John 3:16 is a reference to a specific verse in the Bible. It is found in the New Testament in the 16th verse of the third chapter of the book of John. This is what it says:
For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.
Here we have summarized in one verse the mission and purpose of Jesus Christ.
God loves the people of the world. That's us. He loves us so much that he was willing to allow his Son, Jesus Christ, to suffer and die and take punishment that rightfully should be ours because of our sin and rebellion against God.
And, anyone, ("whosoever") who simply believes on Him will not have to die spiritually because Christ gave himself on the cross in our place. Instead, we can have eternal life because of what He did.
Because of God's love. Because of Jesus' sacrifice, anyone can have eternal life by believing in him.
That is what John 3:16 means.
Four Steps To Salvation
- Realize that you are a sinner:
Romans 3:23 says, "All have sinned"
- Realize sin's penalty:
Romans 6:23a says, "The wages of sin is death"
- Realize GOD'S provision:
Romans 6:23b says, "The gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ."
- Accept GOD'S free gift:
Romans 10:9 says, "That if you confess with your mouth Jesus is Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.
» read more of God's Salvation Plan
The Bible is not always an easy book to understand. But, the Bible is God's word to his people. Therefore, we would expect that He would help people to understand it.
One way to understand scripture is to avoid some very common mistakes people make when reading it:
- While the Bible can speak to you on a very personal level, don't expect to find a verse telling you who to marry, what job to take, what investments to make, etc. On the other hand, the Holy Spirit may use scripture to give you guidance which you may apply toward answering these questions and others.
- Read the Bible with your heart open to find out what God would like to say to you. Let Him decide what to reveal to you. He knows what is best for you. Don't necessarily judge your Bible reading by whether or not you find what you are looking for. Open yourself to finding what God wants you to understand. What He has for you may be very different from what you are expecting.
- Don't just open the scripture at random, point to a verse blindly, and expect it to answer your questions. Most Christians have probably tried that method at least once in their lives. There is no evidence that God chooses to use His word in that manner.
- Don't fall into the "if only I could find a translation or version which makes sense to me" trap. Real biblical insight comes from the Holy Spirit, not the skill of any human translator. This is true whether the translator lived centuries ago, or in our lifetime.
There is one and only one method I know of that is absolutely guaranteed to open scripture to you in a way that may absolutely amaze you if you have never tried it before. Let me suggest the following steps:
- Take your Bible in your hand and hold it. Then, before you even open it, pray. Spend time in prayer with God and fellowship with Him, tell Him what's on your mind and what's going on in your life. Talk to Him about your spiritual needs. If there are any areas in your life in which you need to talk with Him and get right with Him, now is the time to do it. Most importantly, ask Him to speak to you through the scripture you are about to read. Ask the Holy Spirit, the author, to use the text to speak to your heart and to reveal to you what the text means.
- Then, begin reading. Not just a verse or two, but read for awhile letting your mind get caught up in the text. If you have been faithful and honest in step #1, over time, you may be surprised at the increased level of clarity and meaning you find in the text. You may even be quite surprised the first time the Holy Spirit takes a verse and really "brings it home" to you.
That, I believe, is the secret to reading scripture with insight and understanding. Don't depend on yourself, a translator, commentator, or Bible teacher to do it. Although these other sources all have their place in a program of Bible study, there is nothing more powerful than the personal help and instruction of the Holy Spirit.
In our humanistic culture, people pursue many things, thinking that in them they will find meaning. Some of these pursuits include business success, wealth, good relationships, sex, entertainment, and doing good to others. People have testified that while they achieved their goals of wealth, relationships, and pleasure, there was still a deep void inside, a feeling of emptiness that nothing seemed to fill.
The author of the biblical book of Ecclesiastes describes this feeling when he says, “Meaningless! Meaningless! ...Utterly meaningless! Everything is meaningless” Ecclesiastes 1:2. King Solomon, the writer of Ecclesiastes, had wealth beyond measure, wisdom beyond any man of his time or ours, hundreds of women, palaces and gardens that were the envy of kingdoms, the best food and wine, and every form of entertainment available. He said at one point that anything his heart wanted, he pursued. And yet he summed up “life under the sun”—life lived as though all there is to life is what we can see with our eyes and experience with our senses—is meaningless. Why is there such a void? Because God created us for something beyond what we can experience in the here-and-now. Solomon said of God, “He has also set eternity in the hearts of men...” Ecclesiastes 3:11. In our hearts we are aware that the “here-and-now” is not all that there is.
