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Gospel Questions I:

Chronology of Jesus' Life, the Gospels and Cherubs of Revelation,

and who Wrote Matthew?

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Question #1:  I've never been able to find a good timeline of Jesus' life; more specifically, him choosing his disciples. I've read in some books that Jesus was starting to make a name for himself over the period of a couple months, and as his reputation was starting to build, that's when he chose his disciples (seeing as how they'd actually know about him before). I've also heard lots of other people say that he basically cold called his disciples. They'd never really heard or seen each other until jesus walks up to them and tells them to follow him and they do it. Now I'm assuming that there was something magnetic about Jesus, but it's hard for me to think that the future disciples didn't really know anything about the man before forsaking all they knew to follow him. Is there any light to be shed on this? Had Jesus been teaching in their area for a couple months so they at least knew about him? Was talk and gossip and rumors starting to spread about Jesus being the coming Messiah? Did they even know about Jesus before he invited them to follow him, and if they did, how long?

Response #1:  Putting the four gospels together as a "history" is very difficult and more problematic than you might imagine. Generally speaking, very few actual "Bible believers" are engaged in this sort of thing at present. The best book I know of which attempts to do this is Thomas and Gundry's "Harmony of the Gospels" (Moody 1978), and even this leaves much to debate. Most of these sorts of issues like the ones you are in the process of addressing require a good bit of careful study of the texts, careful comparison, and then fitting these detailed "tactical" decisions into a broad "strategic" framework. What one would eventually come up with is a "Life of Christ" that covered every aspect of all these issues, including a chronological scheme. I can tell as someone who has toyed with the idea that it would be a massive undertaking.

I have recently finished part 4A of the Basics series, "Christology" (see the link), and I do give a brief "life of Christ" overview (brief = around 130 pages single spaced (see the specific link, section I.5, "The Life of Christ"). Even this overview may not be detailed enough to answer every question you may have, and of necessity is "light" when it comes to the details of our Lord's three and a half year ministry (since that material comprises the bulk of the four gospels, and they obviously cannot be covered acceptably in one study; they each deserve their own verse by verse exegesis). So I do invite you to have a look at that link. In the distant future, that is, once I completed the Basics series, the Coming Tribulation series, and gotten some sort of resolution with the Peter series, I intend to start doing some sort of weekly run through of one of the gospels or perhaps a "Harmony". Not only is this project many years out, it will no doubt take many years to complete once begun (as they used to say in my Jewish neighborhood in Chicago, "You should live so long!").

There are of course more harmonies out there (there is an excellent one in German/Greek done by the United Bible Societies, and these things of course go way back, the Diatessaron of Tatian in the 2nd century being the first of which we know; and Burton and Goodspeed was a very popular one in times past: in Greek), but as I say they all have their issues and none of them is comprehensive about addressing the sort of problems or questions such as you ask here. Most of the "Life of Christ"s you will find out there have been done by individuals who don't believe in either the Bible or the divinity of Christ, and are not worth the paper they are written on, so beware. There are individual works which can be helpful (H.W. Hoehner's "Chronological Aspects in the Life of Christ" is excellent, though limited in scope and I disagree with some of his conclusions, most significantly his dating of the crucifixion). Also, some commentaries will occasionally offer helpful information too (although Bible commentaries generally, even when done by believers and Bible-believing organizations tend to be of very little use whatsoever in my experience – certainly nowhere near worth the high prices usually charged). I am also very high on the "NIV Study Bible" ed. K. Barker, but when it comes down to it these sorts of questions usually have to be tackled de novo.

I do have a basic, overall time-line comparing Jesus and John's ministries (see the link: "Comparative Chronology of the Lives and Ministries of Jesus and John").

