A to Z of Christian Terminology
Atonement, Antichrist, Apostasy
Calvalry, Christ, Church, Conversion
Mediator, Mark’s Gospel
The purpose of writing this brief A to Z of words associated with the Christian faith is firstly to help young Christians to share their faith and secondly to help those who have not really thought about the beliefs of Christianity.
We live in an ever increasing secular Society which has forgotten or never heard of the true essence of the Christian faith, and it is my hope that these studies will help to enlighten the reader on what the practicing Christian really believes.
And not only that, but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received the atonement. Romans 5:11.
The Greek word for atonement in Romans 5:11 is kattalage (exchange, restoration, reconciliation)
The word ‘atonement’ is one of the few theological terms which derive basically from Anglo-Saxon. It means ‘a making at one’ (at-one-ment). Its use in theology is to denote the work of Christ in dealing with the problem posed by the sin of man, and bringing sinners into right relation with God.
God and humanity are hopelessly estranged by humanity’s sin, and there is no way back from man’s side. Because we are estranged from God through sin there can be no reconciliation until our sins are atoned for. It is for this reason that God appointed a vicar in Jesus Christ to take our place. Theologians call this act of Christ vicarious (filling the place of another) atonement. Through the atoning death of Christ and repentance and faith on the part of the sinner, sinful humanity and a holy God can be reconciled. This is an amazing concept, God, glorious in holiness, being one with guilty sinners.
Little children, it is the last hour; and as you have heard that the Antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have come, by which we know it is the last hour 1 John 2:18
The expression antichristos is found in the Bible only in the epistles of John (1 John 2:18,22, 4:3 2 John 7.) Anti indicates opposition. The concept introduced in John was already well known (you have heard that antichrist shall come, 1 John 2:18). There already existed ‘an attitude’ a ‘characteristic of antichrist’ in the world.
John’s definition of antichrist is found in 1 John 2:22: He is antichrist, which denies the Father and the Son, and in 1 John 4:3 and in 2 John 7, John describes in more detail the true nature of antichrist: ‘and every spirit that does not confess that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God, and this is the spirit of antichrist.’ John was referring to particular problems of the day such as Gnosticism which denied that Christ had a physical body. Antichrist comes in many different forms, but it always refers to an attack on the things which belong to Jesus Christ. Anything which undermines what is essentially Christ is antichrist: His deity, His perfect humanity, His physical death and resurrection, His atoning sacrifice for sin, His exaltation and Lordship, to deny and oppose these truths concerning Christ is to have the spirit of antichrist.
In Jesus Christ we see God acting for man’s salvation, (1 John 4:9). When a man attacks and undermines the person and role of Jesus Christ he is not simply guilty of doctrinal error. He is undercutting the very foundation of the Christian faith.
For if we sin wilfully after we have received the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins. Hebrews 10:26
The word apostasy does not appear in the A.V. translation of the Bible. In classical Greek apostasia is a technical term for political revolt or defection.
The principle of apostasy is always a danger to the Church and the New Testament contains repeated warnings against it. The nature of apostasy is made clear ‘falling from the faith’ (1 Timothy 4:1) and from ‘the living God’ (Hebrews 3:12). It increases in times of special trial (Matthew 24:9,10) and encouraged by false teachers (Galatians 2:4). For anyone to completely apostatise there is no way back (Hebrews 6:4-6, 10:26).
2 Thessalonians 2:3 describes the great apostasy, prior to the revelation of the man of lawlessness. The allusion is eschatological in character and refers to ‘the final catastrophic revolt against the authority of God which in apocalyptic writings is a sign of the end of the world’.
All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work. 2 Timothy 3:16,17
The word ‘Bible’ is derived through Latin from the Greek biblia (books). A term synonymous with the ‘Bible’ is ‘the writings’ or ‘the Scriptures’. There are 66 books that make up the Bible, 39 in the Old Testament and 27 in the New Testament; these books were written over a period of 1600 years by many different authors, mainly Hebrew in the Old Testament and Greek in the New.
The Bible is no ordinary collection of books, but books written under the divine inspiration of God. Divine inspiration simply means the Holy Spirit of God revealing His mind, will, and purpose to men, through chosen prophets in the Old Testament and Christ and the Apostles in the New. This Divine inspiration refers both to that which was spoken and to that which was written down.
The divine inspiration of the Scriptures is attested in many parts of the Bible, one important reference is found in 2 Timothy 3:16: ‘All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness.’
Because the Scriptures are divinely inspired, the Scriptures, written in their original languages, are infallible and completely trustworthy.
And when they came to the place called Calvary, there they crucified Him, and the criminals, one on the right hand and the other on the left. Luke 23:33
The name occurs only once in the A.V., in Luke 23:33. The word calvaria comes from the Latin translation of the Bible, the Vulgate. The original word in the Aramaic is gulgolta, the Golgotha of Matthew 27:33, which means ‘skull’. Three possible reasons for such a name have been propounded: because skulls were found there; because it was a place of execution; or because the site resembled a skull. No one is sure of the exact place where our Lord was crucified but we do know from Scripture that Jesus died in a place once called the ‘Place of skull’ outside the city walls of Jerusalem.
He said to them, but who do you say that I am? And Peter answered and said to Him, You are the Christ. Mark 8:29
The word ‘Christ’ is not another name added to Jesus, but rather a title. Christos in the Greek is the equivalent of the Old Testament Hebrew word ‘Messiah’. Messiah means the Anointed one whom the Old Testament prophets foretold would come.
The Old Testament makes it clear that the Messiah would come through the tribe of Judah and the linage of David. In the Gospel of Luke chapter 3 Luke outlines the ancestry of Joseph and Mary tracing the family line back to king David and beyond.
There are many prophecies outlining the details of the coming Messiah, here is just one example from the book of Micah: ‘But you Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of you shall come forth to Me the One to be ruler in Israel, Whose going forth have been from old, from everlasting.’
