Tag Archives: Resurrection

Day 14: Jesus Rose from the Dead?

Have you ever met someone who never heard of the resurrection? Yes, I’m talking about the resurrection of Jesus Christ. I’m talking about someone who has never even heard that Christians believe such a thing! I met one. I met him about 3 weeks ago. He’s a young Muslim man from Turkmenistan. Jack and I met him near the bus stops. What follows is a very abbreviated summary of our discussion, for we talked for quite some time. P stands for Paul and Y for the other man.

(At first we introduced ourselves, the church we go to and what we were doing).

P: So, what religious background do you have?

Y: Muslim.

P: What kind? Are you Shiite or Sunni?

Y: Sunni.

P: We’ll I’ve talked to many Muslims and I’ve read most of the Koran so I know that you guys believe that Jesus was a prophet (he nodded), and that he performed miracles (he nodded again), and that he was born of the virgin, Mary (he nodded again).

Y: You read the Koran?

P: I read 81 out of 114 Surahs. I took a class on Islam in school and learned quite a bit about it.  But I’m a Christian. How about you? Have you ever read parts of the Bible?

Y: No.

P: Do you know what the Bible teaches about Jesus?

Y: Yes, you guys believe that Jesus is the Son of God.

P: Yes, Jesus himself taught that He was the Son of God. Now, that doesn’t mean that he is any less than God. In fact, he is fully God and equal with God.

Y: Well, how can Jesus be God if God sent him?

P: That’s a good question. But let me be clear, the Bible teaches that God is One. But what that means is that He is one in essence. But the Bible also teaches that God is three persons. Jesus is the radiance of God, that is, he is the exact representation of what God is like and the reason He came to the world was to save sinners.

Y: You guys make a big deal about Jesus. Why? He was just a prophet like the rest of the prophets.

P: Well, Jesus was a prophet, but let me read to you what Jesus said (I opened my Bible) in Matthew 5:17, “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.” Jesus is saying that the whole Old Testament, that is the first 39 books of the Bible, were primarily foreshadowing his coming. You know what foreshadowing is? (He nodded). So, all the prophets who came before Jesus actually wrote about him and anticipated his coming.

Y: Okay

P: For example, in Isaiah 53, (I turned to Isaiah 53 and began to read selected verses) the prophet Isaiah says, “He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows … as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not … we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our [sins]; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the [punishment] that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed … and the LORD has laid on him the [sin] of us all.” You see he’s talking about a man who would come and suffer for the sins of God’s people. He’s pointing to Jesus.

Y: Okay, but every prophet died.

P: Yes, but Jesus never sinned. He came to suffer of behalf of sinners. What the Bible teaches about Jesus is very different from Islam. Islam teaches that your works get weighed in the balance, and hopefully your good works outweigh the bad. But the Bible teaches that we are all sinners and therefore guilty before God with no way of removing our guilt. But God, because he is loving, sent Jesus to save us from our sins. It was through his death that God punished the sin that we deserve. But it’s only those who follow Jesus that benefit from his death. And furthermore, Jesus rose from the dead.

Y: You believe that he rose from the dead?

P: Yes, the Bible clearly teaches that. You never heard that?

Y: No, you believe he rose from the dead?

P: Yes, that is what I believe. It’s what the Bible clearly teaches. In Isaiah 53, Isaiah goes on (reading from the Bible), “they made his grave with the wicked and with a rich man in his death, although he had done no violence, it was the will of the LORD to crush him … the will of the LORD shall prosper in his hand. Out of the anguish of his soul he shall see and be satisfied.”  Did you hear that? He will overcome death.

Y: Well, maybe it’s just a spiritual resurrection?

P: Look, even if you think it’s a spiritual resurrection, who is this passage talking about? It’s hard to deny that this is a passage about someone who God will send to suffer for the sins of his people.

Y: Look, I need to get back into religion and brush up on the Koran.

P: Well, here (handing him a Two Ways to Live booklet), please read this too.

That was it. Off we went. May the risen Lord save him. And may our risen Saviour send us out into the harvest fields of our city! We now have neighbours who have never heard of the resurrection of Jesus.

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A Glimpse of Day 5: Resurrection, Not Reincarnation

Praise God for 3 fellow workers who joined me this past Friday. By God’s grace, we preached the gospel to many people on the streets of Don Mills. What follows in this post is (1) a glimpse of something we looked at in our devotional time; and (2) a glimpse of one conversation I had with a young man about Jesus.

Who Went about Preaching the Word?

