The website called, "Reasonable Faith" (http://www.reasonablefaith.org) has an excellent video explaining what is called, "The kalam Argument" or "The Cosmological Argument." Another excellent video that will help you understand that your faith in the Word of God and the Creation narrative is not something foolish or unreasoning.
This is a powerful animation presenting the fine tuning argument for intelligent design - which supports the truth of a created universe.
Prophecies of the Christ, part 1: The Theme of the Sacrifice for Sins
Review: God created the world to be good. Evil and its consequences were brought into this world by the decision of people to be their own god. God works in this world, even in its broken condition, to teach people about the effects of evil and how they need God in order to be rescued from evil.
This week: The idea of sacrifice is very simple. When we say that we sacrifice something, it means that we give up one thing so that we can have another. In daily life, it means that I can’t do everything, so I have to give up one thing to do another. In extreme circumstances, it means that something very precious is given up, so that another precious thing can be achieved (such as one person giving their life to save the life of another). In business and law, it is possible for one to sacrifice for someone by paying the debt or fine that another person owes. In religious ceremony, it can involve a substitute of one life being given for the life of another. Sacrifice has been an idea that spans across many cultures. Many religions have sacrifice of one kind or another. While we would not agree with all kinds of religious sacrifice, we should at least ask why so many different cultures have felt that there is some kind of spiritual importance to sacrifice.
The main message of the Bible is that God made a supreme sacrifice so that people could be saved from evil and its consequences. "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16). God temporarily used animal sacrifice to teach the need of a greater sacrifice. Human sacrifices were always unacceptable to God. God made it clear that He hates all religious human sacrifice, except for one. God gave His Son to become human and who willingly sacrificed Himself for other people’s sins.
In the Bible, blood is the physical representation of the life of a person or animal. The blood of the sacrifice expressed that a life was given on behalf of another. This was to point us to the fact that Jesus gave His blood (life) on our behalf to cleanse us from evil and make us acceptable to God. It is the unique structure of the Bible that let’s us see that God was speaking of this long before Jesus was born. Since the Bible was expecting the sacrifice of Jesus hundreds and thousands of years before His birth, it is proof that the Bible is from the true God and explains His will and purpose to us.
Est. Time1 Description
4000 B.C. After Adam & Eve commit evil they recognize their nakedness and make clothing out of leaves. Before sin, people had nothing to hide from God. Like the intimacy of a husband and wife, they could be totally exposed before God (inwardly and outwardly) and yet be unashamed. After sin enters, clothing becomes a symbol of the need for our guilt to be covered by something. God rejected the leaf clothing Adam and Eve made for themselves. Instead, God clothes them with skins (requiring the death of an animal). This shows the problem of evil must be solved through sacrifice. God also predicts the “seed of the woman” who will crush the head of the snake (Satan), but get a wounded heel. (Genesis 3)
3900 B.C. Abel offers an animal sacrifice and is accepted by God. Cain offers a sacrifice of plants and is rejected by God. God can’t be approached in any way we choose or achieve, but by the sacrifice God requires. (Genesis 4)
2200 B.C. Noah offers an animal sacrifice after the great flood. The smell pleases God. As the smell of cooking meat is pleasant to a physical nose, so the spiritual sacrifice God wants will cover the spiritual “stink” of evil. God promises never to destroy all land animals and people by water again. (Genesis 8)
1900 B.C. Abraham is told to sacrifice his son Isaac, as a test. At the last moment, God tells Abraham to stop and to sacrifice an animal instead. God did not want a human sacrifice, but wanted to test Abraham’s faith. But, the prophecy is given that on the mountain of the Lord it will be seen or provided. That is, God Himself would provide a greater sacrifice and substitute to take people’s place so they won’t have to die. (Genesis 22)
1500 B.C. God sets the Jews free from slavery in Egypt. In order to convince the Egyptians to release the slaves, God would send a plague during the night that would kill all the firstborn of people and animals. The only protection from this plague was to sacrifice the “Passover” lamb (a young sheep or goat) and put its blood on the sides and above the door to one’s house. The plague will “Passover” the house marked with blood. (Exodus 12)
1500 B.C. God institutes for the Jews to keep the holy day “Yom Kippur” or the “Day of Atonement”. On this day each year, the high priest comes into the most holy part of God’s temple to sprinkle the blood of an animal sacrifice before the symbolic presence of God. Most people could never enter this special room behind a veil or curtain. This symbolized human separation from God due to sin. Also, on this day the sins of the people are symbolically placed on the “scapegoat” which is released into the wilderness to carry away the people’s sins. People need a “sin bearer” or one to take away their sins by taking their sins upon him. (Leviticus 16)
