Prophecies of the Birth of ChristRelated Media
I would like to invite you to climb on board an imaginary time machine with me for an intriguing journey back into history. Why do I invite you to go with me on this journey? Well, look at our world today. In spite of all the technological advances and social programs, it is a world ripped apart by strife, murder, moral breakdown of the highest magnitude, wars and rumors of wars, broken homes (divorce, child abuse, spousal abuse), and on and on the list goes. The Israeli-Arab dispute continues, yet without any real resolve. Pollution, the threat of nuclear holocaust and the destruction of mankind hangs over our heads, and yet we are helpless to solve these problems. People devise human social programs, reforms, and solutions, but the problems don’t go away. Not only do they continue, but they are increasing just as the Bible warns (2 Tim. 3:13).
The ‘one worlders’ of our society, of course, see things very differently. For instance, in the past several years we have seen tremendous changes in Europe, the removal of the Berlin wall, the dissolution of the Soviet Union, the opening up of Russia, the ongoing talks about peace in the Middle East. We have seen the apparent changes toward freedom that have taken place in the other communistic countries, and government officials and society as a whole see this as a sign that we are on the verge of a new era of world peace. In fact, mankind has been saying for years that what we need is an influential, powerful, charismatic leader to come on the scene of human history to mold the world into unity and peace. So, the world watches for such a person, someone who has the skill, the wisdom, the political power and charisma to draw the world together into a new age of globalism where there will be peace.
But if we look among the world’s leaders, can we find such a person? No, not at all! The problems are just too big for any ordinary man. Scripture does, however, promise just such a Savior, and it is because of this promise that I invite you on this journey. It also warns us that in the last days three key counterfeit conditions will be prevalent:
(1) The last days will be days of apostasy: As time moves along, Scripture warns there will be a growing universal revolt against God and authority that will manifest itself in a humanism in which man, believing the age-old lie of Satan that he can solve his own problems, becomes the center, source, and answer to all his problems (2 Thess. 2:3, 11; 2 Tim. 3:1f).
(2) The last days will be days of globalism: Because of wars, rumors of wars, and the threat of international crises that will build in preparation for the scenario found in the Great Tribulation (Matt. 24 and Rev. 6-19), and because of man’s humanism [human self-reliance], there will be a spirit of globalism (a modern day Tower of Babel). More and more the human race will look to a one-world international system to bring peace and safety (1 Thess. 5:3).
(3) The last days will be days of false messiahs: This hope and search for some form of a one-world system will lead to the longing and search for someone who can come on the scene of human history and mold the world into unity and peace. The last days will be days of false messiahs, a time when the world will be looking for solutions in a great world leader until such a person arises in the form of the Antichrist, the Beast of the tribulation period (Matt. 24:5, 23-24; 2 Thess. 2:3b-4; Rev. 13:1f).
Please note, this new globalism will not only be wrapped up in humanism, itself a form of religion, but it will involve a universal religion that is both mystical and eclectic--that is it will seek to draw all religions together regardless of beliefs. It will be tolerant of any and all religions, except, of course, Christianity which it will hate with a vengeance and persecute with gusto for two reasons:
(1) Outwardly, it will be because genuine Christianity is not eclectic or broad-minded in this sense. While the Bible reaches out with its message to all men, it also teaches there is one way to heaven--the narrow way through faith in the Savior who alone is the Way, the Truth and the Life.
(2) Inwardly, this persecution will exist because the one-world movement and the people in it will be energized by Satan and his antichrist program.
We find in today’s New Age writings their religious heroes are Buddha, Jesus, Gandhi, Schweitzer, Teilhard de Chardin, Martin Luther King, Hammerskjold, and U Thant. These are individuals who transcend races, nations, and groups and fit well into their global ideology. But in their writings, if they list Jesus at all, he is simply passed over as just one of the religious greats. He is wedged between the likes of Buddha and Gandhi, thus betraying their open rejection of the Savior’s claims as the Son of God, the one and only Savior of the world--the Way, the Truth, and the Life. In the recent so called million man march in Washington DC, Jesus was mentioned, but only as another of the great world religious leaders, which is tantamount to his rejection.
The world is truly in a mess and desperately needs a deliver. We do need someone to come and take charge of our lives personally and universally. Again, the Bible promises just such a Deliverer, but how can we know who the true Deliverer is when he comes on the scene? How can we clearly identify and distinguish him from the counterfeits?
In writing to the Ephesians, Paul spoke of their past and reminded them that before they came to Christ they were like the rest of the Gentile world. They were “strangers to the covenants of promise (lit. the covenants [plural] of the promise [singular]), having no hope and without God in the world” (Eph. 2:12). All the covenants with their individual features were ultimately pointing to one great promise--the coming of the Christ. Because the Gentile world did not have or know these covenants and this great promise, which is woven everywhere into the fabric of the Old Testament like a golden thread, they had no hope.
Writing to the Romans, the Apostle said, “For whatever was written in earlier times was written for our instruction, that through perseverance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope” (Rom. 15:4). The Scriptures we will look at in this study are those that deal with the lineage of Christ and the prophecies of His birth. These prophecies, as a part of that hope, form an incredible line of truth and remarkable evidence which authenticate the claims of Christ and shows us the real meaning of Christmas.
Every Christmas season I have watched a number of Christmas specials. Many were musical and most were stories with a Christmas theme. They were warm, entertaining, and usually sought to communicate some kind of moral or positive message about hope, giving, and loving one another. But generally, they never come close to communicating the true hope of Christmas as it is found in the coming of Jesus Christ according to the facts of Scripture. As stated by the Apostle, they were without true hope.
The early church and the writers of the New Testament appealed to a number of things to establish faith in Christ as the Old Testament Messiah and as the Savior and Son of God and hope of mankind. They appealed to: (1) His miracles and wonders as signs (Acts 2:22; Heb. 2:3-4) (2) His resurrection as that climactic event of Christ’s earthly life in His first coming that truly marked Him out as Son of God and Savior of all mankind (Acts 2:23-24). (3) But there was also the character of His life, and the way His life, including His birth, fulfilled prophecy, an amazing and incredible line of evidence.
