A.L.I.V.E.—The “V” Is For Verified Prophesy

This is part 4 in my 5-part series, “I can know Jesus is A.L.I.V.E. because of ….” I have already addressed A—Apologetics, L—Lives changed, and I—It is finished. Today I want to consider the prophesies that the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus supposedly fulfilled. 

We have all heard about “copycat” crimes. Could the life and death of Jesus fit that? Since Jesus was born from the family line of King David, and His family really wanted the promised Messiah to finally appear, perhaps He was pushed that way. Perhaps He lived in a certain way to make it look like He was fulfilling prophesy. 

Detective J. Warner Wallace wrote, “Homicide detectives are perhaps the least trusting people in the world. My own experience investigating murders has taught me to consider everyone a liar—until, at least, I have good reason to believe otherwise.” 

So was Jesus a liar? Was He following some copycat script to make it merely look like He was the Messiah? Or do we have good reasons to believe He was telling the truth? Consider a couple of points—

    • How could David describe a crucifixion scene in 1000 BC, since the Persians didn’t invent it until around 400 BC (see Psalm 22:12-18)?
    • How could Jesus control others’ actions (i.e. Judas’ betrayal; being killed by crucifixion, not by stoning; soldiers gambling for His clothes)? 
    • Even His own followers—whom He would need to perpetrate the hoax—didn’t understand what He was doing (John 12:16). 

Prosecutors have to present enough evidence to convince a jury that they have arrested and brought to trial the right man. One of the key terms is beyond a reasonable doubt—“a part of jury instructions in all criminal trials, in which the jurors are told that they can only find the defendant guilty if they are convinced ‘beyond a reasonable doubt’ of his or her guilt.” 

Let’s consider a hypothetical case that a prosecutor might present: 

  • multiple eyewitnesses saw a man fleeing the scene, and all of them identified the suspect in a police line-up
  • the shoe prints at the crime scene were the same size and design that of the suspect was wearing when he was arrested
  • prosecutors presented text messages in which the suspect threatened to do to the victim exactly what was done to the victim
  • the wounds made by the weapon which was used on the victim correspond with the weapon the police found in the suspect’s car
  • the blood on that weapon matched the blood of the victim
  • the fingerprints on that weapon are the suspect’s fingerprints

That is the evidence. From that evidence, the jury is asked to draw inferences about the reasonableness of that suspect being the one who committed the crime. 

I have listed just six pieces of evidence. How strong do you think the prosecutor’s case is? What if the jurors were presented with 50 pieces of evidence? What about 100? 200? How about 300 pieces of evidence? 

Jesus fulfilled at least 300 prophesies—which were made before He was born!—in His life, death, and resurrection!

Math professor Peter Stoner calculated that the odds for just one man in history to fulfill only 8 prophesies is 1-in-1×1017. How amazing is that!? To give us a little perspective, Stoner says that 1×1017 silver dollars would cover the entire state of Texas in silver dollars two-feet thick. If just one of those silver dollars was marked, and a blindfolded man could select that one marked coin on his very first attempt, that would be about the same odds of Jesus fulfilling only 8 prophesies. 

As a juror, if you weighed this evidence, do you find enough proof to “convict” Jesus? 

But ultimately Jesus didn’t come just to fulfill prophesy; He came to rescue you and me from the penalty of our sin (Luke 4:16-21), and that is the best news of all! 

Join me either in person or on Facebook Live this Sunday for the final message in this 5-part series. 

A.L.I.V.E.—The “A” Is For Apologetics

This is part 1 of a 5-part series with a simple premise: “I can know Jesus is A.L.I.V.E. because of…” and then I am presenting evidence for each of the five letters. This is a look at the letter A” for Apologetics for the resurrection of Jesus.

For some of my evidence, I am going to use historical texts from the Bible. When I say “historical” I mean that in the scholarly definition: this Book is attested to by historians and literary critics to be an accurate record of actual historical facts. You can read more of the apologetics for the Bible’s authenticity in a post I previously published here.

