1. Introduction

 

Jesus said: "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: Love your neighbour as yourself. All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments." (Matthew 22:37-40)

 

Dear reader, God gives us to a certain extent the opportunity to choose our own paths. We too ought therefore to give each other the freedom of choice regarding our beliefs. In response to love one should never force one's convictions upon anybody. Such an atrocity would produce fear and since love and fear are by definition mutually exclusive it is unacceptable. Love, however, demands that People who have disagreements seek to understand each others differences.

 

The contents of these pages aim to provide you with the necessary information to form your own opinions about Christianity based on what the Bible teaches. Having gone through all the chapters you will be able to distinguish Biblical Christianity from what is known as secular 'Christianity.' The latter is sadly found within many western nations today. The attentive student of 'Biblical Christianity explained to Muslims' will have his eyes opened to the growing numbers within those nations who love their Lord with all their hearts and with all their souls and with all their minds. They desire to be submitted to the Most High.

 

With God's help we aim to respect and love everyone no matter what religious background they come from. What follows shall reflect our commitment to truth spoken in love. The reader may still sometimes take offence because love occasionally has to hurt in order to always seek the best for others. If my son, for example, overlooks the red traffic light while I am with him in his car I will do whatever is necessary to prevent an accident. At first he will be irritated but once he realises what we were spared from he will be grateful.

 

As you read my first article below, please do so with an attitude that desires to get to know God better. May God bless you richly!

 

Question: What do you see?

 

Answer: Can you see a picture of a vase? Yes,…no….? You see a profile of two people? Well, both observations are right. When I saw that drawing the first time I could only recognize the pot. It took me a second look to see the two heads from the side in the very same picture. This is an invitation for you to take a second look. Let me assure you there is an alternative picture of Christianity available from what you were taught. By reading this book you will come to view the real, biblical Christianity.

 

For over 22 years I have been involved in discussions explaining Christianity to others. Ever since Jesus called me to follow him I have counted it to be a great privilege to give reason for the hope I have in him. The result can be seen in this book. Because many people have done the same there are very few questions that have not been answered before. In case your query is not treated here you will find it on the Internet. Here are just a few sites I can highly recommend:

 

www.christiananswers.net

www.answering-islam.org

www.debate.org

 

These places also give opportunities to ask about difficulties which you think nobody may have thought of before. However, there is one problem with this kind of approach. Imagine what would happen if parents were only answering the questions their children came up with in their ignorance without giving them guidance for life as a whole. Once that overall framework is in place many riddles are solved automatically. Little Larry illustrates this point with his enquiry: 'Why do I need to go to school?" Magnificent Mum answers: 'So that you learn something.' – "Why do I need to learn something, Mum?" – 'In order to earn something, replies Mum impatiently.' "Why do I need to earn something?" The son's 'why' questions could carry on for a while unless mother at least communicates to him how society works.

 

Not just children but adults too can easily lose sight or have no idea of the big picture. Much time is used to remove misunderstandings when it comes to talking about Christianity. So much so that that the inquirer's attention span may well be past its prime when it comes to the real issues. He then walks away without knowing what really matters. Many individuals ask for example: "Has not the Bible been changed? How can God create something out of nothing, how can he be everywhere at the same time? How can Jesus be God and the Son of God? Why does he allow suffering? How can Christians believe in the Trinity, that God is three yet one?" My reply is: "Good questions! Of course there are even better answers. We will look at them later. For the moment, however, please be content with the fact that God in most people's understanding is Almighty, Everywhere, All knowing etc. By definition therefore we will never be able to figure him out completely. Nevertheless, like little Larry who was prepared to pay attention to his Magnificent Mum`s explanation, we also do well to take note of what great God has to say. That is why I highly recommend reading the first chapter entitled 'The message of the Holy Bible' before moving on to the details explained in the others. It may well be the most important one.

