Amid all the false religions originating from the kingdom of darkness, the counterfeitJesuses emerging from distortions of Christianity, the deadness of many apostate churches, and the deceiving spirits that lead millions of nominal Christians astray, the Lord Jesus Christ still stands out as the only shining light of a morally and spiritually dark world. He is the only real and lasting solution to an increasingly depraved human race that lies under the sway of Satan. Only in Jesus Christ and His unique gospel of salvation is true life to be found for all who are spiritually dead and slaves to sin:
· He is “the Way, the Truth and the Life” (John 14:6) to all who find themselves on the broad way that leads to destruction, and who cannot escape the alluring deceptions of Satan who blinds their mind and spirit. To all who come to Him He offers deliverance and life abundant.
· He is the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. You do not need to continue struggling with the bondage of your sins and iniquities, and to make futile efforts to rid yourself of the increasing bondage to sin which ultimately leads to death and hell.
· He is the eternal and immovable Rock of the Ages upon whom we can build our lives. The decadent nations of the world are challenged to come to Christ in these troubled times and base their constitutions, social systems and moral norms on the Bible.
· It is of vital importance to know the Lord Jesus Christ personally – not only as Lord and Saviour, but also as the true Friend who will never forsake you, the Shepherd who will lead and guide you, the Bridegroom who will come again to take you to heaven, the world’s coming King and also the many other roles in which He is revealed in the Bible. After the life-changing day in which you confess your sins and invite Him into your heart, you must grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Saviour (2 Pet. 3:18).
The apostle Paul was firmly determined to gain more knowledge of and an intimate relationship with Jesus Christ, and dedicated himself to realising this objective. That should be the great motivating power in our lives, “… till we all come to the unity of the faith and the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine” (Eph. 4:13-14).
The Lord Jesus Christ reveals Himself in all His fullness through His personal and descriptive names recorded in the Bible. If we already know Him as Lord, Saviour and Lamb of God, a study of the meanings of His other wonderful names will lead us into a deeper knowledge and greater appreciation of the Man of Calvary. To behold the glory of the One who has a Name above all names will enrich your spiritual life and motivate you to love Him with all your heart.
The translation of names
Before the names of the Lord Jesus are discussed, the question on the desirability and/or correctness of translating the original Hebrew names pertaining to the Godhead should first be considered as it also has theological implications. A movement back to these names usually also coincide with a movement back to Old Testament practices which have already been fulfilled and do not apply to the New Testament church.
Such a movement is gaining ground today. This movement, which is also referred to as the “Sacred Name Movement”, is openly committed to the Judaising of Christianity. They take a strong stand on the exclusive use of Hebrew names for God and the Lord Jesus. But their ideas are based mainly upon ignorance and false suppositions. Some of them even go so far as to contend that Greek names for God and Jesus Christ, which have been used in virtually all Bible translations, refer to idols. It is, for instance, alleged that Jesus is derived from Je-Zeus, which means Son of Zeus (a well-known pagan god in Greek mythology). In order to clarify this controversy we need to investigate the use of different languages in biblical times.
During the Assyrian and subsequent Babylonian captivity of Israel, and also during the ensuing period, most Jews had lost their knowledge of Hebrew. They started using Aramaic and Greek as colloquial languages. Aramaic was the lingua franca in the entire Middle East, being used by many different peoples. It was a mixture of Syrian and Hebrew. The biblical name for Syria is “Aram”. During the time of Jesus, Aramaic was the common language in Israel. Jesus and His disciples spoke a Galilean dialect of Aramaic. Knowledge of Hebrew was confined to educated Jews, e.g. the rabbis and the scribes.
Jesus Christ was referred to in Aramaic as Eashoa Msheekha, in Hebrew as Yashua (or Yeshua) Ha Mashiach, and in Greek as Iesous Christos (Iesous being pronounced as Yesous). All books of the New Testament were originally given in Greek by inspiration of the Holy Spirit (cf. 2 Tim. 3:16; 2 Pet. 1:21), and in these books God is rendered Theos, Lord is described as Kurios, and Jesus Christ is referred to as Iesous Christos. To allege that these are the names of idols derived from a non-Jewish culture is heretical. The Greek names for God (Theos and Kurios) had already been established for more than two centuries by then and were also generally used in Israel. They were never controversial.
The nouns God or gods can, however, be used as generic terms to refer to idols, other gods or foreign gods, depending on the context in which they are used. The devil can, for instance, be described as the god (theos) of this age (2 Cor. 4:4). The same rule also applies to Hebrew, where Elohim may both refer to God and to idols or other gods. In Exodus 20:2-3 God says: “I am the Lord (Yahweh) your God (Elohim) … . You shall have no other gods (elohim) before Me.” Both the Greek and Hebrew personal names and nouns were originally used by the Holy Spirit while inspiring the authors of the Bible, and it is wrong to allege that the Greek names are poor translations of the Hebrew names.
