The Christmas Story and the Future :: by Don McGee

The birth of Jesus is recorded in some detail in the gospels of Matthew and Luke. Matthew’s record, intended for Jewish readers, explained that there was no doubt whatsoever that Jesus of Nazareth was their long-awaited Messiah, the Son of David.

On the other hand Luke wrote to a Gentile whose name was Theophilus (as was the book of Acts). Though Luke relied on Old Testament prophecies as did Matthew, he was inspired by the Holy Spirit to offer information to the Gentiles that the Jews would have already known.

So maybe that is why Luke mentioned two things in the second chapter that Gentiles would have to be aware of in order to have a better understanding of the Jewishness of Jesus and His purposes—both short range and long range. In verse 25 he mentions Simeon, a man who “was righteous and devout, looking for the consolation of Israel…”

Then in verse 38 he mentions, Anna, an aged woman, who was among those, “who were looking for the redemption of Jerusalem.”

So, what is the consolation of Israel and the redemption of Jerusalem? And how many Jewish people were there who might have been, like Simeon and Anna, looking for some event or someone’s appearance that would be radically outside the status-quo of the Roman world?

Further, why would understanding those terms be important to a Gentile student of Christianity? The answer to the second question is both obvious and simple; there were not very many Jews aggressively looking for Messiah.

The answer to the third question is important because the greatest part of the modern church has no idea about the Jewishness of Jesus and Christianity, nor does it have a good biblical grasp of the future as it relates to current events. But, it is the answer to the first question that puts everything into prophetic perspective. That is, the consolation of Israel and the redemption of Jerusalem go far beyond the events of Jesus’ birth, and that is something the church must know.

The details of this are interesting. For example, many Christians are in something of a fog when it comes to the Israel-centric nature of current events and what is going to happen globally in the near future. Further, they seem to relate to and measure time on God’s prophetic clock solely in context of eons of years thus ignoring the biblical concept of seasons of time.

The basic idea of consolation has to do with comforting someone who is in sorrow, and there can be no doubt Israel was in a sorrowful condition when Jesus was born. The Romans had been running things overall in Israel for about 40 years and there was no way for the Jewish people to wrangle out from under the iron-boot of Rome. And with this iron-boot came a real quandary of a problem for them, especially for those who still gave at least a head-nod to Judaism.

The people were being ruled directly by Herod the Great, a tyrant who had no regard for the historical witness of God in the nation, and for that matter neither did most of the Jewish people except for outward ceremonial activities.

Herod was the personification of vanity and any threat to his position at the top of the political pile was quickly dealt with. Even family members were killed at his whim. He was called a madman, a murderer and a man who was “prepared to commit any crime in order to gratify his unbounded ambition (Herod I, in the Jewish Encyclopedia). His idea of success was pleasing Caesar and thus keeping his job.

Augustus Caesar was the first Emperor of the Roman Empire and was considered to be a god. Thus, Herod imposed a sacrifice upon the people directed toward the Roman Emperor; a ceremony which was presided over in some fashion by the Jewish priests. Though the people had little regard for God, this was hard for them to swallow. Further, in order to be the great builder that he was, Herod imposed taxes to such severity that multitudes were in poverty.

And in addition to all of that, the people were forced to pay a Temple tax. The stress was financial because of taxes and emotional because of emperor worship. Historians say this kind of national exasperation is hard to underestimate.

Consider now Luke’s description of the presentation of Jesus in Jerusalem. There is nothing extraordinary in the events leading up to the declarations of Simeon and Anna. For example, there is no record of a heavenly vision given to them, and Joseph and Mary certainly did not give them information that would have led to their words. What they said was essentially the result of the Holy Spirit’s inspiration, and nothing more is actually needed.

As a point of interest, I ask you to pardon me if I take just a short detour. Luke said Joseph took Mary and the baby to Jerusalem for the fulfillment of certain Jewish rituals required by the Law. One of those rituals was to make a sacrifice (Leviticus 5), and another was to circumcise Him (Genesis 17:9ff).

Actually, the ritual of circumcision was not of the Mosaic Law, but was part of the covenant God made with Abraham long before the Law was given to Moses on Mt. Sinai. God required that the procedure be performed on the eighth day of a baby boy’s life.