Now to get to the specifics of your actual question about the disciples I would say apropos of the above that figuring out where the pertinent passages on this issue from each of the four gospels fall in time is indeed – as you rightly perceive – the key issue that has to be resolved before we can make any sort of judgment. In my view, the additional material provided by John must be placed first, before the information we have from the other three gospels on this topic (the so-called "synoptics"). For it is very clear from John that Philip, Andrew, Peter and Nathanael, son of Tholmai (i.e., "Bar-tholomew") all became acquainted with Jesus the Messiah as a result of their connection to John the baptist and their presence with him on the Jordan at the time when Jesus came to be baptized (Jn.1:29-51: John the b. calls Him "the Lamb of God" and Andrew tells Peter "we have found the Messiah!"). So when our Lord later calls Peter and his brother along with James and John (Matt.4:18-22; Mk.1:16-20), this by far was not the first time Peter and Andrew had met Jesus, and I would suspect that it was also not the first time the other two had met Him either. John's gospel gives us quite a bit more information about the early part of Christ's three and a half year public ministry than do the other three gospels, and how precisely to fit this all together is not in my view adequately explained anywhere in print (for a general overview of how we know about the 3 1/2 years see the scripture refs. and discussion connected to the chart linked above in part 5 of the Satanic Rebellion series, section II.9.a, "The Life of Christ"). For example, Thomas and Gundry, whom I greatly esteem, have probably loaded in too much of John's gospel prior to the formal call of the first four disciples. Another thing that is commonly not understood by readers of the gospels is that by far the bulk of the events and teachings described therein come towards the end of the 3.5 year period of our Lord's earthly ministry, that is, the final months before the cross, with comparatively much less occurring towards the beginning being covered. Once the public ministry begins following our Lord's baptism and temptation, I would say that around three quarters of all that remains in the gospels deals with the events and teachings just prior to and including the final year of Jesus' earthly ministry.

Given that we know from John's gospel that four of the disciples had had important and no doubt considerable contact with our Lord well before their formal calling, and that, being closely associated with Peter and Andrew in their family business, James and John – if they had not indeed already had contact with our Lord in Galilee or on the Jordan – had certainly been "evangelized" by Peter and Andrew before the call, it makes a certain amount of sense to assume that the other six likewise did not set eyes on our Lord for the very first time when they too were called. Of course we cannot say for sure about this. Levi (aka Matthew) is called while at work in his capacity as a tax collector and immediately leaves everything to follow Jesus (Matt.9:9-13; Mk.2:13-15; Lk.5:27-32). On first reading it might appear that when Jesus sees him and says "Follow Me!" that this is their first encounter, but 1) nothing in any of these three texts necessitates this (the NIV trans. of Luke "noticed" is misleading for this reason), and 2) given how the synoptics cover the call of the four where we might, but for John's account of the events on the Jordan, make the same [in that case incorrect] assumption about Peter and Andrew, it is fair to assume that Matthew and Jesus had met previously, or at least that Matthew had attended some of Jesus' teaching and was a believer in Him as a result before the fact (that much would seem to be essential).

One thing to consider in all this is that our Lord, in keeping with the principle of "kenosis" (see the link in BB 4A: "Kenosis") whereby He restricted Himself from having full access to the benefits of His deity in order to suffer through a life of humanity just as we do (albeit perfectly and under more pressure and opposition than we could ever imagine), still had to use judgment, observation, and prayer to select the correct 12 disciples who would also, with the exception of course of Judas, become His apostles. As He says "I chose you" (Jn.6:70; cf. Mk.3:14; Lk.6:13), and we are also told that before making His pick "official", He spent the entire night in prayer over this exceptionally important decision (Lk.6:12-13). So I think that it is right for us to understand that the selection of the twelve was a process about which we have only a few details. We can certainly surmise, as you do in your email, that these men were seeking God and came into contact with our Lord first through John's ministry and then through interaction with our Lord personally (cf. the wedding at Cana where no doubt some of the 12 – and particularly John – at least figure into the description of "Jesus disciples": Jn.2:2 – this is after the first four, had already been convinced of His Messiahship at the Jordan), and in the case of some – possibly Matthew – through exposure to His own teachings and miracles. As these events occurred over the better part of a year, we may assume that our Lord, empowered by the Spirit, had ample opportunity to observe these men and be led by the Spirit to choose the right ones (even Judas' selection was of course necessary to fulfill prophecy and bring about the betrayal leading to the cross whereby we are all saved).

