Divine Principle Four Hour Lecture
The Advent of the Messiah and the Purpose of His Second Coming
The Meaning of Salvation
Then, has God given up His ideal of creation which has never been realized? The Bible gives a clear answer. In Isa. 46:11 God says, "I have spoken, and I will bring it to pass; I have purposed, and I will do it." God will surely accomplish His goal. The God of love could not leave fallen mankind in such circumstances. Instead, God has been working for man's restoration.
What is restoration? In one word, it is re-creation. To save a sick man is to restore him to health. To save a drowning man is to rescue him and restore him to the state he was in before drowning. Therefore, God's restoration of man means for Him to restore fallen mankind in this sinful world to the original world God had intended in the very beginning.
God's goal of restoration is to realize the ideal individual which He originally planned, and through him realize the original family, and based on that family, the original society, nation and world.
For this goal of salvation, God sent His only Son, Jesus Christ, as savior to this world. Therefore, the Messiah must stand before God as the origin of the ideal individual and thus be able to establish the ideal family, the goal of God's creation and the object of His love. The Messiah would then realize the ideal nation and world to bring about the Kingdom of Heaven on earth.
God and Israel
God truly loved the chosen people. He prophesied many times of the coming of the Messiah and warned the people to expect his coming. God also prepared the great John the Baptist, who was to testify to the Messiah for the people of Israel. Thus, the nation of Israel had been truly waiting for the Messiah. However, tragically, the much-prepared chosen people failed to recognize the Messiah when he came. The Son of God was left with no other choice but to persuade the people himself that he was the Son of God, yet he was not understood, branded as blasphemous, and ultimately crucified. Even Pilate, a pagan ruler, knew of Jesus' innocence, yet ironically the people who condemned Jesus were the chosen people and prepared Jewish leaders themselves. How could this have happened?
Christians have traditionally believed that Jesus' death on the cross was the original plan of God. No! This is absolutely false. It was the Israelite's ignorance of God's will that led to the crucifixion of Jesus. God's will was clearly to lead the chosen people to believe in and accept the Messiah and be saved (John 6:29). The Jewish people did not know who Jesus of Nazareth was, for they even jeered that they would believe in him as savior only if he would come down from the cross, even as he hung dying. John 1:11 says, "He came to his own home, and his own people received him not." Paul also testified that " none of the rulers of this age understood this; for if they had they would not have crucified the Lord of glory" (I Cor. 2:8).
Christians everywhere today do not know what actually occurred at the time of Jesus. If it was God's will solely to crucify his Son, why did He prepare a chosen people for so long? Wasn't it expressly to protect His Son from a disbelieving world?
In the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus prayed, "My soul is very sorrowful, even to death ... My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me" (Matt. 26:36-38). Jesus uttered this prayer, not once, but three times. Many Christians today believe that although his mission was to die on the cross, Jesus, out of human weakness, uttered this timid prayer. But, could Jesus Christ, the savior of mankind, utter any prayer out of weakness?
Neither the first Christian martyr, Stephen, nor any of the many martyrs who followed ever prayed from such weakness. Did they ever ask, "Let this cup pass from me" as they were dying? What makes present-day Christians believe that Jesus was weaker than these martyrs? Especially because his sole purpose of coming to this world was to save mankind, why did Jesus pray this way?
Jesus, prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane was not a self-centered or timid prayer, uttered out of fear of dying. Rather, if there were any way-any way at all-that Jesus could have saved mankind, he would have gladly died hundreds of times over. He had been working all his life to accomplish his messianic mission and to realize God's purpose of creation here on earth.
Jesus' heart was so grieved that God's will would have to wait for thousands of years if he died without succeeding in his mission. He also foresaw that his disciples and all of his followers to come-the Christians-would have to go through the same agonizing way of shedding blood as he did on the cross. He also anguished over the troubled future that would befall the people of Israel who had rejected him. Therefore, in the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus, as a last desperate prayer to God, was really saying: "Even in these desperate circumstances, let me remain on earth so that I can continue my mission, no matter what the price. Show me any way I can do this."
If dying on the cross was predestined by God, why did Jesus say to Judas Iscariot, who betrayed him, "Woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been better for that man if he had not been born" (Matt. 26:24).
Moreover, how can we explain Jesus' cry on the cross, "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?" (Matt. 27:46). If the crucifixion was the only way God prepared for Jesus, why didn't he feel resounding joy upon successfully completing his mission?
The crucifixion was not God's original will for Jesus, the Son of God; rather, it became God's painful alternative caused by the distrust of the people of Israel. What would have happened if all the people of Israel believed in Jesus and welcomed and loved him? Most certainly, salvation would have been realized. The purpose of creation would have been accomplished and thereby the Kingdom of Heaven on earth established. The people of Israel would have become the honored central nation of that ideal world and division would never have arisen between Judaism and Christianity nor would either of them have had to undergo the tribulations they have endured. Furthermore, because the will of God would have been done on earth, the Second Coming of Christ would have been totally unnecessary.
