Christmas … More Than a Baby in a Manger
What a joyous time of the year! Believers in Jesus as Messiah and Savior and unbelievers alike celebrate Christmas, which is more than just a tradition. It is a vital and vibrant fact of life, and has led to a way of life for hundreds of millions from every language, race, and country. World religions are, for the most part, confined to certain races, regions, and nations. The Christian faith is truly universal. Even those from the major religions of Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, and Judaism, to some extent or another, sense something special about this holiday (Holy Day) though it’s been over 2000 years since the birth of Jesus Christ. That’s because his birth, life, death, resurrection, and ascension back to heaven is Timeless.
His is truly the Greatest (true) Story ever told, but it only begins with Christmas.
Though it has been increasingly secularized by those who don’t believe in the reason for the season; when they light the lights of Christmas, they representatively point to the Light of the World. When they exchange gifts, they express the greatest gift ever given—the sacrificial death of God’s Son for our sins.
Yet millions upon millions who celebrate Christmas continue to see the Christ-child only as a baby in a manager. As precious and meaningful as the birth of Jesus is to the Christian faith, so many forget or prefer not to remember that his birth was only the beginning of his life, death, and resurrection from the grave to accomplish the magnificent plan of God’s salvation for the human race.
The gospels and epistles are replete with his words of truth, life, and hope; but also words of warning of the great tribulation and coming judgment. As do most of the Old Testament prophets. What many preachers and teachers have said is true: Jesus and Scripture talk more about hell than heaven. More about sin and its awful consequences than the salvation that will forgive those sins and pardon the penalty imposed by God. But for a purpose: To demonstrate that, as awesome as God’s love is for every individual and for the Jewish nation as a whole, God’s justice must be administered or the world as we know it would inevitably self-destruct. Imploding from within by the destructive consequences of sin that produce the evil that results in the explosion of terrorism and war caused by terrorists and tyrants.
Indeed, it is vital to know that Jesus was born in Bethlehem of a Virgin, as his birth fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah (7:14) and Micah (5:1-2) for the coming Messiah. That he was born a Jew from the lineage of King David (genealogy in Matthew 1), to validate that he was the child of promise descending from Abraham’s son, Isaac.
Yet, the vast majority of dozens of Bible prophecies pertaining to Messiah relate to who he is and what he does as fully man and fully God. None more so than the following:
“For a child is born to us, a son is given to us. The government will rest on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. His government and its peace will never end. He will rule with fairness and justice from the throne of his ancestor David for all eternity. The passionate commitment of the Lord of Heaven’s Armies will make this happen!” (Isaiah 9:6-7).
As with all Scripture, there is reason for the syntax (sentence structure, order, and arrangement) of verses and passages, including this Messianic prophecy, written some 2,700 years ago.
A Child Born … A Son Given To Us
This amazing announcement through Isaiah of the coming Messiah begins with, “For a child is born to us…” This is not only a logical place to begin (birth), but even more so an affirmation of what other prophets had said and would say … that the Messiah would be a man. As opposed to an angel or merely some cosmic force that will awaken and assert itself at the end of days, hopefully to triumph over the forces of evil. If you’re wondering, then yes: That was a direct hit on the new Star Wars Movie, The Force Awakens! I’m sure it’s a great movie, but Messiah Jesus is our force. As God the Son, he neither slumbers nor sleeps. And, soon, he will spring into action!
After that little digression, we can get back to wishing everyone a Merry Christmas because this time of the year is, indeed, a wonderful remembrance of the Christ-child born to us so long ago. He was born in Bethlehem, Israel; not in a galaxy far, far away. But Jesus’s birth did originate from a conception never before and never again experienced. This miraculous birth was, indeed, the coming of the Messiah, “…whose origins are from the distant past” (Micah 5:2).
But we must not stop there, as many people do. We should not leave baby Jesus in the manager as though the only reason for celebrating Christmas is to remember his day of birth, glorious as it was. If we stop there, then we might as well not read the rest of Isaiah’s powerful prophecy that comes after, “For a child is born to us….”