1500 B.C. God institutes the law for the religious cleansing of a healed leper. As part of the ceremony, two live birds are used. One bird is killed. The living bird is dipped in the blood of the dead bird. Some blood is also sprinkled on the healed leper. The leper is pronounced “clean”. The living bird is released. Leprosy represents the spiritual “disease” of evil. In early stages, leprosy makes a person numb and less able to feel. Later, leprosy will cause body parts to rot and fall off. Finally, leprosy kills its victim. Leprosy represents the spiritual evil that makes us unfeeling toward God and gradually destroys what we are supposed to be and do and finally will result in our utter death. As part of the being clean from this spiritual evil, one life is given and another life becomes free. (Leviticus 14)
1000 B.C. God makes it clear that animal sacrifice is not really what pleases Him, but that there is a Person who is coming to do God’s will. (Psalm 40)
700 B.C. The prophet Isaiah predicted a servant of God who will suffer greatly, but “sprinkle many nations”. This is like the sprinkling of the blood of an animal sacrifice in the holiest place to cleanse from sin, but this is done by a man for the cleansing of nations. Isaiah further said that “the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all”. This is like the scapegoat that symbolically had the sins of the Jews laid upon it, but this is done upon a man to bear the sins of all. (Isaiah 52-53)
500 B.C. The prophets Daniel and Zechariah speak about the King/Messiah to come, but in ways that point to His death and suffering on behalf of others. “Behold, your king is coming to you; righteous and having salvation is he … because of the blood of my covenant with you, I will set your prisoners free from the waterless pit.” (Zechariah 9:9b, 11b) Daniel spoke of a time “to put an end to sin, and to atone for iniquity, to bring in everlasting righteousness” but also of an “anointed one” [Messiah] who would be “cut off” (killed). (see Daniel 9:24-26)
30 A.D. Jesus said … “Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many … this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins”. (Matthew 20:28b, 26:28b) “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled. … Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem.” (Luke 24:44b-47) When Jesus died on the cross, the curtain (veil) in the temple ripped apart from top to bottom. God was showing that Jesus’ sacrifice had opened the way to be with God.
60 A.D. After Jesus, biblical writers said things like … “And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.” “But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God,” “For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit,” (Ephesians 5:2, Hebrews 10:12, 1 Peter 3:18))
Quotes from ESV (English Standard Version)
Footnote 1: There are many questions and considerable conflict about how to get proper dates for writings and persons in the Bible. The estimated dates I’ve provided are in very round figures and may be especially uncertain in some cases (especially the oldest dates), but these dates should give a good idea of the flow of time involved. Skeptics of the Bible seem generally committed to dating Bible writings as late as possible to avoid the idea that it contains real prophecy from God. It suffices to say here that it is accepted by believers and skeptics in general that the Jews had writings before the life of Jesus of Nazareth which contained prophecies about a coming Messiah (King/Priest). Likewise, the central importance of sacrifice both in the stories and rituals of Judaism before Christ is hard to deny. Jewish religious culture was known to exist before Jesus came. Jewish scriptures were even translated into Greek before the life of Jesus. Also, Christian writings claimed to be the fulfillment of the older Jewish writings and often quoted these older writings. Christian writings would have been very easy to disprove in that time, if the older Jewish writings had not existed long before Christ. Christians, like myself, find startling evidence in these “pre-Jesus” writings that they predicted the coming of someone just like Jesus. The sacrificial teaching of ancient Judaism fits with fulfillment in Jesus like a glove fits a hand. Even to say that Jesus is legendary (in whole or part) would not explain the prophecies that expected someone like Him to come. The example of the theme of sacrifice that runs through the “pre-Jesus” writings is just one example. So, the Bible is known for certain to be composed by many writers living in different times before and after Jesus. But, the Bible also has unfolding, unified themes as if it were the work of one author. This is strong evidence that the Bible is just what Christians understand it to be; God inspiring people in different times to write His story of salvation from evil through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ.
TWO GREAT WOMEN IN THE ANCESTRY OF JESUS
How they illustrate the theme of reconciling the conflict between justice and mercy, show the Divine origin of the Bible, and point us to grand symbolism in the cross of Christ.
