Posts Tagged ‘Jesus’

Historicity of Jesus: Lucian of Samasota

February 5th, 2016

By Kyle Larson

Lucian the SatiristIn the last of our non Jewish writers who mention Jesus, we will look at Lucian of Samasota. Lucian was born in 125 AD in Samosota, a region which today lies in modern day southern Turkey. As a young man, Lucian studied law and Greek literature. As an adult, he became a well know rhetorician, someone who argues cases in the Roman court system. He was also a widely known and popular satirist, speaker, and writer of his day. His most popular writings include:

  1. A True Story – A take off on the stories found in the Odyssey written by the Greek author Homer several centuries earlier.
  2. The Passing of Peregrinas – A pagan’s contact with the earliest Christians.
  3. The Symposium – A satirical look at one of Plato’s writings

Lucian, in his writings on the Christians, views them with disdain. There are probably a few reasons for this. First, Lucian had a habit of satire; It’s not a surprise that he approached Christianity that way. Second, Christianity was still so new that, apparently, Lucian didn’t take the time to investigate Christianity for himself. Despite this, Lucian gives one of the earliest description of Jesus and the Christians by a non Christian:

“The Christians, you know, worship a man to this day — the distinguished personage who introduced their novel rites, and was crucified on that account … You see, these misguided creatures start with the general conviction that they are immortal for all time, which explains the contempt of death and voluntary self devotion which are so common among them; and then it was impressed on them by their original lawgiver that they are all brothers, from the moment that they are converted, and deny the gods of Greece, and worship the crucified sage, and live after his laws. All this they take quite on faith, with the result that they despise all worldly goods alike, regarding them merely as common property.”

It is human nature that when a person does not understand something and has no further interest in checking it out, it is easier to make fun of the thing than to try and discredit it, especially if the person has little or no knowledge about it. This is what Lucian is doing here. He mocks Jesus and the early Christians. Yet for all the mocking that he does, Lucian does not deny the existence of the Christians “lawgiver”, Jesus. He also gives us evidence that early Christians worshiped Jesus as a divinity. So this is again, very early testimony that confirms the existence of Jesus by a non Christian writer

Next week, we will begin looking at Jewish authors who affirm the existence of Jesus as a historical figure.

Historicity of Jesus: Suetonius

January 18th, 2016

by Kyle Larson

Jesus was real. He existed in a time and lived in a place. History has provided for us numerous sources for his life, his death, and the effect he had on the ancient world. This week, we are going to take a brief look at the Roman scholar and historian Suetonius. He left a short, but telling, account of a strange people causing an uproar in Rome.

SuetoniusSuetonius was a Roman scholar who wrote a notable history of the Roman emperors around the end of the first century AD. He was born in north Africa (modern Algeria) sometime between 67-72 AD. Raised in an upper class family, Suetonius received an excellent classical education by Roman standards, including time spent studying Greek literature and art. He also learned the political and economic aspects of the first century Roman Empire.

Like Tacitus, Suetonius studied Roman Law. He was a close friend of Pliny the Younger, the Roman Governor of what is modern day Turkey. He also had access to vast amounts of Roman historical and archival records once he was appointed to serve as the Director of the Imperial Library as well as other related posts.

His historical writings are many. He wrote on many aspects of Greco-Roman culture. This included such topics as the Greek games, physical disabilities, clothing, Roman festivals and customs. With all these credentials behind him, as we did with Tacitus, we can confidently assert that he was well connected, had access to Roman records, and thus could speak confidently on Jesus and the early Christians.

Lives of the Twelve CaesarsHis major historical work was entitled Lives of the Twelve Caesars. In it, Suetonius chronicles the major Roman Emperors from Julius Caesar to Domitian. When he gets to the reign of the Emperor Claudius, he makes a brief mention of Jesus and the early Christians:

“Because the Jews at Rome caused continuous disturbances at the instigation of Chrestus, he expelled them from the city.”

Bart Ehrman is uncertain if “Chrestus” refers to Jesus or not. Other historians point out that the name “Chrestus” is the same Latin Spelling that Tacitus uses when referring to Jesus.