One place I will probably have to differ with you is on the point of charisma or "magnetism". Scripture, it seems to me, on the contrary paints a picture our Lord giving His contemporaries the option of "plausible deniability". That is to say, all who were not hard-hearted would see that He was the Messiah, but all who were not really seeking God in truth could easily brush Him aside as insignificant. There was no overwhelming charisma that made it clear to all that He was the One – you had first to be truly looking for "the One" in order to see that Jesus was He. This is the reason why He taught in parables, for example, so as to allow the truth to remain obscure from all those who were not seeking the truth in truth. And that, I would say, is also why the Bible is not written in such a way as to overwhelm the unbelieving world with its truth prima facie: a person first has to be truly seeking the truth in order to see that scripture is nothing but the truth. Of Christ in His first advent wherein His glory was deliberately masked we find the prophecy related to this principle in Isaiah:

(2b) He had no [particular] handsomeness that we should take note of Him, no [obvious] charisma that we should be taken with Him. (3) [On the contrary,] He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with suffering. Like a person people hide their faces from, He was despised, and we did not hold Him of any account.
Isaiah 53:2b-3

You too should have this attitude which Christ Jesus had. Since He already existed in the very form of God, equality with God was [certainly] not something He thought He had to grasp for. Yet in spite of this [co-equal divinity He already possessed], He deprived Himself of His status and took on the form of a slave, [and was] born in the likeness of men. He humbled Himself, becoming obedient to the point of death, even [His] death on [the] cross [for us all].
Philippians 2:5-8

I think that this is an important point, because unlike Jesus in His first advent where His glory was masked, antichrist will have incredible charisma and be proclaimed by the unbelieving world as "the Messiah" as a result (see the link: "The Charisma of Antichrist" in CT 3B).

And one of the [beast's] heads [looked] as [if] it had been fatally smitten yet its mortal wound had been healed. And the entire earth was in awe of the beast. And they worshiped the dragon because he had given his authority to the beast. And they worshiped the beast, saying, "Who is like the beast? And who is able to make war with him?".
Revelation 13:3-4

In our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #2: 

Question: Was Galatians written before the 4 gospels of MATT, MARK, LUKE, and JOHN? Paul states in Gal. 1:11-12.....that the gospel he preached was not according to man, he received the gospel not of man but came through the revelation of Jesus Christ (road to Damascus) In verses 13-24 Paul proves his gospel that he preaches by the facts pertaining to his preconversion conduct (vs13-14), his conversion (vs15-16), and his post conversion activities (vs 17-24) Thanks for your time and info.

Response #2: 

I think you are probably correct (with the possible exception of Matthew), though the precise dating of the gospels vis- -vis the epistles and the history they contain is a complex and somewhat difficult question. However, I think that the essence of your question really hinges on the content of "the gospel". It is true that the first four books of the New Testament are traditionally known as "gospels", even though this superscription in the manuscripts is late in every case (and not original). But to Paul, and to all the writers of the Bible for that matter, the "gospel" is the entire good news about Jesus Christ, the proclamation of the forgiveness of sins and eternal life (in place of an otherwise universal mortality and condemnation) for all who turn to Jesus in faith and follow Him faithfully in this life. These truths are taught everywhere in the New Testament, not only in the first four books. So when Paul makes this statement in Galatians chapter one, to wit that he has had independent divine revelation of the truth of Christ's good news, he is making it clear that he did not learn about Jesus from Peter or the rest of the apostles and elders in Jerusalem but directly from God. Clearly, this happened whether or not Matthew had yet written his gospel (the first of the four). Mark, writing under the auspices of Peter, and Luke, writing under Paul's authority, would both compose their gospels after the point of time Paul is describing in Galatians, and John's gospel is the last of the four. It is also important to point out that Paul is recalling a much earlier situation in his letter to the Galatians, a time when it is certainly possible that even Matthew was not yet written or at least in wide circulation.

For more about the content of the gospel in theological terms, please see the following link:

The Gospel and the Kingdom of God.

In our Lord who died for us.

Bob Luginbill

Question #3: 

My bible teacher told me that each gospel has it's own perspective of presenting Christ, such as the Gospel of John focuses mainly on the Deity of Jesus and His role as the Messiah and our Savior. He also said that cherubim found in the Old Testament are a type of Christ. and that each of the faces represents the gospel. Matthew (lion) presents Christ as King and deals with His kingdom. Mark (Ox) presents Christ as a servant of His father doing His fathers will. Luke (man) presents Christ as the perfect man. And lastly John (eagle) presents Christ as the Son of God and His role in saving mankind. Do you know if this is true? Thanks in advance! 