One of the reasons why many of the rulers did not accept Christ as the Messiah was because they thought His origins were found in Galilee, when in fact, He was born in Bethlehem. The rulers who rejected Christ understood these prophecies, but mistakenly thought that Jesus had been born in Galilee as John 7: 42 shows, ‘Has not the Scripture said that the Christ comes from the seed of David and from the town of Bethlehem, where David was?’ Even today many reject Christ through information based on false assumptions.
The Apostle Peter acknowledged Jesus to be the Messiah when he declared, ‘You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.’ Matthew 16: 16.
I, Jesus have sent my angel to testify to you these things in the churches; I am the Root and the Offspring of David, the Bright and Morning Star. Revelation 22:16
The English word ‘church’ is derived from the Greek adjective kyriakos which means a Christian place of worship. The Greek word for ‘church’ in the New Testament, however, is ekklesia which mostly means a local congregation of Christians and never a building
Ekklesia is never used to describe a group of churches, but has its emphasis on the local church. Locality is essential to its character. While there might be as many churches as were cities or even households, yet the New Testament recognised only one ekklesia without finding it necessary to explain relationship between the one and the many. The Roman Catholic Church and the Church of England are contradictions of the New Testament word ekklesia.
The Jerusalem church, which included the twelve apostles, had been the guiding light in matters of faith and practice amongst the Gentile believers (Acts 15:20. Acts 21: 21-25). After the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 66 and the dispersion of the Jerusalem church, Antioch and not Jerusalem became the model for the local church. It was at Antioch that believers were first called ‘Christians’ (Christ-men) by their Gentile neighbours (Acts 11:26).
Through the preaching of men like Paul and Barnabas local churches were established throughout the region. Elders from amongst the believers were appointed to oversee the needs of the local church. The main structure of the local church consisted in the gathered worship of believers, preaching and teaching, church discipline, the sacraments of the Lord’s Supper and baptism.
There is no warrant whatsoever for Archbishops or Archdeacons according to the teachings of the New Testament. The Church is built on Jesus Christ, the Prophets and the Apostles (Ephesians 2:20) and their authority alone. Elders within the local church are to convey this authority through preaching and teaching (Colossians 1:28), godly example (1 Peter5:1-3) and the exercise of discipline (Matthew 18:15-19).
Lastly, the local church should reflect the completed and redeemed church in heaven, the gathered ekklesia of God’s people where Christ dwells in the midst of them (Matthew 18:20). The local church is a kind of firstfruits of that eschatological Ekklesia.
Repent therefore and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, so that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord. Acts 3:19
The most common word in the New Testament for conversion is the Greek word metanoia(also translated ‘repentance’ in some parts of the N.T.) which conveys the idea of “a general change of mind, which becomes in its fullest development an intellectual and moral regeneration”.
True conversion is born of godly sorrow, and issues in a life of devotion to God, 2 Corinthians 7:10. It is a change that is rooted in the work of regeneration (see N for New birth) and is effected in the conscious life of the sinner by the Spirit of God; a change of thoughts and opinions, of desires and volitions, which involves the conviction that the former direction of life was unwise and wrong and alters the entire course of life.. There are two sides to this conversion, the one active and the other passive; the former being the act of God, by which He changes the conscious course of a person’s life, and the latter, the result of this action as seen in the person’s change of direction in turning to God.
It is a wonderful thing to see the effects of the Gospel in the life of a person who once lived solely for worldly and temporal ideals and pursuits, pleasures and self-gratification turned round on to a path of godliness and true devotion to God. O that we might pray more for true conversions in our world
Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. Matthew 4:1
There are many words in the Bible which describe the Devil one of which is the Greek word Diabolos which means ‘accuser’. One of the chief activities of the Devil is to accuse Christ and His Church day and night before God, Revelation 12: 10. These accusations fail, in the first place, because Christ is without sin, John 14: 30 and secondly, for those who have put their faith and trust in Jesus Christ, there is now no condemnation. The Apostle Paul writes in his epistle to the Romans, ‘Who is he who condemns? It is Christ who died, and furthermore is risen, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us.’ Romans 8: 34.
In these days of spiritual ignorance, the Devil is depicted as something belonging to the dark ages and an object of fun. However, the Bible teaches that the Devil is a very real spiritual foe of the human race, a fallen created angelic being determined to bring men and women under the same condemnation and judgement that he is going to inevitably suffer, Revelation 12: 9.
Some other names and titles which describe the Devil are: Apollyon, which means destroyer, the tempter, Matthew 4: 3. Satan which signifies adversary, prince of this world, John 12: 31, prince of darkness Ephesians 6: 12, tormenter, Matthew 18: 34, Deceiver, Revelation 20: 10. He is described by Jesus as a murderer and Liar, John 8: 44.
Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, to God who alone is wise, be honour and glory forever and ever. Amen. 1 Timothy 1:17.
The relation of eternity to time constitutes one of the most difficult problems in philosophy and theology, perhaps incapable of a solution in our present condition. The reason why we find it difficult to comprehend eternity is because we ourselves are creatures of time. However, the Bible speaks a great deal of eternity in one context or another. It is because God is infinite (without end or limit) that He is described in the Bible as the eternal God. Our life is divided into past, present and future, but there is no such division in the life of God. God’s existence has been described as: ‘living in one indivisible present’. It does help to remember that time and history is finite, having a beginning and an end. When there is no universe (most agree that the universe had a beginning and will have an end) there will still be the indivisible present.
It is because God is eternal that He can offer eternal life to creatures of time, you and me: ‘For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life’. John 3: 16.
But you be watchful in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, fulfil your ministry. 2 Timothy 4:5.
The usual answer given by most evangelical Christians to the question: ‘What is an evangelical?’ Is ‘One who believes in the Word of God as divinely inspired.’ Perhaps a better answer would be ‘ One who has good news to share.’ The word ‘evangelical’ obviously comes from the Greek word ‘evangelion’ which meads good news, (see Gospel).
