There is no doubt Dan Brown’s mystery novel The Da Vinci Code has ignited millions’ interest in Jesus Christ. Sadly, all the curiosity has little to do with the truth. Brown’s book is based on teachings from heretical Gnostic gospels rejected by early Christian leaders. Its wild popularity demonstrates that millions are bored with the Bible, and that human beings prefer fiction over fact. The Apostle Paul warned Timothy: “And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables” (2 Timothy 4:4). We are living witnesses to this fact. It is happening right before our eyes.
Now religious scholars are eagerly waiting the unveiling of another Gnostic gospel—that of Judas. National Geographic, hoping to ride the Brown tidal wave, is expected to release the first translation of this ancient Egyptian Coptic text near the same time Brown’s book hits movie screens.
Since it appeared in 1983, the “gospel of Judas” has been surrounded with intrigue. The fragile document has been blocked from view because of intense international negotiations. It was purportedly stolen from Egypt and then caught in decades of illicit trafficking. At one time, the manuscript was offered to collectors for $3 million. Now scholars will finally get to see the document. Will it be as valuable religiously as it has been internationally? Some people want the gospel to be similar in style to Brown’s novel—“everything you thought you knew about Jesus and Judas is wrong”—for purely monetary purposes. A heavy price has been paid to obtain and translate the document. So, if the gospel of Judas is like Brown’s book, there could be a rich return.
However, what is truly tragic is that some want the heretical gospel to be similar to Brown’s novel to undermine the truth about Judas’s reprehensible betrayal of Christ. Some scholars will not be satisfied until they fully tear apart people’s faith in the divinely inspired truth about Jesus and Judas. David van Biema reported in Time about the new gospel: “[T]he rumor of its publication has stirred intriguing discussion. Queried by the newspaper La Stampa, Vatican historian Monsignor Walter Brandmuller noted that the tractate might shed light on early Christianity even if the text had been found heretical. Vittorio Messori, a layman who has co-written books with popes John Paul ii and Benedict xvi (when he was Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger) is more effusive. ‘Jesus’s words about Judas [“It had been good for that man if he had not been born”] are tough,’ he told Time. But ‘Judas wasn’t guilty. He was necessary. Somebody had to betray Jesus. Judas was the victim of a design bigger than himself’” (February 27).
Could any religiously sane person accept that Judas was not guilty of the single greatest betrayal in human history? Shouldn’t religious institutions stand up strongly against such heretical slop? The title of Time’s article about the Gnostic gospel was “A Kiss for Judas.” How far off is modern religion when Judas is portrayed as a star and not a villain?
Not Satisfied With Christ
You need to see that Brown’s book and the media hype over the gospel of Judas are part of a movement to shift people’s focus away from the incredible truths about Jesus Christ onto meaningless and false religious fantasy. Yet, not only scholars and the media are guilty: Traditional Christianity shares the blame for the attack on the truth.
Why is traditional Christianity at fault? Many different views of Jesus Christ are taught within a much-divided Christianity. It is no wonder many throw their hands up and ask, “What is the truth?” Much falsehood is being spread about Jesus Christ within churches claiming to follow Christ. Jesus testified to this very fact in Matthew 24:4-5. He looked into our time and warned that many would teach that He was Christ—and deceive many!
So, what are the fruits of modern religion? People are skeptical about and dissatisfied with Christ. We see spiritually starved people going about seeking some new thing. The media and scholars are delivering what people want. Judas is being made to look more important than Christ. It is simply crude blasphemy to even suggest that Judas was a victim—a pawn in God’s plan.
During the Passover season, people should focus on the truth about Christ and what He accomplished on Earth—not Judas! Certainly there are lessons to be learned from Judas. The number-one lesson is: Don’t betray Christ. The current hubbub about The Da Vinci Code and gospel of Judas does just that. Any educator or minister who says either of these works contains truth is being disloyal to Christ.
Herbert W. Armstrong summarized his life’s work as a passionate student of the Bible in his book Mystery of the Ages. This book clearly explains why Jesus came. You need this book. It will be sent to you free upon request.
Mr. Armstrong wrote: “Neither professing Christians nor their scholarly theologian leaders today comprehend the major purposes for which Jesus Christ came!” That is a bold statement. On proof, we know Mr. Armstrong is right. What about you? Are you being taught the fascinating Bible truth about Jesus Christ? Or are you being taught about a made-up Christ, the creation of some man’s limited mind? Do you know the purposes for Jesus Christ coming to this Earth? The majority do not. Shockingly, most people just have fuzzy notions. We need a clear picture about what Jesus Christ accomplished while on Earth.
