Jesus Christ—The Key to the Knowledge of God
1, 2. How have the world’s religions tampered with the key to the knowledge of God?
YOU are standing at the door, fumbling with your keys. It is cold and dark, and you are eager to get inside—but the key does not work. It looks right, yet the lock will not budge. How frustrating! You look at your keys again. Are you using the right one? Has someone damaged the key?
2 That is a fair picture of what this world’s religious confusion has done with the knowledge of God. In effect, many have tampered with the key that opens it up to our understanding—Jesus Christ. Some religions have removed the key, ignoring Jesus altogether. Others have distorted Jesus’ role, worshiping him as Almighty God. In any case, the knowledge of God is closed to us without an accurate understanding of this principal figure, Jesus Christ.
3. Why might Jesus be called the key to the knowledge of God?
3 You may recall that Jesus said: “This means everlasting life, their taking in knowledge of you, the only true God, and of the one whom you sent forth, Jesus Christ.” (John 17:3) In saying this, Jesus was not being boastful. The Scriptures repeatedly emphasize the need for accurate knowledge of Christ. (Ephesians 4:13; Colossians 2:2; 2 Peter 1:8; 2:20) “To [Jesus Christ] all the prophets bear witness,” noted the apostle Peter. (Acts 10:43) And the apostle Paul wrote: “Carefully concealed in [Jesus] are all the treasures of wisdom and of knowledge.” (Colossians 2:3) Paul even said that all of Jehovah’s promises come true because of Jesus. (2 Corinthians 1:20) So Jesus Christ is the very key to the knowledge of God. Our knowledge of Jesus must be free of any distortions as to his nature and as to his role in God’s arrangement. But why do Jesus’ followers consider him to be central to God’s purposes?
THE PROMISED MESSIAH
4, 5. What hopes centered on the Messiah, and how did Jesus’ disciples view him?
4 From the days of the faithful man Abel, God’s servants had eagerly looked forward to the Seed foretold by Jehovah God himself. (Genesis 3:15; 4:1-8; Hebrews 11:4) It had been revealed that the Seed would serve God’s purpose as the Messiah, meaning “Anointed One.” He would “finish off sin,” and the glories of his Kingdom were foretold in the psalms. (Daniel 9:24-26; Psalm 72:1-20) Who would prove to be the Messiah?
5 Imagine the excitement felt by a young Jew named Andrew when he listened to the words of Jesus of Nazareth. Andrew rushed to his brother Simon Peter and told him: “We have found the Messiah.” (John 1:41) Jesus’ disciples were convinced that he was the promised Messiah. (Matthew 16:16) And true Christians have been willing to stake their lives on the belief that Jesus was indeed the foretold Messiah, or Christ. What proof have they had? Let us consider three lines of evidence.
EVIDENCE THAT JESUS WAS THE MESSIAH
6. (a) What line of descent was to produce the promised Seed, and how do we know that Jesus came through that family line? (b) Why would it be impossible for anyone living after 70 C.E. to prove a claim to be the Messiah?
6 Jesus’ lineage lays the first basis for identifying him as the promised Messiah. Jehovah had told His servant Abraham that the promised Seed would come from his family. Abraham’s son Isaac, Isaac’s son Jacob, and Jacob’s son Judah each received a similar promise. (Genesis 22:18; 26:2-5; 28:12-15; 49:10) The line of the Messiah’s descent was narrowed down centuries later when King David was told that his family line would produce this One. (Psalm 132:11; Isaiah 11:1, 10) The Gospel accounts of Matthew and Luke confirm that Jesus came through that family line. (Matthew 1:1-16; Luke 3:23-38) Though Jesus had many bitter enemies, none of them challenged his well-publicized line of descent. (Matthew 21:9, 15) Clearly, then, his lineage is beyond question. However, the Jews’ family records were destroyed when the Romans sacked Jerusalem in 70 C.E. In later times, no one could ever prove a claim to be the promised Messiah.