The Old Testament, written over a period of 1000 years and written several hundred years before the time of Christ, contains some three hundred prophecies of the coming Messiah. The fact these prophecies were written at least two hundred years before Christ is proven by the Septuagint [LXX], the Greek translation of the Old Testament written in 200 B.C., and by the Dead Sea Scrolls, some of which are dated over 200 years before Christ as well. All of these ancient prophecies were fulfilled in the one person of Jesus Christ, and they provide solid confirmation:
for His credentials as Messiah,
for His claims as the Son of God and Savior,
for His unique life in comparison to all the other
leaders of the world, and
for our hope and confidence that truly He and He alone is the one to whom we (and the world) must look for salvation and meaning in life.
The probability of all these being fulfilled in one person as merely coincidence is beyond comprehension and, for all practical purposes, mathematically impossible. The entire Old Testament, though dealing with the history of the nations and of Israel, ultimately spoke of the Messiah, the Redeemer who would come. This is evident from the following verses of Scripture:
Matthew 5:17 “Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish, but to fulfill.”
Luke 24:27 “And beginning with Moses and with all the prophets, He explained to them the things concerning Himself in all the Scriptures.”
Luke 24:44 Now He said to them, “These are My words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that all things which are written about Me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.”
John 5:39 “You search the Scriptures, because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is these that bear witness of Me;
When the person of Messiah comes on the scene is there some way we can clearly identify Him? How can we know that He is the right one and not an imposter--someone who ends up being a Hitler or the Beast as described in Revelation 13? How can we know this Jesus of the New Testament is this Deliver to whom we are to look?
The Scripture not only promises the Messiah, but it does so in such a way that we can precisely identify Him. This is an important point because many have arisen who claimed to have the answers to society whether political or social, and the Bible warns us that many more will arise. How, then, can we identify this one of whom the Scripture speaks?
Let’s say that you are courier carrying a very valuable, highly classified document which must not fall into the wrong hands. You are to give the document to a particular person that you do not know and have never seen. How can you recognize and be sure that once you meet that person, he or she is the right one and not an impostor? One way is by having a number of marks of identification. The more marks of identification (gender, size, color of hair, complexion, meeting location, specifics of dress, password, etc.), the better your chance of identifying the right person. The Bible has done precisely this. It has given us dozens of ways to identify the promised Deliverer.
Using the Bible as our road map, we will climb aboard our time machine and journey back into ancient history, back to the Garden of Eden where we will begin our journey forward through the corridors of time with the Word of God to guide and illuminate our path. With the light of the Word, we will look for road signs and marks of identification to guide us on our journey in quest of finding and identifying this person of whom the Scripture speaks, the one promised to the human race as the only solution to the problems of the world--yet the one the world resists.
As we look at these road signs scattered along the highway of history, we need to note that each sign is above all else, an identifier. Many of them are also predictions, in some cases warnings, but also promises. We begin with Adam and Eve and each new sign or prophecy will add more details. This will constantly narrow the field of possible candidates until all the important factors of identification are revealed. As a result, there can be no doubt about God’s plan of salvation for mankind as well as where and in whom it can be found.
In our study, we are looking at only those signs that focus primarily on his birth or lineage, but many more focus on His life and works which further identify and prove the identity of the only one in whom we must place our trust for the salvation that is offered freely, without cost through faith.
Quickly now, let’s fasten our seat belts, and with everyone aboard, let’s journey back some 6500 years where we will arrive at a place called the Garden of Eden.
The Fall of Mankind
We find the Garden of Eden was designed by God to be a paradise. But wait a minute! Something seems to be wrong! It is quite apparent something terrible has happened. Our map shows us that, following the suggestions of the serpent, Adam and Eve sought to live independently of God and sin entered the human scene.
1. Whereas man and woman had life, now death rules.
2. Whereas there was joy and pleasure, now pain has been introduced.
3. Whereas there was a joyous occupation with abundance, now a meager subsistence by toil and the sweat of the brow has become the rule with pain in childbirth.
4. Whereas there was perfect fellowship with God and each other, now we see alienation and fear, blaming, hiding, and attempting to cover their nakedness with fig leaves.
So what now?
“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.”
In this verse, we have the sign of the promised seed. This is often called the protevangelium, the first flicker of the gospel. It is only a broad generalization without a lot of detail, but, though only in embryo form, Genesis 3:15 is: (1) a prophecy, (2) a warning, and (3) a promise. But above all, it is (4) the foundation for the many promises and the beginning of many road signs that follow down the pathway of Scripture. The signs which follow will clarify and develop many details in the progress of God’s revelation. These added details will point us clearly to the one who is to come and to what we can expect.
Some Important Observations About the Passage--Since this is the foundation of all the promises that follow, it is important to note a number of observations:
(1) The promise of Genesis 3:15 is addressed to the serpent, not to mankind. Begun in 3:14, it is part of a sentence of judgment passed on one who is the enemy of both God and man. Though it contains, in seed form a promise for mankind, it is more directly a sentence of judgment on the serpent (clearly a reference to Satan). This teaches us that God’s plan “is about God’s rule as much as about man’s need.”1
(2) Though Genesis 3:15 contains great hope for mankind as a promise, it is also a prophecy of hostility and struggle. “Enmity” comes from a Hebrew word which means “to hate.” This first road sign and prophecy is cradled in a warning of great conflict and foreshadows the perpetual struggle and incessant activity of satanic powers which will oppose mankind and God’s plan of salvation through the One who would come. To be sure, Satan is a hater of mankind, especially those linked with the promised Deliverer.
(3) “Enmity” is a term not really applicable to dumb beasts. Its scriptural use limits it, like its verb root, to enmity between persons or morally responsible agents. This fact, and the revelation of the New Testament reveals the figure of Satan behind the serpent (Rom. 16:20; Rev. 12:9; 20:2). This rules out the idea of mere hostility between mankind and snakes.
