Prophecy Update Newsletter
IN TODAY'S NEWSLETTER...
The Cradle, the Cross, and the Crown - Pete Garcia - https://www.rev310.com/2020/12/the-cradle-the-cross-and-the-crown-3
First published December 1st, 2014. Updated for 2020.
After the year we’ve had, it is time we enjoy this hard-earned Christmas Season. 2020 has definitely been an exceedingly difficult year for many. As we reflect on the prophetic promise fulfilled in Christ’s first coming let us take hope in His promise to come again.
It is often fitting for Christian households and churches to focus on the first coming of Jesus Christ. In times past, and perhaps, not as much anymore, there used to be some common signs that we were in the season of our Lord’s birth.
The sight of manger scenes in town squares all across America, and also in front of churches from all denominations. Christmas cards bearing the Star or the three Wise men were passed amongst believers during this season. Preachers preached mostly from Matthew 1-2 or Luke 1, while churches held their annual cantatas, and the sounds of “peace on earth, goodwill toward men” filled the ears of believers around the world. Bethlehem, Israel, once again becomes the focus of the world stage, as Christians flock to see the Church of the Nativity, which is currently being held hostage by the Palestinians.
However, by 2020 standards, our westernized way of life has largely become post-modern and post-Christian. The gaining worldview is that Christ is too controversial. Christianity is too exclusive and divisive. Christians are too intolerant. Thus, everything is watered down so as not to offend. Furthermore, paganism is on the rise again and rivals everything we thought we knew about the season with the offerings of Saturnalia and the winter solstice. Controversy sweeps in as Christian families become divided over things like gift-giving, Christmas trees, and whether we keep up pretenses about ‘Old Saint Nick.’
This controversy was not a surprise to God. Jesus said,
“Do not think that I came to bring peace on earth. I did not come to bring peace but a sword. For I have come to ‘set a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law’; and ‘a man’s enemies will be those of his own household. Matthew 10:34-36
But the world will only tolerate two forms of the real Christ. The first is Christ as a baby. The second is a Christ dying on a cross. The former, because babies are deemed helpless. The latter, because it presumably shows Christ’s defeat. However, as believers, we know this is far from true. Even as a newborn babe, Jesus (Yeshua), was already fulfilling numerous Old Testament prophecies (Isaiah 7:14, Micah 5:2, Jeremiah 31:15, Hosea 11:1, etc.). The Incarnation (God putting on flesh) in the form of Jesus through a virgin birth, was the only hope mankind had for redemption. It was the four-thousand-year-old fulfillment of the first prophecy/promise God made in the Bible. In the Garden of Eden, God said this to the Serpent (Satan);
And I will put enmity
Between you and the woman,
And between your seed and her Seed;
He shall bruise your head,
And you shall bruise His heel.
But when the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption as sons. Galatians 4:4-5
When the fullness of time had come…is a phrase so packed with meaning that it would not be possible to break it all down in the limited space (or ability) I have at my disposal. But it speaks to the eternal purpose of God’s plan for the redemption of mankind, and of all the created order. It speaks to the specific moments on mankind’s timeline, where (and when) God would intervene in a supernatural and visible way, to put feet to His plan. Dr. Andy Wood’s makes much use of this phrase in his teachings, and really brought to my mind, the preciseness and purpose for why God chose that particular time frame for Christ’s first coming. Consider these points:
· Since Alexander the Great, Koine Greek had become the predominant language in the Mediterranean. Koine Greek is a very precise language which is perfect for capturing the original intent and meaning of the Scriptures…no matter which language they get translated into in the future.
· The Roman republic form of government ends under Julius Caesar and he creates a total dynastic dictatorship under what would become the rule of the Caesars. Christ was born and dies under the reign of a Caesar, and will return one day when another Caesar (Antichrist) who has set his empire up over the entire world.
· The Romans perfected the creation of the road networks, which spanned the boundaries of the Mediterranean, Asia Minor, Europe, and even up into Britain.
· Israel remained under the subjugation of Gentile powers (as described in Daniel 2:31-45, 7, 8, & 11) which had played out from the time of their exile to Babylon (605-539BC)
· Looking at it from a holistic point of view, there is a lot of commonalities for why Christ came when He did. There was a common language (Koine Greek), an advanced network for travel (all roads lead to Rome), a dominant pagan world power (fertile fields no doubt), and Israel in the final years before her diaspora.
