One of the most memorable Bible stories is Moses and the burning bush. If you’re not familiar with it, Moses was tending his father-in-law’s sheep when he saw a bush that appeared to be on fire but not consumed by the flames. As he approached, God spoke to him from the burning bush.
When the LORD saw that he turned aside to see, God called to him out of the bush, “Moses, Moses!” And he said, “Here I am.” Then he said, “Do not come near; take your sandals off your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground.” And he said, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” And Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look at God. (Exodus 3:4-6 ESV)
Then, God proceeded to tell Moses His plan to deliver the descendants of Jacob (also known as Israel) from bondage in Egypt. Moses initially resisted, but ultimately agreed to go along with God’s plan. At a critical point, however, he asked God to identify Himself, so Moses would know how to identify Him to others.
Then Moses said to God, “If I come to the people of Israel and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ what shall I say to them?” God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM.” And he said, “Say this to the people of Israel, ‘I AM has sent me to you.’” God also said to Moses, “Say this to the people of Israel, ‘The LORD, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you.’ This is my name forever, and thus I am to be remembered throughout all generations. (Exodus 3:13-15 ESV)
The Hebrew terms God used to describe Himself in this passage are הָיָה (Haya – I AM) and יהוה (Jehovah – The Lord). Haya is a very unique term. It literally means to exist, but it can be used in past, present, and future tenses, such as, was, has been, or come to pass.
Prior to Moses’ dramatic encounter at the burning bush, however, God was simply known as God Almighty, or שַׁדַּי אֵל (El Shaddai in Hebrew).
When Abram was ninety-nine years old the LORD appeared to Abram and said to him, “I am God Almighty; walk before me, and be blameless…” (Genesis 17:1 ESV)
God spoke to Moses and said to him, “I am the LORD. I appeared to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, as God Almighty, but by my name the LORD I did not make myself known to them.” (Exodus 6:2-3 ESV)
In the previous installment of this series, I promised to explore how God revealed Himself in the Old Testament and how that applies to why the Jewish leaders accused Jesus of blasphemy.
We already know John said of Jesus, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God…He came to His own, and His own people did not receive Him.” As we continue this series, those declarations will become even more clear, because Jesus continually left breadcrumbs of discovery for us.
Jesus unmistakably identified Himself to the Jewish leaders as God by declaring Himself “I AM.”
Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am.” So they picked up stones to throw at him, but Jesus hid himself and went out of the temple. (John 8:58-59 ESV)
Jesus also used the full weight of the original “I AM” Hebrew context while declaring Himself Almighty God.
“I am the Alpha and the Ωmega,” says the Lord God, “who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.” (Revelation 1:8 ESV)
A few verses later, He reframes His description while making another bold declaration.
“Fear not, I am the first and the last, and the living one. I died, and behold I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of Death and Hades.” (Revelation 1:17-18 ESV)
According to the Old Testament, who has the power over death and Hades?
He will swallow up death forever; and the Lord GOD will wipe away tears from all faces, and the reproach of his people he will take away from all the earth, for the LORD has spoken. (Isaiah 25:8 ESV)
From the previous study, we already know all power in Heaven and Earth was granted to Jesus. In Revelation 20 and 21, we get a glimpse of what Isaiah was prophesying.
Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it… And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Then another book was opened, which is the book of life. And the dead were judged by what was written in the books, according to what they had done. And the sea gave up the dead who were in it, Death and Hades gave up the dead who were in them, and they were judged, each one of them, according to what they had done. Then Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire. And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire. (Revelation 20:11-15 ESV)
Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” And he said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give from the spring of the water of life without payment. The one who conquers will have this heritage, and I will be his God and he will be my son. (Revelation 21:1-7 ESV)
Notice Who is seated on the throne in these passages. It’s Jesus, the Alpha and Omega, Who has power over Death and Hades and wipes away every tear, just as Isaiah prophesied.
If that’s not enough confirmation that Jesus was clearly identifying Himself as God, Paul also associates a prophesy from Hosea with Jesus’ return at the last trumpet.
“Shall I ransom them from the power of Sheol? Shall I redeem them from Death? O Death, where are your plagues? O Sheol, where is your sting? Compassion is hidden from my eyes.” (Hosea 13:14 ESV)
Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed. For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality. hen the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written: “Death is swallowed up in victory.” “O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” (1 Corinthians 15:51-55 ESV)
Understanding these passages is critical to establishing a foundation for why the Jewish leaders rejected Jesus and accused Him of blasphemy. They were not confused. They knew exactly Who Jesus claimed to be.
The Jews answered him, “It is not for a good work that we are going to stone you but for blasphemy, because you, being a man, make yourself God.” (John 10:33 ESV)
In the next installment of this series, we’ll begin to explore the greater context of John 1 and how it sets the stage for the full revelation of Who Jesus is.
You can also watch the entire video for the first two installments (below) or listen to the podcast on SoundCloud.