(4) We note that the struggle is between the serpent and the woman, between his seed and her seed, and between a single individual and the serpent. The text says, “And I will put enmity between you (the serpent) and the woman (Eve), . . . he (the seed of the woman) shall bruise you (the serpent) on the head, And you (the serpent) shall bruise him (the seed of the woman) on the heel.” Adam is simply and plainly passed over. The reason for this is not given here, but as we journey through history the light of God’s revelation will both identify the serpent and show why Adam is passed over. The reason is the virgin birth. Though perhaps not understood then, we have in Genesis 3:15 the anticipation of the virgin birth. Satan’s defeat and that of his seed (the unbelieving world) would come from the seed of the woman. It speaks of her seed, not his (the man’s) nor theirs (the man and the woman). Deliverance would come from the woman without the aid of a man. The seeds referred to here are not defined. Later revelation will do this, but the text is suggestive by itself:
First, the seed of the serpent is a collective noun meaning “offspring,” and must refer to the children of the evil one, those who are in a spiritual sense the children of the devil. John 8:44 reads, “You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desire. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies.” (NIV). The text is obviously not talking about an offspring of snakes.
Second, if “seed” must refer to a whole class and is used in the collective sense in the first half of the statement, then “seed” in the second half of the statement must be used collectively for the descendants or posterity of the woman. The enmity is one that will exist between two groups throughout history, the serpent’s and the woman’s.
Third, in the last part of verse 15, however, the seed is narrowed to the singular “he” and the singular “you” which anticipates a person--a particular seed who does battle with the serpent--who is Satan. (Though Galatians 3:16 and 19 deal with the seed of Abraham, it is still applicable. Also compare Romans 16:20; Hebrews 2:9-14 and Revelation 5).
(5) Two things are stated about the seeds and their enmity: First, her seed would bruise, crush the serpent’s head. This clearly portrays a mortal wound which means her seed would be victorious. A deliverance is anticipated. Second, the serpent would bruise her seed on the heel. Her seed would suffer, but it would not be a mortal wound or one that would lead to defeat. A deliverer who suffers, but is ultimately victorious is promised.
We anticipate, then, a struggle but also a deliverance by one who will suffer. But to what or to whom shall we look? What form would the struggle take? Eve, the mother of all living, would have many sons and daughters who would eventually spread out all over the earth, so to whom do we look?
In Genesis 4 we find the first mention of birth. Could the promised seed be Cain which is probably best understood to mean, “acquired” or “gotten.” “Cain” sounds like qana, the verb used here which means “to get, acquire”? Literally the Hebrew reads, “I have gotten (acquired) a man with the Lord.” This was apparently a cry of faith, an expectation from Eve. Did Eve think this was the promised seed?
Eve probably did not know or sense that the enmity in the human race would be so long. She may have thought Cain was the promised seed or at least the first in the lineage of the seed who would crush the serpent and restore what was lost. But as the passage shows, Cain was not a man of faith because he brought a bloodless offering. His brother Abel, however, brought a blood offering which was accepted by God. By doing so Abel displayed his faith in the coming Redeemer, perhaps even understanding he was one who must suffer.
Thus, Able represented the godly seed, the line of the Savior, while Cain represented the ungodly seed, the line of Satan.
But we immediately see that Cain murdered Abel. This is the first illustration of the enmity between the two seeds. Very early on we begin to see the trail of destruction and deception. As illustrated with Cain, not all would believe and the promise of Genesis 3:15 became ignored or distorted by the ancient mysticism of Babylon and a religious system that has been call “the mother-child cult.” This was a clever counterfeit of the promise of Genesis 3:15 which would flourish all over the world and rise again in the last days.2
In order to keep the promise pure, God would need a remnant, a godly line of believers who would believe the promise, proclaim it, and become the channel for the seed of the woman. So, in the lineage of the seed we will see how God protected the promise and eliminated millions that we might know just where to look for Messiah. We will see how God identifies the seed and fulfills His promises to Adam and Eve, to Abraham, and to others in spite of the continued opposition of the serpent.
This line of prophetic truth regarding the birth of the seed of the woman becomes more and more amazing and miraculous. These road signs will enable us to pinpoint with great accuracy just who this Deliverer is, when and where and how He would be born, and other amazing details foretold by the Scriptures hundreds of years in advance. Here stands an impressive line of evidence for the uniqueness of Jesus Christ. The evidence demonstrates that He is not just another of the world’s great religious leaders, but that truly He and He alone is the promised seed, the answer to mankind’s many needs, and the one in whom the nations would be blessed.
And Adam had relations with his wife again; and she gave birth to a son, and named him Seth, for, she said, “God has appointed me another offspring in place of Abel; for Cain killed him.” And to Seth, to him also a son was born; and he called his name Enosh. Then men began to call upon the name of the LORD.
“Seth” is from a Hebrew word which means “to set, place, appoint.” With this name and Eve’s statement in verse 25b, it is evident this child becomes the one appointed to be the godly line, the line out of which the seed of the woman will come.
Who names the child? Eve does, and I think this again illustrates her faith. The mention of “another offspring” in place of Abel, literally, “another seed,” takes up the promise of Genesis 3:15 and in essence, announces from which of Eve’s sons the seed would come. So the line is narrowed, but note that in verse 26 we read, “Then, men began to call upon the name of the Lord.” The “then” refers to the logical consequences of the birth of Seth and the establishment of the godly line of men from which the seed of the woman would come. “This stands in contrast to the ungodly line of Cain, who ‘went out from the presence of the Lord’“ (vs. 16).3
Let’s move forward again several hundred years (at least 1656 years following creation) and maybe more if this list of the sons of Seth is not exhaustive and there are no gaps in the record. Ryrie writes, “It is likely, however, that the genealogy is selective, resulting in gaps in the list and pushing the date of creation farther back.”4
We turn next to Genesis 6 and the time of Noah, but again we see the enmity and the path of destruction and deception in human history. Once again Satan attempts to stop the promise of Genesis 3:15. Genesis 6 is an extremely puzzling and difficult passage which has a very pointed connection with the flood as God’s judgment on the earth. Time will not allow a discussion of this passage in this series, but it seems evident, regardless of one’s viewpoint concerning “the sons of God” and “the daughters of men,” that this passage describes Satan’s attempt to “take over the earth and banish the name of God and His Christ from this planet.”5 Regardless of one’s understanding of this passage, it was certainly Satan’s attempt to kill out any belief in the coming Redeemer with the grossest type of immorality.