While there is still some debate as to exactly which year Christ was born in, all we know for sure is that when He was born, the nation of Israel wasn’t expecting it. We know from the world’s perspective, the birth of Christ in some backwater province of the Roman Empire, did not even register as a blip on their geopolitical radar.
We know Christ lived up unto the age of 30 virtually as an unknown, before exploding onto the scene to present the world with 3 ½ years of God in the flesh, ministry. At the end of that, He managed to make the Pharisees, Sadducees, and Zealots mad enough to trump up false charges and have Him brought before the Sanhedrin to be tried as a political prisoner.
In Genesis 49, we see Jacob blessing his sons who would become the heads of the 12 tribes of Israel. When Jacob came to bless Judah, he gave him an interesting prophecy;
The scepter shall not depart from Judah,
Nor a lawgiver from between his feet,
Until Shiloh comes;
And to Him shall be the obedience of the people.
Modern Jewish scholars today will refute that Christ is the Messiah because their argument is that the ‘scepter’ departed from Judah back in 605BC when the Babylonians under Nebuchadnezzar laid siege to Jerusalem. Furthermore, from then, until 1948, the Jewish nation had been under some form of Gentile domination. All that is true.
But what is also true is that the Babylonians, Persians, Greeks, and Romans allowed the Jews to have a form of semi-autonomous rule over themselves (Zerubbabel, Ezra, Maccabeus) up until King Herod Archelaus was removed from power by Julius Caesar in 6AD (Josephus, Antiquities 17:13). That’s when the Jews lost any remaining semblance of autonomy and were subject to a series of Roman procurators with Pontius Pilate being the most famous.
When Christ came, the Jews were either not anticipating the coming of their Messiah, or had largely ignored the literal fulfillment of the prophecies pertaining to His coming (Matt. 2:3-8). They thought they had lost their right to wield capital punishment on Him, which is partially why they no longer believed the Messiah would come. This is why when they finally did get the chance to kill Him, they had to turn it over to Pilate for the official sentencing.
Now, that didn’t stop them previously from trying to stone Him to death on a couple of prior occasions when they were riled up, but He always managed to allude them (John 8:58-59, 10:30-33). They (the Sanhedrin) didn’t want to crucify Him on Passover because of the negative publicity, but again, the timing was such that God orchestrated everything to coincide with exactly the Passover Feast. (Mark 14:1-2; 1 Cor. 2:6-8)
Also, in Numbers 24:17, the prophet Balaam prophesied that this same scepter would be accompanied by a Star, by which the wise men (Matt. 2:2) would later use to know where this One born King of the Jews, would be found.
“I see Him, but not now;
I behold Him, but not near;
A Star shall come out of Jacob;
A Scepter shall rise out of Israel,
And batter the brow of Moab,
And destroy all the sons of tumult
The victory at the Cross represented something much more significant than a literal kingdom on earth (which is still to come), but that Christ conquered death and hell. (Rev. 1:18) Because Christ had to be a man to die for the rest of mankind as our Kinsman Redeemer, Christ willingly endured the joy set before Him, in order to pay the price for OUR salvation. (Lev. 25; Heb. 12:2; Rev. 5:6-10) It would be equivalent to God rigging a game that placed all of the burden and rules against Himself so that by His losing, we win. Christ trading His own perfect holiness, for our sinful and corrupted lives, is oft referred to as the most lopsided trade in all of recorded history. And yet, that is exactly what transpired. We don’t think about it this way, but God the Son, traded His former estate, to take on forever, that of God in a glorified human body.
I’ve often heard Amillennialists and Preterists state emphatically, that Christ will not return to rule and reign on earth because they say that we are in the Kingdom already. I couldn’t disagree more. The Scriptures tell us, that this world, is currently (and temporarily) under the sway and control of Satan himself (Luke 4:5-6; 1 Peter 5:8; 1 John 5:19; Rev. 2:13). And as much as these Christian-skeptics might wish, the Cross didn’t usher in some Edenic age where lambs lay down with wolves, children play with cobras, and nations beat their swords into plowshares (Isaiah 2:4, 11:2-8).
Any theological interpretation or hermeneutic that detracts from the certainty that God Himself will right all the wrongs, and restore nature back to its original order, is heresy. Any teaching that states anything less than the literal fulfillment of Christ’s kingdom on the earth, is to depart from the plain reading of the text and making it allegorical folly.
