Thou Me with Thine own self with the glory which I had with Thee before the world was" (John 17:5). Did He not share the Father's attribute of eternity, and come into the world as the Everlasting Father, the King Eternal, the Eternal Son, and as the Ancient of Days? (Isaiah 9:6; 23:7; I Timothy 1:17).
A further mystery is that, in the past eternity, before the present earth was formed with man as its occupant, the omniscient God forsaw that man, after His creation would sin, and require a Savior, who ultimately came as the Lamb slain before the foundation of the world (Revelation 13:8). The true church composed of redeemed souls was chosen in Him before the same foundation (Ephesians 1:4; II Timothy 1:9). Thus, in that dateless past, Love drew salvation's plan," and in the "fullness of time" Jesus came as the foreordained sacrificial Lamb (Galatians 4:4).
We now come to the Old Testament preparation for the coming of god's eternal Son, who did appear as the goal of Old Testament revelation. The prophecies and promises of the manifestation of Christ as the Redeemer-Messiah are interwoven in Old Testament Scriptures from the first promise of Him given to Adam (Genesis 3:15), right on to the last promise of His ultimate glory as "the Sun of Righteousness" (Malachi 4:2). While in the flesh, Jesus could lay hold of all past predictions and relate them to Himself (John 5:39; Luke 24:27,44,45; Hebrews 10:7).
In the Old Testament, the most striking preparation for Christ's Advent wre those wonderful theophanic appearances. These pre-incarnate manifestations of His were designed to prepare the world for Christ's more permanent abode in human flesh. Biblical scholars identify "The angel of the Lord" - "The angel of His presence" - "The angel of the Covenant" (Genesis 22:14; 31:11,13; Exodus 14:19; Isaiah 63:9; Malachi 3:1) as Christ, the Son of God, in pre-incarnate manifestation. "His Incarnation is the center by reference to which all angelic ministrations are best understood."
These are the theophanies in order -
His manifestation in Eden (Genesis 3:15). The pre-existent Christ as God, spoke of Himself as the coming seed of the woman. As God he was the promised; as the God-Man, He became the Promise, (see Genesis 3:22-24; Exodus 6:3,5; Jude 14,15; II Thessalonians 1:7,8).
His manifestation to Hagar (Genesis 16:7-14). This is the first time the angel is named. Four times over we have the title, "The angel of the Lord," or "Jehovah." Here we have Him seeking the miserable outcast - a prophecy of His coming redemptive mission (see John 4:14).
His manifestation to Moses (Exodus 3:2,6,14; 23:20,21; Acts 7:38). Typical deliverances were wrought by "the angel of His presence," who was no ordinary angel because of His exercise of divine prerogatives, the manifestation of divine perfections, and the claiming of homage due to Deity alone.
His manifestation to Abraham (Genesis 18:1; 22:11-13; 26:2,5,24,25). One of the three heavenly visitants entertained by Abraham repeatedly assumed, and received, the name of Jehovah with honor due only to Him. Both Abraham, and his son, Issac, were the recipients of promises from the Lord of Glory.
His manifestation to Jacob (Genesis 28; 32:24-32; 48:15,16; Hosea 12:4,5). The angel who redeemed Jacob from all evil was no common celestial messenger, but "the angel of the covenant" Himself who, at different periods of the patriarch's life, visited him with words of assurance.
His manifestation to Joshua (5:13-15). As Joshua succeeded Moses as the leader of Israel, the same mysterious Personage appeared, this time as "the captain of the host of the Lord." Joshua had to learn that he ws subordinate to another Leader worthy of adoration and worship.
His manifestation to Manoah (Judges 14:15-23; Isaiah 9:6). As the Omniscient One, the angel appeared to Manoah foretelling the birth and character of an extraordinary son, Samson. Here we have a visible revelation of divine majesty and a future look at the character of the coming Messiah.
His manifestation to Isaiah (Isaiah 6:1-13; John 12:39-41; see Ezekiel 1:1-28). In His pre-Incarnation appearances to prophets, Christ came as the Revealer of God. The words and burdens communicated to Isiah, and others, came from "The angel of His presence," Israel's Savior (Isaiah 63:8-10).
His manifestation to Zechariah (1:8-13; 2:8-11; 3:1-10; 6:12-15). The prophet prophet Zechariah describes a glorious Person, intimately acquainted with the counsels of the Most High, and as presiding over world affairs, directing, vindicating and interceding as no ordinary angel could do. This person exhibited the attributes of omniscience, omnipresence and omnipotence. God's name was in Him (Exodus 23:21). Other evidences of Christ's pre-existence are hinted at in Daniel 3:25 Revised Version; John 1:15; 6:22; I Peter 1:10,11; Psalm 110:1; Judges 6:12; I Corinthians 10:4,9; Exodus 14:19; Colossians 1:16.
The promise was that the intermittent appearance of Christ in human form were to give way to a more permanent sojourn in man's flesh, so His tabernacle among men naturally follows His pre-existence. We thus come to His fuller manifestation in the New Testament.
Dr. Herbert Lockyer, R.S.L., F.R.G.S., All The Doctrines Of The Bible - A Study And Analysis of Major Bible Doctrines; Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids, MI, 294 pages