How much do you understand about Jesus Christ? Who and what was He, exactly? What was His mission, His purpose here on earth? Millions of people assume they know the answers.
These are critical questions—not just from a knowledge standpoint, but from the crucial impact they should have on your life!
The fact is, knowing the answers to these questions has everything to do with not only how you live every day of your life now, but also how you will spend eternity! Are you ready to discover the true biblical answers to these questions? Let’s dig into the Scriptures to find out!
This time of year is important to Christians because it reminds us of Jesus Christ’s sacrifice, His death and His resurrection to ascend to His Father in heaven. Well and good, and most people know about that. But to dig a little deeper, why did He have to die? Why did He give His life as a sacrifice? And as a sacrifice for what? And why was He resurrected to life again?
To begin to understand, we must first grasp Jesus Christ’s true identity—to go much further back in time to grasp who and what He was before His human birth.
You might remember the story in Luke 1 of the angel appearing to Mary, a young Jewish virgin, and telling her that she would miraculously conceive through the Holy Spirit. Matthew 1 records how her husband-to-be Joseph received a similar announcement in which an angel told him: “Do not be afraid to take to you Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.”
Matthew then explains, “This was done that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying: ‘Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,’ which is translated, ‘God with us’” (verses 20-23, emphasis added throughout).
Jesus, we see here, though fully human was also someone and something far more. He was “God with us”!
The Word who was with God and was God
But what does that actually mean? We find the answer beginning in John 1:1-2: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God.”
The apostle John tells us here that “in the beginning”—a time before the creation of the universe recorded in Genesis 1—two divine Beings existed—one referred to as “God” and the other as “the Word” who also “was God” and existed “in the beginning with God.”
Then in verse 14 John tells us something astounding about this Word who was God: “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us . . .” This Being whom John calls “the Word,” who both “was God”and existed “with God,” then “became flesh and dwelt among us” as a human being—the One we know as Jesus Christ!
Looking back at John 1:1 in light of these statements, it’s obvious that “the Word” mentioned here is the One we know as Jesus Christ and that “God” is the One who would later be revealed as God the Father. Both were divine and uncreated. Both were unlike any other beings—they were God Beings.
John then explains in verse 18: “No one has seen God at any time. The only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father [i.e., in a very close and loving relationship], He has declared Him.”
John had just explained (verse 14) that he was a personal eyewitness of “the Word” who became flesh as Jesus Christ, so the “God” mentioned here as never having been seen cannot refer to Jesus. This had to mean God the Father.
John repeats this exact same statement in 1 John 4:12. And Jesus Christ Himself makes two such explicit statements in John 5:37 and 6:46, telling us that He alone among human beings has seen God the Father.
Who did those who “saw God” really see?
In earlier biblical books we read that various people in the Bible did see God. They include the patriarch Abraham (Genesis 12:7; 15:1; 18:1), his son Isaac (Genesis 26:2, 24), his grandson Jacob (Genesis 28:13; 32:30; 35:9-10), Moses (Exodus 3:6; 33:11, 21-23), Moses’ brother Aaron along with 70 leading men of Israel (Exodus 24:9-11), Moses’ successor Joshua (Joshua 6:2) and Gideon (Judges 6:14).
The biblical accounts describe most of these as face-to-face encounters. Two involved eating a meal with God. In one incident, Jacob literally wrestled with God. These were clearly personal encounters and not dreams or visions.
So how do we explain this? Whom did these individuals see when Scripture tells us that they saw God? The only way we can make sense of this is to understand that the words of Jesus and John are telling us that no man had seen God the Father at any time.
And if they weren’t seeing God the Father, the Being they saw as recorded in these passages (and at other times when God appeared to individuals) was the Word who was God (John 1:1), the One whom John tells us was later born in the flesh as Jesus of Nazareth.
Putting this together, what Scripture reveals is that the One who was born as Jesus of Nazareth was the One who interacted with the patriarchs, leaders, prophets and people of Israel as the Lord or God on behalf of God the Father. They never saw the Father, only the Word or representative of God, who came to reveal the Father (John 1:18).
The implications of this are huge.
The Creator of all things
Continuing in the first chapter of his Gospel, John tells us another amazing fact about this divine Being he knew as Jesus Christ: “He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him.”
So not only was the One who became Jesus Christ God alongside the One to become known as God the Father, both of Them having existed as God before the creation of the world, but “the world was made through Him”— through the One who later became Jesus Christ.
Astonishingly, the world in which we live was created by the One we know as Jesus Christ!
This same fact is repeated in Hebrews 1:1-2: “God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets, has in these last days spoken to us by His Son, . . . through whom also He made the worlds . . .” Yes, God “made the worlds,” but He did it through the One we know as Jesus Christ as the “hands-on” Creator!
