Following the Resurrection of Christ those who had so vehemently sought for His death were left with an Empty Tomb. The watchmen who had been assigned to guard the tomb were given large sums of money by the chief priests with instructions to say to anyone who asked, “His disciples came by night, and stole Him away while we slept.” In Jewish culture today this belief is still “commonly reported among the Jews until this day,” as Matthew recorded in his day (Matthew 28:11-15). For a Jew to finally meet the Messiah the Old Testament Prophets foretold about is truly life-changing.
Throughout the Old Testament and during Jesus’ earthly ministry it was to the Jew first God’s righteousness was offered. Abraham believed God and it was counted to him for righteousness (Genesis 15:6). When the Jews rejected God’s offer of salvation through Jesus Christ, the Promised Messiah, the Gentiles were afforded the opportunity to “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved,” (Acts 16:31). The Apostle Paul in his letter to the Romans wrote of the Gentiles’ righteousness coming by faith, whereas the Jews sought righteousness through the keeping of the law (Romans 9:30-32).
Earlier in Paul’s letter he had written, “by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in His sight,” (Romans 3:20). The Jews based righteousness on their futile attempts to obey all of God’s laws along with the hundreds of other man-made laws the priests had added to them throughout the centuries, not understanding God’s purpose “by the law is the knowledge of sin,” not salvation. The Law shows the need for a Savior, for no man can keep the whole Law. Paul wrote to the Galatians “the law was our schoolmaster to bring us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith,” (3:24). To the Jews, Christ became a stumblingblock to them; they stumbled at laying aside their “works salvation” for a “righteousness by faith in Jesus Christ Alone salvation” as was preached to the Gentiles. Paul wrote of the Jews, “Because they sought it not by faith, but as it were by the works of the law.” He further wrote, “they… going about to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God. For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth,” (Romans 9:32; 10:3-4).
Paul tells us Moses described the righteousness which is of the law, “That the man which doeth those things shall live by them. BUT the righteousness which is of faith speaketh on this wise… That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shall believe in thine heart that God hath raised Him from the dead, thou shalt be saved… For there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek: for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon Him,” (Romans 10:5-13).
Righteousness by faith in Christ which the Jews would not accept as the New Covenant, is a righteousness of grace through faith; “not of yourselves… not of works.” It is Christ, the Perfect Lamb of God, who brings salvation to the whole world both Jew and Gentile, to everyone that believeth on Him and commits their life to Him (Luke 22:20; Romans 10:3; Ephesians 2:8-9).
As the Apostle Paul stood before King Agrippa recounting the events of his Damascus Road transformational experience, he quotes Jesus’ actual words to him that changed his life from darkness to Light. In Jesus’ own words we are given the path to forgiveness of sin and salvation unto eternal life.
The Apostle Paul had been accused of turning the world upside down (Acts 17:6) by preaching that Jesus, whom the Jews had crucified, was the Promised Messiah the Old Testament prophets had spoken of throughout the previous millennia. He spoke of the resurrection of the Messiah whom he encountered on his way to Damascus with orders from the high priest in Jerusalem to bring any believers in Christ he found back to the Holy City to be imprisoned for their faith. As a great Light brighter than the sun shone round about him on that designated road, Jesus delivered to him the way of salvation to God, the Father, for Saul who would become Paul and for all those who would follow (Acts 9).
Jesus spoke to Paul on the road to Damascus of opening the eyes to the Gospel, of which Paul wrote of in 1 Corinthians 15:1-4, “I declare unto you the Gospel… how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day.” Jesus then said what follows is what Paul needed to do, turn from the darkness to the Light, turn from the power of Satan to God, which is repentance. It is not enough just to know the Gospel; one must believe the Truth of the Gospel and turn away from sin, walking in newness of life based upon the commands of Holy God found in Scripture (Romans 6:4). In so doing, Jesus told Paul man would receive forgiveness of sin and an inheritance of eternal life, “sanctified by faith that is in Me” (Acts 26).
After being blinded by the great Light, three days later as soon as Paul’s sight was miraculously restored and along with his new life in Christ, he began proclaiming the Gospel of Jesus Christ, sharing first with those at Damascus, then Jerusalem and Judea, and then to the Gentiles, “that they should repent and turn to God, and do works meet for repentance.” Doing works “meet for repentance” is not working for one’s salvation, but is doing works because of one’s salvation. Paul wrote to Titus, “Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost: which He shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Saviour,” (Titus 3:5). Salvation is of God, not of sinful man. God says all our righteousness is as filthy rags; we are all an unclean thing (Isaiah 64:6). There can never be a scintilla of righteousness in us apart from God and His redeeming grace.
The Book of Matthew in the New Testament opens with the genealogy of Jesus Christ. Out of the long list of names recorded several are familiar from the Old Testament: Abraham, Isaac and Jacob; Boaz and Ruth; Jesse, David and Solomon. As the birth of Jesus unfolds in the second chapter of the Book, several verses refer back to what was written previously in the Old Testament. To fully understand the New Testament one must also read the Old, for the Old Covenant introduces the New Covenant founded upon Christ alone as the Sacrifice for sin.
- When King Herod questioned the chief priests and scribes where the Promised Messiah would be born, “They said unto him, in Bethlehem of Judea,” relying upon the Prophet Micah’s prophesy in the Old Testament, “…out of thee shall He come forth unto Me that is to be ruler in Israel; whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting,” (Matthew 2:4-6; Micah 5:2).