Why Jesus Came
Why did Jesus Christ come? It is not the reason most have been taught or think. Herbert Armstrong wrote: “Jesus did not come to save Satan’s world while Satan sits on the throne deceiving them. Jesus will save the world at His Second Coming, when Satan shall be put away. Why, then, did Jesus come more than 1,900 years ago? Not to rule, not to reign over all nations, not to save the world while Satan still rules over them” (ibid.). This is certainly an unorthodox statement. The truth of the Bible is unorthodox.
If Jesus didn’t come to save the world, then why did He come? There were five main purposes for Christ’s first coming. Mr. Armstrong continued: “His human birth was the arrival of the ‘second Adam.’ He had come … to qualify, where the first Adam failed, to replace the former archangel Lucifer on the throne of the Earth, ruling with the government of God.” This fact is foreign to most people. It appears stranger than any work of science fiction.
To fully understand this point, you must first prove the existence of the Almighty God. (Our free booklet Does God Exist? can guide you in your study.) He holds a high purpose for all mankind. Second, you must prove that the Bible is the divinely inspired Word of God. (You may find our free booklet Proof of the Bible of interest.) Within the pages of the Bible is incredible revelation that only God can give to man. Mr. Armstrong often referred to the Bible as a coded book. In our time, the code has been broken. The Bible is the mystery thrill-ride of all time! God will decipher it for anyone who is willing to believe and obey it.
The Second Adam
Here is what the Bible says about the creation of man. After creating all the animals after their kinds, God said: “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth” (Genesis 1:26).
Read this verse with unbiased eyes. It is incredible. Man did not descend from animals. We are created after the God kind! Man is created in God’s likeness physically. Further, God is in the process of creating man in His image spiritually, building His very righteous character in all who are willing. Why? Man was created to rule. His first dominion is Earth, as a testing ground. After Earth, man will be given the entire universe (Hebrews 2:8).
The same opportunity had been offered to angels. But God wants proof that created beings will rule under His great government and authority. Lucifer, the most powerful, capable and talented angelic being God could create, became infected with pride and vanity. He refused to rule this Earth God’s way (Isaiah 14; Ezekiel 28). He wanted to rule his way. He led a rebellion of angels to kick God off the throne of the universe (2 Peter 2:4; Jude 6). Lucifer became Satan, and his angels, demons. Through their rebellion, they brought Earth to ruin.
God scrubbed the plan for angels and began it again with man. Why? Because of the angelic catastrophe, God knew He could rely only on Himself to rule and preserve the universe. Now God is recreating Himself through man. This subject is covered thoroughly in Mystery of the Ages.
Those steeped in education based on the theory of evolution and liberal Christianity view the creation of Adam as myth or allegory. Yet he was a real human being with the same intellectual faculties we enjoy today. The Bible record shows that God explained fully to Adam and Eve their transcendent purpose, and He educated them about how to achieve it. God then tested their obedience and loyalty to what He had revealed. How? He allowed Satan to get to them (Genesis 3). This fallen angel was successful in tempting Adam and Eve to disbelieve God. Appealing to their vanity, Satan was able to convince Adam and Eve to live life independently of God. Humanity has suffered terribly ever since.
When Adam and Eve failed, God did not abandon His plan for man. All along, God intended to provide the means to rescue man from the clutches of the adversary. He did this through the person and example of Jesus Christ.
When Christ came to the Earth, He had to do what the first Adam failed to do—overcome Satan. Jesus Christ’s universe-shaking battle with Satan is recorded in Matthew 4. This chapter is seldom discussed in churches, yet it is pivotal to coming to a full understanding of Jesus Christ. Study this chapter thoroughly. Mr. Armstrong wrote: “This perhaps was the most important, momentous, decisive confrontation and battle ever fought in all time in the universe” (ibid.).
The battle between Christ and Satan concluded with Christ as victorious. Winning this battle over Satan not only qualified Jesus Christ to assume the throne of Earth, but by doing so He also opened the way for all mankind to rule as members of the Family of God. The Apostle Paul explains: “The first man Adam was made a living soul; the last Adam was made a quickening spirit. Howbeit that was not first which is spiritual, but that which is natural; and afterward that which is spiritual. The first man is of the earth, earthy: the second man is the Lord from heaven. As is the earthy, such are they also that are earthy: and as is the heavenly, such are they also that are heavenly. And as we have borne the image of the earthy, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly” (1 Corinthians 15:45-49). This verse is enough to make one dizzy. Jesus Christ came to make it a reality.