Notice also Colossians 1:16, speaking about Jesus Christ: “For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible . . . All things were created through Him and for Him.”
He created the physical universe that astounds us with its magnificence and complexity. But that’s not all. The apostle Paul also tells us here that He created “all things . . . visible and invisible”—apparently indicating not just the physical universe that we can see, but also the unseen spirit world of angels that we cannot see!
The Creator came to die for those He created
These passages add a great deal to our understanding of who and what Jesus Christ was. But there is still more!
Let’s notice a revealing passage in Philippians 2:5-8, where Paul stressed what Christ did as the ultimate example of humility and giving for us all:
“You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had. Though he was God, he did not think of equality with God as something to cling to. Instead, he gave up his divine privileges; he took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being. When he appeared in human form, he humbled himself in obedience to God and died a criminal’s death on a cross” (New Living Translation).
What is revealed here is profound. This same divine Being who had been with God the Father willingly “gave up his divine privileges”—the power, splendor and majesty He shared with the Father—to become a flesh-and-blood human being conceived in the womb of Mary. He went from a supremely glorious spirit powerful enough to create a universe to becoming a tiny, helpless infant wholly dependent on His mother and adoptive father!
Throughout this His identity didn’t change—He was still God—but now He was a physical, mortal human being subject to pain, suffering, exhaustion, hunger, thirst and all the other feelings and experiences common to human existence (other than personal sin—Hebrews 4:15).
The Creator of all things, including mankind, came to His creation—including human beings—as a mortal human being who was Himself subject to death. He did this to carry out the plan that the Father and He had worked out “before time began” (2 Timothy 1:9)—before the universe was created.
The need for a sacrifice for all sins for all time
That plan was for the Creator of all things to give His life for all human beings who had ever lived or would yet live—all of whose lives sprang from Him.
Jesus was not forced into this decision. His words in John 10:15-18 (NLT) emphasize that this was His voluntary choice: “I sacrifice my life for the sheep . . . I sacrifice my life so I may take it back again. No one can take my life from me. I sacrifice it voluntarily.”
Why was this sacrifice necessary?
God’s Word tells us in Romans 3:23 that “all have sinned” —have disobeyed God’s commandments and laws. In doing so we earned the death penalty, for “the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23). This means that we die, and that would be the end of the story—our bodies would decay, and we would disappear into oblivion, with no conscious bodiless existence as some imagine.
However, since “God is love” (1 John 4:8, 16), and in His love He is “not willing that any should perish” (2 Peter 3:9), He provides a way for us to be freed from the judgment of eternal death.
John 3:16, perhaps the most well-known passage of the Bible, tells us, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.”
God’s plan, then, is that Jesus Christ came into the world to take on Himself the death penalty we have deserved so that we might receive everlasting life. Many Bible verses describe the importance of this sacrifice and why it had to take place. Let’s notice a few:
“For you know that God paid a ransom to save you from the empty life you inherited from your ancestors. And it was not paid with mere gold or silver . . . It was the precious blood of Christ, the sinless, spotless Lamb of God” (1 Peter 1:18-19, NLT).
“For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard. Yet God, in his grace, freely makes us right in his sight. He did this through Christ Jesus when he freed us from the penalty for our sins. For God presented Jesus as the sacrifice for sin” (Romans 3:23-25, NLT).
“And he [Jesus] took a cup of wine and gave thanks to God for it. He gave it to them and said, ‘Each of you drink from it, for this is my blood, which confirms the covenant between God and his people. It is poured out as a sacrifice to forgive the sins of many’” (Matthew 26:27-28, NLT).
These and other verses tell us that Jesus had to die in our place so our sins could be forgiven. He willingly suffered the death penalty we have deserved. As Hebrews 9:22 (NLT) tells us, “without the shedding of blood, there is no forgiveness.” Had Christ not died in our place, we would all die guilty of our sins. We would be forever cut off from God and any hope of life beyond this one.
And this is why understanding Jesus Christ’s true identity is so important. It took the life of the Creator of all human life to pay the immense penalty for the sins of all mankind for all time. That includes my sins, your sins, and the sins of all who have ever lived!
The astounding goal of God’s plan
Why did Jesus give His life? To give us life. And not just any life, but eternal life. And not just eternal life, but eternal life as God’s own children, part of His glorified spirit family!
This is what so few understand. Crucial though it is, Jesus didn’t give His life just so we can be forgiven. Forgiveness is only part of God’s great purpose. And that great purpose is to “bring many children into glory” so you and I can be part of His eternal spirit family!