For by grace you hare been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works lest any man should boast. Ephesians 2:8,9
Faith is described in my dictionary as trust and confidence: belief in the statement of another. This is a good and simple description of faith in general. It also describes the Christian’s faith, there is a strong element of trust and confidence involved and particularly belief in the statement of another.
One of the Greek words in the New Testament for faith is pistis which describes faith as a conviction based on confidence in a person and his testimony. Here we have one of the main reasons why the Scriptures were written. In the Gospel of John chapter 20 verses 30 and 31 we read: ‘And truly Jesus did many other signs in the presence of His disciples, which are no written in this book, but these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name.’ Luke begins his Gospel by speaking of the ‘many eyewitnesses’ who witnessed the many signs and miracles performed by Jesus, and particularly the resurrection of Jesus from the dead. In Acts of the Apostles Luke describes the appearances of Christ after His resurrection as ‘many infallible or unmistakable proofs.’ Acts 1: 3. Faith is therefore, a confidence and trust in the revealed testimony of inspired Scripture, put another way in the epistle to the Romans 10: 17 ‘faith comes by hearing (or reading) the Word of God.’
The Word of God, as we have seen in John 20, directs our faith and trust towards the Lord Jesus Christ. Christian faith is not merely intellectual, or historical (many believe Jesus Christ existed who are not Christians) but affects the mind, the emotions, and the will. The origin of faith in the Christian is brought about by the Holy Spirit (see N. New birth) theologians speak of this as semen fidei (seed of faith). Saving faith may be defined as a certain conviction, wrought in the heart by the Holy Spirit, as to the truth of the gospel, and a hearty reliance (trust) on the promises of God in Christ. L.Berkhof.
For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek. Romans 1:16.
The Greek word for Gospel is euangelion which means ‘good news’. During the pregnancy of Mary the message that came to her from the Angel of the Lord was: ‘you shall call His name Jesus (Jesus means Saviour) for He will save His people from their sins’ Matthew 1: 21. This is the good news of the gospel, to have every sin in thought, word and deed forgiven. The offer of forgiveness in Christ is for all humanity.
The command of Jesus is to preach the gospel to the entire world Mark 16: 15. In John 3:17 Jesus makes it clear that He had not been sent into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved. The first sermon preached by Jesus was a quotation from Isaiah the prophet, here He spoke of preaching the gospel to the poor, healing the broken hearted, releasing the captives, giving sight to the blind and setting at liberty those who are oppressed.
We live in a very troubled world, a world of humanity which from birth is under the sentence of death, a world which desperately needs to hear this gospel of hope. The sad thing is that we Christians do not share this good news as we should. My wife has multiple sclerosis, imagine someone discovering a cure for this disease and not telling us about it. This fallen world really does need this gospel.
The Apostle Paul sums up the heart of the gospel in his epistle to the Corinthians: ‘Moreover, brethren, I declare to you the gospel…that Christ died for our sins, according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures.’ 1 Corinthians 15: 1-3.
For Christ has not entered the holy places made with hands, which are copies of the true, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us. Hebrews 9:24
Is there such a place as heaven? The answer to this question according to the Holy Scriptures is most certainly yes. Throughout the Bible heaven is spoken of as a real location. Most of us are familiar with the Lord’s Prayer which begins, ‘Our Father who art in heaven.’ Heaven is the abode of God, and of those closely associated with Him. The testimony from the Son of God to His disciples and to all believers is: ‘Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me, in My Father’s house are many mansions, if it were not so I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you.’ John 14: 1, 2.
Where is heaven? The answer to this question no one knows. Is heaven outside this universe? Maybe, after all, this universe is finite. Is heaven on a completely different dimension to the one we know? Where ever it is, the Apostle Paul tells us that we cannot enter or exist in heaven in our present physical condition. ‘Flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God.’ I Corinthians 15: 50, in other words we cannot live in this heavenly environment in our present earthly bodies, ‘this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality.’ v.53. It was in such a body, resurrected and immortal, that Jesus ascended into heaven. We too, shall share such a body at the resurrection when body and soul are united on the last Day.
And these will go away into everlasting punishment, but the righteous into eternal life. Matthew 25:46
The reality of hell is in one way substantiated by the reality of the soul. Humanity is unique among God’s creation in that he or she possesses an eternal soul. When we are born into this world we are made up of body and soul/spirit. The body is subject to decay and death, the soul, however, continues beyond death. When the Apostle Paul faced martyrdom and death he faced it in the confidence that his soul would live on. In 2 Corinthians 5: 9 he writes, ‘We are confident, yes, well pleased rather to be absent from the body and present with the Lord.’
There are only two places a soul can go after death, to be with God or to be without God, the place of holiness and righteousness or in place of unrighteousness, to dwell in light or to dwell in darkness, to be with Christ or with the devil and all fallen angels, heaven or hell.
Jesus often spoke of hell and clearly warned us of its reality. Matthew 10: 28 reads: ‘And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. But rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.’ In this verse Jesus is reminding us that not only our soul, but our resurrected body will also be cast into hell. In hell the unrepentant sinner will suffer pangs of conscience, anguish and utter despair and it will be eternal. The same word aionios is used in the original to describe everlasting punishment and eternal life in Matthew 25:46.
And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth. John 1:14.
The word incarnation is not really a biblical word. The word incarnation, however, is used in theology to describe one of the most important truths regarding the Lord Jesus Christ. Incarnation means ‘to embody in flesh’ and is used to describe the act of God the Son taking on our humanity. The hymn quoted in I Timothy 3: 16 speaks of ‘He who was manifested in the flesh.’