And we know, Tacitus was an accurate Roman historian. This passage explains that the Jewish population in Rome caused problems for Roman officials because of the growing number of Christians in Rome. As a result, the Emperor Claudius expelled the Jews from Rome. Even Bart Ehrman admits that this historical incident in Suetonius is confirmed by Luke in Acts 18:2.

Both Tacitus and Suetonius confirm that the Christians in Rome followed a Jewish teacher named Jesus who lived in Judea, taught the people, and was ultimately killed under Governor Pontius Pilate of Judea while Tiberius was the Roman Emperor. It is possible that Pilate filed a formal report in Rome that both Tacitus and Suetonius may have had access to.

Now that we have looked at two of the top Gentile writers who mention Jesus, next week, we will look at what the first century Jewish historian Josephus had to say about Jesus.

Why The Gnostic Texts Were Rejected

March 24th, 2014

Excerpt from Chapter 11 of The Atheist Delusion


Many contemporary popular writers reject the first century a.d. portrait of Jesus as God, Savior, and Messiah. Instead, they proclaim Jesus as somewhat of a guru who imparted secret knowledge to His followers. This was the false Jesus of the Gnostic writings.

Oxyrhynchus papyrus fragmentThe Gnostic writings were rejected by the early church for numerous reasons. First, the Gnostic writings (i.e., the Gospel of Judas, the Gospel of Thomas, the Gospel of Philip, the Gospel of Mary, etc.) were written much too late. The earliest possible date given to some of these books is about 140 ad, over one-hundred years after Jesus’ death and resurrection. Hence, they lacked apostolic authority and did not come from eyewitnesses or anyone who personally knew the eyewitnesses. Hence, the information was written far too late to contain reliable information about Jesus and His teachings.

Second, these writings were deceptive. They are often classified as pseudepigrapha because they were forgeries. The unknown authors were not the persons they claimed to be. No New Testament critic, not even the liberal critics of the Jesus Seminar, believes that these books were actually written by Judas, Thomas, Philip, or Mary Magdalene. The authors were lying; they claimed to be someone they were not.

Drawing of the leontocephalineThird, the Gnostic writings were considered heretical by the early church, and therefore could not be added to the canon. The Gnostics rejected salvation through faith in Jesus and instead taught salvation through secret knowledge. (The word “Gnosticism” comes from the Greek word “gnosis” which means knowledge.) The ancient Gnostics rejected the Old Testament as an evil book written by an evil god. They taught that matter is totally evil and the spiritual realm is totally good. Since the Old Testament God created the material universe, the Gnostics deemed Him to be an evil god. Whereas biblical Christianity has always considered itself to be the completion or fulfillment of the Jewish Faith (i.e., the Old Testament), the Gnostics were opposed to the teachings of the Old Testament and the God of the Jewish Faith. Hence, the early church rejected the Gnostic writings as being heretical; these writings were not in agreement with previous revelation. Hence, as heretical works, the early church believed the Gnostic texts were not edifying for true believers. Since God inspired or guided the early church to write His Word, He also guided the early church to recognize which books belonged in the canon (i.e., the list of books which belonged in the Bible). The Gnostic writings were written too late to be authoritative records of Jesus’ ministry and life. They were heretical, and they were forgeries. There was and is no reason to include the Gnostic writings in the New Testament. The Jesus of the Gnostic writings is a false Jesus. The Gnostic Jesus is not the true Jesus of history.

30 Seconds With Dr. Fernandes: Apathy and Hate for Jesus

November 25th, 2013

Not many have loved Jesus. Many have hated him. Many are apathetic. What do you say about Jesus?

Hijacking the Historical Jesus: Chapter 17 (excerpt)

April 2nd, 2013

The Main Themes of Jesus’ Teachings:

The Kingdom of God

Most New Testament scholars, liberal and conservative alike, believe the main theme of Jesus’ teachings is the Kingdom of God (also called the Kingdom of Heaven). Both John the Baptist and Jesus proclaimed, “The Kingdom of God is at hand” (Matthew 3:2; 4:17). But, what exactly is the Kingdom of God? First, a kingdom is the domain (or sphere of rule) of a king. Second, since God is the King of His Kingdom, then the Kingdom of God is wherever God rules.