To put it clearly, Jesus' crucifixion was only a secondary course of salvation, and provided only spiritual salvation. Because Jesus was neither trusted nor received by the Israelites, God had to pay the price for the sinful distrust of all mankind by giving His only Son to Satan as a ransom. Therefore, Satan could claim Jesus' body. This is why Jesus' precious blood on the cross became the price for the redemption of all mankind.
The Limit of Salvation through Redemption by the Cross
From that point, God could resurrect Jesus and open up a way of spiritual salvation not invaded by Satan. Thus God's only victory was not that of the crucifixion but that of Jesus' resurrection. As a result, the physical bodies of mankind, which were meant to belong to Jesus through acceptance and love, became subject to Satan's invasion. The only way left open was the way towards spiritual salvation, which could be won by believing in and loving Jesus spiritually and being resurrected spiritually as he was.
Even after Jesus' appearance on earth, the world continues to be ruled by Satan, and sin mercilessly persists in the bodies of men. The Apostle Paul lamented, "Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? ... I of myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin" (Rom. 7:24-25). As a saint, Paul was so devout and full in his love of the Lord, but his flesh continued to be oppressed by sin. Since this is true for all mankind, we are taught to "pray constantly" (Thess. 5:17) to protect us from satanic invasion. Also, we read in I John 1: 10, "If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar," Which tells us that mankind is still under the bondage of sin.
Therefore, the Lord must come again to completely liquidate the sins that remain and to establish the Kingdom of Heaven on earth, the purpose of God's creation.
The Messiah and Elijah
At this point, there is one matter which we must delve into regarding Jesus' having to go the way of the cross. God had repeatedly prophesied to the chosen people about the coming of the Messiah, and the chosen people themselves longed for and cherished the promise of his coming. Then how could God send the Messiah in such a way that the chosen people could not recognize him? Was it God's will that they not recognize and receive the Messiah? Or did God clearly show them how he was to come, but the people failed to recognize him?
Let us first examine the second coming of Elijah. In Malachi, the last book of the Old Testament, it says, "Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the great and terrible day of the Lord comes. And he will turn the hearts of fathers to their children and the hearts of children to their fathers. . ." (Mal. 4:5-6). The great and terrible day referred to is the day when the Lord comes, and this prophecy shows that before the Messiah can come, Elijah must first come again.
Elijah was one of the great prophets of Israel who lived 900 years before the coming of Jesus, and had ascended into heaven on a chariot of fire. The Israelites' longing for the Messiah was indicated by their expectation for the arrival of the historical prophet, Elijah. This was because the Old Testament did not clearly foretell when the Messiah would come, but did clearly indicate that Elijah would come before him.
The Trend of Jewish Thought
It was under these very circumstances that Jesus appeared, proclaiming himself as the Messiah. He told the Jewish people that he was the Son of God-the very people who thought that he was simply a man from Nazareth. They had not yet heard any news of Elijah's coming, so they asked "how could it be possible that Jesus of Nazareth is the Son of God?"
Thus, when Jesus' disciples went out among the people of Israel, testifying to Jesus, the people asked, "If your master is the Messiah, then where is the Elijah who is to come first?" So, Jesus' disciples turned around and asked the same question of Jesus: "and the disciples asked him, 'then why do the scribes say that first Elijah must come? He replied, 'Elijah does come, and he is to restore all things; but I tell you that Elijah has already come, and they did not know him, but did to him whatever they pleased.' Then they understood that he was speaking to them of John the Baptist" (Matt. 17:10-13).
Jesus understood the meaning of the scribes asking this important question and indicated that John the Baptist was the second coming of Elijah. Jesus' own disciples could easily believe this, but the Israelites in general could not so easily believe it. John the Baptist did not come directly from heaven and he himself even denied he was Elijah (John 1:21). Jesus knew that the people would not easily accept this, saying, "if you are willing to accept it, he is Elijah who is to come" (Matt. 11:14).
Jesus said that John the Baptist was the Elijah whom the people had been long awaiting, but when John himself denied this, whom would the people of Israel believe? Naturally, it would depend on how these two were viewed by the people of that time.
How did Jesus appear to the people? Jesus was known only as the son of a humble carpenter and was not even well-schooled. Yet, Jesus proclaimed himself the Lord of the Sabbath (Matt. 12:8), held himself as one who was higher than the Law (Matt. 5:17), and became the friend of tax collectors, prostitutes and sinners, even eating and drinking with them (Matt. 11: 19). He equated himself with God (John 14:9) and told the people they had to love him more than anyone else (Matt. 10:37). Thus, the Jewish leaders went so far as to claim that Jesus was possessed by Beelzebul, the prince of demons (Matt. 12:24).
