The Bible mentions "another Jesus". Is the one you worship the Jesus of salvation?
Possibly one in three of earth's population would claim to be `Christian'. They believe, of course, that their faith was founded by Jesus Christ just under two thousand years ago. It's generally believed that one mid-winter day he was born in a stable and lived some thirty years in Palestine before beginning a ministry during which he laid the principles of a brand new faith - Christianity.
He was `framed' by the Jewish religious authorities and handed to the secular Romans - who crucified him one morning. He died that afternoon. Death, however, didn't hold him, for he was resurrected three days and three nights later, and is alive today.
Fact or Fiction?
The whole concept of a historical Jesus has been debunked as myth. It's a way to convey some profound truths - but Jesus himself never existed, goes the story. Never mind that this flies in the face of inconvertible testimony from ancient sources. [Our Bible Basics study course discusses some of the evidence - request it from any of our offices]
Let's examine, though, some of the real myths that surround this most historical of those who inhabit history's hall of fame.
Depending on culture, Jesus has been portrayed by a variety of physical racial stereotypes. He's `like one of us' - black, or white or yellow or brown. And with 'our features'. But whatever our perception of him, Jesus was born of a woman of Judah in Palestine, and there's no Biblical indication that he differed from those around him. However the Jews of the time may have physically looked at that moment of history - Jesus was one of them! His physical characteristics are irrelevant to his mission.
Much of the story - as peddled in Christian circles - is indeed fiction. He was not, for example, born in December. He did not die on a Friday, nor was he resurrected on Sunday. Nor did Jesus introduce a brand-new religion!
The Bible does, though, give us a rounded picture of an individual born into a law-abiding religious family. He grew up in a Jewish family with several brothers and sisters. He looked like his fellow countrymen, ate like his fellows, worshipped like them. In general he was part of the local culture.
Take the way Jesus worshipped. Like all his co-religionists he attended synagogue on the seventh-day Sabbath and observed the divinely-appointed annual festivals passover and Unleavened Bread, Firstfruits, Trumpets, Atonement and Tabernacles. The Bible traces his attendance at and support for these `holy convocations' or services.
Nor did his death change his attitude to these holy days. Even in those tumultuous last days of his life Jesus made provision for the disciples to observe the festival of Unleavened Bread after his death. He rose from the dead as the `Firstfruits' at the very time when the Jews celebrated the cutting of the firstfruits grain harvest. He then marked the beginning of his church by sending his Spirit on the traditional `Day of Pentecost'. These days, in other words, were shadows - faint images of the reality which was fulfilled in him.
And what of the first Christians? Had Jesus left special instructions secret instructions - that all this should change? Secret - for nowhere do we find in the entirety of Scripture that his disciples should now abandon these age-old holy days and substitute Christmas, Easter, All Souls, saints days etc!
The New Testament (e.g., Acts 17:2) record clearly evidences the disciples observing the `Jewish' Sabbath - actually God's Sabbath, the festival of Unleavened Bread (I Corinthians 5), Pentecost (or feast of Firstfruits (I Cor. 16:8), Atonement - the `fast' (Acts 27:9).
The apostle Paul sums it up this way, speaking to the Jewish leaders in Rome near the end of his life: "I have committed nothing against the people or customs of our fathers" (Acts 28:17). Earlier he had in a court of law refuted his accusers saying: "Neither against the law of the Jews, neither against the temple nor against Caesar have I offended anything at all" (Acts 25:8).
Old Time Religion
Paul was simply reflecting the teaching of Jesus. Our Savior did not overturn the `old time religion' the faith of the Scriptures. He built on it. The New Testament is his final testimony, until his return, to the Father's revelation.
Constantly Jesus would refer to the writings of Moses and the prophets. The divine Law, he said, was now to be `written on the heart' - inward. Jesus magnified the Law of God insisting that not only should we submit to it in practice but even in our thoughts (Matthew 5-7). It's not just sin to murder but it is sin to even hate, for example. If we are to be his disciples we must abandon our own humanly devised traditional observances.
In contrast to modern Christianity, Jesus - and his first disciples positively upheld the teachings of the Old Testament. There is no `immortal soul' [see the lead article in this issue of New Horizons]. The divine Law is at the heart of true religion. There is no heavenly reward and no fire that will endlessly consume the unrepentant. And, as we have seen, there is in the religion of the Bible no Christmas, no Easter, no 'saints days'.
Most, indeed, of modern Christianity's cherished beliefs are totally absent - often condemned - in the teaching of Jesus and the apostles! Observed objectively the Bible and modern Christianity appear as two totally different religions. The terminology is the same. The lead characters are the same. But the substance is different with only occasional overlap.
Paul warned of 'a different gospel which is not another' (Galatians 1:6-7). It sounded similar, it used the same words, it included similar concepts - but it was 'another'. A devilish deception.
False prophets abounded then - as now. 'Deceitful workers' Paul called them to the Corinthian brethren. They pretended to be true Christians - yet preached 'another Jesus' (2 Corinthians 11:4). And no wonder, says Paul "for Satan himself transforms himself into an 'angel of light'. Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers transform themselves as ministers of righteousness" (2 Cor. 11:13-15).
Is the Jesus you know the real Jesus? Could you possibly have received 'a different spirit', a 'different gospel' (v.4)? According to the Scriptures that's a possibility! Paul elsewhere urges his readers to 'examine yourself whether you are in the faith'.
So - how did the primitive faith change? Why does modern Christianity differ so vastly from the life-style and the teaching of Jesus?
Christianity was born into a world in religious turmoil. In the eastern Mediterranean countries the ferment was dominated by Greek thought - a philosophy that had been hammered out over several centuries. The ancient - and Biblical - concepts of the nature of man were replaced by a universal notion of inborn immortality. First century religion was deeply influenced by those ascetic practices forcefully condemned by the apostle Paul in his letter to the Colossian Christians.
Because the religious foundation of the Old Testament was rejected the floodgates opened to any and every practice under the guise of `being led afresh by the Spirit'.
But as Paul wrote to the young evangelist Timothy (2 Timothy 3:14-17): "...you must continue in the things you have learned and been assured of, knowing from whom you have learned, and that from childhood you have known the Holy Scriptures which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus".
What were the `Holy Scriptures'? None other than the books we know as the Old Testament, for the New was not yet written.
Beguiled by the false notion that Christians had no need for the divine Law, the majority rejected God's Sabbath, the annual holy days, the ethical code of Scripture leaving an open door for a host of `pagan' practices. The apostles battled against this slippery path into lawlessness to no avail. It opened the way for the great Babylonian mystery religion to take over the church of God.
It was a different Jesus, a different Gospel, a different spirit. Christians embraced a lawless spirit - powerfully condemned by Jesus and his apostles.
Jesus warned that his way was tough. It would divide families. It would invite persecution and death for many who followed him. And in our day it is a minority religion. Not a couple of billion but a tiny handful of believers struggling against a tide of lawlessness in and out of the Christian church.
The late first century churches (Revelation 2 & 3) had sunk into this spiritual mire. As then, so too now, Jesus' call to the vast majority of those who profess to know him is `change now' - abandon lawlessness. To those who obey, his message is `stay faithful'.
To comment on this article or request more information, please contact James McBride by e-mail at the comment form below.
For PDF or mailed copy, see CGOM. Excerpt from New Horizons Volume 4 Issue 6, Novmber/December 2000. Edited by James McBride of the Churches of God, United Kingdom.
Go to Literature Index Page
This URL is abcog.org/nh/jesus.htm