There are other verses in Scripture which speak of the incarnation of Christ such as John 1: 1: In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.’ The Word (Logos) in this case refers to Christ as is seen in v14, ‘the Word became flesh and we beheld His glory’. There is also the all important reference in Philippians chapter 2, ‘Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant and coming in the likeness of men.’ this verse also describes His humiliation, especially in the Greek word kenosis which means emptying. The pre-existent Son of God emptied Himself or laid aside the divine majesty, the majesty of the sovereign ruler of the universe, and assumed human nature in the form of a servant. Jesus Christ did not cease to be God; He did not empty Himself of His deity, which would be impossible anyway. Confirmation of His pre-existent state is given by Jesus Himself in John 6: 38, ‘I have come down from heaven.’ When Jesus Christ took on the same nature as ours, howbeit sinless, He took it on forever and is now in heaven as both God and man (see M for Mediation).
Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Romans 5:1.
‘Justify’ (Gk. Dikaioo) is a forensic term meaning ‘acquit’, ‘declare righteous’, the opposite of condemn. God can declare a sinner righteous on account of the atoning death of His Son, Jesus Christ. Paul in Romans 8: 33 writes: ‘Who shall bring a charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies.’ Elect, in this case, refers to the believer. When God looks on the believing sinner, He sees the sinner clothed in the righteousness of Christ.
There are many references to this word justification here are three important references. The first is found in Romans 3:24 ‘Being justified freely (without any cost) by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.’ Paul is telling us here that to be righteous in God’s sight does not cost us anything in the way of righteous deeds or works, it comes through His free grace (God’s divine favour) and through the redemption (deliverance from sin at the payment of a price) that is in Christ Jesus.
Another reference on justification is found in Rom 5: 9: ‘Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him.’ Here we have the redemption price that was paid in order for God to justify us, blood; the blood of His dear Son.
The third reference is found in Romans 5: 1: ‘Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.’ Here we are reminded that not all are justified, not everyone will be saved. Justification is for those who believe. The preceding two verses Romans 4: 24,25 tell us what we are to believe: ‘It (righteousness) shall be imputed ( or credited).to us who believe in Him who raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead, who was delivered up because of our offences, and was raised for our justification.’ When I was as young lad we were always swapping things with our friends but here is the greatest swap in the history of the human race; Jesus Christ exchanges His righteousness for our sin. ‘He (God) made Him (Christ) to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.’ 2 Corinthians 5: 21.
But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you. Matthew 6:33.
The central theme of the preaching of Jesus was of the kingdom of heaven or the kingdom of God. There is some confusion amongst Christians regarding these two descriptions of the Kingdom. While Matthew, who addresses himself to the Jews, speaks for the most part of the ‘kingdom of heaven’, Mark and Luke speak of the ‘kingdom of God’, which has the same meaning as the ‘kingdom of heaven’, but was more intelligible to non-Jews. The use of ‘kingdom of heaven’ in Matthew is certainly due to the tendency in Judaism to avoid the direct use of the name of God. If you compare the two accounts of the ‘sermon on the mount’ in Matthew and Luke you will see that Matthew uses the term ‘kingdom of heaven’ and Luke uses ‘kingdom of God’, Matthew 5: 3 and Luke 6: 20.
We have not got the space here to go into the full implications of the various teachings on this subject save to say that the kingdom of God was never intended to be an earthly kingdom. Jesus never intended to be some kind of monarch on earth as many of the Jews expected. When Jesus was asked by Pontius Pilate if He was a king, Jesus replied that His kingdom was not of this world. This is again made clear in John’s gospel chapter 6. Following the miraculous feeding of the 5,000 we read in verse 15, ‘Therefore when Jesus perceived that they were about to come and take Him by force to make Him king, He departed again to a mountain by Himself alone.’
Presently, Jesus Christ is indeed a king ‘for He must reign till He has put all enemies under His feet.’ 1 Corinthians 15: 25. In the future every person who has ever lived on this earth will know that Jesus Christ is ‘King of kings and Lord of Lords’, but in the meantime the kingdom is well summarised in this extract from L. Berkhof’s Systematic theology and I quote: ‘The primary idea of the Kingdom of God in Scripture is that of the rule of God established and acknowledged in the hearts of sinners by the powerful regenerating power of the Holy Spirit, insuring them of the inestimable blessings of salvation, – a rule that is realised in principle on earth, but will not reach its culmination until the visible and glorious return of Jesus Christ.’
If you really fulfil the royal law according to the Scripture, ‘You shall love your neighbour as yourself,’ you do well. James 2:8
The word ‘law’ comes from the Hebrew word tora, a word which occurs 220 times in the Old Testament. The origin of this word tora is not easy to trace, but probably means ‘instruction’. It would not be appropriate here to discuss the various meanings of the word law, but generally speaking the law is usually defined as threefold: moral, ceremonial and judicial. The ceremonial and the judicial or civil law were primarily given to the theocratic Nation of Israel. We are all familiar with ‘an eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth’ part of the judicial law so necessary for stability and order in a people surrounded by lawless and heathen nations.
The Moral law, also known as the Ten Commandments, however, is distinguished from the ceremonial and judicial by the fact that these Ten Commandments were written on tablets of stone, they are also described as being written by the finger of God, Exodus 31: 18. Here we have a perpetual standard of righteousness, not only for the Nation of Israel, but for all peoples and for all time. The Moral law is God’s manual for life and if we fail to follow the Makers instructions we will fail to function as we should and end up on the scrap heap, or to be more direct, Hell. God’s commandments point out not only how to do what is right, but also where we go wrong. The problem is, no one can follow the instructions of this manual, we just do not have the ability and all this manual does is condemn us to certain failure, ‘by the works of the law no flesh shall be justified’, Galatians 2: 16. The main function of the law is to reveal sin, ‘for by the law is the knowledge of sin’, Romans 3: 20, the verdict on us all is summed up in Romans 3: 23, ‘for all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.’
Maybe some us are thinking that they have kept the Ten commandments, after all not many of us have ever killed anyone, some may be able to say that they have never committed adultery, never told a lie. To view the law in this way is a bit superficial; the Law of God is much more far reaching than that. Jesus, to give one instance, taught that to lust after a woman in your heart is to commit adultery. As we have already said, the law has many functions, but the main purpose of the Moral law is to show us our need of a Saviour in Jesus Christ, ‘Therefore the law was our tutor to bring us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith.’ Galatians 3: 24.