Response #3: 

Yes, on the gospels, I agree that they are all a bit different, and all present important, complementary pictures of our Lord's earthly life, ministry, and work of salvation. I don't know that I would want to restrict myself to a specific characterization precisely along the lines of what you report, since each gospel says what it says and means what it means verse by verse (and, for example, all of them demonstrate the deity of Christ, His Messiahship, and His role as our Savior).

On the cherubs, this is another subject about which I have written rather a lot (see the links below). I do think that each Cherub's emphasized face presents a different aspect of our Lord's various roles (they actually all have all four faces, but in e.g. Revelation they each turn a different face to John's perspective: see the link to the chart "Cherubs" in Bible charts and illustrations). My take on the roles is somewhat similar to what you present here, but there are differences (for example, I take the eagle to symbolize Christ in resurrection and at His return to rule; cf. "where the eagles gather"). Another place where I differ with this analysis is assigning these roles to the gospels where, as I say, the distinction of such emphasis is not at all clear to me (or, I would guess, to most anyone reading through the gospels). John's gospel is the last and latest and most divergent in terms of its content, structure and approach, but while the humanity of Jesus comes through very clearly in John, so does His deity (and, I would argue, that is true of all the gospels, just presented somewhat differently in each). Rather, I think that the cherubs represent the meshing of our Lord's roles with the four ages of human history. Here is a brief excerpt:

So it is that the four cherubs who attend God's throne represent four important aspects of Christ's unique Person and work. Moreover in doing so (a point which is apropos of our immediate topic), the symbolism which each of the four faces of the cherubim espouses corresponds to a primary aspect of Christ's person and work as it is revealed within each of the four ages of human history:

*Bullock-face: (Gentiles): Christ promised to all humanity in general as Savior.

* Lion-face: (Israel): Christ promised to Israel in particular as Messiah.

* Human-face: (Church): Christ come in person in the flesh in humility as the Servant.

* Eagle-face: (Millennium): Christ come in person in the flesh in glory as the King.

 

As I say, you can find out all the details about the cherubs including their symbolism from the links below:

The Four Living Creatures (from CT 2B)

Cherubs (from BB 2A)

Cherubs (from SR #5)

Cherubs (from SR #1)

In our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #4:  

How are we as Christians suppose to spread the message of the Gospel? I understand that as Christians we have a duty to witness. Pass out tracts, give out Bibles, give kids Christian literature. Are there any other ways I can witness to others?

Response #4: 

I am sure there are an unlimited number of very creative ways in which a person might disseminate the gospel, and, being a clearly intelligent and creative person, I am confident that you are capable of coming up with more and more inventive ways of doing so than I ever could.

However, this question gives me the opportunity of addressing an issue that most Christian groups seem entirely to fail to consider when it comes to the issue of spreading the gospel, namely, that of preparation. Now while it is true that God is capable of using even the most unprepared person and even persons who are bad witnesses in term of their lives, if I were an unbeliever, I know for certain that the quality of the character of the person who was witnessing to me would make a big difference in the authority I was willing to grant them as they spoke with me. If I were aware, for example that the person either 1) was clearly carnal in many of their activities or 2) was clearly a hypocritical legalist, making issues of things like card-playing and dancing and present-day-tithing and the like, things that even the average unbeliever knows have nothing to do with the Bible let alone eternal life, then I would be very unlikely to believe anything this person said or be inclined to give them the time of day. On the other hand, if someone was actually living in a Christ-like way, the love of Christ being reflected in all they said and thought and did would be most attractive and appealing, and would surely whet my appetite to want to know where this grace came from if I were the least bit interested in having a relationship with God.

Secondly, I have heard many Christians give canned speeches on the gospel, and they are very annoying in my view. I know of many unbelievers would never respond positively to the parroting out of information which while true is very clearly not well-digested or well-formed but only superficially and artificially possessed by the witness. On the other hand, I can tell you from personal experience from "both sides of the field" that when one meets a person whose knowledge of the truth is deep and well-digested, fully formed and understood and believed, carefully considered and made an intimate part of who they are, the words pack a power and a grace that cannot help but impress even the disinterested.

