NEARLY everyone today has heard of Jesus Christ. His influence on history has been greater than that of any other human. Indeed, the very calendar used in most parts of the world is based on the year he is thought to have been born! As The World Book Encyclopedia says: “Dates before that year are listed as B.C., or before Christ. Dates after that year are listed as A.D., or anno Domini (in the year of our Lord).”
2 So Jesus was not an imaginary person. He really lived as a man on earth. “In ancient times even the opponents of Christianity never doubted the [actual existence] of Jesus,” notes the Encyclopædia Britannica. So just who was Jesus? Was he really sent by God? Why is he so well known?
HE HAD LIVED BEFORE
3 Unlike any other human, Jesus was born of a virgin. Her name was Mary. An angel said of her child: “This one will be great and will be called Son of the Most High.” (Luke 1:28-33; Matthew 1:20-25) But how could a woman who had never had sexual relations with a man have a child? It was by means of God’s holy spirit. Jehovah transferred the life of his mighty spirit Son from heaven to the womb of the virgin Mary. It was a miracle! Surely the One who made the first woman with the wonderful ability to produce children could cause a woman to have a child without a human father. The Bible explains: “When the full limit of the time arrived, God sent forth his Son, who came to be out of a woman.”—Galatians 4:4.
4 So before being born on earth as a man Jesus had been in heaven as a mighty spirit person. He had a spirit body invisible to man, just as God has. (John 4:24) Jesus himself often spoke of the high position he had held in heaven. Once he prayed: “Father, glorify me alongside yourself with the glory that I had alongside you before the world was.” (John 17:5) He also said to his listeners: “You are from the realms below; I am from the realms above.” “What, therefore, if you should behold the Son of man ascending to where he was before?” “Before Abraham came into existence, I have been.”—John 8:23; 6:62; 8:58; 3:13; 6:51.
5 Before coming to earth Jesus was called the Word of God. This title shows that he served in heaven as the one who spoke for God. He is also called God’s “Firstborn,” as well as his “only-begotten” Son. (John 1:14; 3:16; Hebrews 1:6) This means that he was created before all the other spirit sons of God, and that he is the only one who was directly created by God. The Bible explains that this “firstborn” Son shared with Jehovah in creating all other things. (Colossians 1:15, 16) Thus when God said, “Let us make man in our image,” he was talking to this Son. Yes, the very one who later came to earth and was born from a woman had shared in the creation of all things! He had already lived in heaven with his Father for an unknown number of years!—Genesis 1:26; Proverbs 8:22, 30; John 1:3.
HIS LIFE ON EARTH
6 Mary had been promised in marriage to Joseph. But when he learned that she was pregnant he believed she had engaged in sexual relations with another man, and he was therefore not going to marry her. However, when Jehovah told him that it was by means of His holy spirit that the child had been conceived, Joseph took Mary as his wife. (Matthew 1:18-20, 24, 25) Later, while they were visiting the city of Bethlehem, Jesus was born. (Luke 2:1-7; Micah 5:2) When Jesus was still a baby, King Herod tried to kill him. But Jehovah warned Joseph so that he took his family and ran away to Egypt. After King Herod died, Joseph and Mary returned with Jesus to the city of Nazareth in Galilee. Here he grew up.—Matthew 2:13-15, 19-23.
7 When Jesus was 12 years old he traveled with his family to Jerusalem to attend the special celebration called the Passover. While there he spent three days in the temple listening to the teachers and asking them questions. All the people who listened to him were surprised at how much he knew. (Luke 2:41-52) As Jesus grew up in Nazareth, he learned to be a carpenter. He no doubt was trained to do this work by his foster father, Joseph, who also was a carpenter.—Mark 6:3; Matthew 13:55.
8 At 30 years of age a big change occurred in Jesus’ life. He went to John the Baptizer and asked to be baptized, to be put completely under the waters of the Jordan River. The Bible reports: “After being baptized Jesus immediately came up from the water; and, look! the heavens were opened up, and he saw descending like a dove God’s spirit coming upon him. Look! Also, there was a voice from the heavens that said: ‘This is my Son, the beloved, whom I have approved.’” (Matthew 3:16, 17) There could be no doubt in the mind of John that Jesus had been sent by God.
9 By pouring out His holy spirit on Jesus, Jehovah was anointing him or appointing him to be the king of His coming kingdom. Being thus anointed with the spirit, Jesus became the “Messiah,” or the “Christ,” which words in the Hebrew and Greek languages mean “Anointed.” Therefore, he became, in fact, Jesus Christ, or Jesus the Anointed. So his apostle Peter spoke of “Jesus who was from Nazareth, how God anointed him with holy spirit and power.” (Acts 10:38) Also, by his baptism in water Jesus was presenting himself to God to carry out the work that God had sent him to earth to do. What was that important work?
