Is there Proof for Jesus as Messiah?

God promised the nation of Israel that he would raise up a descendant from King David who would one day establish a righteous throne forever (see 2 Samuel 7:11-16). The Hebrew word Messiah, the equivalent of the Greek Christ, actually means “Anointed One.” And it was this person who would usher in God’s eternal kingdom on earth.

More than 400 years before Jesus was born there existed over 60 major Old Testament prophecies about this coming Messiah, made over hundreds of years. This is of great historical and spiritual significance, because it is the Messiah who Isaiah prophesied would one day

remove the cloud of gloom, the shadow of death that hangs over the earth. He will swallow up death forever! The Sovereign Lord will wipe away all tears. He will remove forever all insults and mocking against his land and people. The Lord has spoken! (Isaiah 25:7-8).

The Evidence of Prophecy

Of course Jesus did claim to be the “Anointed One.” But do the prophesies of the Old Testament confirm that he was actually the Messiah? The answer is yes. It’s as if God gave us a specific way to recognize who the “Anointed One” would be, through what has been called Messianic prophesies.

It seems impossible, but because of these prophecies, out of billions of people born over thousands of years we are able to pinpoint one person in history as the Messiah. It is as if God had an answer waiting for us when we asked, “How will we know who the Messiah is?” Imagine we are having a conversation with God as he uses these prophecies to pinpoint who this Messiah would be.

God begins by saying, “You will know he is the Messiah because I will cause him to be born as an Israelite, a descendent of Abraham” (Genesis 22:18; Galatians 3:16).

“But God,” we protest, “Abraham’s descendants will be many!”

“Then I will narrow it down to only half of Abraham’s lineage and make him a descendant of Isaac, not Ishmael” (Genesis 21:12; Luke 3:23-34).

“That will help, but isn’t that still an awful lot of people?”

“Let him be born from Jacob’s line, then, eliminating half of Isaac’s lineage” (Numbers 24:17; Luke 3:23-34).

“But—”

“I will be more specific. Jacob will have 12 sons; I will bring forth the Messiah from the tribe of Judah” (Genesis 49:10; Luke 3:23-33).

“Won’t that still be a lot of people? Again, we may not recognize him when he comes.”

“Don’t worry! Look for him in the family line of Jesse” (Isaiah 11:1; Luke 3:23-32). “And from the house and lineage of Jesse’s youngest son, David” (  Jeremiah 23:5; Luke 3:23-31). “And then I will tell you where he will be born: Bethlehem, a tiny town in the area called Judah” (Micah 5:2; Matthew 2:1).

“But how will we know which person born there is the Messiah?”

“He will be preceded by a messenger who will prepare the way and announce his advent” (Isaiah 40:3; Matthew 3:1-2). “He will begin his ministry in Galilee” (Isaiah 9:1; Matthew 4:12-17) “and will teach in parables” (Psalm 78:2; Matthew 13:34-35), “performing many miracles” (Isaiah 35:5-6; Matthew 9:35).

“Okay, that should help a lot.”

“Oh,” God responds, “I’m just getting warmed up. He will ride into the city of Jerusalem on a donkey” (Zechariah 9:9; Matthew 21:2; Luke 19:35-37) “and will appear suddenly and forcefully at the temple courts and zealously ‘clean house’ ” (Psalm 69:9; Malachi 3:1; John 2:15-16). “Why, in one day I will fulfill no fewer than 29 specific prophecies spoken at least 500 years earlier about him! Listen to this:

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Is God Real? God is the Best Explanation for Objective Moral Laws

We live in a world populated with self-evident, objective, transcendent moral laws. “It’s never OK to torture babies for fun” or (my new favorite from a blog reader) “It’s never OK to torture non-believers just because you don’t like them?” are two examples of such transcendent laws. How do we account for laws such as these? Their existence points to a reasonable inference: the existence of a Transcendent Moral Law Giver. But there are other alternatives typically offered by those who reject the existence of such a Being. Is God real? The insufficiency of the alternative explanations strengthens the argument for the existence of God:

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Did Jesus Prove He was God?

Jesus claimed to be the Son of God and the only way to God. And he wasn’t being arrogant about it. But did he actually give proof that he was God? How did he back up his claim to deity?

Jesus’ disciples were having a little difficulty understanding just who their Master was and what he was really up to. So he made this statement: “Just believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me. Or at least believe because of what you have seen me do” (  John 14:11). Here Jesus was appealing to both his authoritative teaching on the kingdom of God and his many miracles in order to substantiate and verify he was in fact God in human form. In regard to miracles, he was in effect saying, “You are finding it hard to believe that I am God in the flesh—well, look how I as creator of all things have complete command of the forces of the universe—the weather, the human body, gravity, life, and death.”

Listen to these words: “I have a greater witness than John,” Jesus said, “my teachings and my miracles. The Father gave me these works to accomplish, and they prove that he sent me” (  John 5:36). “The miracles I do in my Father’s name speak for me” (  John 10:25 niv). Jesus’ miracles became credible proof that he was who he claimed to be. So let’s look at a few miracles he performed.