 

 

The Message of the Holy Bible

 

The word 'Bible' is derived from the Greek 'biblion' meaning 'roll' or book. It has two parts. The Old Testament was written before the birth of Jesus Christ. The New Testament came into being after his birth. A Testament is a promise from God. Both parts contain the same promise but in two forms. The Old Testament could be compared with a building plan and the New Testament with the actual building. The singular form of the word 'Bible' for what is really a collection of sixty six different books underlines the fact that they contain one consistent message ultimately given by one author, God himself. It can be summarized as follows:

 

'God created the world and appointed Jesus Christ as the saving ruler over his kingdom. The Old Testament teaches the foundation for this message by explaining who God is, what he does and how he works. God has a relationship with his people based on his promises. The New Testament gives an account of how these promises were fulfilled in the life, death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus Christ. By his return Jesus will establish God's kingdom forever.'

Jesus himself confirmed that he plays the leading role in the Bible by speaking to two of his followers after he rose from the dead:

 

Then he said to them, "So thick-headed! So slow-hearted! Why can't you simply believe all that the prophets said? Don't you see that these things had to happen, that the Messiah had to suffer and only then enter into his glory?" Then he started at the beginning, with the books of Moses, and went on through all the Prophets, pointing out everything in the Scriptures that referred to him. (Luke 24:25-27, 'The Message' translation)

The term 'Moses and all the prophets' was a common way of referring to the whole of the Old Testament. Let us do the same and look in more detail at the message of the Bible. It can be divided into fifteen parts.

 

 

1. Creation (Gen. 1-2)

 

The first book of the Bible was written by Moses. It is called "Genesis` meaning" beginning. The account tells us that God created the heavens and the earth and everything in it just by speaking. The expression 'the Word of God' does not refer to a book first of all but to God's voice and his will. From that we learn that the word of God is the absolute foundation to the existence of everything.

When the creation of animals and man are mentioned the word 'formed' is used. (2:19, 7) The Hebrew for this word commonly referred to the work of a potter who makes vessels from clay. (Isa 45:9) Both, animals and human beings, are given the 'breath of life' by God. This implies that people, at least, physically, have similarity with animals. The big difference between the two creatures is, that man is made 'in the image of God' (1:27) as male and female. This means that man and woman alone reflect his nature, his characteristics. Like God they have the ability to think, speak, feel and do. Men alone have been enabled through these capacities to have a close, personal relationship with their Creator and with each other on a deep level. By living in such an intensive way the ultimate purpose of their lives is fulfilled, namely to bring joy and glory to God. They alone are also given authority to look after the earth and use its produce for food and living. They were to increase in numbers and to fill the earth. God made a beautiful world because he loves us. Every human being is consequently immensely valuable. On the first few pages that describe how God created the world around us we keep reading the phrase 'it was (very) good.' Everything God made was perfect and complete. There was no sickness, pain, death or divorce. Adam and Eve, the first couple, respected each other. The man, as the first among equals, became one flesh through sexual union with the woman and thereby demonstrated God's will that the gift of marriage was to be enjoyed between one man and one woman for life. Both felt no shame even though they were naked since that emotion only comes as a result of sin. Because everything was faultless we read that God rested on the seventh day. This means he finished his work as nothing could be improved upon. God separated that day from all the others. Later we learn that he did so in order for us to rest and rejoice in the fact that all things come from him, creation as well as salvation. (Deut 5:12-15)

 

 

2. The Fall of Man into Sin (Gen. 3-11)

 

When God made Adam and Eve he put them in a garden to work and take care of it. That place was located in 'Eden' (probably today's Iraq), a name identical with 'paradise'. It is probably related to a Hebrew word meaning 'bliss' or 'delight'. To make their joy complete they were free to eat from every seed-bearing plant and every tree that had fruit with seed in it. In the middle of the grounds stood two special trees. One gave life without death to those who ate its fruit. The other one was called the 'tree of knowledge of good and evil.' From other occurrences of this phrase in the Bible we learn that it refers to moral knowledge or ethical discernment and that it is good to possess (Deu. 1:39, Isa 7:15-16) However, God did not allow them to eat from that tree, otherwise they would die. Through this command they would be reminded that although they were created in God's image, he had absolute authority over them. By obeying him they would have grown in their knowledge which they already had to a certain extent, having been made in God's likeness.