Announce Kingdom of God
Just after defeating Satan, Jesus Christ began His earthly ministry. Matthew 4:17 tells us, “From that time Jesus began to preach, and to say, Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” The two incidents are directly related. Jesus Christ could not preach the coming Kingdom of God until Satan was deposed. Mr. Armstrong stated: “Jesus Christ, the second Adam, had qualified! Never until that minute could the good news of the coming Kingdom of God be announced to the world. Now the Son of God resisted and conquered Satan—had qualified to reestablish God’sgovernment and set up the Kingdom of God on the Earth” (ibid.).
So the second purpose for Christ’s first coming was “to announce the future establishment of the Kingdom of God and teach that prophetic good news (gospel) to His chosen future apostles” (ibid.).
Jesus Christ was simply the greatest newscaster of all time. When He walked the Earth, He literally passed on to the people at that time the shocking news headlines of today and of the world just ahead of us. The biggest story—“Jesus Christ Returns to Start New Civilization”—will be written in our generation. God had prophesied centuries before Jesus Christ was born that a Messenger would come to this Earth and bring good news directly from God (Malachi 3:1). Jesus Christ, as the Son of God, did just that (Hebrews 1:1-3). He foretold of a time when “all things” would be restored (Acts 3:21). Satan has removed the government of God from Earth and, to this point in time, has successfully suppressed the truth of God (Romans 1:18; 2 Corinthians 4:4). When Jesus Christ returns, all of Satan’s evil works will be undone. The creative work of God throughout the universe will proceed uninterrupted. Man is destined to have a significant role in that wonderful future.
How real is the Kingdom of God to you? Modern Christianity does not teach about the Kingdom of God. It does not know that the Kingdom of God is the ruling Family of God—potentially consisting of billions of sons of the stature of Jesus Christ (Ephesians 4:13). Recognize that the Kingdom of God will be a world-ruling kingdom. Jesus Christ will be King over the entire Earth. His bride—the true Church of God—will be ruling right next to Him. The Kingdom of God is not some spiritual sentiment. The Prophet Daniel knew what the Kingdom of God was all about. Study Daniel 2:36-45. This chapter gives the incredible history of the world-ruling empires since the time of Nebuchadnezzar. Daniel talks about four empires ruled by men—the Babylonian, Persian, Greek and Roman. The fifth world empire—the Kingdom of God—will last forever. It is time you come to understand the true good news brought by Jesus Christ.
Die for Us
Mr. Armstrong explained Christ’s third purpose on Earth: “to take on Himself, as our direct Creator, the penalty for our sins by His death on the cross—that we might share in that [future] world” (ibid.).
Many today have stripped the divinity from Jesus Christ. Many agree that Jesus was a great religious leader. Only a few know about Jesus Christ’s pre-existence as the Word of God.
This astounding truth is written down clearly for us in John’s Gospel. He states: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. … And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us …” (John 1:1-2, 14). Jesus was God. He had an eternal history with God before the creation of angels, the universe and man. The astounding truth is that the Word was made flesh.
Why did the Word have to be made flesh? Mr. Armstrong explained: “Why was it necessary that Jesus be actually God in the human flesh? Why was it necessary that He be God? Why was it necessary that He be human? As God, He was the Maker of all mankind. In Ephesians 3:9 it is revealed that God created all things by Jesus Christ. When Jesus was born as a human, His life as our Maker was greater than the sum total of all human lives. Since it is humans who have sinned and come under the death penalty, God’s law required human death as the penalty for human sin. But, as our Maker, Jesus was the only human whose death could pay the penalty for the sins of all humans.
“In no other way could the Creator God have redeemed a vast humanity condemned to the penalty of death” (ibid.). As our Maker, Jesus Christ proved His loyalty to His creation and His deep devotion to the plan of God to build a divine Family.
Jesus Christ was the God of the Old Testament. He revealed Himself to Moses as the “I Am” in Exodus 3:14. In Isaiah 57:15, Christ is described as the “high and lofty One.” The people, upset that Christ taught with authority, essentially asked Him, “Who do you think you are?” He responded, “Before Abraham was, I am” (John 8:58). Read the rest of the account. Jesus Christ told the people of His day who He was. They did not believe Him, and they tried to stone Him for revealing the truth. Yet, Christ was still willing to die for them, for us and for all humans who have ever lived or will live.
