In the study of Scripture pertaining to the birth of our Lord, we have accustomed ourselves to thinking of only manger scenes and childhood scenes with a devotional slant on the Scriptures; however, each one of the so-called Christmas stories is deeply prophetic. For instance, in the second chapter of Matthew we read of the wise men coming from the east to Jerusalem, saying, “Where is He that is born King of the Jews?” The literal interpretation of this is, “Where is He that is born TO BE King of the Jews?” which gives a future aspect to their announcement. The entire Book of Matthew is subsequently given over to establishing the fact that Jesus of Nazareth is King of the Jews. He presented Himself as such at His so-called Triumphal Entry. Israel rejected Him as her King and crucified Him with the inscription on the cross in Hebrew, Greek and Latin, THIS IS JESUS THE KING OF THE JEWS. The particular passage which we want to discuss in this ar. ticle because of its prophetic aspect is Luke 1:30-33: ., And the angel said unto her, Fear not, Mary, for thou hast found favour with God. And behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call His name JESUS. He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest; and the Lord God shall give unto Him the throne of His father David; And He shall reign over the house of Jacob forever; and of His kingdom there shall be no end.”What a different concept Christians would have of our Lord and His ministry if they would but study and understand just this one passage of Scripture. Seven things are mentioned by the angel in this prophecy and at once one has to decide whether he is going to take the Word of the Lord literally or figuratively. There should be no trouble at all in taking the entire Bible literally except in those instances where it is designated by the Lord to be a parable or a figure of speech, symbol or type. Let us consider these seven phases of this prophecy and see if we can determine whether it is literal or figurative.
Here are the seven statements of the prophecy: (1) Thou shalt conceive in thy womb and bring forth a son; (2) and shalt call His name JESUS; (3) He shall be great; (4) and shall be called the Son of the Highest; (5) and the Lord shall give unto Him the throne of His father David; (6) and He shall reign over the house of Jacob forever; (7) and of His kingdom there shall be no end.
An elementary and fundamental rule of interpretation is consistency. If part of this prophecy is literal then all must be literal. If part is figurative then all must be figurative. The Lord Himself never confused them, but always distinguished the literal and the figurative interpretation.
Let us consider the first phase. Was the conception and birth of Jesus literal? We read in Matthew 1:18-25 that when Joseph realized that Mary was with child before they were married, he naturally supposed she had been untrue to him and was minded to put her away privately. The law made provision for a public stoning of those guilty of infidelity, but Joseph was a good man and was not going to make a public spectacle of the one he loved. The fact is that Mary’s conception of Jesus was known to all people. One of the many tragedies of our Lord’s life was that often when He was in a crowd, the Pharisees would ask the insulting question, “Who is thy father?” insinuating that He was born out of wedlock. The point is that Mary actually, literally and physically conceived and brought forth a Son. In all of the arguments presented by Satan against Christianty, we have never en. countered a denial of the existence of Mary and of the fact that she gave birth to a Son named Jesus.
This brings us to the second point: “And shalt call His name JESUS.” Renan, the French infidel, has written extensively on the life of Jesus. Josephus, in his Antiquity of the Jews, speaks of Him and some of His ex. periences. The point we are making is that infidels, atheists, modernists, ra. tionalists, Mohammedans and Buddhists all acknowledge that there was ac. tually, literally and physically a person named Jesus of Nazareth. Their denial pertains to His Deity, not to His humanity. He was called Jesus because He was to be the Saviour. God Almighty has set forth one of the most important questions facing man, “What think ye of Jesus? Whose Son is He?” To acknowledge that He is the Son of the living God means eternal life. To deny it means eternal damnation.
The third statement of the prophecy is, “He shall be great.” We were in. terested a number of years ago in an article appearing in the AMERICAN MAGAZINE entitled “The Ten Greatest Men Who Ever Lived.” The author condescended to name Jesus first. He called Him the greatest man that ever lived. Judaism, modernism, atheism, secularism, and all realms of thought are at one in saying that Jesus was great-great in His life, great in His teaching, great in His example. He is acknowledged by one and all to be great; and the prophecy that He shall be great has been literally and actual. ly fulfilled.
The fourth statement, “He shall be called the Son of the Highest,” was ac. tually and literally fulfilled at the time of His baptism. “And Jesus, when He was baptized, went up straightway out of the water; and 10, the heavens were opened unto Him, and He saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and lighting upon Him. And 10, a voice from heaven saying, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased” (Matt. 3:16, 17). And again on the Mount of Transfiguration (Matt. 17:5) we have the Lord God from heaven speaking, “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased: hear ye Him.’; Again, here is a prophecy actually, literally and audibly fulfilled. He was called by the Highest the Son of the Highest.
