Can we know God exists? If so, can we know what He expects of us and how to be pleasing to Him? To know is to “be aware of through observation, inquiry, or information; have knowledge or information concerning; be absolutely certain or sure about something” (Online Dictionary). We can “know” something by either or both of two ways.
One way is by “Empirical Knowledge”. To know in this way is to “know” something by the five senses. For example: I know my neighbor (I can see, touch, hear them); I know that is a skunk (see, smell). God has given us empirical evidence that we can know He exists. Psalm 19:1-6, “The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handywork. Day unto day uttereth speech, and night unto night sheweth knowledge. There is no speech nor language, where their voice is not heard. Their line is gone out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world. In them hath he set a tabernacle for the sun, Which is as a bridegroom coming out of his chamber, and rejoiceth as a strong man to run a race. His going forth is from the end of the heaven, and his circuit unto the ends of it: and there is nothing hid from the heat thereof.” Looking into the sky and at the world around us, they are delivering a message to mankind – God Is! Cf. Romans 1:20. The world and the universe show remarkable design. It is an established truth that a poem demands a poet, a painting demands a painter, and design demands a Designer. See Hebrews 3:4. Clearly, God does exist.
The second way we can “know” is knowledge based on the Truthfulness of the one giving the information. This can be affected by the character of the individual (are they deceitful) and the accuracy of the information being given to one (misdiagnosed illness). We do not have to be concerned about these when it comes to God because God cannot lie, Titus 1:2. Because of the character of God, it is in fact “impossible for God to lie”, Hebrews 6:18. God is also omniscient, that is, all knowing. Psalm 147:5, “Great is our Lord, and of great power: his understanding is infinite.” This being the case, we need never be concerned with God lying to us or being wrong.
Based on the character of God, we can know what sin is and its consequences. God has told us sin separates man from Him, Isaiah 59:2, and God has identified sin in Scripture so we can know if an action is sin or not. We can know whether we have been saved, by the things God has revealed in His Word. 1 John 5:13, “These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life, and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God.” We can know the reality of Heaven, Hell, or Judgment. Why? Because God has told us they exist and will occur. Matthew 25:31-34, 41, 46, “When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory: And before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats: And he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left. Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world:…Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels… And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal.”
Now that you know, what will you do about it? Matthew 7:21.
– Jerry D. Sturgill
Now when they were going, behold, some of the watch came into the city, and shewed unto the chief priests all the things that were done. And when they were assembled with the elders, and had taken counsel, they gave large money unto the soldiers, Saying, Say ye, His disciples came by night, and stole him away while we slept. And if this come to the governor’s ears, we will persuade him, and secure you. So they took the money, and did as they were taught: and this saying is commonly reported among the Jews until this day. – Matthew 28:11-15
This paragraph in the book of Matthew has as its concern refutation of the explanation many of the Jews had distributed regarding the resurrection. Notice the unbelieving Jews were not saying that Jesus’ body still lay in the tomb, for it was general knowledge in the city of Jerusalem that the tomb wherein the body of Jesus was laid was empty. Rather the controversy had developed over why the body was not there. When Christians proclaimed, “The Lord is risen!” their enemies argued that the disciples had stolen the body away. When Christians pointed out that the guard at the tomb would have prevented such a theft, the enemies of Christianity would say that the guards fell asleep, a narrative, Matthew attests, the soldiers were bribed to uphold. This argument would not have developed if Jesus’ body still lay in the tomb.
Fifty days after Jesus’ burial, Peter preached in the city of Jerusalem, drawing a sharp contrast between “David…both dead and buried, and his sepulchre is with us unto this day” (Acts 2:29) and “This Jesus…God raised up” (Acts 2:32). The remarkable fact that belief in the resurrection flourished among those who were living during its occurrence in the city of Jerusalem, where He had been publicly crucified, shows how no other explanation squared with the facts.