In the time of Jesus, Aramaic was the common language in Israel. The statement in Acts 21:40, that Paul addressed the people “in the Hebrew tongue” (KJV), should have been translated more accurately as “in the Hebrew dialect” – in this case Aramaic. The Amplified Bible and the Modern King James Versionsay: “… he spoke to them in the Hebrew dialect.” The rendering of the NIV is as follows: “… he said to them in Aramaic.” Stanley Toussaint (1983:417) says: “When Paul was granted permission to speak to the mob, he addressed them in Aramaic, the common language of Palestinian Jews, used throughout the Middle East at that time.” Many of those were also able to speak Greek.
The Septuagint is a Greek version of the Old Testament which was translated in the third century BC in Alexandria, Egypt, for use by Greek-speaking Jews. It was widely used by Hellenistic Jews who were spread throughout the Greek empire and who gradually left off using their Hebrew language. This translation also gave many non-Jews insight into Israel’s history, culture and religious development. Septuaginta is the Latin word for 70 and refers to the 70 Jewish scholars who did the translation. For this reason it is sometimes abbreviated LXX. Other sources state that there were 72 translators – six from each of the 12 tribes of Israel.
Following this tradition, all the books of the New Testament were originally written in Greek. For this reason we often find expressions like: “… which is translated …” (see Matt. 1:23; Mark 5:41; 15:22; 15:34; John 1:38; 1:42; Acts 4:36; 9:36). Reference is made to certain Aramaic and Hebrew words which were translated into Greek. The authors mostly quoted from the Septuagint, and occasionally from the Hebrew or Aramaic. There is extensive evidence in the Gospels that quotations were made from the Septuagint, and not from the Hebrew text of the OT.
Hebrew text contains no vowels, and was vowelised very much later. That is one of the reasons why the so-called “Bible codes” cannot work. Aramaic words are also encountered in the NT, such as Pharisee and Abba. Authors quoted from the Greek Septuagint, as that was the medium of instruction during the writing of the NT.
General consensus among scholars of the original languages is that the authors of the NT mainly quoted from the Septuagint. The OT sections from which Romans 3:13-18 and Hebrews 1:6 quote, do not even appear in the Hebrew texts and are only found in the Septuagint. The following, among other comments by him on Hebrews 1:6, is said by Zane Hodges (1983:782): “The reference is to the Second Advent when the kingly prerogatives of the Son will be recognized with open angelic worship (cf. Ps. 97:7 where the LXX rendering ‘angels’ correctly renders the text).”
In light of these facts it is not possible that the sacred names should only be used in Hebrew. In any case, nobody knows exactly how God’s Name should be pronounced in Hebrew. The Tetragram YHWH can, in vowelised form, be pronounced in many different ways, e.g. Yahweh, Yehowah and Yahuweh. Consensus is also lacking on how the name of Jesus should be pronounced in Hebrew – Yeshua, Yahshua or Yahushua.
Theologically we are on safe ground when using the names God, Lord, and Jesus Christ, which were derived from the Greek words. The Hebraic rendering of names and religious terminology often leads to a theological orientation where aspects of the OT law and covenants with Israel are emphasised at the detriment of the all-sufficiency of Jesus Christ and His work of grace in the NT. Whenever the church or any group of believers see themselves as Israel, theological room is made for erroneous teachings of this nature.
God the Son
Before discussing the names and offices of the Lord Jesus, it might be expedient to first make a very clear New Testament statement on His deity and eternal self-existence. The exposition in Hebrews 1 is very useful for this purpose. The Epistle to the Hebrews was most likely written by Paul to Jewish believers who were under strong pressure from other Jews to relinquish their Christian beliefs and return to their ancestral faith. Among orthodox Jews, one of the most disputed and fiercely resisted Christian beliefs was (and still is) the profession of the deity of Jesus Christ as God the Son and also King of Israel. In view of the strong opposition which the growing number of Messianic Jews experienced at that time, this divinely-inspired epistle was written to strengthen their faith.
Zane Hodges (1983:777) says: “The Epistle to the Hebrews is a rich part of the New Testament canon. In a unique fashion it exalts the person and works of the Lord Jesus Christ. In doing so, it makes immensely valuable contributions to the doctrines of His Incarnation, His substitutionary death, and His priesthood. … The church would indeed be incalculably poorer without the teaching of this inspired book.” In the first chapter, great truths are stated which are further expounded upon in the rest of the epistle:
“God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets, has in these last days spoken to us by His Son, whom He has appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the worlds; who being the brightness of His glory and the express image of His person, and upholding all things by the word of His power, when He had by Himself purged our sins, sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, having become so much better than the angels, as He has by inheritance obtained a more excellent name than they. For to which of the angels did He ever say: You are My Son, Today I have begotten You? And again: I will be to Him a Father, and He shall be to Me a Son? But when He again brings the firstborn into the world, He says: Let all the angels of God worship Him. And of the angels He says: Who makes His angels spirits and His ministers a flame of fire. But to the Son He says: Your throne, O God, is forever and ever; a sceptre of righteousness is the sceptre of Your Kingdom. You have loved righteousness and hated lawlessness; therefore God, Your God, has anointed You with the oil of gladness more than Your companions. And: You, LORD, in the beginning laid the foundation of the earth, and the heavens are the work of Your hands. They will perish, but You remain; and they will all grow old like a garment; like a cloak You will fold them up, and they will be changed. But You are the same, and Your years will not fail” (Heb. 1:1-12).
