May 1 2006
The Bible claims to be the Word of the only true God. In addition to historical, archaeological, and scientific proofs, there are numerous internal proofs. No such evidences exist for other “sacred writings.” The Bible was written during 1,600 years by 40 prophets, most of whom lived in diverse cultures, at different times in history, yet who never contradict but complement each other. For the Qur’an, Muslims must take the word of Muhammad, just as the Book of Mormon rests solely upon Joseph Smith’s word. But every biblical prophet is confirmed by 39 other prophets, and they condemn the “scriptures” of every religion!
It would be difficult for a single author to avoid contradiction when dealing with such a lengthy period of detailed history involving so many individuals and nations and covering such a wide variety of subjects as does the Bible. But 40 different prophets writing with one voice over a period of many centuries? There can be only one explanation: divine inspiration!
Hundreds of prophecies uttered centuries and even thousands of years before their fulfillment are the irrefutable proof God offers of His existence, and these identify beyond question His Word to man—a proof absolutely unique to the Bible. Besides proving that the Bible is God’s Word, fulfilled prophecies develop themes woven like golden threads through the entire tapestry of Scripture.
One of the major themes is redemption: the only means by which a holy God can justly forgive and be reconciled to His creature, man. The Bible denounces all of the world’s religions as inspired by “the god of this world [Satan]” (1 Cor:10:20; 2 Cor:4:4). They all teach that their god or gods can be appeased by works and religious rituals. The Bible alone is clear in its declaration that salvation “is the gift of God [a gift cannot be earned or merited]....Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy he saved us” (Eph:2:8; Titus:3:5).
God’s Word allows no room for accommodation, dialogue, or compromise. Truth does not concede anything to error and has nothing to discuss with lies. Yet for many years, the Roman Catholic Church has been in “dialogue” with Hindus, Buddhists, and Muslims, all of whose religions diametrically oppose the Bible. (A Catholic-Buddhist conference in a Kentucky monastery purported to find “common ground” between Christ’s suffering on the cross, the Buddha’s “Four Noble Truths,” and Buddhist meditation– Los Angeles Times , July 27, 1996). How is such confusion possible? Because centuries ago, Catholicism, like the non-Christian religions, developed a “Christian” system of works and sacraments for salvation. And for many years now, Baptists and evangelicals (whose ancestors broke away from Catholicism during the Reformation) have been in “dialogue” with the Roman Catholic Church. Meanwhile, at the UN and at the leadership level of most “faiths,” the clamor for a one-world religion is growing ever louder.
Biblical Christianity stands alone against the ecumenism that every religion will eventually embrace under Antichrist. The Gospel is separated from all religions by the uncompromising declaration of every biblical prophet that for God to forgive sins and reconcile man to Himself, the penalty for sin must be paid in full. That penalty is death (eternal separation from God, the giver and sustainer of life), and it was pronounced upon the entire human race: “The soul that sinneth, it shall die....For the wages of sin is death...” (Eze:18:20; Rom:6:23). This penalty cannot be waived even by God himself, who is bound by His eternal Word. But God sent His Son to become a man through a virgin birth to suffer in our place the punishment He had pronounced upon mankind.
The fact that the payment for sin can be made only by a sinless victim is an integral part of the theme of redemption all through the Bible. Clearly, no sinner can pay for his own sins: “The sacrifice of the wicked is abomination...” (Pro:21:27). Salvation can only be by God in grace crediting Christ’s death in payment for the sins of all mankind to those who accept salvation on His terms. This is seen in the animal sacrifices Jews were to offer. The fact that these sacrifices had to be repeated over and over proved that they were only temporary anticipations of a true sacrifice, which God would eventually provide: “For the law...can never with those sacrifices [bring perfection]. For then would they not have ceased to be offered?” (Heb:10:1,2).
Furthermore, from A.D. 70 to the present, Jews have been unable to offer the sacrifices that were established by God’s specific instructions in the Torah. This fact carries very serious consequences, especially since the destruction of the Temple and the resulting cessation of sacrifices did not happen by chance but were God’s judgment upon rebellious Israel as His prophets foretold: “For the children of Israel shall abide many days without a king, and without a prince, and without a sacrifice...” (Hos:3:4,5). Jesus declared that Gentile control over Jerusalem would continue until Armageddon: “Jerusalem shall be trodden down of the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled” (Lk 21:24). This is a remarkable prophecy still being fulfilled, as we document in Judgment Day .
