Christmas 2010 – “The LORD from Heaven” I
by Shawn Brasseaux
[12 December 2010]
“…the second man is the Lord from heaven” (1 Corinthians 15:47b KJV).
With the Christmas season approaching, we want to look at two studies on the incarnation of God. The Bible says that God Almighty came down from heaven to become a man; why did He do this? We search the Holy Scriptures for the answer. The true Christmas story has been suppressed and buried by thousands of years of religious tradition and paganism. Call this type of study “fanaticism” or “splitting hairs,” but this is Bible study, and we want to study the BIBLE.
Christmas according to religion is three wise men travelling to Bethlehem in order to visit a little baby in a manger. This is wrong, my dear readers! The Bible never says how many wise men there were and those wise men never visited the Baby Jesus in a manger. (Check the Bible if you do not believe me!) Our goal in this two-part Bible study is to understand why Jesus Christ even took on human flesh in the first place. We want to examine the incarnation of God (Jesus Christ) from two perspectives. To begin, we will consider the first few years of Christ’s life on earth as seen from the prophetic perspective.
Mary is a virgin Jewess who is betrothed (more than engaged) to marry Joseph, a much older man. Before they are married and before they have sexual relations, Mary is “found with child of the Holy Ghost” (Matthew 1:18). Joseph is very troubled by this, but he does not want to make a spectacle, so he and Mary keep the matter secret. Then, an angel appears to Joseph and explains: “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” (Matthew 1:20 KJV).
The angel also tells Joseph that prophecy is being fulfilled: “Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel” (cf. Isaiah 7:14). Jesus Christ, the LORD of glory (“Immanuel” means “God with us”), needs a physical body, and that body must be a descendent of King David (Luke 1:32). This is why the Holy Spirit supernaturally placed the Spirit of God the Son (Jesus Christ) into Mary’s womb. Technically, it was a virgin conception!
Let us look at some Messianic prophecies from the Old Testament. We see that Matthew 1:21 says that Israel’s Messiah’s name is JESUS (“Saviour”), because “He shall save His people [Israel] from their sins.” Jeremiah 23:5,6 KJV say: “Behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that I will raise unto David a righteous Branch, and a King shall reign and prosper, and shall execute judgment and justice in the earth. In his days Judah shall be saved, and Israel shall dwell safely: and this is his name whereby he shall be called, THE LORD OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS.”
Isaiah 9:6,7 KJV also spoke of Israel’s Messiah-King: “For unto us [Israel] a child is born, unto us [Israel] 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 for ever. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will perform this.”
Even Moses wrote something about the Messiah in Deuteronomy 18:15: “The LORD thy God will raise up unto thee a Prophet from the midst of thee, of thy brethren, like unto me; unto him ye shall hearken;” Israel’s King and Prophet has indeed arrived! According to Luke 1:5, Christ was born in late September to early October. Nine months previous, or late December, puts His conception around Christmas, not His birth. The idea that Christmas is Jesus’ birthday is nothing more than a pagan holiday that celebrates the birth of the son of the sun god.
Just before the Lord Jesus is born (sometime in September), Caesar Augustus wanted to tax the Roman Empire. Joseph, being a descendent of King David, must leave Nazareth and return to Bethlehem in Judaea, the city of King David (Luke 2:1-5). God the Father foreknew that Jesus Christ would be born in Bethlehem of Judaea, not in Nazareth (where Joseph and Mary had been staying). Micah 5:2 KJV reads: “But thou, Bethlehem Ephratah, though thou be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of thee shall he come forth unto me that is to be ruler in Israel; whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting.” Over 700 years before the fact, God said which Bethlehem too! (While there was another town named Bethlehem southwest of the Sea of Galilee [in northern Israel], God specifically said it would be the Bethlehem Ephratah, the Bethlehem near Jerusalem).
