Sunday, March 19, 2023



Muslims do not believe Jesus died as the Bible claims He did. The Qur’an explicitly states (4:157-159): “And for their saying, ‘Verily we have slain the Messiah, Jesus the son of Mary, an Apostle of God.’ Yet they slew him not, and they crucified him not, but they had only his likeness.”


In commenting of this text, Baidawi, a highly esteemed thirteenth-century Muslim jurist and exegete said: “It is related that a group of Jews reviled Isa [Jesus]...then the Jews gathered to kill him. Whereupon Allah informed him [Jesus] that he would take him up to heaven. Then Isa said to his disciples, ‘which one of you is willing to have my likeness cast upon him, and be killed and crucified and enter Paradise?’”


This claim of the non-death of Jesus is an argument of history, not only theology. The claim is alleging that the New Testament is wrong to state that Jesus was killed by means of crucifixion – Jesus did not die on the cross. Muslims believe someone else died in His place. Among other things, the Islamic claim is a challenge to the accuracy and credibility of the New Testament record.


The implications of this no-death claim is too serious to go unnoticed. Apart from challenging the credibility of the New Testament, the view is suggesting that all Christian doctrines that are based on Christ’s death on the cross are false, in that there was no death on the cross. In addition, the Christian claim of the resurrection is a hoax, in that there can be no resurrection if there were no death.


Furthermore, all the Old Testament references to the death of Jesus were misinterpreted. Added to these would be all the references to the death of Jesus, following the death of Jesus. In essence, the Christian Bible is unreliable, in that it records an event that did not take place. Some Muslims explain this dilemma by suggesting that the Early Church adjusted the records to fit their theology.


However, other than Christian writers, non-religious historians reported on the death of Jesus. Housed in the British Museum is a document entitled, “the letter of Mara Bar Serapion.” In this letter, written about thirty years after the death of Jesus, Mara asks, “what advantage did the Jews gain from executing their wise King?”


Even the Jewish Babylonian Talmud states, “On the eve of Passover they hanged Yeshu (of Nazareth), let everyone knowing aught in his defense come and plead for him. But they found naught in his defense and hanged him on the eve of Passover.”


In spite of the overwhelming evidence to support the death of Jesus, Islam is not the only ones supporting the non-death theory. As early as the second century, Gnostic Basilides denied the death of Jesus. He taught that at the crucifixion, Jesus changed form with Simon of Cyrene who had carried the cross. The Jews, mistaking Simon for Jesus, nailed him [Simon] to the cross. Basilides contended that Jesus stood by deriding their error before ascending to heaven.


In the third century, Mani of Persia taught that the son of the widow of Nain, whom Jesus raised from the dead, was put to death in Jesus’ place.


Many Muslim scholars cite the Gospel of Barnabas to support the Qur’anic teaching that Jesus did not die as told in the New Testament. Ironically, those who cite this sixteenth-century source, think they are quoting from the Letter of Barnabas, written in the first half of the second century. Whereas the Letter of Barnabas affirmed the death of Jesus and was considered to be among the most important post-New Testament writings, the same cannot be said of The Gospel of Barnabas.


The Gospel of Barnabas contends that Judas Iscariot was substituted for Jesus (Section 217). This view has been adopted by many Muslims, since so many of them believe that someone else was substituted on the cross for Jesus. Interestingly, most religious scholars will concur that The Gospel of Barnabas is a fake.


From my research, no credible historical source would challenge the crucifixion of Jesus. Many would debate the significance of His death – but not the fact of His dying on a cross.


Apart from the clear and frequent references to the death of Jesus in the New Testament, extra-biblical Jewish and Roman testimonies affirm that Jesus died. For instance, Tacitus’ Annals speak of “Christ, who was executed under Pontius Pilate in the reign of Tiberius.”


In the second century Justin Martyr referred to the “Acts of Pontius Pilate” under whom “nails were fixed in Jesus’ hands and feet on the cross...” Josephus, the first-century Jewish historian, wrote that “there was a wise man who was called Jesus ...Pilate condemned him to be crucified and to die.”