The following are key statements in this chapter:
The Triune God’s final revelation to humanity through the Son (v. 1-2). Hodges (1983:780) says: “In a majestically constructed opening paragraph, the writer introduced his readers at once to the surpassing greatness of the Lord Jesus Christ. The Son, he declared, is the par excellence vehicle for divine revelation.” What the prophets said in the Old Testament constituted a gradual unfolding of God’s revelations to prepare humanity for the divinely appointed moment when He would become Man through the Son, the Messiah. The Son is the designated heir of all things and will reign as King forever. He made the worlds, and therefore existed from all eternity.
The Son is the express image of the Triune Godhead (v. 3-4). He is exalted far above the angels as He is not merely a servant of God as they are, but the express image of God. By His divine power He upholds all of creation. After He had purged our sins He ascended to heaven and sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high.
A Father-Son relationship existed since the incarnation (v. 5-6). At a certain point in time one member of the Triune God was incarnated and became God the Son. For that reason we refer to the “incarnational Sonship” of Jesus, i.e. the time when the Word became flesh (cf. John 1:1, 14), and not to His “eternal Sonship”. He is not a created being who was begotten by the Father in the beginning, but from all eternity the self-existent God and Creator of heaven and earth. From a certain point in time He became the Son, and from that time onwards the Bible refers to a Father-Son-relationship within the Trinity.
The Son is both God and King (v. 8-9). Irrefutable evidence is given that the Son is God: “To the Son he [God] says: Your throne, O God, is for ever and ever; … therefore God, Your God, has anointed You.” Zane Hodges (1983:782) says: “The quotation found in verses 8-9 is derived from Psalm 45:6-7 which describes the final triumph of God’s messianic King.” In this Messianic Psalm the name “God” (Heb. Elohim) is applied to both the Father and the Son.
The Son is the self-existent LORD who will live forever (v. 10-12). In these verses God says of His Son: “You, LORD, in the beginning laid the foundation of the earth and the heaven; … like a cloak You will fold them up, and they will be changed. But You are the same.” This is a quotation from Psalm 102:25-27. Jesus is here referred to as Lord (Heb. Yahweh). The immutability of the One who is King, Son, Lord and God, is further stressed by these statements. The Son is the LORD who created both earth and the heavens. But even when the present creation wears out like an old garment and is exchanged for a new one, the Son will remain unchanged and create new heavens and a new earth. Towards the end of this epistle the immutability of the Son is reiterated: “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and for ever” (Heb. 13:8).
Names of the Lord Jesus
The names of the Lord Jesus Christ can be divided into four categories, i.e. His personal name, His names as God, His official name and official titles, and finally His descriptive names which emphasise His various attributes or works:
The name Jesus (The Lord [Yahweh] is Salvation; Heb. Yeshua) was given to Jesus by God Himself. An angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph and said: “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take to you Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name JESUS, for He will save His people from their sins” (Matt. 1:20-21).
To meet the divine qualification to be the Saviour of Israel and of the whole world, Jesus had to be the perfect God-man. He had to become man and be born of a human generation (the royal lineage of David) to be the Son of Man. That would qualify Him to be a substitute for human beings and atone for their sins. For this very reason, Jesus could not be begotten by any man, so as not to inherit the depraved nature of fallen humanity (“There is none who does good, no, not one” – Ps. 14:3). Jesus was begotten by God the Father through the instrumentality of the Holy Spirit so that He, as man, could also be the Son of God. That is why He was born from a virgin (Luke 1:27, 35).
His name as God
In the Old Testament the LORD God (Yahweh Elohim, the Triune God) declared Himself to be the eternal, self-existent “I AM WHO I AM” (Ex. 3:14). In John 8:58 Jesus Christ declared, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, Before Abraham was, I AM.” He is the self-existent God, co-equal and co-eternal with God the Father and the Holy Spirit, and should also be addressed as Lord and God. The apostle John confirms this statement: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” (John 1:1). He laid aside all His glory and power as God the Almighty Creator, subjected Himself to the will of God the Father, and, out of love for sinful humanity, humbled Himself to become a Man, so as to be able to atone for our sins by dying for us on Calvary’s cross!
