THE CHRISTMAS MESSAGE
AND SUDDENLY there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying,
Glory to God in the highest,
And on earth peace among men
in whom he is well pleased
LUKE IN THESE VERSES, states that, at the birth of the Messiah, "a multitude of the heavenly host" made an announcement to the shepherds regarding His birth. It is difficult for us to determine whether or not this is a petition or the statement of facts. There doubtless was great thanksgiving rendered to God by the angelic host when the Saviour was born in Bethlehem of Judaea. The way of peace through Israel's Messiah was opened up for men who are well pleasing to God. About these propositions there can be no doubt. Those who accept Him as Saviour enjoy this peace.
The marginal reading in the Revised Version on this quotation is "And on earth peace among men of good pleasure." This is the correct literal translation of the Greek text of Dr. Erwin Nestle, sixteenth edition. The word in the original translated "of good pleasure" is defined in a standard Greek lexicon as "good pleasure, good will, satisfaction, approval." The promise made by the angels to the shepherds was not to the intent that there would be peace for all men. On the contrary, this peace which they announced is given only to men of good will, men who approve God's plan and accept His will. From this fact we see that the peace which was promised is limited to men who want the truth.
This presentation of the subject is the same as that which appears in the prediction concerning Messiah and His first appearing on earth as seen in Isaiah 42:1-4. In this prophecy Messiah is starting forth upon His life's work. Here is a portrait of Him immediately after His baptism; for the prophet declared, "I [Jehovah] have put my spirit upon Him." We know from the Gospel records that the spirit of God came upon Him at His baptism. The prophet declared that Messiah would enter immediately upon His ministry with the definite objective of establishing a regime of justice and righteousness in the earth; but would avoid all occasion of stirring up the multitude. He would therefore not cry nor lift up His voice in the streets. In other words, He would not be a rabble-rouser. He would not be a ruthless dictator--"a bruised reed will he not break, and a dimly burning wick will he not quench." He would be kind and considerate of those who are oppressed and who have been wrongly treated. It is His purpose in truth to establish justice in the earth. To those who do not understand, who do not have spiritual illumination in the Word of God, His work appears to be a dismal failure. In view of this fact the prophet was informed ahead of time that the Messiah will not fail nor be discouraged till He sets justice in the earth. He begins His labors with the proclamation of truth to the people and continues His ministry until He sets justice in the earth. At that time He will give His law to the isles, that is, to the nations.
AT HIS FIRST COMING, the Messiah begins this great spiritual ministry of proclaiming the truth to the world in order to reach His goal, carries it on through the centuries, and finally establishes a permanent and a just peace, at which time He will give His laws (civil code) to the nations. If this passage were the only one which we had, we might conclude that the Messiah, upon His first appearance, would remain here and continue this gospel ministry in person until He establishes a permanent peace upon the earth. But this message must be read in the light of relevant predictions and facts. We know from other passages of scripture that He was scheduled to come and to initiate the work and then be executed. But during His ministry He prepared and qualified men to carry on the work after His decease. He therefore, after the completion of His earthly ministry, was crucified, was buried, and was raised from the dead. After His resurrection He appeared to chosen witnesses, giving them final instructions as to how they were to carry on the work in His absence; at the same time He promised to be with them as they went forth proclaiming the truth to all nations (Matt. 28:19,20). Although He has not been here in person, in bodily form, He has been with His Church--dwelling in the hearts of all believers--and has been carrying on the work through them during the centuries. Thus the ministry of preaching which He began when He was here personally, He has been carrying forward and will bring it forth to a grand culmination when He reappears personally to establish His reign of righteousness and peace on the earth. The announcement thus made by the angels to the shepherds must be interpreted in the light of these facts which are found in related passages and which supply the details not given in the passage under consideration. The Saviour who entered the world nineteen hundred years ago did at that time bring peace to men of good will; at His second advent, which is yet in the future, He will bring peace to all men then living.