 

After a while Satan approached them by speaking through a snake. His goal was to make them desire going against God's will. He tempted Eve by using a threefold strategy which he keeps using today in order to make people disobey God. (Gen 3:1-6)

 

Firstly, he causes doubt regarding the word of God. "Did God really say…?"

Secondly, he exaggerates the word of God. "You must not eat from any tree…?" Satan makes God appear difficult and strict, a kill joy, by adding things which God did not require. Man made religion is full of such laws.

Thirdly, he contradicts God's word and thereby makes him a liar. "You will not die…" He basically says that the created ones can become like the Creator.

 

The fact that the fruit was good for food, beautiful to the eyes and desirable to gain wisdom made her eat it and also pass on some to her husband who was all the time silently besides her. These things are not necessarily bad, only when they go against God`s will. That moment led to the most tragic event in history: Disobedience to God caused the break down in their relationship with him. Anything we put before God, any defiance towards him is sin (e.g. not only wrong words and deeds, also wrong thoughts and not doing things we ought to do). Nevertheless, at the root of Adam and Eve's sin was not disobedience, but lack of faith in what God said. The previous is a direct result of the later. If we dig even deeper we discover that they did not want to believe because they loved themselves more than their creator. This becomes evident in that they believed in the main promise Satan made, for them to become gods themselves. Then He would not be necessary anymore. They could be in complete control of their own lives. This wrong kind of self-love can only be cured by faith, the simple conviction that God is worthy of more love and therefore what he says will be obeyed by his help. Since man's basic problem is clearly a lack of right faith the only correct solution is faith in God, his word and his work. If the source of the problem was bad works the solution all man made religions offer, namely, 'do good works and God will accept you (maybe) would be right and appropriate. However, this is not the case. Therefore, the attentive reader can expose such religions as false right from what happened at the beginning of time. Good works are important but only if they are acts resulting from the right kind of faith.

 

Immediately after they ate from the forbidden fruit their eyes were opened and they realized their nakedness. No longer innocent like children they had a new awareness of themselves and the potential for abuse that would bring. Like God, they now knew good and evil. But unlike God, they were unable to master their knowledge. Being on the inside of understanding they were trapped and enslaved by it with most horrifying consequences. It is to be compared with a doctor and his patient who has terminal cancer. Both know the deadly disease but in different ways. The patient suffers a slow and painful death. God made man for himself. As Adam and Eve had rebelled against that very purpose they now felt an inner emptiness caused by a profound loss of reason for life. The result of that terrible sin was first of all guilt and shame.

 

As mentioned already, the punishment for disobedience is death. Since Adam and Eve's disbelief in God's word they were separated from him (spiritual death), cast out of paradise for ever (eternal death) and later died in old age (physical death). Moreover, during their life time each one had to endure the following specific penalties: The woman would have pain in child birth and a longing for a husband whom she can manipulate and control. He in turns would tend to rule unjustly over her. Furthermore, work would be difficult and unsatisfying for him. As is the case with agreements, the one God made with Adam and Eve, the leaders of mankind, affects us their children and followers too. We inherit the blessing of being made in God's image and taking care of the earth. But we are also left with all the problems we see in the world as the consequences of their sin. For a more detailed explanation of this see the chapter 'Fundamentals of Christianity.'

 

Given that God is Holy he cannot accept sin in spite of His great love for man. Thankfully this does not mean that he abandons them and us in our misery. Three things give us a glimpse of his rescue plan that has the potential to bring reconciliation. Firstly, like on leak will sink a ship, one sin brought about separation between the Creator and the master piece of his creation. God did not say human beings had to do good works to return to him. This teaches us that only He can bring us back into fellowship with him. Secondly, after Adam and Eve tried to cover their nakedness with fig leaves God provided a more permanent dressing in the form of animal skin. This indicates that the solution to our problem of sin comes from God in the shape of a sacrifice. Thirdly, when God pronounced judgment on Satan he said their will be hostility between the devil and the woman. One of her children would destroy him and in the process be badly hurt. In the context of the whole Bible this is the first prophecy to Jesus, born by the Virgin Mary. He defeated Satan after his death on the cross at his resurrection. We will look at this in more detail later.