Ruth & Rahab were two women in the Bible who could not stand before God’s justice, yet were accepted through God’s mercy. Their lives help reveal the Bible’s great theme of how people can come to God. God solved the problem of the conflict between justice and mercy through Jesus and the cross. “so that he [God] might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.” (Romans 3:26b, ESV)
The Bible is actually made of many writings from different times. When the central themes of the Bible unexpectedly connect with each other in writings separated by hundreds or thousands of years, it shows God guided these writers to give His message. One writing in the Bible is the Book of Ruth. God had established Israel (Jews) as a special nation where God revealed Himself.1 Ruth was from an enemy nation (Moab) that had tried to corrupt, curse and destroy the Jews. Because of her nationality, Ruth was forbidden by law to ever become part of Israel (Deuteronomy 23:3-6). Yet, the book of Ruth is about how she became an honored part of the Jewish nation. She became great grand-mother of Israel’s most important earthly king (David) and also a direct ancestor of Jesus Christ. Jesus’ genealogy in the book of Matthew usually just lists His male ancestors (some of whom were kings) and not the mother’s name. But some women ancestors are mentioned, including Ruth and Rahab. Both of these women had a strange distinction. They were not Jews and seemingly were disqualified from being God’s people, yet they were honorably accepted in Israel.
Despite her background, Ruth showed great faithfulness to her Jewish mother-in-law even after the death of her Jewish husband. Ruth endured difficulty and put her trust in God. As a result, she had a rewarding remarriage to another Jewish husband. The mother of Ruth’s new husband was Rahab who had even worse beginnings than Ruth. Not only had Rahab been a prostitute, but she was a Canaanite. Because of the extreme wickedness of the Canaanite people (including sacrificing their children), God had issued a general declaration of execution against them (Deuteronomy 12:31; 20:16-18). According to God’s command (law), Rahab was not only excluded from becoming an Israelite, but she was supposed to be killed. Yet, she was not only allowed to live, but also lived with the Jews and became an ancestor to the kingly line of Christ.
So, do God’s commands sometimes contradict what He really wants? Did God not know that He would want to accept these women in spite of His commands against them? What seems to be a contradiction in the Bible reveals the point of two of the Bible’s deepest themes; God’s justice and mercy (or Law and Grace). God’s justice demands that all good be rewarded and all evil be punished. If a person does any wrong, even in thought, God’s Law demands their spiritual death (exclusion from God’s life and pleasure). But, God’s grace and mercy desires to forgive and give spiritual life even to the undeserving. Therefore, in a very real sense, justice and mercy are conflicting and opposing each other. But, in another very real sense, they agree with each other. After all, you can’t forgive someone unless they have done wrong. Real mercy can’t exist without real justice. If it is not justice to punish evil, then it is not mercy to forgive it. Some people make the mistake of thinking that God must show the same mercy to all. But, mercy must be free to be given or not to be given. If mercy has to be given, then it would actually mean that justice has no real demands. Justice would only have empty warnings of punishment because mercy would never actually allow it. But, God tells us repeatedly that He is the God of justice and mercy. Justice is not an empty threat toward evil. Mercy is not a hollow promise to be freed from a consequence that couldn’t happen. Although people may struggle with the conflicting goals of justice and mercy, or the way God decides to show them, even daily life requires us to make decisions of justice and mercy. If people don’t use some system of rewarding good and punishing evil, things will fall apart for lack of justice. But, if no mercy is shown, then life is unbearable because none of us perfectly keeps all the rules.
How God keeps the agreement and resolves the conflict between justice and mercy is central to the Bible and the cross of Jesus. A cross is made when two lines that run in exactly different directions meet each other. The cross is the only place where the two lines can meet. It is the only place that someone who is traveling down one line can switch to the other line. The Bible teaches that there are two lines or two ways for people to try to approach God. These two ways are represented in two covenants (or contracts) given by God through two different men; Moses and Jesus. But, two women are used to represent how we should respond to these contracts.
Through Moses, God gave the covenant of Law in which a person must live in perfect obedience to God by their own strength. If people under this contract break those terms, God will deal with them according to justice and punish them forever for violating the infinite goodness of God. Even people who don’t know about Moses can be relating to God according to the contract of Law or justice. Every attempt to be good without God’s Savior appeals (consciously or unconsciously) to the contract of Law. Even atheists are aware of a standard of good to follow. We accept the contract of Law by faith in (dependence upon) someone or something other than Jesus. Sometimes, it is openly a faith in our selves without God. Often, it is hidden as faith in a God (god) that we can please by our own efforts. The Bible reveals that this way seems right to people, but is actually the way of death. Moses’ laws of exclusion and death against Ruth and Rahab represent the contract of Law that actually requires all of us to spiritually die because of bad things we have done, said or thought.