Also notice to whom the child is born. He is born, “to us.” Every person on this earth ever born has worth and meaning, but that value as part of humanity is first and foremost to the person’s parents and family; not to or for the entire human race as such. Not so Messiah Yeshua. He was born to “us”; to all peoples of the world—past, present, and future.
Not only was the Christ-child born to and for the whole human race, Isaiah continues by saying, “…a son is given to us.” Throughout Scripture, Messiah is referred to as the Son of God, Son of David, and Son of Man; and, in terms of God’s timeless plan unfolding chronologically, in that order.
King David refers to Messiah as both man and God … the Son of God, David’s Lord. Specifically, see Psalm 2 and 110. For a detailed expansion of this magnificent truth, please see Eye of Prophecy articles entitled, Does God Really Have a Son, Part I & II, posted 10-31 & 11-7-15.
There are other Bible passages, both direct and implied, that Messiah would be divine, including the passage we’re examining in Isaiah. Through his spectacular return from the dead, Jesus proved beyond any doubt that he was the Son of God and God the Son (David’s Lord). Moreover, God’s Son was given to “us,” for a specific reason and purpose. (Such as found in John 3:16).
Scripture is also replete with evidence that the Messiah will be from tribe of Judah, specifically through the lineage of King David, thus the Son of David. Although Messiah, the Son of God, is from the ancient past (Micah), he would arrive on this earth from the Jewish nation—called out and set aside by God as a people through whom the Lord would bring Light into a world full of spiritual darkness.
Jesus the child grew up to be the Son of Man. He often referred to himself by this term, which further affirms that the Son is given to the entire human race. Son of Man is tantamount to Son of Mankind … Savior of the World. The implication is crystal clear: Jesus, the Son of Man is unique, exclusive, one of a kind. No other person has been fully man and fully God. No one else could possibly qualify to become God’s substitutionary sacrifice to satisfy the God imposed penalty and judgment for our sins. Yet this exclusive salvation, the one and only way to God, is inclusively available to all who believe and receive Jesus as their personal Savior.
From a child born to us and a son given to us, Isaiah’s sweeping prophecy that spans the ages of time fast forwards to, “the government will rest on his shoulders.” Scripture tells us (Old Testament looking ahead) that all nations of the earth would be given to Christ as his rightful inheritance. That he will exercise authority over the entire earth, and the world’s government (singular) will “rest on his shoulders.”
Wonderful Counselor, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace
Isaiah goes on to say that this son given to us, who will bear the welfare of all peoples of the earth on his shoulders, will be called (meaning that is who he is): “…Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6).
And, “He will rule with fairness and justice … for all eternity.” (Verse 7).
Isn’t that whom people all over the world are longing and hoping for? One man whose reign is supreme, but one who governs in justice, fairness, goodness, kindness, compassion; one whose reign will bring permanent peace to this earth. Not a despot or a group of “religious” anarchists that use terrorism as a means of subjugation and forced loyalty to a religion of death. Or other religions that offer no certainty of life after death or of one’s ultimate destiny.
Unlike Biblical salvation that says we can know beyond any doubt: “I have written this to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you may know you have eternal life” (I John 5:13).
The Son of God, Son of David, and Son of Man will be called Wonderful Counselor. That is exactly who he was and what he did during his brief time on this earth. His words of eternal life and everlasting truth were, indeed, wonderful, as were his many miracles of healing. He gave counsel that astonished even the elite religious leaders of his time; wisdom of which thousands who listened to him were in awe, both those who believed that he was the Messiah and those who did not believe. And he will do so again upon his glorious return; but this time as the Lion from the tribe of Judah, rather than the Lamb of God who willingly gave up his life for our sins.
Messiah Jesus is our Wonderful Counselor, but also the Mighty God. That title is what today’s Part III article will focus on because the Mighty or Almighty God is the title used in Scripture, especially the book of Revelation, Such as: “…Great and marvelous are your works, O Lord God, the Almighty. Just and true are your ways, O King of the nations” (Revelation 15:3).
After Mighty God, comes Everlasting Father which affirms Jesus’s declaration that he and his Father are one … his divinity. Though separate Persons in the magnificent Trinity, they are also One God. As Mighty God and King, Jesus will crush the ten-nation confederation led by the Antichrist and the vast armies of the Kings of the East in the final battle of Armageddon.