 

The story continues with the description of the first murder. Man's wickedness increases and the earth was filled with violence. Therefore, it was destroyed by a flood which only Noah, his whole family and two of all kinds of living creatures survived by building a ship according to God's instruction. Afterwards Noah built an altar on which he sacrificed animals. That pleased God. He promised not to destroy all life again by flood waters for the sinful things the corrupt people do. From Noah's sons, Shem, Ham and Japheth came all the people who were commanded by God to populate the earth. All animals became afraid of them since men were now allowed to eat them as food besides the plants. They were told that because life is in the blood not to eat any meat that still has blood in it. If an animal or person killed someone they would have to be put to death as a punishment.

At first everyone spoke the same language. They soon followed in Adam and Eve's footsteps of rebellion. In defiance of God's command to spread into all the earth they started building a city and a tower that was to reach to the sky. God decided to confuse their language so they were forced to stop the construction and could not settle in what became later known as Babel. The word is of Akkadian origin and means 'gateway to a god'. The Hebrew word 'balal' sounds like it and means 'confused'. It is the origin of the English word 'babbel'. The fall of man leaves him confused in his sin.

 

 

3. The promise (Gen. 12-23)

 

From the descendants of Shem God chose Abraham. Through his lineage he would eventually bring about the defeat of Satan and the restoration of his relationship with mankind. God planned to do this by promising to Abraham unconditionally that his descendants would become a great nation who will be given their own country and eventually bless the whole earth. Sarah his wife was unable to get children. Nevertheless, against all odds Abraham believed and on that basis God accepted him. This is the first of numerous references to the crucial need for faith in what God promises (Gen 15:6). After waiting for ten years Sarah grew impatient and asked her husband to sleep with Hagar her Egyptian maid servant. This is in accordance with an ancient custom illustrated in the code of Hammurapi to ensure the birth of a male heir who would then belong to the wife. Hagar got pregnant and gave birth to a son. God promised her many descendants. He told her to name the child Ishmael. He would be hostile against many.

 

Thirteen years later God confirmed his earlier promise given to Abraham. In return He expected obedience. As a sign of their faith in the words of the Creator every male child had to be circumcised once it was eight days old. This rite was established not as a condition for entry into the blessings of God's promise but as an indication that they were already being enjoyed. God guaranteed Abraham a son through his wife Sarah whom they were to call Isaac. The land of Canaan would be given to him and those of his children who would confirm their faith in God's promise by obedience towards his word.

 

Later God asked Abraham to sacrifice his son Isaac and thereby he continued to develop the faith of his chosen instrument. He passed the test by being convinced that God could raise the dead. He therefore intervened and provided a ram as sacrifice instead.

 

 

4. Exodus from Slavery (Gen. 24 – Exo 18)

 

Isaac married Rebekah. She gave birth to Esau and Jacob. He had twelve children who became the fathers of the tribes of Israel. It is very interesting to see how the story time and time again concentrates on the life of a later son in preference to the firstborn. Shem over Japheth, Isaac over Ishmael, Jacob over Esau to name only a few. This highlights the fact that the people God accepts are not the product of human advance but the result of his sovereign and undeserved interference into human history.

The Israelites went to Egypt and were later made slaves for about 400 years. God saw their misery and spoke to Moses from within a burning bush. He was sent to the Pharaoh with the request to let his people go. God used his mighty power to perform all kinds of miracles through his servant Moses in order to make them comply with his command. The magicians of the Egyptian king also carry out supernatural things until it came to the last plague, the death of every firstborn. The Israelites were instructed to sacrifice a lamb for each household. Some of the blood had to be put on the two doorposts and above the door of each of their houses. Only this sign of the blood made the angel of death pass over the house so designated. The subsequent death of every Egyptian firstborn forced the Pharaoh to release the Israelites from their slavery.