7. (a) What is a second line of evidence that Jesus was the Messiah? (b) How was Micah 5:2 fulfilled in connection with Jesus?
7 Fulfilled prophecy is a second line of evidence. Scores of Hebrew Scripture prophecies describe various aspects of the Messiah’s life course. In the eighth century B.C.E., the prophet Micah foretold that this great ruler would be born in the insignificant town of Bethlehem. Two towns in Israel were named Bethlehem, but this prophecy specified which one: Bethlehem Ephrathah, where King David had been born. (Micah 5:2) Jesus’ parents, Joseph and Mary, lived in Nazareth, some 90 miles [150 km] north of Bethlehem. While Mary was pregnant, however, the Roman ruler Caesar Augustus ordered all the people to register in their home cities.a So Joseph had to take his pregnant wife to Bethlehem, where Jesus was born.—Luke 2:1-7.
8. (a) When and with what event did the 69 “weeks” begin? (b) How long were the 69 “weeks,” and what happened when they ended?
8 In the sixth century B.C.E., the prophet Daniel foretold that “Messiah the Leader” would appear 69 “weeks” after the order went forth to restore and rebuild Jerusalem. (Daniel 9:24, 25) Each one of these “weeks” was seven years long.b According to the Bible and secular history, the order to rebuild Jerusalem was issued in 455 B.C.E. (Nehemiah 2:1-8) So the Messiah was to appear 483 (69 times 7) years after 455 B.C.E. That brings us to 29 C.E., the very year that Jehovah anointed Jesus with holy spirit. Jesus thus became “the Christ” (meaning “Anointed One”), or Messiah.—Luke 3:15, 16, 21, 22.
9. (a) How was Psalm 2:2 fulfilled? (b) What are some other prophecies that were fulfilled in Jesus? (See chart.)
9 Of course, not everyone accepted Jesus as the promised Messiah, and the Scriptures had foretold this. As recorded at Psalm 2:2, King David was divinely inspired to foretell: “The kings of earth take their stand and high officials themselves have massed together as one against Jehovah and against his anointed one.” This prophecy suggested that leaders from more than one land would unite in order to attack Jehovah’s Anointed One, or Messiah. And so it was. The Jewish religious leaders, King Herod, and the Roman governor Pontius Pilate all played a part in having Jesus put to death. Former enemies Herod and Pilate became fast friends from then on. (Matthew 27:1, 2; Luke 23:10-12; Acts 4:25-28) For further proof that Jesus was the Messiah, please see the accompanying chart entitled “Some Outstanding Messianic Prophecies.”
10. In what ways did Jehovah testify that Jesus was his promised Anointed One?
10 The testimony of Jehovah God is a third line of evidence supporting Jesus’ Messiahship. Jehovah sent angels to let people know that Jesus was the promised Messiah. (Luke 2:10-14) In fact, during Jesus’ earthly life, Jehovah himself spoke from heaven, expressing his approval of Jesus. (Matthew 3:16, 17; 17:1-5) Jehovah God gave Jesus the power to perform miracles. Each one of these was further divine proof that Jesus was the Messiah, for God would never give a fraud power to perform miracles. Jehovah also used his holy spirit to inspire the Gospel accounts, so that the evidence of Jesus’ Messiahship became part of the Bible, the most widely translated and distributed book in history.—John 4:25, 26.
11. How much evidence is there that Jesus was the Messiah?
11 In all, these categories of evidence include hundreds of facts that identify Jesus as the promised Messiah. Clearly, then, true Christians have rightly viewed him as ‘the one to whom all the prophets bore witness’ and the key to the knowledge of God. (Acts 10:43) But there is more to learn about Jesus Christ than the fact that he was the Messiah. Where did he originate? What was he like?
JESUS’ PREHUMAN EXISTENCE
12, 13. (a) How do we know that Jesus existed in heaven before he came to the earth? (b) Who is “the Word,” and what did he do before he became a human?
