The entire Bible is a narrative that has not ended: It is about a people who have been separated from their Creator, and how He has reconciled/is reconciling them to Himself through Jesus Christ. While we would like to believe the Bible is a story about us as humans--which it is, in many ways--we are actually not the main character. The main focus of the Bible is, and always has been, about God. From Genesis to Revelation, the Bible is a love story about a people who consistently abandon and betray God, but despite this, God never abandons them.
When Eve gave Adam the fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil and he ate of it, and sin entered the world--God was not surprised. From eternity before, God was already prepared in how He would save us. We see this the moment after the serpent deceives Adam and Eve, with God saying to the serpent,
"And I will put enmity
Between you and the woman,
And between your seed and her Seed;
He shall bruise your head,
And you shall bruise His heel." Genesis 3:15
The Seed of the woman that God is speaking of is Jesus, and to bruise the head of the serpent means Jesus will kill the snake, but at the same time, the serpent will bruise His heel--foreshadowing the death that the Christ would overcome.
Already, immediately after Adam and Eve had sinned, we see God had something planned to overcome the separation they had created. This plan was fulfilled through Jesus Christ, and there are over 300 prophecies from the Old Testament that found fruition in Christ's sacrifice and resurrection--300+ evidenced and verifiable prophecies fulfilled. If 300+ prophecies fulfilled does not sound that impressive to you, let me give you some background information.
1) Science Speaks -- Prophecies in the Old Testament
In the book Science Speaks, mathematician Peter Stoner provides some probability analysis as to the chances of one person fulfilling just 8 of the prophecies that Jesus fulfilled. He illustrates: " . . We find that the chance that any man might have lived to the present time and fulfilled all eight prophecies is 1 in 10^17."
That number, if you are wondering, looks like this: 100,000,000,000,000,000.
He provides a good visual illustration of the magnitude of what we are dealing with here:
". . . we take 10^17 silver dollars and lay them on the face of Texas. They will cover the state two feet deep. Now mark one of these silver dollars and stir the whole mass thoroughly. Blindfold a man and tell him that he must pick up one silver dollar and say that this is the right one. What chance would he have of getting the right one? Just the same chance that the prophets would have had of writing just eight prophecies and having them all come true in any one man, from their day to the present time, providing they wrote in their own wisdom."
If this number sounds impossible to you, it's because it pretty much is. And, mind you, this is only eight prophecies fulfilled of the 300+ that we have evidence for. To provide one more illustration as to how ridiculously evidenced Jesus Christ is as the Messiah and Savior of the world, Stoner did another probability analysis of the chances that one man would fulfill 48 prophecies from the time they were written to the present:
" In order to extend this consideration beyond all bounds of human comprehension, let us
consider forty-eight prophecies, similar in their human chance of fulfillment to the eight
which we originally considered, using a much more conservative number, 1 in 10^21.
Applying the same principle of probability used so far, we find the chance that any one
man fulfilled all forty-eight prophecies to be 1 in 10^157."
[Original number for the first eight prophecies computed by Stoner was 10^28; it was just
divided by the probable number of humans that have lived in Earth's history, making the
previous number of 10^17.]
He then provides an illustration for how absurdly incomprehensible this number is:
"Space, by some authorities, is supposed to extend in all directions to the distance, not of
1,500,000 light-years, but more than 4,000 times that far or 6,000,000,000 light-years.
Let us make a solid ball of electrons, extending in all directions from the earth to the
distance of six billion light-years. Have we used up our 10^157 electrons? No, we have
made such a small hole in the mass that we cannot see it. We can make this solid ball of
electrons, extending in all directions to the distance of six billion light-years 6 x 10^28
times. Now, one of these electrons was marked and thoroughly stirred into the whole mass;
blindfold your man and ask him to find the marked electron."
2) We have been given a sign from God... it is the finished work of the Cross
In Peter Stoner's words, "Any man who rejects Christ as the Son of God is rejecting a fact proved perhaps more absolutely than any other fact in the world." And, while you probably weren't expecting to go through a probability class today, these prophecies are real and they are evidenced through primary source documents that we have and can reference. Nonetheless, these documents are comprised within the Bible, and the words they have to share can be seen and read with our own eyes. We can give a lot of thought to the immensity of these numbers and the incomprehensible nature of it, but what we know is that Jesus did exist and He claimed to be the Son of God sent to redeem the world.
Why do I believe in a Person who existed some 2000 years ago, who was executed by crucifixion for doing nothing wrong except claiming He was God? Because He has saved me personally, and I know Him; and on top of that, there is countless evidence to support the argument that Christ is who He says He is. There are all kinds of evidence we can look to that help prove who Christ is, but it will never be enough for someone who refuses to believe. I could write down all the mind-blowing statistics that support Jesus and the reality of an afterlife, but it doesn't matter if your heart has already made it's decision. The truth is, we aren't seeking the Truth; we don't want it. God has already provided the greatest sign there is through Jesus Christ and what He did at the Cross, but people will still say, "Show us a sign, God, and we will believe." You have your sign, and you've heard the Gospel--but still you refuse to believe.