 

Once again a sacrifice saved God's chosen people from death. This Passover experience was to be repeated each year to instruct future generations. It became the first of three annual festivals of the Jews. Under the leadership of Moses God miraculously saved the Israelites by bringing them through the sea.

 

 

5. The Law (Exo 19 – Deu)

 

In the desert on the way to the Promised Land, God called the Israelites to live under divine rule as his own saved nation. He gave them laws that reflect his own justice, holiness and love because they were set apart from all other peoples. The most well known among the regulations are the 10 commandments. All the instructions told them how to live in right relationship with God and each other.

 

Now as they were set free from slavery God asked them to build a special holy place, a sacred tent where he could dwell among his people. This shows his deep desire to live and fellowship with them. One of the central pieces the Israelites were requested to build in it was an altar upon which regular sacrifices were to be made by Priests. They were to be mediators between God and men. The primary functions of sacrifices are found in worship and atonement. The literal meaning of this Hebrew word, 'kaphar', is to cover. Figuratively it means to expiate or condone, cancel, appease, cleanse, forgive, be merciful, pacify, purge (away), put off, reconcile. On the Day of Atonement, the most important day of the Jewish year, the sin of the whole nation was forgiven by sacrificing a perfect goat. Symbolically, the nation`s sins, which are punishable by death, were transferred to it (Lev 16:21-22). God permits the animal sacrifice as a substitution. In spite of his miracles and provisions the Israelites time and time again murmured and rebelled against God. Subsequently God punished them by almost exclusively only allowing their children to enter the country of Canaan. The journey that could have been made in a couple of weeks took them about 40 years.

 

 

6. The Promised Land (Jos - Jud)

 

After the death of Moses the leadership was transferred to Joshua. Under him the Israelites invaded Canaan probably about 1406 BC. The promise given to Abraham was in the process of being fulfilled. The Jewish people were asked to establish God's kingdom on earth. They were warned not to make treaties with the Canaanite idol worshippers. God brought about punishment for all their abominable sins by commanding the Israelites to overcome and kill them in war. In doing so God did not permit combat in general as a means for achieving human goals. It was only a limited mission to re-conquer a portion of the world from rebellious people who had claimed it for themselves with the help of their idols, not a licence to triumph over the world by the sword. After the death of Joshua the Israelites kept rejecting the Lord and worshipping idols. God punished by letting other nations defeat them. When the Israelites returned to Him and pleaded for help God raised up leaders called "judges" who helped them to defeat their enemies. This sad sequence was repeated time after time.

 

 

7. Kings (1. Sam – 2 Chr)

 

The time arrived when God granted his people's request for kings to reign over them. Unlike rulers of other nations they were to represent God before the Israelites and as such exercise his rule. If they failed to be obedient to the obligations as defined in the law given to Moses, the whole nation was judged. David was the most well known Jewish king. God called him 'a man after my own heart' not because he was perfect but because he repented and confessed his sin. Under the reign of his son Solomon a permanent temple was built in Jerusalem to replace the sacred tent.

 

 

8. Exile

 

After king Solomon, Israel was divided into two kingdoms in 930 BC. Israel with its capital Samaria, the northern kingdom, suffered from great instability. God sent prophets like Elijah, Elisha and others to warn them of coming judgment if they would not mend their ways. After 20 kings were in leadership it fell in 722 BC. Judah the southern kingdom survived for 345 years until the fall of its capital Jerusalem in 586 BC. All but one of its 20 kings were descendants of David. God took them out of the Promised Land and sent them as punishment to Babylon, Assyria and other surrounding nations. Great sorrow overcame the Israelites because many died and those who were left thought God had cancelled his promises to Abraham.