This is clearly spelled out for us in Hebrews 2:9-12 (NLT): “And because he suffered death for us, he [Jesus Christ] is now ‘crowned with glory and honor.’ Yes, by God’s grace, Jesus tasted death for everyone. God, for whom and through whom everything was made, chose to bring many children into glory. And it was only right that he should make Jesus, through his suffering, a perfect leader, fit to bring them into their salvation.
“So now Jesus and the ones he makes holy have the same Father. That is why Jesus is not ashamed to call them his brothers and sisters. For he said to God, ‘I will proclaim your name to my brothers and sisters. I will praise you among your assembled people.’”
This is why Paul calls Jesus “the firstborn among many brothers and sisters” (Romans 8:29, NLT). Paul similarly writes of God the Father telling His people in 2 Corinthians 6:18, “I will be a Father to you, and you shall be My sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty.”
“You are gods”
If this sounds unbelievable to you, let’s get to the heart of the matter and see what Jesus Himself said. As recorded in John 10:33, the Jews of His day accused Him of blasphemy for claiming to be the Son of God: “Because You, being a Man, make Yourself God.”
Notice His surprising response: “Jesus answered them, ‘Is it not written in your law [in Psalm 82:6], “I said, ‘You are gods’”? If He [God] called them gods, to whom the word of God came (and the Scripture cannot be broken), do you say of Him whom the Father sanctified and sent into the world, “You are blaspheming,” because I said, “I am the Son of God”?’” (John 10:34-36).
In other words, said Christ, “if Scripture outright called human beings gods, why are you angry when I merely state that I am God’s Son?”
But what did He mean? Are human beings actually to become gods?
In Psalm 82:6, from which Jesus quoted, God says to human beings, “I said, ‘You are gods, and all of you are children of the Most High.’” The key here is the word children, just as we’ve seen in other verses. We must understand that God is a family—a divine family now comprising God the Father and Jesus Christ the Son, but a family into which others will be added!
This is the astonishing purpose of God’s plan. This is why Jesus Christ emptied Himself of the glory He shared with the Father as God in heaven. This is why He voluntarily came to earth to live as a flesh-and-blood human being—and to give His life as a sacrifice in our place to pay for our sins. And this is why He was resurrected to return to His previous glorified state, now as “the firstborn among many brothers and sisters”—those destined to be the very sons and daughters of God!
Will you act on God’s purpose for you?
Jesus Christ, although God, became a man for an astounding purpose. He exchanged His life for yours and mine. He became man so that man—all who are willing to surrender their lives to Him as He surrendered His life for us—could become the immortal children of God, as part of that divine spirit family. (For more proof of this amazing truth, see the study guide offered below.)
God the Father and Jesus Christ, who alone are uncreated and ever-living, will always reign supreme. But at the same time we have the astounding promise that “we shall be like Him for we shall see Him as He is” (1 John 3:3).
Your life isn’t intended to be empty and meaningless, but to be lived for the greatest purpose imaginable—to become one of God’s own children, living forever as part of His family! God’s plan to “bring many children to glory” includes you!
As the many scriptures in this article show, Jesus Christ became man for a specific reason—so you could become as He is, part of His family forever!As John 1:12 tells us, “as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name . . .”
This isn’t just some feel-good sentiment, but a promise that we will become divine, immortal spirit beings as God the Father and Jesus Christ are divine immortal spirit. As the apostle Peter tells us: “Because of his glory and excellence, he has given us great and precious promises. These are the promises that enable you to share his divine nature . . .” (2 Peter 1:4, NLT).
Will you make God’s purpose for you a reality? Now that you’re starting to grasp the purpose for Jesus Christ’s coming to earth as a man and giving His life for you, will you give your life to Him and begin fulfilling God’s astounding purpose for you?
Theologians’ Statements on Our Becoming Divine
God’s intention that we as His children become the same kind of beings He is will surprise many. Yet it’s clear that early “church fathers”—not so far removed in time from Jesus Christ and the apostles—did understand this truth. Notice the remarkable explanation of the early Catholic theologian Tertullian, writing around A.D. 200:
“For we will be even gods, if we deserve to be among those of whom He declared, ‘I have said, “You are gods,”’ and ‘God stands in the congregation of the gods.’ But this comes of His own grace, not from any property in us. For it is He alone who can make gods” (Against Hermogenes, chap. 5).
More recent authors have also grasped this biblical truth. C.S. Lewis, perhaps the most popular Christian writer of the last century, wrote: “He said (in the Bible) that we were ‘gods’ and He is going to make good His words. If we let Him—for we can prevent Him, if we choose—He will make the feeblest and filthiest of us into a god or goddess, a dazzling, radiant, immortal creature . . . The process will be long and in parts very painful; but that is what we are in for. Nothing less. He meant what He said” (Mere Christianity, 1996, p. 176).