Two men, Adam and Christ, stand head and shoulders above all
people because of their influence on the rest of humanity. In Adam, who is the
head of the entire human race, there is sin, condemnation and death. But God
appointed the second man, the Lord from heaven, to redeem and gather a people
for himself from among the fallen human race. Christ, who is called the ‘last
Adam’ (1 Cor 15:45), is the head of a new people. He reversed the ill-effects of
Adam’s fall, and brought righteousness, justification, and eternal life.
The title ‘Christ’ (or in Hebrew, ‘Messiah’) means ‘the
Anointed One’; it indicates his consecration by the Father for his redemptive
mission. In the Old Testament, prophets, priests and kings were anointed with
oil as a sign of their appointment (1 Kings 19:16; Ex 29:7; 1 Sam 10:1). In
fulfillment of these symbols, the Lord Jesus was anointed with the Holy Spirit
to perform the work of a prophet, priest and king, and thus to bring to his
people the blessings of the covenant of grace.
The prophet is God’s messenger to his people. Christ is the
definitive Prophet because he perfectly reveals the Father. No one can know the
Father apart from Christ’s prophetic ministry (Matt 11:27).
The Old Testament spoke in advance about the coming of Christ
as a prophet greater than Moses (Deut 18:15; Acts 3:23). He referred to himself
as a prophet (Luke 13:33), taught with authority (Matt 7:29) and delivered the
message of God. ‘For I have not spoken on My own authority; but the Father who
sent Me gave Me a command, what I should say and what I should speak’ (John
12:49). Today, though he has ascended into heaven, he still fulfils his
prophetic ministry through the Holy Spirit (John 14:26; 16:12-14).
Jesus is our great high priest (Heb 3:1; 4:14; 5:5; 6:20;
7:26). The prophet represents God before the people; the priest represents the
people before God – offering sacrifices on their behalf and interceding for
them. The Old Testament predicted Christ’s work as a priest: ‘The LORD has sworn
and will not relent, ‘You are a priest forever according to the order of
Melchizedek’’ (Ps 110:4). The animal sacrifices foreshadowed the one true
sacrifice of Jesus on the cross (Heb 9:23, 24).
The New Testament often speaks about the priestly work of
Christ (John 1:29; 1 Cor 5:7; Heb 9:11-15; 10:11-14). Apart from offering the
sacrifice of himself to God, once for all, for our reconciliation, Christ
continues to intercede for his people before the throne of God. He does this on
account of the infinite merit of his sacrifice (Heb 7:25; 9:24; 1 John 2:1, 2).
Christ intercedes only for God’s elect, not for every individual
indiscriminately (John 17:9, 20).
Jesus is the King of kings. The Bible foretold that ‘the
government will be upon His shoulder ... of the increase of His government and
peace there will be no end, upon the throne of David and over His kingdom, to
order it and establish it with judgment and justice from that time forward, even
forever’ (Isa 9:6, 7). Seven centuries later the angel announced to Mary that
her son ‘will be called the Son of the Highest; and the Lord God will give Him
the throne of His father David. And He will reign over the house of Jacob
forever, and of His kingdom there will be no end’ (Luke 1:32, 33).
From the beginning of his public ministry, Jesus proclaimed
the arrival of the Kingdom of God. His own people, the Jews, did not receive him
because Jesus was not the kind of king they expected. They even brought about
his execution on a cross, for they said, ‘We will not have this man to reign
over us’ (Luke 19:14). But God the Father raised him from the dead and gave him
all authority in heaven and on earth (Matt 28:18; Eph 1:20-22). Jesus Christ is
now reigning in heaven and from heaven (1 Cor 15:25).
Some Christians are of the opinion that Jesus is not reigning
at present; he will reign in the future, they say, when he returns to earth. Our
brethren should remember that at the present time, we are already in his
kingdom. God the Father ‘has delivered us from the power of darkness and
conveyed us into the kingdom of the Son of His love’ (Col 1:13). Of all people,
Christians ought to recognize the sovereignty of our King.