 

 

9. Prophets (Isa, Eze, Neh, Dan, Mal, etc)

 

God used prophets at many times and in various ways. They called the Israelites back into obedience and gave encouragement and comfort by reminding them that His promises were still valid for those who believed obediently. Under the leadership of Ezra and Nehemiah the Jews returned in three groups to Israel in 538, 458 and 432 BC. Soon after that they fell into sin again. People had intermarried with foreigners, priests became corrupt and many more evil things took place. Malachi, the last prophet mentioned in the Old Testament, spoke out against them. He announced the Lord's coming and called for repentance.

What happened in the next approximately 400 years can be established from historical records found outside the Bible. After the Jewish people were ruled by the Persians until 331 BC they came under the reign of the Macedonian kingdom until 320 BC. This time was followed by the control of the Egyptians until 198 BC. Judas Maccabeus and his family led the Jews in several uprisings that guided the way to an eventual semi-independence from Syrian control. The Roman Empire gained sovereignty over what used to be known as Israel in 63 BC.

 

 

10. The life of Jesus (Mat –Joh)

 

The promise God gave to Abraham for his family to be a blessing to the whole earth came one step closer through the life of Jesus. The ancestry on his mother Mary's side is traced back to Abraham's son Isaac through Jacob, Judah and David. Unlike Adam who was born without father and mother simply because he was the first person to be on earth, Jesus was born by the Virgin Mary conceived supernaturally by the Holy Spirit of God. Had he been born with both a human father and mother Jesus too would have inherited his parent's preference to be sinful. As it is he never disobeyed God. Being much more than a prophet Jesus alone lived the life of special relationship with God that all of Israel was expected to live. He fulfilled many predictions of the prophets. He claimed to be the expected Messiah coming from God who would eventually set his people free from all oppression. Jesus taught about his kingdom. In the Gospel we read that he healed the sick, raised the dead, forgave sin and asked the people to turn around from their ways, to love God and others and to believe in him.

 

 

11. The death of Jesus

 

Jesus was introduced by John the Baptist as "the Lamb of God who came to take away the sin of the world". As the sinless and perfect one he alone was able to be the ultimate sacrifice hinted at many times in the message of the Bible. Here is one more example recorded in the book of Isaiah about 700 years before Jesus was born:

"But it was our pain he took, and our diseases were put on him: while to us he seemed as one diseased, on whom God's punishment had come. But it was for our sins he was wounded, and for our evil doings he was crushed: he took the punishment by which we have peace, and by his wounds we are made well. We all went wandering like sheep; going every one of us after his desire; and the Lord put on him the punishment of us all. Men were cruel to him, but he was gentle and quiet; as a lamb taken to its death, and as a sheep before those who take her wool makes no sound, so he said not a word. They took away from him help and right, and who gave a thought to his fate? for he was cut off from the land of the living: he came to his death for the sin of my people. And they put his body into the earth with sinners, and his last resting-place was with the evil-doers, though he had done no wrong, and no deceit was in his mouth. And the Lord was pleased...see a seed, long life, ...will do well in his hand. ...made clear his righteousness before men...had taken their sins on himself. For this cause he will have a heritage with the great, and he will have a part in the goods of war with the strong, because he gave up his life, and was numbered with the evil-doers; taking on himself the sins of the people, and making prayer for the wrongdoers." (chapter 53, verses 4-12)

 

The Jewish leaders sentenced Jesus to death with the help of the Romans on charges of blasphemy. He claimed to be God! (Mat 26:65) The creator of the universe allowed it to happen since only in that way Jesus could bring about peace between man and God once and forever. He paid the punishment for our rebellion against God's rule. The demands of perfect Justice and Love were met at the cross more than 2000 years ago in that impartiality requires punishment but love desires to forgive. Jesus received the one and therefore can offer the other. Through his death everyone is now presented with the possibility of free entry into life as citizens of a kingdom unlimited by geographical borders. It is to be found wherever his will is being done.