The last majestic title ascribed to Messiah (Jesus) is Prince of Peace. For that is exactly who he is and will be and what he will do after he wages a righteous war to rescue Israel from her enemies and the entire world from self-annihilation. As King of all kings, he will, indeed, be the Prince of Peace on earth throughout the Millennium and then all Eternity.
The Lord has many names, but two in particular portray his Omnipotence (all-powerful): El Elyon (Most High God) and El Shaddai (Almighty God). God has displayed his power throughout the ages when and where he chose, mostly through supernatural events that set aside the natural laws of physics. For example, the ten plagues against Egypt and Pharaoh. And the greatest miracle of all: Jesus resurrection from the dead.
As indicated in last week’s article, we need to fully comprehend that Jesus came into this world to declare the truth of God’s salvation (through Jesus, the ultimate Truth) and to destroy Satan’s kingdom of evil manifested through the wickedness present in the four corners of our planet. In its place will be the resplendent Kingdom of Heaven on earth.
That is why the longest message given by Jesus is the Sermon on the Mount which described all of the characteristics of the Kingdom of God (on earth) in great detail. This is the glorious Kingdom Age that will govern the earth during the Millennium. The second longest message given by Jesus comprises two lengthy chapters in Matthew’s Gospel (Chapters 24 & 25) in which he describes the signs and events directly preceding and then including the Tribulation.
For these reasons and because we are living in the last of the last days, this year’s Eye of Prophecy Christmas trilogy is focused on the terrorism so rampant throughout the world, almost exclusively at the hands of Islamic radicals. Yet, tacitly supported and condoned by mainstream Muslims. But also the terror that will terrorize the terrorists as a result of God’s judgment on those who: (1) persecute and kill Jews and Christians; and (2) all those who reject God’s gracious and everlasting life-giving redemption in and through Messiah Jesus.
Let’s examine some of the incredible catastrophes that will instill Holy Terror in the hearts and minds of unbelievers … those “who belong to the world.” Beginning with a verse quoted in the first two articles of this Eye of Prophecy trilogy, Terror, Terror, Terror!
“Then I looked, and I heard a single eagle crying loudly as it flew through the air, ‘Terror, terror, terror to all who belong to this world because of what will happen when the last three angels blow their trumpets’” (Revelation 8:13).
This astounding announcement to the entire world was made by an eagle, which takes place after the 4th trumpet judgment and immediately precedes the 5th, 6th, and 7th angelic trumpets. There’s no indication that the eagle is symbolic, as is the case with other images in the book of Revelation where metaphorical comparisons are made with words such as, (looked) like and as (though). But whether the eagle is real or a symbolic representation of say an airplane is not the issue. The fact remains that the Lord is warning the entire world that what has happened up to this point in the Great Tribulation will pale in comparison to what remains.
The eagle shouts this apocalyptic admonishment almost exactly half-way through the twenty-one catastrophes that the earth will experience from the seal, trumpet, and bowl judgements … of which there are seven each. I’m convinced that this global proclamation will track chronologically with the twenty-one judgments; it will occur approximately half-way through the Tribulation, with the last 3 ½ years experiencing the full wrath of Almighty God.
Let’s first look at the seven seal judgments.
The Seven Seals Are Broken
The seven seals of the heavenly scroll could only be opened by Christ Jesus. Because of who he is and what he has done for the whole world through his redemptive sacrifice on the cross, only he is qualified to break the seals and, by doing so, allow malevolent rulers and their armies to release the full measure of violence on the earth and rebellion against God.
“You are worthy to take the scroll and break its seals and open it. For you were slaughtered, and your blood has ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation. And you have caused them to become a Kingdom of priests for our God. And they will reign on the earth” (Revelation 5:9-10).
The first four seals are the most well-known: The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. As a direct result of treachery (false peace), then war, famine, destruction, and death never before seen on such a scale, approximately one-fourth of the earth’s population will perish. Moreover, this is man-made carnage.
The fifth seal is directly linked to the preceding four seals, in that it depicts Christian tribulation saints (Jew and Gentile), “who had been martyred for the word of God and for being faithful in their testimony” (Revelation 6:9).