I would ask you to weigh the evidence for three possibilities concerning the claims of Christians regarding the death and resurrection of Jesus.

(1) Jesus didn’t actually die.

The Romans didn’t invent crucifixion, but they perfected it to be one of the most gruesome forms of tortuous death that history has ever known. This leads one to wonder how could anyone go through the torture Jesus did and survive?

A team of medical examiners, after examining the historical account of Jesus’ death concluded: “The difficulty surrounding exhalation leads to a slow form of suffocation. Carbon dioxide builds up in the blood, resulting in a high level of carbonic acid in the blood. The body responds instinctively, triggering the desire to breathe. At the same time, the heart beats faster to circulate available oxygen. The decreased oxygen (due to the difficulty in exhaling) causes damage to the tissues and the capillaries begin leaking watery fluid from the blood into the tissues. This results in a build-up of fluid around the heart (pericardial effusion) and lungs (pleural effusion). The collapsing lungs, failing heart, dehydration, and the inability to get sufficient oxygen to the tissues essentially suffocate the victim. The decreased oxygen also damages the heart itself (myocardial infarction) which leads to cardiac arrest. In severe cases of cardiac stress, the heart can even burst, a process known as cardiac rupture. Jesus most likely died of a heart attack.”

Besides that, the dead body of Jesus was also thoroughly examined by both the Romans who conducted the crucifixion (see Mark 15:43-45) and His friends who prepared His body for burial (John 19:38-40).  In addition, two contemporary historians who aren’t friendly to the cause of Christianity (Tacitus and Josephus) both attested to Christ’s death by crucifixion.

(2) Jesus didn’t actually rise from the dead.

Some say the disciples were delusional from their intense grief. But Jesus was seen on more than one occasion, sometimes by one person, sometimes by twos, and several times by large groups (see 1 Corinthians 15:3-8). Some of Jesus’ closest friends weren’t convinced by second-hand testimony but had to see Jesus for themselves (John 20:19-20, 24-28). All four biblical accounts record women seeing the resurrected Jesus. This is significant because women were not allowed to serve as “legal witnesses,” so this wouldn’t have helped the “delusional” disciples at all.

Some say the disciples stole the body of Jesus. But this is problematic because of the armed guards at the tomb of Jesus (Matthew 27:62-66; 28:11-15). 

(3) Jesus was crucified and resurrected.

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes said, “When you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth.” So after looking at the shortcomings and difficulties of the first two options, let’s consider this third possibility: that it happened just as the historical records in the Bible indicate.

Cold-case detective J. Warner Wallace said of this third possibility, “The last explanation (although it is a miraculous, supernatural explanation) suffers from the least number of liabilities and deficiencies. If we simply enter into the investigation without a pre-existing bias against anything supernatural, the final explanation accounts for all of the evidence without any difficulty. The final explanation accounts for the evidence most simply and most exhaustively, and it is logically consistent…. The final explanation is also superior to all other accounts (given that it does not suffer from all the problems we see with the other explanations).”

Check out the video where I discuss all of these points in more detail, and join me either in person or on Facebook Live for the next four Sundays as we continue looking at the evidence supporting the resurrection of Jesus.

Resurrected From The Dead?! Really?

It is the foundational claim of Christianity: Christ died on a Cross and was raised back to life. It is also the claim many skeptics of Christianity find so difficult to process.

I am going to present a 5-part series of messages on this topic—“I can know Jesus is A.L.I.V.E. because of…” and then I’m going to give evidence for each of the five letters of “ALIVE.”

These messages are specifically designed for those skeptical of the claims of Christianity. The evidence won’t be a bunch of “churchy” platitudes, but court-room-level evidence that will attempt to make the case for what Christians believe about the death and resurrection of Jesus.

If you fall into that skeptical group, I would be honored to have you join me either in person at our church or on Facebook Live at 10:30am for the next five Sundays (March 18-April 15). I’m excited to present this evidence and I am looking forward to interacting with you!