We need not deny the death of Jesus – to do so would be to deny what actually happened. Unlike other deaths, the death of Jesus does not mean defeat. Rather, the death of Jesus means victory. That is why He gave a shout of victory from the cross. And that is why we designate the memory of His death as Good Friday, not Sad Friday!


Sunday, March 12, 2023



Clients expect their defense attorneys to make them look good. Whereas clients who are guilty expect leniency, clients who are innocent expect total exoneration. Unless for some unknown reason, innocent clients usually fight for their freedom.


The Easter story is the story of an innocent man who chose not to fight for his freedom. He had the resources to fight, and He chose not to do so. In telling the story, Matthew quotes Jesus as saying, “Do you think I cannot call on my Father and He will at once put at my disposal more than twelve legions of angels?” (Matthew 26:53).


Considering that a Roman legion had 6,000 soldiers, Jesus was claiming that he had access to at least 72,000 angels to protect Him from Roman crucifixion, one of the worst forms of capital punishment in the history of mankind. In his gospel, Luke contends that one such angel provided strength to Jesus before He was arrested by the Roman authorities (Luke 22:43). In other words, rather than provide release from the trial, the angel provided ability to cope with the trial.


Both the Jewish and Roman trials were mockeries and travesties of justice. Attorney Steven Allen analyzes these trials in his book, The Illegal Trial of Christ. Here he examines both Jewish and Roman civil and religious law and exposes the violations that occurred during Jesus’ arrest and trial. The trials were held in the wrong place, at the wrong time, by the wrong people and with the wrong witnesses. Yet Jesus never fought for a retrial.   


Earlier in His ministry, attempts were made to kill Jesus. This is how John described one of those attempts: “At that point some of the people of Jerusalem began to ask, ‘Isn’t this the man they are trying to kill?’... At this they tried to seize Him, but no one laid a hand on Him, because His time had not yet come” (John 7:25-30).


John’s comment, “...His time had not yet come”, gives the impression that the death of Jesus was prearranged. Peter, one the disciples of Jesus, was convinced that the death of Jesus was no accident, it was prearranged. In his sermon on the Day of Pentecost, Peter said, “This Man [Jesus] was handed over to you by God’s set purpose and foreknowledge...” (Acts 2:23).


Interestingly, some 700 years before the death of Jesus, the prophet Isaiah predicted that the promised Messiah would experience a tragic death. The prophet went as far as to say that the promised Messiah would be pierced (Isaiah 53:5). However, Isaiah did not say who was the Messiah to whom he was referring. Many Jews are still awaiting the arrival of that Messiah.


Unlike the Jews who are awaiting the arrival of the Messiah, Jesus contended that He was the Messiah. Following His death and resurrection, Jesus said to His disciples, “...everything must be fulfilled that is written about Me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms” (Luke 24:44). It was because of His claim to be the Messiah, first century Jews sought to kill Him (Luke 22:66-71).


As far as Jesus was concerned, the authorities killed the Messiah, and that killing was consistent with what was expected to happen to the Messiah. Therefore, to avoid the crucifixion would be to deny a messianic requirement. Jesus was no insurrectionist, as the authorities contended, in order to justify their murderous act - He died as was expected of the Messiah.


That being the case, one must now answer the question, why was it necessary for the Messiah to die? The apostle Paul, a Jewish convert to Christianity, answers that question in one of his letters: “...that Christ [Messiah] died for our sins according to the Scriptures” (1 Corinthians 15:3). His use of the word Scriptures here is in reference to the Hebrew Bible.


In other words, Paul is contending that according to the Hebrew Bible, Jesus died for the sins of the people. Could Paul have been referring to the words of Isaiah? “But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed” (Isaiah 53:6). 


Because Jesus was aware that His cruel death was consistent with His messianic role, it made sense not to seek a retrial or to avoid the consequences. He was aware that He was dying because of “our iniquities and our transgressions.” In addition, Jesus was aware that “by His wounds we would be healed.”