Jesus Teaching his ApostlesTo be more specific, we need to look at what Jesus said about God’s Kingdom. Jesus often taught in parables. Parables are true to life stories that teach spiritual truth. In Matthew, chapter thirteen, Jesus taught the people parables about the Kingdom of God, telling them what the Kingdom would be like. In the parable of the sower, Jesus said that people could accept or reject the word of the Kingdom. Those who accept the word of the Kingdom would bear much fruit (Matthew 13:18-23). In the parables of the mustard seed and the leaven, Jesus explained that the Kingdom of God would start out small but would grow to the point of filling the earth (Matthew 13:31-33). In the parables of the tares and the net of fish, Jesus preached that, in God’s Kingdom, the unsaved would mingle with the saved until the harvest on the last day when the Son of Man would send God’s angels to separate them, sending the unsaved into a “furnace of fire” (Matthew 13:36-43; 47-50). In the parables of the pearl of great price and the hidden treasure, Jesus proclaimed that the Kingdom of God was worth more than everything a person owned (Matthew 13:44-46).

These parables teach us that the Kingdom of God has two distinct phases or stages. First, the Kingdom of God apparently has a present stage in which God’s Kingdom (the church) is growing throughout the world. During this stage, God’s Kingdom grows until it fills the earth. Still, nonbelievers live side by side with believers during this stage. Second, the Kingdom of God has a future stage in which the Son of Man will come and send His angels to separate the unsaved from the saved, sending the unsaved into eternal torment.

The Apostle Paul spoke of the present stage of God’s Kingdom when he wrote, “For the Kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit” (Romans 14:17). Hence, the present stage of God’s Kingdom is a spiritual stage—God ruling in the hearts of believers.

The New Jerusalem: 14th Century French TapestryThe future stage of God’s Kingdom is spoken of in the following manner: “And the seventh angel sounded [his trumpet]; and there arose loud voices in heaven, saying, ‘The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ; and He will reign forever and ever’” (Revelation 11:15). Revelation, chapters nineteen and twenty, tell us that Jesus will bring God’s kingdom to earth by reigning on the earth and shepherding the nations with an iron rod for one-thousand years (Revelation 19:11-20:15). Hence, the future stage of God’s Kingdom is when God’s Kingdom physically comes to earth when Jesus returns to rule on earth (Matthew 24:29-31; 25:31-32). Jesus taught the apostles that they would sit on twleve thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel in the coming Kingdom (Matthew 19:28), and that many Jews would not make it into God’s Kingdom, whereas some Gentiles would sit and feast with the Jewish patriarch Abraham (Matthew 8:10-12). Jesus told Nicodemus that “unless one is born again, he cannot see the Kingdom of God” (John 3:3). To be born again, a person has to believe in Jesus for salvation (John 3:16-18).

From these passages we can gain insight into God’s Kingdom. In its present stage, God rules in the hearts of believers—those who trust in Jesus alone for salvation. But, in the future, Jesus will return and bring God’s Kingdom to earth, and He will reign on the earth for one-thousand years. The Kingdom of God coming in all its fullness was prophesied in the Old Testament and will be fulfilled by Jesus at His return when He conquers the enemies of Israel and establishes God’s Kingdom on earth (Zechariah 14:1-5, 9-21; Isaiah 2:1-4; 9:6-7; 11:4-9; Zechariah 9:9-10). Jesus instructed believers to pray for God’s Kingdom to come to earth (Matthew 6:10).

The Scourging and the Crown of Thorns

February 28th, 2013

by IBD conributor Kyle Larson

Jesús en casa de Anás (1803)After his arrest in Gethsemane, the guards dragged Jesus before the Jewish nation’s supreme court: the Sanhedrin. The high priest, Caiaphas, had arranged for an impromptu trial of the controversial rabbi. Being held at night an in secret, the legality of the trial was already in doubt. As a line of false accusers came forward, each contradicting the last, all hope of a fair trial faded away; Jesus’ was guilty no matter how long it took to prove it.

Eventually, Jesus admitted his unique status as the son of God. Caiaphas, unable to make his sham trial effective, jumped at the opportunity to condemn Jesus as a blasphemer. The sentence was death!