3 Apologetics For Your Christian Hope

There was a story circulating that a physicist once claimed that the bumblebee was defying the laws of physics and aerodynamics in its flight. Apparently, he calculated that the ratio of the bumblebee’s wing size in comparison to his body size just didn’t make the math work.

But entomologists and physicists quickly jumped in to say, “Hey, look, the bumblebee is flying, so clearly it works!” And then they went to work to try to explain it. They figured out that the bumblebee flaps its wings more back-and-forth than up-and-down, creating tiny hurricanes the propel them through the air. But then that created a whole new set of problems, like how does the bumblebee control a hurricane so precisely as it turns, stops, dives, and climbs. So then they had to create a new explanation, which they named dynamic stall.

All the while, the bumblebee is flapping its too-small wings 230 times per second(!), and going about its daily activities without being able to explain tiny hurricanes, the laws of physics or aerodynamics, or even knowing what dynamic stall is. It simply flies!

The ultimate argument for anything is doing something that critics say is impossible.

Peter tells Christians to be prepared to answer anyone for the reason for the hope that they have (1 Peter 3:15-16). The Greek word for “give an answer” is apologia, from which we get our word apologetic. Here are three apologetics for Christians to use for the hope that they have.

It really comes down to this: My hope is based on the resurrection from the dead of Jesus Christ, which I believe because of the Bible AND because of the change in my life.

  1. The Bible’s authenticity

“No other work in all literature has been so carefully and accurately copied as the Old Testament. The particular discipline and art of the Jewish scribes came out of a class of Jewish scholars between the fifth and third centuries BC. They were called the Sopherim, from a Hebrew word meaning ‘scribes.’ The sopherim, who initiated a stringent standard of meticulous discipline, were subsequently eclipsed by the Talmudic scribes, who guarded, interpreted, and commented on the sacred texts from AD 100 to AD 500. In turn, the Talmudic scribes were followed by the better-known and even more meticulous Masoretic scribes (AD 500-900).” —Josh McDowell, God-Breathed

“No other ancient text is substantiated by such a wealth of ancient textual witnesses as is the New Testament. Roughly 5,500 separate manuscripts are available, variously containing anything from the entire New Testament corpus to a slight fragment of a single verse. … This textual support is far superior to that available for any other ancient documents, such as the classical texts from Greek and Roman writers (e.g., Plato, Aristotle, and Cicero). Only partial manuscripts have survived for many works of antiquity, and it is not unusual to find that the only complete manuscript for some ancient writing is a copy dating from 1,000 years after its composition.” —Archaeological Study Bible, “The New Testaments Texts” (page 1859)

“The biblical Dead Sea Scrolls are up to 1,250 years older than the traditional Hebrew Bible, the Masoretic text. We have been using a one-thousand-year-old manuscript to make our Bibles. We’ve now got scrolls going back to 250 BC. … Our conclusion is simply this—the scrolls confirm the accuracy of the biblical text by 99 percent.” —Dr. Peter Flint

  1. Christ’s resurrection 

In 1 Corinthians 15:1-8 Paul lists all of the eyewitnesses to Christ’s resurrection, giving critics ample opportunity to challenge these witnesses in person. If these witnesses would have been perpetrating a hoax, skeptics of their day would have been able to uncover the inconsistencies in their story. If the account of Christ’s resurrection was made-up, it’s doubtful the early Christian martyrs would have “stuck to their story” as they were being tortured, but none recanted.

Josh McDowell notes, “By AD 100, the apostles had died, but the Christian Church was still in its infancy, with fewer than twenty-five thousand proclaimed followers of Christ. But within the next two hundred years, the fledgling church experienced explosive multiplication of growth, to include as many as twenty million people. This means the church of Jesus Christ quadrupled every generation for five consecutive generations!

  1. My personal experience

“I am a changed person. I am not who I was before I met Jesus” and “My life tends to go better when I live by biblical principles” are both excellent apologetics!