- When the angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and told him to flee with his young family to Egypt “until I bring thee word: for Herod will seek the young child to destroy Him,” it was the Prophet Hosea the Lord had spoken to and had written 750 years earlier found in the Old Testament, “I… called My Son out of Egypt” (Matthew 2:13-15; Hosea 11:1).
- As King Herod saw that he was mocked by the return of the magi to their own country another way and called for the slaughter of all children two years and under, Matthew recalls Jeremiah the prophet saying, “Thus saith the LORD; A voice was heard in Ramah, lamentation, and bitter weeping; Rachel weeping for her children refused to be comforted for her children, because they were not,” (Matthew 2:16-18; Jeremiah 31:15).
- Settling in Nazareth upon their return from Egypt, more prophesies written in the Old Testament are noted concerning Jesus, in that, “He shall be called a Nazarene,” a community where residents were often despised and rejected, as Nathanael said to Philip upon his invitation for Nathanael to come see Jesus, “Can there any good thing come out of Nazareth?” In Psalm 22 David wrote of the Promised Messiah of the New Testament, “But I am a worm, and no man; a reproach of men, and despised of the people. All they that see Me laugh Me to scorn: they shoot out the lip, they shake the head, saying, He trusted on the LORD that He would deliver Him: let Him deliver Him, seeing He delighted in Him.” The Prophet Isaiah wrote, “His Holy One, to Him whom man despiseth, to Him whom the nation abhorreth,” and also, “He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief… He was despised, and we esteemed Him not.” (Matthew2:23; John 1:46; Psalm 22:6-8; Isaiah 49:7; 53:3).
As one continues reading throughout the Book of Matthew and beyond, reference upon reference is made back to the Old Testament. The Prophet Isaiah wrote in the Old Testament of John the Baptist’s ministry recorded in Matthew chapter three (Isaiah 40:3). Jesus’ temptation in the wilderness in chapter four records Jesus quoting Old Testament Scripture in answer to Satan’s twisting of Scripture. Just as the Apostle Paul in Ephesians 4:16 writes of the Body of Christ, the Church, being “the whole body fitly joined together,” both the Old Testament and the New Testament fit wholly together, hand in glove. To understand the New, one must be familiar with the Old.
When God determined to destroy man from off the face of the earth because of their wickedness, He appointed Noah to build the ark to the saving of his family. Those who witnessed its years of construction scoffed at Noah, a preacher of righteousness, and his sons as they labored building such a structure as had never before been seen. “When once the longsuffering of God waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was a preparing,” on a given day time finally ran out for the ungodly. God shut the door of the ark leaving those without no hope of safety or salvation (Genesis 6-7; I Peter 3:20).
The coming of a Savior had been anticipated since Adam and Eve’s sin in the Garden (Genesis 3:15). All throughout the Old Testament the prophets looked forward to His Coming. No one knew the day or the hour, “But when the fullness of time was come, God sent forth His Son, made of a woman.” Unexpectedly, at the appointed time, the angel of the Lord appeared to the shepherds in the field announcing the birth of Jesus (Galatians 4:4; Luke 2).
Just as those who scoffed at Noah in building the ark and also the prophets who prophesied of the Coming Messiah, the inhabitants of Jerusalem scoffed at Jeremiah as he foretold the coming destruction of their city and captivity during the days of Nebuchadnezzar. Jeremiah suffered many injustices as the populace attempted to silence his words God gave him to warn them. Ezekiel records his prophesy concerning Jerusalem during Jeremiah’s imprisonment, “The word of the LORD came to me saying, “Son of man, behold, they of the house of Israel say, The vision that he seeth is for many days to come, and he prophesieth of the times that are far off. Therefore say unto them, Thus saith the Lord GOD; There shall none of My words be prolonged any more, but the word which I have spoken shall be done, saith the Lord God,” (Ezekiel 12:26-28). At the appointed day Jerusalem was overthrown and its people taken captive to Babylon for seventy years (Jeremiah 36-39).
There are those today who scoff at our Lord’s Return “…saying, Where is the promise of His coming? For since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation,” (II Peter 3:3-4). Jesus told his disciples in Matthew 24 that His Coming Again would come in a day and an hour when no one would know. Suddenly, in a moment, in a twinkling of an eye, the trump will sound “and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air,” (Matthew 24:36; I Corinthians 15:51-53; I Thessalonians 4:13-17). The disciples were told at Jesus’ ascension back to Heaven after His Resurrection, “This same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen Him go into heaven,” (Acts 1:9-11).
“Therefore be ye also ready;
For in such an hour as ye think not
The Son of Man cometh.”
The NEW YEAR has arrived, 2014 A.D… or is it the year 5774?
According to those who follow the universally accepted Gregorian calendar, it has been 2,014 years since the birth of Christ. The notation A.D. is Latin for Anno Domini, meaning “in the year of Our Lord.” For the years spoken of “before Christ” the notation B.C. is used.
The Hebrew calendar does not coincide with the Gregorian calendar concerning the year. Having not recognized Jesus as the Messiah to come prophesied in the Old Testament, the Jews are still waiting for the Promised One and therefore do not recognize Jesus’ birth as Christianity does. Their calendar records the years from the beginning of time.
The Jerusalem Post online at jpost.com records both years in their heading, 2014 and 5774. Which is the correct year? Both are correct! It has been 2,014 years since the birth of Christ and 5,774 years since the creation of the world.