What I am saying here is that God uses prepared people "with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace" (Eph.6:15). And the better prepared we are, the better job we will necessarily do. There is no lack in the otherwise lackadaisical Christian community for wanting to evangelize the unsaved, and I suppose I should like Paul be content that some preach "out of inordinate competition" (Phil.1:17). But in Paul's day, Christ was little known. In our culture, who has never heard of Jesus Christ? So when an unprepared person tackles an unbeliever out of zeal (sometimes born more out of a desire to score points with fellow believers in their church than from being moved by the Spirit) and muddies the waters with false information, or creates skepticism because of a bad life witness, or cannot answer effectively the deep and probing questions of a thoughtful unbeliever because of insufficient personal spiritual growth – then the result is often more harm than good being done.

The best thing we can do whatever it is we want to do to respond to the Lord is to make the commitment to personal spiritual growth through taking in and believing the Word of God. All truly effective production and ministry flows from growing closer to and walking closer with Jesus Christ – and that is true of evangelism as well.

In the One who died for all that all might saved through faith in Him, our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Bob L.

Question #5: 

There is a world well-known TV and travelling evangelist who has written so many books and is selling them to Christians. For instance, he says, "stake your claim for God's Nine Promised Passover Blessings when you obey God and come before Him with your Passover offering." He mentioned nine Passover Blessings written in Exodus 23:20-31. Is it not that when we accepted Jesus Christ as our Savior and Lord we are already recipients of so many blessings? And as we grow in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, do not these blessings become more apparent and clear to us?

Yours in His service,

Response #5: 

I agree with you completely. What we have by virtue of our faith in Jesus Christ is an assortment of blessing so sublime that nothing in this material world could ever compare. And what we shall have on that great day of days when our Savior appears is more wonderful than can even be presently imagined. This is our hope – not the receipt of some financial or material success in this short-lived world of dust and decay.

As far as I am aware, Exodus 23 is not even one of the common passages recited at traditional Passover services. Be that as it may, these verses are designed to give the children of Israel an overall "code of conduct" for their behavior in the land of promise they should have inherited almost immediately. Of course, through rebellious backsliding the entrance was delayed forty years. In any case, these blessings are for Israelites of that age, not really for anyone else directly. Now it is certainly true that everything written is for our profit:

For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.
Romans 15:4 NIV

That said, the method we use to interpret scripture is extremely important. For there are acceptable hermeneutics, and there is "twisting". In my own view of these things, one has to have a very good justification to make a literal application to Christians today of a passage in the Law clearly not written for us or to us. For example, in this same chapter the Israelites are told that the Lord will bless them by driving out the Canaanites before them. Now there are no more Canaanites, so that if someone wants to apply this blessing to us by saying something like all those who oppose us are "Canaanites", without even addressing the dubious nature of that claim we can at the very least say that this passage has now ceased to be interpreted "literally" and that the application is being applied "metaphorically". Since there are a good many things in the passage you ask about which must be taken this way if it is to be applied to us (since many of the things described relate to a historical situation that no longer exists; i.e., this is no more Palestine of the fifteenth century B.C., we are not Israelites, etc.), great care must be taken in making the application. Since the passage cannot be taken literally but only applied to us nowadays by analogy, then ipso facto there is great danger in taking only one part or another, or, even worse, relying on one's own private interpretation and creating a new "doctrine" thereof.

I think that are many wonderful things we can get from Exodus 23:20-31. However, since they come by way of teaching-application and analogy just as the Romans 15:4 passage suggests, anything someone would teach on the basis of this passage would need to agree 100% with what scripture teaches directly elsewhere in the Bible. I can certainly glean from this passage that putting anything ahead of God in one's values-system will bring cursing (for idolatry). I can certainly get from these verses that God blesses in a whole variety of ways those who stick close to Him. Promises of specific material blessings, however, are very suspect. I am working in a bit of vacuum here since I am not familiar with the ministry you ask about, but if my prior experience with "prosperity gospel" teachings is any guide, no doubt very tangible and specific material blessings are likely being promised on the basis of these verses (healing, financial success, marital bliss, etc., etc.). It is true that God loves us; it is true that Jesus died for us; and it is true that we are possessed of all manner of blessings – spiritual ones "in the heavenlies" (Eph.1:3). And God does grant us temporal as well as spiritual success and He does provide for us materially, often if a very bountiful way.