Unfortunately for Caiaphas, the Jewish nation was living under Roman occupation and no man could be executed without the permission of Rome. So the Jewish leaders waited until early Friday morning to bring Jesus before the Roman Governor of Judea, Pontius Pilate. After a short interview, Pilate could not find any real basis for a charge against Jesus, so he sent him to Herod.

Herod could find nothing in Jesus’ worthy of death either, so Pilate, never a fan of the Sanhedrin or or the Jews, decided to release Jesus. Not because he cared for Jesus or because he was particularly worried about justice, but because the Sanhedrin was jealous of Jesus. Releasing Jesus would make them angry … and in some place in Pilate’s heart that thought pleased him.

However, after several attempts to release Jesus, Pilate found himself faced with a riot. What on earth had this man done to so enrage the Jewish leaders? After his wife came to him, begging him to have nothing to do with Jesus, Pilate washed his hands of the matter. He finally gave in to the will of the people and sent Jesus to the cross.

Jesus whipped with a flagrum, stained glassBefore a condemned man was taken to the cross, it was a preliminary procedure to have that man scourged. The type of whip used by the Romans was totally different than the kind used during the days of slavery in the Southern United States. The Romans used a kind of whip that had long leather strips. At the end of each of these leather strips were pieces of sheep bone and other VERY sharp objects. Thus, when this whip came down upon upon a man’s back, it also wrapped around the chest of the bent over man. This whip ripped through skin, muscles and nerves. This caused intense pain. As the whip came down on the man’s back and wrapped around his chest. severe bruising on the rib cage and the lungs would occur. Thus, when a man took a breath, it was extremely painful. Thus, during and after this brutal scourging, Jesus had to be careful to take shallow short breaths because if he attempted a normal deep breath, he would be in extreme agony.

If we had been there to view the scourging of Jesus, we would see his entire back broken open. Not only would the top layer of skin be totally ripped open, but also deeper layers of the back that would have ripped apart muscles and nerves. Large pieces of flesh came flying off of Jesus back, chest and legs.

The pain must have been agonizing not only on the back but also on the chest. Jesus would continuously slump down on the ground, only to be jerked back up again so that the scourging could continue. Many people died at the whipping post. Many people called the scourging at the post “the half death” because most victims, including Jesus, already half dead before even being nailed to the Cross.

As the scourging continued, the man would experience nausea and vomiting as well as severe dizzy and fainting spells. Yet the Roman soldiers showed no mercy as the scourging continued. When the scourging of Jesus was finished, he had huge black, blue and purple bruises all over the front and back of his body. He could hardly stand up.

The Crown of Thorns

Christ Carrying the CrossIn the case of Jesus, he claimed to be a King. Thus, the Roman soldiers chose to mock the Kingship of Jesus. In order to do this, the soldiers took part of a thorn bush and formed a “cap” that covered his entire head. These thorns probably came from the “Syrian Christ thorn” plant. These thorns were as hard as nails. When the Roman soldiers rammed down the crown of thorns on the head of Jesus, the thorns went the two major nerves that covered the entire head. When the crown of thorns came down upon Jesus, he experienced “trigeminal neuralgia” There would be agonizing pain all over the front and sides of his face. There would also be agonizing pain on the insides of his ears. It would have been the equivalent of having someone come up with a knife and stabbing a person all over the face.

I have a friend who has experienced trigeminal neuralgia. She writes:

“There are different levels pertaining to the pain of trigeminal neuralgia. I personally experience most of the time the pain on both sides of my face called bilateral pain. Besides feeling like a toothache I experience a severe amount of pressure around my whole lower jaw. It feels as though someone is squeezing your cheeks and jaws together with a piercing pain going on at the same time. Also, every so often I experience sharp, electric shocks to the side of the face like someone stabbed me with a sharp needle or knife. The pain can extend up the side of the face where your temples are and keeps going around to the top of my eyes and forehead like an excruciating, unbearable migraine in your entire face.There are times when the pain can get so severe that you feel like your face is on fire and there is nothing you can do about it; where you cannot get any relief”

Most movies on Jesus do not emphasize the severity of the scourging and the crown of thorns. Remember these things as you meditate on the passion of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Hijacking The Historical Jesus: Opening

August 30th, 2012

On September 11th, 2001, Islamic extremists hijacked American commercial airplanes and flew them into the twin towers and the Pentagon. Another hijacked plane crashed in a field in Pennsylvania. Many commentators claimed that these terrorists had “hijacked” the Islamic faith. In reality, these Muslim terrorists seemed to take the violent commands of the Koran very seriously. They had not hijacked the Islamic faith; instead, they passionately obeyed the unethical commands uttered by Muhammad in the Koran.