But first, what actually is a miracle? It can be defined as a religiously significant intervention of God in the system of natural causes. Some people contend that miracles cannot occur because it is impossible to violate the laws of nature. But those who make this contention assume that nothing exists outside of nature. They believe we live in a closed system.

However, if God exists as the Creator of the universe, then he exists outside of the laws of nature he created. He can thus step into his creation and intervene as he wills. And he has. He entered the sphere of humanity by taking on human form in the person of Jesus. And to give us evidence he was God, Jesus performed miracles.

Here are examples of his miracle-working power from the New Testament, which documents that he was able to: 

  • calm a storm (see Matthew 8)
  • make a mute person speak (see Matthew 9)
  • feed 5000 people with 5 loaves and 2 fish (see Matthew 14)
  • cast out demons (see Mark 5)
  • walk on water (see Mark 6)
  • bring sight to the blind (see Mark 10)
  • make a fig tree wither up by cursing it (see Mark 11)
  • foretell the future (see Mark 14)
  • heal a paralyzed man (see Luke 5)
  • raise a boy from the dead (see Luke 7)
  • heal incurable hemorrhaging (see Luke 8)
  • cleanse lepers (see Luke 17)
  • turn water into wine (see John 2)
  • make the lame walk (see John 5)
  • forgive sin (see John 8)
  • raise a man from the dead (see John 11)
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Is God Real? Common, Objective Moral Standards Are an Evidence of God’s Existence

The Axiological Argument for the existence of God relies on the existence of objective, transcendent moral truths (i.e. “It’s never morally permissible or virtuous to torture babies for fun”). But not everyone agrees these truths exist in the first place, even though they often seem self-evident. Many who do accept the existence of transcendent moral truths still deny a transcendent moral truth Giver. Some skeptics believe these moral truths come from our evolutionary development as a species, are embedded in our DNA, or are simply a matter of social convention. If this is the case, moral truth is relative to the individual making the claim. Moral relativism is, however, difficult to actualize consistently. Those who argue against the existence of transcendent, objective moral values, typically advocate for such values when push comes to shove (especially when they’ve been victimized). We accept many values and mores as if they were transcendently true, even as we might deny the existence of such overarching truths. Is God real? Our common acceptance of an objective moral standard is yet another evidence of God’s existence.

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Was Jesus a Real Person?

In recent years some people have questioned the actual existence of Jesus. Some claim that the idea of a Savior was manufactured by certain people and it ended up becoming a religion.

The problem with this thinking is that there are simply too many biblical and extra biblical writings that attest to the real person we know as Jesus Christ, who lived and died in the first century.

An Untenable Idea

First, it is absurd to believe that in the first century thousands of people would devote themselves to a person who never existed. By AD 100, about 65 years after Jesus had been on earth, there were some 25,000 people who called themselves Christians—named after Christ who they believed in. Many of these Christ-followers were persecuted not just by governments but by family and friends. Some even gave up their lives as martyrs for this person. Would so many people do this for a person who had never lived? And within 200 years (AD 300) the faithful band of Jesus-followers grew to over 20 million.   It is inconceivable that such a large following would have lasted had it been based on a phantom Christ.

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Every Easter Sermon Is Built on the Reliability of the Gospel Eyewitnesses

Christian leaders have been preaching Easter messages for over two thousand years. In fact, the first Christian leaders were eyewitnesses of the Resurrection and their message was, in large part, simply their eyewitness testimony. In the years immediately following the Resurrection of Jesus, the apostles preached in a variety of geographic locations and cultural situations. Wherever they went, they shared the case for the Resurrection. The eyewitnesses built their case directly upon their own personal experiences with the Risen Christ. Thousands of years later, pastors and Christian leaders are still preparing Easter messages, and the reliability of the gospel eyewitness accounts is still critically important.

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How Can You Trust Christianity Is True If You Haven’t Examined All the Alternatives?

I’ve had the privilege to speak on university campuses across the country, making a case for the reliability of the New Testament Gospels and the truth of the Christian Worldview (I’ll be at Rutgers next Monday night). One of the most common questions asked in the Q and A is something similar to: “Have you taken the time to apply the same approach with all the other religious worldviews?” Sometimes people ask this question because they are curious about how well other ancient religious claims (or alleged eyewitness accounts) hold up under investigative scrutiny. But many times this question is followed by a more pointed objection: “How can you trust Christianity is true if you haven’t examined all the alternatives?”

Given the large number of spiritual claims circulating across the globe (and throughout history), why should we conclude one (or any) of them is true until we’ve examined all of them? At first blush, this seems like a reasonable approach, and when it’s asked by a skeptic, it’s typically offered in an effort to expose the inadequate or incomplete nature of my investigation (or some underlying bias I may have against opposing claims). Although I investigated several theistic and atheistic worldviews prior to becoming a Christian, I didn’t examine every view. Is my certainty related to Christianity therefore misplaced? Should the limited nature of my investigation disqualify or temper the case I’m presenting to skeptics and believers? I don’t think so.