In Genesis, the first book of the Bible, we find that God created mankind in His image Genesis 1:26. This means that we are more like God than we are like anything else (any other life form). We also find that before mankind fell into sin and the curse of sin came upon the earth, the following things were true:
1. God made man a social creature. Genesis 2:18-25
2. God gave man work. Genesis 2:15
3. God had fellowship with man. Genesis 3:8
4. God gave man dominion over the earth. Genesis 1:26
What is the significance of these things? God intended for each of these to add to our fulfillment in life, but all of these (especially man's fellowship with God) were adversely affected by man's fall into sin and the resulting curse upon the earth in Genesis 3:1-24.
In Revelation, the last book of the Bible, God reveals that He will destroy this present earth and heavens and usher in the eternal state by creating a new heaven and a new earth. At that time, He will restore full fellowship with redeemed mankind, while the unredeemed will have been judged unworthy and cast into the lake of fire. Revelation 20:11-15
The curse of sin will be done away with; there will be no more sin, sorrow, sickness, death, or pain. Revelation 21:4
God will dwell with them, and they shall be His sons Revelation 21:7. Thus, we come full circle. God created us to have fellowship with Him, man sinned, breaking that fellowship, God restores that fellowship fully in the eternal state. To go through life achieving everything only to die separated from God for eternity would be worse than futile! But God has made a way to not only make eternal bliss possible Luke 23:43 but also life on earth satisfying and meaningful. How is this eternal bliss and “heaven on earth” obtained?
Meaning of life restored through Jesus Christ
Real meaning in life, both now and in eternity, is found in the restoration of the relationship with God that was lost with Adam and Eve's fall into sin. That relationship with God is only possible through His Son, Jesus Christ Acts 4:12; John 1:12; 14:6. Eternal life is gained when we repent of our sin (no longer want to continue in it) and Christ changes us, making of us new creations, and we rely on Jesus Christ as Savior.
Real meaning in life is not found only in accepting Jesus as Savior, as wonderful as that is. Rather, real meaning in life is when one begins to follow Christ as His disciple, learning of Him, spending time with Him in His Word, communing with Him in prayer, and in walking with Him in obedience to His commands. If you are not a Christian (or perhaps a new believer), you might be saying to yourself, “That does not sound very exciting or fulfilling to me!” But Jesus made the following statements:
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light” Matthew 11:28-30. “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full” John 10:10b. “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it” Matthew 16:24-25. “Delight yourself in the LORD and he will give you the desires of your heart” Psalm 37:4.
What all of these verses are saying is that we have a choice. We can continue to seek to guide our own lives, which results in emptiness, or we can choose to pursue God and His will for our lives with a whole heart, which will result in living life to the full, having the desires of our hearts met, and finding contentment and satisfaction. This is so because our Creator loves us and desires the best for us (not necessarily the easiest life, but the most fulfilling).
The Christian life can be compared to the choice of whether to purchase the expensive seats at a sporting event that are close to the action, or pay less and watch the game from a distance. Watching God work “from the front row” is what we should choose but, sadly, is not what most people choose. Watching God work firsthand is for whole-hearted disciples of Christ who have truly stopped pursuing their own desires to pursue instead God's purposes. They have paid the price (complete surrender to Christ and His will); they are experiencing life to its fullest; and they can face themselves, their fellow man, and their Maker with no regrets. Have you paid the price? Are you willing to? If so, you will not hunger after meaning or purpose again.
That does not mean, however, that there is no evidence of God’s existence. The Bible states, “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of His hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they display knowledge. There is no speech or language where their voice is not heard. Their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world” Psalm 19:1-4. Looking at the stars, understanding the vastness of the universe, observing the wonders of nature, seeing the beauty of a sunset—all of these things point to a Creator God. If these were not enough, there is also evidence of God in our own hearts. Ecclesiastes 3:11 tells us, “…He has also set eternity in the hearts of men.” Deep within us is the recognition that there is something beyond this life and someone beyond this world. We can deny this knowledge intellectually, but God’s presence in us and all around us is still obvious. Despite this, the Bible warns that some will still deny God’s existence: “The fool says in his heart, ‘There is no God’” Psalm 14:1. Since the vast majority of people throughout history, in all cultures, in all civilizations, and on all continents believe in the existence of some kind of God, there must be something (or someone) causing this belief.
