But when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law, (Galatians 4:4)
Today is the 1,686th Christmas since the holy day was first sanctioned in AD 336. Before then, the date of Jesus’ birth remained in question, but December 25 was not considered an option. “Around AD 200, Clement of Alexandria wrote: ‘There are those who have determined not only the year of our Lord’s birth, but also the day; and they say that it took place in the 28th year of Augustus, and in the 25th day of [the Egyptian month] Pachon [May 20] … Further, others say that He was born on the 24th or 25th of Pharmuthi [April 20 or 21].’”
This year December 25th falls on Sunday and this will not recur again for another 11 years. What better day to celebrate the birth of our Lord than on “the Lord’s Day”! Of course, we gather and worship together every Sunday, the Lord’s Day, because it commemorates His resurrection from the dead. So, this Sunday, we remember both His entry into this world to die for our sins and His victory over death to provide eternal life for us.
He came once as foretold by the prophets. I have not counted them myself, but supposedly, there are over 300 prophecies foretelling Jesus’ first coming. “Using the science of probability, we find that the chances of just forty-eight  of these prophecies being fulfilled in one person to be only one in ten157[1×10157].” That is a mathematical impossibility! Even so, Jesus fulfilled every prophecy concerning His first coming.
The Old Testament also foretells of Jesus’ second coming. However, the OT prophets conflated both prophecies of His first and second coming. For them, the prophecies foretold the coming Messiah who would rule as king over all the world. In retrospect, we can read these prophecies and distinguish those that have been fulfilled by His first coming and those that are yet to be fulfilled.
Since Jesus fulfilled the prophecies of His first coming, we can conclude that He will fulfill all those concerning His second coming beginning with Jesus’ own promise of His return. “Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also” (John 14:1-3, emphasis mine).
The most meaningful thing for me about this Christmas is knowing that just as Jesus came the first time, He is coming again. As we study the prophecies of Jesus’ second coming, we recognize the “signs of the times” that signal the soon return of Jesus. I look forward to what 2023 will bring. I hope to meet Him in the air.
He came, and He is coming again. Are you prepared to meet Him? If not, please read my page on “Securing Eternal Life.”
Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men. (Luke 2:14)
I grew up listening to the Christmas account in the Gospel of Luke (Luke 2) in the language of the King James Version of the Holy Bible. Well, that is not entirely true. My first memories of the reading were from the Reina-Valera Spanish translation, but from the time I entered school in the first grade, it was the good old King James Bible. To this day, when I hear the reading from any other translation, it just does not sound the same. It loses something of the cadence and the poetic flow. I do not care; I just like the sound of the King James better.
I always pay close attention when Scripture is read, and lately, the reading of Luke 2:14 has troubled me. Here are some examples from modern translations. I will emphasize the portion that bothers me.
“Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.” (NIV)
“Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.” (NABRE)
“Glory to God in highest heaven, and peace on earth to those with whom God is pleased.” (NLT)
“Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace among those whom he favors!” (NRSVUE)
“Give glory to God in heaven, and on earth let there be peace among the people who please God.” (NCV)
“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!” (ESV)
Above are just some of the more popular modern translations. I did not quote the New King James Version (NKJV) because it reads pretty much like the KJV on this verse. So, what is the problem? Notice the phrases I emphasized. All of these seem to offer peace only to those whom God has favored. Wait a minute! What about all the others that fall outside of those boundaries? Is God’s favor withheld from some and lavished only on a select few that for whatever reason known only to God meet certain criteria?
As quoted above, the KJV (and the NKJV) read, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.” There are no exceptions. God’s peace and His goodwill are meant for all men, not just those who have found special favor with Him. All men!
Those who would defend the modern translations will say that those translations have been translated from “older and better (Greek) texts.” Most of us accept such statements as factual because they come from well-studied “scholars” – experts. We take it for granted that they are right. But, are they? The only way to know for certain is to look at the original language.