WHY HE CAME TO EARTH
10 Explaining why he had come to earth, Jesus told the Roman governor Pontius Pilate: “For this I have been born, and for this [purpose] I have come into the world, that I should bear witness to the truth.” (John 18:37) But what particular truths was Jesus sent to earth to make known? First, truths about his heavenly Father. He taught his followers to pray that his Father’s name be “hallowed,” or held holy. (Matthew 6:9, King James Version) And he prayed: “I have made your name manifest to the men you gave me.” (John 17:6) Also, he said: “I must declare the good news of the kingdom of God, because for this I was sent forth.”—Luke 4:43.
11 How important to Jesus was this work of making known his Father’s name and kingdom? He said to his disciples: “My food is for me to do the will of him that sent me and to finish his work.” (John 4:34) Why did Jesus consider God’s work to be as important as food? It was because the Kingdom is the means by which God will fulfill his wonderful purposes for humankind. It is this kingdom that will destroy all wickedness and will clear Jehovah’s name of the reproach that has been brought upon it. (Daniel 2:44; Revelation 21:3, 4) So Jesus never held back from making known God’s name and kingdom. (Matthew 4:17; Luke 8:1; John 17:26; Hebrews 2:12) He always spoke the truth, whether it was popular or not. He thus provided an example that we should follow if we want to please God.—1 Peter 2:21.
12 Yet, to make it possible for us to gain everlasting life under the rule of God’s kingdom, Jesus had to pour out his lifeblood in death. As two apostles of Jesus said: “We have been declared righteous now by his blood.” “The blood of Jesus [God’s] Son cleanses us from all sin.” (Romans 5:9; 1 John 1:7) So an important reason why Jesus came to earth was to die for us. He said: “The Son of man came, not to be ministered to, but to minister and to give his soul [or, life] a ransom in exchange for many.” (Matthew 20:28) But what does it mean that Christ gave his life “a ransom”? Why was the pouring out of his lifeblood in death necessary for our salvation?
HE GAVE HIS LIFE A RANSOM
13 The word “ransom” is often used when there is a kidnapping. After a kidnapper captures a person, he may say he will return the person if a certain amount of money is paid as a ransom. So a ransom is something that brings the deliverance of a person held captive. It is something that is paid so that he does not lose his life. Jesus’ perfect human life was given to obtain mankind’s release from bondage to sin and death. (1 Peter 1:18, 19; Ephesians 1:7) Why was such a release needed?
14 This was because Adam, the forefather of all of us, had rebelled against God. His lawless act thus made him a sinner, since the Bible explains that “sin is lawlessness.” (1 John 3:4; 5:17) As a result, he was not worthy of receiving God’s gift of everlasting life. (Romans 6:23) So Adam lost for himself perfect human life on a paradise earth. He also lost this wonderful prospect for all the children he would produce. ‘But why,’ you may ask, ‘did all his children have to die, since it was Adam who sinned?’
15 This is because Adam, when he became a sinner, passed sin and death on to his children, including all humans now living. (Job 14:4; Romans 5:12) “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,” the Bible says. (Romans 3:23; 1 Kings 8:46) Even godly David said: “With error I was brought forth with birth pains, and in sin my mother conceived me.” (Psalm 51:5) People, therefore, have been dying because of the sin that was inherited from Adam. How was it possible, then, for the sacrifice of Jesus’ life to free all people from bondage to sin and death?
16 A legal principle in God’s law for the nation of Israel is involved. It states that ‘life should be given for life.’ (Exodus 21:23; Deuteronomy 19:21) By his disobedience the perfect man Adam lost perfect life on a paradise earth for himself and all his children. Jesus Christ gave his own perfect life to buy back what Adam lost. Yes, Jesus “gave himself a corresponding ransom for all.” (1 Timothy 2:5, 6) Because he was a perfect man, even as Adam had been, Jesus is called “the last Adam.” (1 Corinthians 15:45) No human other than Jesus could have provided the ransom. This is because Jesus is the only man who ever lived that was equal to Adam as a perfect human son of God.—Psalm 49:7; Luke 1:32; 3:38.
17 Jesus died at 33 1/2 years of age. But on the third day after his death he was resurrected to life. Forty days later he returned to heaven. (Acts 1:3, 9-11) There, as a spirit person once more, he appeared “before the person of God for us,” carrying the value of his ransom sacrifice. (Hebrews 9:12, 24) At that time the ransom was paid to God in heaven. Deliverance was now available for humankind. But when will its benefits be realized?
18 Even now Jesus’ ransom sacrifice can benefit us. How? By exercising faith in it we can enjoy a clean standing before God and come under his loving and tender care. (Revelation 7:9, 10, 13-15) Many of us may have committed terrible sins before we learned about God. And even now we make mistakes, sometimes very serious ones. But we can freely seek forgiveness from God on the basis of the ransom, with confidence that he will hear us. (1 John 2:1, 2; 1 Corinthians 6:9-11) Also, in the days ahead, the ransom will open up for us the way to receive God’s gift of everlasting life in his righteous new world. (2 Peter 3:13) At that time all those exercising faith in the ransom will be released completely from bondage to sin and death. They may look forward to life forever in perfection!