Generally speaking we do not encounter much opposition to these four phases of prophecy being accepted literally, but when it comes to the re- maining three there is a wide divergence of interpretation; but if the first four are literal, these remaining three must also be literal. If the latter are not literal, then the former are not literal.
The fifth phase of the prophecy is, “The Lord God shall give unto Him the throne of His father, David.” Did David actually and literally have a throne upon which he sat and from whence he administered the affairs of an earthly kingdom? In II Sam. 5:5, we read: “In Hebron He reigned over Judah seven years and six months: and in Jerusalem He reigned thirty and three years over all Israel and Judah.” Was this throne promised or prophesied to our Lord Jesus Christ? It surely was. In Acts 2:29, 30 when Peter preached on the day of Pentecost he said, “Men and brethren, let me freely speak unto you of the patriarch David, that he is both dead and buried, and his sepulchre is with us unto this day. Therefore being a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him, that of the fruit of his loins, according to the flesh, he would raise up Christ to sit on his throne.” Has Jesus ever ascended David’s throne to rule and to reign? No! Must the prophecy yet be fulfilled? Yes! Not one jot or tittle shall fail of fulfillment. Is not Christ seated on David’s throne today? No! He is seated on His Father’s throne at His right hand. Is not He ruling on David’s throne when He reigns in our hearts? No! David’s throne is not in our hearts. It was in Hebron and then Jerusalem, and it will be in Jerusalem when Jesus takes over the Throne of His father David. That will be actually and literally fulfilled when Jesus returns as the King of kings, and Lord of lords.
The sixth phase of the prophecy is, “He shall reign over the house of Jacob forever .” Many today try to interpret that as meaning the church, and Christ as reigning over the church, but Scripture never speaks of Christ as King of the church nor reigning over the church. Christ is the Head of the church, and the church is His bride-the consort Queen which shall rule and reign with Him. Is there a house of Jacob? In II Sam. 7:14-17 we have the Lord’s prophecy through Nathan that He is going to make a house of David, who was a descendant of Jacob, and that over this house, designated in the Scripture as the house of Israel (Jacob’s name after he met the Lord at the brook Jabok), the Seed of David, which is Jesus, should reign forever. Scripture becomes absolutely meaningless unless the Lord Jesus Christ returns and reigns over the literal house of Jacob.
The seventh and last phase of the prophecy has to do with the fact that “of His Kingdom there shall be no end.” The second chapter of Daniel tells of four world-wide kingdoms that are to exist here on the earth, and these kingdoms will be destroyed and supplanted by the Kingdom of our Lord at the time of His return. His Kingdom, described as a rock cut out of a mountain without hands, grows until it fills the whole earth; and having established His reign over the earth, He shall then continue to reign over the new earth, and of this Kingdom there shall be no end.
Our Lord told us to pray, “Thy kingdom come; Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” The Spirit of the Lord breathed this prayer in closing the scriptures: “Even so, come, Lord Jesus,” and we await the literal, physical return of our Lord and the establishment of His literal, physical Kingdom on the earth.
THE KING OF THE JEWS
Matthew 2:1-12 The quietness of everyday life in the city of Jerusalem was suddenly broken about 1900 years ago with the appearance of some wise men from the east. It was not just their appearance, but the question they asked which disturbed the whole city. They asked, “Where is He that is born King of the Jews? for we have seen His star in the east, and are come to worship Him.” These wise men knew from some God-given source that the appearance of the star in the east heralded the birth of the Messiah. The ancient fathers believed that the prophecy of Balaam in Numbers 24:17 referred definitely to the appearance of a star in time to announce the Messiah’s advent. Astronomers and historians are familiar with the appearing of the star but have never been able to account for its singularity. Amos 3:7 tells us that God always reveals His secrets to His servants the prophets, and we know full well that His advent of necessity must be announced. According to the Scriptures the star simply appeared in the east, the wise men saw it, they knew that Christ had been born and they set out to Jerusalem to see Him who had been born King of the Jews. The star did not lead them to Jerusalem, neither was it visible during the intervening time. After its appearance in the east they did not see it again until it appeared in Jerusalem and led them from Jerusalem to Bethlehem.