It was to King David that God said, “And it shall be, when your days are fulfilled, when you must go to be with your fathers, that I will set up your seed after you, who will be of your sons; and I will establish his kingdom.” (1 Chron. 17:11) God states over and over, that the Kingdom Come is not established by man or by earthly efforts, but by God Himself (Dan. 2:44-45; Psalm 2; Rev. 19:11-16). Christian liberals and skeptics have introduced this idea that the Kingdom is purely spiritual, and they ignorantly argue that the Kingdom is now in play, however, only in the heavenly realms. They do this by taking several texts out of context such as Luke 17:20-22 and Romans 14:17. If those who deny the coming, literal Millennial Kingdom on earth had their way;
Christ would only come to earth to die, and not to reign; for Christ to be born ‘King of the Jews’, but to not actually become “King of the Jews”; for Him to ride a donkey, but not a white horse; for Christ to be spat on, beaten, and hang naked upon a cross of shame, but not to return in triumphal glory coming on the clouds with the armies of heaven behind Him. If Christ doesn’t return, then He remains defeated on the earth that He spoke into existence, that God’s word does not mean what it says, and that God can break unbreakable promises.
The reason that men and women promote these heretical teachings, is because man-made religion, be it Roman Catholic or Protestant, has become too invested in the things of this world. They want life to continue on in some endless cycle of man rising and falling (2 Peter 3). They depart from a plain reading of the text and insert their own interpretations, which supplants God’s promise to return in victory and claim what is rightfully His. Not only to claim what is rightfully His, but also that every knee should bow, whether it is in heaven, on earth, under the earth. Throughout all of creation, all will confess that Jesus Christ is King (Philippians 2:9-11).
So are these skeptics and liberals (who deny that Christ will literally return and rule on the earth) saying that Christ is free to rule everywhere, but the earth?
The Christ-rejecting world, as well as those Christians who have fallen into spiritual slumber, will be astonished in that Day when Christ comes for His Church. Because that Day opens the window of time for Daniel’s 70th Week (the Tribulation) to begin. The Rapture doesn’t begin the Tribulation, but it clears the path for it, as the Church must be removed prior to the start of that final week of years.
After the Rapture, perhaps a few days, weeks, months, years after, the seven-year Tribulation will begin just as it has been foretold in Daniel 9:27. The final seven-years will be the most horrifying, ferocious, and disturbing time humanity has ever experienced (Matt. 24:21-22). God will accomplish two things by it; first, He disciplines the nation of Israel, and secondly, He destroys all the Gentile nations round about her, by bringing the whole Babylonian system crashing to the ground (Jer. 30:7-11).
It is noted by the Old Testament Prophets, that THAT DAY will begin in unimaginable calamity, perhaps masking the Church’s departure. The prophet Joel records…“The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the coming of the great and awesome day of the Lord.” Paul writes that “For you yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so comes as a thief in the night. For when they say, “Peace and safety!” then sudden destruction comes upon them, as labor pains upon a pregnant woman. And they shall not escape. But you, brethren, are not in darkness, so that this Day should overtake you as a thief.” 1 Thessalonians 5:2-4
Make no mistake that the Lord will return and will come with the clouds and in great power and glory. Christ will come and reclaim that which was lost with Adam. He has the title deed to the earth. He no longer wears the crown of thorns, but now wears ‘many crowns’, meaning He has ALL authority. When the prophet Isaiah saw the throne room, he was undone. When the holy prophet Daniel sees the throne room, he was shaken. When John sees the glorified Christ in all His splendor, he falls over as dead. How much more traumatized will an unrepentant, Christ-rejecting world be when it sees the sky splitting open and Christ returning in power and glory?
The whole world will mourn (Rev. 1:7). The world at this moment doesn’t care. The religious academics try to minimalize or explain-away His soon coming with fanciful wordsmithing. Those actively opposed to Christ, who loathe Him, are filled with anger because they know deep down that this age is coming to an end. Thus, they are ramping up their evil plans in these final moments…
But you, O man of God, flee these things and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, gentleness. Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life, to which you were also called and have confessed the good confession in the presence of many witnesses. I urge you in the sight of God who gives life to all things, and before Christ Jesus who witnessed the good confession before Pontius Pilate, that you keep this commandment without spot, blameless until our Lord Jesus Christ’s appearing, which He will manifest in His own time, He who is the blessed and only Potentate, the King of kings and Lord of lords, who alone has immortality, dwelling in unapproachable light, whom no man has seen or can see, to whom be honor and everlasting power. Amen. 1 Timothy 6:11-16
Christmas Reminds us of the Integrity of Scripture – Jonathan Brentner - https://www.jonathanbrentner.com/https/jonathan-brentner-g8fgsquarespacecom/config/2020/12/19/christmas-affirms-the-integrity-of-scripture
Christmas provides us with the opportunity to celebrate the Father’s gift of His Son to the world. The story of our redemption begins with Jesus virgin birth, finds its basis in His death on the cross, burial, and resurrection, and will reach its climax when Christ appears to take us home to the place that He’s prepared for us.