That the disciples would have stolen the body of Jesus and claimed God had raised Him from the dead is implausible. Death and resurrection did not fit the widespread expectations of what the Messiah would do. Even among the apostles, at first there was no expectation that the Messiah would die, even though Matthew’s account reveals Jesus told them repeatedly and plainly that He would (Mt. 16:21-23; 17:22; 26:2). The mindset of the disciples would have been to look for a new Messiah rather than claim Jesus had been raised from the dead. Moreover, if first-century Jews were to attempt a hoax, they would not have the role of the women as the first witnesses to the resurrection (Mt. 28:1). Unfair as it was, the testimony of women was not as highly regarded as that of men in the first century. The women as the first witnesses fits if it is true not if it is being passed off as true.
The explanation common among the Jews that the disciples stole the body has no explanatory power in regard to the origin of the disciples’ belief in the resurrection. It is hard to deny that the earliest disciples sincerely believed that Jesus was actually risen from the dead for they staked their lives on this conviction. Who would be willing to die for a conspiracy they had agreed to uphold? A conspiracy would unravel when the conspirators were faced with death for upholding their hoax. But that is not what history shows. The apostles died for their belief in Jesus’ resurrection, James, one of the three closest to Jesus, being the first one recorded in Acts 12:2. They were willing to die because Christ had truly been raised from the dead.
In His final public appeal, Jesus said “He that rejecteth me, and receiveth not my words, hath one that judgeth him: the word that I have spoken, the same shall judge him in the last day” (John 12:48). The Jewish nation among whom He lived was generally comprised of unbelieving and hard-hearted people (John 13:37-41). Some in their innermost thoughts recognized the truth of who Jesus was, but were too afraid of the religious rulers to commit to Jesus (John 12:42-43). But a few did believe in Jesus, recognizing that Him as the mirror image of the Father in heaven, God’s mouthpiece that declared His glory to the world (John 12:44-45, 49; cf. 1:14). Notice two important truths Jesus highlights in regard to the consequences of rejecting Him and His word:
- There is a judge — Many in our world today will say that no one should judge another. There are some who do not believe in God and thus imply that there is no ultimate standard or meaning behind any act. Many others say they believe in God, but reject or suppress any notion of God judging. However, all of us act as if there is an ultimate standard of judgment. We argue that we should be good people, treat others fairly, show love, reduce suffering, et cetera. Why? If there is no one sitting at the bench of the great tribunal of the universe, or if the one occupying the bench is so unconcerned with justice that he even rewards the disobedient, then why are we so concerned about people living the right kind of life? If all moral values and ethical practices are subjective, then why would anyone have the right to tell anyone else that they ought to do anything? But deep down we act like there is a standard because in reality there is a judge. We cannot live as if our affections, beliefs and actions have no meaning. The reality is they do matter and we will be judged concerning them.
- There is a last day — In John 12:48, Jesus declares final judgment is coming. There will be a “last day” in which the physical world will cease to exist and all souls will enter into spiritual, timeless destinies (1 Corinthians 15:52-53). Time is linear. Jesus shows that it is in his statement here, and the apostle Paul argued against the Greek notion that time is circular by preaching that the world is drawing to a close and the time to repent is now (Acts 17:31). The universe had a beginning when a mind, greater and beyond the universe, a personal agent, created the universe in time. This personal agent is God who is timeless (Psalm 90:2). The Father and the Son were already there in the beginning when God spoke the universe into existence and time started (John 1:1-3; Genesis 1). God is the beginning and the end (Revelation 1:8; 22:13). The last day is coming (Romans 13:11-14). All things will not continue as they have since creation; the physical world will be dissolved (2 Peter 3:4, 10-12).
With these two truths clearly affirmed by Jesus Christ, the ultimate question is whether or not one is receiving His word. The only way to stand in the judgment is to receive Jesus and His word; no amount of talent or achievements will suffice in the last day (Rom. 14:4). Receiving in John 12:48 is more than intellectual acknowledging of the truth. It is a reception of the truth that becomes the dynamic of our lives. Jesus is the Son of God and the rightful Lord of our lives. His word is received when it is believed and obeyed. When we engraft Jesus’ word into our lives, it is able to save our souls (James 1:21). Will you stand in the judgment of the last day?