A respected friend who does not yet know Christ or the Bible recently asked me what he was missing. These four gracEmails repeat what I shared with him in response.
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Unknown to the Jews or the Romans, or even to the Apostles, all this was being used by God to redeem the world and to forgive and to transform us sinners. Jesus had lived as a representative of all who will finally be saved — his faithfulness and obedience counted for us. He also died as a representative of all who finally will be saved. God put our rebellion, our transgressions, trespasses, sins (different ways of saying the same thing) on him. Jesus died as the ultimate anti-God rebel — but he was the only person who ever lived totally faithful to God. He was and is the Light of the World, but the sun went out as he died. He was tormented and tortured to death, but he overcame Death and opened the door to eternal life.
Early Sunday morning, about three days later, God raised Jesus from the dead. For a period of 40 days, Jesus appeared to his followers, in varying numbers, at different times, places and circumstances. He ate with some of them. He talked with many of them. They became convinced that the same Jesus they had known closely for three years was with them again — in the same body as before, yet somehow transformed. The Apostles then watched as Jesus went up into the clouds — returning to God from whom he came. Ten days later, on the Jewish festival of Pentecost, the “Holy Spirit” came upon Jesus’ followers, to be with and in all who believe on Jesus forever. (The “Holy Spirit” is the personal, powerful Presence of the Creator God, and of Jesus himself.)
These Apostles, who once hid for fear after the crucifixion of their leader Jesus, now were emboldened to proclaim his resurrection in the city that saw his death seven weeks before. They eventually carried the “gospel” (good news) throughout the Roman world. They did this, despite imprisonment, banishment and even death. As two of them stated very early, “We cannot help but declare what we have personally seen and heard!” Through the New Testament Scriptures — which all were written within 35-65 years after Jesus’ death and resurrection — and through the Jesus-following fellowship (“church”), the message continued through the world and down the centuries in both documented and living streams until our time and place.
One day, Jesus promised, he will come again in person, in power, with millions of angels. All the dead will be raised and every person will face God in judgment. Those who have known God now in saving faith will be given bodies that are immortal and suited for life in the everlasting Age to Come. Those who reject God’s overtures of love and fellowship now will be banished into a place of total, irreversible destruction, figuratively called “hell” or “Gehenna” — the name of the city dump outside ancient Jerusalem.