WHO IS JESUS?
Shortly after Jesus was anointed as the Messiah, on the banks of the river Jordan, he went to visit his home town of Nazareth. The people of Nazareth thought they knew him well – he was the carpenter’s son. During the course of his visit, he stood up in the village synagogue and declared that the prophecy of Isaiah 61:1 was fulfilled in him (see Lu.4:16-21). They were so enraged they tried to kill him – they did not know him at all. But it was not the time or the place for his death – he departed from Nazareth and never returned. When Jesus stilled the storm on the Lake of Galilee, the disciples were astonished and whispered to each other: “What manner of man is this! for he commandeth even the winds and water, and they obey him” (Matt. 8:25).
All generations are faced with the same issue: “What manner of man is this?” –“Who is Jesus”? Was he just the carpenter’s son? Was he just a great teacher? Was he a prophet of God? Or is he the Son of God? Everyone has to deal with this issue. Even those who totally ignore this issue and give no thought to it at all – that in itself is one way of dealing with this issue. This question has always provoked controversy, confusion and consternation. Nevertheless, this question is the foundation of Christianity. All who seek to know Jesus – all who seek to follow Jesus must begin with: “who is it that we follow?” – “Who is Jesus?” In order to answer this question, we need to turn to the Scriptures, because Jesus himself said: “They (the Scriptures) are they which testify of me” (Jn. 5:39).
Who is the Creator?
In our first posting, ‘What is Truth?’ we noted that, the debate over how the universe came into existence is virtually over and the ‘Big Bang Theory’ is virtually bust. Furthermore, the scientific debate over origins has determined that there must be ‘intelligence’ behind the universe and everything in it. When science finally picks up the Bible, they will begin to understand how the universe was created and who the ‘intelligence’ behind it is:
“All things were made by him (Jesus); and without him was not anything made” (Jn. 1:30).
“For by him (Jesus) were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him” (Col. 1:16).
God the Father is not excluded
Surprisingly, not all who profess to be Bible believers understand that, the Bible clearly sets out Jesus as the Creator – and not just the Creator of this earth and everything in it, but the Creator of the universe and everything in it. The reason why they find this difficult to understand is because it is generally assumed that, God the Father is the Creator, and to focus so exclusively on Jesus as the Creator, seems to denigrate the role of the Father. However, even though Jesus created “all things” this does not mean that the Father was excluded. In fact, the Father was just as involved as the Son – but they obviously had different roles to play:
“God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds” (Heb. 1:1-3).
“And to make all men see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God, who created all things by Jesus Christ” (Eph. 3:9).
These verses tell us that God the Father was also involved in the work of creation. And we must not forget the Holy Spirit – he too, was involved. In the creation account, it is said that: “the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters” (Gen. 1:2). The inner workings of Heaven are not part of what has been revealed to us, so it is not always possible to understand which member of the Godhead did what. However, from what has been revealed, it is clear that Jesus is set forth as the Creator of the heavens and the earth – and everything in the heavens and the earth. Understanding that Jesus is the Creator is one of the foundational principles of the science of salvation – because the story of salvation is all about the Creator taking responsibility for what he created.
Jesus Sustains the Universe
In addition to being the Creator, Jesus is also the Sustainer of the universe. Everyone knows that if you build something, such as a house, then that building requires maintenance. In the same manner, Jesus takes responsibility for the maintenance of the universe: “And he is before all things, and in him all things consist” (Col. 1:17). The phrase: “and in him all things consist” incorporates more than just maintenance. Scientists know that there is something that holds the universe together, but they do not know what it is. They call it ‘dark matter’ because it is invisible to their eyes and invisible to science. They cannot test it, examine it, or discover it – but they know it is there – it is one of the biggest mysteries in modern science. On the other hand, the theologians on the mountain top have known for centuries that, the reason why the universe does not fly apart is because of the Creator. He not only created the universe he also sustains it. If it was not for Jesus our very existence would cease – this is who Jesus is. What did he say? “Without me ye can do nothing” (Jn. 15:5). We cannot do anything without Christ, because: “In him we live, and move and have our being” (Acts 17:28 cf. Neh. 9:6). Even those who do not follow Jesus – even those who refuse to believe in him – even they, are dependent upon him for their existence. This is why it is written: “The fool says in his heart there is no God” (Ps. 14:1).
Who is the God of the Old Testament?
If we understand and acknowledge that Jesus is the Creator, then, it logically follows that Jesus must be the God of the Old Testament. For example, the Bible begins: “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth” (Gen.1:1). We already know that: “without him was not anything made that was made” – “by him were all things created, that are in heaven and that are in earth” (Jn. 1:3; Col. 1:16). Therefore the God of the Old Testament must be Jesus.