But the Church Age is not a time of increased material bounty based upon faith in material blessing; rather it is a time of opportunity for spiritual growth and production for untold bounty in eternal reward. We would all rather be rich than poor (although Solomon's advice on this is best: Prov.30:7-7; and Paul's is similar: 1Tim.6:3-10; Heb.13:5; and so is James': Jas.2:5-7; 5:1-6); we all would rather be healthy than sick (though God's grace is sufficient: 2Cor.12:9-10; cf. Phil.4:11-13); we all would rather be successful and well-thought than otherwise (but it is really God's attitude that counts: Lk.14:7-11). The question is, what has God called us to Himself to do, and why have we been left here in this world after salvation? I am sure that He is blessing any number of believers as a witness to Himself and of the true benefit of being close to God. However, when I look at the great believers of the New Testament, I see "not many rich, not many powerful, not many successful" (to paraphrase Paul); I see many persecuted, many poor, many "wandering about in goatskins and living in holes in the earth" – great Christians of whom the world is not worthy (Heb.11:36-38). For me, one of the great dangers of the prosperity gospel is that it assumes with absolutely no scriptural support and of course really with much scripture in opposition that if a person is not "healthy and wealthy" etc., that such a person is not a good Christian or is "doing something wrong" in their Christian approach. And conversely it must also therefore falsely assume that those who are rich and without a care are the "really good Christians". That is absurd on its face, and it certainly is contradicted by the lives of all the great apostles and prophets. In light of the swiftly approaching Tribulation, when the best Christians are likely to have the worst experiences – when looked at from a worldly perspective – such thinking and teaching is dangerous in the extreme. It seems to me that those who adhere to this sort of approach are fulfilling or at least on the point of fulfilling the following passage:

If anyone teaches false doctrines and does not agree to the sound instruction of our Lord Jesus Christ and to godly teaching, he is conceited and understands nothing. He has an unhealthy interest in controversies and quarrels about words that result in envy, strife, malicious talk, evil suspicions and constant friction between men of corrupt mind, who have been robbed of the truth and who think that godliness is a means to financial gain. But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. People who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.
1st Timothy 6:3-10 NIV

Most of us in this country have indeed been blessed far beyond Paul's minimum standard here (food and clothing), and have tremendous opportunities for learning the truths of the Word of God and helping others do the same through the ministries with which we variously have been entrusted. The question is, are we doing so? Or are we clamoring for "more" even as we fail to make proper use of the bounty we already have? That is the very definition of greed and covetousness, which things are the modern equivalent of idolatry (cf. Col.3:5; Eph.5:5), the very thing Exodus 23 (our context) warns against so vehemently. The prosperity gospel and its fellow-travelers wrest our focus from what is above to what is below, from what is to come to what is now. But this is what our Lord tells us in this regard:

"Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also."
Matthew 6:19-21 NIV

If you have not already done so, you may want to have a look at these other links on the subject:

Are health and wealth a part of the gospel?

The Dangers of the Prosperity Gospel.

The "Prosperity Gospel"

Does God really want us to be sick and poor?

Yours in the Lord Jesus Christ, the One who is our Great Reward (cf. Gen.15:1).

Bob Luginbill

Question #6: 

I have some questions:

1. How did Jews in the OT get to paradise? Was it of works by sacrifices or something else..?

2. What happened to those in paradise when Jesus died?

3. What point did the Apostles receive Christ as Savior? 

I'm pretty sure I know the answers but I want to discuss this according to what the scriptures say. Thanks in advance!

Response #6: 

To answer your questions:

1) Everyone has always been saved in the exact same way, "by grace through faith". Before the cross, mankind looked forward to the cross "through a glass darkly"; after the cross, we look back to the cross with complete acuity. Before the cross, the issues were not as clear, it is true, because it was extremely difficult grasp that the Messiah, truly divine, would become a human being and die in our place for all of our sins. Yet the animal sacrifices that obtained since the coats of skin made for Adam and Eve by the Lord and since Abel's sacrifice were a clear picture that it was precisely by having in faith in God that He would provide a substitute for our sin (which the sacrifices represented) and believing in that substitution and the cleansing it would have for sin that believers were saved. "Now [Abraham] trusted in the Lord, and [the Lord] considered him righteous because of it." (Gen.15:6; cf. Rom.4:3-23; Heb.11:17-19). So while the details were not made as clear in the Old Testament as they are in the New (although cf. for example Isaiah 52-53), the same exact standard has always applied: Faith in God's Substitute; for the Old Testament believers, faith in what God would do; for all of us since the cross, particular faith in what God has done in the sacrifice of His Son Jesus Christ on the cross for us.