In Bethlehem Ephratah (Bethlehem of Judaea), Mary gives birth to Jesus Christ, and places Him in a manger in swaddling clothes (Luke 2:6,7). Nearby shepherds who are out watching their flock by night see an angel that declares (Luke 2:10-12 KJV): “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.” These shepherds visit the Baby Jesus in the manger. By the way, these shepherds are out in their fields, indicating it is not a cold night in December but rather early fall (late September).
What about the wise men? In Matthew chapter 2, the wise men come from the east to Jerusalem, where the Roman King Herod reigns. These wise men inquire Herod where the “King of the Jews” is (a reference to Jesus Christ) because they have seen His star. Herod grows upset and feels threatened by the birth of this new King. When he gathers Israel’s religious leaders and asks where that King would be born, they tell him that Micah 5:2 prophesied the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem of Judaea. Herod sends the wise men as spies, hoping to find out where Jesus is so he can kill the Him.
In Matthew 2:11, we read of the wise men coming into a “house”—not a stall or cave—and we see that Jesus Christ is a “young child,” not a baby at this point (no more than two years old). These wise men bring gifts to the Lord Jesus (gold, frankincense, and myrrh) and they worship Him. God warns the wise men in a dream to return to their home, but not to report back to Herod.
Three more prophecies were also fulfilled in these first few years of Christ’s earthly life. Herod in his anger demands the execution of all Jewish babies under the age of two in Bethlehem and the surrounding areas. In Matthew 2:13, God sends another angel to Joseph, warning Joseph of the impending danger, and instructing him to take Mary and the boy Jesus to the land of Egypt! Thus, Joseph, Mary, and the boy Jesus flee to Egypt, until Herod dies. Matthew 2:15 KJV says: “And was there [in Egypt] until the death of Herod: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying, Out of Egypt have I called my son.” This quote is actually Hosea 11:1, when God speaks of time when He delivered Israel out of Egyptian bondage, some 1,500 years previous.
As Herod kills these innocent children, yet another prophecy is fulfilled as Israel mourns for its loss (Matthew 2:16-18; Jeremiah 31:15). Ironically, there is no mourning as Israel’s Messiah is forced out of Israel to now dwell in Egypt?! Once Herod dies, the Lord speaks to Joseph in yet another dream, and He tells Joseph to take Mary and Jesus to dwell in Nazareth, in northern Israel (Herod’s son Archelaus is now ruling in Judaea). There in Nazareth, we understand Matthew 2:23 (“He shall be called a Nazarene”) to be a fulfillment of Isaiah 11:1: “And there shall come forth a rod out of the stem of Jesse, and a Branch shall grow out of his roots:” Until age 30, it seems that Jesus lives in Nazareth (Luke 2:39).
In conclusion, Jesus Christ’s incarnation (becoming flesh) was to fulfill the Old Testament promises concerning Israel’s earthly kingdom. As the Apostle Peter said, “And he shall send Jesus Christ, which before was preached unto you: whom the heaven must receive until the times of restitution of all things, which God hath spoken by the mouth of all his holy prophets since the world began” (Acts 3:21). The prophetic program was Israel’s kingdom program. JEHOVAH would literally rule Israel as their King and Messiah in a literal, physical, visible kingdom on this planet. Once that kingdom was established, the Jews were to reach the pagan Gentiles with salvation (Exodus 19:5,6; Isaiah 60:1-3; Isaiah 61:6; Zechariah 9:20-23; et al.).
In God’s omniscience, He knew that Israel would kill their Messiah, but this would not at all disrupt God’s overall plan for the universe. In fact, Satan would actually help God out (and Satan would not know otherwise!).
We will stop this discussion for now. Next week, we will look at the incarnation of God from the Pauline perspective.
Christmas 2010 – “The LORD from Heaven” II
by Shawn Brasseaux
[18 December 2010]
“The first man is of the earth, earthy; the second man is the Lord from heaven” (1 Corinthians 15:47 KJV).