So how can Jews (or Gentiles) receive God’s forgiveness, since the Levitical sacrifices He specifically commanded ceased nearly 2,000 years ago and are still impossible today? The answer to that question is given in the theme of redemption that flows through Scripture.
Central to this theme are the numerous references to a lamb as a redemptive sacrifice for sin. The first sacrifice that God accepted was the lamb offered by Abel (Gen:4:2-4; Heb:11:4). The fact, however, that animal sacrifices were only a picture of a coming sacrifice, which alone could fully atone for sins, was clear from the very beginning for two obvious reasons: 1) animal life was never equated in value to human life; and 2) as we have already seen, animal sacrifices had to be repeated, proving that they could not remove the guilt of sin.
Yet, the Old Testament prophetic pictures present amazing insights. The offering of Isaac by Abraham on an altar is a classic example. Muslims claim that Ishmael, not Isaac, was the son offered—an obvious lie because it doesn’t fit Islam. Allah is not a father, has no son, Islam has no redemptive sacrifice, and denies Christ’s death for sin.
God’s command to Abraham, however, to offer his “only son Isaac” (Gdn 22:2), has undeniable prophetic meaning in relation to the biblical sacrifice of God’s “only begotten Son” (Jn:3:16). Father Abraham’s offering of Isaac on an altar has meaning only in relation to the biblical account of Father God offering Christ on the Cross for man’s sins. Nor could it be a coincidence that the very place where God told Abraham to offer his son became the site of the Jewish Temple and its sacrifices. Islam tries to steal this also by saying that it was from the place where “Ishmael was offered” that Muhammad ascended to heaven. That unbiblical claim, however, has been recently discredited by Muslim authorities. (See Judgment Day )
In Abraham’s cryptic response to Isaac’s question, “Where is the lamb for a burnt offering?” (Gen:22:7), the mystery seems to deepen: “God will provide himself a lamb” (v. 8). God himself will be the sacrificial lamb for man’s redemption? Did Christ refer to this statement when He declared, “Abraham rejoiced to see my day: and he saw it, and was glad” (Jn:8:56)? Isaiah revealed both that the coming Messiah would be God’s son: “unto us a son is given” (Isa:9:6) and also that He would be YAHWEH, called “the God of Israel” 203 times in the Bible: “His name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father” (Isa:9:6)! A baby born to a virgin would be God’s son and at the same time would be the Father?! Yes. As Jesus declared, “I and my Father are one” (Jn:10:30).
Isaiah also foretold that the Messiah would be the promised lamb sacrificed for the sins of the world: “The Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all....[H]e is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he openeth not his mouth” (Isa:53:6-7). No wonder John the Baptist, when “looking upon Jesus as he walked...saith, Behold the Lamb of God...which taketh away the sin of the world” (Jn:1:29, 36). The intricate interrelationship between scriptures by so many different prophets from Genesis to Revelation is awesome!
The most complete Old Testament prophetic picture of the coming lamb is in the Passover. The detailed instructions settled in advance the controversy at the root of today’s conflict in the Middle East over the land that God promised to Abraham: “I will give unto thee, and to thy seed after thee...all the land of Canaan [there was no such place as “Palestine”!], for an everlasting possession...” (Gen:17:8). Because Ishmael (though illegitimate) was Abraham’s firstborn son, the Arabs, who claim descent from Ishmael, say they are the “seed” of Abraham to whom the Promised Land was given. The Bible, however, clearly says that Abraham’s descendants through Isaac and Jacob are the “seed” and true heirs (Gen:17:19; 26:3,4; 28:13; 1 Chr:16:15-18, etc.) According to the Bible, the claim of Arabs and Muslims to this disputed land is a fraud—yet the UN, EU, USA, et al., accept it as the basis for a “peace” that defies the God of Israel!
Muslims say that the Bible was changed by Jews and Christians. That won’t fly. The God of the Bible defines the seed that inherits the land so clearly that any “change” would be impossible: “...thy seed [i.e., that inherits the land] shall be a stranger in a land that is not theirs, and shall serve them; and they shall afflict them four hundred years....But in the fourth generation they shall come hither again...” (Gen:15:13-16).
The Jews, not Arabs, were slaves in Egypt for 400 years, then were brought “in the fourth generation” into the land of Canaan. Arabs did not come into “Palestine” until the brutal seventh-century-Muslim invasion after Jews had lived there for more than 2,000 years. This is irrefutable history proved by the Passover.
