The Son of God, who existed in all eternity (John 1:1), “became flesh and dwelt among us” (John 1:14). This event happened at the right moment of God’s prophetic timetable (Galatians 4:4). In this stage of our journey through the Bible, I will consider seven aspects of the Messiah's mission.
When Jesus was born, there were shepherds on the surrounding hills of this region. As they were watching over their flocks, an angel from the Lord appeared to them with a message, “For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord” (Luke 2:11). Shortly after this a host of angels appeared in the sky saying, “glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom He is pleased” (Luke 2:14). That was an impressive scene. But why did this happen? The answer is, the King came into the world. In simple yet profound words the apostle Paul wrote: “the saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners” (1 Tim. 1:15). I am struck by those four fascinating words concerning the Jesus, He: “came into the world.” This is a reference to the greatest mission to ever be accomplished in the history of the universe. It is also called the “incarnation”. The word ‘incarnation’ refers to that event in which Jesus took upon Himself a human nature. The means in which He came into the world was through the virgin conception (Isaiah 7:14).
In this act, Christ Jesus (who is God), became man – and yet remained God. He had set aside the complete independent use of His Divine attributes in a way that He remained God, but it was veiled in His humanity (Philippians 2:7-8). Why was this done? Christ took on human flesh, so that He might take upon Himself human sin. In the words of Thomas Watson, “He took our flesh that he might take our sins, and so appease God’s wrath.” It was necessary that the Son of God had to become a man in-order to represent fallen mankind. If He weren’t a man He wouldn’t be able to die as a substitute for His people – the very ones He came to save. His entrance into the world was without sin (2 Cor. 5:21) – a perfect baby who came by means of a miraculous entry.
HIS EARTHLY MINISTRY
The second phase we will consider of His coming into the world is His ‘earthly life‘. At the divinely appointed time the Lord Jesus Christ commenced His public ministry at the age of thirty (Luke 3:23). The Lord Jesus Christ experienced intense temptation from Satan (Matt 4:1-10 and Luke 4:1-13), yet despite this reality, He never sinned nor was He ever inclined to (Heb. 5:15). In the four gospels we are exposed to the precious and life changing words that flowed from His lips. During His ministry He preached and taught “as one who had authority” (Matthew 7:29). In His preaching He demanded repentance (Matt 4:17), and offered forgiveness of sins (Luke 5:20). He performed many signs and wonders, which served the purpose of authenticating and affirming that He was who He said He was. His miracles pointed to the reality that He is the eternal Son of God. His life was an open book for all to see who He was. There were no failings, no secret sins, no scandals, no lies, no let downs, and no pride. He lived a life where it could be said that He was “holy, innocent, unstained, separated from sinners” (Heb. 7:26). He lived a perfect life, something that no other man has ever done. Think about it, He could enter the most sinful and tempting situation, and He would not sin. He needed to live a perfect life in-order to be a perfect sacrifice.
The next phase of Christ Jesus coming in the world for us to consider is His death. He knew that this is why He came. At the appointed time in His ministry, “He steadfastly set His face to go to Jerusalem” (Luke 9:51 NKJV). It is there where He will be tried by sinners, and will ultimately face something fiercer – the very wrath of God! The time comes when He is tried and arrested. In the process of His trial, many abused and mocked Him (Matt 26:67-68). After further trial He was scourged with a whip that consisted of bones and metal that tore His very flesh from His back and was then sentenced to crucifixion (Matt 27:26). Yet in the midst of this horror, the Scripture says that He was not ashamed (Isa 50:6-7). He is finally nailed to a wooden cross and publically ridiculed and shamed. Yet despite all of this, He maintains His commitment to His task. In the midst of ridicule He utters the words, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34). After He had received the full outpouring of God’s wrath and drunk from this cup of suffering to the final dreg, He declared, “it is finished!” And bowed His head and gave up His spirit” (John 19:30).
What is it that took place on the cross? Beyond the physical sufferings from sinful man, poured on Him was the very wrath of God. Why? He was at the cross as a substitute for His people (Isa 53:4-6). Though He was tried and murdered by man, Christ laid down His own life willingly in accordance with God’s will (Isa 53:10a). He took upon Himself all the sins of His people (Matt. 1:21) as their substitute (2 Cor. 5:21). After His death, the Lord Jesus Christ was buried and three days later He rose from the dead (1 Cor. 15:4) signifying the declaration of the Father that the penalty was paid and provided a pattern for the believer’s future bodily resurrection.