Last week, we began the first of two Bible studies that deal with the incarnation of God (becoming the God-man Jesus Christ). Last week, we looked at the incarnation of God from the prophetic perspective; this week, we want to contrast that with the incarnation of God from the Pauline perspective.
According to prophecy, we Gentiles could only be saved through converted Israel and her kingdom. Yet what did Israel do to her King? Kill Him on Calvary’s cross! To Satan’s delight, the Jews crucified the Lord Jesus on the cross. How could Gentiles be saved if Israel rejected her King and kingdom? How could Israel even be saved now? Paul’s epistles answer these questions.
“Wherefore henceforth know we no man after the flesh: yea, though we have known Christ after the flesh, yet now henceforth know we him no more” (2 Corinthians 5:16 KJV). The nation Israel had known Christ “after the flesh” because He had ministered to them for three years in a physical body in accordance with the Old Testament prophecies and covenants (Romans 15:8; Matthew 15:24)! Paul writes that we as members of the Church the Body of Christ are not associated with Christ’s earthly ministry. We as Gentiles (non-Jews) do not have any covenants with God, we are not Israel, we are not under the Mosaic Law, and we are not promised a King and Messiah.
When the Lord saved Saul of Tarsus and made him the Apostle Paul in Acts chapter 9, God set into motion a plan that He kept secret in Himself since the world began: “Now to him that is of power to stablish you according to my gospel, and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery, which was kept secret since the world began, but now is made manifest” (Romans 16:25,26a KJV). Pauline doctrine does not focus on the birth and life of the Lord Jesus Christ—that was the prophetic program. According to Paul, God the Father let Israel and Satan kill His Son Jesus Christ on Calvary, but God would keep a secret from Satan. In doing so, this would allow God’s new program to begin: the mystery program. Consider 1 Corinthians 2:6-8 KJV:
“6 Howbeit we speak wisdom among them that are perfect: yet not the wisdom of this world, nor of the princes of this world, that come to nought:
7 But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, even the hidden wisdom, which God ordained before the world unto our glory:
8 Which none of the princes of this world knew: for had they known it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.”
Now that Israel killed her Messiah, and refused to repent in the early Acts period (blasphemy against the Holy Spirit; Matthew 12:31-32), God temporarily set Israel aside. As Romans 11:11 says: “…through [Israel’s] fall salvation is come unto the Gentiles.” Today, we live in “the Dispensation of the Grace of God,” a time period in which the nation Israel is “fallen,” “cast away,” and “spiritually blinded” (Romans 11:11,12,15,25; cf. Ephesians 3:2). Today, we Gentiles enjoy the salvation of God apart from Israel’s kingdom (Israel’s kingdom is still future); how is this possible? According to the Old Testament prophetic program, it was impossible!
The Apostle Paul’s epistles are unique in the Bible. While the remaining 53 Bible books focus on the prophetic program, Paul focuses on that program that God kept secret in Himself. In Paul’s epistles alone we find Israel’s rejected and exiled King (Jesus Christ) now being made the Head and Saviour of a new distinct agency called the Church the Body of Christ. Paul’s epistles focus on Christ’s heavenly ministry, in which He is dealing with the entire world (Romans 11:11; Romans 16:26; 1 Timothy 2:3-7)—remember, prior to Paul’s salvation, God was dealing primarily with Israel, not Gentiles (Matthew 10:5-7; Matthew 15:24; John 4:22; Romans 15:8; Galatians 4:4,5). Now that Jesus Christ had come in the flesh, and Israel had rejected Him, it would be possible to save Gentiles apart from Israel!
Excluding Galatians 4:4, Paul makes no reference to Christ’s birth (the Old Testament did, however). Paul does not emphasize Jesus Christ as Israel’s King, nor does he make reference to Israel’s kingdom—these are both Old Testament doctrines that belong in the prophetic program. Paul focuses on Christ now “ascended up far above all heavens, that He might fill all things” (Ephesians 4:10).
