Spiritually speaking, humans are immortal beings who, during their earthly lives, are heading for
only one of two destinations – heaven or hell. Since every person enters the world scene as a
sinner there is nothing more he needs to do to be lost at the end of his life. By nature he is
spiritually dead and on a course which leads away from the Lord and His righteousness.
However, if he realises the complete absence of a relationship with God, and wishes to ensure
that the path of his life leads to heaven, he needs to change course and enter onto the way of
life through the narrow gate. The narrow gate is a Person, Jesus Christ, and He said: “I am the
door. If anyone enters by Me he will be saved” (John 10:9). Through faith in Him lost sinners are
saved and pass from death into life (John 5:24). It is therefore critically important that every
person on earth should meet the Lord Jesus. Only He can forgive their sins and give them a
pure heart in which the Spirit of God dwells.
We must face the disturbing fact that all people on earth are sinners: “There is no one righteous,
no, not one; … for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:10, 23). In the
secular world, a person can be as successful and morally upright as can be, but he still has a
wicked heart in which sin hides. The seriousness of this problem is evident from the fact that the
death sentence (eternal death in hell) has been pronounced upon all sinners: “The soul who sins
shall die” (Ezek. 18:4). In the New Testament this judgement is repeated, and also the only
solution to escape from it: “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in
Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom. 6:23).
Because of the serious consequences of sin, God has already in Old Testament times
established the principle of the substitutionary death of an innocent one in the place of guilty
persons. Innocent sacrificial animals were sacrificed to God to atone for the sins of the
trespassers. However, according to Hebrews 10:4, the blood of bulls and goats cannot take
away sins, and were only preliminary, shadowy sacrifices that had to be fulfilled and validated by
the once for all sacrifice of the Lamb of God on the cross.
That is the reason why Israel were given numerous promises on the coming of the Messiah
during Old Testament times, as He would fulfil and terminate all the typological sacrifices by His
once for all sacrifice. The Messiah was destined to fulfil two roles – that of Saviour (Matt.1:21),
and that of King on the throne of David (Luke 1:32). In certain prophecies, His role of reigning
King is emphasised and in others His role as the suffering Servant who laid down His life for the
salvation of sinners. Isaiah refers to the reigning Messiah who brings peace to Israel: “For unto
us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given; and the government will be upon His shoulder. And
His name will be called Wonderful, Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Of the increase of His government and peace there will be no end, upon the throne of David and
over His kingdom” (Isa. 9:6-7).
Other prophecies in Isaiah fix our attention on the coming of the Messiah in the form of a lowly
servant who would serve the death penalty for the sins of His people: “He has no form or
comeliness; and when we see Him, there is no beauty that we should desire Him. He is
despised and rejected by men, a Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. And we hid, as it
were, our faces from Him; He was despised, and we did not esteem Him. Surely He has borne
our griefs and carried our sorrows. … 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. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned, every one, to his own way; and the
LORD has laid on Him the iniquity of us all” (Isa. 53:2-6).
However, this image of the Messiah was unacceptable to most of the Jews. They waited on a
mighty, reigning Messiah who would restore the throne of David and liberate Israel from the yoke
of Roman domination. That was the reason why so few of them recognised Jesus as the
promised Messiah, while even His own disciples were ignorant about His true identity as God
and Son of God. Jesus asked them about this: “Who do men say that I, the Son of Man, am? So
they said, Some say John the Baptist, some Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.
He said to them, But who do you say that I am? Simon Peter answered and said, You are the
Christ, the Son of the living God. Jesus answered and said to him, Blessed are you, Simon BarJonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father who is in heaven” (Matt.
Only Peter unequivocally declared that Jesus is the Son of God and promised Messiah of Israel,
because the Father revealed it to him through the Holy Spirit. In spite of this revelation Peter was
not yet filled with the Holy Spirit, and consequently did not understand the role of Jesus as
suffering Messiah. However, John the Baptist had at that time already in public referred to the
role of Jesus as Sacrificial Lamb: “Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the
world!” (John 1:29). Peter and the other disciples did not take this message to heart and resisted
Jesus when He referred to this important aspect of His coming to the world. This ignorance was
shown shortly after Peter boldly declared that Jesus is the Christ and Son of God:
“From that time Jesus began to show to His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem, and suffer
many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised the third
day. Then Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him, saying, Far be it from You, Lord; this
shall not happen to You! But He turned and said to Peter, Get behind Me, Satan! You are an
offense to Me, for you are not mindful of the things of God, but the things of men” (Matt. 16:21-
What a shocking situation! A disciple who, shortly before, proclaimed a great truth on the
Messiahship of Jesus, was still ignorant on the vital aspects of the role of Jesus who, as Lamb of
God, had to lay down His life for sinners. The devil exploited this ignorance and instigated Peter
to express himself in no uncertain terms against the crucifixion of Jesus. He said: “Far be it from
You, Lord.” The Lord Jesus immediately knew what the origin of this fallacious idea was and
rebuked the devil who spoke through Peter.
Although Peter said with great conviction that Jesus is the Messiah, he directly afterwards made
a pronouncement in which he denied Jesus with regard to an important aspect of His coming to
the world. This lack of insight would soon give rise to even bigger problems of denying the truth
and subverting his faith. After Peter was denounced by the Lord, he immediately turned around
and decided to stand by Jesus, even though He would be crucified. Jesus knew that what he
said still did not emerge from a deep spiritual conviction and warned Peter that, because of his
deceptive self-reliance, he was heading for disaster in his spiritual life: “Jesus said to him,
Assuredly, I say to you that this night, before the rooster crows, you will deny Me three times.
Peter said to Him, Even if I have to die with You, I will not deny You! And so said all the
disciples” (Matt. 26:34-35).
Peter indeed utterly denied the Lord three times during that night. He said, “I do not know the
Man!” (Matt. 26:72). When the rooster crowed he realised his enormous sin and went out and
wept bitterly. Peter was forgiven, and on Pentecost 50 days later he was filled with the Holy
Spirit and witnessed powerfully about Jesus as the promised Messiah, and also on His
crucifixion and saving grace. Under his preaching three thousand Jews repented on that day and
received Jesus as Messiah and Saviour.