In addition to the biblical arguments for God’s existence, there are logical arguments. First, there is the ontological argument. The most popular form of the ontological argument uses the concept of God to prove God’s existence. It begins with the definition of God as “a being than which no greater can be conceived.” It is then argued that to exist is greater than to not exist, and therefore the greatest conceivable being must exist. If God did not exist, then God would not be the greatest conceivable being, and that would contradict the very definition of God.
A second argument is the teleological argument. The teleological argument states that since the universe displays such an amazing design, there must have been a divine Designer. For example, if the Earth were significantly closer or farther away from the sun, it would not be capable of supporting much of the life it currently does. If the elements in our atmosphere were even a few percentage points different, nearly every living thing on earth would die. The odds of a single protein molecule forming by chance is 1 in 10243 (that is a 10 followed by 243 zeros). A single cell is comprised of millions of protein molecules.
A third logical argument for God’s existence is called the cosmological argument. Every effect must have a cause. This universe and everything in it is an effect. There must be something that caused everything to come into existence. Ultimately, there must be something “un-caused” in order to cause everything else to come into existence. That “un-caused” cause is God.
A fourth argument is known as the moral argument. Every culture throughout history has had some form of law. Everyone has a sense of right and wrong. Murder, lying, stealing, and immorality are almost universally rejected. Where did this sense of right and wrong come from if not from a holy God?
Despite all of this, the Bible tells us that people will reject the clear and undeniable knowledge of God and believe a lie instead. Romans 1:25 declares, “They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised. Amen.” The Bible also proclaims that people are without excuse for not believing in God: “For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities—His eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse” Romans 1:20.
People claim to reject God’s existence because it is “not scientific” or “because there is no proof.” The true reason is that once they admit that there is a God, they also must realize that they are responsible to God and in need of forgiveness from Him Romans 3:23, 6:23. If God exists, then we are accountable to Him for our actions. If God does not exist, then we can do whatever we want without having to worry about God judging us. That is why many of those who deny the existence of God cling strongly to the theory of naturalistic evolution—it gives them an alternative to believing in a Creator God. God exists and ultimately everyone knows that He exists. The very fact that some attempt so aggressively to disprove His existence is in fact an argument for His existence.
How do we know God exists? As Christians, we know God exists because we speak to Him every day. We do not audibly hear Him speaking to us, but we sense His presence, we feel His leading, we know His love, we desire His grace. Things have occurred in our lives that have no possible explanation other than God. God has so miraculously saved us and changed our lives that we cannot help but acknowledge and praise His existence. None of these arguments can persuade anyone who refuses to acknowledge what is already obvious. In the end, God’s existence must be accepted by faith Hebrews 11:6. Faith in God is not a blind leap into the dark; it is safe step into a well-lit room where the vast majority of people are already standing.
The most basic proof of God’s existence is simply what He has made. “For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse” Romans 1:20. “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands.” Psalm 19:1.
If I found a wristwatch in the middle of a field, I would not assume that it just “appeared” out of nowhere or that it had always existed. Based on the watch’s design, I would assume it had a designer. But there is far greater design and precision in the world around us. Our measurement of time is not based on wristwatches, but on God’s handiwork—the regular rotation of the earth (and the radioactive properties of the cesium-133 atom). The universe displays great design, and this argues for a Great Designer.
If I found an encoded message, I would seek out a cryptographer to help break the code. My assumption would be that there is an intelligent sender of the message, someone who created the code. How complex is the DNA “code” that we carry in every cell of our bodies? Does not the complexity and purpose of DNA argue for an Intelligent Writer of the code?
Not only has God made an intricate and finely tuned physical world; He has also instilled a sense of eternity in the heart of every person Ecclesiastes 3:11. Mankind has an innate perception that there is more to life than meets the eye, that there is an existence higher than this earthly routine. Our sense of eternity manifests itself in at least two ways: law-making and worship.
Every civilization throughout history has valued certain moral laws, which are surprisingly similar from culture to culture. For example, the ideal of love is universally esteemed, while the act of lying is universally condemned. This common morality—this global understanding of right and wrong—points to a Supreme Moral Being who gave us such scruples.