This Christmas, I am particularly mindful of the integrity of God’s Word because in the story of our Savior’s birth we see the beginning of many of the prophecies Jesus fulfilled during His stay on earth.
My conviction regarding the inspiration and inerrancy of Scripture rests on these four truths, which include fulfilled prophecy:
Jesus’ resurrection from the dead. If Jesus rose from the dead, and He did, that means we can trust all that He claimed and told us. This includes His verification of the Old Testament Scriptures as well as His promise of future revelation to His disciples (John 16:12-14).
The incredible fulfillment of prophecy. When one considers the astounding number of prophecies Jesus’ fulfilled with just His first coming, how can one not trust the words we read in our Bibles? The incredible supernatural fulfillment of prophecy also confirms the integrity of God’s Word and its message to us.
The inner witness of the Holy Spirit. I grew up in a Bible-believing home and ever since I can remember, I have had a consistent inner conviction that what I read in Scripture is true. I do not attribute this in any way to myself or to my parents, but to the work of the Holy Spirit who continually bears witness within me to the truths of Scripture.
The amazing cohesiveness and unity of Scripture. Despite being written by many human authors over a period of about 1,500 years, the unity and cohesion of the Bible’s message is miraculous; there’s no other way to describe it. From Genesis through to the end of Revelation, the consistent message points to Jesus as our Redeemer and King.
I could write at length about any one of the above topics, but for now I will write about the amazing fulfillment of prophecy that occurred with Jesus’ first appearance on the earth.
CHRISTMAS REMINDS US OF FULFILLED PROPHECY
Imagine the entire state of Texas covered two feet deep with silver dollars. If you have ever spent any time driving in Texas, you realize this is an extraordinarily large number of coins. Texas is a huge state; it’s second in size only to Alaska and comprises over 268 thousand square miles. California, another large state, lags far behind Texas in land mass.
Let’s say someone puts one coin, painted red, somewhere in the state amidst all the trillions of other coins. What are the odds that someone, with a blindfold covering his or her eyes, could walk into Texas and pick up the red silver dollar on the very first try? The chances of doing so would be exceedingly low, nonexistent for all practical purposes. Peter W. Stoner, the former Chairman of the Departments of Mathematics and Astronomy at Pasadena City College, placed the likelihood of doing so at 10 to the 17th power.
“What does this have to do with fulfilled prophecy?” Let me explain. Dr. Stoner joined with Robert C. Newman to write the book Science Speaks in which they calculated the odds of any one person in history fulfilling just eight key prophecies regarding the birth, life, and death of Jesus. Their calculation came out to the number equal to the odds of a blindfolded person walking into Texas and picking up the red silver dollar on the very first try amidst the entire state covered with the coins, an impossible task.[i]
Here are the eight prophecies they considered for their calculation of the odds.
1. Jesus’ birth in Bethlehem, Micah 5:2; Matthew. 2:1-6.
2. Someone to prepare the way for Jesus’ ministry. Malachi, the last prophet of the Old Testament era, wrote this, “Behold, I send my messenger, and will prepare the way before me” (Mal. 3:1).
John the Baptist fulfilled these words with his ministry calling people to repentance and announcing Jesus as “the Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world” (John 1:29).
3. Jesus’ entrance into Jerusalem on a donkey, Zechariah 9:9 and Matthew 21:1-10
4. Jesus’ betrayal by a close friend. The Old Testament predicted Jesus’ betray by a friend. Zechariah 13:6 speaks of the wounds inflicted upon him “in the house of my friends.” Psalm 41:9 also refers to Christ’s eventual betrayal by a “close friend.”
