1999-12-25 - Joy to the World the Lord Has Come!
Luke 2:10-11 And the angel said unto them, Be not afraid; for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which shall be to all the people: for there is born to you this day in the city of David a Saviour, who is Christ the Lord.
The birth of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ has no parallel in all of history. I wish to take you back to that event this Christmas morning and encourage everyone to maintain a correct attitude toward it. The message is clear that the Lord has come and brought salvation to all men.
I wish to trace the Christian dispensation briefly to show how earnest believers sought to carry out the great commission by proclaiming the Gospel to the ends of the earth. Before doing this let us consider some points about Christ Himself.
Jesus is the central figure. Throughout the world, men in all walks of life are forced to recognize His dominant and commanding position. Their letters are dated in keeping with the Christian calendar. This is Christmas Day in the year called 1999 why? Because it is the 1999'th year in the Christian calendar. Even those who are not of the so called Christian nations find that they use our system of reckoning and designation of time. Jesus Christ birth became the chronological focal point of all interests as a result of His over-towering personality, work, and message.
We cannot ignore the resurrection of Jesus at which time He entered a new phase of His ministry. The date of this second event is just as important as the first because it was there that He was proved to be the Son of God by the power of the resurrection according to the spirit of holiness
Romans 1:4 who was declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead; even Jesus Christ our Lord.
We would naturally expect this One, whose advent into the world was by miraculous conception and virgin birth - whose works and teachings were unparalleled - to make a miraculous exit from this life. Having tasted of death and Sheol (the grave), He came forth from the grave and finally ascended into heaven to take His position at the right hand of the Throne of God.
The Lord Jesus spent most of His years in obscurity, in the small village of Nazareth. At the age of 12, He appeared at the Passover feast in Jerusalem. Nothing is recorded of His life after His return to Nazareth until at the age of thirty. He identifies Himself with the "Back to God movement" inaugurated by John the Baptist. At that time when He was being baptized the Father audibly pronounced "This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased." Shortly after this, Jesus called from among His early disciples those who were to serve as His special envoys.
Four Passovers occurred during the time of His public ministry, which leads to the conclusion that this was a period of 3 and a fraction of years. He came into the world to primarily make atonement for sin by dying on the cross and shedding His blood thus He reconciled all things to God. The three and half years so to speak were for training the twelve so they could carry on in the work He had begun after His departure.
Jesus made 11 post Resurrection appearances to different ones of His disciples - although there may have been more than is recorded. On occasion He expounded reference to Scripture to enable them to see more clearly things related to His life burial and Resurrection. So important was the matter of preaching the Gospel that the Lord would not risk the bearing of the message by anyone who was not under the infallible guidance of the Holy Spirit, even though He had been specially trained and taught. For this reason he told them to wait at Jerusalem for the Spirit to come. Jesus told them that He would imbue them with power and bring to remembrance all things that they had been taught. Further revelations were also to be given to them.
The eleven Apostles met with Jesus by appointment on a mountain in Galilee. Upon seeing Him they worshiped Him but some were still under a cloud of doubt. Here are a few things he proclaimed to both them and other disciples.
Matthew 28:18-20 And Jesus came to them and spake unto them, saying, All authority hath been given unto me in heaven and on earth. Go ye therefore, and make disciples of all the nations, baptising them into the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit: teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I commanded you: and lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world.
In the book of Acts, we see the Gospel being preached first in Jerusalem, then in Samaria, Antioch, and on westward through the Greco-Roman world, as far as Rome. Within the first century the Gospel which began at Jerusalem, reached the entire world by the time the Apostle Paul wrote his epistle to the Romans.
Romans 10:18 But I say, Did they not hear? Yea, verily, Their sound went out into all the earth, And their words unto the ends of the world.
The context of this statement indicates the apostle was referring to the proclamation of the truth of God. This statement was made in AD 58, the year in which the Roman epistle was written. Paul made this astounding statement in his letter written in 63 AD to the church at Colossi.
Colossians 1:23 if so be that ye continue in the faith, grounded and steadfast, and not moved away from the hope of the gospel which ye heard, which was preached in all creation under heaven; whereof I Paul was made a minister.
If we are to believe the Scriptures to be the Word of God, infallibly inspired and we most certainly do we must accept this proposition: that the early Church, jubilant and triumphant in its faith had taken the gospel to the ends of the earth by AD 58. It may be difficult for us to comprehend how that colossal task was accomplished in such a short space of time without mass communication devices such as we have today but we have the established facts before us.