Though Christ accepted all the limitations of being Man, there are indications of His divine glory, as confirmed by the apostle Paul who says of Him: “He is the image of the invisible God, the first-born over all creation. For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible … . He is before all things …” (Col. 1:15-17). In Hebrews we read: The Triune God has spoken to us in the Person of the Son “who being the brightness of His glory and the express image of His Person, and upholding all things by the word of His power, when He had by Himself purged our sins, sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high” (Heb. 1:3). His deity was also evidenced when He, as Man, said, “I and MyFather are one” (John 10:30).
In John 5, the equality of the Son and the Father is confirmed by way of seven statements. They are equal in works (v. 19), equal in knowledge (v. 20), equal in quickening power (v. 21), equal in judgements (v. 22), equal in honourableness (v. 23), equal in recreative power (v. 24), and equal in self-existence (v. 26).
Indeed, Jesus, the Word, though Man, is both Lord (Kurios – Acts 10:36) and God (Theos – Rom. 9:5). It is important to address Him by these titles when we pray to Him or speak to others about Him. Before His crucifixion, resurrection, ascension and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, it was commonplace to address Jesus only as Master (Didaskalos, Kathegetes, Rabbi, or Epistates). Only His disciples were aware that He was the promised Messiah (Mashiach or Christ) and the Son of God (Matt. 16:13-17). After His glorification, His full Godhead was revealed and then He was not only addressed as Master, but as Lord and God.
Peter refers to Jesus as “Lord” and “Christ” (1 Pet. 1:3), and also as “God” and “Saviour” (2 Pet. 1:1). John says that “Jesus Christ … is the true God, and eternal life” (1 John 5:20). Paul often refers to Him as “Lord” (Eph. 1:15) and in great awe describes Him as “the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ” (Tit. 2:13).
We should always connect the personal name of Jesus to His deity (i.e. Lord Jesus), or to His official name (Jesus Christ), or to both names (Lord Jesus Christ). In view of the widespread denial of His virgin birth and His deity we should always worship and proclaim Him as Lord and God.
Seeing that unbelievers often take the name of Christ in vain and even Christians use that name on its own when referring to Him in a rather formal and impersonal way, we should always join it to His personal name. Those who use the name of Christ on its own give the impression that they may not know Him personally and therefore do not use His personal name.
We should remember that there is “no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved,” but the name of Jesus (Acts 4:12). Call on the name of Jesus while always honouring Him as Lord and God. New Testament believers who do Bible study under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, have the benefit of a fuller revelation of the Lord Jesus. The Holy Spirit gives believers more insight into the unsearchable riches of the greatness, omnipotence and the saving grace of their Saviour, as well as His boundless love. We do not need to live in ignorance on His deity and all His wonderful attributes.
His official name
The Lord Jesus is also The Anointed One (Heb. Mashiach, Gr. Christos, Eng. Messiah or Christ). According to a messianic prophecy, He was to be anointed for His unique mission to save humanity and the world: “The Spirit of the Lord GOD [Adonai Yahweh] is upon Me; because the LORD has anointed Me to preach good tidings” (Isa. 61:1; cf. Luke 4:16-21).
Christ is an inclusive official title that combines ten titles, roles, or offices for which the Lord Jesus was anointed and sent forth (Gr. apostello – sent forth) into the world.
Official titles of Jesus Christ
The ten offices for which Christ was anointed, and the titles associated with them, are as follows:
1. Lamb of God
The most important reason why Jesus Christ was anointed and sent into the world was to redeem fallen humanity from their sins. To be able to do this He had to come in the likeness of men so that He could offer Himself as a sacrifice for our sins by shedding His blood and physically dying on the cross. He had to become the sacrificial Lamb of God:
“For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and of goats to take away sins. Therefore, when He came into the world, He said: Sacrifice and offering You did not desire, but a body You have prepared for Me. … Then I said, Behold, I come – in the volume of the Book it is written of Me – to do Your will, O God. … By that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all” (Heb. 10:4-5, 7, 10).
The spiritual law that “without shedding of blood there is no remission” (Heb. 9:22; cf. Lev. 17:11) was impressed on Israel 1 500 years before the coming of the Messiah. Thousands of sacrificial animals were slaughtered according to the Old Testament laws in order that the Levitical priests could offer them to atone for the sins of the people.
All these sacrifices were only types or shadows which pointed forward to the coming sacrifice of the Lamb of God in the fullness of time. It was John the Baptist who announced the coming of that divine Lamb: “Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29).
His perfect, once for all sacrifice gave efficacy to and superseded inadequate, repetitive Old Testament types: “[Christ] does not need daily, as those high priests, to offer up sacrifices, first for His own sins and then for the people’s, for this He did once for all when He offered up Himself” (Heb. 7:27).