In the same way, people all over the world, regardless of culture, have always cultivated a system of worship. The object of worship may vary, but the sense of a “higher power” is an undeniable part of being human. Our propensity to worship accords with the fact that God created us “in His own image” Genesis 1:27.
God has also revealed Himself to us through His Word, the Bible. Throughout Scripture, the existence of God is treated as a self-evident fact Genesis 1:1; Exodus 3:14. When Benjamin Franklin wrote his autobiography, he did not waste time trying to prove his own existence. Likewise, God does not spend much time proving His existence in His book. The life-changing nature of the Bible, its integrity, and the miracles which accompanied its writing should be enough to warrant a closer look.
The third way in which God revealed Himself is through His Son, Jesus Christ John 14:6-11. “In the beginning was the Word: the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth” Colossians 2:9.
In Jesus’ amazing life, He kept the entire Old Testament law perfectly and fulfilled the prophecies concerning the Messiah Matthew 5:17. He performed countless acts of compassion and public miracles to authenticate His message and bear witness to His deity John 21:24-25. Then, three days after His crucifixion, He rose from the dead, a fact affirmed by hundreds of eyewitnesses 1 Corinthians 15:6. The historical record abounds with “proof” of who Jesus is. As the Apostle Paul said, this thing “was not done in a corner” Acts 26:26.
We realize that there will always be skeptics who have their own ideas concerning God and will read the evidence accordingly. And there will be some whom no amount of proof will convince Psalm 14:1. It all comes down to faith Hebrews 11:6..
Being made in the image and likeness of God (Genesis 1:27), human beings have the ability to know God and therefore love Him, worship Him, serve Him, and fellowship with Him. God did not create human beings because He needed them. As God, He needs nothing. In all eternity past, He felt no loneliness, so He was not looking for a “friend.” He loves us, but this is not the same as needing us. If we had never existed, God would still be God—the unchanging One (Malachi 3:6). The I AM (Exodus 3:14) was never dissatisfied with His own eternal existence. When He made the universe, He did what pleased Himself, and since God is perfect, His action was perfect. “It was very good” (Genesis 1:31).
Also, God did not create “peers” or beings equal to Himself. Logically, He could not do so. If God were to create another being of equal power, intelligence, and perfection, then He would cease to be the one true God for the simple reason that there would be two gods—and that would be an impossibility. “The LORD is God; besides him there is no other” (Deuteronomy 4:35). Anything that God creates must of necessity be lesser than He. The thing made can never be greater than, or as great as, the One who made it.
Recognizing the complete sovereignty and holiness of God, we are amazed that He would take man and crown him “with glory and honor” (Psalm 8:5) and that He would condescend to call us “friends” (John 15:14-15). Why did God create us? God created us for His pleasure and so that we, as His creation, would have the pleasure of knowing Him.
There are those who may say that Jesus never claimed to be the messiah, or the Son of God, or divine. But, the record from the Bible is very clear:
- Jesus claimed to be the Messiah - John 4:25 & John 4:26
- Jesus claimed to be the Son of God - John 9:35-38
- Jesus claimed to be God - John 8:58
These are significant claims. These claims are the foundation of our Christian faith. Can we find anything to "back up" these claims, or do we simply "take it on faith?"
In spite of what some may say, it is more reasonable to accept Jesus Christ than to reject Him. It is more reasonable to believe in Jesus than to doubt Him.
It takes someone special to perform the miracles that Jesus performed:
- Born of a virgin - Matthew 1:22-23
- Raised from the dead - Matthew 28:5-6 & Romans 10:9
- Restored sight with a touch of His hand -Matthew 9:27-31
- Feed 5,000 people with 5 loaves and 2 small fish - Matthew 14:19-21
- Forgave sins - Matthew 9:1-7
Anyone willing to accept the word of the New Testament has all the proof they need regarding Jesus' true identity. But, do we have enough evidence to confirm Jesus' identity as Messiah even without the miraculous acts he performed? Yes we can!
Jesus' identity is confirmed through the fulfillment of Old Testament Prophecy.
- The Old Testament books were written and their contents established centuries before Christ. Jesus and His followers could not have written those books or influenced their content during His lifetime on earth. These Old Testament books predict a coming Messiah. And, they give information so that this messiah may be recognized when he appears.