Another example is given, in the origins of the nation of Israel. We are told the following: “I am the Lord, your Holy One, the creator of Israel, your King” (Isa. 43:15), Here again, we must conclude that this is Jesus speaking – because Scripture tells us that Jesus created everything – therefore, he must be the God that created the nation of Israel – therefore, he must be the God of the Old Testament.
There are many other ways to prove that Jesus must be the God of the Old Testament. For example Jesus said: “The Son of man is Lord also of the sabbath” (Mk. 2:28). So, Jesus is the Lord of the Sabbath day. What does it mean to be Lord over something? It means that he rules over it – he defines it – he makes the rules and regulations for it – he states the purpose of it etc. etc. When we examine the Old Testament we find that the God called ‘YHWH’ creates the Sabbath, he defines it, he states its purpose, he gives us the rules governing its observance etc. etc. Therefore, Jesus and YHWH is the same person. In the Old Testament JESUS is called YHWH and in the New Testament YHWH is called JESUS.
JESUS is YHWH
Another way to prove that Christ is the God of the Old Testament is to demonstrate that the Old Testament name for God (YHWH) is also applied to Jesus. There are no vowels in written Old Testament Hebrew. Therefore the name of God is simply written as ‘YHWH’ (which is known in Greek, as the ‘Tetragrammaton’ – ‘four letters’).
In the past it was generally thought that ‘YHWH’ should be pronounced as ‘Jehovah’ – but today it is generally accepted that it should be pronounced as ‘Yahweh’ – even Jehovah’s Witnesses are on record, stating that the correct pronunciation of YHWH is Yahweh (see below).
When it comes to most Bible translations, YHWH is generally translated as ‘Lord’. When the King James Version translates ‘YHWH’ it indicates it, by using all capital letters – thus in the KJV ‘YHWH’ is written ‘LORD’. In other words, whenever the word LORD appears in capital letters, this is indicating that the Hebrew word, in the original text, is YHWH. So let us now investigate how this helps us to show that Jesus must be the God of the Old Testament. Let us compare Scripture with Scripture.
“Because I will publish the name of the LORD (YHWH): ascribe ye greatness unto our God, He is the Rock…” (Deut. 32:3,4).
“And did all drink the same spiritual drink: for they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them: and that Rock was Christ” 1 Cor. 10:4).
In our first example (above), we are told that Yahweh is ‘the Rock’ – in the second verse we are told that Jesus is ‘the Rock.’
“The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the LORD (YHWH), make straight in the desert a highway for our God” (Isa. 40:3).
“In those days came John the Baptist… this is he that was spoken of by the prophet Esaias, saying, The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight” (Matt. 3:1-3).
In the first of these verses we see that it is prophesied, by the prophet Isaiah, that Yahweh will come. And in the second verses we see that the coming of Yahweh is applied to Jesus (hopefully we all know that John the Baptist was announcing the arrival of Jesus – if not see Matt. 3:13-17; Jn. 1:19-34).
“Thus saith the LORD (YHWH) the king of Israel, and his redeemer the LORD of hosts; I am the first, and I am the last; and beside me there is no God” (Isa. 44:6).
“I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s day, and heard behind me a great voice, as of a trumpet, Saying, I am Alpha and Omega, the first and the last…” (Rev. 1:11).
In our first verse we find that one of the titles belonging to Yahweh is ‘the first and the last’ – and it is emphasised that there is no other God. Then in the Book of Revelation we find Jesus has the same title and he repeats it several times (see Rev. 1:17; 2:8; 22:13).
“And when the LORD (YHWH) saw that he (Moses) turned aside to see… And God said unto Moses, I AM THAT I AM: and he said, Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel I AM hath sent me unto you” (Ex. 3:14).
“Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Before Abraham was, I am” (Jn. 8:58).
One of the names that Yahweh used in the Old Testament was ‘I AM’ – when Jesus was in dispute with the Jews, he told them that he was ‘I AM’ – there is no doubt that Jesus was telling the Jews that he was Yahweh, because they (thinking that he was committing blasphemy, according to their laws), picked up stones and tried to kill him.
“And all thy children shall be taught of the LORD (YHWH); and great shall be the peace of thy children” Isa. 54:13.
“For I came down from heaven… It is as written in the prophets, And they shall be all taught of God…” Jn. 6:38, 45.
Jesus is applying the prophecy about Yahweh teaching the people of God to himself. Therefore, he is telling the people that he is Yahweh.
There are many other ways of demonstrating that Jesus is the God of the Old Testament (YHWH). For example, if Jesus is the God of the Old Testament, then, it must have been Jesus who led the Israelites out of Egypt. The Apostle Paul certainly thought so! When Paul wrote about Moses leaving the pleasures of Pharaoh’s court choosing “rather to suffer affliction with the people of God” – Paul calls this choice on the part of Moses: “Esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt” (Heb. 11:25, 26).