The reason why people do not appreciate the coming into the world of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ is because we fail to see the exceeding sinfulness of our sin and the holiness and perfection of God and, tragically, fail to see the need to be saved from our sins. For the Christian the law is fulfilled by love: Owe no man anything except to love one another, for he who loves another has fulfilled the law. Romans 13:8. For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this: You shall love your neighbour as yourself. Galatians 5:14.
For there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus.
1 Timothy 2:5.
The function of mediator is to intervene between two parties in order to promote relations between them which the parties themselves are not able to effect. In the Old Testament the prophet and priest fulfilled the office of mediator between God and His covenant people. The prophet was God’s spokesman, he acted for God in the presence of men (Deuteronomy 18: 18-22). The priest acted on behalf of men in the presence of God (Exodus 28: 1). In the New Testament Jesus Christ takes the place of both prophet and priest making obsolete the office of earthly priest and prophet.
There are many verses in the New Testament which point to Jesus Christ as being the appointed Mediator between God and man, one particular verse of note is found in 1 Timothy 2 : 5, ‘For there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus.’ Saints or angels or even Mary cannot fulfil the requirements of mediator, and if we pray through them, we pray in vain; only Christ has the necessary qualifications, being both God and man.
The book of Hebrews explains in detail the High Priesthood of Christ, chapter 7: 3 reads, ‘And there were many priests, because they were prevented by death from continuing, but He (Christ) because He continues forever, 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.’ God has appointed a perfect Mediator in Jesus Christ, who needs saints?
N. New birth
Jesus answered and said to him, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God. John 3:5.
We are all familiar with the phrase ‘born again Christian,’ but what does it mean? The most popular misconception to the man in the street in understanding what being a born again Christian means is of someone, who having once been a Christian, abandons his or her faith, and then decides to become a Christian again; much like the ‘born again biker.’
The theological term for the new birth or being born again is ‘regeneration.’ However, this word occurs only twice in the New Testament, once in Matthew 19: 28 which refers to the restoration of all things at the end of the world, and Titus 3: 5, which refers to the individual, ‘not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit.’ We can see from this verse alone that the new birth is a spiritual birth brought about by the renewing of the Holy Spirit.
The terms Jesus used to describe regeneration were ‘born again and ‘born of the Spirit’. In John’s gospel chapter three Jesus meets Nicodemus, a member of the Jewish Sanhedrin, the rulers of the Jews. Nicodemus himself was a religious man and a teacher in Israel, he also acknowledged that Jesus had come from God, ‘Rabbi, we know that you are Teacher come from God; for no one can do these signs that You do unless God is with Him.’ John 3: 2. The first thing Jesus says to Nicodemus is for his need to be born again. Nicodemus is not a lapsed believer, but a very religious follower of the Jewish faith, and yet Jesus tells him that unless he is born again he cannot even see the kingdom of God.
When sharing our faith with others we are often met with many different responses, I’m C of E or Roman Catholic is a couple of the popular ones, as though having some religious connections makes everything right. To be involved in some religious ceremony whether it is conformation, baptism or putting your hand up at an evangelistic crusade is not being ‘born again.’ To be born again is completely life transforming, and is described in 2 Corinthians 5: 17 as being ‘a new creation’. ‘Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.’
The words of Jesus Christ still apply, ‘You must be born again’ without this new birth we cannot see the kingdom of God or even enter it. We have all gone through the experience of being born naturally and through this birth entered the world, in order to enter the kingdom of God we need to be born spiritually. How can we be born again? What process must we follow to be born again? One of the essential elements in the work of regeneration is the Word of God seen in 1 Peter 1: 23, ‘having been born again not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the Word of God which lives and abides for eve.’ The answer to our question must be; through reading the Word of God and asking God to open our eyes to its truth. The first two lines of William Cowper’s’ hymn explains the process well ‘The Spirit breathes upon the Word and brings the truth to sight’. Jesus said that He had come to seek and save that which was lost, it is up to us to respond to that be seeking Him through His word, ‘And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart.’ Jeremiah 29: 13.
Here are a couple of verses from Scripture which describe the effects of what it means to be born again: ‘Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God’ 1 John 4: 7, and ‘Whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God, and everyone who loves Him who begot also loves him who is begotten of Him.’ 1 John 5: 1.
…when you make an offering to the Lord, to make atonement for yourselves. Exodus 30:15.
In order to appreciate the real reason why Jesus Christ came into the world we need to have some understanding of the sacrificial system of the Old Testament, otherwise we will not make sense of the death of Christ. The main purpose of the animal sacrifices and offerings in the Old Testament was to remind the Jewish nation of the need of ‘atonement’ for their sins. The Hebrew verb for ‘atone’ may be explained in three ways, ‘to cover,’ ‘to wipe away’, ‘to ransom by a substitute’. Animals were slain and offered to God as a substitute punishment for sins, Leviticus 17: 11 explains, ‘For the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it to you upon the altar to make atonement for your souls; for it is the blood that makes atonement for the soul.’
All sin – sin is failing to keep God’s holy law – must be judged and without sin being atoned for there can be no relationship between God and the sinner. This principle is outlined for us in Isaiah 59: 2, ‘But your iniquities have separated you from your God; and your sins have hidden His face from you.’ Sin is the obstacle which prevents God and sinners coming together and the problem of our sins must be dealt with.
The offerings of the Old Testament, however, could never atone for sins, the writer to the Hebrews makes this perfectly clear, ‘For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and goats could take away sins,’ Hebrews 10: 4; they were never intended for that purpose, but only pointed to a better Sacrifice which was to come. Two very important verses are worth mentioning here again from the book of Hebrews, ‘And every high priest stands ministering daily and offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which could never take away sins. But this Man, after He had offered one sacrifice for sins forever, sat down at the right hand of God.’ Hebrews 10: 11, 12.
For since, in the wisdom of God, the world through wisdom did not know God, it pleased God through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe.