Here is Luke 2:14 in the original Greek: δοξα εν υψιστοις θεω και επι γης ειρηνη εν ανθρωποις ευδοκια. I know most of my readers do not read Greek, so I will translate.
There you have it. The news, the peace, and the goodwill are not only for a select, favored few, but to all mankind. The KJV has it right, the other translations have added to Scripture, a practice that is strongly condemned in Scripture.
The good news of Christmas is for all mankind. Do you know the Peace of Christmas? If not, please read my page on “Securing Eternal Life.”
But when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law, To redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons. (Galatians 4:4-5)
It’s that time of year again; Christmas is in the air. Regardless of your perception of Christmas – it’s too commercial, it’s under attack, it’s just a pagan celebration dressed up in Christian garb, etc. – it is altogether appropriate that Christians set time aside to commemorate the first advent of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
At this time we remember the miraculous conception and birth of God made man (John 1:14), but too often our focus shifts away from the significance of that event to the sappy sentimentality of the Nativity scene. As sweet as the image of a cuddly infant lying in a feeding trough adored by loving parents and worshipped by shepherds and wise men may be, the fact remains that this baby was God clothed in human flesh. The thought that the Creator condescended to take the form of His fallen creation (Philippians 2:7) to redeem as many as would receive Him (John 1:12), should leave us awestruck.
This was no afterthought on the part of God. In my article, “Why Satan?,” I address the issue of why God allowed sin in the first place, but along with the possibility of sin, God provided a way out (Hebrews 4:3; Revelation 13:8). From the very beginning there was the promise of a Savior (Genesis 3:15). Eve understood this promise, and at the birth of her first-born she rejoiced, “and said, I have gotten a man from the LORD” (Genesis 4:1). The literal translation of the Hebrew actually says “I have gotten a man Yahweh (the Lord).” She believed that she had given birth to the Savior according to the promise of God. But the time was not right. God wanted His creation, man in particular, to “be fruitful and multiply” (Genesis 1:28; 9:1). Abraham “Who against hope believed in hope, that he might become the father of many nations, according to that which was spoken, So shall thy seed be” (Romans 4:18). That promise was not only for Abraham, “But for us also, to whom it shall be imputed, if we believe on him that raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead; Who was delivered for our offences, and was raised again for our justification” (Romans 4:24-25). For “The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9). So, when the time was right, God entered the world He created (John 1:3) as a helpless baby – fully God and fully man – to give up His life to buy back and restore His fallen creation. “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).
Very soon, at the fullness of time, He will return for His own as He promised: “And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also” (John 14:3). So, regardless of your perspective on Christmas, as Christians it is a good time to remember that baby in the manger was God who came to die for us that we may live with Him, and soon we will be with Him.
At Christmastime many of us take time to reflect on the birth of Christ and the miracle of His incarnation; but His birth was not a miracle. Jesus came into this world like billions of babies before Him and like billions of babies after Him. Yes, the angels announced His birth to humble “shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night” (Luke 2:8), and some magi saw “His star in the east” and came “to worship Him” (Matthew 2:2); but His birth, as special as it was, was no miracle. A line in a favorite Christmas carol says, “The cattle are lowing, the dear baby wakes; but little Lord Jesus no crying He makes.” That is a sweet sentiment, but it is completely false. Jesus cried at His birth just like any other baby. He wet and soiled his diapers, just like any other baby. He took nourishment from Mary’s breasts as any baby would from its mother. There was nothing miraculous in any of that.
The miracle was not in His birth, but in His incarnation as a zygote in a virgin’s womb. Skeptics challenge this on the impossibility of a virgin conceiving without the natural function of a man, but the impossibility of such a thing is what qualifies it as a “miracle.” Mary expressed the same concerns when the angel relayed the news of her impending pregnancy. The angel assured her that “with God nothing shall be impossible” (Luke 1:37). This was in keeping with and in the fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy saying “Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel” (Isaiah 7:14). Critics will point out that the Hebrew word translated “virgin” here is ‘almā, which strictly translated means “young woman.” However, the translators of the Septuagint translated the same Hebrew word into the Greek parthenos, which has no other meaning than “virgin.” This is the same Greek word that Matthew uses when he points to the fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy: “Behold, a virgin [parthenos] 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 1:23).
Another problem arises with Jesus’ lineage. He was prophesied to be in the line of David the king (2 Samuel 7:12-13, 16). This promise was confirmed to Mary by the angel Gabriel: “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” (Luke 1:32). Matthew presents an ancestral line (Matthew 1:1-17) that disagrees with the ancestral line presented by Luke (Luke 3:23-38). Matthew traces Jesus’ genealogy through Joseph, His adoptive father. This line is the “legal” line to the throne of David; however, this line had been cursed by God at the time of Jehoiachin (Coniah) shortly before Judah fell to the Babylonian empire. Jeremiah records: “Thus saith the LORD, Write ye this man [Coniah] childless, a man that shall not prosper in his days: for no man of his seed shall prosper, sitting upon the throne of David, and ruling any more in Judah” (Jeremiah 22:30). Luke, on the other hand, records Jesus’ genealogy through Mary who takes a branch through Nathan, another son of David. This line escaped the curse.
That resolves the legality issue of Jesus’ right to David’s throne, but now we have another problem. Since the conception was “parthenogenetic,” that would imply that Jesus received at least part of His genes (His DNA) from Mary. Mary, being human, is under the curse of original sin, as we all are. That being the case, Jesus could not be the sinless sacrifice required to atone for our sin. The Roman Catholic Church recognized this dilemma early on and attempted to resolve the problem by proclaiming Mary sinless. To achieve this status, they further proclaimed that she was immaculately conceived, i.e., she too was virgin-born. That begs the question then, how was Mary immaculately conceived, if her mother had a sin nature? And what about her grandmother, and her great-grandmother, etc. If one follows that line of reasoning to its logical conclusion, one comes to Eve in the Garden of Eden, and it is generally accepted that Eve sinned. The solution cannot be in Mary’s sinless nature, for she, herself, was in need of a Savior. “And Mary said, My soul doth magnify the Lord, And my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour” (Luke 1:46-47).
The truth is, that if one of Mary’s ova was used in the conception, Jesus would have inherited our sin nature. Even half of a sin nature is full of sin for “a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump” (Galatians 5:9). In his book, The Chemistry of the Blood (Zondervan, 1943), Dr. M. R. DeHann attempted to resolve this problem based on the idea that it is the blood that makes atonement for sin (Hebrews 9:22). He concluded that since the embryo develops its own blood, and since there is no blood exchanged between the embryo and its mother, therefore Jesus’ blood was sinless. At first sight, this may look like a good solution, however, the embryo develops its own blood based on the genes that it gets from its parents. There is no DNA in red blood cells, but there is DNA in an ovum, and Mary’s ova were contaminated.
The only reasonable solution that remains is that Jesus’ earthly body was a wholly (and yes, “holy”) and unique creation without the inherited sin nature of any human parent. Understandably, the objection immediately arises that He, therefore, could not really be considered fully human. To answer that objection, we must recall the creation of the “first Adam” (Genesis 1:27; 2:7). God created man from the dust of the ground, including his DNA. There was no human agent required for this process. It should not be a stretch, therefore, to accept that God created an entirely new body for the “Second Adam.” It should also not stretch the imagination, in our technological age, to understand that this new creation was implanted into Mary’s womb to be carried to term. Mary was the “surrogate” mother of Jesus. She contributed none of her DNA to give Him life, and therefore she contributed none of her sin nature. Mary’s little lamb was truly “without blemish and without spot” (1 Peter 1:19). Conceived in this way He was “holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners” (Hebrews 7:26), and because He developed in the womb from a zygote, He was “made like unto his brethren, that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make reconciliation for the sins of the people” (Hebrews 2:17). Jesus understood this. Once …
While he yet talked to the people, behold, his mother and his brethren stood without, desiring to speak with him. Then one said unto him, Behold, thy mother and thy brethren stand without, desiring to speak with thee. But he answered and said unto him that told him, Who is my mother? and who are my brethren? And he stretched forth his hand toward his disciples, and said, Behold my mother and my brethren! For whosoever shall do the will of my Father which is in heaven, the same is my brother, and sister, and mother (Matthew 12:46-50)
There is substantial scriptural support for the argument that Jesus’ body was an entirely new creation. He “was made in the likeness of men” (Philippians 2:7). Before His condescension, in conversation with His Father “he saith, Sacrifice and offering thou wouldest not, but a body hast thou prepared me” (Hebrews 10:5). It was the Divine plan from the beginning that the Savior “Who verily was foreordained before the foundation of the world” (1 Peter 1:20) would come to be the ransom for our sin. Paul tells us that “The first man [Adam] is of the earth, earthy: the second man [Jesus] is the Lord from heaven” (1 Corinthians 15:47). John tells us that “The Word was made flesh” (John 1:14). This is as it should be “For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive” (1 Corinthians 15:22).
The miracle was the incarnation, not the birth. It is an awesome thing to consider that the Creator of heaven and earth, would prepare for Himself a body of the same kind as His creation, begin life as a single human cell, go through the process of development in the womb of a virgin girl, pass through the birth canal, gasp for His first breath, grow up as a child and experience all the bumps and bruises of growing up, grow into manhood, only to give His life in the place of His fallen creation, so that we might experience life eternal with Him. Who could conceive such a plan except a loving God! It is too marvelous for words.
*NOTE: This article was inspired by my Sunday school teacher and friend, Henry M. Morris III, D.Min., in a lesson he presented to our class on December 16, 2012. Dr. Morris is CEO of the Institute for Creation Research, Dallas, Texas.
Pray for the peace of Jerusalem: they shall prosper that love thee. (Psalm 122:6)
In Sunday School, our pastor is leading us through a study from John Owen’s book, Rules for Walking in Fellowship.
Owen was by common consent the weightiest Puritan theologian, and many would bracket him with Jonathan Edwards as one of the greatest Reformed theologians of all time. Born in 1616, he entered Queen’s College, Oxford, at the age of twelve and secured his M.A. in 1635, when he was nineteen. In his early twenties, conviction of sin threw him into such turmoil that for three months he could scarcely utter a coherent word on anything; but slowly he learned to trust Christ, and so found peace. In 1637 he became a pastor; in the 1640s he was chaplain to Oliver Cromwell, and in 1651 he was made Dean of Christ Church, Oxford’s largest college. In 1652 he was given the additional post of Vice-Chancellor of the University, which he then reorganized with conspicuous success. After 1660 he led the Independents through the bitter years of persecution till his death in 1683. —J. I. Packer
In our pastor’s absence, I was asked to bring this Sunday’s lesson from the book. It is indeed a very good lesson entitled “Bearing One Another’s Burdens,” which is the 15th chapter in Owens’ book. At the end of the lesson, Owens gives directions on how to apply the principles in the lesson. For the first direction, Owens says, “A proper valuing, strong desire, and high esteem of the church’s prosperity, in every member of it (Ps. 122:6)” – (emphasis mine).
I do not know a lot about John Owens other than he was and is a highly regarded reformed theologian and Puritan preacher. I do not know what his views were on eschatology (the study of end times), however, in the quote above, his use of Psalm 122:6 in connection to the church is misapplied.
I do not want to disparage such a great man of God as John Owen, but the verse, when taken literally as it should be, is speaking of Jerusalem not the Church. A parallel between Jerusalem and the church can certainly be drawn here in the form of allegory, but to make a direct connection cannot be supported if one takes the words of Scripture literally. Jerusalem/Israel is not the Church, nor is the Church Jerusalem/Israel.
In Owens’ defense, he was living at a time when Israel did not exist and had not existed for over 1500 years. Many theologians of that time believed that God had rejected Israel for their rejection of their Messiah and that the Church had replaced Israel. However, not all theologians took that position. Those that did not hold to that “replacement theology” believed that God would restore Israel in the end times. They came to this conclusion from the clear, literal teaching of the Old Testament prophets. I do not know to which camp Owens belonged, so I will withhold judgement.
I will, however, attempt to point out the error in “replacement theology” as concisely as possible. When one studies the Old Testament prophets, one quickly finds God’s repeated promises to (1) scatter Israel to the four corners of the earth, (2) to draw them back into their own land, (3) to restore the nation of Israel once again, and (4) to save the remanent of Israel in the “latter days.” The following is just a small sample of God’s promises to Israel.
And the LORD shall scatter you [Israel] among the nations, and ye shall be left few in number among the heathen, whither the LORD shall lead you. (Deuteronomy 4:27)
And it shall come to pass, that as the LORD rejoiced over you [Israel] to do you good, and to multiply you; so the LORD will rejoice over you to destroy you, and to bring you to nought; and ye shall be plucked from off the land whither thou goest to possess it. And the LORD shall scatter thee among all people, from the one end of the earth even unto the other; and there thou shalt serve other gods, which neither thou nor thy fathers have known, even wood and stone. And among these nations shalt thou find no ease, neither shall the sole of thy foot have rest: but the LORD shall give thee there a trembling heart, and failing of eyes, and sorrow of mind: And thy life shall hang in doubt before thee; and thou shalt fear day and night, and shalt have none assurance of thy life: In the morning thou shalt say, Would God it were even! and at even thou shalt say, Would God it were morning! for the fear of thine heart wherewith thou shalt fear, and for the sight of thine eyes which thou shalt see. (Deuteronomy 28:63-67)
And it shall come to pass, when all these things are come upon thee, the blessing and the curse, which I have set before thee, and thou shalt call them to mind among all the nations, whither the LORD thy God hath driven thee, And shalt return unto the LORD thy God, and shalt obey his voice according to all that I command thee this day, thou and thy children, with all thine heart, and with all thy soul; That then the LORD thy God will turn thy captivity, and have compassion upon thee, and will return and gather thee from all the nations, whither the LORD thy God hath scattered thee. If any of thine be driven out unto the outmost parts of heaven, from thence will the LORD thy God gather thee, and from thence will he fetch thee: And the LORD thy God will bring thee into the land which thy fathers possessed, and thou shalt possess it; and he will do thee good, and multiply thee above thy fathers. And the LORD thy God will circumcise thine heart, and the heart of thy seed, to love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, that thou mayest live. (Deuteronomy 30:1-6)
And it shall come to pass in the last days, that the mountain of the LORD’S house shall be established in the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow unto it. And many people shall go and say, Come ye, and let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths: for out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem. And he shall judge among the nations, and shall rebuke many people: and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruninghooks: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more. (Isaiah 2:2-4)
The remnant shall return, even the remnant of Jacob, unto the mighty God. For though thy people Israel be as the sand of the sea, yet a remnant of them shall return: the consumption decreed shall overflow with righteousness. (Isaiah 10:21-22)
Fear not: for I am with thee: I will bring thy seed from the east, and gather thee from the west; I will say to the north, Give up; and to the south, Keep not back: bring my sons from far, and my daughters from the ends of the earth; Even every one that is called by my name: for I have created him for my glory, I have formed him; yea, I have made him. (Isaiah 43:5-7)
Behold, these shall come from far: and, lo, these from the north and from the west; and these from the land of Sinim. Sing, O heavens; and be joyful, O earth; and break forth into singing, O mountains: for the LORD hath comforted his people, and will have mercy upon his afflicted. But Zion said, The LORD hath forsaken me, and my Lord hath forgotten me. Can a woman forget her sucking child, that she should not have compassion on the son of her womb? yea, they may forget, yet will I not forget thee. Behold, I have graven thee upon the palms of my hands; thy walls are continually before me. (Isaiah 49:12-16)
No weapon that is formed against thee shall prosper; and every tongue that shall rise against thee in judgment thou shalt condemn. This is the heritage of the servants of the LORD, and their righteousness is of me, saith the LORD. (Isaiah 54:17)
And they shall build the old wastes, they shall raise up the former desolations, and they shall repair the waste cities, the desolations of many generations. And strangers shall stand and feed your flocks, and the sons of the alien shall be your plowmen and your vinedressers. But ye shall be named the Priests of the LORD: men shall call you the Ministers of our God: ye shall eat the riches of the Gentiles, and in their glory shall ye boast yourselves. (Isaiah 61:4-6)
Who hath heard such a thing? who hath seen such things? Shall the earth be made to bring forth in one day? or shall a nation be born at once? for as soon as Zion travailed, she brought forth her children. Shall I bring to the birth, and not cause to bring forth? saith the LORD: shall I cause to bring forth, and shut the womb? saith thy God. Rejoice ye with Jerusalem, and be glad with her, all ye that love her: rejoice for joy with her, all ye that mourn for her: (Isaiah 66:8-10)
At that time they shall call Jerusalem the throne of the LORD; and all the nations shall be gathered unto it, to the name of the LORD, to Jerusalem: neither shall they walk any more after the imagination of their evil heart. In those days the house of Judah shall walk with the house of Israel, and they shall come together out of the land of the north to the land that I have given for an inheritance unto your fathers. (Jeremiah 3:17-18)
I will scatter them also among the heathen, whom neither they nor their fathers have known: and I will send a sword after them, till I have consumed them. (Jeremiah 9:16)
And I will gather the remnant of my flock out of all countries whither I have driven them, and will bring them again to their folds; and they shall be fruitful and increase. And I will set up shepherds over them which shall feed them: and they shall fear no more, nor be dismayed, neither shall they be lacking, saith the LORD … Therefore, behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that they shall no more say, The LORD liveth, which brought up the children of Israel out of the land of Egypt; But, The LORD liveth, which brought up and which led the seed of the house of Israel out of the north country, and from all countries whither I had driven them; and they shall dwell in their own land. (Jeremiah 23:3-4; 7-8)
There are more. Ezekiel 36 speaks of the scattering and regathering of Israel to and from the nations. Ezekiel 37 presents Israel as a valley of dry bones that God brings together and raises up into a mighty army. In that chapter, God also promises that the “two sticks” (Judah and Israel, the divided kingdoms) will reunite as one.
All of these prophecies deal with the nation of Israel, not the Church. Why is this important? It is important because the integrity of God is at stake. If God can break His covenant with Israel, what guarantee is there that He will keep His promises to the Church? Face it, the “Church” these days these days is not a pristine virgin!
Therefore, because God is faithful, He will keep His promises to Israel and to the Church as well. Israel and the Church are two separate entities, but salvation is the same for both. When the psalmist, David, says “Pray for the peace of Jerusalem,” there is only One Peace that can effectively apply and that is the Prince of Peace, the Lord Jesus Christ.
So, in a way, Owens was correct in applying the psalm to the Church by way of allegory, but not in a literal sense. We are to pray for the “Peace of Jerusalem” because only He can bring true peace to the world. When we pray for the “Peace of Jerusalem,” we pray that the Lord will soon come and set up His kingdom on earth. “Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:10). As for the Church, the kingdom, in part, has already come and dwells within the heart of every believer and the Church as a whole by way of the Holy Spirit who gives us peace. Then, one day, perhaps very soon, we will enjoy His physical kingdom here on earth along with our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. I can hardly wait!