For this reason Jesus could shout triumphantly from the cross. His statement, “IT IS FINISHED” was similar to the shout of an athlete as he crossed the finish line. For Jesus, the mission was a victory, not a tragedy. That victory is what we claim when we commit our lives to Him – He died for me. I am so glad He did not seek a retrial.



Monday, February 27, 2023



The revival at Asbury University attracted thousands of people within a two-week span. This was all happening in Wilmore Kentucky, a community with a population of some 6,000 people. One eyewitness reported that the services filled overflow buildings and a grass lawn with a 2 ½-mile backup of cars going into Wilmore.

Now we know that the fires of the Asbury Revival are spreading. Revival services have since begun at Samford University in Alabama, Cedarville University in Ohio, and Lee and Belmont Universities in Tennessee. Interestingly, more than 20 college campuses have been affected so far.

Since the start of the revival on Wednesday, February 08, no one is able to explain the cause and spread of the movement. There is no visionary, no official leadership, no program of activities and no structured promotion, yet the spirit of revival continues to grow.

That pattern of growth is consistent within the history of revivals. For instance, without the aid of the internet, the Third Great Awakening began in 1857-1858. By the end of March 1858 every church and public hall was filled to capacity in downtown New York City as ten thousand businessmen were gathering daily for prayer.

According to revival historian Dr J. Edwin Orr, approximately one million people were converted in the nation during 1858-1859. The influence of the awakening was felt everywhere in the nation. Almost simultaneously, another revival started in Canada. These two revival streams began to spread around the world. This influence led to revivals in Wales (1858-1860), Ireland and Scotland (1859-1860), and England (1859-1860). In 1858, about 200,000 converts were recorded in Sweden. The India Awakening began in late 1859, with the greatest revivals occurring in the south of India.

We must not omit to mention the revival overflow into Jamaica. On September 28, 1860, a Moravian missionary to Jamaica, began to record what historians call the “Great Jamaica Revival”. For four weeks, almost non-stop, one Moravian congregation was in prayer. The revival spread quickly to the Anglican, Baptist, Congregationalist, Methodist and Presbyterian congregations. For almost two years, churches were packed with worshipers. Participating churches recorded hundreds of conversions.  

One Congregationalist minister summarized the practical results of the revival as follows: “It closed the rum shops and gambling houses, reconciled long-separated husband and wives, restored prodigal children, produced scores of bans to be read for marriage, crowded every place of worship, quickened the zeal of ministers, purified the churches, and brought many sinners to repentance. It also excited the rage of those ungodly people whom it had not humbled.”

Like in the “Great Jamaica Revival”, revivals also affect secular society. Agreed, revivals begin among Christians and affect Christians. But the Christian witness affects the societies in which the Christians live. One revival in South Africa resulted in hundreds of stolen items being returned to businesses. In Canada, people returned to shops to pay for items they stole over the years. Some universities did not know how to handle confessions of plagiarism and stolen intellectual property.

Revivals establish new forms of community. Some refashion social and religious structures by transferring power from the center to the periphery. New leaders emerge. Different criteria for leadership are recognized. Different theological emphases are recognized. The impact felt from revivals are spiritually significant and durable.

From the little recorded, we know many institutions credit their existence either directly or indirectly to revivals. One of the more prominent is the Salvation Army, founded by William Booth, a Methodist minister. This evangelical ministry began in the East End of London in 1865. In Jamaica, the Bethlehem Moravian College (1861) is still equipping persons for service. The London Missionary Society’s Congregational churches had grown so strong that in 1867, they decided to pull their missionaries out of Jamaica, considering the island sufficiently evangelized. Baptist churches across the island reported 12,000 conversions, ending a 25-year decline in attendance.

No one will ever know the full impact of the Asbury Revival, started on February 08, 2023. What we do know is that that relatively small Christian university experienced an extraordinary encounter with an influence bigger than the students could imagine. The influence is similar to encounters others have had at different times in history.

Jesus attributed this type of anonymous encounter to the Holy Spirit. In speaking to Nicodemus, Jesus said, “The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit” (John 3:8).