1 Corinthians 1:21
I have included preaching to remind the soul winner and the seeker of the absolute necessity of preaching in reaching the lost for Christ, ‘how shall they hear without a preacher?’ Romans 10: 14.
In the New Testament, preaching is the public proclamation of Christ to the non-Christian world. The Greek verb for the word preaching kerysso occurs more than sixty times in the New Testament and it means ‘to proclaim as a herald’. In the ancient world the herald was of considerable importance, a man of integrity and character, he was employed by king or state to make important proclamations. Preaching is heralding the glad tidings of salvation.
Another important verb is evangelizomai, ‘to bring good news’ (see G for Gospel). Preaching has been described ‘as God Himself breaking into the affairs of man and confronting him with a demand for decision’. The Apostle Paul saw preaching as a matter of life and death for the world: ‘woe is me if I do not preach the Gospel’ 1 Corinthians 9: 16.
God has revealed in history His will and purpose for humanity, this he did by sending His Son into the world. Preaching, therefore, is the medium God uses to make known to lost mankind all he needs to know about why he is here and what he needs to do in order to be reconciled to God through Christ.
But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I have said to you. John 14:26.
Inseparable from preaching is the work of the Holy Spirit. One of the Greek words which describe the work and ministry of the Holy Spirit is Parakletos it is derived from the verb parakaleo which means ‘to call beside’, actively it means one who stands by and exhorts and encourages. The word is translated ‘Comforter’ in the authorised version of the Bible and in the New King James ‘Helper’. The work and ministry of the Holy Spirit primarily, is to aid, strengthen, and encourage the believer; in order that they may grow in faith and be spiritually equipped to serve the Lord Jesus Christ.
In John 14 we are reminded that Jesus is also our Paraclete, ‘And I will pray to the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever.’ Verse 14. Both Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit are ready and willing to stand by the believer in every situation.
The gracious work and help of the Holy Spirit begins well before we come to faith in Christ. In my own experience of coming to know Christ, the Holy Spirit spiritually awakened in me a sense of the reality of God and a deep conviction of my sin; I was hearing the Gospel from a friend at the time, but it was in my pursuits of the pleasures of this world that I experienced the influence of the Holy Spirit the strongest. The Spirit of truth reveals to us our true condition before God, but thankfully, also reveals the remedy, Jesus Christ.
There are no significant Biblical terms beginning with the letter q. However, a word which comes up frequently in the New Testament is ‘question’. Jesus was often questioned by the religious leaders of His day, but one of the most significant questions asked of Jesus came from a rich young ruler, ‘Good Teacher, what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life?’ Mark 10: 17. The answer that Jesus gave was to keep the commandments. The rich young ruler went away grieved because ‘he had great possessions’ v22; he could not keep the first commandment or the last on account of the idol of materialism. The love of this world and the things of this world debar many from possessing eternal life.
The second significant question in the New Testament came from a Philippian gaoler recorded in Acts of the Apostles 16: 30, the question addressed to Paul and Silas was, ‘Sirs, what must I do to be saved?’ Two questions, same objective, the difference being that one thought he could earn eternal life and the other realising his desperate need of being saved, saved from sin and judgement. The answer Paul gave, which is the only answer both for the rich young ruler and the gaoler and for anyone else for that matter is: ‘Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved.’ V.31.
The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.
2 Peter 3:9.
The term used most frequently in the Old Testament to describe repentance is the Hebrew word sub which means ‘to turn’ or ‘return’ and is applied to turning from sin to God. In the New Testament the term for repent is the Greek metanoeo which refers basically to a change of mind. Already we see from these descriptions that repentance is a radical transformation of thought, attitude, outlook, and direction. Repentance toward God comes about through the regenerating power of the Holy Spirit (see N. New birth) and is always accompanied with faith. While it is the duty of the sinner to repent, true repentance never exists except in conjunction with faith, Calvin regarded true repentance as one of the fruits of faith.
With true repentance comes a grief and hatred of sin and is described in 2 Corinthians 7: 9-10 as ‘godly sorrow’. Without repentance there can be no salvation for the sinner. The Lord Jesus began His public ministry with the message, ‘Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand’ Matthew 4: 17 and one of His final announcements before His ascension was that ‘repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.’ Luke 24: 47. Both Peter and Paul preached the need for repentance Acts 2: 38 and Acts 20: 21.
Children brought up in Christian homes sometimes worry that they do not have the same testimony as someone who is converted later in life and where there is a marked change. In my own case ‘turning’ from my sin and the world was quite dramatic, but we must remember that repentance is not just a one off, but a continuing process, and an integral part of our sanctification. One of the true marks of a Christian is a continual consciousness of sin and the need to confess it to God and turn away from it.
For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. Titus 2:11
The English term salvation used in the Authorised version of the Bible is derived from the Latin word salvare which means ‘to save’ and salus which means ‘health’ and ‘help’. Salvation generally means the action or result of deliverance or preservation from danger or disease, implying safety, health, and prosperity. In the Scriptures, however, the emphasis is not so much as on the physical as on moral and spiritual deliverance.
The New Testament indicates clearly humanity’s thraldom to sin and the remedy being found only in Christ. The message throughout the Bible is of humanity’s inability to save himself. Because of sin, humanity is a fallen, imperfect race and unable to save himself from the power and consequences of sin. It is for this reason that God has taken the initiative by sending a Saviour into the world. Salvation is a free gift, which is why the message of the Gospel is good news. This cannot be made any clearer than in the letter to the Ephesians 2: 8, 9. ‘For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God, not of works lest anyone should boast.”
Throughout, it is God Himself, in His holy love, who provides the salvation. The ‘crux’ of salvation is in the cross of Christ: ‘For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.’ 1 Corinthians 1: 18. God in His Son bears the judgement, sin which is an affront to God’s holiness is removed in Christ, a ransom is paid, and the servant of sin is released, forgiven and acquitted. ‘For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men.’ Titus 2: 11. Has God revealed His salvation to you yet?
