The seed promised to Adam and Eve, the building of Noah’s Ark, the sacrifice of animals—all pointed toward God’s plan to save the world, but not the evil in it. God wants to destroy sin; it’s the sinners, the repenting sinners, whom He seeks to save.
God is so loving that He doesn’t want anyone to perish (2 Peter 3:9), and so He provides a way to escape death. He provides a means for salvation. He offers salvation to everyone, all people everywhere. He offers it to you. All you must do is want it, accept it, and then walk in it.
God is even willing to supply the desire for salvation if people don’t resist. All that it takes is humbly admitting that you need saving and, then, surrendering yourself to God. God even gave us the example of what surrendering to Him looks like. He performed this act in the person of Jesus of Nazareth (4 BC – 31 AD).
The Old Testament points to God wanting to save the world through Jesus Christ. Through types and symbols throughout the Old Testament, God continued to unveil more and more of His plan to humanity. God spoke through people in history about the coming of their Messiah. He gave prophecies that pointed to a Savior. He gave object lessons that would teach of the Savior. He gave the law, which would define good and evil. He even gave plans for a sanctuary, which was as close as possible to the sanctuary where God dwells in heaven. This sanctuary was the plan of salvation laid out in its entirety. All the buildings and the rites and rituals pointed to salvation and reconciliation with God.
And, then, finally, God Himself came in the flesh to save us.
Around 4 BC, a young virgin woman named Mary was impregnated by a Person of the Godhead, the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit didn’t have sex with Mary. This is not a story of Greek mythology, such as when Zeus had sex with a woman, and then she had his baby. Rather, the Holy Spirit miraculously impregnated her. The Son was placed inside of Mary’s womb. The Bible simply says she conceived in her womb (Luke 1:31).
All of Jesus’ life, even when He was a baby and small child, was a continual fulfilling of the prophecies that had pointed to Him. Mary gave birth to Jesus in a small town in Israel, Bethlehem, fulfilling a prophecy in Micah 5:2. As a baby, Jesus was taken to Egypt to escape King Herod, who was trying to kill him. This flight fulfilled another prophecy (Numbers 24:8). All in all, Christ fulfilled hundreds of prophecies in the Old Testament, all pointing to Him as the coming Messiah (meaning “Anointed one”) who would save the world.
A Savior is Born
Even many secular historians who don’t believe in Jesus as the Messiah believe that Jesus of Nazareth really existed, that He was a historical person. He is referenced not only by those who claimed to be His disciples (followers), but also by sources which did not believe that He was the Son of God: Jewish historian Josephus, the Roman historian Tacitus, and the Jewish Babylonian Talmud (compiled in the 4th century AD). The question critics ask today is not if Jesus really lived, but was He really God; did He really perform miracles; and did He really rise from the grave and, finally, did He really ascend to heaven?
These truths cannot be proven beyond a shadow of a doubt, but the evidence for them is powerful, and compelling (Hebrews 11:1).
Jesus In History
Suppose, hypothetically, that the Bible is true, and not cleverly devised fairy tales (2 Peter 1:16). The question then is a much more poignant one—why would all this have happened? Why would God be born, be a baby, become a child, go through puberty, mature to an adult, suffer torture, die on a Roman cross with nails in his hand and a spear in his side, and then lay in a tomb dead?
The answer is surprising—and full of hope for us. Jesus chose to become human and experience everything that humanity experiences in order to identify with every person on earth. Have you ever felt lonely? Have you ever felt misunderstood? Have you ever felt depressed, or stressed, or manic? Well, God too (Hebrews 2:10, 11), in human flesh, in the Person of Jesus.
It even goes deeper. Jesus loved you so much—male, female, child, adult, poor, rich, slave, free, broken, hurt, and everything else—that he took your issues and sins on himself. He literally felt what you have felt in your toughest and most demoralizing moments (Isaiah 53:4, 12).
It is easy for someone to say they understand what you are going through. We call that “sympathy.” However, “empathy” takes understanding to a deeper level. That is when a person has been through a similar experience. Empathy is when someone can identify with the feelings you are experiencing. Jesus can say that He knows what you are going through, because He went through the same experience (Isaiah 53:4, 12), only infinitely worse. Even before the cross, in the Garden of Gethsemane, He started experiencing all the sins, sorrows, diseases, and pains of everyone in the world. The weight and pain of all humanity’s sinfulness was so overwhelming that Jesus began to sweat great drops of blood (Luke 22:44). From that moment until Jesus gave up His life, He felt the accumulated guilt and shame of everyone who has ever lived.
He felt the burden of everything you and I have done and will ever do wrong. He was beaten, mistreated, accused, slapped, mocked, shoved, derided, and scourged (see Isaiah 53). He endured it all without so much as a rude comment in return. He endured all this with love in His heart toward those who were doing it to Him. He could have called down the armies of heaven to save Himself and kill those who were killing Him. But, instead, He prayed: “Father forgive them, for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34).
Then He gave up His life (Matthew 27:50). He wasn’t actually killed by the cross. No, He, the Son of God, gave up His life (John 10:17, 18). The cost of sin and sinfulness is eternal death by separation from God. When God fully reveals Himself to an unrepentant sinner, the result is that God consumes the sin along with the sinner (Isaiah 59:1, 2; Hebrews 12:29). So, when Jesus gave up His life, He died the death of sinners. He didn’t fight spiritual battles or go to heaven and hell during His time in the grave between Friday and Sunday. His human life was completely separated from the Father and the Holy Spirit.
Jesus’ death was for all of us. It was for our sins and sorrows that Jesus died. He willfully chose to die for us, just so that we could have the choice to live. God sacrificed Himself for others. He humbled himself, even to death. That is Love in its finest and fullest form.
After Jesus had perfectly performed His mission, to destroy the dominion of Sin and Death so that we could be free from its power, God called Jesus to come back from the grave (Acts 2:24). All three of the Godhead joined together for the most glorious resurrection the universe will ever see (Colossians 1:16). Jesus took hold of life once more.
The Trinity was united again, and Love had displayed itself to the universe.
All the questions about the law of God, the love of God, and who should rule the universe were answered. Satan was proven wrong before the entire universe. Jesus had lived perfectly; He kept God’s law perfectly. He had demonstrated the love of God in His life and death. He was worthy to be Lord of all because He had become the servant of all (Philippians 2:8-11).
Through death, love won.
For a really great video on this topic, see Lee Strobel’s video: The Case for Christ