Isaiah prepared the people of Israel long before the time for the great sacrifice of the Messiah as the ultimate Lamb of God: “But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement for our peace was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed. … He was oppressed and He was afflicted, yet He opened not His mouth; He was led as a lamb to the slaughter” (Isa. 53:5, 7).
Do you give due recognition to the atonement for sins that the Lamb had made through the shedding of His blood and the giving of His life on the cross? Have you accepted it in faith and was your life completely changed? Consider the deep significance that this sacrifice should have to you: At the institution of the Holy Communion Jesus explained that the signs of the bread and the wine were meant to be a poignant reminder of the broken body and shed blood of the Lamb (Luke 22:19-20). We need to ask ourselves whether we vividly call to mind the Lord Jesus and the great sacrifice which He had made on our behalf. No contemplation of Him is adequate without appreciating the profound significance of His shed blood: “Whom God set forth to be a propitiation by His blood, through faith … that He might be just, and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus” (Rom. 3:25-26).
Our salvation and rebirth is based on the blood:
· We are justified by His blood, and saved from wrath through Him (Rom. 5:9).
· In Him we have “redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace” (Eph. 1:7).
· We are redeemed “with the precious blood of Christ,as of a lamb without blemish and without spot” (1 Pet. 1:18-19).
· Jesus Christ “washed us from our sins in His own blood”(Rev. 1:5).
· We are beneficiaries of a new testament (or covenant) in the blood of Christ(1 Cor. 11:25).
Our continued cleansing is also based on the blood:
· “If we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin” (1 John 1:7).
· The blood of Christ purges our consciences from dead works to serve the living God (Heb. 9:14).
· When Jesus offered Himself as a sacrifice for our sins He has perfected for ever those who are being sanctified (Heb. 10:12, 14). Through His once for all sacrifice He keeps on perfecting us if we abide in Him (John 15:2, 4).
· “[A] little leaven leavens the whole lump. Therefore purge out the old leaven … . For indeed Christ, our Passover, was sacrificed for us” (1 Cor. 5:6-7). Cleansing by the blood of the Lamb is always available to us when we are convicted of sin and wish to confess and forsake it.
The blood is also a strong weapon against the attacks of the enemy
· The martyrs of the tribulation period will overcome the Antichrist “by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony” (Rev. 12:11). For us too, there is power in die blood of the Lamb in the fierce battle against the enemy of our souls. The power of the blood should be understood as faith in the atoning death of Christ.
It is evident that the sacrifice of the Lord Jesus as the Lamb of God who gave His life for a dying world, forms the basis for all His offices. Because He paid the ransom for our sins, He confirmed the promises of His prophetic ministry that He would save and lead His people, and ultimately also reign with them. It enables Him to serve as High Priest, Mediator between God and man, Shepherd, Head of His redeemed church, and King over His inheritance. He is also qualified to be Judge of His own servants appointed by Him, and on judgement day will judge all who have rejected or neglected His atoning sacrifice on the cross.
In the Book of Revelation it is as ‘the Lamb’ that He is named 26 times as the One who will, during the great tribulation, judge the world which has rebelled against Him. The kings and their subjects will flee to the mountains, hide in the caverns, and call on the mountains and rocks, “Fall on us and hide us from the face of Him who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb! For the great day of His wrath has come, and who is able to stand?” (Rev. 6:16-17). On the other hand, there will be many who will have been faithful to the Lamb and who will, in deep gratitude, exclaim:
“You are worthy to take the scroll, and to open its seals; for You were slain, and have redeemed us to God by Your blood out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation, and have made us kings and priests to our God; and we shall reign on the earth” (Rev. 5:9-10).
Many people trust in a popular gospel, not firmly based upon the blood atonement of the Lamb. They have various substitutes which are false foundations, e.g. a covenant theology based upon baptismal regeneration (salvation through baptism), moral reform (salvation by moral standards of behaviour), or works holiness (salvation by good works). We must abandon any self-justification by works and honour the Lamb for the perfect sacrifice He offered on the cross as the only atonement for sins, and also for the continuous cleansing and sanctifying power of His precious blood.
A prophet is a person whom God inspires to declare His word, His will and His judgements (i.e. to preach the truth). Jesus Christ was no ordinary prophet, but the One of whom Moses prophesied: “The LORD your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from your brethren. Him shall you hear in all things, whatever He says to you” (Acts 3:22). Christ prophesied in His sermon on the mount, His parables, the Olivet discourse and throughout His entire ministry. He revealed truths that were unknown before: “I will open My mouth in parables; I will utter things which have been kept secret from the foundation of the world” (Matt. 13:35). “The people were astonished at His teaching, for He taught them as one having authority” (Matt. 7:28-29). Officers sent to arrest Him could not do so, declaring, “No man ever spoke like this Man!” (John 7:44-46).