Ross remarks, “Genesis 6:1-4 . . . describes how corrupt the world got when this violation was rampant. It is also a polemic against the pagan belief that giants (Nephilim; cf. Num. 13:32-33) and men of renown (Gen. 6:4) were of divine origin, and that immortality was achieved by immorality.”6 In other words, in part at least, it was Satan’s attempt to blind men to the true message of immortality or salvation through the promise of Genesis 3:15.
But God raised up man, a preacher of righteousness, whose name was Noah. Noah, his wife, their sons and their wives believed God and for 120 years Noah warned of a coming judgment which would clearly prove that these heroes or “men of renown” were mere flesh, under God’s authority and control, and would die--which they did in the flood. So God destroyed the human race with the flood, except for Noah and his family. Now it is obvious the seed of the woman would come through Noah. But Noah had three sons, Shem, Ham, and Japheth who became the fathers of the entire human race. Which one would be the godly line, the one from which the seed would come?
He also said, “Blessed be the LORD, The God of Shem; And let Canaan be his servant.
The wording here is unexpected. In verse 25, Noah said, “Cursed be Canaan,” but here, rather than “blessed be Shem,” he said, “blessed be the Lord, the God of Shem.” The point is that Shem’s good fortune was the product of his relationship to the Lord as his God. This is not only a prophecy and a pronouncement of blessing upon Shem and his posterity, but in it God declares that Shem’s posterity would know and serve the one true God. His descendents would become the godly seed or line. From Shem would come the Deliverer, the seed of the woman and the means of blessing to the other brothers (Gen. 9:27).
We see two key developments as we continue to look for the seed of the woman.
(1) Shem also, had many sons. So to which one do we look? The descendants of Shem became the Semitic people, many of whom dwelt in the east around the land of Shinar or Babylon.
(2) Furthermore, as time moved along, the nations revolted under the leadership of a man called Nimrod, whose very name could mean “let us revolt” (Gen. 10:8-10). “The name Nimrod ‘no doubt suggested to the Israelites that idea of rebel . . . against God’”78 Nimrod’s Tower of Babel became Satan’s first attempt at a one-world system of government by which man sought unity and prosperity apart from God. It was clearly an anti-God, humanistic kingdom and the first try at a United Nations.
Unfortunately, this rebellion included the Semitic people (the descendants of Shem), many of whom lived in Babylon and all of whom became involved in this Babylonian system of idolatry. History teaches us that Nimrod had a wife by the name of Semerimus who established the worship of what may be called “the mother-child cult.” This became Satan’s clever counterfeit to the promise of the seed of the woman. Here was the beginning of the “Mother of Harlots” of Revelation 17:3-6.
Again we see the enmity at work, the trail of blood and deception. Let’s move on down the corridors of time and look for more road signs.
Now the LORD said to Abram, “Go forth from your country, And from your relatives And from your father’s house, To the land which I will show you; And I will make you a great nation, And I will bless you, And make your name great; And so you shall be a blessing; And I will bless those who bless you, And the one who curses you I will curse. And in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”
The whole world had fallen in with Satan’s system just as it will again in the last days and the days of the Great Tribulation as described in the book of Revelation. The world lay in humanism, pantheism, idolatry, and unbelief. But God always has his man and His remnant and, as faithful and sovereign God, He will fulfill His promises and purposes. So, God called a man by the name of Abram. How we are not told, but while Abram was in Ur of the Chaldeans, a wealthy, populous, and sophisticated pagan center of idolatry, Abram heard the call of God and believed Him.
As foretold in Scripture, Abram is in the line of Shem from whom the seed would come. In this text, several new tidbits of information are given.
(1) A specific portion of land is now in view, one that will become the center of the world as God views it. The seed of the woman will come out of a special parcel of land, the land of Canaan, later to be known as Palestine.
(2) A specific nation is now in view, one that would come out of the loins of Abram. So we look for a nation that will arise out of the descendants of Abram.
(3) Universal blessings are promised for all the nations. Abram’s seed would become a channel of blessing to all the world. This means we look for the Redeemer and promised Seed to come from Abram’s people.
In subsequent sections in Genesis, God amplifies and enlarges on these promises, but now we know in what family and in what land we should look for the seed of the woman. We won’t look in China, in Babylon, in Assyria, in India, in Western Europe, in Italy, in Turkey, or in the Americas. No, we are to look for this Deliverer, this seed of the woman, from a small piece of ground along the Mediterranean Sea, the land of Israel.
But as we journey on down the pages of Scripture, we soon learn that Abram would be the father of a multitude. Many nations would come from Abram, so many God even changed his name to Abraham meaning “father of a multitude” (Genesis 17:4-7).
“As for Me, behold, My covenant is with you, And you shall be the father of a multitude of nations. “No longer shall your name be called Abram, But your name shall be Abraham; For I will make you the father of a multitude of nations. “And I will make you exceedingly fruitful, and I will make nations of you, and kings shall come forth from you. “And I will establish My covenant between Me and you and your descendants after you throughout their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and to your descendants after you. (NASB)
To whom do we look now? As we continue our trek down the pages of Scripture, we find another sign.
Genesis 17:19 But God said, “No, but Sarah your wife shall bear you a son, and you shall call his name Isaac; and I will establish My covenant with him for an everlasting covenant for his descendants after him.
Genesis 21:12 But God said to Abraham, “Do not be distressed because of the lad and your maid; whatever Sarah tells you, listen to her, for through Isaac your descendants shall be named.
We are to look for the Deliverer in the descendents of Isaac. But wait! Isaac would have two sons and two nations would come from him. Which nation would be the channel for the seed? Would it be Esau, the father of the Edomites, or Jacob, the father of Israel?