The sixth seal results in a great earthquake (one of four catastrophic earthquakes during the Tribulation) in which, “…The sun became as dark as black cloth, and the moon became as red as blood … The sky was rolled up like a scroll, and all of the mountains and islands were moved from their places” (Revelation 6:12-14).
The seventh seal brings another mighty earthquake in which, “thunder crashed, lightning flashed…” (Revelation 8:5); but the seventh seal also signals the appointment of seven angels to blow the seven trumpets which is the next phenomenal phase of the Great Tribulation. By strong implication, this thunder and lightning will be the most dramatic display of lightning and thunder ever seen before. And it very well could be just what the order of the words state, i.e. thunder first, then lightning. To demonstrate that God has complete control over nature, to the extent of reversing the normal physics of: lightning first, then thunder. Every bit as extraordinary as the sun turning black and the moon blood-red.
However, for the most part, the seven seals and the first four trumpet calamities will be a combination of man-made disasters (war, famine, plagues) and natural disasters; albeit with unparalleled scope and severity dramatically and destructively heightened by the beginning of God’s supernatural intervention.
This conclusion is corroborated by the first four trumpets that will destroy and disrupt one-third of:
- Grass and trees of the entire earth set on fire (Revelation 8:7).
- Salt water in the oceans and seas turning to blood, killing one-third of ocean life and destroying one-third of the ships (Verses 8-9).
- Fresh water in rivers and springs supernaturally polluted (inland water), resulting in the death of many people from drinking the water (Verses 10-11).
- The light of the sun, moon, and stars darkened resulting in utter darkness for one-third of both day and night (Verse 12).
As terrible as these trumpets are, they are only a partial demonstration of God’s providential power, so identified by the numerical impact that only one-third of the earth, sun, and moon will be affected.
The seven seal and first four trumpet judgments will include all peoples to give them more than enough incentive and opportunity to choose the true Messiah, Jesus, over the false Messiah (Nero), even at the pain of death. Most of the tribulation saints will die in the carnage of the four horsemen and at the hands of Antichrist (Nero), and some in the trumpet (first four) disasters.
However, beginning with the fifth trumpet judgment, it’s clear that the shock and awe of what’s happened to date has worn off of those who, “belong to the world;” a phrase used several times in Revelation of the people who have hardened their hearts much like Pharaoh and most Egyptians prior to the Exodus. Despite the overwhelming evidence that God is directly intervening in the affairs of men, billions will still believe the lie that either Antichrist or their national leaders (kings of the East) will save them and usher in Utopia. Conversely, the vast majority of those who will bravely accept the true Messiah (Jesus) as Lord and Savior, will have already done so by this stage of the Tribulation.
Which is why the fifth trumpet judgment signals a dramatic shift in the nature and extent of what is to come. Which is also why God uses an (talking) eagle to get the attention of the entire globe. The triple Terror that is to come with the last three trumpets, followed by the unbelievable horror and destruction inflicted by the seven bowl judgments is beyond anything the most creative science fiction writer could ever imagine. For those left behind at the Rapture, it will be all too real.
The First Terror Begins
“Then the fifth angel blew his trumpet, and I saw a star that had fallen to earth from the sky, and he was given the key to the shaft of the bottomless pit” (Revelation 9:1). Time/space does not permit quoting the rest of the fifth trumpet passage, but the result was unimaginable pain caused by (what John metaphorically describes as) locusts that are clearly demons released from the Abyss—which is the same place from where the beast-king, the Roman Emperor Nero, will suddenly appear to the amazement of the world (Revelation 17:8).
The agonizing pain caused by the “sting” of these demons will torment for five months, “only the people who did not have the seal of God on their foreheads” (Revelation 9:4). Meaning the 144,000 Jews and the tribulation saints will not be touched by these demonic forces from the Abyss. However, unbelievers will, “…seek death but will not find it. They will long to die, but death will flee from them!” (Verse 6).
As we will read later, God avenges the blood of his people by spilling the blood of those who kill Jews and Christians, but this tormenting sting of death without dying is also God’s revenge on those who have persecuted and will literally torture God’s people before and during the Tribulation.
Yet, this is just a warm-up to what will happen next when the sixth trumpet is sounded.