There Can Be No Permanent Peace Until The Prince Of Peace Returns
In perfect harmony with what has just been said, is the statement that there can be no permanent peace until the Prince of Peace returns. This is confirmed by the following quotation. "He maketh wars to cease unto the end of the earth; He breaketh the bow, and cutteth the spear in sunder; He burneth the chariots in the fire" (Psa. 46:9). A glance at the first three verses of this psalm shows that the writer, in vision, saw the great cosmic upheavals and terrific catastrophic changes that will take place upon the earth during the Tribulation. In the second division (vss. 4-7) we catch a glimpse of the City of God, Jerusalem, as it will be after the Tribulation--that is, in the Millennial Age. At that time Jehovah of hosts, the Messiah of Israel, will be in her midst. In the third section of the psalm the writer invites the people living at that time to behold the works of God, the great desolations that He will have made in the earth. Then, he makes the statement that God is the one who stops wars to the end of the earth. All of us appreciate every effort that is being put forth by men to outlaw war and to bring in an era of peace, justice, and righteousness; but, in all due respect to all honest statesmen who are striving for this worthy goal, I must say that the Prince of Peace, the Lord Jesus Christ, is the only one who can establish peace, and who will outlaw war. There will be, as there have been in the past, wars until He returns. This fact we see very clearly set forth in the Book of Revelation.
IN ISAIAH 9:3 we have a vision of the time when God multiplies Israel and her joy is increased. At that time the rejoicing of the nation will have no limit. When we view these words in the light of related passages, we know that the prophet was speaking of Israel's joy after her sorrows are past and the Millennial Age has dawned. In keeping with this knowledge, which we gather from other passages, is the statement made in verse 4 to the effect that her joy will be the result of her having been delivered from the oppressor by the miraculous intervention of her Messiah. "For the yoke of his burden, and the staff of his shoulder, the rod of his oppressor, thou hast broken as in the day of Midian" (Isa. 9:4). The account of the defeat of Midian and of the miraculous manner in which the Lord did it is found in the Book of Judges (Chap. 7). When Israel's future oppressor, the Antichrist, is broken, in fulfillment of this passage, "All the armor of the armed man in the tumult, and the garments rolled in blood, shall be for burning, for fuel of fire." The reason that all weapons of warfare will at that time be destroyed is that the Messiah has been born unto Israel, who will be recognized then as "Wonderful, Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace" (Isa. 9:6). It is thus clear from these verses that the Messiah is the one who upon His return to earth destroys the weapons of war.
The Prophet Isaiah gave us a picture of a warless world in the following quotation. "And it shall come to pass in the latter days, that the mountain of Jehovah's house shall be established on the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow into it. And many peoples shall go and say, Come ye, and let us go up to the mountain of Jehovah, to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths: for out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of Jehovah from Jerusalem. And he will judge between the nations, and will decide concerning many peoples; and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning-hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more" (Isa. 2:2-4).
From this vision of the future we see that wars will be outlawed and will be no more after the Messiah returns and the great physical changes mentioned in the prophecy above will have been accomplished at Jerusalem. From related passages we know that the curse will be lifted, and that peace, righteousness, and joy will be the order of the day. Peace will therefore come to this earth only when the Prince of Peace returns.
The Prince Of Peace Will Never Return Until Israel Acknowledges Her National Sin
The statement above may startle those who are not familiar with the prophetic word. It is true nevertheless. Moses and certain others of the prophets foretold this truth. For instance, Moses, in Leviticus 26:40-42, made this announcement to Israel. In 26:39 he was speaking about the last generation of Israel scattered abroad throughout the world and of its pining away because of its iniquity and the iniquities of the fathers. Then, in verse 40, he declared that this generation, the last generation of Israel scattered among the nations, shall confess its iniquity and the iniquity of the fathers, which they, the fathers of Israel, committed while they were still in the land; and, on account of which God spewed them out of it and scattered them among the nations. When the people of this last generation of Israel, dispersed throughout the world, confesses the iniquitous act of the fathers, and when they acknowledge their own share in it, God will then remember His covenant which He made with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and will restore them to their own land. From this prediction by Moses we see that the fathers of Israel, while in the land, committed the iniquitous act; then God spewed them out, and scattered them among the nations. Finally the people of this last generation of Israel, sharing in that iniquitous act by having been in sympathy with the action of the fathers, will see their error and the sin committed and will repudiate this national crime and plead for Messiah's return. When the people of Israel do this all of their sorrows and sighing will be over.
