We are looking at the Letter to the Hebrews and in chapter 9 and verses 25-26, we are told that Jesus’ doing away with the sin of many was a once-only event. He cannot be offered again and again like the continual offerings in the earthly tent or even worse, in some ritualistic, religious ceremony using pagan-like church altars by sacerdotal ‘priests’ in a human inspired ‘service’.
But now, ritual has been done away with forever—now we have the real. Instead of an ineffectual sacrifice we have the Real Presence of our great high priest at our gatherings.
God and man at table are sat down!
Hebrews 9 continues …
Just as people are destined to die once, and after that to face judgment, so Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many; and he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him. (9:27-28)
We will all face death once and once only. And after we die, we will face the Judgment, each one, and only once, no hint of a second chance here or anywhere else in the Scriptures. And why should there be, from God’s point of view? We have been warned. Prepare to meet your God.
But, in contrast, Jesus, in completing his earthly work for us, offered himself and was sacrificed once. He died. God’s Messiah died! And he died once only, as we will. But after his death, no judgment for him, he lives, the sinless one who died for the sinful many. He appeared once as a helpless human being like us. He died once, like us. Judgment for all men is faced once.
But he will appear a second time— the only New Testament occurrence of the phrase “second coming”! The time for sin-bearing is then over–it is then the Day of Salvation.
His salvation, not judgment, comes for those who are waiting for him. Paul in 1 Thes 1:9-10 describes Christian believers as those who
have turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead —Jesus, who rescues us from the coming wrath.
What a simple and yet profound definition of a Christian! and totally consistent with this amazing letter. Though judgment awaits all men and women, we who are his, gladly serve God and eagerly wait for Jesus’ return.
Forgive the delay in my communication. I have had a long , and somewhat interesting journey. We seem to have digressed a little here. Was this not about the question of Jesus having actually left? Not the risk of announcing ones beliefs in an other environment. Nor the issue of basing ones belief in dubious manuscripts.
AlienOne, thanks for being in touch again. I am confused as to your question “has Jesus actually left?” Your question implies some doubt, not about Jesus’ existence in history, but whether he was executed by the Romans occupying Judea (modern Israel), that he left by such means and there is plenty of evidence for that. And the evidence for his resurrection from death is very compelling for those who examine the manuscripts which you describe as ‘dubious’. This is an opinion about the documents which serious historians of the period would not share. In fact, extant Greek manuscripts of all or part of the New Testament number well over 5000. It is the most well preserved book from the ancient world. Some of these are from the second century. Compare this to other works from the period, for example, of the 142 books of the Roman history of Livy (a contemporary of Jesus), only 35 survive. Only 4½ books of the 14 books of Histories of Tacitus (100 CA) remain. Many more examples could be given. Being sceptical of the worth of the NT texts, would mean classical antiquity would disappear, because none of these are so well attested bibliographically as the NT.
Although I have uncovered absolutely no evidence to prove a god does not exist, I have no evidence that a god does exist either. I am not sure why it should cost you your life, or why it should be scary, to find out. Humans have had many concepts of god, and still do. Initially fairly simple, trees, mountains, cats etc. to the more complex and spectacular, even other humans! I suppose one has to define what exactly is a god, and why does one need one, and, why any particular one?
AlienOne, thanks for commenting again.
Evidence. People are incurably religious. We seem to be designed to relate to a higher being. We have a need to explain what exists. How did everything arise? Why is there anything at all? Why am I here? Why do kids never have to be taught to ask why? Why should seek for significance, for love, for peace, for joy, if purpose and meaning are not part of our hard wiring? Where did humanity come from? Why do we believe in fairness, in justice, in accountability?
So humans of all cultures have made up their own gods to explain purpose and meaning. Sadly, these gods end up just like their human inventors—flawed, futile.
But the Hebrews were different. They honoured a God who was revealed to them—the Creator-God, the God finally revealed in Jesus of Nazareth –not like us, flawed and futile. The Hebrews believed not as the result of the evidence but through revelation, a God who spoke to them, called them his friends.
Why prove the existence of the God they knew, who had made himself known to them? God had spoken, had been in touch, had revealed his purposes for them. They experienced God, talked with him, related to him as a person, a greatly transcendent one, yet accessible. They were made in his image, fitted out for person to person communication. Do you have to prove the existence of your father or your kids or even people you have never met such as Barak Obama or Abraham Lincoln? No, these are self evident.
