Christian belief about Jesus and his mission

/Kevin McCarthy

Question: Why is Christ suffering and death, and the destruction of Jerusalem, so clearly prophesied in the Old testament.

Answer: Your questions really strikes at the heart of Christian belief about Jesus and his mission and the nature and purpose of his return.

Many times, when we emphasize only "that Jesus didn't come to die" Christians will naturally react based upon very clear prophesies, such as the one you mentioned (there are many more. . look at the 22nd Psalm). Not only are there prophesies that state unequivocally Jesus will die, but Jesus himself asserts that, in fact, this was the purpose for which he came (Mark 24:25) ". . .how foolish you are and how slow of heart of believe all that the prophets have spoken! Did not the Christ have to suffer these things and then enter into his glory?". . .and beginning with Moses and all of the prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the scriptures concerning himself.

The point is that the Christian belief that Jesus came to die and atone for sin is a very reasonable and valid perspective. . .in other words, there are very good reasons to believe this way. . .However, this traditional view ignores the most critical aspect of Jesus mission. . .it is only viewing a part of Jesus mission (the part he obviously carried out) but overlooks the greater role that Jesus came to fulfill. The question is "Why"?

The root of confusion about the nature of Jesus mission begins with how Christians have traditionally dealt with the phenomenon of "dual prophesy" concerning Christ's coming to Israel and the destiny of the nation.

It is true that the prophets predicted the death of Jesus, however it is not true that the prophets ONLY predicted that Jesus would be rejected and would die (and Israel destroyed). The prophets just as readily predicted that Jesus would be received and the New Heaven and New Earth would be established in Jerusalem.

Thus Christians have been faced with having to explain why two distinct and opposite views of Jesus future was conveyed by the prophets.

A decision had to be made and it was made based upon a couple of assumptions:

  1. All prophecy is true and
  2. All prophecy MUST come about, must be fulfilled.

Thus, it was decided that all prophecy concerning a Christ who will suffer is referring to Jesus in his first coming. . .all prophecy predicting a Christ received and exalted is referring to Christ's second coming.

Therefore, a two-fold coming of Christ is absolutely predestined "from the foundations of the world". Jesus came for a singular reason: to die at calvary. . . he will return to rule "in glory". ..Amen anyone?

As I say, it makes sense. . .but let us revisit these assumptions upon which this whole scheme rests. The faulty assumption is that all prophecy MUST come true. But in fact all prophecy doesn't come true. . .for example. .God had Jonah give prophecy that Ninevah would be destroyed in 40 days. . .but God didn't carry out that prophecy. Why? Because the people repented and through their repentance they ALTERED the outcome. The prophecy was nullified.

Examine God's thoughts on the authoritative extent of prophesy in Jeremiah 18:7-10. . .whoops! God says, in essence, that all prophecy is relative to human responsibility. I can tell you, this statement by God in Jeremiah really floors Christians because the clear implication is that all prophecy predicting Jesus death COULD HAVE BEEN NULLIFIED had Israel repented and united with Jesus (just as God nullified the curse invoked upon Ninevah)

Dual prophecy, rather then reflecting a predetermination for Christ to die, is expressing that Israel has two potential outcomes consistent with their responsibility. They can recognize Christ and unite with him, fulfilling their primary responsibility or they could fail in their mission which would result in Christ walking the course of suffering and necessitate a return at a later time. Prophecy that predicts Jesus suffering is indicating that God has a response to that state of affairs IF Israel doesn't fulfill her mission. Notice however that this is always the alternative course.

Jesus began his mission calling for faith, imploring Israel to fulfill her primary mission. . "repent the Kingdom is at hand" . Once faith was not forthcoming, then and only then did Jesus announce his suffering to come. It is not until the beginning of the last year of his mission that Jesus announced for the first time his suffering to come. (Matt 16:21) When his disciples heard this statement from Jesus their reaction is rather telling. . ."they did not know what he was talking about". .(Luke 18:34)

The greatest tragedy in all of this is that for 2000 years, as a result of doctrines, the heart of Jesus has never been understood. Jesus "sorrow unto death" as he prayed "let this cup pass from me " passes by most Christians because there is no theological context to understand the content of his sorrow: that a greater destiny for him, his nation and world and for God was lost in a faithless Israel.

This also becomes problematic for the second coming because the context of the second coming is to fulfill "the undone task" of the first coming. However if Christians reject, out of hand, that Jesus had another mission other than the way of the cross, there will be no context for them to rightly assess the mission of the return of Christ.

In view of this they will have no recourse except to invent theories for the Second coming. And that's what they have been doing for 2000 years. (which is one of the reasons why Christians are today so divided)

/Kevin McCarthy

Till 1:a sidan