2) Following His resurrection, Jesus led "captivity captive" (Eph.4:8), taking all believers from paradise below in His train up to the third heaven (cf. Ps.68:18; 68:24-27; 146:7b; Is.14:17b; 42:7; 49:9; 61:1; Jn.14:2-3; 17:24; Col.2:15; 1Pet.3:18-22; Rev.1:18). This could not happen before the cross since it is only on the basis of the historical reality of the blood of Christ that we otherwise sinful human beings could appear in God's holy presence (Heb.9:24; cf. Rom.3:25: ". . . Jesus Christ, whom God foreordained as a means of atonement [appropriated] through faith [and validated] by means of His blood (i.e., His sacrifice on the cross) to demonstrate His righteousness in overlooking the previously committed sins [of the world].").

3) Well of course Judas never did believe; and Paul believed immediately upon Jesus' revelation to him on the road to Damascus. As to the other eleven, that is a difficult thing to prove for certain, but I would argue that the other eleven were indeed believers very early on (cf. Jn.1:49). Along the lines of my answer in #1 above, the disciples/apostles were viewing Jesus face to face, but with His glory veiled and before He died on the cross and was resurrected. Therefore I would say that it was entirely possible that they did indeed have absolute faith in God's provision of a sacrifice for sin, and of their need to appropriate His grace through faith, and that they even understood that Jesus was the Messiah who would come and rule the world (cf. Matt.16:13ff.), and yet did not really fathom that the way in which God would provide for their atonement was by making Jesus Himself the sin-Bearer. Clearly, they did not entirely understand that point (even after the fact; cf. Lk.24:25-27). So the disciples/apostles give us an excellent view of the transition from OT anticipation and wondering about this issue of how exactly salvation would be accomplished and coming to terms with the reality of the necessity for the cross to precede the crown.

The prophets diligently investigated and inquired about this salvation, when they prophesied about this grace [that was to come] to you. For they were eager to discover the precise time the Spirit of Christ within them was signifying as He predicted the sufferings of Christ and the glories that would follow. For it was revealed to them that in prophesying these things, they were not so much serving themselves as they were you – and these same things have now been proclaimed to you through those who gave you the gospel through the Holy Spirit, sent from heaven – even angels want to look into these things.
1st Peter 1:10-12

In the One who died in our place that we might have eternal life, our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Bob L.

Question #7: 

Someone from my church had told me that Matthew may not have written the Gospel of Matthew, that it could have been one of Paul's followers or someone else. And that there is no real evidence that Matthew actually wrote it...is this true?

Response #7: 

I would not agree for the following reasons:

1) The gospel of Matthew is quoted by nearly all of the early Church witnesses by the name "Gospel of Matthew".

2) The best and earliest manuscripts all have this name as their title for the book, i.e., "Gospel of Matthew" (lit., in Greek: "according to Matthew").

3) Those early witnesses who discuss authorship all name Matthew as the author (e.g., Papias, Irenaeus, Origen).

4) There is absolutely no evidence to support an alternative theory.

5) As H.C. Thiessen points out in his Introduction to the New Testament, p.132, "Matthew was not conspicuous among the apostles, and it would be strange for tradition to assign the Gospel to him if he did not write it". I find this a particularly compelling point, because it is in the nature of apocryphal and pseudepigraphical works for those who want their work to be thought of as belonging to some famous person to choose extremely famous persons rather than lesser lights in the public's way of thinking about these things: i.e., if this were "the gospel of Peter" this point would be less telling.

6) The call of Matthew is described in all three of the synoptic gospels, but Matthew is the only one where Matthew is called "Matthew" (he is "Levi" in Mark and Luke). It seems to me that Matthew has used his "grace name" ("Matthew" means "gift of the Lord") rather than his given name as the only mark of signature, a truly humble act by a truly humble man.

Please also see the following links: 

Did Matthew write his gospel in Hebrew?

Gospel Questions II

Gospel Questions III

Hope this helps.

In our Lord Jesus,

Bob L.

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