Deity and Messiahship of Jesus
Revelation 3:7: "And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia write; These things says he who is holy, he who is true, he who has the key of David, he who opens, and no man shuts; and shuts, and no man opens."
"…he who opens, and no man shuts; and shuts, and no man opens" relates to what He does with the key. This is based on Isaiah 22:22. It is a claim that Jesus fits and fulfils the prophecies throughout the Old testament related to the Messiah. These believers in Philadelphia faced not only the hostility and persecution from the secular, pagan polytheistic Romans, but they also faced the challenge from the Jews. Christians today are in thew same boat. In some countries in some cultures they are in a much worse situation than we are. We have gone down that slippery slope and are gaining greater and greater speed, headed towards a cultural self-destruction. The more that the culture around us slips into this cesspool of moral relativism and secularism and atheism, then you and I are going to come into more and more attack. We are going to be in situations more and more frequently where we are uncomfortable and where the only way that we can maintain jobs, friendships and contacts, and even stay in schools in some places …. We are under attack and it is culturally acceptable. Nobody raises any complaint about this. Just imagine what would happen if the Da Vinci Code was all about Mohammed!
The culture eventually wants us to live in their totally fabricated world view. They are living in a psychotic construct of reality and they want us to live there too. And we say no, we won't; and sooner or later we come into major conflict. That is the kind of thing that was going on in Philadelphia. There are three things that generate reaction, and these are the kinds of things that generated reaction in Philadelphia. One was their exclusivity claim. The one thing that really seems to ticks off unbelievers, whether they are religious unbelievers like Jews or Muslims, or whether they are secularist unbelievers, is this claim that Jesus is the only way, that you can't get to heaven apart from believing on Jesus Christ. How arrogant you are! So it is not arrogant to think it is not true? Flip it back on them. Then there are Trinitarian claims, the idea that God is a plurality. That is not going to matter so much to the secular atheist but it is going to be a major issue if you are talking to a Jew or a Muslim. Immediately they categorize that as polytheism. The third claim that generates a reaction is that Jesus of Nazareth is fully God, that He is the eternal second person of the Trinity has always existed, and that he entered history with the purpose of dying for us for our sins.
1) The claim of exclusivity. This isn't restricted to just one statement by Jesus, it permeates the Gospels. John 5:22. We have to recognize that it is not opinion. You may want to go so far as to say it is a matter of opinion or a matter of faith as to whether you believe Jesus is God, but you can't say it is opinion that these books were all written by Jews in the first century who were monotheists. They believed Jesus was God as well as the Father. If you want to deny that, then the response to that is, okay now that you are constructing a house that is completely divorced from reality and has no foundation in history, I am not going to move into that house and dialogue with you; because if we are going to have a conversation that has any meaning whatsoever it has to be based on reason and fact and history. If you want to deny that and create your own reality, fine, but don't expect me to live my life based on your redefinition of reality. John 14:6, another claim to exclusivity, as is Acts 4:12.
2) Trinitarian claims, that God is a plurality and must exist as a plurality. Exodus 20:3, for the Jews, "You shall have no other gods before me." That monotheism is one that includes within it plurality, it is not a Unitarian or singular monotheism, it is a plurality of persons within the Godhead. Deuteronomy 6:4: "Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God is one LORD:" Is that a singularity or a plurality? The Hebrew word echad means a plurality that is combined in a unity. The best way to explain that to folks is to say, 'Remember, God said about Adam and Eve that the two shall become one flesh.' Same word for "one"! In Isaiah 50 the Lord is speaking, 'Thus says the Lord,' and the Lord, Yahweh, who is speaking says, 'The Lord God has given me the tongue of the learned.' So it indicates a plurality of persons there. Cf. Isaiah 50:5. The Lord is speaking and says, 'The Lord God has opened my ear.' Isaiah 48:12: "Listen to me, O Jacob and Israel, my called; I am he; I am the first, I also am the last." That phrase indicates deity, and this title, 'the first and the last,' is applied to the Lord Jesus Christ in the book of Revelation. Isaiah 48:16, "Come ye near unto me, hear ye this; I have not spoken in secret from the beginning; from the time that it was, there am I: and now the Lord GOD, and his Spirit, hath sent me." In that last phrase are three persons: the Lord who is speaking, the Lord God, and the Spirit. The Jews don't like it, that is why they wanted to stone Jesus.