5. The payment of thirty pieces of silver for betraying Jesus. Zechariah 11:12-13 and Matthew 26:14-15
6. Judas throwing the thirty pieces of sliver back into the house of the Lord. Zechariah 11:13 and Matthew 27:3-9
7. Jesus’ silence while on trial for his life. Isaiah 53:7 says this, “He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth; like a lamb that is led to slaughter, and a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so he opened not his mouth.” See Matthew 26:57-66.
8. The piercing of Jesus’ hands and feet. Psalm 22:16 says this about manner of Jesus’ death, “For dogs encompass me; a company of evildoers encircles me; they have pierced my hands and feet.” Remarkably, David accurately predicted Jesus’ death by crucifixion centuries before it existed as a form of execution.
Do you see how remarkable it is that the prophets could be so accurate regarding Jesus’ birth, early life, and death on the cross? By the time Jesus began calling his disciples, He had already fulfilled many things written about Him in the Old Testament. In all, Jesus fulfilled forty-eight specific Old Testament prophecies. It’s utterly impossible that this could be a coincidence.
FULFILLED PROPHECIES AFFIRM OUR HOPE IN JESUS’ SOON APPEARING
Christmas reminds me that God keeps all His promises. Just as the Lord fulfilled many prophecies beginning with Jesus’ birth in Bethlehem, so also, He certainly will fulfill all His promises and prophecies that have to do with the end times includes His return to take us back to His Father’s home and the Second Coming. Indeed, we now see so the beginning of so many yet unfulfilled prophecies, which tells us they will certainly become a reality in the near future.
If such a being as the “spirit of Christmas future” exists, it would remind us of the certainty that God will keep all His promises contained in yet unfulfilled prophecies. It would point us to the imminent return of Jesus at which time we will receive our immortal and glorified bodies (Phil. 3:20-21; 1 Cor. 15:51-55). The “spirit” would assure us of the Lord’s promise in 1 Thessalonians 5:9-10, “For God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us so that whether we are awake or asleep we might live with him.” We will not experience the wrath of the day of the Lord.
Of course, there’s no such thing as the “spirit of Christmas future;” however, we have something much, much better. We have the words of Scripture upon which we can rest our hopes and dreams of a glorious eternity because it’s the very words of God to us.
In contrast to the heartache and despair most of us have experienced in 2020, the incarnation we celebrate each Christmas reminds us that God keeps His promises. He sent His Son, the Messiah, into the world just as He promised long, long ago. In the same way, our hope in the rapture, our glorious immortal bodies, and our reign with Jesus in His kingdom are just as sure as the sunset today or the sunrise tomorrow. Those in Christ will experience this glorious future.
Your take-away blessing this Christmas season may vary from mine, but for me the story of Jesus’ birth reminds me that we can absolutely trust the words of Scripture regarding our future. He may make us wait a little longer, but He will not fail to come for us at just the right time.
Our journey here below may grow even darker and more menacing in the weeks and months ahead, but the Christmas story reminds us that the Lord will keep His promises and someday, hopefully very soon, we will fully experience the gift of eternal life that we already possess in Christ.
Note: Please consider signing up for my newsletter on the home page of my website at https://www.jonathanbrentner.com/ . It will greatly help me in reaching more people. Thanks!
[i] Illustration and stats taken from Peter Stoner, Science Speaks Today (Chicago: Moody Press, 1963), pp. 100-107.
The Story Behind Handel's Messiah – John Stonestreet - https://www.prophecynewswatch.com/article.cfm?recent_news_id=4469
George Frideric Handel was mainly a composer of operas. In fact, he composed dozens of them. Though his productions were popular in 18th century London, Handel had his enemies -- he was a foreigner, born in Germany, by many accounts not a very likeable fellow, and his rivals detested his style of opera.
He was also kind of a large, awkward man, rough and hot-tempered enough to earn the nickname "The Great Bear."
When his operas and his health began to fail, Handel sank into bankruptcy and despair, believing his career was over. In 1741, he was invited to Ireland to direct one of his works at a charity performance. Handel decided to write a new oratorio.
A deeply religious man, he turned away from the human foibles common to his operas and chose his text and themes from Scripture. It was then that something remarkable happened. He began composing with a super-human zeal and energy.
People thought he was mad, or even under a spell. One servant reported that Handel seldom ate or slept and worked with such frenzy that his fingers could no longer grip his pen. He was, in fact, in the grip of divine inspiration. The result is one of the world's great masterworks, Messiah.