Let us study what Paul writes in Ephesians 3:1-9 KJV:
“1 For this cause I Paul, the prisoner of Jesus Christ for you Gentiles,
2 If ye have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God which is given me to you-ward:
3 How that by revelation he made known unto me the mystery; (as I wrote afore in few words,
4 Whereby, when ye read, ye may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ)
5 Which in other ages was not made known unto the sons of men, as it is now revealed unto his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit;
6 That the Gentiles should be fellowheirs, and of the same body, and partakers of his promise in Christ by the gospel:
7 Whereof I was made a minister, according to the gift of the grace of God given unto me by the effectual working of his power.
8 Unto me, who am less than the least of all saints, is this grace given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ;
9 And to make all men see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God, who created all things by Jesus Christ:”
God sent Paul with a new message, the Gospel of the Grace of God (Acts 20:24), and He sent Paul to the whole world (not just to Israel). This Gospel—not to be confused with the Gospel of the Kingdom and the Gospel of the Circumcision of the prophetic program—is “Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures” (1 Corinthians 15:1-4). Paul’s Gospel could only be true if Israel’s Messiah had come in the flesh and Israel had murdered Him! Through Paul’s Gospel, salvation would now go to the entire world, and this would happen before Israel’s kingdom would be set up on earth.
According to Paul, why did God become human flesh? It was not to sit on David’s throne as Israel’s King like the prophetic program taught. If we look at our key verse, we read “The first man is of the earth, earthy; the second man is the Lord from heaven” (1 Corinthians 15:47 KJV). In Paul’s ministry, Jesus Christ came as the God-man to die for the sins of the world. “For by one man,” Adam (“the first man”), “sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned:… But not as the offence, so also is the free gift. For if through the offence of one many be dead, much more the grace of God, and the gift by grace, which is by one man, Jesus Christ, hath abounded unto many” (Romans 5:12,15 KJV). The only answer to man’s sin is to have a perfect, sinless man die. God was a Spirit, not a man with blood, so He had to become a man in order to shed His sinless blood.
Today, God has reconciled all men—Jew and Gentile—to Himself, despite Israel’s kingdom being postponed (2 Corinthians 5:18-21). God is forming a new agency, a new group of believers, the Church the Body of Christ. The Lord Jesus Christ is currently sitting at the Father’s right hand in exile, and He is not sitting on David’s throne as Israel’s king… yet! He is the Head of the Church, which is His body, right now (Ephesians 1:22-23; Ephesians 5:23; Colossians 1:18).
The day is coming when the Church the Body of Christ will be caught up at the rapture to meet the Lord Jesus Christ in the air! At that point, the Dispensation of Grace will conclude, and Israel’s prophetic program will resume. Israel’s King will one day return to planet earth, and He will bring in the kingdom with Him. For now, we go in the Christian ambassadorship, persuading and warning the lost world of their need for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ.
* * *
This Christmas, there are many nativity displays throughout America. Here in a nation that professes Christianity, how many Americans even know who Jesus Christ really is? Jesus Christ is much more than a baby in a manger born 2000 years ago. Ultimately, Jesus Christ is Israel’s JEHOVAH. Jesus Christ was and is Israel’s long-promised King and Messiah, the Word made flesh to sit on His father David’s throne (Luke 1:32; John 1:14).
For us, as Gentiles, Jesus Christ was and is our only Saviour, the Head of the Church which is His body. Though a royal exile, He is “the Lord of glory” right now in heaven. The Word was made flesh (John 1:14) so that He could shed His sinless blood, die for our sins, and raised again the third day for our justification (Romans 4:25)!
The greatest Christmas gift was not placed under a tree, but nailed to a wooden cross. God sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to give us the gift of eternal salvation. What will you do with that gift? I hope you will accept by simple faith today!
MERRY CHRISTMAS FROM arC MINISTRIES!