Jesus acknowledges this reality of our hearts to seek after a sign: "Jesus replied, 'A wicked and adulterous generation demands a sign, but none will be given it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. 40For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so the Son of Man will be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.'" Matthew 12:39-40. Jesus is directly saying that the sign has been given: that He died and rose again after three days, and that by believing in Him you find salvation. We all will die, and we all will be judged. Even if you don't believe that you will be judged, you still know that you will inevitably die. Why believe in only death, when you can find the Light of life in Christ?
3) God loves you, and all He wants is for you to love Him back
So, what's it all for anyways? When we are saved, what then? It is simple, God's plan of redemption leads us into a relationship of love with Him. That is God's goal and mission. When God spoke the world into existence, He made man and woman on the seventh day; the day of the Sabbath in which God rested. The seventh "day" was never meant to end--God simply wanted to "rest" with His creation forever, in perfect peace, harmony, and love. And while this reality was denied, God gives us that same rest and relationship through Jesus. This is why He says, "For the Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath" (Matthew 12:8), and "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest." (Matthew 11:28). If rest sounds like a good thing for you, then Jesus is the Man to talk to!
The truth is, God loves you with a love that cannot be fully comprehended. His love is so great, that even the numbers of probability we just explored do not even come close. God goes to such lengths to make Himself evident in all we do, but if we do not have the eyes to see Him, how can we appreciate His love? This same God that put so much evidence into the Bible to support Jesus--enough to fill countless universes--is the same God that committed the greatest act of love for you through Christ. He has given us a sign, and it is found on the Cross at Calvary.
His name is Jesus Christ--He is the answer to any problem you are facing, to any difficulty you are experiencing, to any relationship, to any financial situation, to any resentment, to any bitterness, to any brokenness, to any loneliness, to any pain, to any sin... Jesus Christ has already paid it all for you. He is real, and He is knocking at the door of your heart, simply wanting you to get to know Him.
Is it a surprise that the God of all creation is good; that He is perfectly loving? Does the suffering of the world take that reality away from Him or make it any less true, or is it our own perception that changes? We see Jesus visit His disciples after He has resurrected, and the first thing they do together is share a breakfast meal. After they have eaten, Jesus asks Peter three times if he loves Him:
"So when they had eaten breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, 'Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me more than these?'
He said to Him, 'Yes, Lord; You know that I love You.'
He said to him, 'Feed My lambs.'
16He said to him again a second time, 'Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me?'
He said to Him, 'Yes, Lord; You know that I love You.'
He said to him, 'Tend My sheep.'
17He said to him the third time, 'Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me?' Peter was grieved because He said to him the third time, 'Do you love Me?'
And he said to Him, 'Lord, You know all things; You know that I love You.'
Jesus said to him, 'Feed My sheep.'" John 21:15-17
4) God loves us and always will, even though we don't deserve it
We do not deserve God's love, yet He still loves us. We can ridicule, scorn, neglect, abuse, abandon, and betray God as much as we want, and it still will not be able to separate us from His love. No matter what we have done, if we come to Jesus with an open heart seeking forgiveness, God is quick to forgive. Peter would go on to be killed by crucifixion--of which he chose to take upside down, as he thought he was unworthy to die in the same manner as Christ. Many will say, "How can God be so loving if He allows His servant like Peter to die in a such a horrible way?" I think, what you should rather be asking, is: what kind of God must Peter be serving, if out of love for that God he was willing to die by crucifixion, simply for preaching His name?
The world will have you believe that God is evil and that if He was real, all the burdens of the world would simply disappear. This is a victim mindset; and, moreover, this world is not our home, and our time on this planet is short. God targets the real issues of the world, and these lie within the hearts and minds of humans. It is from our hearts that our lives flow out of, and when God changes our hearts, our souls, and our minds, our reality changes as well. You can be in a prison like Paul was, and still sing for joy because of the goodness of God. And it is in the changing and the transformation found in Jesus Christ that we begin to realize how good God truly is.
I mean, thinking logically, if everyone was just like Jesus, do you think there would be any more evil or suffering in this world?.. No, I don't think there would be, and it wouldn't be because the world changed, but rather, that God changed our hearts. God's love is beyond our comprehension--I think the probability analysis by Peter Stoner sheds some light on that truth. But despite God being so great and so incomprehensible, He gives us the opportunity to know Him and accept His love and grace into our lives through Jesus Christ. From the probability of the prophecies being fulfilled in one Man, to the reality of finding new life in Christ and receiving forgiveness; all this could only be done by God alone. Amen.