In Deuteronomy 18:20-22 God gave strict rules to prophets who were only to speak His word to the people – nothing was to be added or taken away, nor was His word to be distorted or incomplete. This is why all biblical prophecies are 100% reliable and the true words of God. A false prophet and his prophecies were to be rejected: “But the prophet who presumes to speak a word in My name, which I have not commanded him to speak … that prophet shall die.”
Jesus, of whom it was said, “A great Prophet has risen up among us” (Luke 7:16), spoke only the Father’s words: “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. And I know that His command is everlasting life. Therefore, whatever I speak, just as the Father has told Me, so I speak” (John 12:49-50; see also John 17:8).
3. High Priest
During Old Testament times, a major function of the High Priest was that, once a year on the Day of Atonement, he had to enter the Holy of holies to make atonement for Israel’s sins. No other priest was allowed to enter the sanctuary where the Ark of the Covenant was.
Jesus Christ is the High Priest of the New Covenant (Heb. 8:1-2). To hold this office He had to identify with humanity by becoming man Himself, thus subject to temptation, thus being able to feel for and help the tempted: “Therefore, in all things He had to be made like His brethren, that He might be a merciful and faithful High Priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. For in that He Himself has suffered, being tempted, He is able to aid those who are tempted” (Heb. 2:17-18; see also Heb. 4:15-16).
Jesus was not a Priest of the Levitical order, since the Levitical priests were mortal men succeeded by others. Also, they were sinful, and first had to offer sacrifices for their own sins before they could offer them for others and the nation. Jesus has a perfect, unchangeable priesthood!
“And inasmuch as He was not made priest without an oath (for they have become priests without an oath, but He with an oath by Him who said to Him: The LORD has sworn and will not relent, You are a priest for ever according to the order of Melchizedek), by so much more Jesus has become a surety of a better covenant. And there were many priests, because they were prevented by death from continuing. But He, because He continues for ever, has an unchangeable priesthood. Therefore He is also able to save to the uttermost those who come to God through Him, since He ever lives to make intercession for them. For such a High Priest was fitting for us, who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and has become higher than the heavens; who does not need daily, as those high priests, to offer up sacrifices, first for His own sins and then for the people’s, for this He did once for all when He offered up Himself. For the law appoints as high priests men who have weakness, but the word of the oath, which came after the law, appoints the Son who has been perfected for ever” (Heb. 7:20-28).
Do you know this faithful High Priest who can sympathise with your infirmities, having already atoned for your sins, and who ever lives to make intercession for you? Do you realise your responsibility to follow in His footsteps, to live a holy life, consecrated to God, and come to the throne of grace to find help in time of need? Do you enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus Christ, the new and living way He has opened for us through the veil to the mercy seat? (Heb. 10:19-22). Are you a regular visitor there?
We are a royal priesthood who were commissioned to proclaim the praises of Him who called us out of darkness into His marvellous light (1 Pet. 2:9). A priest must convey God’s word to the people (preach), and also intercede at the throne of grace on behalf of them (pray). He must be holy and not sin, nor grieve the Holy Spirit. If he does, he must repent immediately and be restored at the throne of grace: “… [T]hese things I write to you, so that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. And He Himself is the propitiation for our sins” (1 John 2:1-2).
Jesus Christ acts as Mediator between humanity and God the Father. He was anointed for this office since only He, by virtue of His atoning death on the cross, can reconsile lost people with God. Compared to the Old Testament high priests who acted as mediators between God and the people of Israel, Christ “is also Mediator of a better covenant, which was established on better promises” (Heb. 8:6).
The sacrifices under the old covenant were incomplete as they were only shadowy types of the final sacrifice of the Lamb of God (Heb. 10:1-10). We have obtained the better promise that we are sanctified by the sacrifice of Christ, who is the Mediator of the new covenant. Only His sacrifice complies with the demands of God’s righteousness (Eph. 1:7; 1 Pet. 1:18-19).
As the Shepherd of His flock, Jesus Christ is totally committed to their well-being, since He has redeemed them at such a great cost: “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd gives His life for the sheep” (John 10:11). He gives them this firm assurance: “I am the door of the sheep. … If anyone enters by Me, he will be saved” (John 10:7, 9).
It is to be appreciated that if He sacrificed His life for the sheep, He will also provide in their every need. That includes protection against their arch-enemy, the devil, who is a thief and a murderer: “The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they might have life, and that they may have it more abundantly” (John 10:10).
The Shepherd leads His sheep by showing them the way, and they follow Him (John 10:4). If they stay near the Shepherd and obey His voice, they will be safe, but if they are wayward and go astray, the devil will attack and scatter them (John 10:12). If they are separated from Him they must return to Him and He will restore them: “For you were like sheep going astray, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls” (1 Pet. 2:25).
The Shepherd remains faithful and will always meet His obligations towards His flock: “The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me to lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside the still waters. He restores my soul; He leads me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for You are with me” (Ps. 23:1-4).