However, the past few generations have witnessed a real hijacking: the hijacking of the historical Jesus. The historically reliable New Testament portrait of Jesus has been replaced with varieties of a politically-correct Jesus, New Age Christs, and other false Christs. In most cases, these false Christs were created in the image of the people who promote them.

Was Jesus married to Mary Magdalene and did He appoint her to lead His church? Or, was Jesus merely a man who never claimed to be God? Maybe Jesus was merely a legend or myth—He never really existed? In short, is traditional, biblical Christianity a perversion of first century Christianity? Today the traditional view of Jesus has been replaced by a myriad of false conceptions of Christ that look nothing like the true Jesus of the Bible. The traditional view of Jesus has been hijacked, and the Christian church needs to respond. We need to defend the true Jesus of history—the true Jesus of the Bible.

Today, two of the leading false pictures of Jesus in the Western world are being proclaimed by Dan Brown, author of the best-selling novel The DaVinci Code, and by the radical left-wing scholars who comprise the Jesus Seminar—a think tank dedicated to presenting an alternative, politically correct Jesus to the world. The next two chapters will examine their work and refute the false Jesuses they promote. Other false portraits of Jesus will be refuted as well.

In this chapter, we will examine ancient Christological heresies (i.e., ancient false views of Jesus), the liberal “Christian” view of Jesus, the cultic views of Jesus, and the mistaken views of Jesus found in the world religions as well as in postmodern circles. We will then briefly discuss the true biblical view of Jesus. In later chapters, after refuting the work of the DaVinci Code, the Jesus Seminar, and other recent attacks on the historical Jesus, we will build a strong case that the true Jesus of the Bible is identical with the real Jesus of history.

The Bible clearly teaches that Jesus is fully God and fully man. He always existed as God the second Person of the Trinity, but at a point in time He added a human nature. Throughout the history of the church there have been those who have rejected this biblical view of Jesus and have instead promoted false Christs who cannot save.

An excerpt from “The True Jesus of the Bible”, chapter one in the Institute’s latest book: Hijacking the Historical Jesus.

Did Isaiah Predict a “Virgin” Birth?

April 18th, 2012

As you can probably guess, this Institute receives a number of Theological questions. Recently, I ran across the following question and  decided it merited a public response.

“I was recently asked about the the Isaiah verse that Matthew quotes. I’m being told it was a mistranslation. I tried to tell the person that he needed to read it all in context. He said I can’t call for context amongst all the books then ignore the context in which the book of Isaiah was written.”

The Adoration of the Shepherds - Gerard van HonthorstInteresting discussion. The quote in question is from Matthew 1:22 & 23:

“So the Lord’s promise came true, just as the prophet had said, ‘A virgin will have a baby boy, and he will be called Immanuel,’ which means ‘God is with us.'”

Matthew here is quoting from Isaiah chapter 7.

“Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel. He shall eat curds and honey when he knows how to refuse the evil and choose the good.  For before the boy knows how to refuse the evil and choose the good, the land whose two kings you dread will be deserted.”

The Lord is giving the people of Israel a “sign” as a pledge that He will deliver them; In the time it takes a young women to conceive and her child to grow to the age of accountability, Israel shall be delivered from her enemies. That is the straight forward meaning.

We can read the fulfillment in Isaiah, chapter 8, verses 3 and 4.

“And I went to the prophetess, and she conceived and bore a son. Then the LORD said to me, “Call his name Maher-shalal-hashbaz; for before the boy knows how to cry ‘My father’ or ‘My mother,’ the wealth of Damascus and the spoil of Samaria will be carried away before the king of Assyria.””

