UI – Part 360b – Stairway to Heaven
The Good News – Life, Death on the Cross
Now we meet Jesus. We turn the page from the Old Testament to the New Testament. Within the pages of the New Testament is woven the story of Christ. He was God-incarnate, both man and God. God could not appear on earth without causing fear. The people would be stunned and possibly die at the overwhelming presence of the Most Holy. He took the form of a human. Why? The answer is presented in the Bible. “…Just as sin entered the world through one man (Adam), and death through sin, and in this way death came to all people, because all sinned —… how much more will those who receive God’s abundant gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ!”. It was a man that brought sin into the world. It would then require a man pay the penalty for sin. That penalty is death.
God provided the perfect example of how humans should live a life devoid of being tempted; as he never gave in to challenges by the evil one. Satan made every effort to have Jesus give in to his overtures; he waited until Jesus was very weak after 40 days of fasting. Jesus ruled out any possibility of that happening. He lived as none of us can.
We, humans, cannot avoid temptations. They will be with us, surrounding us, in our communities, in government, in business, in dealings with neighbors and in our relationship with God. It is the presence of evil that permeates every nook, cranny, pore, and crevasse of the pages of our lives. At some point, no matter how good we may be we will succumb. That is just bad. So how can we even be made right with God. There is no magic wand, as there must be punishment for our crimes. Common law may cover the penalty for committing acts of violence against another, such as murder, stealing, harming, raping, and so on. They are established by governments to maintain a standard of safety and security for those living in their areas. Incarceration, even death may result. Or just a fine for lesser offenses. But is the person forgiven by God? What about those offenses that go unnoticed by the police or a family member, hidden and covered over, with the hope they will never come to light. If so they might cause shame to our family. But is there no guilt unless discovered? God knows the truth; there is no hiding.
Mankind is aware of sin and an inability to resist. How to be a friend of the Lord, totally obedient, and find acceptance was a obstacle that had to be overcome to be saved. That was understood. How, though, was the dilemma.
Jesus preached and shared with those who would listen how humans, not just the Jews, could/can correct their problem. He performed miracles that were witnessed on many occasions. Word spread. There was this man…. He was questioned and authorities even found his comments at odds with their own. He claimed he was God. He was the “truth.” That he and the Father are one. This was considered blasphemy, punishable by death, as no one was to take the Lord’s name in vain. He had 12 men as witnesses to his career. He shared with them and others, often very large crowds, the logic of God’s expectations. When threatened to be taken and punished for his crimes against the system, laws made by men at the time that were counter to God’s laws, he informed his followers “I am able to destroy the temple of God and rebuild it in three days.” He also informed them, “After three days I will rise again.” He was not fully understood; it was confusing. How could this be, the people asked themselves? Jesus also stated, “…the son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and after three days rise again.” This was a foretaste of what was to happen.
In the Quran it is written that Jesus is the son of Mary, a virgin at the time, and he was the good news, the Messiah. So too in the Bible. But, asked if god was his father, Allah said ‘no’, but made clear it was his doing, he could do and be as he wished. “…the angels said, O Mary, surely Allah gives thee good news with a word from Him (of one) whose name is Messiah, Jesus, son of Mary, worthy of regard in this world and hereafter, and of those who are drawn nigh.” Denial of being the father, you find in Islam’s Scripture, “She said: My Lord, how can I have a son and man has not yet touched me? He said: Even so; Allah creates what He pleases. When He decrees a matter, He only says to it, Be, and it is.” This to me is denial, or an attempt to confuse. God, if Allah is god, still enabled Jesus virgin birth, as forecast in Isaiah as the coming of Christ, mankind’s savior.
Christ was punished by the authorities, but not for anything he did wrong. He caused trouble they felt undermined their position in community. He had to go. It seemed more a personal vendetta. This however was God’s plan, as indeed Christ was the perfect sacrifice, the lamb, the ram in the thistles, that would bear the burden of the sins of mankind and suffer horrendous torture, sufficient to kill most persons, and then be required to carry his own cross, the cross to which he would be nailed and hung to die. The cross is the example of the burden he carried of our sins, not his. All of our iniquities were laid on Jesus by God. “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” The Father (God) was making a sacrifice of His Son for His children, those having been corrupted by the evil one, to make them right anew with God.
But there is more. When the humans ate from the forbidden tree in the garden of Eden their nature, sinful, invaded their bodies as a permanent stain. The cross upon which Christ was hung, as punishment for the sinful nature of humans, was as the tree in the garden but used to correct man’s defective nature. It was not erased.