12 Jesus’ life course might be divided into three stages. The first began long before he was born on the earth. Micah 5:2 said that the Messiah’s origin was “from early times, from the days of time indefinite.” And Jesus plainly said that he had come from “the realms above,” that is, from heaven. (John 8:23; 16:28) How long had he existed in heaven before coming to the earth?
13 Jesus was called God’s “only-begotten Son” because Jehovah created him directly. (John 3:16) As “the firstborn of all creation,” Jesus was then used by God to create all other things. (Colossians 1:15; Revelation 3:14) John 1:1 says that “the Word” (Jesus in his prehuman existence) was with God “in the beginning.” So the Word was with Jehovah when “the heavens and the earth” were created. God was addressing the Word when He said: “Let us make man in our image.” (Genesis 1:1, 26) Likewise, the Word must have been God’s beloved “master worker,” described at Proverbs 8:22-31 as wisdom personified, laboring at Jehovah’s side in the making of all things. After Jehovah brought him into existence, the Word spent ages with God in heaven before becoming a man on earth.
14. Why is Jesus called “the image of the invisible God”?
14 No wonder Colossians 1:15 calls Jesus “the image of the invisible God”! Through untold years of close association, the obedient Son came to be just like his Father, Jehovah. This is another reason why Jesus is the key to the life-giving knowledge of God. Everything Jesus did while on earth is exactly what Jehovah would have done. Hence, getting to know Jesus also means increasing our knowledge of Jehovah. (John 8:28; 14:8-10) Clearly, then, it is vital to learn more about Jesus Christ.
JESUS’ LIFE COURSE ON EARTH
15. How did Jesus come to be born as a perfect baby?
15 The second stage of Jesus’ life course was here on earth. He willingly submitted as God transferred his life from heaven to the womb of a faithful Jewish virgin named Mary. Jehovah’s powerful holy spirit, or active force, ‘overshadowed’ Mary, causing her to become pregnant and eventually give birth to a perfect baby. (Luke 1:34, 35) Jesus inherited no imperfection, since his life came from a perfect Source. He was reared in a humble home as the adopted son of the carpenter Joseph and was the first of several children in the family.—Isaiah 7:14; Matthew 1:22, 23; Mark 6:3.
16, 17. (a) Where did Jesus get power to perform miracles, and what were some of them? (b) What are some qualities that Jesus displayed?
16 Jesus’ deep devotion to Jehovah God was already evident when he was 12 years old. (Luke 2:41-49) After growing up and embarking on his ministry at the age of 30, Jesus also demonstrated his profound love for his fellow humans. When God’s holy spirit empowered him to perform miracles, he compassionately healed the sick, the lame, the maimed, the blind, the deaf, the leprous. (Matthew 8:2-4; 15:30) Jesus fed hungry thousands. (Matthew 15:35-38) He calmed a storm that threatened the safety of his friends. (Mark 4:37-39) In fact, he even resurrected the dead. (John 11:43, 44) These miracles are well-established facts of history. Even Jesus’ enemies acknowledged that he ‘performed many signs.’—John 11:47, 48.
17 Jesus traveled throughout his homeland, teaching people about God’s Kingdom. (Matthew 4:17) He also set a sterling example of patience and reasonableness. Even when his disciples failed him, he sympathetically remarked: “The spirit, of course, is eager, but the flesh is weak.” (Mark 14:37, 38) Yet, Jesus was courageous and forthright with those who despised the truth and oppressed the helpless. (Matthew 23:27-33) Above all, he perfectly imitated his Father’s example of love. Jesus was even willing to die so that imperfect mankind would have a hope for the future. No wonder, then, that we may well refer to Jesus as the key to the knowledge of God! Yes, he is the living key! But why do we say a living key? This brings us to the third stage of his life course.
18. How should we envision Jesus Christ today?
18 Though the Bible reports on Jesus’ death, he is now alive! In fact, hundreds of people living in the first century C.E. were eyewitnesses of the fact that he had been resurrected. (1 Corinthians 15:3-8) As prophesied, he thereafter sat at his Father’s right hand and waited to receive kingly power in heaven. (Psalm 110:1; Hebrews 10:12, 13) So how should we envision Jesus today? Should we think of him as a helpless baby in a manger? Or as a suffering man being put to death? No. He is a mighty, reigning King! And very soon now, he will manifest his rulership over our troubled earth.