Qumran Scroll of Isaiah

So why did Matthew apply this fulfilled prophecy to Jesus? Did he hear about Jesus’ virgin birth and go searching for a some verse justify it? Does the verse in Isaiah actually refer to a “virgin” or just a young woman? Can we justify both the near fulfillment and Matthew’s application of this verse to Jesus? The only way to solve this is to look at the text itself.

In context, the word used by Isaiah (almah) merely means “young maiden of marrying age”. The word “betulah” means “virgin”. Of course, it was expected that a young maiden be a virgin before marriage … but that is only implied.  So, “almah”, in context, could either mean young maiden or virgin (or both). Since we know the context and have Isaiah’s writings, we could make a determination ourselves. However, I think consulting pre-Christian, Jewish interpretations would appear less biased on our part.

Long before Christ’s time here on earth, the Greeks decided it was in their best interest to understand those rebellious Jews. Perhaps if they understood why they rebelled, they’d be able to better rule them. So, the rulers asked that a Greek translation of the Jewish holy book, the Old Testament, be made. It was called the LXX (the 70), as legend says that 70 elders were involved in the translation process.

Now we have an unbiased translation into a more literal language. Looking at the verses in question, we turn to Isaiah and find that the phrase (ha’almah) was translated into Greek as “the virgin”. This means that decades before Christ was born, Jewish scholars decided that “virgin” was correct in context. It wasn’t until after Christ’s time that some Jews sought to change the meaning to “young woman” (not necessarily a virgin). Before and during Christ’s time, there is strong evidence to believe that few Jewish scholars doubted the translation in the LXX.

So why did the Jewish scholars translate the phrase “ha’almah” as “the virgin”? The word “almah” is only used 10 times in the entire Old Testament; That isn’t a large number of times. In 6 of the 10 cases, the LXX translators chose the Greek word for “virgin”: Genesis 24:43, Exodus 2:8, Psalm 68:25, Song of Solomon 1:3, 6:8 and Proverbs 30:19. In no case is the word ever translated as “young woman” or anything other than an unmarried maiden of marrying age (which implies virginity). So to an ancient Jew, the idea that this could not mean a virgin young maiden was out of the question.

That said, I believe something clever is going on here; I believe that God’s choice of the word “almah” was not an accident. In the near fulfillment, Isaiah married a “young maiden” and a child was born. However, since young Jewish maidens were expected to be virgins until marriage, the word can also be properly translated “virgin”.  So God used the word “almah” knowing that the dual meaning of the verse could be applied to both prophecies.

Xerxes I, King of BabylonBut wait! How did I come up with this concept of a “dual” fulfillment or a “dual” meaning? Looking at Isaiah 14, we see God humiliating Babylon and its arrogance. But then, starting in verse 12, we see this:

“How you are fallen from heaven, O Day Star, son of Dawn!
How you are cut down to the ground, you who laid the nations low!
You said in your heart, ‘I will ascend to heaven; above the stars of God I will set my throne on high;
I will sit on the mount of assembly in the far reaches of the north;
I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High.’

Either the king of Babylon made some wild, inhuman claims of becoming God, or this section is referring someone else. Even in Jesus’ day, Jewish scholars agreed that this passage was about Satan, the spiritual power behind Babylon. So this section refers both to the king of Babylon and to Satan at the same time. Wow! God is clever.

So, in Isaiah we see God predicting a natural birth (as a sign), at the same time, predicting the birth of Jesus the Messiah.

Journey Through the Bible: The Parable of The Sower

September 21st, 2011

Taken from Matthew chapter 13, Dr Fernandes speaks on sharing the Salvation of Jesus with non believers, how different people react and what can happen in the hearts of those who hear the message.

The Theology of “Love Wins”: The Gospel

May 25th, 2011

In the first article of this review, I touched upon the nature of God and His attributes. Rob Bell’s vision of God’s attributes, as described in his controversial new book Love Wins, was compared and contrasted with the scriptures. In his writing, Bell seems very comfortable with the Love of God, but shows little interest in interacting with attributes of God he is not personally comfortable with.