Christ did die on the cross. Witnessed and documented, and not just by followers. Jesus was the substitution for us. It was at the Cross where God directed his judgment and wrath our sins deserved. Jesus was punished for our sins, so we could be free.
The Good News – Risen from Death – The Resurrection
Roman guards tested to be sure Christ was dead by piercing his side with a sword. His limp body was taken down and placed in a tomb. As a ritual at the time his lifeless body was washed, oiled and wrapped in a linen shroud. He was laid on a slab and after all parties departed a large round stone was rolled before the opening and two Roman soldiers were posted, their lives at stake if anything should happen to this body. Concerned over a statement Jesus made, the guard’s orders were to secure the tomb until the third day. Then no one could possibly steal the body and have the authorities faced with another deception. But behold the morning of the first day of the week, the day after the Sabbath, the rock had been moved, a violent earthquake shook the area. The guards shaking, afraid, with a deathlike countenance witnessed, “His appearance was like lightening, and his clothes were white as snow.” The tomb was empty, only the shroud remained in a heap on the large stone bed for the dead.
Christ rose from the tomb, as he said would happen. This occurred three days after he was crucified. He was the temple that was destroyed and would be built again in three days. He thus overcame death, physical death, and gave evil a poke in the eye. Two women also made the discovery and were assured by the presence of an angel, “He is not here; he has risen, just.…”
Jesus appeared to many, not the least of which were his disciples. He had Risen indeed. He remained on earth for more than 40 days. He then ascended to heaven as disciples watched. The doubts they may have had about Jesus before his death were now gone, and the reality of the truth he told and the words spoken became as tools for their use to build a following for the Lord.
Jesus rose from the dead, was resurrected, and thus proved his divinity. He was God. The only way God could appear on earth, and indeed God can do as he pleases, was in human form. He appeared as a human as not to cause fear among the people. It was the form needed for God-incarnate to deliver his message and make the sacrifice to rescue the children of God from their sin nature. This would not erase the stain, or the proclivity, but make man know God’s infinite love and bring them home to be with family. Their punishment for sins past, present and future. They were forgiven, once and for all. Man now needed to repent, turn to God for forgiveness, and live a life with Jesus Christ as his example. It will be a new kind of life lived with and for God.
God’s Gift – No Mystery
This is a gift to mankind from God. Accept the gift and be saved. There is no other way.
“For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, said Paul, that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures…” Thus Jesus is Lord.
“If you declare with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.”
Doing good works is not to be overlooked. But as a believer in the saving grace of the Lord, the good works we do is as evidence of our dying to sin, a new birth and eternal life, not the means or the way to a life eternal.
Stairway to Heaven
The graphic is from a teaching program prepared by David Nicholas, founder and past lead Paster at Spanish River Church, Boca Raton, FL. It is used as a tool to help teach the Gospel so it is properly understood as the pathway to salvation. It is the saving Grace of God. Recognizing and accepting that we are sinners begins the process. We must be punished and die to our sinful nature. Also it is not by works that we will be saved.
God, the oneness of God through the attributes of Father, Son and Holy Spirit provide the way. Christ is god-incarnate who came to earth so we could know God. He took the burden of our sins and suffered the punishment we deserve, a tortuous and gruesome flogging followed by carrying his own cross to a high place where the Romans crucified criminals, and then being nailed and hung on a cross until Jesus’ death was assured. He died, he was buried and three days later rose from the dead. He has Risen indeed. His resurrection proof of his divinity and the substitutional sacrifice God provided for mankind, those who believe. Now restored to a spiritual life, a life eternal, those having a heart for God, who will say what they feel and accept, being thankful, will find they are saved. Thanks be to God.
As followers of Christ, Christ believers, when filled with the Holy Spirit, we are committed to Christ as our example. We are commissioned to go into the world and share this good news, as well as the bad news, so others too may enjoy an eternal life. Being baptized in the name of Christ refreshes our bodily spirit and conviction that Jesus is Lord and Savior. It is through him alone that we will be saved.
John 3:16-17, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.”
John 14:6, “Jesus answered, ‘I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you really know me, you will know my Father as well….’”
You Are Invited
Gift = Eternal Life. From = Sin and Death. To = A new life lived with and for God.
At the top of the Stairway is an invitation. If you trust Jesus to save you from sin and eternal condemnation, then ask. Jesus offers forgiveness and an eternal life with God. Enjoy your new life lived with and for him. Share with others. Come alive.
Grace and Peace