Word of the presence and demeanor of the wise men soon reached Herod the King, and when he heard these things “he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him.” Herod was troubled because of the announcement that a successor to him had been born, and he immediately began to speculate upon a course of procedure to remove the heir apparent to the throne. All Jerusalem was troubled because of the uneasiness of her conscience in the presence of the announcement that the Messiah had come. The same thing results today every time a Spirit inspiring message is preached on the second coming of Christ. The fact that they may face Him soon disturbs each and every individual who is in any way out of fellowship with Him.
Herod’s first step was to gather the chief priests and scribes together and demand of them where Christ should be born. It has always been an interesting thought to me that Herod, an unbeliever, recognized at once that the King of the Jews was the Christ! I say interesting, because while speaking on this subject last summer at a prominent Bible conference I had some of the religious leaders try to tell me that Christ was not the King of the Jews!
Another point of interest is that these scribes and chief priests replied immediately without having to look in the Scriptures: “… In Bethlehem of Judaea: for thus is is u’ritten by the prophet, And thou Bethlehem, in the land of Juda, art not the least among the princes of Juda: for out of thee shall come a Governor, that shall rule my people Israel.”
Having ascertained the place of His birth, Herod’s second step was to determine the time of His birth. This he did by privately calling the wise men aside and inquiring very diligently concerning the time of the appearance of the star. Then he told them to go on to Bethlehem, find the Child, and come back and tell him, so that he too might go and worship Him. After they left the king the star which they had seen in the east appeared once more. The ninth verse shows that it did not lead them to Jerusalem-it simply appeared in the east announcing the birth of the Messiah and then it was seen no more until it appeared in Jerusalem to lead them from Jerusalem to Bethlehem. Subsequent events reveal that it took them approximately two years to make the journey from their home in the east to Jerusalem. They went there because that was the capital of Jewry and surely that was where the King would be born. Little did they realize the lowly estate by which the King of kings and Lord of lords would come into the world at His first advent.
The joy produced by the appearing of the star at Jerusalem is further evidence that it had not been visible for sometime, It led them to a house where the young Child was with Mary, His mother. The Greek word translated Child is an entirely different word to that of the Babe in Luke 2:12,
The events that followed cause us to believe that very likely the Child Jesus was about two years old when the wise men found Him in the house and fell down and worshipped Him, Their worship was manifested in the presentation of gifts. These are highly symbolic and provide a fruitful study. There was the gold which symbolized the Godly sovereignty and Kingship-a confession on the part of the wise men that this was God the King in the flesh, The incense which was offered is described in Revelation as intercessory prayers of the saints in connection with the Lord Jesus Christ. It shows the faith of the wise men in confessing Christ to be their High Priest and Intercessor, The myrrh, always used in connection with the preparation of bodies for burial, bespeaks the faith of the wise men in the sacrificial death of this One for their sins. The three gifts revealed the three offices of our Lord: Myrrh, Prophet; frankincense, Priest; gold. King, This is a truth which many purported religious leaders today have not yet learned in their studies of Christ-that He WAS Prophet, IS NOW Priest, and when He comes again WILL BE King.
The wise men were then warned of God not to go to Herod, so they went home in another direction. Joseph also was warned in a dream of Herod’s scheme to take the young Child’s life and was told to take Him with His Mother and go down into Egypt, that the Scripture “, , , out of Egypt have I called my Son . . .” might be fulfilled, When Herod saw that he had been mocked by the wise men not returning, he slew all the children in Bethlehem that were two years old and under, The Scripture says he did this because of the time of the appearing of the star which he had learned from the wise men. This incident seems to confirm the thought that the wise men appeared somewhere around two years after the birth of Christ.
May the Lord bless you this Christmas season and grant to you insight into the Person and work of our blessed Lord-that you may see in Him your Prophet, Priest, and King.
A CHILD IS BORN
“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, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace. Of the increase of His government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon His kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even forever. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this” (Isa. 9:6, 7).
This is a description of the coming Messiah who shall rule and reign upon the throne of David in Jerusalem for a thousand years. Not only shall the government of the nations be upon His shoulders, but the government of each individual citizen of His kingdom. There is also the possibility and the choice of His government being the rule of each individual Christian’s life today. See Col. 3:15 and Luke 6:46.
Consider also His names: (1) WONDERFUL: This means that He Himself is a miracle and that He Himself possesses miraculous and supernatural powers which belong only to the Almighty God. See Matt. 28:18.
(2) COUNSELLOR: As Christ He is the Wisdom of God; therefore, He can admonish, advise, teach and instruct. See Col. 2:3; James 1:5.