We live in an evil world which is under the control of the devil (1 John 5:19). Temptations, Satan’s attacks and deadly perils often come our way. The Shepherd allows trials that are necessary to test our faith. In these ordeals we must cling firmly to Jesus Christ, “that great Shepherd of the sheep” (Heb. 13:20). Psalm 23 ends by assuring us of our Shepherd’s presence with us when death is near. Goodness and mercy will follow us all the days of our lives, and we will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.
We must never allow any bitterness in our hearts if things do not work out as we had hoped. The Lord’s ways are higher than our ways and we can be assured that He will make all things, even afflictions and disappointments, work together for good to those who love and trust Him and faithfully dedicate their lives to Him (Rom. 8:28).
The Shepherd also cares for us by raising up able under-shepherds to lead, teach and guard the flock: “And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints” (Eph. 4:11-12).
The pastors, assisted by the church elders, are shepherds of the local church. They do not only teach the Word of God and preach the Gospel, but have pastoral duties to encourage and motivate the flock, to guide in all important decisions, to counsel any with spiritual or practical problems, pray with the sick and bereaved, shepherd wayward Christians and warn against moral and spiritual dangers:
“Shepherd the flock of God which is among you, serving as overseers, not by constraint but willingly, not for dishonest gain but eagerly; nor as being lords over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock; and when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that does not fade away” (1 Pet. 5:2-4).
As the Son of Man, Jesus Christ is the Servant of God who came to earth to do the great work of salvation. His coming as Servant was foretold in several Old Testament prophecies:
“And now the LORD says, Who formed Me from the womb to be His Servant, to bring Jacob back to Him, so that Israel is gathered to Him … , It is too small a thing that You should be My Servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob, and to restore the preserved ones of Israel; I will also give You as a light to the Gentiles, That You should be My salvation to the ends of the earth” (Isa. 49:5-6).
“Who among you fears the LORD? Who obeys the voice of His Servant?” (Isa. 50:10).
“By His knowledge my righteous Servant shall justify many, for He shall bear their iniquities” (Isa. 53:11).
A servant should display humility and submission in the service of his master. God’s Servant, Jesus, showed us the perfect example! He also strongly warned His disciples against self-exalting pride:
“But Jesus called them to Himself and said to them, You know that those who are considered rulers over the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. Yet it shall not be so among you; but whoever desires to become great among you shall be your servant. And whoever of you desires to be first shall be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many” (Mark 10:42-45).
7. Head of the church
The office of Jesus as Head of the church was a mystery that was only revealed after the church was established. The bond between Him and the church is likened to a marriage relationship: “For the husband is head of the wife, as also Christ is Head of the church; and He is the Saviour of the body. … This is a great mystery, but I speak concerning Christ and the church” (Eph. 5:23, 32). For a thorough examination of the biblical standards set for the functioning of the church, as well as all the implications of the Headship of Christ, see References: Bosch (2007).
Ephesians 5:25-27 states that Christ gave Himself for the church to sanctify and cleanse it, to present her to Himself holy and without blemish. He is the church’s heavenly Bridegroom and “when He shall appear, we shall be like Him; for we shall see Him as He is” and, having this hope, must purify ourselves “even as He is pure” (1 John 3:2,3; KJV), so that when He presents her to Himself she will not have spot or wrinkle to mar her pristine beauty.
The concept of holiness also means to be set apart for the service of the Lord. In this context we are seen as members of the body of Christ. We all fulfil different but complementary duties in achieving the mission and functions of Christ’s church on earth: “For as we have many members in one body, but all the members do not have the same function, so we, being many, are one body in Christ, and individually members of one another” (Rom. 12:4-5; see Rom. 12:6-8 and 1 Cor. 12:12-31 for an exposition of the functions of members).
Perform your task and calling only in the power and under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. “For by one Spirit we are all baptised into one body” (1 Cor. 12:13). You must also realise that the authority for your spiritual calling is in Christ who is the Head. In Him you are in a position of victory: “The God of our Lord Jesus Christ … raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places, far above all principality and power and might and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age, but also in that which is to come. And He put all things under His feet, and gave Him to be Head over all things to the church, which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all” (Eph. 1:17-23).
A very personal, intimate and exalted relationship with Christ is made possible by His position as Bridegroom. We are not destined to be only servants and disciples in His kingdom, but have an upward calling to also be members of His bridal congregation. But that also imposes more responsibilities upon us.
Paul says that all Christians should endeavour to be presented to Christ as chaste virgins when He comes (2 Cor. 11:2). They must not become corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ but, in a dedicated way, make preparations for their meeting and union with Him. These spiritual preparations will enable them to fulfil their role as bride of the Lamb, and subsequently as His wife, in a worthy manner (Rev. 19:7-8).