 

 

12. The resurrection of Jesus

 

The punishment for sin is death, meaning spiritual separation from God that leads to physical separation from him. Jesus died on behalf of us. Having paid the price to set us free death is no more. Jesus won victory over it!! Death could not hold him anymore. Therefore, God brought Jesus back to life again. Had he not been raised from the dead, there would be no hope for us. We too would die forever. The resurrection is very important also, because it confirms that we are forgiven. (Rom 4:25) It enables us to rise from the dead too, now in the above mentioned spiritual sense and one day, when Jesus comes back and we have died before that, in a physical sense. (2 Cor 4:14) Moreover, this extraordinary event proves that Jesus is the Son of God, because nobody else could rise from the dead in both a spiritual and physical sense. Among many other things Jesus said he also made clear in his most daring statement that he would rise from the dead. Having kept his word on that one we can surely trust him on the other things he said as well. The resurrection set Christianity apart form all other religions. Their founders, Muhammad, Buddha, etc. are all dead. Their bones are found in tombs. Only Jesus is alive!

 

Having been seen by many different people on numerous occasions Jesus departed from his disciples in terms of his physical presence. He passed into the unseen world to be with God and to begin his reign as the saving ruler of God's kingdom. He will remain there until his second coming. In the meantime Jesus prays for us (Heb 6:20) and also prepares a place for us (Joh 14:2).

 

 

13. Pentecost (Act – Jud)

 

Pentecost means literally 'fiftieth.' The name indicates the fiftieth day after the Jewish feast of Passover. It marked the conclusion of the feast of weeks that was to celebrate God's blessing of harvest. On that last day two loaves of unleavened bread represented the first products of the harvest. After the exile many Jews came once a year from far away places to celebrate what is known to them as 'Shavuot.' On that very day, exactly 50 days after the death of Jesus the promise he made to his followers came true. They were to wait in Jerusalem until they were given the Holy Spirit who would empower them to be his witnesses everywhere in the world. As a group of 120 believers gathered for prayer in Jerusalem suddenly God the Holy Spirit descended upon them with what sounded like a violent wind. They saw what looked like tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. As a result the believers began to praise God in other languages. Peter, one of Jesus' first disciples who before the crucifixion denied his Lord cowardly three times, now began to preach boldly about him. During that first sermon three thousand of an amazed crowd were converted. This outstanding demonstration of God's power was to be the birthday of the church. The Greek word 'ecclesia' means literally 'the called out ones'. It was used when people assembled in public. From this we learn that the Church is not primarily a building but those who are called by Jesus out of this world to gather around him. While in his physical body he was limited to one place in his resurrection body he went back to God in order to send the Holy Spirit. He draws attention to Jesus alone. Through him Jesus is now living in his believers everywhere. In that sense the Church is the body of Christ here on earth. Universally it is not limited to a particular denomination (e.g. Baptists, Pentecostals, Protestants, etc) only by

wherever God's will is being done. In contrast to the people of Israel where it was initiated by their obedience it is now caused by the Holy Spirit through faith in Jesus. Under the Old Covenant circumcision of the flesh was the outward sign of an inward commitment of obedience to God by Abraham and his descendants the Israelites. Under the New covenant baptism is now the outward sign of God's people in whom the Holy Spirit lives as the seal of God's promise. He equips us with everything needed to do God's will, namely to love him wholeheartedly and each other as Jesus loves us:

 

"But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, a quiet mind, kind acts, well-doing, faith, gentle behaviour, control over desires: against such there is no law. And those who are Christ's have put to death on the cross the flesh with its passions and its evil desires. If we are living by the Spirit, by the Spirit let us be guided." (Gal 5:22-25)

What God foretold through the prophet Jeremiah is now miraculously coming true:

 