3) The divine claims of Jesus Christ. Jesus clearly claimed to be God. John 10:30: "I and my Father are one." You can't get around that. John 8:58: "Jesus said unto them, Most assuredly, I say to you, Before Abraham was, I am." That phrase "I am" to the Jews was a claim of God. When Jesus said this they picked up ricks to stone Him. They understood He was claiming to be God. To them that was blasphemy because they had bought into the Pharisees' lie of a singular or Unitarian monotheism.
Think through this. The Old Testament clearly predicted that there would be a Messiah who would be God and Man, and it starts off with general prophecies and as you go through the Old Testament they get more and more specific. Ten key verses:
Genesis 3:15: "And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed; it shall bruise your head, and you shalt bruise his heel." The key phrase is "her seed." The savior is going to be human, the seed of the woman. The savior has got to be a human being, full humanity; God cannot die for us.
Genesis 9:26, 27, "And he said, Blessed be the LORD God of Shem; and Canaan shall be his servant. God shall enlarge Japheth, and he shall dwell in the tents of Shem; and Canaan shall be his servant." The God of Shem is the God of the Bible. The Jews are descended from Shem. So there is this prophecy related to Shem. So from the whole human race it has narrowed down. Now it is going to be a descendant od Shem, not Japheth or Ham.
Genesis 12:3, it is narrowed again; it is going to be through Abraham. "…in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed."
Genesis 49:10. Then Abraham's great grandson is Judah: "The sceptre shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet, until Shiloh come; and unto him shall the obedience of the people be." So now it is narrowed down even more, it is going to be through Judah.
Deuteronomy 18:15, 18-19, "The LORD your God will raise up to you a Prophet like me from the midst of your brethren; him you shall hear… I will raise them up a Prophet like you from among their brethren [He will be a Jew], and will put words in his mouth; and he shall speak unto them all that I shall command him. And it shall come to pass, that whoever will not hear my words which he speaks in my name, I will require it of him."
2 Samuel 7:13: "He shall build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom for ever." God entered into a personal contract with David and said that this promised one is going to come through David. This indicates not only that he is going to be human because He is going to come from David, but He has to be divine because He is going to rule forever. Only God lives forever. It is very subtle but here we have the introduction of deity and humanity.
Isaiah 7:14: "Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel [God with us]." What virgin? It has a definite article here, the virgin. It goes back to the seed of the woman. It is the virgin, not just any woman. He is human because He is born from the virgin, but He is divine because His name means 'God is with us.'
Isaiah 9:6: "For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God [Divine], The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace."
Micah 5:2: "But you, Bethlehem Ephratah, though you be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of you shall he come forth to me that is to be ruler in Israel; whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting."
Isaiah 53:10, He will die for our sins. "Yet it pleased the LORD to bruise him; he hath put him to grief: when you make his soul an offering for sin, he shall see his seed, he shall prolong his days, and the pleasure of the LORD shall prosper in his hand."
Psalm 16:10: "For you will not leave my soul in hell; neither will you suffer your Holy One to see corruption." This is a messianic prophecy.
We have to know these things because we are in a battle. It is not only a battle for the mind, it's not only a battle of spiritual warfare, but as a believer in the Lord Jesus Christ it is a battle for the definition of reality. We are going to be confronted again and again in our culture with people who not only don't believe what we believe but will be hostile to what we believe, and they will be demanding that we move over and live in their world.
A reminder: 1 Peter 3:15, 16: "15 But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an defence to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander."
We are living in difficult times and it is not going to get any easier. It is going to be more and more difficult to live as a believer in a pagan culture. In Rome they faced physical persecution, arrest, and death. That could happen here some day because that is where our culture is headed. We have to learn the truth so that that guards and protects us.