And this is also my story. I do not have to prove the God I have experienced to be there, who knows me, who cares for me.
So, perhaps evidence is not the starting point. There may be many other approaches. For example curiosity, or one’s need—we all have this God-shaped vacuum in our make-up—that’s why there are so many religions –man’s attempts to fill that vacuum.
Or, we may have a serious need to go to great lengths to disprove the existence of the Creator God. Many have adopted this way, e.g., Voltaire, Bertrand Russell, Richard Dawkins, etc. In my opinion they have failed though many have decided to become convinced of their conclusions (for what reasons?). Yet there have been and are many thinkers, including eminent scientists, lawyers, sceptics, who have concluded otherwise.
God just doesn’t seem to go away, despite all the disbelief and perceived lack of evidence.
We may embark on a journey, like searching for a treasure, or the cure for a disease, or how to imitate the amazing natural system of photosynthesis to obtain renewable energy. All these ventures require some sort of faith before the evidence becomes irrefutable, at the least faith that something is really there, that one’s mind is there and that the laws of nature are there. (But why should they be?)
Ample evidence will not convince people. Despite the evidence it may not suit you. It may mean changing your lifestyle or rather allowing Someone (if that one exists) to change you and restore you to innocence and a whole new world view.
Solid scientific evidence of global warming, mounting almost daily, still has great pockets of resistance. But does the truth suit everyone? Of course not. Those ‘vested interests’ again eh? Think of the Catholic church versus Galileo, etc.
It may cost you your life in some places to believe in the God of Jesus of Nazareth and follow him, e.g., in North Korea, Laos, Afghanistan, Iran and Saudi Arabia today. In the 20th Century, it has been conservatively estimated that over 40 milllion ordinary Christians were killed because they were active believers in Jesus of Nazareth.
I think it is worth it. Worth more than anything in this world.
Dear AlienOne. I think there are many more options. For example, try this very scary but essential one: I will check out as honestly and sincerely as I can the evidence for the God who is brought into the discussion even if it costs me my life.
Once, a very long time ago, I met an elderly gentleman on the path I was traveling. He made a comment that I recall on these occasions. When God is brought into the discussion, then one has two choices. To believe in the particular God, the other person believes in, or put forward ones own God. There is a third option, have no belief in God, but support the other in their belief.
ALIENONE, thank you for reading my words and for your comment. There are lot’s of “what ifs?” but your example cannot be one of them because Jesus of Nazareth, was arrested by the religious police hell-bent on maintaining the ‘power structure’ in Jerusalem and he was put on trial in several illegal ‘kangaroo courts’, brutally treated, handed over to the Roman occupying powers and sent to his death by the Roman Procurator, Pontius Pilate. He was nailed to a cross between 2 thieves and he died and his body laid in a rock tomb. All history, well documented.
His marginalised, 12 close followers, a loose, unlikely group of very ordinary, disparate Jews, had a profound vested interest in keeping him alive because they believed he was the promised deliverer of Israel from their enemies, the Messiah. They did not expect the Messiah to die, that was unthinkable to all Jews. The real ‘vested interests’, the ‘old order’, were the ones who were threatened and who had Jesus killed.
So history confirms Jesus left! The question is how did he leave? The followers of Jesus were convinced the movement was finished. Their amazing, unforgettable leader was dead. They were totally demoralised and simply gave up. Meanwhile the ‘old order’, the institutionalised religious establishment remained to put down any threat to their power.
But a new movement began with reports about Jesus having appeared in person alive to many, up to 500 people together, according to one reliable witness. These new witnesses were astounded at what had happened and the story has been written in 27 writings which have survived extant, mostly letters, all of which were later collected and form what is known as the New Testament. These early witnesses to Jesus turned the world upside down, changed history. It’s their story which is my story.
The ‘old order’, the people with huge vested interests, did all they could to stop this new grassroots movement. But it could not be stopped. God was behind it all. That’s how it began and how it continues, despite institutionalism, formalism, ritualism and moralism of the corporation, the power structure calling itself “The Church”, which now forms a huge vested interest you speak about. This power structure will disappear and is already imploding. Anything which God does not plant will be rooted up, said Jesus. Look what happened to the Jewish temple in Jerusalem in 70 AD. Look what happened to the powerful Roman Empire.
Perhaps you and I have something in common here?
Now, what if there is no ‘second coming’, because Jesus never left.
True, there is a lot in the New Testament as to what allegedly took place. However, this was written by those with a vested interest, in maintaining the power structure of the old order.