Saul of Tarsus hated Christians. He made it his goal to capture, then bring Christians to public trial and execution. Saul was present when the first Christian martyr (named Stephen) was killed by an angry mob.
"... they all rushed at him (Stephen), dragged him out of the city and began to stone him. Meanwhile, the witnesses laid their clothes at the feet of a young man named Saul. . . . And Saul was there, giving approval to his death" (Acts 7.57 to 8:1).
After Stephen was martyred, Saul went door to door in Jerusalem finding people who believed that Jesus is the Messiah.
"Saul began to destroy the church. Going from house to house, he dragged off men and women and put them in prison" (Acts 8:3).
After putting these people in prison, Saul learned about their Christian friends in Damascus by somehow getting letters from the prisoners.
"I persecuted the followers of this Way to their death, arresting both men and women and throwing them into prison, as also the high priest and all the Council can testify. I even obtained letters from them to their brothers in Damascus, and went there to bring these people as prisoners to Jerusalem to be punished" (Acts 22:4-5).
But something happened to Saul as he traveled to Damascus in search of Christians. According to Saul of Tarsus, God appeared to him in an unexpected way.
"About noon as I came near Damascus, suddenly a bright light from heaven flashed around me. I fell to the ground and heard a voice say to me, `Saul! Saul! Why do you persecute me?' " `Who are you, Lord?' I asked. "`I am Jesus of Nazareth, whom you are persecuting,' he replied. My companions saw the light, but they did not understand the voice of him who was speaking to me. " `What shall I do, Lord?' I asked. " `Get up,' the Lord said, `and go into Damascus. There you will be told all that you have been assigned to do.' My companions led me by the hand into Damascus, because the brilliance of the light had blinded me" (Acts 22:6-11).
Saul of Tarsus believed that he was serving God by finding Christians, throwing them into prison, and even executing them when possible. But Saul was wrong. Perhaps even more intriguing, Saul was highly educated for his era in Jewish beliefs about God.
". . . Under Gamaliel I was thoroughly trained in the law of our fathers and was just as zealous for God as any of you . . . " (Acts 22:3).
How could such a highly educated man be completely wrong?
To begin to answer this question, it is important to note that we have concentrated on Gabriel's prophetic words to Daniel about the Messiah. We have learned that the Messiah had to appear before Jerusalem and the temple were destroyed (which occurred in 70 CE). And we have learned that Gabriel foretold that the Messiah would be killed as a sacrificial offering (which occurred to Jesus). Why didn't the majority of Jewish people living at Jesus' time understand these prophetic ideas?
The most intriguing question about Messiah must be answered based on Gabriel's words about the Messiah being killed."How is it possible for a human being to go to Jerusalem before its destruction in 70 CE, perform a death wish to prove himself as Messiah (Daniel 9:26: Messiah to be killed), and remain a successful Messiah?"
Daniel's 70-weeks infers that a supernatural event has to take place for the Messiah to prove himself a success. Any normal person that would submit to a "death wish" will undoubtedly fail. Very simply, a normal person posing as the Messiah will remain a dead person.
Saul of Tarsus met this resurrected Messiah on the road to Damascus. The event is described as a bright-light that blinded Saul of Tarsus along with a voice giving spiritual instructions. Saul of Tarsus changed his name later and became widely known as the Apostle Paul. By the time the Apostle Paul was martyred for his faith in Jesus as Messiah about 32 years later, he had written about 25% of the New Testament. Paul's written words are the testimony of a man that violently persecuted the early Christians, then became a Christian due to a supernatural spiritual experience.
Finally, at this webpage, we have shown evidence that God appears to have revealed spiritual truth from outside time-space to the human race (at the 99.94% confidence level). The conversion of Saul of Tarsus supports this high level of confidence that God exists and appeared on earth in the historic person of Jesus.
Why did Most Jewish People Reject Jesus as Messiah
(in the 1st century)
Most Jewish people did not accept Jesus as Messiah due to the fact that he was crucified as a common criminal. Few Jewish people could understand that the Messiah would be crucified for the sins of the world. Even educated people like Saul of Tarsus (who became the Apostle Paul) could not grasp the idea. Despite this misunderstanding, it does appear that a large number of Jewish people did become Christians by the end of the 1st century.