(3) THE MIGHTY GOD: As The Mighty God not only is He the source of all power but He is all powerful in and of Himself. There is no power outside, neither apart from Him whose name is The Mighty God.
(4) THE EVERLASTING FATHER: He is from eternity to eternity; all plans and purposes, for all that is, come from Him as The Everlasting Father. To me the most precious thought in this connection is that not only is our Mighty God also our Father, but He has said that, “Like as a father pitieth his children, so the Lord pitieth them that fear him (Psalm 103:13). Selah. This word in the Hebrew means “Just think of that.” So I want you to just think of the fact that the Almighty God is our Father. For that reason Jesus said, After this manner pray ye, “Our Father. . .”
(5) PRINCE OF PEACE: There is no peace apart from the grace of God, and, of necessity, the Lord Jesus Christ must come and manifest the grace of God in dying for the sins of the whole world. Each individual Christian can have the peace of God and peace with God by virtue of faith in His atoning sacrifice. But the world as such can never have peace until, the Prince of Peace returns, puts down every enemy and establishes His personal reign of peace.
This is the One of whom we sing and in whose name we pray when we think of the Babe in the manager.
THE FIRST CHRISTMAS GIftS
Usually the first thoughts in our minds associated with Christmas are about Christmas gifts-what to give, and wondering what will be given to us. Seldom do individuals think of the Gift of gifts.
When the wise men from the East came to Jerusalem seeking Him who was born King of the Jews, they came to worship Him. They did not find Him until the Star of the East led them from Jerusalem to Bethlehem. There in a house with His mother Mary, they found the Child Jesus and fell down and worshipped Him. Part of their worship was the presentation of gifts. Of course the Lord Jesus Christ was God’s love Gift to the world, and in appreciation of this wonderful Gift from the Heavenly Father, they gave gifts to the Christ Child. The gifts which they presented were gold, frankincense and myrrh. It was not so much the intrinsic value of the gifts, neither our Lord’s need of them, but it was the symbolism expressed which enhanced the meaning of these gifts. GOLD symbolizes the Deity and Sovereignty of Almighty God. FRANKINCENSE, used as a sweet savor with the sacrifices, symbolizes the priesthood and its system of sacrifices. MYRRH, which was used in the embalming of the dead, symbolizes death.
When the wise men presented the three gifts to the Child Jesus they prophesied the threefold ministry of our Lord. Taken in the chronological order of His life, when they gave Him myrrh they showed a belief in His prophetic ministry which was fulfilled in His living and teaching the Word of God while on earth. This ministry culminated in His crucifixion as an atonement for the sins of the world.
When the wise men gave to the Child Jesus frankincense, it brought to light their belief in the Priestly ministry of our Lord. He is now at the right hand of God the Father as our great High Priest, making intercession for those who have accepted Him as Saviour.
When the wise men gave the Child Jesus gold, they expressed to the whole world their conviction that this Child was Almighty God. The Sovereign God, receiving the Kingly gold, is yet to be manifest as the King of kings, and the Lord of lords. That phase of our Lord’s ministry will not be fulfilled until He returns to the earth to rule and reign for one thousand years.
Now in a sentence-the presentation of the gifts by the wise men expressed to all creation their belief that this Child was Prophet, Priest, and King-God manifest in the flesh. And because the Lord has given Himself for us, what better gift can we give Him than to acknowledge before the whole world that He is our Prophet, Priest, and coming King? This is done by expressing a personal faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, and through the power of His Holy Spirit, living for His honor and glory.
GOLD, FRANKINCENSE AND MYRRH
When the wise men from the East found the Child Jesus, they fell down and worshiped Him. Their worship was manifested in the presentation of gifts. These are highly symbolic and provide a fruitful study. There was the gold which symbolized the Godly Sovereignty and Kingship-a confession on the part of the wise men that this was God the King in the flesh. The incense which was offered is described in Revelation as intercessory prayers of the saints in connection with the Lord Jesus Christ. It shows the faith of the wise men in confessing Christ to be their High Priest and Intercessor. The myrrh, always used in connection with the preparation of bodies for burial, bespeaks the faith of the wise men in the sacrificial death of this One for their sins. The three gifts revealed the three offices of our Lord: Myrrh, Prophet; frankincense, Priest; gold, King. This is a truth which many purported religious leaders today have not yet learned in their studies of Christ-that He WAS Prophet, IS NOW Priest, and when He comes again WILL BE King.