Genesis 25:22-23 But the children struggled together within her; and she said, “If it is so, why then am I this way?” So she went to inquire of the LORD. And the LORD said to her, “Two nations are in your womb; And two peoples shall be separated from your body; And one people shall be stronger than the other; And the older shall serve the younger.”
Genesis 28:13-14 And behold, the LORD stood above it and said, “I am the LORD, the God of your father Abraham and the God of Isaac; the land on which you lie, I will give it to you and to your descendants. “Your descendants shall also be like the dust of the earth, and you shall spread out to the west and to the east and to the north and to the south; and in you and in your descendants shall all the families of the earth be blessed.
Again, God’s road signs, placed carefully along the pages of Scripture and the corridors of time, guide us and the line is narrowed. Still, as we continue our travels, we find that Jacob had 12 sons (Gen. 35:22b-27). From which son do we look for the seed of the woman and the deliverer and source of blessing to the nations. Is it Reuben, Simeon, Levi, Judah, Issachar, Zebulon, Dan, Naphtali, Gad, Asher, Joseph or Benjamin? As always, God does not leave us guessing.
“The scepter shall not depart from Judah, Nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet, Until Shiloh comes, And to him shall be the obedience of the peoples.
In Genesis 49 Jacob pronounces blessing on each of his sons and in the process narrows the line to the tribe of Judah. Made on his death bed, this is a prophecy of Jacob describes the future of Israel. In this prophecy, God not only narrows the field again, but broadens our expectations to look for One who will one day become a ruler in Israel. Let’s note some of the ingredients of this prophecy.
(1) Judah means praise. In this tribe, God would do that which would cause men to lift up their voice to Him in praise.
(2) “The scepter” and “the ruler’s staff” clearly refer to the right to rule or to the royal line.
(3) “Shiloh” is clearly a messianic title for “the seed of the woman, the Deliverer who would come.”
(4) “Shiloh” may mean “peaceful” or “peacemaker” after the promise of Isaiah 9:6 (cf. Eph. 2:14-17). Or it may mean, “whose it is” or “he to whom it belongs,” i.e., the right to rule.
This then is a prediction that tells us two important facts: First, Judah would become the royal line, the tribe that would rule in Israel and one day rule over the world through this Deliverer who is to come. Second, it is not saying that once Judah began to rule there would always be someone on the throne of Israel. Rather, the declaration is that the right to rule would remain in Judah and that out of Israel herself, no impostor would sit on the throne of Israel until Shiloh, the Peacemaker, comes to rule and his kingdom is established.
Now as we travel on down the pages of Scripture and history we find the tribe of Judah increases by many thousands. Again we look to Scripture to see who would be the channel?
1 Samuel 16:1 Now the LORD said to Samuel, “How long will you grieve over Saul, since I have rejected him from being king over Israel? Fill your horn with oil, and go; I will send you to Jesse the Bethlehemite, for I have selected a king for Myself among his sons.”
Isaiah 11:1, 10 Then a shoot will spring from the stem of Jesse, And a branch from his roots will bear fruit. … Then it will come about in that day That the nations will resort to the root of Jesse, Who will stand as a signal for the peoples; And His resting place will be glorious.
Prophecy: 1 Samuel 16:12-13; Isaiah 9:6-7; 2 Samuel 7:12-16
1 Samuel 16:12-13 So he sent and brought him in. Now he was ruddy, with beautiful eyes and a handsome appearance. And the LORD said, “Arise, anoint him; for this is he.” Then Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed him in the midst of his brothers; and the Spirit of the LORD came mightily upon David from that day forward. And Samuel arose and went to Ramah.
Isaiah 9:6-7 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. There will be no end to the increase of His government or of peace, On the throne of David and over his kingdom, To establish it and to uphold it with justice and righteousness From then on and forevermore. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will accomplish this.
2 Samuel 7:12-16 “When your days are complete and you lie down with your fathers, I will raise up your descendant after you, who will come forth from you, and I will establish his kingdom. “He shall build a house for My name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. “I will be a father to him and he will be a son to Me; when he commits iniquity, I will correct him with the rod of men and the strokes of the sons of men, but My lovingkindness shall not depart from him, as I took it away from Saul, whom I removed from before you. 16 “And your house and your kingdom shall endure before Me forever; your throne shall be established forever.”’”
Fulfillment: Luke 1:32-33; 3:23-38, Matthew 1:1, 6-7
Now we can see that the prophecies become even more precise, so we not only know in what line, but when, where, and how. When we come to the lineage and birth of the Savior, the accuracy of Scripture and its uniqueness among the religious writings of the world is absolutely incredible and intriguing! Why? What does this do for us? In these prophecies and in the lineage of Messiah we see several things:
(1) We see that which is miraculous and impossible apart from the intervention and work of a personal God in human history.
(2) We see how God kept the line of identification clear so no impostor might be mistaken for Messiah.
(3) We also see how God minutely fulfilled His Word in the face of the enmity of Satan and the sinful acts of men.
In 1 Samuel 8 the people of Israel in stubborn rebellion cried out for a king like the nations (1 Sam. 8:4-10, 19-22). It was God’s plan to give them a king, but one after His own heart who would rule under God’s authority with God ruling over the king’s heart.
The first king God chose was Saul of the tribe of Benjamin and not from the tribe of Judah as prophesied by Jacob in Genesis 49. Why? In Genesis 38:6-30 we have the account of the sin of Judah and of his illegitimate child, Perez. There was also a twin, Zera. But since Perez was the firstborn he became the seed or the royal line (Matt. 1:3; Luke 3:33). However, Deuteronomy 23:2 declares that an illegitimate son could not enter the congregation of the Lord until the tenth generation. What does this mean? It means that such a son and none of his descendants until the tenth generation could serve as king or priest.
Jesse, the Father of David was a descendant of Perez and, as you might guess, he was the ninth generation making David the tenth (cf. Ruth 4:18-22 and Matt. 1:3-6). As a result, God chose Saul until David could come of age. In the process of this, (1) thousands of the line of Judah were eliminated, (2) the line of identification was kept clear, and (3) God’s Word was not broken.