- The life of Jesus Christ is a literal fulfillment of Bible prophecies which are specifically identify the coming Messiah.
- It is not reasonable to believe that Jesus fulfilled these prophecies by chance.
- It is not reasonable to believe that Jesus was involved in a plot which falsely presented him as the Messiah
- It is reasonable to believe that prophetic fulfillment is exactly what it was intended to be: an indication of who the Messiah really is - Jesus Christ.
Jesus Christ is the only religious leader whose arrival was predicted prior to his arrival on Earth and who came exactly when and as predicted.
Given the fact that, despite incredible odds, someone matching the descriptions found in the Old Testament came at exactly the right time lends credence to what Jesus had to say. Given the fact that His own existence was a miracle, it is not unreasonable to believe that Jesus himself could perform miracles and that we should believe His word to us:
For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost. (Luke 19:10)
Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me. (John 14:6)
"Most assuredly, I say to you, he who hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me has everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment, but has passed from death into life. (John 5:24)
All things are delivered unto me of my Father: and no man knoweth the Son, but the Father; neither knoweth any man the Father, save the Son, and he to whomsoever the Son will reveal him. Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light. (Matt. 11:27-30)
This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you. (John 15:12)
And, many many more words which may be found in your New Testament.
The following prophecies represent only a few simple historical facts. There are over 300 specific Old Testament prophesies relating to the first coming of the Messiah which are fulfilled in the life of Jesus Christ.
The Messiah would be a descendent of David.
"Behold, the days are coming," says the LORD, "That I will raise to David a Branch of righteousness; a King shall reign and prosper, and execute judgment and righteousness in the earth. (Jer. 23:5)
The book of the generation of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham. (Matt. 1:1)
Being a direct male descendent of king David?
Do you suppose 1 person in 10 could make that claim? Probably not.
The Messiah would enter Jerusalem on a Donkey.
But thou, Bethlehem Ephratah, though thou be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of thee shall he come forth unto me that is to be ruler in Israel; whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting. (Micah 5:2)
Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem, (Matt. 2:1)
Once you located a few people who were descended from David, born in Bethlehem,
and visited by wise men at their birth, how many of them would you suppose have
ever ridden into Jerusalem on a Donkey? It's not likely to be 10%.
The Messiah would be sold for 30 pieces of silver, the money thrown into
God's house, and the money used to buy a potter's field.
Then I said to them, "If it is agreeable to you, give me my wages; and if not, refrain." So they weighed out for my wages thirty pieces of silver. And the LORD said to me, "Throw it to the potter"-- that princely price they set on me. So I took the thirty pieces of silver and threw them into the house of the LORD for the potter. (Zech. 11:12-13)
Then Judas, which had betrayed him, when he saw that he was condemned, repented himself, and brought again the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and elders, Saying, I have sinned in that I have betrayed the innocent blood. And they said, What is that to us? see thou to that. And he cast down the pieces of silver in the temple, and departed, and went and hanged himself. And the chief priests took the silver pieces, and said, It is not lawful for to put them into the treasury, because it is the price of blood. And they took counsel, and bought with them the potter's field, to bury strangers in. Wherefore that field was called, The field of blood, unto this day. Then was fulfilled that which was spoken by Jeremy the prophet, saying, And they took the thirty pieces of silver, the price of him that was valued, whom they of the children of Israel did value; And gave them for the potter's field, as the Lord appointed me. (Matt. 27:3-10)
If you could find a group of men, in all of human history, who were descended from
David, born in Bethlehem, and had ridden into Jerusalem on a donkey, do you think
you could find one of them who, just by sheer chance, has been betrayed for 30 pieces
of silver, all of which was later thrown into the house of God, and (just by coincidence)
used to buy a potter's field?
Lots would be cast for the Messiah's clothing.
They divide My garments among them, and for My clothing they cast lots. (Ps. 22:18)
And when they had crucified him, they parted his garments, casting lots upon them, what every man should take. (Mark 15:24)
Not one of the Messiah's bones would be broken.