One God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all. Ephesians 4:6.
Theologians speak of God as transcendent from His creation. The doctrine of God’s transcendence is important in that it delivers us from falling into the error of pantheism (the doctrine that identifies God with the universe, denying the personality of God). But though God is transcendent from His creation He is, at the same time, immanent to it. Statements such as the one in Ephesians 4:6 ‘One God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all’ indicate that God stands in a relationship of both transcendence and immanence to the created order. In that He is ‘above all’ and ‘over all’ Romans 9:5, He is the transcendent God, and independent of His creation, self-existent and self-sufficient. God is immanent in His creation, and creation is entirely dependent on His power for its continued existence ‘He is before all things, and in Him all things consist’ Colossians 1:17 and ‘in Him we live and move and have our being.’ Acts 17:28
The words ‘For you created all things, and by your will they exist and were created.’ Revelation 4:11, indicate the purpose and goal of creation. God created the world ‘for the manifestation of the glory of His eternal power, wisdom and goodness'(Westminster confession).
For the law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.
During the dialogue between Pontius Pilate and the Lord Jesus Christ, Pilate asked Jesus a question, ‘What is truth’? In a general sense we would all agree that to tell the truth is to state the case according to the facts and that what we testify agrees with reality. In every day life we all rely, to a certain extent, on people telling us the truth. The surveyor’s report on your prospective new home, the report on your latest medical examination, here is couple of examples on how our daily existence is based on people stating the case according to the facts.
Society depends on truth, a stable and secure Society needs truth, communities need the truth, families need truth. Truth, then, is a moral concept and we would all agree that to tell lies is wrong. All moral precepts derive from God and truth is no exception. God is described as the God of truth the book of Jeremiah, 10: 10.
Going back to Pilate’s question, ‘what is truth’? This question was asked in a religious context, the words that Jesus spoke to Pilate prior to this question were, ‘You rightly say that I am a king, for this cause I was born, and for this cause I have come into the world, that I should bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice.’ Jesus here is telling Pilate and all humanity that the reason He came into the world was to bear witness to the truth. The response from Pilate to these claims really sums up the modern attitude to the claims of the Christian faith.
According to many, there is no such thing as absolute truth in the context of religion, truth is what you want it to be and what suits you. No one, however, who reads the Gospels, can fail to notice the unique claims of Christ, claims which come across as absolute truth… Jesus states the case according to the facts. He claims to be the true vine, the true bread, the true light. Jesus claims to be the way, the truth, and the life, and makes the astounding statement that ‘no one comes to the Father except through Me.’ John 14: 6. Of course, many can claim to be this that and the other, but not everyone has risen from the dead to prove their claims, ‘declared to be the Son of God with power according to the Spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead’. Romans 1: 4. The God of truth has spoken to this world. Why will the world not listen? Reader, ponder these words and let them sink into your heart, ‘in hope of eternal life which God, who cannot lie promised before time began.’. Titus 1: 2. What is truth? Christ is the truth, when we come to know Christ we come to know the real truth and the truth makes us free.
Beware, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief in departing from the living God. Hebrews 3:12.
Unbelief is expressed by two Greek words in the New Testament, apistia which means ‘a want of faith and trust, and apeitheia which invariably means ‘rebellion and disobedience. Apistia is a state of mind, and apeitheia an expression of it.
Jesus clearly taught that the prime sin was failing to accept that He was the true Messiah. This is seen in John 8: 24 ‘Therefore I said to you that you will die in your sins; for if you do not believe I am He, you will die in your sins.’ Unbelief is a direct affront to the testimony of God’s truth, as the Apostle John points out in his first epistle: ‘He who believes in the Son of God has the witness in himself, he who does not believe God has made Him a liar, because he has not believed the testimony that God has given of His Son.’ 1 John 5: 10. All the children of Israel who first entered the wilderness, apart from Joshua and Caleb, did not enter the Promised Land for two reasons; they lacked faith apistia (Hebrews 3: 19) and they disobeyed apeitheia (Hebrews 4: 6). Unbelief is, therefore, the chief of all sins, especially for those who hear the Gospel and reject it.
V. Virgin birth
“Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,” which is translated, “God with us.” Matthew 1:23.
I include the virgin birth here because of all the miracles in the New Testament this would seem to be the most incredulous amongst the sceptical. The first indication we have that Christ would be born of a virgin is given in the prophecy of Isaiah, chapter 7 and verse 14. ‘Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel.’ There is some contention regarding the translation of the word ‘virgin’ in this verse. There are two words in the Hebrew which Isaiah could have used to refer to a virgin, one is betula which means ‘to separate’ and is the common Hebrew word used to refer to a woman who has never had sexual intercourse. However, the Hebrew word used by Isaiah here is alma which refers to a woman of marriageable age and who has not yet borne children and could be in fact married. Opponents of the virgin birth of Christ contend that if Isaiah was referring to a virgin he would have used the Hebrew word betula. However, it is worth pointing out that the word Isaiah employs is never applied (either in the Bible or in the other near eastern sources) to anyone but an unmarried woman.
The virgin birth in this verse is verified by the fact that this woman will give birth to ‘Immanuel’ which can only mean either God or someone in whom the presence of God is found. The difficulties regarding this word virgin, however, are soon dispelled when Isaiah continues in his prophecy to foretell of the coming Messiah describing Him as the Mighty God and being born as a child, impossible in a normal man and wife relationship, ‘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.’ Isaiah 9: 6.
We have the fulfilment of this prophecy recorded for us in Matthew 1: 22, 23, after referring to the birth of Christ he goes on to say: ‘So all this was done that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying: Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel, which is translated, God with us.’ Mary was indeed a virgin and the child whom she bore, was conceived of the Holy Spirit v.20.
For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him, should not perish but have everlasting life. John 3:16.
The Greek word kosmos means by derivation ‘the ordered world’. It is used in the New Testament for the ‘universe’, the created world, described in the Old Testament as ‘heaven and earth’. It was this ‘world’ that Jesus was speaking of when He said it would not profit a man anything if he gained the whole of it and lost his soul in the process (Matthew 16: 26).