19. What action will Jesus take in the near future?
19 At Revelation 19:11-15, the King Jesus Christ is vividly described as coming with great power to destroy the wicked. How eager this loving heavenly Ruler must be to end the suffering that afflicts millions today! And he is just as eager to help those striving to imitate the perfect example he set while on earth. (1 Peter 2:21) He wants to preserve them through the rapidly approaching “war of the great day of God the Almighty,” often called Armageddon, so that they can live forever as earthly subjects of God’s heavenly Kingdom.—Revelation 7:9, 14; 16:14, 16.
20. What will Jesus do for mankind during his Thousand Year Reign?
20 During Jesus’ foretold Thousand Year Reign of peace, he will perform miracles in behalf of all mankind. (Isaiah 9:6, 7; 11:1-10; Revelation 20:6) Jesus will cure all sickness and will bring an end to death. He will resurrect billions so that they too may have an opportunity to live forever on earth. (John 5:28, 29) You will be thrilled to learn more about his Messianic Kingdom in a later chapter. Be assured of this: We cannot even imagine how wonderful our lives will be under Kingdom rule. How important it is to become better acquainted with Jesus Christ! Yes, it is essential that we never lose sight of Jesus, the living key to the knowledge of God that leads to everlasting life.
a This registration better enabled the Roman Empire to exact taxes. Hence, Augustus unwittingly helped to fulfill a prophecy about a ruler who would ‘cause an exactor to pass through the kingdom.’ The same prophecy foretold that “the Leader of the covenant,” or Messiah, would be “broken” in the days of this ruler’s successor. Jesus was killed during the reign of Augustus’ successor, Tiberius.—Daniel 11:20-22.
b The ancient Jews commonly thought in terms of weeks of years. For instance, just as every seventh day was a Sabbath day, every seventh year was a Sabbath year.—Exodus 20:8-11; 23:10, 11.
TEST YOUR KNOWLEDGE
How did Jesus’ lineage support his claim to be the Messiah?
What are some Messianic prophecies fulfilled in Jesus?
How did God directly show that Jesus was his Anointed One?
Why is Jesus the living key to the knowledge of God?
[Chart on page 37]
SOME OUTSTANDING MESSIANIC PROPHECIES
PROPHECY EVENT FULFILLMENT
HIS EARLY LIFE
Isaiah 7:14 Born of a virgin Matthew 1:18-23
Jeremiah 31:15 Babes killed after his birth Matthew 2:16-18
Isaiah 61:1, 2 His commission from God Luke 4:18-21
Isaiah 9:1, 2 Ministry caused people to Matthew 4:13-16
see a great light
Psalm 69:9 Zealous for Jehovah’s house John 2:13-17
Isaiah 53:1 Not believed in John 12:37, 38
Zechariah 9:9; Entry into Jerusalem on colt Matthew 21:1-9
Psalm 118:26 of an ass; hailed as king
and as the one coming in
HIS BETRAYAL AND DEATH
Psalm 41:9; 109:8 One apostle unfaithful; Acts 1:15-20
betrays Jesus and is
Zechariah 11:12 Betrayed for 30 pieces Matthew 26:14, 15
Psalm 27:12 False witnesses used Matthew 26:59-61
Psalm 22:18 Lots cast for his garments John 19:23, 24
Isaiah 53:12 Numbered with sinners Matthew 27:38
Psalm 22:7, 8 Reviled while dying Mark 15:29-32
Psalm 69:21 Given vinegar Mark 15:23, 36
Isaiah 53:5; Pierced John 19:34, 37
Isaiah 53:9 Buried with the rich Matthew 27:57-60
Psalm 16:8-11, ftn. Raised before corruption Acts 2:25-32;
[Picture on page 35]
God gave Jesus the power to cure the sick