On another occasion Paul was writing to the Corinthians about the history of the Israelites. He relates how, on the journey to the Promised Land, the people’s needs were provided for. Paul then tells the Corinthians that these needs were provided by the ‘Rock’ which followed them “and that Rock was Christ” (1 Cor. 10:4).
Again, we see the history of the Israelites rehearsed in Hebrews, where it is written: “While it is said, Today if ye will hear his voice, harden not your hearts, as in the provocation… But with whom was he grieved forty years? was it not with them that had sinned, whose carcasses fell in the wilderness?” (Heb. 3:15-17). In these verses we have two pronouns (underlined). The question we have to ask ourselves is: “Who do the pronouns ‘his’ and ‘he’ refer to? In other words, whose voice was it, that was not heard, during the journey to the Promised Land? And who was it that was grieved forty years, by the behaviour of the people? If we go back to verse 15 we find that the two pronouns refer to Christ. Therefore, it was Christ who led the Israelites out of Egypt. Therefore, Christ is the God of the Old Testament (cf. Heb. 3:6-11).
It is not always possible to say with certainty that, every time YHWH is mentioned in the Old Testament that this must be referring to Jesus. The Father is also called YHWH and Jesus is also called the Father (see Isa. 9:6; Jn. 14:8, 9). We do not know the intimate details of the relationship between the Father and the Son, but we do know that there is enough Biblical evidence to understand that Jesus is the Creator, the Sustainer and the God of the Old Testament.
So why is it important for us to know that Jesus is the God of the Old Testament? There are several important points. Firstly, it is fashionable within Christendom to make a huge distinction between the Old Testament and the New Testament. Supposedly, the Old Testament presents a God of wrath and the New Testament a God of love – the Old Testament is a God of law and the New Testament is a God of grace etc. However, when we realise that Jesus is the God of both Testaments then this false and fallacious argument cannot be made. Those who are enthusiasts for the great divide between the Testaments fail to understand the harmony between them – a good starting point is to understand that they both feature the same God – Jesus.
Secondly, it is also fashionable in Christendom to teach, that the Ten Commandments given in the Old Testament era, are now abolished in the New Testament era. Often the advocates of the abolished law, state that they are now following the law of Jesus (the Sermon on the Mount etc.), instead of the out of date Ten Commandments. However, who was the God who gave the Ten Commandments? – It was Jesus. When the God of the Old Testament called Moses to meet him on Mount Sinai, God identified himself by saying: “I am the LORD thy God which have brought thee out of Egypt out of the house of bondage” (Ex. 20:2). We already know who it was that led the Israelites out of Egypt – it was Jesus. Therefore it was Jesus who gave Moses the Ten Commandments. When we understand these things, verses such as: “If you love me keep my commandments” (Jn. 14:15), take on significant new meanings.
Lastly, understanding that Jesus is the God of the Old Testament gives additional significance to what happened on the cross. Consider this: if a child breaks a neighbour’s window, who takes responsibility for the damage? The child certainly does not – it is incapable of repairing the damage. Only the parents – the creators of the child can/must take responsibility. In the same way Jesus takes responsibility for his creation (the Sustainer). When something goes wrong – it is Jesus who steps in to fix it – this is why it is Jesus, throughout the entire Bible, fixing the problems with humanity (see 1 Cor. 15:21, 22). Therefore, when mankind broke the law, the Lawgiver (Jesus) did not say: “That’s OK we’ll forget about it, this one time” – “Or don’t worry, we can change the law.” No! The Lawgiver himself said that he would take the penalty of the law upon himself: “I the LORD (YHWH) am thy Saviour and thy Redeemer…” (Isa. 49:26 cf. Lu. 2:11; Gal. 3:13). Our salvation and our redemption was wrought out at the cross. Thus, the cross is the greatest evidence of all, that Jesus is the Creator, the Sustainer and the God of the Old Testament. This is something that we (sinful human beings) can barely understand. But while we are struggling to understand the deeps and the heights of this amazing love – let us acknowledge what we do understand – and send our thanks and praises to the heavenly courts above.
In the Foreword of “The Kingdom Interlinear Translation” p. 23, the Watchtower Society (the propriety organization of the Jehovah’s Witnesses) admits, that even they know, that the more correct pronunciation for ‘YHWH’ is ‘YAHWEH.’ However, they then say that they prefer to retain Jehovah:
While inclining to view the pronunciation “Yah-weh” as the more correct way, we have retained the form “Jehovah” because of people’s familiarity with it since the 14th century.