After the Apostle Paul became a Christian, he had to rethink his views of God and discard his religious education. This did not take long due to the blinding light experience with the resurrected Jesus. Saul of Tarsus began to preach the deity of the Messiah while in Damascus.
"At once he (Saul of Tarsus) began to preach in the synagogues that Jesus is the Son of God. All those who heard him were astonished and asked, "Isn't he the man who raised havoc in Jerusalem among those who call on this name? And hasn't he come here to take them as prisoners to the chief priests?" Yet Saul grew more and more powerful and baffled the Jews living in Damascus by proving that Jesus is the Christ" (Acts 9:20-22).
Years later, the Apostle Paul wrote about his status as a Jew and his religious education as rubbish (before becoming a Christian) when compared to knowing Messiah.
"If anyone else thinks he has reasons to put confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; in regard to the law, a Pharisee; as for zeal, persecuting the church; as for legalistic righteousness, faultless. But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ--the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith" (Philippians 3:4-9).
Biblical Mystery about the Messiah
Saul of Tarsus was highly educated about matters of the Jewish faith. He had to rethink "what is truth" after he met the resurrected Messiah. To explain this drastic change, the Apostle Paul writes about the "Mystery of the Messiah". This biblical mystery is based on a Messiah that brings salvation to the world through the Messiah's death (atonement) and resurrection. To most Jewish people, Jesus remains a mystery since they have decided to reject what Daniel wrote about the Messiah as a sacrificial offering to make a covenant (the New Testament). Consider how the Apostle Paul wrote about the mystery of Messiah.
". . . the mystery that has been kept hidden for ages and generations, but is now disclosed to the saints. " (Colossians 1:26-27).
"In reading this, then, you will be able to understand my insight into the mystery of Christ, which was not made known to men in other generations as it has now been revealed by the Spirit to God's holy apostles and prophets. This mystery is that through the gospel the Gentiles are heirs together with Israel, members together of one body, and sharers together in the promise in Christ Jesus" (Ephesians 3:4-6).
So the mystery is that God has always purposed to love every human (Jews and Gentiles) and to provide a way of salvation to all people. This righteousness must be received from the Messiah only. It can never be accomplished by a human choosing to live right according to a set of rules. Consider how these ideas apply to Islamic beliefs.
Islam in the Light of "Saul of Tarsus"
Islam began as a militaristic religion that spread its views using the sword. About 100 years after Muhammad died, Islam had spread from Persia in the East to Spain in the West. Today, fundamentalist Islam retains these same characteristics. The idea of holy war (jihad) pervades our world. The attack on the United States (World Trade Centers, Pentagon) on September 11, 2001, supports that fundamentalist Islam has not changed.
In many ways, Saul of Tarsus as a persecutor of Christians can be compared directly to Islamic methods of spreading their faith. Saul of Tarsus could not accept the Christian view of God. So Saul of Tarsus took up the sword to convince people that they were wrong for not holding to the religious views of the Jewish authorities.
However, Saul of Tarsus met the resurrected Messiah on the road to Damascus in a supernatural blinding-light experience. The hardened heart of Saul instantly softened as he realized he was wrong. So he accepted that Jesus, who died as a common criminal, is actually the Messiah that offers eternal salvation to all humans.
This caused great change in Saul of Tarsus. Instead of persecuting others, the Apostle Paul began to preach that Jesus is the Messiah. The result was that Paul was persecuted by non-believing Jewish people. Eventually, the Roman Empire persecuted the early Christians as well. It was during the reign of Caesar Nero that Christians were martyred for their beliefs. The Apostle Paul was martyred between the years 64 to 66 CE for his faith in Jesus as Messiah.
Paul's life story is a testimony of the reality of Jesus the Messiah. It took a supernatural experience to change a Saul from a persecutor of Christians to the Apostle Paul, a fellow Christian believer.
Today, Muslims are convinced that the Qur'an contains the word of God. However, the Einstein Method has shown that Islam does not appear to be from the Creator. A "false" Gabriel appears to have spoken to Muhammad from INSIDE time-space. No long-term prophecies have been observed. Muhammad appears to have been deceived. If the false Gabriel could foretell the distant future, then the message would be found acceptable. Logic requires that we question the Muslim worldview.
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