Handel finished Part I in only six days. He finished Part II in nine days, and Part III in six days. The orchestration took him only a few days more. In other words, in all, two-and-a-half hours of the world's most magnificent music was composed in less than twenty-five days. When he finished, he sobbed: "I think that I did see all heaven before me, and the great God Himself!"
Immediately, from its premiere in Dublin in 1742, Messiah was pronounced a masterpiece. Messiah recounts the prophecies of Christ and his triumphant birth, utilizing an amazing amount of Scripture including passages like, "For unto us a child is born . . . and the government shall be upon His shoulders." And "His name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, the Mighty God . . . the Prince of Peace."
In fact, Messiah pulls from the Psalms, Job, Isaiah, Lamentations, Haggai, Malachi, Zechariah, Matthew, Luke, John, Romans, 1 Corinthians, Hebrews, and Revelation.
At its London premiere, King George was so moved by the "Hallelujah Chorus" that he spontaneously rose from his seat. The entire audience followed his example and, for the past 250-plus years, audiences have continued to do the same.
After the success of Messiah, Handel continued to write religious music. Beethoven said: "To him I bend the knee, for Handel was the greatest, ablest composer that ever lived." Even after his eyesight failed, Handel continued to perform until, at age 74, he collapsed while conducting a performance of Messiah. He was put to bed saying, "I should like to die on Good Friday."
Instead, he died on Holy Saturday, April 14th, 1759. Handel's grave, at Westminster Abbey, is marked by a statue of him with a score of Messiah opened on the table. The page that is visible is, "I Know That My Redeemer Liveth."
It is a work that retains the power to move us. My wife starts listening to Messiah each year during Advent, or even a bit earlier. Like King George, our hearts still rise at that great triumphal chorus. We sing "Hallelujah" to the King who will reign forever and ever.
Celebrate Jesus - Nathele Graham - firstname.lastname@example.org
Today we have many concerns and tomorrow is uncertain. We worry about a virus, wars, elections, and many things that can affect life for years to come. Prophecy seems to be running on fast-forward, but no matter what happens tomorrow, an event that happened many centuries ago should bring us peace. I’m talking about the birth of Jesus Christ. That event changed the course of history, yet many who claim to be Christians have never read the account of His birth from Scripture. When Christmas comes around, we make sure our children believe there’s a guy up in the North Pole who has a workforce of elves making toys and we see his supposed picture everywhere. Is that what Christmas is really about? You and I both know that only Jesus Christ is the true meaning of Christmas…God’s gift to us. Let’s take time right now and turn our attention to God. There’s a verse that I quote many times and it’s probably the best-known verse in Scripture. “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” John 3:16. Think about that verse and then think of the way in which God’s Son entered His creation. He was born humbly in a manger. That’s the truth we need to instill in the hearts of our children.
The Gospel of Matthew gives Jesus’ genealogy through His step-father, Joseph, who was a direct descendent of King David through the royal line of his son Solomon. The Gospel of Luke gives the genealogy of Jesus through His mother Mary, who was also a descendent of King David, but through a different son, Nathan. The Gospel of John also contains the genealogy of Jesus, God incarnate. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life; and the life was the light of men. And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not.” John 1:1-5. This passage informs us that Jesus existed in the beginning and created everything. Parents, be sure you teach this truth to your children. Evolution is as fictional as Santa Claus, and you’re responsible for teaching your children truth. “And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.” John 1:14. We know that Jesus was born in a manger, but His beginning was long before that event. Actually, He had no beginning, but was the beginning of all things.
Instead of reading some fictional story to your children about a jolly fat man coming down the chimney and leaving gifts, read the truth of the birth of God in the flesh. The Gospel of Luke tells us about the virgin birth. Mary was young, but had been betrothed to a man named Joseph; they would not come together as man and wife until after they had been married. In those days, if a woman became pregnant prior to marriage she could be stoned. God is serious about marriage and families. Her life would soon take a miraculous twist. Her cousin Elizabeth already had a miracle of her own. She was past child bearing age, but after her husband encountered the angel Gabriel, Elizabeth became pregnant. This child would be known as John the Baptist and fulfilled a prophecy in Isaiah “The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the LORD, make straight in the desert a highway for our God.” Isaiah 40:3. The miracle that Mary experienced was even more spectacular.