Hosea, the prophet, impersonated the Messiah and spoke for Him in the following quotation. "I will go and return to my place, till they acknowledge their offence, and seek my face: in their affliction they will seek me earnestly" (Hos. 5:15). In the verse immediately preceding, we see that Messiah tears Ephraim and Judah as a lion and as a young lion; then goes His way, carrying off what He desires. Evidently there is some reason for His taking this attitude and thus rending the nation. In the quotation that I have just given, we see that they commit an offense against Him when He appears in their midst. After they do this, He tears them to pieces and returns to His place. Then, declared the prophet, the Messiah will never come back to earth until they acknowledge the offense that they have committed against Him and seek Him earnestly. Then the prediction is made that they will seek Him in their affliction--that is, in the time of Jacob's trouble. When we study this question in the light of related passages, we know that they will acknowledge this national sin of rejecting Him in the last days of the Tribulation.
A full and detailed statement of this national penitential confession is found in Isaiah 53:1-9. These verses, to be properly interpreted, must be read by one who sees the correct perspective. Isaiah, in vision, was carried forward to the very end of the Tribulation and identified himself with his brethren, the remnant of the end time. Then, as if among them when their eyes are opened by the proclamation of the truth of the gospel, the prophet declared that they will see the mistake which was made nineteen hundred years ago by their ancestors in their rejecting Messiah at His first coming. Then Isaiah, as if leading the penitential nation, the generation of Israel at the end of the Tribulation, makes the confession which is found in these verses.
ON THE last day of His public ministry our Lord upbraided the scribes, Pharisees, and hypocrites for their inconsistent, corrupt lives. He concluded His discourse with a lament over Jerusalem, which is found in Matthew 25:37-39. In this passage He declared that He would often have gathered Israel together as a hen gathers her chickens under her wing, but the people would not. Following this statement He said that their house was to be left unto them desolate. "For I say unto you, Ye shall not see me henceforth, till ye shall say, Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord." According to the Lord Jesus Israel will never see His face again until she makes this confession and is willing to welcome Him who comes in the name of God, as God's representative--as God, himself, in human form.
Israel Cannot Acknowledge Her National Sin Of Which She Is Unaware
A person may be guilty of a crime, but he can never acknowledge his sin until he is thoroughly convinced that he has done wrong. This proposition is self-evident and needs no proof. When the Lord Jesus came nineteen hundred years ago, the people of Israel, as a group, did not know the Scriptures nor the power of God. (See Matt. 22:29; Acts 3:17; and Acts 13:27.) Neither do they at the present time see the facts concerning the Lord Jesus. They are still reading Moses. Though many of the Jews are not regular in attending the services of the synagogue, on their holidays they turn out almost to a man to participate in the observance of their ancestral religion. At these services Moses is still read. So long as they look to him, the veil remains over their faces and will continue to be until they look away unto Him of whom Moses spoke. (See II Cor. 3:12-18.)
Our Jewish friends are as sincere in their rejection of the Lord Jesus Christ, as we are in accepting Him. Without knowing the Scriptures, they feel that we who accept Him as Lord and Saviour have been led into error in our believing Him to be their Messiah. We who know the teachings of both the Old and New Testaments are absolutely convinced that He was and is their long-awaited Messiah. Unfortunately they do not have these facts. Rabbi Stephen S. Wise is reported to have said that the Jew, after eighteen centuries of Christian civilization, still does not know Jesus of Nazareth, and that it is the fault of those who profess to be His followers. In this statement the Rabbi is absolutely correct.