One text we looked at was  Acts 8:4, “Now those who were scattered went about preaching the word.” Who does “those” refer to? Acts 8:1 tells us, “there arose on that day a great persecution against the church in Jerusalem, and they were all scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles.” So, who were those who went about preaching the word? It was the church who was scattered excluding apostles. Very interesting. Sometimes we hear that the work of evangelism is reserved for pastors, missionaries and evangelists; the early church certainly didn’t think so. May the God help us, all of us, to be like the early Christians, going about, preaching the word. And notice what we find in Acts 9:31, “So the church throughout all Judea and Galilee and Samaria had peace and was being built up. And walking in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, it multiplied.”

Resurrection, Not Reincarnation

Keith and I approached a young man waiting for his friend at the gas bar. I knew we wouldn’t have much time so I gave him a good tract to read and asked him, “What do you think of Jesus?” He smiled at me, so with a smirk I asked him, “What are smiling for?” “Nothing; it’s just … well, I’m Armenian; do you know what that is?” “Yep,” I replied. “Well, I mean, that’s my background but I don’t know; I don’t know what to think of Jesus and all that stuff. There were a lot of wars and bad things that have happened with Christians.”

I knew I didn’t have much time so I cut to the chase. “Which car is yours?” “The white Hyundai.” I said, “Imagine someone put a Toyota sign on it, I drive it and just down the road it breaks down. And then I say, ‘I’m never going to buy a Toyota!’ Do you see the problem?” He replied, “are you saying those people in history weren’t really Christians?” “Maybe not, but I’m not saying Christians haven’t done bad things. My point is this: Don’t judge Christianity by people who went to war. Look to Jesus. If you want to know what Christianity is, it’s Jesus. You know the four gospels? Read Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. Seek Jesus. Read about Jesus.”

He said, “Can I ask you a question?” I responded,”sure.” He asked me, “well, what to you think about reincarnation.?” I said, “My opinion doesn’t really matter, but I’ll tell you what Jesus said; you see, my opinions are governed by Scripture, so I’ll just tell you what Jesus said. In Matthew 25, Jesus clearly taught that all people who have ever lived will stand before him one day. And he will separate all peoples and judge them. The righteous will go into eternal life, but the unrighteous into everlasting punishment.” He replied, “Really? So you don’t believe in reincarnation?” “No, Jesus clearly taught in John 5 that there is a resurrection of the just and the unjust. All people will receive resurrection bodies, some furnished for everlasting pain, that is, for hell; and others, bodies prepared for eternal reward, heaven.”

He had to go. We left him with some good literature and a gospel bite about Jesus. By God’s grace, may he chew on it.

Talking to a JW at Coffee Time (1 of 3): The Resurrection and Eternal Punishment

A few weeks ago, when I was reading my Bible at Coffee Time, a man came up to me expressing his joy to see me reading the Scriptures. I instantly asked him, “What church are you from?” He told me that he was a former Catholic who converted to become a Jehovah’s Witness. He gave me a tract and used my open Bible to point me to some passages in the Psalms. I invited him to sit down and he proceeded to share more.

He told me about the wicked and the righteous and asked, “But who are the righteous?” I quickly interjected, “That is a very good question. One of the clearest descriptions of what it means to be righteous is found in the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew.” I showed him Matthew 5:48, in which Jesus says, “You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”

How to become righteous became our topic of conversation. He kept wanting to talk about the end times and the evil of this world, but, by the grace if God, I kept bringing us back to this topic: “how can a sinner become righteous?” We must be careful not to jump from trail to trail without ever making progress on any one of them. Sometimes this calls for a boldness to say something like, “Actually, I don’t mind talking about Y, but before we move on, can we spend some more time talking about X? I think we left that issue unresolved.”  

I opened up Ephesians 2:8-9 and we studied these verses. We spent quite a bit of time on how to be made acceptable to God. He insisted that we are not only saved by our faith in the work of Christ, but that our works contribute to gaining a right standing with God. I argued from the Scriptures that justification is by faith alone in Christ alone. Though agreeing with me at first, he soon learned that he does NOT really believe that.

Before he left, I took him to the place Jesus claims to be Jehovah when he says, “before Abraham was, I am” (John 8:58). He did not agree that this was a claim to Diety, but our time had run out. We exchanged numbers to meet again. Accordingly. we met this morning for about two and a half hours. Much was said so I will limit this post to a summary of the first main topic we discussed: the resurrection and eternal punishment. I plan to do part two and three of this talk in two separate posts (on Watch Tower literature and the Divinity of Jesus).

The Resurrection and Punishment: Would a Loving God Punish People Forever?