Prophecy: 2 Samuel 7:12-17 and 1 Chronicles 28:4-5
2 Samuel 7:12-17 “When your days are complete and you lie down with your fathers, I will raise up your descendant after you, who will come forth from you, and I will establish his kingdom. “He shall build a house for My name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. “I will be a father to him and he will be a son to Me; when he commits iniquity, I will correct him with the rod of men and the strokes of the sons of men, but My lovingkindness shall not depart from him, as I took it away from Saul, whom I removed from before you. “And your house and your kingdom shall endure before Me forever; your throne shall be established forever.”’” In accordance with all these words and all this vision, so Nathan spoke to David.
1 Chronicles 28:4-5 “Yet, the LORD, the God of Israel, chose me from all the house of my father to be king over Israel forever. For He has chosen Judah to be a leader; and in the house of Judah, my father’s house, and among the sons of my father He took pleasure in me to make me king over all Israel. “And of all my sons for the LORD has given me many sons, He has chosen my son Solomon to sit on the throne of the kingdom of the LORD over Israel.
Fulfillment: Matthew 1:1, 6-7;
Second Samuel 7:12-17 declared God’s covenant with David. In this covenant (known as the Davidic Covenant) God passed the royal line through Solomon with certain unconditional promises. God assured David that his house, throne, and kingdom would be established forever. Though the house of David would degenerate and though there would be interruptions to its rule, the right to rule would remain with David’s family as predicted in Genesis 49:10, and one day it would be permanently established through Messiah (2 Sam. 7:16, cf. Lk. 1:32,33).
What happens following this is intriguing as well as miraculous because of what happens to the royal line of David through Solomon. The next prophecies (or road signs) along the course of prophetic history deal with this royal line and Messiah’s birth.
Prophecy: Isaiah 40:3; Malachi 3:1
Isaiah 40:3 A voice is calling, “Clear the way for the LORD in the wilderness; Make smooth in the desert a highway for our God.
Malachi 3:1 “Behold, I am going to send My messenger, and he will clear the way before Me. And the Lord, whom you seek, will suddenly come to His temple; and the messenger of the covenant, in whom you delight, behold, He is coming,” says the LORD of hosts.
Fulfillment: Mark 1:2-4; Matthew 3:1-3
It is predicted that Messiah would be preceded by a forerunner who would prepare the hearts of the people for the Lord. Compare Mark 1:2-4 where Mark uses Malachi 3:1 to introduce and explain the meaning and purpose of the Isaiah passage as it is fulfilled in John the Baptist, the forerunner of Christ.
Prophecy: Isaiah 7:13-14
Isaiah 7:13-14 Then he said, “Listen now, O house of David! Is it too slight a thing for you to try the patience of men, that you will try the patience of my God as well? “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. (NASB)
Fulfillment: Matthew 1:18-25; Luke 1:26-35
Isaiah 7:13-14 announces the birth of a wondrous child through a virgin as a sign of deliverance to the whole house of David--the birth of Messiah by the miracle of the virgin birth. This passage, quoted by the angel to Joseph to explain what had happened, is included by Matthew as one of the many fulfillment prophecies regarding Messiah that were fulfilled in the conception of Mary and the birth and life of Jesus. Though this will not be a detailed explanation of this passage, I do want to emphasize a few important points.
There is a promise and judgment on the house of David (Isaiah 7:14). It is important to notice that this section is addressed to the whole house of David (vs. 13), and not to just Ahaz or the immediate situation. It becomes both a promise to the house of David and a judgment.
First, by the sign and promise of Isaiah 7:14, God is assuring the house of David that this alliance of Syria and Israel (7:1-2) would not come to pass. No impostor would ever sit on the throne of David.
Second, I believe the promise of the sign and the virgin birth was saying that the line of David which had spiritually degenerated would be replaced by One who was not degenerate, though still in the royal line of David and with all royal rights to the throne. God would set aside the physical line of the merely human and degenerate house of David, which would become even more degenerate during the reigns of the kings to come. This will become even more evident when we get to the curse of Jeconiah.
Finally, the sign guaranteed the deliverance of God’s people and the final establishment of David’s throne though the birth of this marvelous child called Immanuel, which means, “God with us.” No impostor would take the right of rule away from David’s line.
Many see a double fulfillment here. The first fulfillment in the birth of a contemporary whose birth represented God’s presence with the ultimate fulfillment referring to the Lord Jesus. I personally have problems with this and have become convinced this is a direct messianic prophecy which has its fulfillment only in the birth and person of Jesus Christ. True, there is a son born to Isaiah in the next chapter who becomes a confirmation of the Messiah prophecy of 7:14, but his name is not Immanuel. It is Maher-shalal-has-baz, “swift is the booty, speedy is the prey” (Isaiah 8:1). The statement of 8:8, “. . . will fill the breadth of your land, O Immanuel” is not addressing Isaiah’s son. It addresses Messiah and declares that His land will be invaded by Assyria.
Regardless of whether one sees a dual fulfillment (one for the time of Isaiah and one for the time of Messiah) or exclusively messianic (referring to Messiah only), one of the primary purposes of the prophecy was to show the sinful, degenerate, and merely human line of Ahaz had become impotent, and that it would be replaced by One who was more than man. He would be the God-man, Immanuel, conceived miraculously in the virgin. He would be the One who would become the marvelous Son of chapter 9:6, the One called “Mighty God,” and the Son of 11:1, the One who would one day “strike the earth with the rod of His mouth . . .” Furthermore, no child as recorded in Scripture is ever called Immanuel. No son of Isaiah or Hezekiah or any other contemporary was ever called Immanuel. When Christ was born He was called “Jesus,” never “Immanuel.”
What’s the Point? “Immanuel” is not a name, an appellation; it was instead a designation, a title or a description of who this Child would be--God with us in the flesh, both God and man (Isa. 9:6; Mic. 5:2).
“Virgin” is the Hebrew, `alma, which means “a mature, young, unmarried, and chaste woman.” `Alma . . . represents a young woman, one of whose characteristics is virginity. This is born out by several facts:
(1) The Septuagint, long before any Christological controversies, used parthenos (the Greek word for virgin) in two of the seven occurrences of `alma, and this includes Isaiah 7:14. This is what the angel quoted to Joseph as a prediction of the virgin birth.