The day after the death and burial of Jesus, the chief priests and Pharisees gathered before Pilate worried that the disciples’ might steal the body. So Pilate ordered soldiers to guard the tomb (Matthew 27:62-66). However, nothing was going to get in the way of what happened early that Sunday morning – the resurrection of Jesus Christ. The resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ refers to that event in which He was raised to life. It occurred three days after His crucifixion (Luke 24:46; Acts 10:40; 1 Cor. 15:4), which took place on the first day of the week (Mark 16:9). The resurrection of Christ was an event foretold by the prophets (Psalm 16:10) and prophesied by Christ Himself (Matt. 20:19; Mark 9:9; 14:28; John 2:19-22) – it was a necessary event (Luke 24:45-46). After His resurrection He appeared to Mary Magdaline and other women (Matt. 28:9; Mark 16:9; John 20:18). He also appeared to the disciples (John 20:26), to a crowd of about 500 (1 Cor. 15:6) and later on to Paul (1 Cor. 15:8). The resurrection was the power of the Triune God on display (The Father: Acts 2:24; 3:15; Rom. 8:11; Eph. 1:20; Col. 2:13; the Son: John 2:19; 10:18 and the Holy Spirit: 1 Peter 3:18).
Forty days after Jesus was raised from the dead, Jesus led His disciples to the Mount of Olives (Acts 1:12). The disciples asked Him, “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” (1:6). Where did this question come from? Back in Zechariah 14 the prophet spoke of the future day when the Lord’s feet will touch the Mount of Olives, and defeat Israel’s enemies, and usher in a righteous rule (Zechariah 14). Jesus then told the disciples that it is not for them to know the times or the seasons, but that the Father has these fixed by His authority (1:7). He then goes on to tell them how they are to use the present time, and that is to receive power from the Holy Spirit to be His witnesses (1:8). After this, Jesus was lifted up and ascended into Heaven (Luke 24:51; Acts 1:9-11). Lois Burkhof notes that the ascension “was a visible ascent of the Mediator, according to His human nature, from earth to heaven, a going form one place to another”. What does the ascension of Christ teach us? Firstly, it teaches us that Christ has gone to Heaven to carry out a mission (more on this in the next point), and secondly that He will return in the same manner (Acts 1:11).
HIS HIGH PRIESTLY MINISTRY
After Jesus ascended into “glory” He was seated at the right hand of the Father (Heb. 1:3, 10:12; 1 Pet. 3:22). This is a position of power, preparation, and prayer. His power is exercised by His sovereign rule, which is over all things now and to come (Eph. 1:20-21). His preparation is seen in making a place ready for all His people in Heaven (John 14:1-3). And His prayer is an intercession for His people (Heb. 7:25), and He specifically prays for their protection and purity (John 17:15-17).
With great clarity on numerous occasions, the Scriptures teach that the Lord Jesus Christ is coming back (Matt. 24:36; John 14:1-3; Acts 1:11; Titus 2:13; Rev. 1:7, 19:11-21). Despite the rise and increase of scoffers and their rebellious rejection of biblical truth, the Second Coming of Jesus Christ is certain. It is certain simply because God said it is going to happen. The reality and certainty of our Lord’s Second Coming is called the church’s “blessed hope” (Titus 2:13), because it is a reality that provides spiritual happiness to the believer. When Jesus returns there will be two different kinds of resurrection – “the resurrection of life” and “the resurrection of judgment”. Jesus will then issue out judgment, and those who are His will enter the glory of Heaven, and those who are not His will enter into eternal punishment (Matt. 25:14-30; Rev. 20:11-15). Then His rule will be made manifest and it will expand over all and it will be everlasting (Psalm 145:13; Dan. 7:27). The saints of God will join in this rule and they shall reign for all eternity with their Lord (Rev. 22:5). In this eternal environment there will be no sin and the glory of God will be seen in all things. The curse will eternally be reversed.