Israel’s deliverance came about through God’s judgment in ten plagues upon Egypt, the final one requiring the sacrifice of a lamb by any who would escape that doomed land. That event was ever after to be commemorated with the Passover supper first eaten that historic night: “And this day shall be unto you for a memorial....[W]hen your children shall say unto you, What mean ye...ye shall say, It is the sacrifice of the Lord’s passover...when he smote the Egyptians, and delivered our houses” (Ex 12:14,26,27).
Who keeps the Passover? Not Arabs! Only Jews keep it worldwide to this day. When an event witnessed by many people is immediately commemorated with a special remembrance kept ever after, we have proof that it happened as memorialized. The annual Passover proves the slavery of Israel in Egypt and her deliverance, as the Bible declares, and that the Jews are therefore the heirs of Abraham with title to that land by a deed God signed 4,000 years ago and recorded in Scripture.
Non-Jews have neither right nor purpose in keeping the Passover; yet it has become popular for Gentile Christians to celebrate the Jewish “seder.” True, the Passover lamb pictures Christ, the Lamb that Abraham told Isaac God would provide—but so did each Levitical offering, yet Christians don’t offer those, so why would they celebrate the Passover? It commemorates ancestral deliverance from Egypt, in which Gentiles have no part.
But wasn’t the “Last Supper” the Passover, and didn’t Christ give it new meaning, to be celebrated continually until His return? “A new meaning”? Impossible! The Passover feast with roast lamb has historic significance involving an “everlasting covenant” (Gen:17:7; 1 Chr:16:15-18, etc.) concerning the Promised Land. That meaning cannot be changed. Jews (not Gentiles) are commanded by God to keep it “for ever” (Ex 12:14). Christ Himself could not give a “new meaning” to the Passover!
Furthermore, the Last Supper was not the Passover. It occurred the night “before the feast of the passover” (Jn:13:1) and without a lamb. The next morning, the rabbis were still keeping themselves undefiled so they could “eat the passover” (Jn:18:28). That afternoon, when Christ was on the Cross, it was still “the preparation of the passover” (Jn:19:14)—i.e., the lambs were being sacrificed to be eaten in the Passover supper that night.
But didn’t Christ say, “I have desired to eat this passover with you before I suffer” (Lk 22:15)? Yes, but “this passover” is not the Passover with roast lamb to be kept only by Jews in memory of deliverance from Egypt. “ This passover” was something new inaugurated by Christ to be kept with bread and wine (in memory of His body broken and blood shed) by all who believe on Him (Jews and Gentiles). Why did Jesus, then, call it a “Passover”? Because as Israel was delivered by the death of a lamb from Egypt, so it commemorates deliverance for believers from sin, this evil world, and judgment to come, through the true “Lamb of God”: “as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do shew [proclaim] the Lord’s death till he come” (1 Cor:11:26). Paul said, “Christ our passover is sacrificed for us” (1 Cor:5:7).
If animal sacrifices could not pay for sin, what was their purpose? They were physical illustrations of spiritual truth beyond our present comprehension. Christ continually used the physical to symbolize the spiritual: (“drink of the water that I give...I am the true vine...the door...the bread of life...except you eat my flesh and drink my blood,” etc.). We do the same today. For example, we sing hymns about being “washed in the blood of the Lamb.” We are not speaking literally. Grievous error enters when symbol is made substance, such as Catholicism’s eating of the wafer that is believed to be Christ’s physical body. That would be like swallowing pages of the Bible in order to “feed upon God’s Word” (Deut 8:3; Jer:15:16; 1 Pt 5:2, etc.)!
The significance behind the sacrificial lamb goes far beyond our highest thoughts. In John’s vision, he is told that “the Lion of the tribe of Juda...hath prevailed to open the book.” Turning to see the “Lion,” he sees “a Lamb as it had been slain...” (Rev:5:5-6)! How can a powerful lion appear as a newly slain lamb—and in what way could Christ be seen as such in heaven?! Of the heavenly city, we are told that “the Lamb is the light thereof” (Rev:21:23). The Bible ends with reference to the eternal “throne of God and of the Lamb” (22:1,3).
We can only fall down in prostrate wonder and gratitude, rejoicing that one glad day we will join the redeemed around that throne in the eternal chorus, “Worthy is the Lamb that was slain” (Rev:5:12). At last we will “see him as he is” (1 Jn:3:2) and understand fully, having been transformed into His image for all eternity! TBC