Upon arriving he started talking about God’s plan to be with man. I agreed with him (furthermore, I endorse his approach as a great starting point for sharing the Gospel). He explained much of Genesis 3 with precision. He taught accurately about death, that is, until I heard him say, “death is like sleep.” Before our meeting, I had just read a Watch Tower tract that said “the dead are not conscious” so I was curious to know his stance on the resurrection of the dead and the eternal condition of those who are NOT righteous.

He took me to Ecclesiastes 9:5, which says, “For the living know that they will die, but the dead know nothing, and they have no knowledge, and they have no more reward, for the memory of them is forgotten.” The dead have no knowledge – point taken. The OT description of Sheol is the place of the dead.

Be that as it may, the Scriptures also teach that there is a point at which dead are raised. I took him to John 5:28-29, where Jesus teaches that, “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.” I argued that all people will be resurrected – some to life, others to judgment. He eventually agreed, but what does the “resurrection of judgment” mean?

We went to Daniel 12:2. It is written, “And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt.” I argued that at the resurrection the dead awake, and are not put to death, but to everlasting shame (they do not arise from sleep to go back to sleep). Whatever else can be said, it is an eternal condition of conscious shame. He would not agree, but argued that dying is “punishment enough.” He then stepped away from the text and asked me pointedly, “When disciplining your child, would you take you child’s hand and put it on the burner of an oven to be burned?” I responded, “No.” He replied, “Would a loving God make someone burn forever? I said, “A Holy God would punish people eternally for sin. For they are sinning against God and He is Holy. In fact, He is infinitely Holy, so the punishment of those who sin against Him will be infinite.” I qualified this and talked about fire as a metaphor for real punishment. I also talked about the infinite nature of God’s holiness and our need to perceive God not only as a parent, but as a Judge.

He continued to tell me that it is impossible for a loving God to punish people forever. I told him, “I don’t want to believe in the doctrine of eternal punishment . . . it is a sad doctrine. It does not tickle me. I do not find pleasure in it. It is hard; but it is true, therefore I must believe it. Jesus taught it. I must subject myself to the Scriptures.”

I took him to Matthew 25:41-46. Verse 46 says, “And [the unrighteous] will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.” The New World Translation says, “eternal cutting off.” This is a terrible translation that should be cut off itself (and replaced with “punishment”). Whatever the case, unless you play hermeneutical gymnastics you cannot escape the doctrine of eternal punishment in this passage. Even if you did call it “cutting off,” it keeps happening and it is an unpleasant experience to say the least. The punishment is as eternal as the life. The life is as eternal as the punishment. Both are unending. If the punishment is not conscious, why would the life be? interpreters need to be consistent here.

I asked him about the devil and his angels that enter into the eternal fire in Matthew 25:41. He responded, “That means they are consumed by the fire – destroyed. They are no more.” He continued to argue that fire completely destroys things. I responded by reminding him that this is not always the case. I referred him to the burning bush (Ex. 4) which, though it kept burning, was not consumed. My example did not satisfy him. I tried telling him that literal fire is not necessarily Jesus’ main point – his main point is that hell is a bad unending condition (to say the least).

He would not agree. I showed him Revelation 14:10-11 which teaches that “the smoke of their torment goes up forever and ever, and they have no rest, day or night, these worshippers of the beast and its image.” He wanted to talk about the beast, but I would not let the conversation go that way for long. I asked him, “how can they have NO REST if they are destroyed?” He was silent. I said, “they have no rest day or night because they are awake and being tormented continually.” Again, he could not believe this because of his twisted concept concerning how it is that “God is love.”

Ironically, he took me to Revelation 20:10 which actually says that the devil, the beast and the false prophet will be “tormented day and night forever and ever.” When he read it, he stopped in his tracks and said, “Oh, yes, you will see this one the same way.” I said, “Tim (fake name), it says ‘forever and ever,’ how else can you interpret that? It is clear. I don’t know what else to say to you? I just don’t know what to say?” He said, “I don’t know what to say either.”

We simply could not agree on this doctrine. I realized that his view of God and Scripture is totally dominated by the systemic theology and teachings of the Watch Tower society rather than a natural reading of Scriptures. (The Watch Tower organization became our next topic of conversation.) Even when confronted with the truth that the punishment of the devil, the beast and the false prophet “will be tormented day and night forever and ever” (Rev 20:10), he refused to believe that “forever and ever” really meant forever and ever.

One explanation for his unbelief is the very passage he read aloud to me in our conversation: “the god of this world has blinded the minds of unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God” (2 Cor 4:4). Oh that he would see the light and live! 

May the Lord remove his blindfold. And may the Lord forever remind us that salvation is all of grace.