In every criminal trial, the investigators and prosecutors are obligated to present the evidence related to one defendant. While the burden of proof lies with the prosecutorial team, the prosecution is not required to have examined every possible alternative suspect. If I am investigating a case in which the suspect was initially described as a white male, 25 to 35 years of age with brown hair, the potential suspect pool in Los Angeles County would be quite large; there may be hundreds of thousands fitting this description. As I make the affirmative case related to one of the men in this large group, I’m under no obligation to make the case against the others. In fact, when the jury evaluates the case and decides whether the defendant is guilty, they will do so without any consideration of the alternatives. If the evidence is strong enough to reasonably infer the defendant’s involvement, the jury will make a confident decision, even though many, many alternatives were left unexamined.

The case for Christianity is made in a similar way. While it may be helpful to examine a particular alternative worldview on occasion to show its inadequacies or errors, these deficiencies fail to establish Christianity as factual. How can you trust Christianity is true if you haven’t examined all the alternatives? The case for the Christian worldview must first be made affirmatively even if no other claim is examined negatively. If there’s enough evidence to reasonably infer Christianity is true, we needn’t look any further. The affirmative case will either stand or fall on its own merit, even if we’re unable to examine any other “suspect”.

The Christian worldview does not require “blind faith”. In fact, Jesus repeatedly presented evidence to support His claims of Deity and when John the Baptist expressed doubt, Jesus responded with yet another evidential display of His power. Christians are not asked to believe without evidence (or worse yet, in spite of the evidence), but to instead place their trust in the most reasonable inference from the evidence, even though there may still be several unanswered questions. Christianity is evidentially reasonable, even if we are unable to examine every possible alternative.

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Is God Real? Examining Atheistic Explanations for the Laws of Logic as “Brute Realities”

All rational discussions (even those related to the existence or non-existence of God) require the prior foundation of logical absolutes. Only theism, however, can adequately account for the existence of the transcendent Laws of Logic. If God exists, He is the absolute, objective, transcendent standard of truth; the Laws of Logic are simply a reflection of His nature. God did not create these laws. They exist as an extension of His rational thinking, and for this reason, they are as eternal as God Himself. Is God real? Without God as a source for the transcendent Laws of Logic, this question (and any logical journey toward the answer) would be impossible to examine.

As an atheist, I rejected the existence of God and offered a number of objections and alternative explanations in an effort to account for the Laws of Logic. In yesterday’s post we outlined the theistic explanation for these laws. Today and tomorrow we’ll examine several naturalistic objections to see if any of them might offer a viable alternative. We’ll begin with efforts to describe the Laws of Logic as “brute realities” of the universe:

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Does the Bible Endorse Capital Punishment?

If anyone takes a human life, that person’s life will also be taken by human hands. For God made human beings in his own image (Genesis 9:6).

Does Scripture provide our modern society with the justification for capital punishment?

As humans we were created in God’s own image. This in and of itself establishes the dignity, value, and worth of all human life. God desired from the beginning that we honor one another and life itself. God said, “Honor your father and mother…you must not murder…you must not commit adultery…you must not steal…you must not testify falsely…you must not covet your neighbor’s wife” (Deuteronomy 5:16-21). From God’s interaction with Adam and Eve, Noah, Abraham, Moses, and the early church, it was understood and taught that life was sacred at every stage. Promoting social justice, taking care of the poor, and defending human rights find their basis in each of us and our governmental bodies by the fact that we are created in God’s image with value, dignity, and worth.

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Is God Real? The Evidence from Unity

I had a unique experience last weekend in Jacksonville, Arkansas. Joe Manning, the pastor at Bethel Baptist Church, asked me to create a conference to help answer the question: Is God real? We designed a series of talks providing evidence for God’s existence and the reliability of the New Testament Gospels. That part wasn’t unique; I get to participate in conferences of this nature often. But this time around I was also asked to sit in briefly as a bass player with the worship team. Joe invited the amazing team from Trinity Chapel Bible Church in Fort Worth, and their leader, Stephen Couch, had to return home on Sunday, leaving the team short one member. As I played alongside this young, vibrant group of musicians, I felt like the oldest guy in the room. But it was great fun and I don’t think I embarrassed myself too badly. As I stood on the stage and watched people engaging God in song and prayer, I was struck by the diversity in the room: Christians of different races, ages, personal histories and economic backgrounds gathered together and united as one. Although I had been asked to come and share evidences for the existence of God and the truth of the Christian worldview, the Christians united at Bethel were perhaps the best evidence for Christianity.

As a speaker in conferences such as these (and as an attendee) I seldom deliver (or hear delivered) the important evidence related to unity. Jesus was, however, very clear about this: Our unity as Christians is the most important evidence we can offer to an unbelieving world:

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