The Lord Jesus has all power in heaven and on earth, and worthily holds the office of King. God has given man a free will, but not the right to use it to disobey Him! Adam and Eve had disobeyed Him and in this dispensation, too, the nations have rebelled greatly against His authority. The free will God gave humanity is the ability to choose between good and evil. In practice, the wrong choices predominate since most people, like sheep, have gone astray, and love darkness more than light because their deeds are evil (John 3:19). Satan has blinded their minds (2 Cor. 4:4) and deceived them into walking in darkness. As a result “the whole world lies under the sway of the wicked one” (1 John 5:19; the NIV’s rendering is: “… the whole world is under the control of the evil one”).
We live in an evil world and Christians are often hated, oppressed and rejected because of their faith (John 15:18-19; 16:33; Luke 6:22-23, 26). Effectively, we are strangers and pilgrims in a world which largely rejects the true God (Heb. 11:13; 1 Pet. 2:11). This situation makes it all the more important to remain vigilant, committed and steadfast in the service of the Lord (1 Cor. 15:58). As redeemed ones we are not under the control of Satan, but he is our enemy who incessantly attacks all true believers. That is the reason why we have to put on the whole armour of God that we may remain standing against the wiles of the devil (Eph. 6:11).
Born again people are members of a kingdom that is not of this world (John 18:36; Phil. 3:20). The Lord Jesus is our King and we experience His peace in our hearts. But our lives in this world are characterised by conflict against the adverse and hostile forces of darkness (Matt. 10:34). Satan and his kingdom are actively targeting Christians in an effort to harm the kingdom of heaven.
The situation will dramatically change when Jesus Christ comes to reveal His kingdom on earth and to reign as King: “The seventh angel sounded: And there were loud voices in heaven, saying, The kingdoms of this world have become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of His Christ, and He shall reign for ever and ever” (Rev. 11:15).
From the viewpoint of His position as King, three very important events will occur at the Second Coming of Christ:
1. The enemies of God will be destroyed during the battle of Armageddon (Rev. 19:11-21).
2. The throne of David will be restored in Jerusalem, from which the Lord Jesus will rule (Acts 15:16-17).
3. The worldwide Millennial reign of Christ as the King of kings and Lord of lords will be instituted, with Jerusalem as capital (Mic. 4:1-3; Jer. 3:17; Rev. 20:1-3, 6).
We have to accept and serve Jesus Christ now as the rejected King if we wish to be accounted worthy to reign with Him in the Millennium. We should demonstrate to the world that we serve a King who can really change the lives of those who come to Him for salvation and eternal life.
Our citizenship is in heaven from where we expect the very soon coming of Jesus Christ as King of kings. He will destroy the power of the principalities and rulers of the darkness of the present world and set up His Millennial kingdom on earth. The Sun of Righteousness will rise over a troubled world and completely dispel every vestige of darkness and unrighteousness (Mal. 4:2).
The Lord Jesus is the righteous Judge and we can rely on Him to fulfil His office justly when, after the rapture but before His Millennial reign, He judges believers at His judgement seat, the Bema (Rom. 14:10). Their works and lives will be assessed and rewards given to all who served Him faithfully and lived holy lives (1 Cor. 3:10-15). The apostle Paul said: “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that day” (2 Tim. 4:7-8).
“For we must all appear before the judgement seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad (2 Cor. 5:10). “So then each of us shall give account of himself to God” (Rom. 14:12).
Christians are not saved by works, but by grace through faith (Eph. 2:8). However, after we are saved by grace, the Lord has need of us in extending His kingdom on earth. But He does not only call us and command us to do this work, He also gives us the power of the Holy Spirit to enable us to effectively be His witnesses (Acts 1:8).
It is regarding this aspect of our lives that we must give account to Him. Any works that are not truly the fruit of the Spirit but done unspiritually in our own strength will result in our appearing empty-handed before the Lord, though we will be saved “yet so as through fire” (1 Cor. 3:15). Others will receive the various crowns the Lord will award them, but there will be no excuse for servants who hid their talents (Matt. 25:24-25). Even if truly born again, their negligence will result in them standing empty-handed at the judgement seat.
After the seven years of tribulation, Christ will sit as a Judge to judge the nations of the world at His second coming. He will then come “with ten thousands of His saints” (Jude v. 14-15) who “will reign with Him a thousand years” (Rev. 20:6).
“When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the holy angels with Him, then He will sit on the throne of His glory. All the nations will be gathered before Him, and He will separate them one from another, as a shepherd divides his sheep from the goats” (Matt. 25:31-32).
After the Millennium He will judge the nations and all unbelievers of all time, who will appear at the awesome great white throne on the final judgement day (Rev. 20:11-15): “God … has appointed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by the Man whom He has ordained. He has given assurance of this to all, by raising Him from the dead” (Acts 17:30-31).
You cannot escape having to bow the knee to Jesus: He is either your Saviour who gives you eternal life or will be your Judge who condemns you for sin and unbelief.