“And the angel came in unto her, and said, Hail, thou that art highly favoured, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women. And when she saw him, she was troubled at his saying, and cast in her mind what manner of salutation this should be.” Luke 1:28-29. It was Gabriel’s words that troubled Mary. The Greek word is diatarasso which means “to agitate greatly, trouble greatly”. This is the only time this word is used in Scripture. Mary wasn’t terrified of Gabriel, but troubled by his words. “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 for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end.” Luke 1:30-33. In 2 Samuel 7:12 et seq, God promised David that his kingdom would be eternal and Jesus is the fulfillment of that promise.
“Then said Mary unto the angel, How shall this be, seeing I know not a man? And the angel answered and said unto her, The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God.” Luke 1:34-35. Mary was obedient to God and only wanted to know how this miracle was to be accomplished. If she had any worries over the result of her obedience to God, she didn’t express her doubts. Would Joseph want to marry her? If he didn’t, how could she raise the child alone? It was the husband’s responsibility to provide for the family and a woman had no way of earning a living. In spite of all the things that could go wrong, Mary trusted God to provide for her. Whenever we choose to obey God, we run the risk of ridicule from family and friends, but we can learn from Mary. If we’re obedient to God, we can trust Him. “And, behold, thy cousin Elisabeth, she hath also conceived a son in her old age: and this is the sixth month with her, who was called barren. For with God nothing shall be impossible.” Luke 1:36-37. Be sure your children understand this. God is full of miracles and nothing is impossible for Him. “And Mary said, Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word. And the angel departed from her.” Luke 1:38. Mary seems like a very sweet person, and her obedience to God is an example to all of us.
The Gospel of Matthew tells us how Joseph reacted to this situation. He had no idea of the circumstances of the pregnancy and could only assume Mary had been unfaithful to him. “Now the birth of Jesus Christ was on this wise: When as his mother Mary was espoused to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Ghost. Then Joseph her husband, being a just man and not willing to make her a publick example, was minded to put her away privily.” Matthew 1:18-19. Joseph didn’t want her stoned, but he couldn’t marry her if she was carrying another man’s child. God knew Joseph was considering releasing Mary from their betrothal and He put Joseph’s mind at ease. “But while he thought on these things, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared unto him in a dream saying, Joseph, thou son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife: for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost. And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins. Now all this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying, Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us.” Matthew 1:20-23. The name “Jesus” means Jehovah is salvation, and “Emmanuel” means God with us. Jesus was God incarnate, is our only means of salvation, and is with us always. “Then Joseph being raised from sleep did as the angel of the Lord had bidden him, and took unto him his wife: and knew her not till she had brought forth her firstborn son: and he called his name JESUS.” Matthew 1:24-25. Joseph was a God-fearing man who was also obedient. He and Mary were the perfect couple to raise God’s only begotten Son.
There was still more prophecy to be fulfilled. The Messiah had to be born in Bethlehem. “And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus, that all the world should be taxed. (And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.) And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:) to be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child.” Luke 2:1-5. This fulfilled Micah 5:2. That journey must have been difficult for Mary, and Joseph must have been very concerned for her and the Baby. Plays and movies usually show them getting to town just as she was about to deliver. Joseph desperately looks for lodging, but is forced to take her to a stable. That’s not exactly what Scripture describes. There were many people in Bethlehem for the taxing, so chances of getting a room wasn’t good. Also, if there had been family there, they surely wouldn’t be pleased to take in Mary who wasn’t married, but “great with child”. So, they lodged in a stable. While they were there, Jesus was born. “And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered. And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.” Luke 2:6-7. I’m sure Mary would have rather given birth to the Son of God in a better place, but if God had wanted that to happen, He would have made a way. As it was, the humble birth of God’s Son is an example of His life. He didn’t come to us in order to be the King of kings, that’s still in the future, but He did come to teach us humility, love, and to serve others. It also allowed the lowliest of people to be the first to worship Him.
“And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.” Luke 2:8-9. The shepherds had a very different reaction to seeing an angel than Mary. They were truly frightened. “And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes lying in a manger. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.” Luke 2:10-14. What a sight to see and a sound to hear! The shepherds went immediately and found Jesus, just as the angel said. Then, they shared the Good News. “And all they that heard it wondered at those things which were told them by the shepherds.” Luke 2:18. Shouldn’t we tell everyone the Good News that Jesus Christ was born? Shouldn’t we celebrate Jesus instead of Santa Claus?