The astounding reality is, Jesus Christ’s death was the death of a God. What a commitment God and Christ have made to us. Can we grasp it? Paul thoroughly explains how precious the blood of Jesus Christ is in Hebrews 9: 11-15, 26-27. Study these verses.
When we deeply meditate on all these important facts, doesn’t Jesus Christ deserve our highest respect?
Open the Resurrection
What is the reward of the saved? Most assume that it is a life of ease in heaven. Nowhere in the Bible is man promised heaven. The Bible clearly states that man’s afterlife will come through a resurrection from the dead. Jesus Christ told His disciples: “I am the resurrection and the life” (John 11:25). He boldly describes the resurrection in John 5:25-29. Christ demonstrated His power and authority to resurrect the dead by bringing Lazarus back to life (John 11). The fourth purpose for Christ’s first coming was to open the resurrection for mankind.
Mr. Armstrong continued, “And He had come … to be resurrected from the dead by God, making possible eternal God-life for the people of God and after His Second Coming for all who are willing, of all humanity, who have ever lived on this Earth” (ibid.). Many speak about the resurrection from the dead in vague terms. None but the Church of God understands the full significance of this doctrine. The Bible shows that there are three resurrections. For a further explanation, please request our free reprint article “The Three Resurrections.” It is important to recognize that salvation comes through the resurrection.
According to the master plan of God, there is a time order for salvation. Paul explains: “But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept. For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive. But every man in his own order: Christ the firstfruits; afterward they that are Christ’s at his coming. Then cometh the end, when he shall have delivered up the kingdom to God, even the Father …” (1 Corinthians 15:20-24). Mr. Armstrong explained: “[O]ne more supremely vital truth. The resurrection of Jesus from the dead was that of a human being and the only one that could make possible the resurrection of humans, once dead, to immortal life” (ibid.). Recognize that the resurrection of the dead is all about the God Family. God intends to give men “eternal God-life.”
The astonishing truth is that Jesus Christ is the only firstborn Son in the Family of God (Romans 8:29). Multiple millions more will enter into the God Family through a resurrection. After His resurrection, Jesus Christ told Mary Magdalene: “[G]o to my brethren, and say unto them, I ascend unto my Father, and your Father; and to my God, and your God” (John 20:17). Jesus Christ and God the Father are so excited to have a family.
Establish His Church
Mr. Armstrong gave the fifth purpose for Christ’s first coming: “to establish God’s Church, to be trained to rule under Him” (ibid.). In Mystery of the Ages, Herbert Armstrong discusses one of the greatest mysteries in our time: the answers to the questions what is the Church, and why is the Church. Few know the answers. You must come to know. Who can answer those questions for you?
Jesus Christ promised His disciples: “I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it” (Matthew 16:18). Jesus Christ promised that His Church would always exist. Where is Christ’s Church today? Is it possible that the Church includes all the disagreeing sects we see around us? The Bible clearly states that God is not the author of confusion (1 Corinthians 14:33). He works through one group of people at a time. He also states clearly that it would not be a large organization (Luke 12:32). You need to locate God’s one true Church.
The purpose for the Church is directly tied to God’s purpose for creating human beings. God intends to re-establish His government on Earth. Christ established the Church to train leaders to rule with Him at His Second Coming. Mr. Armstrong explained: “The Church may be called God’s teachers’ college to prepare rulers and teachers for the Kingdom of God when God does offer redemption and eternal life to the world as a whole.
“The Church was planned to be God’s instrumentality for calling predestined human beings out of this world to be trained for positions of leadership in the World Tomorrow, when they shall teach and train others. That is why in the New Testament, the Church is called the firstfruits of God’s salvation” (ibid.). Are you training to rule with Christ? The Bible states emphatically that the true people of God are kings and priests in training (Revelation 1:6; 5:10). The true Christian life is one of work, effort and study. It is similar to preparing for an exciting, challenging and rewarding career.
Paul criticized the Hebrews for falling behind in their training as teachers (Hebrews 5:12). What about you? Is your religious life a training ground, preparing you for an awesome future of accomplishment? Or is it a stale, boring, going through meaningless motions kind of existence? Your religion should be meaningful, thrilling and successful. You are responsible to take the first steps to make sure that happens. Then God will bless your efforts.
To get the full meaning of the five points discussed in this article will require much additional study. Will you devote the time? Realize that no Gnostic gospel can give you the depth of understanding that God can through the pages of His Bible.