There are two things to note regarding this matter. First, God required it as a sign of the everlasting covenant between Him and Abraham and his descendants. Second, it was to be done specifically on the eighth day. Why on the eighth day?

Bert Thompson, Ph.D., explained it clearly and it has to do with a baby boy’s natural production of prothrombin in the liver; a chemical which is necessary for good blood coagulation. On the eighth day of a little boy’s life the prothrombin level is above 100% of normal which makes it the perfect day for the procedure. Lesson? Never second-guess God on anything. Never. On anything. [1]

That baby boy was the consolation of Israel in human flesh, the One whose life and death were and are inextricably joined to the nation and to the very land itself. Never had God before, nor has He since joined Himself to any group of people nationally. Contrary to those who teach the heretical theory of British Israelism, there is no national (or religious) group on planet earth that has usurped the place of the Jews and Israel in God’s plan.

The theory of British Israelism has been around for centuries, but was made more popular by Herbert W. Armstrong and his Worldwide Church of God. It simply says that the northern ten tribes are lost and that they migrated to England and then, of course, to America. There are two things to note about that: One, the tribes are not lost, and two, the covenants of God with the Jews involve the actual, physical land of Israel; not the land of the UK nor of the U.S. nor of any other nation.

The redemption of Jerusalem: Luke does not quote Anna as saying, “The redemption of Jerusalem.” And I will not put those words in her mouth. With that said, from the context—it is reasonable to think she might have said those very words as she gazed upon the infant Jesus. More important, though, is the truth that she was looking for the redemption of Jerusalem, and she saw it in the person of that baby boy.

Do not doubt for one second that Jerusalem is a Jewish city, that it is the capital of Israel, that it is God’s special city, and that Messiah is returning there. But, today the Temple Mount in Jerusalem is under Islamic control with the Islamic Dome of the Rock in its skyline. That situation, however, will be changed in the not-to-distant future.

People argue that the Jews might rebuild their Temple along side the Dome on the mount. I do not believe that will happen, but there is one thing of which we can be sure. King Jesus will never share the Temple Mount with a pagan shrine, and especially so with a shrine that is the icon of global bloodshed and seething anti-Semitism.

The meaning of “redemption” is to buy back. For example, to lose possession of something that is rightfully yours and then to buy it back. The price has already been paid. What is still lacking is taking possession of it, and that will happen at Jesus’ Second Coming. That event will be preceded by the death of two-thirds of the Jewish people resulting in a remnant being saved. Read all about it in Zechariah 12-14.
Even in those dark days of coming global Tribulation prior to the Second Coming, the Jews will remain resistant to His pleading voice, “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, the way a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were unwilling.

Behold, your house is being left to you desolate! For I say to you, from now on you will not see Me until you say, ‘BLESSED IS HE WHO COMES IN THE NAME OF THE LORD!” (Matthew 23:37-39).

Only when they will be at the end of themselves, when absolute extermination is at hand, will they recognize that Jesus is indeed their Messiah.

Most Christians are familiar with the redemption of humans. We sing about being redeemed by the blood of the Lamb, and about the redemption of our bodies at the return of Jesus for His church. That is true. But what most Christians reject or ignore is that the earth will be redeemed by God, and that an actual physical place, Jerusalem, will have a very special role to play in all of it.

There is more to it than what can be described with mere human words, but looking at it from the broad perspective we can see that what the prophet Zechariah said about God’s relationship with Jerusalem will come to fruition in what appears to be the near future (Zechariah 8:1-8). Jerusalem is soon to be redeemed with the Temple Mt. returning to Jewish control.

But until then there is much suffering in store for the Jewish people, their land and their capital city. The world will gather against Israel and against Jerusalem in frothing hatred. They will be defenseless because their trust will have been in a benefactor the Bible calls Antichrist; one who will betray that trust. The possessions of the Jewish people will be looted once again.

The women of Jerusalem will be raped as is always the case in warfare. When all seems lost Jesus will appear and destroy those nations by simply speaking a Word (Revelation 19:15). That same event is described in Zechariah 14:12ff.

What aged Simeon and Anna saw dimly, and so could not fully understand, about Jesus being the consolation of Israel and the redemption of Jerusalem is yet future. A future that is far more immediate than distant.

What we often fail to see is that the Christmas story has much to say about the future.

Endnotes [1]

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