From the January/February 2017 issue of Discern Magazine

Will the Real Jesus Please Stand Up?

Jesus Christ may be the most famous person in history, but how many of the ideas about Him are true? How many people would recognize the real Jesus Christ?

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Almost two decades ago, a book was published titled Will the Real Jesus Please Stand Up?

The title of the book was a spin-off from a popular TV program in the U.S., To Tell the Truth. On each episode three individuals, all claiming to be the same person, answered questions from celebrities who were trying to identify the real person. At the end of the program, when each celebrity had given his or her vote, the host would say, “Will the real _________ please stand up?”

If we could stage such an event about Jesus Christ, how many people would be able to identify the real Jesus Christ? Is it that difficult to know who Christ really is? It seems so!

In the Christian religion ideas abound about Jesus Christ—ideas that do not come from the Bible! In fact, if you take the Christ of Christianity and compare Him to the Christ of the Bible, you will find vast differences. Almost everything is different—His appearance, the story of His birth, His teaching and His resurrection from the dead after three days and three nights in the tomb.

A wide range of ideas

Just consider some of the teachings among professing Christians and agnostics—ranging from the bizarre to the more traditional—and compare them with Scripture.

  • The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons) teaches that Jesus is the spirit brother of Lucifer and the offspring of a heavenly mother and father.
  • Jehovah’s Witnesses claim that Jesus is not God incarnate, but really was the archangel Michael, a created being who died on a stake and rose to resume his role as Michael.
  • A number of years ago, an author who professes agnosticism asserted that Jesus never really existed at all, that He was a myth, a legend constructed from pagan beliefs that predated the first century (Mystery Babylon and the Lost Ten Tribes in the End Time by Darrell Conder).

So what are we to think? Was Jesus Christ really “God” and is He to be worshipped? While pagan religions from the past greatly influenced the development of our modern versions of Christianity, substantial historical evidence exists that a man named Jesus really did live in the area of Palestine during the first century. (See our Life, Hope & Truth article “Is the Bible True? Proof 3: What History Tells Us.”)

But who was He? The traditional teaching of mainstream Christianity is that Jesus Christ is the second person of the Trinity. But even this belief has serious problems, with its proponents acknowledging that the Trinity is not found in Scripture. (Learn more in our article “The Trinity: What Is It?”)

Another Jesus

The apostle Paul warned those in his day, only a couple of decades after the time when Christ walked this earth, about individuals who would come preaching another Jesus (2 Corinthians 11:1-15). Is that not what we are seeing today—Christianity teaching a Jesus with few similarities to the Christ of the Bible?

For example, Jesus is often portrayed as a baby in a manger around Christmas time and as an individual who was beaten and left hanging on a cross around Easter. The artwork focusing on this has Him looking weak, with long hair and the facial features of a Western European. In reality, Jesus looked nothing like this image but was similar to the average Jewish person of His day in physical appearance and without the long hair (1 Corinthians 11:14; learn more about this in our article “What Did and Didn’t Jesus Look Like?”).

When everything is considered, it is clear that the real Jesus Christ, the One identified in Scripture, is not the same as the one being taught by the vast majority of professing Christianity. But how can this be? Isn’t Christianity based on Jesus Christ? If the real Jesus is not being taught by the traditional Christian denominations, then who is the real Jesus?

Will the real Jesus please stand up? He will, if we look for Him solely in the pages of our Bible.

God, or madman?

In the New Testament Jesus Christ is identified as both “God with us” and as being God “manifested in the flesh.” In Matthew 1:23 He is called Immanuel, which is “God with us.” And in 1 Timothy 3:16, Paul refers to Jesus Christ as “God … manifested in the flesh.”

C.S. Lewis, a Cambridge University professor and former agnostic, in his book Mere Christianity wrote this about Christ: “I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish things that people often say about Him [Jesus]: ‘I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept His claim to be God.’ That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic—on a level with the man who says he is a poached egg—or else he would be the Devil of hell. You must make a choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God; or else a madman or something worse.”