19 How do you feel on learning about the ransom? Does it not warm your heart toward Jehovah God to know that he cares for you so much that he gave his dear Son in your behalf? (John 3:16; 1 John 4:9, 10) But think, too, of Christ’s love. He willingly came to earth to die for us. Should we not be grateful? The apostle Paul explained how we should show our gratitude when he said: “He died for all that those who live might live no longer for themselves, but for him who died for them and was raised up.” (2 Corinthians 5:14, 15) Will you show your gratitude by using your life to serve God and his heavenly Son Jesus Christ?
WHY JESUS PERFORMED MIRACLES
20 Jesus is well known for the miracles he performed. He had deep feeling for people who were in trouble, and he was eager to use his God-given powers to help them. For example, a person with the terrible disease leprosy came to him and said: “If you just want to, you can make me clean.” Jesus “was moved with pity, and he stretched out his hand and touched him, and said to him: ‘I want to. Be made clean.’” And the sick man was healed!—Mark 1:40-42.
21 Consider another Bible scene, and imagine Jesus’ tender feeling for the people described: “Then great crowds approached him, having along with them people that were lame, maimed, blind, dumb, and many otherwise, and they fairly threw them at his feet, and he cured them; so that the crowd felt amazement as they saw the dumb speaking and the lame walking and the blind seeing, and they glorified the God of Israel.”—Matthew 15:30, 31.
22 That Jesus really cared about these suffering persons and truly wanted to help them can be seen by what he next told his disciples. He said: “I feel pity for the crowd, because it is already three days that they have stayed with me and they have nothing to eat; and I do not want to send them away fasting. They may possibly give out on the road.” So Jesus, with just seven loaves and a few little fish, miraculously fed the “four thousand men, besides women and young children.”—Matthew 15:32-38.
23 On another occasion Jesus met a funeral procession that was coming out of the city of Nain. The Bible describes it, saying: “There was a dead man being carried out, the only-begotten son of his mother. Besides, she was a widow. . . . And when the Lord caught sight of her, he was moved with pity for her.” He deeply felt her sorrow. So, addressing the dead body, Jesus commanded: “Young man, I say to you, Get up!” And wonder of wonders! “The dead man sat up and started to speak, and he gave him to his mother.” Think how that mother must have felt! How would you feel? News about this remarkable event spread far and wide. No wonder Jesus is so well known.—Luke 7:11-17.
24 Yet the miracles Jesus performed were of only temporary benefit. People that he healed developed physical problems again. And those he resurrected died again. But Jesus’ miracles proved that he was sent forth by God, that he was really God’s Son. And they proved that, with God’s power, all human problems can be solved. Yes, they showed on a small scale what will take place on earth under the kingdom of God. At that time the hungry will be fed, the sick will be cured, and even the dead will be raised! And never again will sickness, death or any other troubles cause unhappiness. What a blessing that will be!—Revelation 21:3, 4; Matthew 11:4, 5.
RULER OF GOD’S KINGDOM
25 There are three parts to the life of God’s Son. First, there are the unknown number of years he spent with his Father in heaven before he became a human. Next, the 33-1/2 years he spent on earth after his birth. And now there is his life back in heaven as a spirit person. What position has he had in heaven since his resurrection?
26 Clearly, Jesus was to become a king. Even the angel announced to Mary: “He will rule as king . . . forever, and there will be no end of his kingdom.” (Luke 1:33) During his earthly ministry he spoke all the time about the kingdom of God. He taught his followers to pray: “Let your kingdom come. Let your will take place, as in heaven, also upon earth.” And he urged them to “keep on, then, seeking first the kingdom.” (Matthew 6:10, 33) By his faithfulness on earth, Jesus proved that he was worthy to be king of God’s kingdom. Did he begin ruling as king as soon as he returned to heaven?
27 No, he did not. The apostle Paul refers to Psalm 110:1, explaining: “This man [Jesus] offered one sacrifice for sins perpetually and sat down at the right hand of God, from then on awaiting until his enemies should be placed as a stool for his feet.” (Hebrews 10:12, 13) Jesus was awaiting Jehovah’s command: “Go subduing in the midst of your enemies.” (Psalm 110:2) When that time came, he began cleansing the heavens of Satan and his angels. The result of that war in heaven is stated in these words: “Now have come to pass the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of his Christ, because the accuser of our brothers has been hurled down, who accuses them day and night before our God!” (Revelation 12:10) As seen in an earlier chapter of this book, the facts show that this war in heaven has already taken place, and Jesus Christ is ruling right now in the midst of his enemies.
28 Very soon Christ and his heavenly angels will take action to rid the earth of all present worldly governments. (Daniel 2:44; Revelation 17:14) The Bible says that he has “a sharp long sword, that he may strike the nations with it, and he will shepherd them with a rod of iron.” (Revelation 19:11-16) To prove worthy of protection during this coming destruction, we must exercise faith in Jesus Christ. (John 3:36) We must become his disciples and submit ourselves to him as our heavenly King. Will you do that?
- You Can Live Forever in Paradise on Earth, Published by the WTB&TS