On the other hand, how did John the Baptist appear to the people at that time? He was the son of a prominent family and the people knew of him even from the time of his conception and birth. When he was older, he lived on locusts and honey in the wilderness; thus, in their eyes, he led an exemplary life as a man of faith. In fact, John was held in such high regard that many came to ask him if he were the Messiah (Luke 3:15, John 1:20).
Under these circumstances, the people of Israel believed more in John the Baptist, who asserted he was not Elijah, than in Jesus, who told them that John the Baptist was the one. The people decided that Jesus' view of John the Baptist as the Elijah was untrustworthy, thinking Jesus said this only to make his own claims about himself believable.
Then, why did Jesus say John the Baptist was Elijah? As Luke 1: 17 says, John the Baptist came with the mission of Elijah. The people of Israel, who believed the words of the Old Testament literally, assumed that the same Elijah would actually come down from heaven. But, to be precise, God sent John with the mission of Elijah.
John the Baptist himself said he came to "make straight the way of the Lord" (John 1:23) and that he was not even worthy to carry his sandals (Matt. 3:11). Being a man of such a unique and important mission, John, by his own wisdom, should have known that he, himself, was Elijah.
The Mission of John the Baptist
Many of the chief priests and people of Israel who respected John the Baptist thought that he might be the Messiah. Therefore, if John had proclaimed that he was Elijah and testified that Jesus was the Messiah, all the Jewish people at that time would have been able to recognize and receive Jesus, obtaining salvation. Then, Jesus' lack of social status and background would never have mattered. However, John's insistence that he was not Elijah, due to his ignorance of God's providence, made Jesus seem a liar. This was the main factor that prevented the people of Israel from coming to Jesus.
In Matt. 3:11 John the Baptist said that he baptized with water but the one who comes after him-Jesus-would baptize with the Holy Spirit and with fire; therefore, he said he was not even worthy to carry his sandals. In John 1:33, John said, "I myself did not know this, but he [God] who sent me to baptize with water said to me 'He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain, this is he who baptizes with the Holy Spirit [Christ].' And I have seen and have borne witness that this is the Son of God." Then God told John the Baptist that Jesus was the Son of God. And here John initially fulfilled his mission to testify to Jesus Christ. But what did he do next? He failed to Continue his mission of following and ministering to Jesus.
All people, after meeting the Messiah, must believe in and serve him all through their lives, most of all John the Baptist, who came with the mission of the Messiah's forerunner. Therefore, John the Baptist should have served Jesus with all his strength as one of his disciples.
Even John's father was told of the mission of his son upon his birth: "And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High, for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways, to give knowledge of salvation to his people (Luke 1:76-77). However, we cannot find any instance in the Bible where John the Baptist actually served Jesus.
Jesus Reprimands John
After going his own way, not serving Jesus as God would have had him do, John became doubtful that Jesus was the Messiah, and sent his disciples to him, asking, "Are you he who is to come, or shall we look for another?" (Matt. 11: 13). This clearly proves that John had not trusted in Jesus and failed to serve him.
Jesus was indignant at such a question, and answered quite judgmentally, "blessed is he who takes no offense at me" (Matt. 11:6), indicating that despite Israel's great respect for John, he had already failed his mission for Jesus.
Jesus also said among those born of women there has risen no one greater than John the Baptist, yet, he who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he" (Matt. 11:11). If one was the greatest born of women, surely he should be equally as great in the Kingdom of Heaven. Then how could John the Baptist, who was born to be the greatest in history, be less than the least in heaven?
God sent John the Baptist as the greatest of prophets, for he was to testify to all people of the Messiah, and serve him. But he failed completely in fulfilling his responsibility.
Matt. 11: 12 also explains this: "From the days of John the Baptist until now, the kingdom of heaven has suffered violence, and men of violence take it by force." If John the Baptist had served Jesus well, fulfilling his responsibility, he would have become Jesus' chief disciple, but because he failed, Peter, who made the most effort among Jesus' disciples, became the leader of the Twelve.
In order to prepare the people of Israel to have faith in Jesus, God gave much testimony to John's parents, Zechariah and Elizabeth, who were greatly trusted by the people. And the people could see that the conception and birth of John the Baptist was God's doing (Luke 1). Undoubtedly, John was told much by his parents about his relationship with Jesus.
Yet, despite all this preparation, John the Baptist failed because of his disbelief and lack of wisdom. His personal ignorance and disbelief did not remain merely as his individual loss, but led to the disbelief of all the people and ultimately resulted in Jesus' crucifixion.
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