Either Jesus Christ was who He claimed to be—God, in the flesh—or He was not!

The Jesus Christ of the Bible

Here is what Scripture tells us about Jesus Christ:

Key section of Scripture

One section of Scripture that states clearly who Jesus really was is John 1:1-5. Though these verses are powerful and conclusive, some people still claim they are telling us that Christ was simply “godlike” and that in reality He was not God, but a created being. This seems highly unlikely when you examine the Greek words used in these verses.

The primary Greek word for God is theos. John uses theos on 70 occasions in his writings, and all are in reference to God. If John believed that Jesus was simply “godlike” and not really “God,” then he would have used a different Greek word. That word is theios, found only three times in the New Testament, once translated as “Godhead” and twice as “divine.”

But John doesn’t identify the Word as just divine or godlike. He identifies Him as God!

The structure of the sentence in John 1:1 shows that Christ is God and preexisted His human birth: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” (emphasis added).

The Greek word for “with” is pros, a word used to show direction (for example, “I am with you or beside you”). You must have two beings in this verse for the Greek word pros to be correct. And both beings are called God!

Robertson’s New Testament Word Pictures states the following for this verse: “Though existing eternally with God, the Logos was in perfect fellowship with God. Pros with the accusative presents a plane of equality and intimacy, face to face with each other.”

Jesus and the tetragrammaton

In the Hebrew Scriptures the Word, the One who became Jesus Christ, is often identified by the Hebrew name for God, YHWH, most likely pronounced Yahweh. The Jews came to consider YHWH as the sacred name for God and, because of its sacred nature, they would not pronounce it. Scholars today commonly refer to it as the tetragrammaton (the “four letters”).

The real Jesus will indeed stand up at that time in such a way that the whole world will see Him!In Zechariah 14:3-4 we read about the coming of YHWH to the earth:

“Then the LORD [YHWH] will go forth and fight against those nations, as He fights in the day of battle. And in that day His feet will stand on the Mount of Olives, which faces Jerusalem on the east.”

Compare this to Acts 1:9-12; 1 Thessalonians 4:16; and Revelation 19:11-16—where we read that it is Jesus Christ who will return to the Mount of Olives and destroy the armies gathered to fight against Him. So, Zechariah 14 is a prophecy about the second coming of Jesus Christ, who is called YHWH, or in English, the LORD.

The real Jesus will indeed stand up at that time in such a way that the whole world will see Him!

The true Jesus Christ

In the meantime, though, you can come to know the real Jesus. We’ve only touched on a few points in this article, but you can read much more about Him in the articles in the “Who Is Jesus?” section of Life, Hope & Truth.

The true Jesus Christ was born as a human being, but He preexisted His human birth. He walked and talked with Enoch, Abraham, Moses and the prophets of old and identified Himself as the LORD (YHWH). As a human being, He was born of Mary, who was engaged to Joseph when the angel announced to her that she would bear the Messiah (Luke 1:30-35).

As a human being, He was descended from David and fulfilled the many prophecies about David’s lineage (Matthew 1; Luke 3). He was baptized by John at about the age of 30 and began His ministry at that time. He died on a stake outside the walls of Jerusalem, and He was resurrected after three days and three nights in the tomb, exactly as He prophesied. He is the Messiah, and He is the Savior who will return to this earth a “second time” to save mankind (Hebrews 9:28).

Christianity has adopted a view of Jesus Christ that is very different from what we read in Scripture. Who is the real Jesus Christ? Scripture shows that He is not part of a Triune Godhead, He is not a created being. He is God and has eternally existed with God the Father.

And He is the Savior of mankind (John 3:16).

About the Author

Jim Franks

Jim Franks is president of the Church of God, a Worldwide Association. He and his wife, Sharron, live in the Dallas, Texas, area.

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