He guards all his bones; not one of them is broken. (Ps. 34:20)
Therefore, because it was the Preparation Day, that the bodies should not remain on the cross on the Sabbath (for that Sabbath was a high day), the Jews asked Pilate that their legs might be broken, and that they might be taken away. Then the soldiers came and broke the legs of the first and of the other who was crucified with Him. But when they came to Jesus and saw that He was already dead, they did not break His legs. (John 19:32-33)
One day, the people of Jerusalem will "look on me whom they have pierced".
"And I will pour on the house of David and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem the Spirit of grace and supplication; then they will look on Me whom they have pierced; they will mourn for Him as one mourns for his only son, and grieve for Him as one grieves for a firstborn. (Zech. 12:10)
Then came the soldiers, and brake the legs of the first, and of the other which was crucified with him. But when they came to Jesus, and saw that he was dead already, they brake not his legs: But one of the soldiers with a spear pierced his side, and forthwith came there out blood and water. (John 19:33-34)
At the Messiah's death, the sun would go down at noon.
"And it shall come to pass in that day," says the Lord GOD, "That I will make the sun go down at noon, and I will darken the earth in broad daylight; (Amos 8:9)
And it was about the sixth hour, and there was a darkness over all the earth until the ninth hour. And the sun was darkened, and the veil of the temple was rent in the midst. (Luke 23:44-45)
The Messiah would be buried (briefly) in a rich man's tomb.
And he made his grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death; because he had done no violence, neither was any deceit in his mouth. (Isa. 53:9)
When the even was come, there came a rich man of Arimathaea, named Joseph, who also himself was Jesus' disciple: He went to Pilate, and begged the body of Jesus. Then Pilate commanded the body to be delivered. And when Joseph had taken the body, he wrapped it in a clean linen cloth, And laid it in his own new tomb, which he had hewn out in the rock: and he rolled a great stone to the door of the sepulcher, and departed. (Matt. 27:58-60)
If, by chance, you could find a few men who were descended from David, born in
Bethlehem, who had ridden into Jerusalem on a donkey, betrayed for 30 pieces of
silver, and the silver later thrown into the temple and subsequently used to buy a potter's
field, how many of them do you suppose also (by sheer coincidence):
- Had lots cast for their clothing?
- Experienced darkness at noon on the day of their death?
- Were pierced by a sword?
- Never experienced a broken bone?
- And were buried in a rich man's tomb?
We have reduced the possibility of a chance fulfillment of all of the Old Testament
prophesies to the level of an absurdity just by using about a dozen of them. There
are over 300 related prophesies which require fulfillment by the true Messiah.
There is one man, and only one man, of whom all these predicted events are true.
His name is Jesus Christ.
Thank you for your question, one which has caused anxiety for Christians from the earliest times.
In Paul’s first letter to the Thessalonians, they were anxious because they thought that those who had died before the return of Jesus might be lost forever (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18). This indicates that they surely thought Jesus would return soon, within their lifetimes. Yet Jesus himself declared that only God the Father knew the time of his return and so the disciples were to be diligent as they didn’t know the time of his return (Mark 13:32-37).
The main part of the Bible I would direct you to look at however is 2 Peter chapter 3 where he declares that people will mock the believe that Jesus is returning (verse 4). Peter responds by pointing out that time does not operate for God as it does for us (verse 8), but his delay is due to his waiting for people to come to repentance (verse 9).
Ultimately, Christians today are in a similar position to the early church in so much as we do not know when he will return. However we can be confident that he will return because he promised that he would die, be raised, (Mark 10:32-34) return to Father and then return in glory (Acts 1:11). God has demonstrated in history that Jesus is real, and really died and rose from the dead (1 Corinthians 15:3-5) so we can trust that Jesus is real and will really return on that basis.
The Bible is its own best teacher. The Bible however is not arranged like an encyclopedia. You cannot go to chapter 1 and read everything about God and go to chapter 2 to read everything about Jesus, etc. Some ground rules need to be set up first:
- Pray first before opening God's word. Ask for guidance and to be able to accept what is written and to be able to apply His will to your life.
- Never, never read the Bible trying to proof your belief on any subject. It is only human nature to take ideas out of context.
- When you are reading and come across something that does not make sense, reread the paragraph or chapter again. If you still do not understand, write down the problem area and continue onward. You may discover the answers later in your reading.
- Do not read large amounts of the Bible in one setting. Take breaks often or stay with about 4-6 chapters a day.