Thus Christ is our Prophet, Priest and King – he reveals God
to us, reconciles us together, and leads us safely in the way everlasting.
We should take a closer look at the death and resurrection of
Christ because this momentous event is the very heart of the gospel.
Christ died according to God’s eternal plan. He certainly
didn’t die by accident or because he couldn’t avoid the conspiracy of his
enemies. Christ died voluntarily, giving his life as a ransom for many (John
10:17, 18; Mark 10:45). His death was frequently the subject of prophecy (see,
for instance, Isa 53:7, 8). It was exhibited beforehand in the sacrifices of
animals that took place during the old Mosaic period. Christ died because it was
so determined by God the Father (Acts 2:23; 4:28).
Christ died to satisfy the divine law which we had broken.
God set him forth to be the propitiation – Christ’s sacrifice turned away
God’s wrath against sinners. ‘Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he
loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins’ (1 John 4:10).
Moreover, in Christ we have redemption through his
blood, the forgiveness of sins (Eph 1:7). He gave his life as a ransom to
purchase our freedom from the slavery of sin. God’s broken law brings a curse
upon the sinner. Christ freed, or redeemed, us from that curse by taking it upon
himself when he hung upon the cross (Gal 3:13).
Christ’s death was substitutionary; he died instead of
his people. God placed upon him the sins of his people (Isa 53:6); on the cross,
Jesus bore our sins (Heb 9:28; 1 Pet 3:18). The Righteous did not deserve to
die; he wasn’t guilty of any sin – we were the guilty sinners; we deserved the
punishment. But he took our place; he took our sins and our punishment.
For whom did Christ die? In a certain sense Christ died for
the whole world -- ‘he takes away the sin of the world!’ (John 1:29). But we
cannot understand ‘world’ to mean each and every person, for the following
reasons: (1) elsewhere in the Bible ‘world’ obviously does not mean every single
person in the world (Luke 2:1 and Rom 1:8); (2) if we take ‘world’ in the
absolute sense, we are led to the heresy of universalism, namely, that all
people will be saved (if their sin is ‘taken away’ they cannot be condemned and
punished in hell); (3) if we say that Christ merely made salvation possible
for everyone, we distort the clear meaning of Scriptures (since Jesus actually
‘takes away’ sin and not merely ‘possibly’).
In what sense, then, did Christ die for the world? The New
Testament authors emphasize that God’s salvation was not intended for the Jews
only, but for the Gentiles also – Christ is the Saviour of the world, of people
from all nations (Rev 5:9).
Some Christians maintain that Christ died for every person
individually, whether they are eventually saved or lost. But if Christ died for
them to cancel their sins, why should they be lost? It cannot be said that they
are lost because they do not believe – their unbelief is in itself sinful. But
since they are lost, it is evident that Christ did not pay for their sin of
The Bible limits the scope of Christ death; he came to save
his people from their sins (Matt 1:21); he gave his life for his sheep
(John 10:11, 15), for his church (Acts 20:28; Eph 5:25-27), for God’s
elect (Rom 8:32, 33). Christ perfectly fulfills the purpose of his
sacrifice: all for whom he died will certainly be eternally saved.
The grave where Christ’s body was laid is now empty; he arose
from the dead on the third day, on the first day of the week. The Father raised
him up; the apostles and other disciples were witnesses of the risen Christ
(Acts 2:24, 32; 3:15; 26, etc). His resurrection marks the beginning of his
exaltation, followed by his ascension to heaven, his present reign over the
universe, and his Second Coming in glory.
Jesus’ resurrection is the sure pledge of our own
resurrection at the last day (Rom 8:11; 1 Cor 15:12-23; Phil 3:20, 21). Adam’s
sin brought death upon all his posterity; Christ’s obedience gained
righteousness and life for all his people. Now that he is alive forevermore,
Christ sees to it that all the redeemed will be brought to final glory. ‘For if
when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son,
much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life’ (Rom 5:10).