Let others argue that God doesn’t exist, or that you shouldn’t have hope, and then you—like the bumblebee—just keep flying with Jesus! (see 2 Timothy 3:14)

Evidence That Demands A Verdict (book review)

The Apostle Peter wrote a letter to Christians in which he called them “aliens and strangers” because of their belief in a personal Creator and Lord. In this letter, he tells Christians to “always be prepared to give an answer” to those skeptics who want to know about their faith in God. In Evidence That Demands A Verdict, Josh and Sean McDowell have given Christians a key component to help them be prepared to give sound answers.

This book is massive (at just under 900 pages)! But it is an encyclopedia of evidence that will prepare Christians to respond to any argument that an atheist or skeptic may bring up. To be honest with you, the Table of Contents is usually one of the first places I study in books I’m reading, but I usually end up skimming through it pretty quickly. But in Evidence, I was pleasantly surprised at the layout. Not only will you find a listing of the chapters, but a brief description of the contents. At the opposite end of the book, the Subject Index is also quite extensive. I know these are not things usually bragged on in a book review, but for a book this size—and for the numerous times you undoubtedly will be returning to prepare to answer a skeptic—these two reference points are extremely handy!

The first edition of Evidence (written by just Josh) came out nearly 20 years ago. If anything, the evidence for the beliefs that Christians hold has been further validated through research, archeological discoveries, and the like. So it was time for this classic book to be updated. The additional apologetic insights from Sean in this edition is a very nice addition.

Whether you read Evidence when it was first released or not, every Christian that wants to answer Peter’s directive for preparedness needs to get this new edition.

I am Thomas Nelson book reviewer.

Can We Really Know If The Bible Is God’s Word?

inspired-scriptureHave you ever been stumped by someone’s argument against Christianity or the Bible? Has anyone ever made fun of you because the Bible sounds like a fairy tale? Over 100 years ago Oswald Chambers described how our post-Christian world was beginning to treat Christianity and the Bible on which it’s based—

“We have made ambition and competition the very essence of civilized life. No wonder there is no room for Jesus Christ, and no room for the Bible. We are all so scientifically orthodox nowadays, so materialistic and certain that rationalism is the basis of things, that we make the Bible out to be the most revolutionary, unorthodox and heretical of books.”

It’s that “rationalism” that we need to address. We need to ask scoffers and seekers alike, “What makes you so sure of your beliefs? How did you come to that conclusion?”

Every human being exercises some sort of faith—that the chair will hold them when they sit down, that their spouse will honor their marriage vows, and that their worldview is correct. We need to explore what kind of faith they (and we) have:

  • Unreasonable faith—believing in something in spite of the evidence.
  • Blind faith—believing in something without any evidence.
  • Reasonable faith—believing in something because of the evidence.

I want to show evidence that makes it reasonable to believe in the Bible.

Empirical evidence—

  1. The bibliographical test: determining whether the text of the historical record has been transmitted accurately.

Josh McDowell states, “No other work in all literature has been so carefully and accurately copied as the Old Testament.” He can make this claim because the profession of “scribe” was one of the most professional and exacting of all professions. The rigorous standards employed to prove the accuracy of a copy of a biblical manuscript was higher than for any other literature.

Most of our modern-day Bibles are based on a 1000-year-old manuscript. But after the Dead Sea scrolls were discovered, we found biblical manuscripts going back to 250 B.C. that confirmed the accuracy of the manuscripts we already had. This led Dr. Peter Flint to conclude: “The biblical Dead Sea Scrolls are up to 1,250 years older than the traditional Hebrew Bible, the Masoretic text. We have been using a one-thousand-year-old manuscript to make our Bibles. We’ve now got scrolls going back to 250 BC. … Our conclusion is simply this—the scrolls confirm the accuracy of the biblical text by 99 percent.

manuscript-evidenceThen regarding the New Testament, Josh McDowell says, “I believe there is more evidence for the reliability of the New Testament than for any other ten pieces of classical literature put together.” Check out this chart reproduced from McDowell’s book God-Breathed to see by comparison to other literature, how close in dating the earliest biblical manuscripts are, and how many of those manuscripts have been discovered!