Jesus’ birth meant that God had come in the flesh to bridge the chasm of sin that separates humanity from Him. Today and every day, celebrate Jesus…and share the Good News.
God bless you all,
Ron and Nathele Graham’s previous commentaries archived at http://www.raptureready.com/featured/graham/graham.html
All original scripture is “theopneustos” God breathed.
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Daily Jot: The Farm Chronicles: Christmas Eve Memories – Bill Wilson – www.dailyjot.com
Growing up on the farm on the fringe of the snow belt in Northeastern Ohio left many memories of snowy Christmas seasons. Christmas time was always special at our house because Christmas Eve also was my father’s birthday. He often said that when he was young, it didn’t seem fair that he only got a present one time a year. Back in the early 1900s, they didn’t go all out for Christmas like they do now—he would get an orange in a stocking hung by the fireplace, maybe some extra candy or a fruitcake if it was a good year. Things were different then. They were even different from today when I was little. We lived out in the country on a working farm that had been in the family nearly 200 years. It was real different.
Usually, on Christmas Eve we would get the livestock in early. We wintered about eight brood cows and up to 16 horses. Feeding time was done quickly because of the wind and cold lake effect coming off Lake Erie about 50 miles away. We would start by going up in the hay mow and throwing down some bales. Putting the hay in the mangers and the feed in the feedboxes. Then we would let out a yodel and the animals would start coming. Cows in their stanchions, each horse knew their own stall. The barn would start to warm up and we would begin putting water in the buckets for the horses. If the pump was froze up, I would take a bucket and an axe out to the pond some 100 yards away and carry water a bucket at a time.
One particular snowy Christmas Eve, Dad quit working earlier than normal. There was about eight inches of snow on the ground and it was pretty cold. We put the livestock in early and Dad asked if I wanted to play in the snow a bit. He had an idea in mind. I was game for anything he wanted to do. He saddled up Hollywood, his champion palomino quarter horse stallion, got a long rope, tied it to the handle of a scoop shovel. The idea was that he would ride Hollywood along the field at a gallop pulling the shovel. I would sit on the shovel, holding onto the handle as we glided through the snow. Great idea. Sounds like fun. But in practice it was more difficult than imagined. After a few disastrous bumps and flies, probably caused by the corn stalk stubs, I got the hang of it and it was—how did we say it back then—“swell!”
There was always a party after Christmas Eve services at our house. People would come from all around with birthday wishes for Dad. One such couple, Betty and Gene Flynn, often arrived a little later than others because they lived farther away. And every time Betty walked in the door on Christmas Eve, a fuse would blow. This happened for about five years straight (until we replaced the fuse box with breakers). Dad would get a flashlight and precariously make his way down the crude steps to the back of the cellar and replace the fuse while the guests waited for the lights to come on. Psalm 104:17 says, “But the mercy of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting upon them that fear him, and his righteousness unto children’s children.” These memories, to the Lord’s mercy, are everlasting. I’m thankful for them. Make some this year.
Daily Devotion: The Story of a Gift - by Greg Laurie – www.harvest.org
For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given; and the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. —Isaiah 9:6
https://harvest.org/resources/devotion/the-story-of-a-gift/ - Listen
The first Christmas was not a gift to a child; it was the gift of a Child. The story of Jesus Christ coming into this world is not so much the story of a birth as much as it’s the story of a gift. For us, it was the entrance of Jesus to Planet Earth. But for God the Father, it was the departure of a Son from Heaven.
“For unto us a Child is born,” the Scriptures say. “Unto us a Son is given; and the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6 NKJV).
We sometimes think that when Jesus was born into the human race in Bethlehem, He essentially made His entrance into the universe. But that isn’t true at all.
Jesus is God. Therefore, He is eternal. He has always existed. The Bible says, “But when the right time came, God sent his Son, born of a woman, subject to the law. God sent him to buy freedom for us who were slaves to the law, so that he could adopt us as his very own children” (Galatians 4:4–5 NLT).
His birth was His entrance into the world as the Messiah of Israel and the Savior of the world.
The prophet Micah said, “But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of you shall come forth to Me the One to be Ruler in Israel, whose goings forth are from of old, from everlasting” (Micah 5:2 NKJV).
The words from everlasting could be translated “from the vanishing point.” Micah was revealing by the Holy Spirit that the Messiah, God in human form, would be born in a manger.
This is the great miracle of Christmas: God became a man.
FROM THE HEART
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