(2) There is no instance where one can prove that `alma designates a young woman who is not also a virgin.9
(3) Further, it is the only Hebrew word that unequivocally signifies an unmarried woman. No other Hebrew word would clearly indicate that the one whom it designates was unmarried.10
(4) It is sometimes argued that the Hebrew language had a more precise word for “virgin,” bethulah, but this word may also designate a betrothed virgin or one who was actually married (cf. Joel 1:8). In such a case, the birth of the child might be viewed as the result of the normal husband/wife relationship. Had Isaiah used this word, he would or could have left us in confusion or with the wrong idea (cf. Young, p. 288). But not so with `alma. He is speaking of a young, unmarried virgin who conceives miraculously. `Alma was used because it combines both the ideas of virginity and the condition of being unmarried.
In this way, one would be born, but not by normal conception, but by a miracle work of God so that the one born would not only be true man, but God with us in the sense of being the God-man (cf. Isa. 9:6a, c). Thus, we are to expect precisely what we find in the gospel accounts of the birth of Jesus Christ.
Jeremiah 22:28-30 clearly shows the royal line was to be cursed and cut off. Included in the royal line of David through Solomon was Jeconiah (or Coniah).11 The curse clearly states that no physical seed of Coniah could ever occupy the throne of David. This means the royal line of David through Solomon was cut off. God saw to it that this prophecy was carried out by the following conditions:
(1) The captivity of Babylon and the nations that followed Babylon which would rule over Israel with the result that no one would be able to sit on the throne of Judah or of David. The nations following Babylon were Medo-Persia, Greece and finally Rome.
(2) This condition has been maintained by what the New Testament calls “the times of the Gentiles,” the period of Gentile domination that will continue until the second advent of Messiah according to Luke 21:24.
But what about God’s promises to David concerning his throne and kingdom? Are they abrogated and thus fulfilled in the spiritual reign of God in the church as many teach today? Is God finished with the nation of Israel? Will there be then no millennial reign? The answer is and emphatic NO! God is not finished with Israel. And YES, there will be a millennial reign! God’s promises to David are not abrogated and the reason they are not is because of the Immanuel promise and its fulfillment in the birth of Jesus Christ. How does the virgin birth accomplish this? Through the virgin birth Jesus became the legal son of Joseph by adoption, but the physical son David through Mary. Joseph, who was in the royal line of David through Solomon, gave Jesus legal title to the throne by adoption (Matt. 1:1-17). Mary, by the Spirit-wrought miracle of the virgin birth, made Jesus a literal son of David through Nathan another one of David’s sons (Luke 3:23-38).
Remember we said that the prophecies of the birth of the Messiah, or the seed of the woman, are so precise that they not only tell us how, (that the Savior would come through the miracle of the virgin birth), but they would even tell us when and where and more about how!
The Prophecy: Daniel 9:24-27
“Seventy weeks have been decreed for your people and your holy city, to finish the transgression, to make an end of sin, to make atonement for iniquity, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal up vision and prophecy, and to anoint the most holy place. “So you are to know and discern that from the issuing of a decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem until Messiah the Prince there will be seven weeks and sixty-two weeks; it will be built again, with plaza and moat, even in times of distress. “Then after the sixty-two weeks the Messiah will be cut off and have nothing, and the people of the prince who is to come will destroy the city and the sanctuary. And its end will come with a flood; even to the end there will be war; desolations are determined. “And he will make a firm covenant with the many for one week, but in the middle of the week he will put a stop to sacrifice and grain offering; and on the wing of abominations will come one who makes desolate, even until a complete destruction, one that is decreed, is poured out on the one who makes desolate.”
Fulfillment: Mark 11:1-11; Luke 19:29-38, the Triumphal Entry.
Daniel 9:24-27 add several more important facts about the Messiah: (1) This passage tells us when Messiah will appear on the scene. It obviously anticipates His birth. (2) It tells us that after His appearance, Messiah will be rejected by His people, and (3) that Messiah will be cut off temporarily, an obvious reference to the cross.
Verse 25 refers to a specific time for the coming of Messiah. The seven weeks with the sixty-two weeks combine to make 69 weeks of years (483 years) until the coming of Messiah. The starting point for the 483 years was the decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem. This is a reference to the decree given in the time of Nehemiah in the twentieth year of King Artaxerxes in 445 B.C. (Neh. 2:1-8). After this, Messiah would appear on the scene.
The words “until Messiah the Prince” refer to a time when Messiah would be manifested as the prince of Israel. The point of manifestation is debated, but it most likely refers to the triumphal entry of Christ into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday when He presented Himself and was recognized by the people as Messiah prince. This would be around A.D. 30-33, so the time of His birth as the Immanuel of God would have to be around A.D. 0-4.
By the way, though somewhat debated, it is a believed that at the time of Christ’s birth there was an air of expectancy among godly Jews who still had the hope of Messiah.
Prophecy: Micah 5:2-3
“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.” Therefore, He will give them up until the time When she who is in labor has borne a child. Then the remainder of His brethren Will return to the sons of Israel.
Fulfillment: Luke 2:1-7; Matthew 2:1-6
The Micah prophecy was well known by Israel and when the men from the east came seeking the one born King of the Jews and inquired of His birth, the religious leaders told Herod precisely where He was to be born, in Bethlehem.
Prophecy: Numbers 24:17
Numbers 24:17 “I see him, but not now; I behold him, but not near; A star shall come forth from Jacob, And a scepter shall rise from Israel, And shall crush through the forehead of Moab, And tear down all the sons of Sheth.
Fulfillment: Matthew 2:1-2
Matthew 2:1-2 Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, magi from the east arrived in Jerusalem, saying, “Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we saw His star in the east, and have come to worship Him.”