2.  The external evidence test: determining whether the historical record has been verified or affirmed by data outside of itself.

Over one-fourth of the Bible is prophetic, and two-thirds of its prophesies have already been fulfilled. For example, 700 years before His birth, the city in which Jesus was to be born was identified by a man named Micah.

Time and time again archeologists discover articles that verify the claims in the Bible. This led archeologist Nelson Glueck to conclude, “It may be stated categorically that no archeological discovery has ever controverted a single biblical reference. Scores of archeological findings have been made which confirm in clear outline or in exact detail historical statements in the Bible.”

3.  The internal evidence test: determining how of the historical record stands up to the test of internal validity.

The Bible was written by 45 different authors, over a span of 1500 years, on 3 different continents, and in 3 different languages. Yet there are no contradictions!

Anecdotal evidence—

  1. Changed lives. My life is one that has been amazingly impacted by the God of the Bible, as was a man named Saul, who had a total about-face after encountering Jesus. As a result, Christianity was spread far and fast through his writings and world travels.

2.  Changed societies. Wherever the Christian faith of the Bible has been put into practice, societies improve. Leonard Sweet notes—

“Before Christianity, there were cults that practiced all sorts of human sacrifice as well as self-mutilation and self-castration. Before Christianity, the weak were despised, the poor maligned, the handicapped abandoned. Before Christianity, infanticide was rampant, slavery run-of-the-mill, and gladiatorial combat a form of entertainment. In Jesus’ day, Corinth was famous for its temple prostitutes, continuing a long-standing tradition symbolized by the Corinthian athlete Xenophon.… Aristotle…not only condoned institutionalized slavery but provided an elaborate argument in favor of it. As if that weren’t enough, Aristotle called man ‘begotten’ and woman ‘misbegotten,’ and because a woman’s reasoning was ‘without authority’ accepted no female students.

“Only Jesus and His followers known as the church insisted on the concept of human dignity and the value of every human soul. Only the church built hospitals and took care of the abandoned and disabled. Only the church celebrated charity and selflessness as the highest virtue and elevated the status of women.”

Is all of this “proof positive” that the Bible is God’s Word? No, it’s not. But I think the evidence is compelling enough that it is certainly reasonable to reach this conclusion.

Here are some great application questions from this lesson:

  1. Other than because it says so in the Bible, how do I know that it is God’s Word?
  2. How can I let the Bible “thoroughly equip” me (2 Timothy 3:14-17)?  
  3. Is my worldview pragmatic or biblical? Does it really make a difference?

Mark Mittelberg On What Is Faith

Today's Moment Of Truth“No doubt about it. You live your life by faith every day, even in the mundane details. What is faith? My broad definition is beliefs and actions that are based on something considered to be trustworthy—even in the absence of absolute proof.

“You believed the food was safe, so you ate it; you trusted the chair would hold you, so you sat in it; you had luck in the past with computers, random canines, and commutes home—so why not try them again? You didn’t have conclusive evidence that any of these things would workout, but the odds seemed to be in your favor, so you went for it. All of us do similar things—routinely.

“But also in the bigger issues related to religion, God, and eternity. All adopt ‘beliefs and actions’ related to these areas ‘based on something considered to be trustworthy—even in the absence of proof.’ So if you are a Christian, you’re trusting in the teachings of Christ; if a Muslim, you’re trusting in the teachings of Mohammad; if a Buddhist, you’re trusting in the teachings of Buddha.

“Even nonreligious people live in the trust that their nonreligious beliefs are accurate and that they won’t someday face a thoroughly religious Maker who actually did issue a list of guidelines and requirements that they failed to pay attention to.” —Mark Mittelberg, in Today’s Moment Of Truth

%d bloggers like this: