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Abiding by the Sermon on the Mount – Links to Book and Audio Files

Abiding by the Sermon on the Mount:

A Dispensational Approach to Interpretation and Application

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The Christmas Story: Part 6 The Narrative

The Christmas Story

Part 6. The Narrative

Updated 11/27/11

Outline

  1. Introduction
  2. Prophecies
  3. Pre-existence
  4. Genealogies
  5. Annunciations
  6. Narrative
    1. To Bethlehem                                      Luke 2:1-5
    2. Our Lord’s Birth                                 Luke 2:6-7
    3. The Shepherds                                    Luke 2:8-20
    4. The Significance of His Birth

F. Narrative of the Birth of Christ

Now, having looked at our Lord’s pre-existence, prophecies of His birth and genealogy, let’s embark upon a narrative of the beginning of His life as He walked this earth.  In the course of our study, we’ll be going from Gospel to Gospel and even bringing in other New Testament passages as they become pertinent.  Our goal is have a fairly clear narrative of the circumstances surrounding our Lord’s birth.  As to His birth and early life, the Gospels of Luke and Matthew provide us with most detail.

Luke 2:1-3

Now in those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus, that a census be taken of all the inhabited earth. This was the first census taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria. And everyone was on his way to register for the census, each to his own city.

“Those days” were the “fullness of the time” because this was the peak of all things that God the Father brought into being, having decreed salvation from the days of Adam and Eve.  Read through the Old Testament and you will understand that the fulfillment of every word is the life of our Lord, from His humble birth, His perfect life, His salvation work on the cross to His resurrection.

But when the fullness of the time came, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law, Galatians 4:4

…with a view to an administration suitable to the fullness of the times, that is, the summing up of all things in Christ, things in the heavens and things on the earth. Ephesians 1:10

Historically speaking, in Rome, Caesar Augustus was in charge.  He was the first Roman Emperor.  Times were fairly prosperous.  He’d ordered a census of the entire country.  It was so large in land mass that it was considered, “all of the inhabited earth.”  There’s a bit a problem with the time of Quirinius, unless you take it as, “the first census taken before Quirinius was governor of Syria.”  This census was taken for the purpose of taxation.  Instead of filling out a form then transmitting it to the governmental authorities, the head of each household returned to the home of his ancestry to register.

Luke 2:4-5

Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the city of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and family of David, in order to register along with Mary, who was engaged to him, and was with child.

Joseph, being an ancestor of David, went to Bethlehem.  Both Mary and Joseph were from the line of David.  God promised David that the Savior would be in his linage and both Mary and Joseph were from the line of David.  So the fact that both Mary and Joseph were in the Davidic line fulfilled the terms of the Davidic covenant and fulfilled prophecy.  Note the faithfulness of God here.  God made a promise, an unconditional covenant with David.  For this promise to be fulfilled, David had to do nothing.  God handled everything, despite the real challenges from Satan, whose mission it was to prevent our Lord’s birth.

Gabriel had appeared to Mary in Nazareth, so both she and Joseph lived there.  But their family property was in the Bethlehem area because they were both descended from David, whose tribal inheritance was centered there.  This verse says that Joseph had to register along with Mary.  There is evidence that she also had to register.

It was a three-day journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem; I can’t imagine riding any animal or walking for three days a great comfort for Mary who was getting very close to her delivery date.  However, had Mary remained, most likely the baby would have been born in Joseph’s absence.  He wouldn’t have wanted that and Mary certainly wouldn’t.  A husband’s place is close to his wife when she gives birth.  Considering that they remained in Bethlehem for some time after our Lord’s birth tells me that they were taking the opportunity to move there.  Also, they both knew from Gabriel that Mary’s child was the Messiah. They both knew of Micah 5:2, which teaches that the Messiah was to be born in Bethlehem.

But as for you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you One will go forth for Me to be ruler in Israel. His goings forth are from long ago, from the days of eternity. Micah 5:2

Is it possibly also that they moved from Nazareth to escape any gossip and rumors that might have been circulating about Mary’s premarital pregnancy.  This was serious business.  Remember that Joseph came very close to terminating their engagement or betrothal because of her pregnancy.  An angelic visit though, quickly put those ideas out of Joseph’s thinking!

Luke 2:6-7

While they were there, the days were completed for her to give birth. And she gave birth to her firstborn son; and she wrapped Him in cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.

While they were in Bethlehem, Mary gave birth to Jesus.  Contrary to tradition, the language doesn’t indicate that they arrived in Bethlehem, found a stable then she immediately gave birth. First, the Greek indicates that there was some passage of time between their arrival and her giving birth.  The first two words in this verse are not translated directly but emphasize the importance of the words that follow.  The words, EGENTO DE, the aorist middle indicative of GINOMAI γίνομαι with the conjunction DE δέcan be translated, “then it happened.”  When you combine those words with the next few words, EN TO EINAI AUTOUS EKEI are best translated “during their being there”[1] indicating a passage of time.  Luke used these words, EN TO ENAI, formulaically to begin a temporal clause.

She gave birth in the normal painful human manner as per the curses we discussed in the Dispensation series. She did not however, give birth alone, surrounded by a bunch of farm animals in a stable as popularly taught.

Kenneth Bailey wrote this, concluding a fairly lengthy scholarly paper about the most likely scenario surrounding the birth of our Lord:  “Joseph and Mary arrive in Bethlehem; Joseph finds shelter with a family; the family has a separate guest room but it is full. The couple is accommodated among the family in acceptable village style. The birth takes place there on the raised terrace of the family home and the baby is laid in a manger.”[2]  This convincing scenario is the subject of Kenneth Bailey’s article, The Manger and the Inn: The Cultural Background of Luke which scholarly investigates every aspect around our Lord’s birth in Bethlehem.  He supports his conclusion using vocabulary, grammar, culture of the area as well as history.

Our Lord was born as a normal child, having been born in an environment common to all peasant children in that time. Mary was most likely attended to by midwives while Joseph probably stayed with the menfolk next door! As a baby, our Lord also made all the demands upon Mary and Joseph that a regular baby does. That He was her firstborn son alludes to the fact that she had other children.  James who became an apostle was one of those children.

This was a most humble birth, our Savior, the Creator of the universe, born in peasant surroundings.  It indicates how our Lord humbled himself to fulfill the Father’s plan of salvation.  He, totally perfect God, took on the lowly form of a human being to accomplish the greatest work in the history of the universe:

He who knew no sin died on the cross, bearing the sins of the world, providing salvation for each one of us: “He [God] made Him [Christ] who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.”  2 Corinthians 5:21

She wrapped Him in strips of cloth, thick bandages commonly used to wrap baby’s legs to straighten them.  They were also used to wrap wounds for healing and protection.  The dead were also wrapped in these kinds of bandages.  Many commentators say that this was normal procedure for new-born babies.  As we will see in a moment, this was a sign to the shepherds.

She then laid him in a manger:  This is a literal feeding trough.  In an average peasant home, animals were brought into a covered and walled-in front porch at night for safety and for the comfort of those in the home.  The home proper was raised above where the animals stayed.  Within reaching distance of the animals, shallow basin-shaped indentations were carved into the raised area of the house.  These basins served as mangers and when a baby was born, a crib.  They would have stayed in the guest room of the house, but it was full, due to the census.  So they stayed in the home proper, near the mangers.

Luke 2:8-9

In the same region there were some shepherds staying out in the fields and keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord suddenly stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them; and they were terribly frightened.

This region was one of very special significance.  It was where David grew up as a shepherd, watching and guarding his father’s sheep.  These were special shepherds, watching a very select herd of sheep, sacrificial sheep.  These were the sheep without spot or blemish used in the Temple sacrifices to teach our Lord’s sacrificial substitutionary spiritual death.  Shepherds, because of their lowly spot on the cultural hierarchy, were not allowed to worship in the Temple due to their profession.  However, there is evidence that these specific shepherds, because of the sheep they watched, were more educated and allowed to worship.  They understood the purpose for their sheep and were awaiting the arrival of the Messiah just as other devout Jews.  There is much debate as to the time of year that these shepherds would be out in the fields, so close to Bethlehem watching their sheep.  Generally, in the spring and summer, they would have been further away from the village.  In the fall and winter, if the weather was mild, they certainly could have been out in nearby fields during the latter part of our December.

Then the most unexpected event occurs!  An angel suddenly appeared in front of them.  This wasn’t an appearance of a person suddenly appearing but an angel evidenced by the glory of the Lord.  It was a blinding light surrounding and emanating from this angel.  We can look back to Isaiah to see what his response was to being in the presence of God’s glory.

Isaiah 6:5 (NASB95)  5 Then I said, “Woe is me, for I am ruined! Because I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts.”

Isaiah, when face to face with God’s glory, thought he was going to die. The shepherds were immediately full of fear because they also thought they were going to die.  These shepherds, because they were afraid could not think.  If they could not think they could not understand or pay attention to the angel’s message.  No one can think if afraid.  Fear is characterized by emotional control of the soul.  These men needed their thinking and recall so that they’d be able to pay attention to the messenger angel’s message.

Luke 2:10

But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people;

But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid,” which literally means “stop being afraid.” The two Greek words are ME μή FOBEW φοβέομαι, a very strong imperative.  Then he brought attention to the message he was about to communicate with two words: IDOU ἰδού GAR γάρ, idiomatically translated, “Look, pay attention!”  Apart from their fear, I’m sure the angel had the shepherds’ complete attention!  This message the angel had to communicate wasn’t just for them or just for the Jewish hierarchy of just for Jews, but for all people.  This message was destined to bring blessing for the entire world!  This “good news” is technical language for the Gospel.  What better news can there be for the world?  Salvation and entry into the sphere of God’s blessing and plan is the best news ever!  Jesus Christ died for every human being.

Luke 2:11

…for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.

The content of the angel’s message needs no explanation!  At long last, in the fullness of the time, our Savior had been born!

Luke 2:12

“This will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”

God provided signs for ages previous to the Church Age as proof that the message was indeed divine, from the source of God.  The Greek word translated sign is SEMION σημεῖον, though it functions more as a pointer or indicator or a “mark by which someone or something is recognised.” (TDNT Vol 7, p, 208) These signs offered credibility to the message because in those days the canon of scripture had not yet been completed, nor did every believer possess the ministry of the Spirit.  Just as the canon of scripture is now complete, so we have been given greater resources than believers in previous dispensations to complete our faith.  They needed signs to complete their faith whereas we need only the completed canon and the empowering ministry of the Spirit.  So, to take up the slack for power not yet given, God offered signs of recognition for those shepherds.

Through the angel, God provided to the shepherds two signs by which they would recognize our Lord.  The first sign was that He would be “wrapped in cloths,” from the Greek verb SPARGANO σπαργανόω.  This is verb refers to being wrapped in cloth strips, the normal way babies in those days were initially clothed.  When we hear the term “swaddling,” we generally think in terms of modern fluffy clothing, designed specifically for babies.  But these strip of cloth had multiple uses.  Strips of cloth were used to wrap wounds as well as to wrap corpses.  On one hand then, this method of clothing Baby Jesus was foreshadowing his eventual death, for us.

“But He was pierced through for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; The chastisement for our sins, for our well-being fell upon Him, And by His scourging we are healed. All of us like sheep have gone astray, Each of us has turned to his own way; But the Lord has caused the iniquity of us all to fall on Him.” Isaiah 53:5

On the other, it let the shepherds know that He was born and dressed as a peasant child with whom they could readily identify.  He was born as a commoner, on their same economic level.

The second sign, “lying in a manger,” comes from the Greek KEIMAI κεῖμαι EN ἕν FATEN φάτνη , reclining in a feed trough.  As we noted earlier, feed troughs for the protected domestic animals which were stalled in the front of the house, were built into the floor of the raised dais of the house, within reach of the animals.  They often doubled as cribs in peasant homes.  What can we learn from this fact?  He is our spiritual food. Doctrine is His thinking. We are mandated to grow in grace and in knowledge of our Savior by means of the Word, His thinking.

“He humbled you and let you be hungry, and fed you with manna which you did not know, nor did your fathers know, that He might make you understand that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by everything that proceeds out of the mouth of the Lord.” Deuteronomy 8:3

Luke 2:13 – 14

And suddenly there appeared with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased.” After the angel, presumably Gabriel, left the shepherds, just as suddenly appearing an entire army of angels singing praises to God.  The Greek word for host is,    signifying an army.  A war rages in heaven between divine forces and the forces of Satan; the outcome of which was announced to Satan as well as to Adam and Eve in the Garden.  Nonetheless, the war rages on.  Our Lord’s birth, the taking on of humanity, His substitutionary spiritual death and resurrection guarantee Satan’s defeat.  So the Lord’s army sang a victory praise, saluting our Lord who would ultimately bring peace, not only to the human race, but also to angels; to the entire universe. 

This war will rage on until the end of the Millennium when Satan and his fallen angels become thrown into the Lake of Fire.  In the meantime, those in the human race who do not believe in Jesus Christ will live their lives in a state of spiritual death; never being able to please God.  The only way to be one for whom this peace or reconciliation is designated, is to believe in Jesus Christ, becoming placed in union with the Victor.

When anyone believes in Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit immediately places him into union with Christ, being identified with our Lord’s victory.  This truth results in positional peace, but not necessarily experiential peace.  It guarantees eternal life with God.  However, a believer only experiences temporal peace by growing up spiritually.  By growing up spiritually, a believer gains capacity for the prosperity peace brings which the Father rewards.  The only temporal peace comes to the believer when he assimilates our Lord’s thinking, the Scripture, and makes it his own.  When a person believes in Jesus Christ, then matures spiritually, he becomes a person with God is pleased.

to be continued….

[1] Reiling, J., & Swellengrebel, J. L. (1993). A handbook on the Gospel of Luke. UBS handbook series; Helps for translators (109). New York: United Bible Societies.

[2] Associates for Biblical Research. (1981; 2005). Vol. 10: Bible and Spade (1981) Volume 10 (2) (64). Associates for Biblical Research.

The Christmas Story: Part 1 – 2 The Birth of Christ/ Introduction and Prophecies

The Christmas Story

A. Introduction and B. Prophecies

Updated 12/10/2012

Outline

  1. Introduction
  2. Prophecies
    1. Genesis 3:15
    2. Isaiah 7:14
    3. Isaiah 9:6
    4. Micah 5:2
  3. Preexistence
  4. Genealogies
  5. Annunciations
  6. Narrative

A. Introduction

Before we begin the narrative of our Lord’s birth and the surrounding events, we need to establish a context for His arrival into the human race.  First, we will do this by looking at a number of prophecies of His birth, because His entire life, including His birth and purpose of the Incarnation, was the subject of prophecy from the very beginnings of human history. Secondly, we will establish that He pre-existed His humanity as the Second Person of the Trinity.  Third, we will look at His human genealogy. In this study of His genealogy, we’ll establish its importance. Before we study the narrative of His birth, we’ll also look at the prophecies which immediately preceded His birth, the angelic annunciations to Zacharias, Mary and Joseph.

Another point of introduction deals with the nature of all of these lessons.  They are a work in progress.  I first taught, in a very compressed manner, this entire series on one Sunday morning, in two hours.  I’ve expanded it to the point now to the point that it took 6 weeks to teach to my kids.  Every year I expand the study due to new research I’ve done or due to other passages that have come to my attentions since the previous year’s study.  So, coming back to the study from time to time may be beneficial to you, the reader!

B. Prophecies

Updated 12/10/12

1. Genesis 3:15

And I will put enmity [hostility, antagonism] between you [Satan] and the woman, and between your seed and her seed; He shall crush you on the head, and you shall strike Him on the heel.

God saw to it that our Lord and His then future work on the Cross be revealed to the human race many centuries before He actually was born into this world.  Salvation has been and is available to every member of the human race, no matter what time period of history, no matter what geological area, they live in.

Theologically, this particular verse is called the Proto-Evangelium, the first presentation of the gospel of Jesus Christ.  It came from the mouth of the Lord Himself to Satan through the serpent, but obviously intended for Adam and Eve’s ears as well.  They heard this message just after they’d had a chance to stew in their sins yet before they received their punishments.  He gave them the Gospel so that they would have the opportunity to believe in Him and live as believers, guaranteed eternal life before they left the Garden.  This promise, also our Lord’s declaration of Satan’s defeat served as the Gospel message to Adam and Eve. So, as He punished the serpent and declared to Satan the fact and mechanics of his defeat, He gave this promise of salvation to Adam and Eve before their punishment.  God preceded their punishment with the promise of redemption.

The immediate context of the verse then is punishments to the serpent, Satan, Adam and Eve after the first sin.  It is a break in the punishments God meted out to the serpent and Satan, and to Adam and Eve.  Understand that though the Genesis 3:15 is seemingly addressed to the serpent, it is directed to Satan, who indwelled it.  How do we know the address is actually to Satan? In Revelation 12:9 Satan is called, personified as, “the serpent of old…”

And the great dragon was thrown down, the serpent of old who is called the devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world; he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him.  Revelation 12:9  

And he laid hold of the dragon, the serpent of old, who is the devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years; Revelation 20:2

Often readers of this first Gospel presentation to Adam and his wife don’t see this as a Gospel message, faith in which provides believes with eternal life. Therefore, we need to get a better understanding of what the verse teaches which constitutes the Gospel as well as the mechanics of the faith that God makes effective for salvation compared with the faith that characterizes the life of spiritual growth for the believer.

The first issue deals with how this phrase, “He shall bruise you on the head,” constitutes the Gospel.  We will talk about the vocabulary and grammar of this verse later in this document for a full explanation of its meaning, but briefly, it is an announcement of the fact that our Lord would defeat Satan, who had deceived Eve, thereby leading Adam, also, to sin.  Satan, for all practical purposes, had deceived Eve to the point of her soul death.  For this egregious sin and for his decision to become arrogant, that is his fall, our Lord would “bruise his head.”  If Adam and Eve believed that announcement, then God would make that effective for their salvation.  They need no more information to be saved, as far as the Scripture tells us.  God took that belief in the salvation He would provide, as little as the proverbial mustard seed, and made that effective for salvation.  God would provide more information for them, progressively, fulfilling the requirements for their spiritual growth.  So, this second issue, the faith that leads to salvation, is based upon knowledge of our Lord’s person and work.  Today, people are saved if they understand that Jesus Christ died for their sins, then was resurrected, defeating death that Satan introduced.  Adam and Eve probably didn’t even know about His resurrection at that time, though He may have revealed that later as a doctrine which resulted in their spiritual growth.

Faith which results in the believer’s spiritual growth is far more complex.  Take, for instance, the numerous doctrines we recall during the communion service, those which relate to our salvation: reconciliation, justification, imputation, unlimited atonement, propitiation, redemption and sanctification.  Do we need to understand these to be saved? No, we do not.  These doctrines give us a total understanding of our salvation that goes far beyond the Gospel understanding we need for salvation.  However, do we need knowledge of these doctrines to grow up spiritually?  Absolutely!  Do we need to put forth effort in order to learn and understand these doctrines?  Absolutely!  In order for us to grow up spiritually, these doctrines must coalesce in our soul, becoming a part of our system of thinking.  In both cases, as we will gain understanding of in future studies, God the Holy Spirit teaches us both categories of doctrine; the Gospel and doctrines upon which to grow spiritually.  Therefore, we can take no credit for learning either category, however the second category demands the greater application of faith, of perseverance of faith, than the first category. If you believe something you are told, you assimilate it into your thinking as true, then, on some level you act upon it.

Note that in the immediate context of this passage, God presented His grace solution for their spiritual death before He punished them.  God’s grace always precedes punishment. He always offers grace before He curses or punishes.  He announced salvation by grace in this verse, before He punished Adam and the woman as taught in Genesis 3:16-19.  There is no offer of salvation for Satan only the declaration of his final defeat; having his head crushed.  This declaration was tantamount to Satan’s judgment, his sentence for his egregious sin.

The Scripture is, for the most part, silent about Satan’s progressive and the consequences of each sin-step.  As we have noted in the Anatomy of a Sin study, sin is progressive with God providing opportunities for mental attitude recovery, to prevent sinning.  When Satan became arrogant, taking a third of the angels with him, God ejected him from His throne room.  He was fired!  This resulted in the angelic war.  Could Satan have recovered?  He then brought the human race into the war by soul-murdering Eve, opening the door for Adam’s spiritual death as well.  The spiritual murder, resulting in the fall of the human race, may have been the last straw for Satan, having crossed the last line, resulting in his head being crushed.

God then, offered salvation to Adam and Eve, but not to Satan.  Salvation for the serpent; of all nature, I’m assuming, for the entire animal kingdom, as well, is at the Millennium.

The first issue in this promise of salvation, presented in the first sentence of this verse, is the separation and antagonism between the serpent’s seed, which is also Satan’s seed, those under spiritual death, and the woman’s seed, Jesus Christ.  Up to this time, the war between Satan and God had not included the human race.  Now, because Satan introduced sin into the human race, the angelic conflict took on another dimension, the human race.  God did not state this as a divine decree, announcing this enmity as a divine command, but defining a new line of demarcation or front line as it were in this age old war.

The reference to the woman’s “seed” is a prophecy concerning the virgin pregnancy and virgin birth of Jesus Christ. A descendant of the woman, not man and woman would defeat Satan.  So this refers to the entrance of the God-Man into the human history.  Our Lord is called the woman’s seed because He came into the world directly through the woman, without a human father involved. The Seed of the Woman is the first title of Christ.  He was born from the Virgin Mary who was made pregnant because the Holy Spirit supplied the necessary chromosomes.  The woman’s ovum, at time of fertilization, is without corruption from the old sin nature; hence the importance of the virgin pregnancy. Our Lord had to be born perfect, without contamination from the old sin nature in order to fulfill His ministry of substitutionary spiritual death.  This is also a prophecy about the new Tree of Life, the cross of Christ, in contrast to the one in the Garden, from which they were soon to be expelled.

Why is there this hostility between Satan’s seed, human beings who are always born spiritually dead and the Seed of the Woman?  When Satan appealed God’s sentence (Matthew 25:41), which he’d be thrown into the Lake of Fire for his sin of arrogance, the battle line was drawn.  All of those born imperfect are immediately hostile to and in opposition to God’s perfect righteousness.  Through this verse, God also set the barriers for hostility in the next phase of the angelic conflict.  Until Satan is finally subjected to his sentence, this hostility will always exist in this devil’s world.  Satan has actually two seeds: all fallen angels, and unsaved members of the human race.  Many unsaved perpetuate their spiritual death till the point of physical death, from which there is no salvation.  The Seed of the Woman will redeem one category of Satan’s seed; the human race, born spiritually dead.  When anyone believes in Christ he becomes the seed of Christ.

In the next line of this verse we are presented with the mechanics of Satan’s defeat, the content of the Gospel for Adam and Eve.  Though faith is not mentioned, per se, the faith mechanic involves believing the message presented.

I’ll read the next line then expand it with some explanations.

He shall crush you on the head and you shall strike Him on the heel.

As we mentioned before, “He” is the Seed of the Woman, Jesus Christ. Every woman is born with cells which are uncontaminated by spiritual death.  These are her ovum. These cells only become contaminated when fertilized by the male sperm, resulting in spiritually dead offspring. Since God the Holy Spirit supplied the necessary chromosomes, our Lord was born without that contamination that afflicts every other human being.  

The next two important words, “crush” and “strike” are translations from the same Hebrew word, SHUPH שׁוּף in the same form.  The only exception in the form of the verbs deals with the built in subjects, “he” and “you.”  Why then, do we translate the same word differently?  The answer lies in the principle that the context and use of a word determines its meaning.  The grammarian Gesenius communicated this in so many words.  We can understand from the context of each use, that the given translations are appropriate and accurate.  The first use, translated, “crush,” SHUPH שׁוּף, in the 3rd person masculine singular, qal imperfect designates our Lord’s victory in the angelic conflict. The creature our Lord will crush is Satan.  Our Lord, when His victory is complete, will have defeated Satan twice. He dealt him the first defeat at the First Advent when He bore the imputation and judgment for the sins of the world.  Satan’s second and final defeat occurs both at the beginning and ending of the Millennium.  At our Lord’s return, He will imprison him for 1000 years, and then at the end, He will throw him into the Lake of Fire.  So, the crushing of the serpent’s head is the declaration of our Lord’s victory over Satan in His two advents.

The second use of SHUPH שׁוּף, the 2nd person masculine, qal imperfect, translated “strike,” has Satan as the subject. His striking our Lord’s heel refers both to the fact that he introduced the venom of sin into the world, of which He bore both the imputation and punishment, ultimately withdrawing that venom.  It also refers to the physical abuse our Lord bore prior to and on the cross.  Our Lord necessarily suffered substitutionary spiritual death for us, paying for the sins of the world.  Satan introduced the concept of sin into the human race; our Lord was stricken with sin. Human volition took Satan’s introduction of it and ran with it, thanks to spiritual death that resulted from the original sin.  So, by sin, our Lord was struck, as if from that serpent of old.  Note that crushing a serpent’s head is always fatal, whereas, a strike on the heel, even a venomous strike, is not necessarily fatal.  Our Lord was injured, but not fatally on the heel.

2. Isaiah 7:14

Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, a virgin will be with child and bear a son, and she will call His name Immanuel.

Chronologically, this is Isaiah’s first Messianic prophecy.  The first word in the sign the Lord gave is “Behold!”  This the Hebrew verb, HENNEH הנה, meaning “look!” calls special attention to what is about to be presented.  To really appreciate this word, we need to look at the context of this verse.  Why was Isaiah, in an almost exasperated way, saying, “Look!”  He was forcefully addressing, probably not merely speaking to, Ahaz, the King of Judah, who was facing an invasion by an alliance between the ten Northern Tribes, known as Ephriam, and Syria.  They’d wanted him to ally himself with them against Assyria.  However, Ahaz was already secretly allied with Assyria.  Isaiah had already instructed him to follow the Lord’s guidance and provision for safety, not to depend upon treaties with other nations.  Isaiah was encouraging Ahaz to ask for a sign that would confirm the validity of Isaiah’s instructions and prophecies.  Ahaz refused, so, Isaiah forced the sign upon him.

I had always visualized Isaiah addressing Ahaz in a fairly formal setting when he gave this sign to him, perhaps a formal address in the throne room.  However, Ahaz was in the city waterworks, trying to fix a local plumbing problem related to a clogged water supply into Jerusalem.  Water is an important issue when two armies are camped at your doorstep!  King Ahaz called Isaiah to meet him in that part of the city. 

The next word, translated “virgin,” is the Hebrew word, ALMAH עַלְמָה. As always, the context of the word determines its meaning.  If the word in this case referred to a young woman of marriageable age, who’d been recently married, which is a possible meaning of that word, would that have been a sign for Ahaz?  The context is clear.  This young woman is indeed a virgin, as we understand its meaning.  Only God can miraculously bring about a pregnancy in a young woman who isn’t sexually active.

     Pregnant, the Hebrew HAREH הָרֶה, means exactly that.  A virgin pregnancy is a miracle.  That goes without saying.  Remember that this is far removed from these days of medical interventions!  We’ll talk about the mechanics involved in this when we study the angel’s announcement to Mary of her impending pregnancy.  He said that the Holy Spirit would, “overshadow her…”

The next phrase: “who will call His name,” or “identify His personage as” is the Hebrew word, QARA קָרָא. “Immanuel” עִמָּנוּאֵל  means “God with us,” referring to, again, unmistakably to the humanity of our Lord Jesus Christ. This prophecy teaches that He is truly a member of the human race. This name in the Hebrew, one Name when transliterated into the English, teaches that Jesus Christ was to be totally unique, the unique God-Man of the universe.  There was to be, there never will be anyone like Him.  There is no salvation apart from the unique person of Jesus Christ. To quote Bob Thieme: “Christ is different from God in that He is Man, He is different from all members of the human race in that He is God and also perfect Man. Christ is unique.”

The verse, then reads as:

“Look, a virgin will be pregnant and bear a Son, and who will call His name ‘God With Us.”

Now, notice that this is the Gospel message!  If Ahaz and all Judah had understood this message and believed it, then they would be believers, partially fulfilling God’s plan for them.  Had Ahaz believed this message, then would have become a believer, able to fully comprehend and apply all of Isaiah’s message to him and all Judah.  Because Judah was about to be destroyed, undergoing national discipline, we know that most of Israel was in a state of unbelief or if belief, reversionism.  To continue with our context, Ahaz rejected this sign, the offer of salvation, so he’d be given another one, his own death warrant!  But that is not germane to today’s study.  Ahaz was about to suffer eternal consequences for rejecting the Gospel; eternal death.

Let’s take a quick break from this prophecy to understand why our Lord had to be true and completely human. Why did Jesus Christ who is eternal God have to become true humanity?  We’ll look at four reasons:

1.      He had to be true humanity to be our Savior. The Savior has to be a perfect man who will be the substitute for sinful man.

Therefore, since the children share in flesh and blood, He Himself likewise also partook of the same, that through death He might render powerless him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, Hebrews 2:14

2.   Jesus Christ had to be true humanity to be our mediator. A mediator must be equal with both parties in the mediation.  Jesus Christ is undiminished Deity and completely human. He is truly God and He is truly man!

For there is one God, and one mediator also between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, 1 Timothy 2:5

3.   Christ had to be true humanity in order to be our High Priest forever after the order of Melchizedek. A priest is a man who represents man before God.

The Lord has sworn and will not change His mind, ‘You are a priest forever.’  Hebrews 7:21

4. For our Lord to fulfill the Davidic covenant, as stated in 2 Samuel 7:8-16, He had to be completely human.  The Davidic covenant says that David will have a Son who will reign forever. The Lord Jesus Christ in His humanity is the Son of David. He had to be a literal Son of David in order to fulfill the Davidic Covenant.

Yet the Lord was not willing to destroy the house of David because of the covenant which He had made with David, and since He had promised to give a lamp to him and his sons forever. 2 Chronicles 21:7

Isaiah continued his message.  In the intervening chapters, between Isaiah 7:9 and this passage, his message built off of his sons’ names.  The message contains both encouragement and warnings of future judgments.  With this prophecy, he introduced a third Son, our Lord.

3. Isaiah 9:6

“For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us; and the government will rest on His shoulders; And His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace.”

Though they would be in darkness, being invaded and destroyed by the Assyrian army, they would have the opportunity to believe in the Lord, build upon their salvation to experience a much greater joy than the victorious Assyrians.  Their joy would be eternal in nature.  In this verse, Isaiah reveals more about the Child he prophesied concerning in the verse we just looked at.  The first line echoes 7:9 and builds upon it.

 This Child, Immanuel, “God with Us,” is to be both born to us and given to us. Being born indicates His true humanity, how He was to come into the world.

Being “given to us” indicates that the Father because of His grace has provided us a Savior.  That our Lord and His work are a gracious gift is echoed in at least two passages:

 John 3:16 For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.

Romans 6:23 For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Note also to who He is given; to the Jew first then to the Gentiles.

“The government shall be upon his shoulder” is a prophecy about His Millennial rule. He is going to rule the world for 1000 years of perfect environment.  I had erroneously superimposed our cultural idiom, “upon His shoulder,” as being the weight of responsibility being carried.  That’s not it all.  The interpretation is far simpler.  According to Jamieson, Fausset and Brown, in their commentary, the insignia of rulership was worn on one’s shoulder!

Isaiah 22:22 “Then I will set the key of the house of David on his shoulder, when He opens no one will shut, when He shuts no one will open.”

Note that if Ahaz had believed the message Isaiah taught, then he would have been relieved of that responsibility, and the pressures of leadership.  He could’ve followed our Lord’s leadership as communicated through Isaiah.

“His name shall be called, Wonderful-Counselor [the two words go together, one in apposition to the other].” What did this mean to Ahaz? What does it mean to us today?  Remember Isaiah was addressing Ahaz, really rubbing his nose into the ground because he was going to a demon possessed wizard. That wizard was Ahaz’ counselor! That advisor had encouraged him to bribe the King of Assyria to get him out of his tight spot instead of following Isaiah’s leadership. Ahaz rejected the counsel of the Wonderful Counselor, the One, Jesus Christ. Ahaz rejected the wisdom of the Wonderful Counselor and took the whole country down with him. God’s grace though, still reigned, in spite of Ahaz’ wrong decision.  The country which was in darkness, received the light of Jesus Christ though His birth was still generations in the future.   The principle: Out of cursing comes blessing.

“Mighty God” refers to Jesus Christ, the all-powerful, omnipotent God who is to have the governments of the world on His shoulder, and is to rule and go to the cross.  When combining from this phrase, the He is God, which the fact of His human birth, they understood that He was be the God-Man.

The words, “Eternal Father” are a bit misleading. Jesus Christ is not the God the Father as you may think those words state. The Hebrew reads, “Father of Eternity.” He is Father, in the sense that He is the Author of eternal life for us. Jesus Christ is the One who has provided eternal life; He is the author of eternal life, He is the origin of our eternal life.

“The Prince of Peace” means that he is the Prince of Reconciliation. Through His work He opened the door to our reconciliation with the Father.  So, He is our peace.

and through Him to reconcile all things to Himself, having made peace through the blood of His cross; through Him, I say, whether things on earth or things in heaven. Colossians 1:20

4. Micah 5:2

But as for you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you One will go forth for Me to be ruler in Israel. His goings forth are from long ago, from the days of eternity.

 Micah, ministering at about the same time Isaiah did, gave this prophecy to Israel to let them know that despite their destruction, God’s plan would march on.  His message was much like Isaiah’s.  Though the people to whom Micah refers to here are about to suffer disciplinary destruction at the hands of the Assyrians, the Messiah would come from the remnant that survives.

First, why did Micah call this Bethlehem Ephrathah instead of just Bethlehem, Judah?  Though one reason was to differentiate it from the other Bethlehem in Zebulun, for reasons of geographic differentiation, Micah, inspired by the Holy Spirit, had another reason for identifying the city as Ephrathah.  Ephrathah was identified as this city in Gen 35:16-19:

Then they journeyed from Bethel; and when there was still some distance to go to Ephrath, Rachel began to give birth and she suffered severe labor. When she was in severe labor the midwife said to her, “Do not fear, for now you have another son.” It came about as her soul was departing (for she died), that she named him Ben-oni; but his father called him Benjamin. So Rachel died and was buried on the way to Ephrath (that is, Bethlehem).  Genesis 35:16-19

That this very significant event occurred on the way to Bethlehem is very important.  While this passage describes Benjamin’s birth, Micah’s use of it further emphasizes that another birth is to occur in this city.  This new birth will be characterized by that name, Ephrathah, coming from the verb meaning, “to be fruitful.”  Its fruitfulness wasn’t to be limited to this one town but was to spread to the entire world in the Person of the Messiah!  That Micah used the masculine gender instead of the usual feminine gender to identify the city again indicates the fulfillment of its fruitfulness, again, in the Person of the Messiah.(jacob’s ladder in this same place, where Mary was overshadowed, same place as Jesus’s birth…Is Bethlehem the portal?)

Bethlehem Ephrathah was a little, insignificant village, so small that it was left off the roster of cities in Judah!  Yet from her would come the Son of God who would ultimately deliver Israel from her enemies, eternally. He is one who exists eternally.

“One who will go forth from Me” refers to God, not the prophet referring to himself. Everyone in Israel understood that it was God who always provided rulers for them, from Moses on.  The word, אֲנִי ny, translated, “me.” is a personal pronoun, usually used for emphasis.  The next phrase, “to be ruler in Israel,” refers to our Lord’s Millennial rule.   What a contrast this presents: from the lowliest, insignificant village will come One sent by God Himself.  Israel’s first king, David, Israel’s greatest king also came from humble origins.

Two parallel Hebrew phrases in this verse are also important: “from ancient times or long ago,” from the Hebrew, קֶדֶם qě∙ḏěm and “days of eternity,” from the Hebrew עֹולָםʿô∙lām. While the first term, long ago, alone could refer to the earliest days of Israel, when combined with the term, eternity, it can only refer to existence prior to the existence of the human race, prior to God’s invention of time.  There is no stronger way to state this in the Hebrew.  God’s sending the Messiah had been planned from eternity, so He existed before his human birth in Bethlehem.

This is, by no means, all of the prophecies concerning our Lord. In addition to these three, we will look at two prophecies which were given just prior to His birth, the two angel visitations to both Mary and Joseph.

The Christmas Story: Part 5b Annunciations

The Christmas Story

Annunciations- Part 5b: To Mary & Joseph

Outline

  1. Introduction
  2. Prophecies
  3. Preexistence
  4. Genealogies
  5. Annunciations
    1. Introduction                                                                                  Luke 1:1-4
    2. The Angelic Annunciation to Zacharias                              Luke 1:5-20
    3. The Angelic Annunciation to Mary                                        Luke 1:26-38
      1. Mary Visited Elizabeth                                                   Luke 1:39-45
      2. b. The Magnificat                                                              Luke 1:46-55
    4. Gabriel’s Visit to Joseph                                                             Matthew 1:18-24
  6. Narrative

3. The Angelic Annunciation to Mary

Luke, who probably interviewed Mary herself, was unique among the Gospel writers by presenting such a wonderfully touching narrative of Gabriel’s visit to her.

Much of the content of these verses which narrate the angel, Gabriel’s visit to Mary need no further explanation.

Luke 1:26

Now in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city in Galilee called Nazareth,

The sixth month refers not to the month of June, but to six months in to Elizabeth’s pregnancy.  We’re continuing the contextual time line established by the angelic announcement to Zacharias.  Gabriel, one of the highest ranking angels, having been sent by God went to Nazareth in Galilee.  Nazareth was a beautiful village overlooking the Plain of Esdraelon, where many important events in Israel’s history had taken place.  Gabriel appeared in this village, not in the Jerusalem Temple where you’d think such an appearance would take place.  Nazareth wasn’t even a popular place in Jewish life.  Anyone from Nazareth was viewed with derision both because Nazareth was close to heathen lands and residents were considered to be ill educated.  Nor did he appear to a member of the Jewish religious hierarchy, even to a priest like Zacharias.  He appeared to a young lady.

Luke 1:27

…to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the descendants of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary.

The word, virgin, PARTHENOS παρθένος, though often considered to mean, young woman, means exactly what it says.  She was a virgin; she had had no sexual relations with any man.  This fact is of supreme importance when considering every aspect of our Lord’s first advent.  Consider first Mary’s body.  She was born, as is every human being, spiritually dead, with a sin nature corrupted body.  Nothing about her birth separated her from any other baby girl on earth.  One factor does separate her, as having been a baby girl, from all baby boys.  She, and every other girl baby, was born with a collection of cells uninfluenced by Adam’s sin nature.  One set of cells, the ovum, are without the corruption inherited from Adam.  The Father had one means of bringing into humanity a perfect child who would be qualified to be our substitute, who would bear the punishment of our sins: those perfect cells.  This is not to say that she wasn’t uniquely qualified to bear the humanity of our Savior.  She was wonderfully spiritually qualified as well as genetically qualified by lineage. Both she and her fiancé, Joseph, were related to King David, as we discussed in an earlier study.

Mary was engaged or betrothed to Joseph.  This engagement, unlike our modern custom, was legal and tantamount to a permanent bond.  It was, compared to today, legal and unbreakable except for the most extreme of reasons.

Her name is also significant, meaning “exalted.”

Luke 1:28

And coming in, he said to her, “Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you.

Gabriel evidently walked up to her house then came in and greeted her.  The word he used is KECHARITOMENE κεχαριτωμενη, the perfect passive participle of KARITAO χαριτοω, translated, “highly favored one.”  Would this be a great pet name for your spouse?  It doesn’t mean, “full of grace to give,” as interpreted by the Roman Catholic Church from the Vulgate.  She was highly blessed or full of grace, having received it, because of two factors.  First, she was a mature believer, evidenced by her attitude toward Gabriel’s announcement.  Secondly, she was blessed because the Father had chosen her to be the mother of the humanity of our Lord.  “The Lord is with you” not only explains why she is favored but would have instilled in her what God brings about with those whom He is with.  Remember the words of the Angel of the Lord spoken to Gideon: “the Lord is with you.”

 Luke 1:29

But she was very perplexed at this statement, and kept pondering what kind of salutation this was.

The word, perplexed, is DIATARASOMAI διαταράσσομαι indicates confusion. She was perplexed or confused by the greeting Gabriel gave her because in that culture, men didn’t greet women in such a way. Not only this, but the content of his greeting was totally unexpected, nor did she understand, at the outset, why he greeted her this way.  The word, ponder, is the imperfect tense of DIALOGIZOMAI διαλογίζομαι, beginning to reason or consider.  She is a “favored one?”  The Lord is with her?  What did this mean?  He was about to explain it all to her.

Luke 1:30

The angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; for you have found favor with God.

Following the pattern of his announcement to Zacharias, Gabriel told Mary to stop being afraid.  Fear, PHOBEO φοβέω in the present imperative preceded by the negative particle ME μή indicates that she was in the process of being afraid. In a state of fear, she was under the control of her emotions, therefore, unable to think, to receive Gabriel’s message to her.  The word for “favor” is CHARIS χάρις, grace.  As we have noted in past studies, this word encompasses God’s entire plan and provision for each believer.   God had graced Mary with an incredible role in His plan for the human race; a special dispensation of grace.  Just as he told Zacharias, he told her that she’d have a son and what His name would be.

Luke 1:31

And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name Him Jesus.

Continuing the same pattern of prophecy, he tells her that she’ll give birth to a son, then what He was to be named.  She could not fail to understand what Gabriel was telling her when he mentioned Jesus, the Aramaic for Joshua, Savior.  Gabriel then tells Mary five characteristics of her child.

Luke 1:32

He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David;

Gabriel tells her that He will be great, the nominative adjective MEGAS μέγας then proceeds to describe His greatness.  These words were also a direct echo from Micah 5:4.

Micah 5:4 And He will arise and shepherd His flock in the strength of the Lord, in the majesty of the name of the Lord His God. And they will remain, because at that time He will be great to the ends of the earth.

The next phrase, “Son of the Most High,” describes in unmistakable language that He is equal to God.  The term, son, applying the Hebrew use of the word, means an exact copy.  Her child, then, was to be equal with the Most High, from the Greek, HUPSISTOS ὕψιστος, an idiom indicating God!

Psalm 2:7 “I will surely tell of the decree of the Lord: He said to Me, ‘You are My Son, today I have begotten You.

Upon hearing this, there was no question in her mind who her child was to be!  Gabriel further explained that He was the one prophesied about in the Old Testament scriptures, David’s descendant who would sit on the millennial throne.

2 Samuel 7:16 “Your house and your kingdom shall endure before Me forever; your throne shall be established forever.”

Luke 1:33

and He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and His kingdom will have no end.

That He was to rule over the “house of Jacob” implied both spiritual and physical.  He was the God of “Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.”  Furthermore, only one Person could rule a kingdom which would never end.

Mary’s reply, while not indicating disbelief like Zacharias, was simply a request for further information.

Luke 1:34

Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I am a virgin?”

This verse also puts to rest any thought that Mary was simply a young lady.  She was not, had never been, in a relationship with a man whereby she’d become pregnant.  Literally, she said that she had not “known a man.”  She, being a woman of integrity, wasn’t planning to “know a man” to see that this prophecy was fulfilled, either!

Luke 1:35

The angel answered and said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; and for that reason the holy Child shall be called the Son of God.

Gabriel proceeds to tell her how it is that she will conceive.  One dictionary defines overshadow, the future active indicative of EPISKIAZO ἐπισκιάζω, as a being enveloped in a cloud.  This is the most gentile description of God’s power, ever!  This picture, of being enveloped in a cloud, is used often in the Scripture, one context being an expression of God’s protection and power.  The Shekinah Glory is in view in the following verse:

Then the cloud covered the tent of meeting, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle. Exodus 40:34

In this case, God the Holy Spirit performed a once in history envelopment and power demonstration.  God supplied for her ovum everything to result in the birth of a perfect child.  That child would be totally human and completely God.  The Son of God means that He would be have every divine attribute.

As he did with Zacharias, Gabriel gave Mary a sign:

Luke 1:36

And behold, even your relative Elizabeth has also conceived a son in her old age; and she who was called barren is now in her sixth month.

This sign was another miraculous birth, that of our Lord’s forerunner.  When God has an extra special mission for someone, He claims them before they are born; focusing attention on them by an unusual birth.  This applies to Isaac and to John the Baptist as well as to our Lord.

Luke 1:37

For nothing will be impossible with God.

The last sentence in this verse is much emphatic in the Greek than in the English.  The last two words in the Greek, PAN πᾶν REMA ῥῆμα, is a Hebraism, brought into the Greek which can be translated as,” not one thing” or “not anything.”  It’s a strong negative, used also in Genesis 18:14 and Jeremiah 32:17.  Though presented in a very special context here, the principle Gabriel stated is absolutely awesome!  To use theological nomenclature, if you believe this statement you are fulfilling the faith rest drill.  If you believe that statement and couple it with you knowledge of God’s perfect love and support, you have nothing to be worried about.  God has everything in control!  If you are facing any kind of pressure situation, understand that God can resolve it, however, if He doesn’t its designed for your spiritual growth and for the fulfillment of His plan.  In light of this fact; relax!

Mary’s response was in total contrast with Zacharias’s.

Luke 1:38

And Mary said, “Behold, the bondslave of the Lord; may it be done to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her.

One can only respond with amazement and utmost respect when faced with Mary’s humility.  She was totally responsive to Gabriel’s announcement even though, from a human viewpoint, she’s opening herself to condemnation from her community.  For appearances sake, she was to be pregnant out of wedlock.  It looks like Mary is guilty of fornication, a sin punishable by death.  Yet, she totally assured that God had provided perfectly for her to fulfill His plan for her.  She was totally acquiescent.  We know from her dynamic of thought that she was most certainly spiritually mature.  Having fulfilled his mission, Gabriel left.

a.      Mary Visited Elizabeth

Luke 1:39

Now at this time Mary arose and went in a hurry to the hill country, to a city of Judah,

The grammar and word definitions in this verse can be translated with far more simplicity and meaning.  “Now at this time” can easily be translated “but then” or “and then” simply denoting the next event that occurred in this narrative.  She didn’t necessarily dash out of the house as soon as Gabriel left.  She left, most likely, after making some preparations because the city she was leaving for was quite a few miles from her home.

Mary did put forth effort to get to Judah in a timely manner, but thought the Scripture doesn’t specify her reason for the trip, both the vocabulary and Dr. Lightfoot indicate that the trip was more than a simple distraction, or friendly visit.  The phrase, “in a hurry” are the words, META μετά SPOUDE σπουδή.  META with the genitive means “with,” while SPOUDE, in the genitive, infers going with earnestness of purpose.  Often we interpret her purpose for visiting Elizabeth as social, to join with another woman who was with child due to divine intervention.  Certainly, this may have been a part of the reason, after all, who else could she talk to about a visit from Gabriel and miraculous pregnancies!  However Dr. Lightfoot infers a greater purpose for her trip.

First, Mary wanted to confirm the veracity of Gabriel’s message.  I don’t believe she doubted his message per se, but what a wonderful opportunity to see her relatives and share her joy with Elizabeth! With whom else could Mary relate her angelic visitation with? Secondly, Elizabeth’s greeting to Mary and the history of the area opens the door for this conjecture; that the conception was to occur in the hills of Judah.  Three couples, Abraham and Sarah, Isaac and Rebecca and Jacob and Leah had been buried there.  David had been crowned there; Abraham had lived there and according to legend, Adam and Eve also lived there.  It was a land rich in history and purpose.  [Matthew Henry’s comment on this verse in his commentary.]

Luke 1:40 41

…and entered the house of Zacharias and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb; and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit.

At this time, Zacharias was still mute so Elizabeth was the one receiving Mary’s greeting.  Also, at this time, the Scripture doesn’t say that Elizabeth knows that Gabriel had visited Mary, nor the news of her virgin pregnancy.  If she didn’t know this, then why would the fetus jump in her womb?  Certainly we could blame it on reflex motility; at Elizabeth’s joy at seeing Mary, but her excited greeting to Mary leads us to believe that God the Holy Spirit played a role in the fetus’ leap!  Not only may have the Spirit have played a role in the fetus’ leap but also, understand that the fact of Mary’s virgin pregnancy was unique divine phenomena, comprehended only because the Spirit gives that understanding.  So God graciously extended the Spirit’s teaching ministry to her.

Luke 1:42 – 45

And she cried out with a loud voice and said, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb!  And how has it happened to me, that the mother of my Lord would come to me? For behold, when the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby leaped in my womb for joy. And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what had been spoken to her by the Lord.” Luke 1:42-45

b.     The Magnificat

Luke 1:46-55

And Mary said: “My soul exalts the Lord, and my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior. For He has had regard for the humble state of His bondslave; for behold, from this time on all generations will count me blessed. For the Mighty One has done great things for me; and holy is His name. “And His mercy is upon generation after generation Toward those who fear Him. He has done mighty deeds with His arm; He has scattered those who were proud in the thoughts of their heart. He has brought down rulers from their thrones, And has exalted those who were humble. “He has filled the hungry with good things; And sent away the rich empty-handed. He has given help to Israel His servant, In remembrance of His mercy, as He spoke to our fathers, To Abraham and his descendants forever.”

And Mary stayed with her about three months, and then returned to her home.

4 Gabriel’s Annunciation to Joseph

Matthew 1:18–24 (NASB95)

Now the birth of Jesus Christ was as follows: when His mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child by the Holy Spirit. And Joseph her husband, being a righteous man and not wanting to disgrace her, planned to send her away secretly. But when he had considered this, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife; for the Child who has been conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit.  She will bear a Son; and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.”

Now all this took place to fulfill what was spoken by the Lord through the prophet: “Behold, the virgin shall be with child and shall bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,” which translated means, “God with us.” And Joseph awoke from his sleep and did as the angel of the Lord commanded him, and took Mary as his wife,

As we’ve noted earlier in this series, the Hebrew marital custom differed greatly from our modern ones.  First, most marriages were arranged and made contract for earlier in the couples lives.  When the two grew into the marriageable age, they became betrothed.  This betrothal was much like an engagement today in that the couple did not live together or have sex with each other.  As a matter of fact, the betrothal period, which consisted of a year, served to demonstrate the bride’s faithfulness and chastity.  If she was found to be pregnant then the husband-to-be had the right to legally terminate the engagement.  So binding was the initial brothel that terminating it was a legal issue, bringing shame upon the bride-to-be.

Joseph discovered that she was pregnant after she returned from Zacharias and Elizabeth’s home.  We don’t know whether she told him or it was obvious from her shape!   Perhaps he heard it through the grape vine!  In any case, he decided to end his betrothal with her in such a way as to protect her.  Obviously, he loved her, yet his desire to live according to standards of the spiritual life of the day, demanded that he end the betrothal.  He was a man of honor by spiritual standards of the day.  My thinking is that he’d had yet to speak to Mary, to hear of her angelic visitation and subsequent virgin pregnancy.

Gabriel visited him, revealing to him the final increment of Messianic prophecy.  His application of that doctrine demanded that he continue with the betrothal concluding it with marriage to her.

What incredible doctrines Gabriel announced to him!  Before his slumber, he learned of her pregnancy, determining to end their betrothal.  Then after Gabriel’s visit, his knowledge of her pregnancy totally changed his thinking.  Note that he had no problem believing Gabriel’s message.  Had he heard of Mary’s pregnancy from her and had had any doubts, certainly Gabriel dispelled them all!

The Christmas Story: Part 5a Annunciations

The Christmas Story

E. Annunciations- Part 1: To Zacharias

Updated 11/20/11

Outline

  1. Introduction
  2. Prophecies
  3. Preexistence
  4. Genealogies
  5. Annunciations
    1. Introduction                                                                                            Luke 1:1-4
    2. The Angelic Annunciation to Zacharias                                       Luke 1:5-20
    3. The Angelic Annunciation to Mary                                                Luke 1:26-38
      1. Mary Visited Elizabeth                                                           Luke 1:39-45
      2. The Magnificat                                                                           Luke 1:46-55
  6. Gabriel’s Visit to Joseph                                                                                  Matthew 1:18-24
  7. Narrative

1. Introduction

Prior to the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ, three people were visited by an angel. The first visit we will study did not foretell of our Lord’s birth but that of His relative, John, who was to be His forerunner.  Because the Scripture imputes so much importance to John’s life and his role in our Lord’s ministry, we will, in the course of this study of our Lord’s birth, look closely at it.  After a brief introduction to the Gospel of Luke, we will look at the angelic visitation to Zacharias who prophesied concerning John’s birth.  We will then study the angel’s visit to both Joseph and Mary.  The importance of those two visits cannot be overstated!

Preamble to Luke

We’ll begin our study in Luke, so we need to understand the literary preamble to his Gospel, found in the first four verses.

Inasmuch as many have undertaken to compile an account of the things accomplished among us, just as they were handed down to us by those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and servants of the word, it seemed fitting for me as well, having investigated everything carefully from the beginning, to write it out for you in consecutive order, most excellent Theophilus; so that you may know the exact truth about the things you have been taught.” Luke 1:1-4

This is a wonderful preamble because Luke tells us what his goal and purpose of writing the book was.  Let’s look at it, point by point.

1. Many people, up to that time, had written accounts or narratives of the Lord’s life; His accomplishments and work, none of which still exist. Why, you may ask, did the Spirit preserve Luke’s gospel including it in the Scripture instead of others, and indeed, not along with other narratives.  There were many more written, besides the four Gospels.  God chooses who writes for His purpose, then provides that writer with the power and every other asset he needs to write.  Every writer of Scripture fulfills certain qualifications and qualities.  Luke fulfilled these perfectly.

2. Luke used as resources for his Gospel those who had observed Jesus’ life and work as well as those dedicated to our Lord’s life and teachings.  Those who served as resources Luke called, “eyewitnesses and servants of the word.” My initial response to seeing “the word,” or in the Greek, LOGOSλόγος here was to interpret it as a direct reference to our Lord, as John does.  However, a cursory look through Luke’s Gospel reveals that he uses the word as just that: a word or message, not to our Lord.  As “servants of the word,” Luke refers to those dedicated to our Lord’s teachings and life, just as we are.

3. Luke used every resource the Spirit made available to him.  He researched everything carefully, to insure its accuracy.  Our Lord made the Spirit available to him so that He used him to write what He wanted written.  The Spirit used Luke’s ability to research, to write and to organize what he wrote, yet it is God’s communication to us.  The Spirit continues to use pastor-teachers to communicate His Word accurately and in an organized, comprehensible manner.

4 Interestingly enough, Luke addressed this entire Gospel to Theophilus; “Lover of God.”  In my thinking, Luke was addressing, not a certain person bearing that name, but to each believer who continually seeks to grow spiritually, always increasing in love for God.  On the other hand, evidently, this was a fairly common name in the first century.

5. Believers only grow though understanding and knowing the Spirit-generated, exact truth of our Lord’s life and work.

In Luke’s day the more sophisticated writers would often introduce their books with a piece of stylish prose written in the classical style. Those with literary pretensions generally imitated the Greek of a much earlier period than was commonly spoken.  Luke’s introduction is superb in this regard.

Luke 1:1

Inasmuch as many have undertaken to compile an account of the things accomplished among us…

The first word in the Greek, translated by the NASB as “inasmuch as” is EPEIDEPER ἐπειδήπερ. It is a hapax legomena, not used anywhere else in the New Testament. It can be translated as “since,” giving this conjunction a sense of reality, a certainty.  The next word is “many,” then EPECHEREW ἐπιχειρέω , meaning, “to endeavor,” or “to attempt,” lends the idea that this kind of narrative has been attempted by others, but not successfully. It also carries the idea that the task was a difficult one.  Writers also normally explained why they were writing a work if other books on the same subject had appeared. Some writers invoked length or stylistic considerations to explain the need for a new work; other authors thought earlier writers had investigated matters inadequately or had embellished them rhetorically. Others wished to compile earlier works more thoroughly.  Luke obviously saw shortcomings in other documents written at that time.

The next word, another hapax legomena, ANATASSOMAI ἀνατάσσομαι means, “to compile,” or “to put into order.”

Next, another hapax, DIEGESIS διήγησις, refers to a thorough narrative, one complete narrative; whole within itself.  Most scholars agree that Luke began with Mark as his main source and wove in other material, including a document called “Q”.  As Luke actually wrote, he also used eyewitnesses as sources for this Gospel.

The next two words lend the idea that these accomplished things which are described occurred due to a divine conceived plan.

Luke 1:2

…just as they were handed down to us by those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and servants of the word,

“Handed down,” the aorist active indicative verb, PARADIDOMI παραδίδωμι, was sometimes a technical term in the ancient world. Disciples of rabbis normally passed down first-generation traditions carefully. Oral storytellers were also adept at memorizing and passing on stories accurately. Because Luke wrote while eyewitnesses were still alive at the time of writing, and because they were accorded a place of prominence in the early church, we may be sure that his traditions are reliable. Eyewitness sources are generally accepted as the best.

Luke 1:3-4

…it seemed fitting for me as well, having investigated everything carefully from the beginning, to write it out for you in consecutive order, most excellent Theophilus; so that you may know the exact truth about the things you have been taught.

Literary introductions often reflected the author’s purpose for writing work.  For instance, Josephus’ purpose in writing, Against Apion was “to teach all who wish to know the truth” about the Jewish people.  Luke’s purpose was to provide “exact information.”  He did this by carefully checking the data he’d researched.  Ancient books would often open with a dedication to a wealthy patron who’d sponsored the work. Luke dedicated his work to Theophilus, but whether he was an actual person, we don’t know.  Both of Luke’s works, Luke and Acts were not just personal works, designed for, say, self-publishing or personally distributing.  Both fit the standard size of scroll for publication.

If Theophilus, a common Jewish name, was a real person, he would have been the sponsor of Luke’s work.  “Most excellent” could literally mark him as a member of a high class in Roman society, although Luke may use the title only as a courtesy. Theophilus’ desire for verification was reasonable in view of the many competing claims to religious truth in the Roman Empire.

[Keener, C. S., & InterVarsity Press. (1993). The IVP Bible background commentary : New Testament (Mk 16:19-Lk 1:3). Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity Press.]

2. The Angelic Annunciation to Zacharias

Luke 1:5

In the days of Herod, king of Judea,

Let’s spend a few minutes on Herod the Great.  He obviously plays an important role in each of these narratives, due to the fact that he was king over Judea at that time, 37 to 34 BC.  He was a puppet king to the Romans, who, since 63 BC ruled Judea.  Though Judea provided no economic benefit to Rome, that land area provided a buffer between hostile lands and Rome.

King Herod, himself, Idumean, though not technically Jewish, had been among a people who’d been forcibly converted to Judaism by John Hyrcanus some 50 years earlier. He was placed into power position by his father and consolidated his power with Roman help.

He did bring economic gain to Judea by virtue of his many building projects.  One of those building projects, the Temple, helped preserve Judaism in the land.  He could be characterized as a good king for Judea because he did govern in such a way as to provide peace and prosperity to the land.  Peace and prosperity can only come to a given country in two ways; first, by the enforcement of the Laws of Establishment.  Secondly, the best way to prosper a land: the application of Bible Doctrine on the part of the countries’ citizens. As we know legalism was the order of the day in Judea in those days, so God provided through the principles of establishment.

It was only in the latter years of his life, when afflicted with disease, that he became the insane tyrant, as the New Testament portrays him.  An extended study of Herod, though beyond the scope of this document, provides an excellent background study of this era.

…there was a priest named Zacharias, of the division of Abijah;

Despite the wide spread corruption and institutionalized religious legalism of the time, God had preserved a remnant of mature believers.  One such man was a priest, Zacharias, a true Levitical priest; one of 20,000 at the time.  He belonged to the course of priestly division of Abijah which was the eighth.  These priestly courses or divisions of priests had been established by King David then reestablished after the return from Babylon.  Each division of possibly a thousand priests served for a week twice a year, each fulfilling a specific duty related to worship in the Temple for those weeks.

and he had a wife from the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth.

He was honored in that he’d married a woman descended from Aaron as well.  A priest should have always married a Jewish woman but if at all possible, woman from a priestly family in order to preserve the priestly lineage.

The next verse testifies to their spirituality and spiritual maturity.

Luke 1:6

They were both righteous in the sight of God, walking blamelessly in all the commandments and requirements of the Lord.

Walking blamelessly didn’t mean that they were perfect, but that they were both believers following the prescriptions of spiritual growth for the dispensation of Israel.  They kept, to the best of their ability, the prescriptions of the Mosaic Law and fulfilled the spiritual life of faith of that day.

…that they may walk in My statutes and keep My ordinances and do them. Then they will be My people, and I shall be their God. Ezekiel 11:20

An important aspect of spiritual growth during the Age of Israel was waiting for and praying for the promised Messiah.  And this they did.

Luke 1:7

But they had no child, because Elizabeth was barren, and they were both advanced in years.

Contrary to modern attitudes, having children was very important to couples then.  Zacharias and Elizabeth were childless, a condition making them liable to ridicule and embarrassment among their peers.  Some would consider that either the husband or wife had some sin in their lives which kept them childless.  They also had no progeny to support them in old age.  They were also past the age of childbearing, but God had a reason for their childlessness.

Luke 1:8-9

Now it happened that while he was performing his priestly service before God in the appointed order of his division, according to the custom of the priestly office, he was chosen by lot to enter the temple of the Lord and burn incense.

Zacharias was honored on this occasion with an once-in-a-lifetime responsibility of burning incense in the Temple. He was serving his one of his two weeks stints.  His responsibility this time was “to remove the ashes of the former service; to bring in and place on the golden altar the pan filled with hot burning coals taken from the altar of burnt offering; and to sprinkle the incense on the hot coals; and, while the smoke of it ascended, to make intercession for the people. This was the most distinguished part of the service”[1] Zacharias was not the high priest so he wasn’t in the Holy of Holies but in the Temple proper

Luke 1:10

And the whole multitude of the people were in prayer outside at the hour of the incense offering.

While he performed his duty of spreading and burning incense on the alter, the congregation in attendance prayed as the cloud from the burning incense, symbolizing prayer, arose to the heavens.  Incense was offered twice a day, at the morning and evening.  It was probably at this point when the next event surprised Zacharias.

Luke 1:11

And an angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing to the right of the altar of incense.

An angel appeared in front of him, suddenly!  According to one source, it wouldn’t be out of place to begin this verse with, “there!” Standing on the right is significant as it is the side of superiority.

Luke 1:12

Zacharias was troubled when he saw the angel, and fear gripped him.

The fear that Zacharias felt describes his being troubled.  Because of the surprise and unbelievable sight in front of him, he was now totally overcome by his emotions.  Any possibility of thought was gone!  Fear and awe described many people when faced with God’s power and direct intervention.  Furthermore, Jewish tradition taught that anyone who saw God would certainly die.  Certainly anyone would be dumbfounded until brought around to their senses, in this case, by the speech of the angel.

Luke 1:13

But the angel said to him, “Do not be afraid, Zacharias, for your petition has been heard, and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you will give him the name John.

The angel had a message for Zacharias but before he could hear it, he had to calm down and return to state of clarity of thought.  In essence, the angel told him to calm down!  He told him that his petition for off-spring had been heard.  Were Elizabeth and Zacharias still praying for a child, even in their advanced years?  Probably not, but the compound Greek verb, EISAKOUW εἰσακούω translated, “heard,” is in the aorist passive indicative, indicating timelessness of that petition.  They prayed consistently.  God heard the petition the offered in time and answered it positively in His timelessness, but they didn’t experience His provision for that petition until some time had elapsed, possibly years, after their offering it.  How many times do we offer petitions and prayers, perhaps for years, not understanding that God has already answered it positively!  It just isn’t our time to experience that phase of His provision!

Zacharias calmed down so the angel continued his message.  His wife would bear a son and that he would name the child, John.  That Elizabeth would conceive was certainly miraculous!  Many times throughout the Scripture God brought a child into the world for whom He had a special plan, in a miraculous way.  The angel told Zacharias that he’d name the child, John, a special name, meaning, “God is gracious.”

Luke 1:14-15

You will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth. For he will be great in the sight of the Lord; and he will drink no wine or liquor, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit while yet in his mother’s womb.

The word, “gladness” is the nominative singular noun, ἀγαλλίασις AGALLIASIS.  This refers to extreme joy and exultation.  The word is only used 5 times in the New Testament, describing other situations of gladness.  In Luke 1:44, Mary describes the baby in her womb responding.  In Acts 2:46, Luke describes the joy of early church fellowship.  In 1 Peter 4:6, Peter describes the joys of applying doctrine.  In Revelation 19:7, the Apostle John describes the Marriage Feast of the Lamb in terms of this great joy.

The angel then prophesied concerning John’s life.  John was to be great, meaning that he would fulfill the plan the Father had for him.  So important would John’s message be that he would put aside certain normal functions and pleasures of life.  These included his lifestyle, dress and diet.

That he would be “filled with the Holly Spirit while yet in his mother’s womb…” needs some explanation.   This phrase presents two issues: that the Spirit ministered to John before he was born and that he was filled with the Spirit.  Dealing with the first issue:  How was John ministered to by the Holy Spirit, even before birth?  The Greek words used in that phrase, ἐκ EK + the genitive of κοιλία KOILIA, meaning, “out from the womb,” indicated that John was to be “filled with the Holy Spirit” from the moment of his birth, not before.

The second issue deals with what dynamic the Spirit empowered John.  Many theologians teach three general categories of the Spirit’s power given to humans.  The first category germane to believers outside of the Church Age, while two relate uniquely to Church Age believers.  To Church Age believers, He fills and indwells, while to believers of other dispensations, He endues or clothes.  We’re excluding the Millennium here!  The “filling” and “enduement’ then are technical vocabulary terms, perhaps superimposed onto Scripture apart from Scriptural vocabulary!  Also taught concerning the filling of the Spirit, that our Lord pioneered that dynamic then bequeathed it to Church Age believers.  Therefore, no believer was ever filled with the Spirit until Pentecost.

The word “filled,” comes from the future active indicative of πίμπλημι PIMPLEMI.  It is correctly translated “filled,” and used to describe the Spirit’s ministry to Church Age believers. The passive voice indicates that he received this dynamic of the Spirit.  Perhaps this entire issue, was he filled or endued with the Spirit, is a question we don’t need to answer.  The point is that God empowered him in a special way with the Spirit’s power, from the moment he was born.  On one hand, the vocabulary indicates that he was filled, one the other, so special is the filling of the Spirit, that it was not given to the disciples until Pentecost, whereas, our Lord offered them enduement until that time.  For Church Age believers, our being filled with the Spirit after our initial salvation, is directly related to our volition, whereas, the enduement was given for a special ministry to certain believers prior to Pentecost.  It makes sense that John was endued but Biblical vocabulary indicates that he was filled!

Luke 1:16-17

And he will turn many of the sons of Israel back to the Lord their God. It is he who will go as a forerunner before Him in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers back to the children, and the disobedient to the attitude of the righteous, so as to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.

This verse speaks to the success of his ministry.  Many people who hear him will change their thinking about the coming Messiah.  The angel identifies him with Elijah who is to return to announce our Lord’s second advent.

Malachi 4:5 “Behold, I am going to send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and terrible day of the Lord. He will restore the hearts of the fathers to their children and the hearts of the children to their fathers, so that I will not come and smite the land with a curse.”

His second advent would be unnecessary had Israel totally responded to our Lord when He came.  They were offered the Millennial Kingdom, yet they refused it by rejecting our Lord.  That John would accomplish his ministry “in the Spirit and the power of Elijah” indicates that the power under which he operated was God’s divine power.  The next phrase, a direct quote from Malachi 4:5, first delineates one result of a people who have fallen away from the Lord.  That there is no love in immediate families results in divorce on one hand and child abuse on the other.  Regeneration and spiritual growth restores broken relationships.  One result then of John’s ministry will be homes that don’t break up. God will judge the degenerate nation; such degeneracy evidenced by broken homes and relationships.

Note that Zacharias had no personal frame of reference for the glorious prophecy the angel was telling him.  He and Elizabeth had not been praying to raise the next Elijah!  They just wanted a child!  He is filled with disbelief!  He wanted a child and God answered those petitions in the most glorious way possible!  His son was to be the forerunner to the Messiah!

Luke 1:18

Zacharias said to the angel, “How will I know this for certain? For I am an old man and my wife is advanced in years.”

Zacharias well-known doubt was recorded in verse 18.  He was being given audience to an angel, from God’s throne room and he questioned the certainty of the message!?  I don’t think Zacharias was unique!  Through we aren’t given angelic visitations, we refuse to believe God’s Word even when given the Spirit’s teaching ministry!  We all doubt to one degree or another!  Perhaps he was in shock and his normally pessimistic personality revealed itself!  No matter!

Luke 1:19-20

The angel answered and said to him, “I am Gabriel, who stands in the presence of God, and I have been sent to speak to you and to bring you this good news. And behold, you shall be silent and unable to speak until the day when these things take place, because you did not believe my words, which will be fulfilled in their proper time.”

The angel Gabriel identified as a special category of angel, a messenger from God, one who personally stands in God’s presence.  He is one of only two angels who are named in the Bible.  His name means “God’s strong man,” “man of God,” or “God is my warrior.”[2]  He then chastised Zacharias for his unbelief!  God always knew what his thinking was and disciplined him for it with speechlessness until the child was born.  As always, when God disciplines, He extends grace at the same time.  Zacharias speechlessness also confirmed the veracity of Gabriel’s announcement.

Zacharias took longer than was usual to fulfill the ritual, so the people outside were wondering what had taken place.  He had to communicate with them via writing!  Nine months passed then the child was born.


[1] Jamieson, R., Fausset, A. R., Fausset, A. R., Brown, D., & Brown, D. (1997). A commentary, critical and explanatory, on the Old and New Testaments (Lk 1:9). Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.

[2] Utley, R. J. D. (2004). Vol. Volume 3A: The Gospel According to Luke. Study Guide Commentary Series (Lk 1:19). Marshall, Texas: Bible Lessons International.

The Christmas Story: Part 3 – The Birth of Christ/ His Preexistence

The Christmas Story

C. Preexistence

Updated 11 20 11

Outline

  1. Introduction
  2. Prophecies
  3. Preexistence
    1. John 1:1
    2. John 1:2
    3. Philippians 2:6
  4. Genealogies
  5. Annunciations
  6. Narrative

C. Our Lord’s Preexistence.

The following verses we study will also further define what is meant by “long ago” and “days of eternity.”  We will study John 1:1-2.  In this entire passage, of which we’ll only study the first two verses, John establishes both the deity of Jesus Christ in the flesh and His existence before His Incarnation.  John also shows how Jesus, as the Word, was intimately related to the Father as an equal in essence.  He used the term, “the Word,” λόγος HO LOGOS to describe our Lord.  It was a highly charged word in that current Greek vernacular, though, as we will study, he brought new meaning to it.  This Word or Logos was entirely new, superior and greater than any other having existed.  This Logos is personal God!

a.      John 1:1

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God.

He begins the verse with the simple phrase ἐν ἀρχή EN ARCHE which, in this context, is translated “In the beginning.” There is actually no definite article in the Greek, so this is an anarthrous construction. In the Greek, the omission of the definite article has meaning, indicating quality, in this case the highest quality.  We add the definite article in the English translation for a smoother English reading.  When you add the next word, the imperfect active indicative of εἰμί EIMI, a verb of absolute status quo, it indicates that this beginning wasn’t a beginning at all. The imperfect tense, because it indicates linear aktionsart in past time, portrays this state of being as occurring in the past with no indication that the action is ever completed.[1] Yet, the noun, “beginning” indicates by definition of very definite point of time.  Therefore, these words speak of eternity, which is in the past, as far as we’re concerned because we life in time.  This is language of accommodation for us.

Time, which we live in, is a part of God’s creation.  He is outside of time.  He invented time.  So this phrase describes a definite status quo outside of time.  This verse teaches that the subject of this verse existed eternally before God created time. Furthermore “the imperfect tense of the verb εἰμί EIMI refers to an absolute status quo, to exist eternally. In other words, this verb “was” is saying in effect that Jesus Christ is God. The word “was” indicates eternal life, and anyone who pre-existed eternal life is God.  An interpretive translation,  “Outside of time, existing eternally was…”

The next two words form the object of “in the beginning was.”  Those two words are the definite article HO with λόγος LOGOS, translated, “the Word.”  How do we know that “the Word” refers to Jesus Christ?  Where did this title come from?  What does it mean when we talk about our Lord?  Let’s take some time to answer these questions. Again, giving credit to who credit is due: my thanks to RB Thieme Jr. for this analysis.  “This is the first title used for the Lord Jesus Christ as the eternally existent One. This word, LOGOS was a technical word in Greek philosophy; a term often used for infinity. It was used to indicate the Supreme Mover, the one who was behind everyone, the one who brings order into the human race. The word is also used in different contexts throughout the New Testament for the Lord Jesus Christ.  John personalized this highly charged Greek technical term in Jesus Christ.”

Before we continue this analysis of LOGOS, note that the Greeks already had a concept of a god as we’ve noted by their use of the term LOGOS.  This served as a cultural key to their understanding of the Gospel.  John simply informed them who their LOGOS was.

As an example of another use of LOGOS, in Colossians 1:18 we have a phrase, “the Word of the Cross.”

For the Word of the Cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 1 Corinthians 1:18

The Greek says, “the Logos of the Cross.” The cross was the lowliest, meanest, most demeaning thing to come out of the Roman Empire. The most disgraceful and humiliating death that anyone could die was crucifixion. So the cross was the lowest and the LOGOS, the highest; Jesus Christ is called the LOGOS of the Cross. In other words, the One who went to the Cross was not only true humanity who was humiliated for us, but He is also eternal God.

Another example is found in the Book of Revelation:

He is clothed with a robe dipped in blood, and His name is called The Word of God. Revelation 19:13

HO LOGOS connotes three things:

1. The first principle behind the use of this Greek word is revelation. Jesus Christ is the visible expression of the world of the invisible. He is the revelation of God the Father whose substance or essence is invisible.  Jesus Christ is the visible manifestation of the Godhead.  According to Hebrews 1:1-3, Jesus Christ is the only revealed member of the Godhead.  We only understand the Godhead by means of Him.  Jesus Christ, the revealed member of the Godhead, had to become a human in order to be seen.  The LOGOS is the only visible member of the Godhead because He took upon Himself the form of man.  Now perhaps I should put this into the past tense because He is not on the earth now, though He is still in the form of glorified man.  The New Testament records the accounts of witnesses who saw Him revealed.  That He revealed Himself is not only a matter of historical record but that He is to come again.

2. The second connotation of the word LOGOS is the communication of intelligent thought. In order to think you must have a vocabulary: words. You cannot think without words.  Since LOGOS means “word,” it refers to the organization of words into thought. It takes a vocabulary to develop concepts and categories and principles of doctrine.  He has communicated to us, though both the Written Word and through the Spirit, His thinking. 1 Corinthians 2:16 the Bible is called “the mind of Christ.”

3. The third concept of LOGOS is order; putting design and purpose into all things. Jesus Christ is the designer of the dispensations, therefore the designer of history. He is the designer of the plan in which you find yourself. The very plan which He has provided is a plan of order and design.

Now, let us return to the study of John 1:1.

So the imperfect tense of the absolute status quo verb, EIMI indicates eternity and with the next two words, the eternally-existent One. Here is One who always existed and will always exist. Many grammars, commentaries and other writings abound with grammatical and syntactical reasons why this phrase indicates our Lord’s deity, indicated by His preexistence.  For our purposes here, we need not go further than John’s purpose for writing the book, the overall context, to understand that this passage indicates His preexistence as the Second Person of the Trinity.  So, an interpretive translation of the verse so far reads this way: “In eternity, outside of time, the Word existed.”

The verse continues with these words: “and the Word was with God.”  The New Bible Dictionary Definition says “The Word,” refers our Lord who preexisted time.  “Was” is again, the same verb in the same form as before, indicating eternal absolute status.  “With” is the preposition πρός PROS.  This translation, “with,” is just not sufficient however, to express the Greek idiomatic meaning.  Much better is “face to face with,” because this communicates an intimacy with God not indicated by “with.”  For Him to be face to face with God indicates intimate eternality.

The last phrase in John 1:1, “and the Word was God.” doesn’t quite do justice to the original Greek.  Whenever an English translation doesn’t do justice to the Greek, false doctrines abound because of misunderstandings which result.  Let us straighten this out! Again, the word, “was” is in the imperfect tense, linear kind of action indicating the absolute status quo of something in the past time, as far as we are concerned.  Remember that God preexists time. It should read, “and God kept on being the Word” or “God was the Word.”  In other words, Jesus Christ always was and will always be God; there never will be a time when He isn’t God.

He preexisted His being in Hypostatic Union as the second member of the Godhead.  The term, Hypostatic Union, describes our Lord Jesus Christ as being completely human and undiminished Deity.  It comes from the Greek word, ὑπόστασις HUPOSTASIS.

So to sum up what John has communicated to us through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit: John takes us beyond time – “in the beginning” takes us from time into eternity. In eternity, the LOGOS manifests God. Remember, eternity is outside of time, without past, present or future.  The LOGOS is the second person of the Trinity who was always face to face, intimate with God and Spirit because He is God.  God was always the LOGOS. The last two phrases emphasize that we are dealing with the Lord Jesus Christ, the subject of this entire Gospel. The story of His humanity must always be understood from the perspective of His preexistent Deity, and, to introduce another facet of His preexistence, His being the God of the Old Testament.

b.      John 1:2

He was in the beginning with God. John 1:2

“This second verse further emphasizes His essence. ‘The same’” is literally “the same one.” “The same one kept on existing in the beginning [in eternity] face to face with God.” The word “with” is PROS plus the accusative again and it should be translated “face to face with God.” This emphasizes His deity. Jesus Christ is God.”  Thieme, R. Thieme’s Gospel of John.

Paul, when writing to the Philippian believers addressed the subject of Christ before His First Advent and His attributes of Deity.  This is Philippians 2:6:

c.       Philippians 2:6

…who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped…

Only the first phrase of this verse is germane to our subject, the preexistence of Christ. We will limit our discussion is this lesson to the phrase: “…He existed in the form of God…”  The rest of this verse and verses following teach the doctrine of Kenosis, which we will teach at another time.  Using the Greek word order, the phrase, “in the form of God” comes first. The first word in the Greek word order is the preposition, ἕν EN, meaning “in.” It precedes a noun, as we will see in a minute, in the locative of sphere.  Next is in the Greek word order is μορφή MORPHE, translated “form.” This word is not preceded by a definite article (anarthrous), as we would expect.  The lack of a definite article in the Greek indicates greatness of quality of the quality of this form.  Of course we are speaking of the form of the 2nd member of the Trinity before He took on humanity.  Our Lord, before the incarnation, possessed the entire essence of God.  He was eternal God.  There is no greater quality possible.  This word “formed” is defined by the next word, θεός THEOS in the possessive genitive singular, God.  So this form refers to the totality of the divine essence.

The essence of Jesus Christ before the incarnation is the essence of God. He was, is, always will be eternal God, therefore He shared, and continues to share every attribute of deity with the Father and the Spirit. MORPHE, in this context, then, does not refer to the visible shape of an object.  God has no physical, outward shape, because He is Spirit.  This refers to the essence of a person, in this case, God.  So it refers to the entire essence of the Godhead.  So this again teaches that Jesus was and still is, divine.  Our Lord possessed, and still does, the entire essence of God.  THEOS is not preceded by a definite article (anarthrous), denoting, again, the highest quality possible.

Next in the Greek word order is ὑπάρχω HUPARKO, often translated as, “to be, to exist or to be identical.” This is the present active participle of the verb. Though this is a present participle, we translate the participle as a concessive, in order for the following verses to be translated correctly.  Changing this to a causal participle would render translations as being contradictory with the overall context and message of the chapter.  So, without going into a lot of grammar and syntax, we are going to translate this participle as “exist.”  Because we are speaking of Jesus Christ’s eternally existing as the identical essence of God, we will translate it as a past tense, “preexist.”  That past tense specifically referring to eternity before our Lord created universe and renovated the earth for human habitation.  He existed then as the exact image of the essence of God, existed as a human being in hypostatic union as the exact image of God, and now continues to exist as the exact image of God, in hypostatic union, seated at the right hand of the Father. “[Jesus Christ] who though he preexisted” is the corrected translation.

Daniel B. Wallace. (1999; 2002). Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics – Exegetical Syntax of the New Testament (634). Zondervan Publishing House and Galaxie Software.

These few verses we’ve looked are not the only passages which teach our Lord’s preexistence, nor do they reflect the entirety of subjects which deal with our Lord’s preexistence.  We have not looked at His being the God of the Old Testament, His appearances as Theophanies or Christophanies, nor to His preexistent work.  In this lesson we’ve but introduced this truth!  Now, let us turn to our next subject, His human genealogy.

 

 


[1] Heiser, M. S. (2005; 2005). Glossary of Morpho-Syntactic Database Terminology. Logos Bible Software.

The Christmas Story: Part 4 – Genealogies

The Christmas Story

D. Genealogies

Updated 11/20/11

Outline

  1. Introduction
  2. Prophecies
  3. Preexistence
  4. Genealogies
    1. Introduction
    2. Matthew’s Genealogy
    3. Luke’s Genealogy
  5. Annunciations
  6. Narrative

D. Jesus’ Genealogy

1. Introduction

I don’t know if you have ever taken the time, as you should, to read the Bible cover to cover.  If you have, you have undoubtedly come across Jesus’ genealogy as presented by both Matthew and Luke.  If you were reading for a Bible survey class that required you read so many chapters a day, then you probably breezed right through Jesus’ genealogies without much thought.  Certainly I did!