The Bible teaches that God manifests all of his attributes all the time. They exist in perfect harmony with one another. There are no contradictions within the nature of God (e.g. love vs justice). As I wrote in the previous article, on this issue Rob Bell does not rightly divide the Word of truth.

Pastor Rob BellError usually enters a church or denomination when the whole counsel of God is not seriously considered. Often, blinded by pet doctrines or new theological fads, the leadership will pick and choose from the scriptures to feed certain doctrines while ignoring those scriptures which refute or qualify them. In effect, they create a god in their own image; One they can be personally comfortable with.  Before long,  this new theology becomes church doctrine. I believe that this is the case with Rob Bell. It seems as if Bell wants to scold the God of the universe for manifesting any attributes not conforming with his personal theology.

In this article, the second in the series, the version of salvation presented in Love Wins will be contrasted with Biblical salvation. My contention is that if a person attempts to come to God on their own terms, that person will end up eternally separated from God; God has the right to set down the terms for a person’s salvation. He has done so clearly in His word.

Let’s start by looking at specific statements from Rob Bell’s book concerning how a person is saved.

If the message of Jesus is that God is offering the free gift of eternal life through him – a gift that we cannot earn by our own efforts, works or good deeds – and all we have to do is accept and confess and believe, aren’t those verbs? And aren’t verbs actions? Accepting, confessing, believing — those are things we do. Does that mean then, that going to heaven is dependent on something I do? How is any of that Grace? How is that a gift? How is that Good News? Isn’t what Christians have always claimed set their religion apart – that it wasn’t in the end a religion at all – that you don’t have to do anything because God has already done it through Jesus.” (Love Wins – 11)

It is here that we encounter one of the most serious errors in Rob Bell’s book: a radically distorted understanding of the Gospel. For Bell, as stated in this passage and in many other passages throughout his book, salvation is a universal fact. When Jesus died on the Cross, salvation wasn’t just available to everyone who believes, but everyone, regardless of whether they actually believe the Gospel or not, is saved. According to Bell, the “Good News” really isn’t “good” if one has to place their faith in Jesus to be saved. Bell believes that the mainstream view of salvation is just plain wrong; It is anything but Good News. As far as he’s concerned, Jesus died and as a result, everyone is saved . Personal Trust in Jesus is not required.

However, according to the Bible, neither Jesus nor his Apostles taught anything like Bell’s universal salvation. It must be remembered that Jesus of Nazareth presented clear and undeniable credentials to show that he had authority to speak for God the Father on earth. Moreover, he claimed to be God. He backed up this claim by fulfilling Old Testament prophesy, performing miracles and then rising from the dead.

So then, if we claim to believe the Bible, we must also believe that Jesus has the right and the authority to spell out the terms of salvation. The fact that Jesus rose from the dead alone validates everything he taught during his 3 ½ year ministry. I would hope and pray that Rob Bell would not disagree with this as being the foundation for why we as Christians accept the authority of Jesus.

What this all boils down to is this question: “What is the Message of the Gospel?” Rob Bell asks this same question in many different ways throughout the first chapter of his book. The content of the Gospel involves the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus. Consider the following passages:

“Thus it is written, that the Christ would suffer and rise again from the dead the third day, and that repentance for forgiveness of sins would be proclaimed in His name to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem. – Luke 24:44-48

Now I make known to you, brethren, the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received, in which also you stand, by which also you are saved, if you hold fast the word which I preached to you, unless you believed in vain. 3For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that He appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve – 1 Corinthians 15:1-8

Jesus Teaching his ApostlesThus, the Gospel involves what Jesus did for us, on our behalf. We could not save ourselves. We did nothing to earn God’s sending of his Son. Yet, contrary to many statements that Rob Bell makes throughout the book, Jesus’ death and Resurrection for our salvation does not mean that everyone in the world is automatically saved. A person needs to believe that what Jesus did, He did for him or her individually. Consider the words of Jesus:

As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lift0ed up; 15so that whoever believes will in Him have eternal life. “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. “For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him. “He who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.” – John 3:14-18

I would suppose that Bell could easily go along with John 3:16,17, because Jesus talks about how God sent him into the world to redeem it and not to judge it. But I wonder what Bell would say concerning verse 18. Would Bell tell Jesus that he was not presenting Nicodemus with Good News because those who do not believe in Him already stand condemned for not believing in Him? Would Bell find fault with Jesus for spelling out the consequences of rejecting his specific gift of salvation? Is Jesus, in verse 18, being too narrow minded and unloving for Rob Bell? Is Rob Bell more loving than the Son of God himself?