The question of the Magi in Matthew 2:2a, “Where is He who has been born King of the Jews” and their stated reason in 2b, “For we saw His star in the east and have come to worship Him,” is presented by Matthew as another identifying evidence that this Jesus of whom he was writing is truly the long awaited Deliverer of Old Testament expectation. In fact, the overall purpose of Matthew is to present Jesus as the fulfillment of many Old Testament prophecies to prove that Jesus is the Deliverer and long awaited Messiah. This is evident by the ten fulfillment quotations he employs in presenting Jesus as the expected Messiah.12
Regarding the Magi of Matthew 2, Wiersbe writes:
We must confess that we know little about these men. The word translated “wise men” (magi) refers to a group of scholars who studied the stars. Their title connects them with magic, but they were probably more like astrologers. However, their presence in the biblical record is not a divine endorsement of astrology.
God gave them a special sign, a miraculous star that announced the birth of the King.13
Some have looked for some historical and astronomical occurrence to explain the star like a super nova, a special comet, or a conjunction of stars, but I believe Pentecost is right in his statement:
While there seems adequate astronomical support for the appearance of a heavenly light of such proportions as to indicate to these searchers the birth of the King of the Jews, this scarcely seems to be an adequate interpretation. This was not a natural phenomenon but a supernatural one. If these men were astronomers, they would have been familiar with such a phenomenon and would have explained it naturally. It would have required more than a natural phenomenon to send them on such a journey.14
This star is better explained as a manifestation of the shining glory of God perhaps in the form of a star that He used to reveal and identify the Savior. No star in the distant heavens could provide such direction. It is probable that these men from the east had become acquainted with the Jewish Scriptures because of the deportations of Israel to Babylon and to Medo-Persia. If so, the prophecy containing a star and which linked that star to the scepter of Israel found in Numbers 24:17, would cause them to associate this supernatural occurrence with birth of the Deliver in Israel.
In addition, the prophecy of Daniel’s seventy weeks in Daniel 9 would cause great anticipation for the coming of the King at this time. It is not without significance Daniel was well known as a “wise man” in the royal courts of Babylon. Since the Magi were astrologers, the sign of the star was highly significant. This with their evident knowledge of some of the Old Testament prophecies brought them to Jerusalem.
Matthew affirms the supernatural birth of the King by noting the reference the Magi make to the star. Morgan writes, “It was an extraordinary and special movement in the stellar spaces, designed to lead these men to Christ” [G. Campbell Morgan, The Crises of the Christ, p. 98]. Such a significant display in the heavens would cause no little stir among those who were looking for the coming of a king. That there was at this time a universal expectation of a world deliverer is both asserted and denied. In either case the Magi were evidently acquainted with the Old Testament prophecies, and because of the stellar manifestations which they say, had come to Jerusalem to seek out the Messiah of Israel.15
We have another mark of identification and a fitting one on which to conclude. It is one with interesting points of application for us to think about.
Matthew tells us the Magi came “to worship Him.” In what sense did they come to worship Him? I believe they came to worship Him as God. While the verb used here could refer to the homage one pays to men or to God, it was generally used of God.16 This is further supported by the fact that in the New Testament this verb, proskuneo, denotes exclusively worship addressed to God or to Jesus Christ as God.17 If this were not the case, why would these Magi bother to come to a tiny nation to worship its new ruler? No, the supernatural occurrence along with the prophecies of the Old Testament pointed Him out to them as the Deliverer of the Old Testament and they came to worship Him.
Matthew also shares this story with us because it highlights another important issue and one of contrast. It draws the reader’s attention to the apathy and disinterest of the religious leaders of Israel and the hatred and actions of Herod. Though they knew where Messiah was to be born, the religious leaders couldn’t be bothered, and Herod sought to kill the child. Again, Scripture draws our attention to the struggle and enmity of Genesis 3:15 continuing the battle between the spiritual and the carnal, the godly and the worldly, and faith versus unbelief.
The magi were seeking the King; Herod was opposing the King; and the Jewish priests were indifferent to the King. The priests knew the Scriptures, but ignored them. Isn’t it sad how much people can know of the Word of God and at the same time how little it often affects their lives. “Such is the appalling gulf between religious belief and practice.”18 They would not even take the time to go to worship Him themselves. This illustrates how we can know the Bible, yet fail to appropriate it by faith so that it changes our objects of worship; indeed, so that it changes us to make us like the Lord Jesus.
In summary, what are the marks of identification of the Deliverer who would and now has come?
1. A male child, a son (Gen. 3:15; Isa. 9:6)
2. A child born in the line of Shem, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Judah, Jesse, David, and Solomon.
3. A physical descendant of David and legal heir to the throne through Solomon, yet not a physical descendant through Jeconiah.
4. A child born of a virgin in circumstances which validate the fact of a virgin birth as seen in Matthew 1 and Luke 1.
5. A descendent of David, son of Jesse, but not until the tenth generation after Perez.
6. Born around 4 A.D. in accordance with the prophecy of Daniel 9:24f.
7. One who would be preceded by a forerunner who would prepare the way as did John the Baptist (Mal. 3:1; Mark 1:1-4).
8. Born in Bethlehem of Judea (Mic. 5:2).
9. Born of circumstances that would identify Him as the Savior and the Star of David, the long-awaited Deliver (Luke 2:9-14; Num. 24:17; Matt. 2:1-9).
10. One whose life would also fulfill the many other Old Testament prophecies regarding Messiah.
God has given us these clear marks of identification (road signs) that we might not be misled into believing the false claims of the various religious leaders who have and will rise on the scene of human history. It behooves us to know these great prophecies and to remember our Lord’s warning in Matthew 24:4-5
And Jesus answered and said to them, “See to it that no one misleads you. “For many will come in My name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and will mislead many.
May the fact and truth of these marvelous prophecies comfort and give you joy this Christmas season!!
12 Cf. 1:23 [Isa. 7:14]; 2:15 [Hos. 11:1], 18 [Jer. 21:15], 23 [Isa 53:2-4]; 4:15 [Isa. 8:23]; 8:15 [Isa. 53:4]; 12:18-21 [Isa. 42:1-4]; 13:35 [Ps. 78:2]; 21:5 [Isa. 62:11]; and 27:9-10 [Zech. 11:13].