The Second Terror Is Unleashed
Another demonic army numbering 200 million will be released to wreak incredible havoc and death on the earth. To the implausible extent that, “One-third of all the people on earth were killed by these three plagues—by the fire and smoke and burning sulfur…” (Revelation 9:18). As calculated in the Eye of Prophecy article, Shocking Statistics of the Great Tribulation, posted 6-6-15, this one-third will result in approximately 1.6 billion deaths. Although this massive catastrophe is permitted by God (to allow evil to run its course), it is not directly at the hand of God; rather it is straight from the gates of hell.
Once again we can reliably conclude that the vast majority of those killed are unbelievers for two reasons: (1) the fifth seal yielding the already stated premise that most tribulation Christians (who chose Messiah Jesus after the Rapture) will have already died or been killed by now.
(2) The fact that: “But the people who did not die in these plagues (meaning the 6th trumpet) still refused to repent of their evil deeds and turn to God … And they did not repent of their murders of their witchcraft or their sexual immorality or their thefts” (Revelation 9:20-21).
To further affirm the premise in last week’s article, the above verse unmistakably demonstrates one of the two reasons for God’s second world-wide judgment of mankind (the Great Flood being the first): Which is to eliminate evil and man-made terrorism, but also to give people the opportunity like never before to turn to God and his Messiah for salvation. Revelation Chapter 9 is the first of three times during the Great Tribulation that people refused to repent (change their minds about and toward God) because they loved the wickedness of their sins and rebellion.
When the seventh trumpet is blown initiating the third Terror, it is again directed toward unbelievers because it is a terror that will usher in and include the final seven bowl judgments that are also, as we will see, designed to punish those who continue their defiance of the true and living God and rejection of his Messiah.
The Third Terror Strikes
“The second terror is past, but look, the third terror is quickly coming. Then the seventh angel blew his trumpet, and there were loud voices shouting in heaven: ‘The world has now become the Kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he will reign forever and ever’” (Revelation 11:14-15).
And then, “…It is time to destroy all who have caused destruction on the earth” (Verse 18).
For the tribulation saints who have not yet died at the hands of Antichrist, this will be a time of great rejoicing and gratitude. They will shout with the host of heaven: “…We give thanks to you, Lord God, the Almighty, the one who is and who always was, for now you have assumed your great power and have begun to reign. The nations were filled with wrath, but now the time of your wrath has come…” (Revelation 11:17-18).
In the seventh trumpet judgment which begins the Third Terror, we have the third of four great earthquakes during the Tribulation, along with a “terrible hailstorm” (Revelation 11:19).
We see that the remaining bowl judgments are directed exclusively against the unbelievers, this time to specifically include Antichrist and his ten-nation coalition. Preceded by another trilogy of warnings that involves three mighty angels, with the first angel shouting to, “the people who belong to the world—to every nation, tribe, language, and people. ‘Fear God … Give glory to him. For the time has come when he will sit as judge…’” (Revelation 14:6-7).
The second angel shouting: “Babylon is fallen—that great city is fallen—because she made all the nations of the world drink the wine of her passionate immorality” (Verse 8). Please refer to Eye of Prophecy articles entitled, The Woman and the Beast I through VI, published October and November, 2013, for detailed information as to the identity of Babylon (the seat of Roman Catholicism in the great city of Rome). Refer also to Revelation 17 & 18.
The third angel shouting: “… Anyone who worships the beast and his statue or who accepts his mark … must drink the wine of God’s anger…” (Verses 9-10).
Finally the seven bowl judgments that exponentially expand the magnitude of God’s final wrath poured out on those who stubbornly refuse to listen to God’s global warnings, both verbally and by means of catastrophic disasters never before seen by mankind, nor ever will again. Briefly in order, the bowl judgments are:
- “…Horrible, malignant sores broke out on everyone who had the mark of the beast and who worshipped his statue” (Revelation 16:2).
- Everything in the sea dying … as opposed to just one-third in the trumpet judgment (Verse 3).