"See, the days are coming, says the Lord, when I will make a new agreement with the people of Israel and with the people of Judah: Not like the agreement which I made with their fathers, on the day when I took them by the hand to be their guide out of the land of Egypt; which agreement was broken by them, and I gave them up, says the Lord. But this is the agreement which I will make with the people of Israel after those days, says the Lord; I will put my law in their inner parts, writing it in their hearts; and I will be their God, and they will be my people. And no longer will they be teaching every man his neighbour and every man his brother, saying, Get knowledge of the Lord: for they will all have knowledge of me, from the least of them to the greatest of them, says the Lord: for they will have my forgiveness for their evil-doing, and their sin will go from my memory for ever. These are the words of the Lord, who has given the sun for a light by day, ordering the moon and stars for a light by night, who puts the sea in motion, causing the thunder of its waves; the Lord of armies is his name." (31: 31-35)

 

Those who have faith in Jesus have a part in the blessing of Abraham who was full of faith. (Gal 3:9) In that way the whole world can now be blessed through Abraham as was promised by God. There is now no more distinction between Jews, Greeks, Arabs, Africans and others. All can be one in Christ yet maintain their different cultural ways as long as they do not contradict God's moral law.

 

Apart from the last of the remaining New Testament books the others are written to explain this extraordinary Good News to believers and to protect them from wrong teachings. One of the most common among them was that once people had become Christians by faith in Jesus they then had to do good works and obey God within their own strength in order to keep being accepted by him. The latter is essentially the path of the Israelites under the old covenant. It led to miserable failure. Here is what Paul, one of the leaders of the early church had to say in response:

 

"O foolish Galatians, by what strange powers have you been tricked, to whom it was made clear that Jesus Christ was put to death on the cross? Give me an answer to this one question; did the Spirit come to you through the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith? Are you so foolish? Having made a start in the Spirit, will you now be made complete in the flesh? Did you undergo such a number of things to no purpose? If it is in fact to no purpose. He who gives you the Spirit, and does works of power among you, is it by the works of law, or by the hearing of faith? (Gal 3:1-5)

 

"As, then, you took Christ Jesus the Lord, so go on in him, rooted and based together in him, strong in the faith which the teaching gave you, giving praise to God at all times." (Col 2:6-7)

 

The life of a follower of Christ starts with putting faith in him and it has to continue that way. He carries on remembering that he is a great sinner measured with the new commandment Jesus gave to his disciples: "Love one another as I have loved you." In faith he regularly asks for forgiveness and keeps turning to Jesus by fixing his eyes on him who is an even greater saviour. Only in this way the Holy Spirit changes him and works fruit through him as is confirmed in the following passage:

 

"But we all, with unveiled face beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are transformed into the same image from glory to glory, even as from the Lord, the Spirit." (2 Cor 3:18)

 

 

14. Second coming of Jesus (Dan, Rev)

 

When Jesus will come back the second time he will appear as the glorious, powerful judge and king. There will be a time of terror and devastation the world has never seen before. He will punish those who rejected his way of the cross with everlasting distraction. Ultimately there will be no more rebellion against God's rule. Those who followed him will be with him forever. In addition to that they will be rewarded to the degree of their faithfulness. For more details please see the chapter, "What the Bible says about your future"

 

 

15. New Creation (Rev)

 

After the return of Jesus has taken place new heavens and a new earth will be created. The kingdom of God has become an eternal reality. It will be the perfect Promised Land where God dwells with his people, wiping away all their tears. Death and pain will be no more. The needs of human beings for importance, acceptance and love will find their ultimate fulfilment in a personal relationship with their loving Creator. Words are unable to describe the bliss and joy experienced under the presidency of God the king, with his people ruling the New Creation!

 

Now as you know the message God has for you in the Bible how will you respond to him? If you are not certain yet please pray and ask the Creator of the Universe to show himself personally to you. Here is what he promised if you do so:

 

"When you call on me, when you come and pray to me, I'll listen. When you come looking for me you will find me. Yes, when you get serious about finding me and want it more than anything else, I'll make sure you won't be disappointed." (Jer 29:12-13)

 

 

Sources:

N.I.V. Study Bible, Zondervan Corporation, 1985

'The Bible Overview', Matthias Media 2001

'Baker's Dictionary of Theology', Baker Book House Company, 1960

'Dictionary of Beliefs and Religions', Wordsworth Editions Ltd, 1995