Another fact in this connection is worthy of note: The early Church was largely Jewish! This was in perfect accord with what God said to Israel." In thee and in thy seed shall all the families of the earth be blessed " (Genesis 28:14b )
A GREAT CHANGE
In 70 A. D. when Jerusalem was destroyed and the nation collapsed, a great change began to take place. The Jews, misunderstanding the calamity that had befallen their nation, seemed bewildered. Misconstruing this catastrophe as evidence of God's wrath against the nation because of Christ and the Christians, the embittered Jews ceased to come into the church in any appreciable numbers. In view of this attitude among the Jews most ministers of the Gospel desisted in their efforts to reach the Jews and they turned to the Gentiles. This was exactly what our Lord was foretelling when He spoke the parable of "The Marriage Feast and the Slighted Invitation" (Matthew 24; 1-14 ).
After 70 AD, the church seemed to lose, to a great extent its worldwide missionary vision. With the passing of the years, the outposts of the Christian faith gradually diminished. Formalism and legalism together with the doctrines and tenets of mens philosophies crystallized into a religious octopus which was a hierarchy semi-political in character. These conditions brought on the "Dark Ages " when missionary efforts were all but completely halted. Following the reformation the segment of the Protestant church that was effected largely by Martin Luther - whose eyes had been opened began to return to the standard of the New Testament. They caught the vision of reaching out and the missionary enterprise was revived. In modern times missionaries have been active in reaching people even to the uttermost parts of the earth. No nation has ever been completely won over to Christ, only individuals have been reached but God is to be praised for what has been accomplished, and for what is currently being done by those who are faithful missionaries of the Cross.
Some of the greatest and noblest among men and women have left their homes, loved ones and friends to respond to God's call to go to the remotest parts of the earth. They have done a monumental work and we recognize this fact. No accomplishment recorded in human history can compare with the self sacrifices and tireless labors of the missionaries. Their achievements have been inestimably great but another great change in the order of things is soon to come!
Sometime soon we do not know just when we are convinced the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and the trump of God. The dead in Christ shall rise first. Then we who are alive and remain unto the coming of Christ, shall be caught up together with Him in the air -- so shall we ever be with the Lord! This is what is known as the rapture of the Church, an event which is to occur before the great tribulation begins. By this means all true servants of God-born again persons-will be taken out of this world. After that momentous event the preaching of the true Gospel will cease.
Suddenly there will arise in various parts of the world, 144,000 Jews who will figuratively speaking take up the banner of Prince Emmanuel that was dropped by the ascending Church at the time of the rapture. Into every nook and cranny of the earth they will proclaim the glorious Gospel of Christ resulting in the worldwide revival described in Revelation chapter 7. When the Lord's judgments are in the earth a revival of the likes we have never seen will occur. At that time men will learn righteousness.
Isaiah 26:9 With my soul have I desired thee in the night; yea, with my spirit within me will I seek thee earnestly: for when thy judgments are in the earth, the inhabitants of the world learn righteousness.
And in "The day of Jehovah" men will look unto their maker and have respect unto their Maker and have respect to the Holy One of Israel.
Isaiah 17:7 In that day shall men look unto their Maker, and their eyes shall have respect to the Holy One of Israel.
In Revelation 7 we are shown an innumerable host which no man can number. They are from every nation, tribe, and dialect; they have come out of the Great Tribulation; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the lamb. These do not belong to the Church - they are not present day believers. They are as indicated the Tribulation Saints; those to whom the Jews will have given the Gospel. For years my prayers and much of my writing and outreach has been toward sowing the seed among God's chosen people. But this seed - The Word of God - now being sowed will largely remain as seed sown in a dry field. We believe that the seed which is now being sown will largely remain as seed sown in a dry field. We believe that the Word which is presently falling into the dry and indifferent hearts of Israel will soon be watered by the rains of judgment that fall during the Tribulation period "The Time of Jacob's Trouble." Those 144,000 Jewish believers will then go forth as instruments to bring about a worldwide revival.
Psalm 122:6-9 Pray for the peace of Jerusalem: They shall prosper that love thee. Peace be within Thy walls, And prosperity within Thy palaces. For my brethren and companions' sakes, I will now say, Peace be within thee. For the sake of the house of Jehovah our God I will seek Thy good.
But what are we doing now to see that this message is given to the whole
world? Let us do all that is possible to proclaim the Christmas message -
The Lord has come! - Let us be sure however to include the Easter Message
May we be joyful and motivated by both the Christmas and the Easter messages. Let us take no rest until we have carried them forth to the ends of the earth. I believe we at CF Devotionals are doing our utmost to send forth the Gospel message to both Israel and the Gentiles in order that they might know of the love of the Saviour, and to help in preparing the 144,000 Jewish evangelists who, in the Tribulation period are to proclaim this message to the entire world. To that end may the Lord bless this Christmas Day along with the message of hope that we have in our hearts.