- Fresh (inland) waters becoming blood, but not just one-third of them. Once again we see this judgment executed against unbelievers, because an angel proclaims, “…You are just, O Holy One, who is and who always was, because you have sent these judgments. Since they shed the blood of your holy people and your prophets, you have given them blood to drink. It is their just reward” (Verses 5-6). Followed by, “Yes, O Lord God, the Almighty, your judgments are true and just” (Verse 7).
- A massive solar flare in which people were, “burned by this blast of heat.” But again, “…they cursed the name of God, who had control over all these plagues. They did not repent of their sins and turn to God and give him glory” (Verses 8-9).
- I’ll quote the fifth bowl judgment: “Then the fifth angel poured out his bowl on the throne of the beast, and his kingdom was plunged into darkness. His subjects ground their teeth in anguish, and they cursed the God of heaven for their pains and sores. But they did not repent of their evil deeds and turn to God” (Revelation 16:10-11).
- The sixth bowl judgment is that which precipitates and includes the final battle of the ages, when the rulers of the world (Kings of the east) join with Antichrist and the False Prophet to, “…battle against the Lord on that great judgment day of God the Almighty.” (Revelation 16:14). “And the demonic spirits gathered all the rulers and their armies to a place with the Hebrew name Armageddon” (Verse 16).
- The seventh and final of God’s judgments is the most awesome and destructive of all. It is so devastating as to literally boggle the mind, one that is incomprehensibly stunning in scope and severity. No movie ever made or picture painted or story told or song sung could adequately describe what will take place.
We must simply defer to the Bible, and do the best we can to grasp the enormity of it all.
Read with me:
“Then the seventh angel poured out his bowl into the air. And a mighty shout came from the throne in the Temple, saying, ‘It is finished!’ Then the thunder crashed and rolled, and lightning flashed. And a great earthquake struck—the worst since people were placed on the earth. The great city of Babylon split into three sections, and the cities of many nations fell into heaps of rubble. So God remembered all of Babylon’s sins, and he made her drink the cup that was filled with the wine of his fierce wrath. And every island disappeared, and all the mountains were leveled. There was a terrible hailstorm, and hailstones weighing seventy-five pounds fell from the sky onto the people below. They cursed God because of the terrible plague of the hailstorm” (Revelation 16:17-21).
Great cities all over the world reduced to rubble. Unthinkable!
Every island on earth swept under the sea by titanic tsunamis. Unimaginable!
Majestic mountains razed to the ground. Inconceivable!
Yet, what was it that caused the people who remained to once again curse God? None other than the hailstones! Which, by implication, exceeded the unfathomable devastation of this world-wide earthquake itself.
Things to Ponder
When an angel of the Lord suddenly appeared to the shepherds, “…the radiance of the Lord’s glory surrounded them. They were terrified, but the angel reassured them, ‘Don’t be afraid!’ he said. ‘I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people. The Savior—yes, the Messiah, the Lord—has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David!’” (Luke 2:9-11).
Indeed, a child has been born and a son has been given to us. The shepherds were terrified, but only because of the angel’s sudden dramatic appearance and the brilliance of the Lord’s glory that surrounded them. Immediately they were reassured and their terror was gone.
Not so with all those who sadly, ever so tragically, deny that Jesus is Messiah, Son of God, Son of David, Son of Man. Many will experience the terrible terror of the Tribulation, the eternal horror of dying in their sins without Messiah Jesus as their Savior.
Listen to the words of the angel Gabriel to the Virgin Mary:
“You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you will name him Jesus. He will be very great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his ancestor David. And he will reign over Israel forever; his Kingdom will never end!” (Luke 1:31-33). And, “…he will be called the Son of God” (Verse 35).
Soon, very soon those who know Messiah Jesus as personal Savior will shout with the host of heaven:
“…All glory to him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by shedding his blood for us. He has made us a Kingdom of priests for God his Father. All glory and power to him forever and ever! Amen.
“Look! He comes with the clouds of heaven. And everyone will see him—even those who pierced him. And all the nations of the world will mourn for him. Yes! Amen!” (Revelation 1:5-7).
Baruch haba beshem Adonai. (Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord).
“He (Jesus) who is the faithful witness to all these things says, ‘Yes, I am coming soon!’ “Amen! Come, Lord Jesus!” (Revelation 22:20).