“What shall we do, so that we may work the works of God?” Jesus answered and said to them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He has sent.” – John 6:27-29

“For this is the will of My Father, that everyone who beholds the Son and believes in Him will have eternal life, and I Myself will raise him up on the last day.” – John 6:40

Based on these passages ALONE, we can get a very clear understanding of what Jesus deemed to be necessary for salvation. Jesus said that personal trust and belief in Him was absolutely necessary for a person to be saved.

Bell would say that there is nothing gracious in God instructing people to believe in Jesus for salvation. Bell would say this is too narrow. For Bell., God would have been much more loving if, at the moment that Jesus died , He had automatically forgiven everyone and not put a burden on people by declaring, through the preaching of the Apostles, that one must individually believe on the Lord Jesus Christ for salvation. That sounds narrow and not grace filled for Rob Bell.

The Apostles also stated that personal trust in Jesus and what did is necessary for salvation. Peter stated twice that personal trust in Jesus and the turning away from sin are necessary for salvation.

“Peter said to them, “Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” – Acts 2:38

“And He ordered us to preach to the people, and solemnly to testify that this is the One who has been appointed by God as Judge of the living and the dead. “Of Him all the prophets bear witness that through His name everyone who believes in Him receives forgiveness of sins.” – ACTS 10:42-43

Paul the ApostleThe Apostle Paul, the Apostle of Grace, also stated many times that while there was nothing that we could have done to motivate God in the sending of his Son for our salvation, there is something that we need to do to receive that salvation personally. That one thing is believing on the Lord Jesus Christ and in what He did in his death and resurrection for our salvation. Consider the following four passages below from God’s Word.

”……suddenly there came a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison house were shaken; and immediately all the doors were opened and everyone’s chains were unfastened. When the jailer awoke and saw the prison doors opened, he drew his sword and was about to kill himself, supposing that the prisoners had escaped. But Paul cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Do not harm yourself, for we are all here!” And he called for lights and rushed in, and trembling with fear he fell down before Paul and Silas, and after he brought them out, he said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” They said, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.” – Acts 16:26-31

But now apart from the Law the righteousness of God has been manifested, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, even the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all those who believe; for there is no distinction; for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus; 25whom God displayed publicly as a propitiation in His blood through faith This was to demonstrate His righteousness, because in the forbearance of God He passed over the sins previously committed; for the demonstration, I say, of His righteousness at the present time, so that He would be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus. Where then is boasting? It is excluded By what kind of law? Of works? No, but by a law of faith. For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from works of the Law.” – Romans 3:21-24

Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have obtained our introduction by faith into this grace in which we stand; and we exult in hope of the glory of God.” – Romans 5:1-2

For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.” -Ephesians 2:8

Peter the ApostleNow if Peter, Paul and the rest of the Apostles stated that one needs to put his or her personal trust in Jesus for salvation, how can Rob Bell come along and state that the Apostles were not really full of grace, did not understand that salvation is a gift and did not have a correct understanding of what the Good News is? Peter traveled with Jesus during his 3 ½ year ministry. Peter saw Jesus’ mighty miracles and heard his powerful sermons? Peter was an eyewitness of the Resurrected Jesus. Jesus vested Peter with Apostolic authority and power to proclaim the Gospel.

Does Rob Bell know something more than what Peter experienced? Has Rob Bell seen the physically resurrected Jesus like Peter and Paul did, which officially made them Apostles? Does Bell know more about the Grace of God than Peter, Paul and the rest of the Apostles? People’s souls are at stake when they read Rob Bell’s book “Love Wins” and come away with a false sense of security thinking it’s okay if they reject what Jesus did for them on the cross,……because they are already automatically saved by the cross anyway regardless of what they do with The cross. False security is the worse kind of security!