- Start with the New Testament, people who start with the Old Testament almost never read the Bible all the way through. The New Testament is what is binding on us today. We need to follow God's will for us today.
- Forget everything you have ever heard about Jesus, God and the Bible before you start reading the Bible. Don't take what you want it to say with you first.
Now with those in mind, let's lay out the way to read the Bible to let it build on itself:
- Read "Book of John." (It contains a lot of the life of Jesus not before read, especially his last two weeks before the crucifixion.)
- Read "Matthew." (It goes into better detail of some events and adds more about Jesus.)
- Read "Mark." (It is written in chronological order.)
- Read "Luke" then "Acts." (Both written by Apostle Paul's traveling companion Luke. Acts is a continuation of Luke. It describes the early church and contains the examples of New Testament conversions.)
- Read "Galatians." (It deals with the reasons why we do not follow the Old Testament Laws in a more simplified way than does Romans or Hebrews.)
- Then read the rest of the New Testament starting at Romans and going to Revelation.
Recommend taking one of our many study guides as you read your Bible. Check the study guides out here.
Your voyage through God's Word will be the best traveling you can ever take. You will laugh and you will cry, and lots more. It can teach you the most important things for this life and the one to come.
God's will for our lives can be divided into two areas: general instructions (things He wants from every one of us) and specific instructions (such as an individual call to be a minister, missionary, Bible teacher, or other specific calling).
Finding God's general instructions is relatively easy. The information is well known and is found in our Bible. Simple instructions such as putting God first in our lives, loving others as ourselves, etc., are well established and well known. It is our responsibility as Christians to read God's word, and, as He gives us strength, to follow His instructions for our lives. The Bible is full of admonitions for us to be obedient to the known will of God.
Knowing God's specific instructions for our own individual life can be more difficult. This is a problem most Christians struggle with at some time in their life. Older Christians are not exempt from this struggle, but it is a particular problem for young Christians who are making decisions about school, courses of study and other issues involved with choosing, preparing for and starting careers.
The same Bible that spends a great deal of time telling us to be obedient, spends little or no time admonishing us or placing a specific responsibility on us to find ministry or career instructions from God. On the other hand, in scripture, when God did call men and women to service He expected their obedience.
The lesson here seems to that it is our responsibility is to obey. It is God's responsibility to instruct and call.
We are responsible for obedience to the instruction God has placed in His word and for any specific calling He has revealed to us. On the other hand, we are not responsible for a call we have not yet received, or specifics about a call which have not yet been revealed.
Furthermore, it is consistent with the character and nature of God that He will make his call known as soon as He feels it is necessary that we know it. This tells us that, if He hasn't made it known yet, then it isn't yet necessary, in His judgment, that we know.
Christians, especially those choosing courses of study and careers, often put unnecessary stress on themselves because they want to know God's will for their lives and sometimes He doesn't seem to be saying anything to them. In truth the pressure is off of us and the responsibility is on God. It is God's responsibility to tell us. Our only responsibility is to obey once His will is known.
This doesn't mean that we shouldn't care what God's will is for our lives. We should pray for His guidance and listen for his voice.
When we know God's general instructions for Christians (through study of His word), and His specific instructions for our life (if He has revealed any) then we will know whether we are in His will, we are either doing what He has told us to do or we aren't.
What do I do if I don't know what God's general instructions are?
Study your Bible. The New Testament is especially rich in instruction for daily living. The Gospels contain Jesus' own personal instructions for His followers.
What if I don't know what God's specific instructions for my life are?
You are free in areas in which God has not given you instruction. This means that if you have already charted a course for your life continue on. Unless or until He tells you otherwise, assume that God wants you to serve him and honor him where you are. If you are choosing courses in school or making career decisions, make your own choice. Do what you feel is right for you. If God has other plans, it is His responsibility to make them known to you. By the way, this only works if you are honest with yourself. We are not in God's will if, when He reveals His will to us, we reject it, or deny it, or tell ourselves we aren't sure when we really are.
However, freedom is not a license. If God uses His word or other means to make known to you a plan which is contrary to your own, then you have an obligation to obey Him.
This approach to knowing and obeying God's will is both Biblical and practical. It places an absolute requirement on us to be obedient. However, it does not require us to be obedient to something which God has not chosen to reveal to us. And, it expresses faith in God's ability to clearly communicate to us what we need to know when we need to know it.