Through Jesus, God gave the covenant of grace. Under this contract, we trust in God’s gift of goodness (or righteousness) to us through Jesus and not our attempts to be good. Even Jesus’ name means that “God is salvation” or “God saves”. In other words, God has to rescue you from evil because you can’t save yourself. Though faith in Jesus, God will forgive us, accept us, include us and give us eternal life. In the Covenant of Grace (a.k.a. the Good News of Jesus Christ), God keeps the Law for us, pays for our sins by dying in our place, and lives inside of us to help us do good by His power. What we need to do is inwardly turn to God (repent) and trust in Jesus as Lord and Savior (the only one fit to rule over us and the only one able to save us). When Ruth and Rahab put their trust in the true God and sought to be among His people, they were no longer under the contract of the Law and were free from its demands. They became parties to (participants of) the contract of God’s grace. God invites everyone to come to the cross of Jesus and accept the contract He made for us there. It is in Jesus and the cross where “Steadfast love and faithfulness meet; righteousness and peace kiss each other.” “For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.” Psalm 85:10, John 1:17 (ESV).
Footnote: 1The physical Jewish nation is a symbol or shadow of the special “nation of God’s people”, but the spiritual reality is that “God’s special people” is made of everyone who trusts in God’s salvation (Jesus).
Evidences for the Existence of the God of the Bible.
(1) The universe can’t exist by itself.
The universe appears to be both designed and deteriorating. The universe appears to be like a clock that is running down (that could not either make itself or wind itself up). For example, we see stars die but can’t explain their origin. Scientists may speculate (guess) that stars are born in nebulas or by some other natural process, but there are difficulties with getting stars to form by any natural means. Stars are made of gas which has a stronger tendency to expand than gravity has to pull it together. Only if you have tremendous amounts of gas already compacted (into a star) is there enough gravity to hold it together. We see stars that already exist die in such things as supernovas. But, we don’t actually see stars being born. If any scientist claims to see stars being born, I would challenge you to deeply investigate the claim. Almost certainly it is an assumption and not actually science. The universe is not eternal like God, so it can fail or run down. The universe also can’t mold itself into the forms it now has. This evidence matches the Bible’s teaching that God is greater than the universe and that He made it.
Hebrews 1:10-12 And, "You, Lord, laid the foundation of the earth in the beginning, and the heavens are the work of your hands; they will perish, but you remain; they will all wear out like a garment, like a robe you will roll them up, like a garment they will be changed. But you are the same, and your years will have no end."
(2) By all evidence, physical life does not and did not begin on its own.
Life is extremely complex and obviously designed. A computer or car will not occur without intelligent planning, nor will any kind of life form by itself. For example, life is based on encoded information in DNA. All other encoded information that we know (such as writing, software programming) comes from an intelligent source. The most unscientific explanation of life is that it occurred by chance. Science shows that information codes have an intelligent source. The scientific search for intelligent extraterrestrial life was based on trying to identify coded information signals from space because of the certain knowledge that such information would mean an intelligent source. However, scientists try to make an unwarranted exception when it comes to the code found in living things. The suggestion that aliens could produce life as we know it does not help because aliens are normally imagined as limited, natural beings that had not always existed and that would not be able to form without some help outside of themselves. Physical life shows no ability to become alive on its own, yet here it is. An uncreated spiritual life (God) that made physical life is consistent physical evidence.
Psalm 104:24 O LORD, how manifold are your works! In wisdom have you made them all; the earth is full of your creatures.
Jeremiah 27:5a “It is I who by my great power and my outstretched arm have made the earth, with the men and animals that are on the earth,
(3) The demand for morality, meaning and eternal life.