Whether or not you spent time on these, you need to understand the importance of these records.  They are extremely important because much of the Bible is hinged upon their accuracy. How do we know that they are accurate?  They are accurate because God the Holy Spirit inspired both Matthew and Luke as they wrote them.  God the Father had a precise reason for them to be written in such a precise manner.  We just need to understand them as God designed them to be understood.

First, all Jewish families kept these records because they all awaited the coming of the Messiah and hoped that they’d be the family who would be the receiving family. The Messiah was to come though the line of David, so his line was closely regarded.  Everyone knew who was in the royal line.  It was important, not only that Jesus be in the royal line, but also that He be descended from Abraham.

Secondly, the process of keeping these records fulfilled the principle of the faith rest drill for them.  It kept alive the confidence that the Messiah would indeed be a Jew and in the Davidic line; that He was actually coming.  Much like the bones of Joseph to those generations of Hebrews in Egypt, longing to return to their land, these genealogical records maintained their confidence in a future deliverer.

Thirdly, these genealogies were in keeping with Jewish literature conventions.  Before a man’s ministry was described, it was often preceded with a genealogy.  The legitimacy of Levitical priests was determined by publically available genealogies.  (R David Overstreet, Grace Theological Journal Vol. 2, p. 303) Our Lord’s credibility was also presented by these genealogical presentations.

These searched among their ancestral registration, but they could not be located; therefore they were considered unclean and excluded from the priesthood. Ezra 2:62

There are plenty of debates and so-called difficulties with these genealogies.  These deal with comparing the two genealogies with each other, then comparing Matthew’s with the Old Testament.  We’re not here to put these all to rest, though our discussion of them may resolve some difficulties for you.  These so-called difficulties only reflect our imperfect understanding of them.  Don’t let a present confusion destroy your spiritual life!

Some genealogical facts are well accepted by all:  Jesus came from Adam, through Abraham, through David then down through both Joseph and Mary.  Joseph was legally His father, whereas, Mary was, most certainly, the mother of His humanity.  Both were in the Davidic lineage. These facts are certainly accepted by every Biblical scholar.

Without going through each line specifically, we’ll look at principles that result from a look at each of Luke’s and Matthew’s genealogies.

2. Matthew’s Genealogy

Matthew began his book with his presentation of Jesus’s genealogy, found in Matthew 1:1-16. He may have copied this genealogy from the above mentioned public genealogies or perhaps he did his own research.  That he included women in his list lends credence to him doing his own research.

This genealogy presents Jesus as legally rather than physically, descended from David through Solomon and Jeconiah.  Jeconiah was never to have descendants sit on David’s throne due to a curse placed on him as per Jeremiah 22:30. 

‘O land, land, land, Hear the word of the Lord!’ thus says the Lord, ‘Write this man down childless, a man who will not prosper in his days; for no man of his descendants will prosper sitting on the throne of David or ruling again in Judah.’ Jeremiah 22:29-30

Had Jesus then been physically descended from Joseph, He would not have been able to occupy the throne.  Jesus is only legally descended from David through Joseph.

Matthew, primarily addressing Jews, left no doubt that Jesus was the promised Messiah, fulfilling two unconditional covenants God made with Israel centuries earlier.  These covenants are called unconditional because those who benefit from them do so without merit.  No one earns or deserves to benefit from them. The first of these was the covenant God made to Abraham presented in Genesis 12:1-3.  Our interest for now lies in the final phrase of verse three, which says,

And in you all the families of the earth will be blessed.  Genesis 12:3

The referred to blessing made to all families of the earth is the offer of salvation made possible by the sacrificial substitutionary death of our Lord Jesus Christ. Matthew traced our Lord though David to bring out that Jesus fulfilled the prophecy which was given to David regarding his descendant.  The prophet Samuel wrote a key verse.

Your house and your kingdom shall endure before Me forever; your throne shall be established forever.  2 Samuel 7:16

Structurally the genealogy presents 3 lists of 14 names each, following the Midrashic pattern.

Let’s spend a few minutes looking at some highlights found in this genealogy.

Matthew 1:1

The record of the genealogy of Jesus the Messiah, the son of David, the son of Abraham.

Literally, the “record of the genealogy,” BIBLOS βίβλος GENESES γένεσις  is “book or scroll of the birth, lineage or history.”  Matthew began his genealogy with David, establishing that Jesus was in the Davidic line, fulfilling the Davidic Covenant, validating our Lord’s claim to the throne of Israel.  One aspect of the Davidic Covenant was the promise that David would have a son who would reign forever, and son of David indicates the fulfilment as found in Psalm 89:28.

So I will establish his descendants forever and his throne as the days of heaven. Psalm 89:29

This fact was of utmost importance to the Jews, to whom this genealogy was addressed because it established that our Lord was the fulfillment of that covenant and prophecy.  Through this genealogy, Matthews proves that our Lord Jesus Christ has a legal, moral and prophetical right to Israel’s throne.

By continuing his genealogy with Abraham, he established that Jesus was Jewish, fulfilling the Abrahamic covenant as per Romans 9:6-14.

That is, it is not the children of the flesh who are children of God, but the children of the promise are regarded as descendants. Romans 9:8

Israelites or Jews are the only people whose genealogy begins with regeneration.  The only true Jew is regenerate, following the pattern of “Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.”

Matthew 1:2

Abraham was the father of Isaac, Isaac the father of Jacob, and Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers.

The NASB translates one word, GENNAW γεννάω as “was the father of” probably erroneously.  Though in some cases, it does refer to the father-son relationship, many times it only means “descendant of,” allowing generations to be skipped.  In this verse, all named are father and son.  In the last phrase, Judah, the fourth brother, is named instead of his older brother, first born Ruben, as in our Lord’s lineage. Ruben lost his birthright.

Now the sons of Reuben the firstborn of Israel (for he was the firstborn, but because he defiled his father’s bed, his birthright was given to the sons of Joseph the son of Israel; so that he is not enrolled in the genealogy according to the birthright. 1 Chronicles 5:1

Matthew 1:3

Judah was the father of Perez and Zerah by Tamar, Perez was the father of Hezron, and Hezron the father of Ram.

In this verse, Tamar, the first of four women named in this genealogy, illustrates that the Father’s plan includes the entire human race, including gentile women, people of all backgrounds and personal histories.  Tamar’s story is narrated in Genesis 38.  She married Judah’s older son, one of three, by his first wife; two of them, Er and Onan are important to the narrative. Tamar married Er who died suddenly, due to his evil behavior.  To carry on the family name they married her to Onan, who, not fulfilling his obligation to have children with her, also died as a result. Judah told Tamar to return to her return to her father’s home until his third son had grown up.  She thought better of this arrangement, fearing that the third son would die as well.

In the meantime, Judah’s Canaanite wife died and Sulah, the third son grew up.  Judah, though did not fulfil his duty by seeing that his remaining son procreate with Tamar.  She had both a moral and legal right to this. Reading between the lines, it appears that Judah became interested in the phallic cult.  So, in order to see that her rights were protected, Tamar decided to deceive Judah, disguising herself as a priestess of the Canaanite phallic cult. Judah came across her, and mistaking her for a cult priestess, propositioned her.  She refused him until they came to an agreement, including a token of promise of payment to her, a special locket with his signet ring on it. So he then fornicated with her and returned home. After much confusion, he realized who he’d fornicated with and impregnated!  Seeing his error, how he’d wronged her, he then married her himself. They had twin sons, of whom the eldest, Perez continued our Lord’s lineage.

Matthew 1:4-5

Ram was the father of Amminadab, Amminadab the father of Nahshon, and Nahshon the father of Salmon. Salmon was the father of Boaz by Rahab, Boaz was the father of Obed by Ruth, and Obed the father of Jesse.

Salmon’s significance also magnifies our Lord’s grace by including not only Gentile women in His lineage but also a prostitute.  He was one of the spies sent in the Jericho.  He met then married Rahab, who previously rescued him and his partner.  Joshua 2ff describes this.

Ruth the Moabitess, Boaz’ wife, is also named in this genealogy.  Her story of faith is well known.  Her people, the Moabites, were under a curse for being inhospitable to the Israelites as they crossed the Sinai Desert.

No Ammonite or Moabite shall enter the assembly of the Lord; none of their descendants, even to the tenth generation, shall ever enter the assembly of the Lord, because they did not meet you with food and water on the way when you came out of Egypt, and because they hired against you Balaam the son of Beor from Pethor of Mesopotamia, to curse you. Deuteronomy 23:3-4

Yet this curse was turned to blessing for Ruth because she believed in the Lord.

Matthew 1:6

Jesse was the father of David the king. David was the father of Solomon by Bathsheba who had been the wife of Uriah.

With this verse, the Davidic dynasty begins.  Another woman, Bathsheba, once again, demonstrates the all-inclusiveness of our Lord’s grace.  Her name is not actually mentioned but she is referred to as “the one who had been Uriah’s wife.”  So often, Bathsheba’s character is maligned, accusing her of adultery.  She was, though, summoned and seduced, if not raped by her sovereign king.  We don’t have the right to look down on her.   We don’t have the right to look down upon anyone God has provided perfectly for!  2 Samuel 11:2-5 documents David’s first assault on her.

So David sent and inquired about the woman. And one said, “Is this not Bathsheba, the daughter of Eliam, the wife of Uriah the Hittite?” David sent messengers and took her, and when she came to him, he lay with her; and when she had purified herself from her uncleanness, she returned to her house. 2 Samuel 11:3-4

Matthew 1:7

Solomon was the father of Rehoboam, Rehoboam the father of Abijah, and Abijah the father of Asa.

This verse begins with Solomon, the last king before Israel separated in the Northern and Southern Kingdoms.  The lineage then continues with Judah’s line, the kings of the southern kingdom.

Matthew 1:8

Asa was the father of Jehoshaphat, Jehoshaphat the father of Joram, and Joram the father of Uzziah.

This verse is significant because a gap of four rulers.  During this gap religion was introduced to Israel, taking those generations of root it out.  Jehoshaphat, attempting to reunite the two kingdoms, married his son to Athaliah, Jezebel’s daughter, thereby introducing religion into Israel.

The genealogy concludes in verse 16 with Joseph presented as Mary’s husband.

Matthew 1:16

Jacob was the father of Joseph the husband of Mary, by whom Jesus was born, who is called the Messiah.

Any Jew closely studying this genealogy would immediately understand that Israel had no monopoly upon God’s grace, but that it was to be freely available to every member of the human race regardless of their background, race, nationality, lifestyle or life situation.

3. Luke’s Genealogy

Luke’s genealogy doesn’t begin his Gospel as Matthew’s does but is presented with Jesus and, compared to Matthew’s, went backward through David to Adam.  Luke designates Adam as the son of God.  By tracing Jesus’ genealogy to Adam, he focused upon the Adamic Covenant:

And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed; He shall bruise you on the head, and you shall bruise him on the heel.  Genesis 3:15

Luke established that Jesus is the Messiah to the entire human race, not just to Israel.  Luke states this clearly:

A Light of revelation to the Gentiles, and the glory of Your people Israel.  Luke 2:32

Luke’s genealogy differs from Matthews significantly, which has caused much discussion over the years.  Luke’s genealogy is thought to be Mary’s, traceable back to Adam.  One reason for this thought is in this verse:

Luke 3:23 When He began His ministry, Jesus Himself was about thirty years of age, being, as was supposed, the son of Joseph, the son of Eli,

The word, “supposed’ followed by Joseph indicates that genetically, our Lord was not related to Joseph but in name only.  So this recognizes the virgin pregnancy.  Mary, not being mentioned, fulfills the convention of those days, by not mentioning women’s names.  Also, Joseph’s father, according to Matthew’s genealogy was not Eli.  Eli is considered to be Joseph’s father-in-law, Mary’s father.

4. Other Mentions of Jesus’ Genealogy

Two verses, both written by Paul establish Jesus legal linage as being from David:

 …concerning His Son, who was born of a descendant of David according to the flesh…   Romans 1:3

Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, descendant of David, according to my gospel… 2 Timothy 2:8