Those Who Know The Lord Jesus Christ As Their Savior
Must Give The Truth Regarding Him To Israel
"Comfort ye, comfort ye my people, saith your God. Speak ye comfortably to Jerusalem; and cry unto her, that her warfare is accomplished, that her iniquity is pardoned, that she hath received of Jehovah's hand double for all her sins" (Isa. 40:1,2). This exhortation is addressed to those of whom the Lord says that He is their God. Upon this group He lays the responsibility of speaking a message of comfort to the heart of Jerusalem. Of course, Jerusalem is not to be taken literally, but is to be understood as the people who acknowledge Zion as their "mother." This figure is constantly appearing in the Old Testament Scriptures. Thus, in this message, the people of Israel are the ones who are in need of the comforting message. There is, distinguished from them, another group of people whom God also acknowledges as His people.
The time here foreseen is doubtless the end of this age, for the message to be declared is that their warfare is accomplished, that their iniquity is pardoned, and that they have received double for all their sins--and yet they will still be in need of comfort. When their warfare is a thing of the past, they will not need any comfort; but at the time here foreseen, they will need comfort, and the message of good cheer will be that their warfare is over. From these facts we see that this language is relative and not absolute. The time yet for Israel to endure persecutions will be infinitesimally small in comparison with the long centuries of her past sufferings. And, while anyone sees these facts, he recognizes that this is a commission that God gives to His people at the conclusion of this age to be delivered to the Jewish nation. But in these verses is a command for the people of God today--the Christians who know Him and His plan for Israel and her future position--to proclaim the message of redemption to the Jewish people. In order to do this, the messenger must know the Word--especially predictive prophecy--because a knowledge of this portion of the Scripture is involved in this command.
Again, in Isaiah 62:11, the Lord gives a command to His praying people to proclaim the message to Israel. "Behold, Jehovah hath proclaimed unto the end of the earth, Say ye to the daughter of Zion, Behold, thy salvation cometh, behold his reward is with him, and his recompense before him." (See also vs. 6.) We know that this language was addressed to the praying people who know God's plan and purpose with reference to Israel. To them the Lord sends a proclamation to the very ends of the earth, urging them to deliver the message to the daughter of Zion, the Jewish people, saying, "Behold, thy salvation cometh; behold, his reward is with him ..." We are to announce to them that their salvation is coming--their salvation in the form of King Messiah, who alone can deliver. The prophet makes it clear that the second coming is here referred to; for the coming of which he speaks is the one at which Messiah will bring His reward and His recompense. The one who gives this message to Israel must first present the claims of the Saviour from the standpoint of His second coming in order to get her attention. When he thoroughly knows the doctrine concerning the second coming and the relation of it to the first advent, he will be able to present the full message of the truth of the gospel to the Lord's beloved people.
IN VIEW of all that has been said, it is abundantly evident that there can be no peace until the Prince of Peace returns. The Prince of Peace will never come back to this earth to establish a reign of righteousness until the Jewish people have acknowledged their sin against him which they committed nineteen hundred years ago and seek His face. They can never do this so long as the truth concerning Him is not given to them. It will never be given to them except by those who know God and who know His plans for the future. We, therefore who know the prophetic word and who know the Lord Jesus Christ have the exalted privilege of proclaiming this glad message to lost Israel. We owe it to her to give her this message. We owe it to the peoples of earth to give them this message, since there can be no permanent, just peace until the Messiah returns. Now then dear Christian friend, what have you done to contribute your part to Israel's salvation, to contribute your part to the proposition of world peace? May our God impress our hearts with the necessity of our giving the Gospel, this Christmas message, to all Israel with the greatest diligence. Let us do it in the power of the spirit of God!
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