Because humanity is the most important part of the universe, the word kosmos is more often used in the limited sense of human beings ‘the inhabited earth’. It is this world, the world of men and women of flesh and blood, ‘that God loves (John 3: 16).
Frequently, in the New Testament, and particularly in the writings of John, this ‘world’ is described as being anti God. The two dominant characteristics of this ‘world are pride, which leads the world to act independently of God, and covetousness which causes humanity to desire and possess all that is attractive to his physical senses. The Apostle John describes this inhabited earth as follows, ‘For all that is in the world – the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life – is not of the Father but is of the world.’ 1 John 2: 16. For the Christian, who has come to know and love God, there can be no binding attachment to this world. In the previous verse John tells us not to love this world or the things of this world and James tells us that friendship with this world is enmity with God, James 4: 4.
We are, of course to love all humanity with a view to their salvation, but we are not to love the spirit and ungodly values of this present evil world. The world is a very powerful tool in the hands of the devil and he uses the attractions of this world in tempting believers away from faithfully following Christ, but the faithful have a wonderful promise given to them again in John’s epistle, ‘For whatever is born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world – our faith, who is he who overcomes the world but he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?’ 1John 5: 4, 5.
X. For Kiss
And Jesus said to him, “Judas, are you betraying the Son of man with a kiss?” Luke 22:48
There are no significant Biblical terms beginning with x. However, in our culture x has become a symbol of the kiss. In Biblical times the kiss was a sign of affection among relatives (Genesis 29: 11), an expression of love (Song of Solomon), or lust (Proverbs 7: 13).
The reference however, which I would like to concentrate on is found in Psalm 2: 12 which reads, ‘Kiss the Son, lest He be angry, and you perish in the way, when His wrath is kindled but a little. Blessed are all those who put their trust in Him.’ Here in this verse we see another purpose for the kiss; an act of homage and worship. Very often in the culture of the east the vanquished paid homage to the Victor with a bow and the kiss of the hand. This Psalm is a Messianic Psalm which describes the power and authority which has been granted from the Father to the Son. The exhortation in this Psalm is to acknowledge God’s anointed as Lord, pay Him homage and trust Him as your King, before ‘we perish in the way’.
The confirmation of this prophecy is seen in the New Testament in the letter to the Philippians Chapter 2 verse 9, ‘God has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.’ Pay homage and worship the Son now, before the Day of Judgement!
And God said to Moses, “I am who I am.” And He said, “Thus you shall say to the children of Israel, ‘I AM has sent me to you.” Exodus3: 14.
In considering the various names, titles or descriptions of God in the Old Testament there are three words of basic importance: el, elohim and Yahweh (Jehovah). El means a god in the widest sense, true or false, or even an image treated as a god. When this word el is used to refer to God it is usually defined by added information such as: I the LORD (Yahweh) your God, Deuteronomy 5: 9.
Elohim though a plural form of God it can be treated as singular and in such a case it means the one supreme deity, in English translations it is rendered ‘God’.
The Hebrew word Yahweh is the Divine personal name for the one true God. In English versions it is usually translated ‘the LORD’ (note the capitals) and sometimes ‘Jehovah’. The name Jehovah originated as follows: In the Hebrew text there were only the letters YHWH and to the Jews was considered to sacred to pronounce; so adonay (my Lord) was substituted in the reading, it was not until the 12th century A.D. that the vowels of adonay were combined with the consonants YHWH to give ‘Jehovah’.
The meaning of the name is explained in Exodus 3:14, which is rendered ‘I AM WHO I AM,’ or ‘I shall be what I shall be’ and points to the unchangeableness of God, especially in relation to His people. Strictly speaking, Yahweh is the only name for God and was revealed to the Patriarchs and later to Moses at the burning bush: ‘Yahweh, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you. This is My name forever.’. Exodus 3: 15.
Not daring to pronounce the name of Yahweh in Biblical times would have originated from a superstitious rendering of Leviticus 24:16, the verse should read: ‘whoever blasphemes the name of God shall surely be put to death, the Jews read it as: ‘whoever names the name God (Yahweh) shall surely be put to death.’
Please note however, the importance that is placed on the name of God in Scripture; to use any names or titles in reference to deity, which includes the Lord Jesus Christ, lightly or flippantly is an affront to His sacred and holy name. ‘ You shall not take the name of the LORD (Yahweh) your God in vain, for the LORD will not hold him guiltless who takes His name in vain,’ Exodus 20: 7.
…I am the First and I am the Last; besides Me there is no God. Isaiah 44:6.
Thinking of the letter z reminds us of the last letter of the Greek alphabet. In the book of Revelation 1: 8 we read: ‘I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End, says the LORD, who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty’. In this verse the LORD (see Y for Yahweh) is described as the beginning and the ending of all things. He is the sovereign Creator, the Almighty, the Fount out of which are all things. In Him all things have their purpose. From the beginning He made all things with a view to an end. All events of history are in His control. All that lies between the alpha and the omega is through Him and for Him. His sovereign purposes will be fulfilled and completed at the glorious return of Jesus Christ.
There is something else highly significant in this phrase, ‘Alpha and Omega’ because Jesus Christ tells John that He also is ‘the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last,’ verse 11. This wonderful affirmation of the deity of Jesus Christ is repeated later in this book chapter 22: verses 12 and 13: ‘And behold, I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me, to give to everyone according to his work. I am Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End, the First and the Last.’
You will notice also in these verses that Jesus has promised to come ‘quickly’. The reader of this leaflet may be thinking that Jesus is not being very quick in returning to this world, after all, 2,000 years is a long time. Dear reader, Jesus Christ is coming again. May the following quotation from the Apostle Peter’s second epistle both encourage the believer and challenge the doubter:
‘But, beloved, do not forget this one thing, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is long suffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.’ 2 Peter 3: 8, 9.