People have some hunger or drive for morality, meaning in life and existence beyond physical death. Some people may focus on one of these more than others, but considered deeply they are interconnected. Real morality can only be found in knowing the meaning (purpose) of life and knowing that one’s life has continuing significance. If our life only matters for a little while, then morality and meaning begin to lose their importance. People usually try to satisfy the hunger for morality, meaning and eternal existence with some kind of religion. For many reasons, people often see that the universe alone isn’t enough to give meaning, morality or eternal life. We are driven to believe in a higher (spiritual) reality since physical reality can’t fully satisfy. The existence of such a hunger or drive points to a reality. People are hungry for food because food is real & they truly need it. Disagreements in religion don’t disprove spiritual reality any more than hungry babies chewing on rocks or sticks disprove there is milk. There is a higher (spiritual) reality that people hunger to connect with. For life to have morality, it has to have meaning or purpose. “Good” is what agrees with the purpose of life. “Evil” is what goes against the purpose of life. But, purpose or meaning always requires an intelligent source. Possibly, an intelligence could write a meaningless letter (but the intelligence would even have a reason for doing that). But, non-intelligence could never write a meaningful letter. It is a contradiction in terms because non-intelligence does not have any intentions or thoughts or purposes to be communicated or carried out. The God of the Bible gives morality, meaning and eternal life to people.
Ecclesiastes 2:13-17; 3:11 “Then I saw that there is more gain in wisdom than in folly, as there is more gain in light than in darkness. The wise person has his eyes in his head, but the fool walks in darkness. And yet I perceived that the same event happens to all of them. Then I said in my heart, "What happens to the fool will happen to me also. Why then have I been so very wise?" And I said in my heart that this also is vanity. For of the wise as of the fool there is no enduring remembrance, seeing that in the days to come all will have been long forgotten. How the wise dies just like the fool! So I hated life, because what is done under the sun was grievous to me, for all is vanity and a striving after wind. … He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also, he has put eternity into man's heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end.
1 Corinthians 15:20, 32b But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. … If the dead are not raised, "Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die."
John 5:28-29 Do not marvel at this, for an hour is coming when all who are in the tombs will hear his voice and come out, those who have done good to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil to the resurrection of judgment.
Mark 12:28-31 And one of the scribes came up and heard them disputing with one another, and seeing that he answered them well, asked him, "Which commandment is the most important of all?" Jesus answered, "The most important is, 'Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.' The second is this: 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.' There is no other commandment greater than these."
[Bible quotations from English Standard Version]
Isaiah 57:15a For so says the high and lofty One who inhabits eternity; (MKJV)
Psalm 90:2 Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever You had formed the earth and the world, even from everlasting to everlasting You are God. (MKJV)
One reason that some people don’t believe in God is that they have a wrong idea of what is meant by the word “God”. When they hear the word “God” they think of someone or something far less than what God is really like. They really shouldn’t believe in a little “God”, because the real God is greater than we can understand. Even though we can’t understand everything about God, we can understand some things about Him, because He created us to be able to understand Him partly. A young child can truly know their parents without understanding them completely.
God had no beginning and has no end. God made people, so people have a beginning and have to wait for the future. But, the Bible says God inhabits eternity. In other words, Gods lives in all time and beyond all time as if all infinity were the present (right now). It is impossible for people to know exactly what that would be like, but we can have some understanding. One way to translate God’s special name in the Bible is “I AM”. Among other things, this points to the idea that all time and eternity is “right now” for God. God understands how people have to remember the past, live in the present and wait for the future. But, God doesn’t need to remember the past or wait for the future because He already lives there.
Maybe this seems too philosophical for some people, but it is important to know this about God. If we didn’t, we couldn’t really trust God and depend on His promise to give us eternal life in joy. If God doesn’t know all of eternity, then how could He be sure that He will live forever much less promise to make us live forever? He couldn’t unless He already knows forever as if it was now. God has also told us that He is the only God and there is no other God. But if God doesn’t know all eternity, He wouldn’t know for sure that there is no other God because there might be another God whom He hasn’t met yet. If so, what if God met an even greater God? Then God would be servant to that God (and we could go on and on with “What if’s?”). But the true God who knows all eternity knows for certain that He will never end and never meet another God. People are left with a choice. They can trust that God is honest with us and really does know eternity and truly has the ability to guarantee us eternal life. Or they can distrust God and wonder if there is another God or if they are God themselves or if there is no God at all. Actually, the Bible indicates that the origin of evil when created beings rejected the truth of who God really is so that they could try to become their own God. People are still having that problem today.
The main writer for the majority of our articles will be Greg Smith. Greg is an elder at Calvary Chapel. He has a passion for the Bible - and especially for writing on the subject of Apologetics.
Apologetics Class #1 Pt. 1