Thursday, December 27, 2007

Day 3: The Birth of the Anti-King

On a routine trip to the doctor today I found the front office staff all wearing festive "Happy New Year" party hats. Probably most Americans have already forgotten about Christmas, unless they're still picking tinsel and glitter out of the carpet. Only a handful of people are observing "The 12 Days of Christmas," and nobody is trying to draw parallels between Christmas and libertarianism.

Except us, of course. And instead of using this "Third Day of Christmas" to talk about "three french hens," we're going to talk about an Anarchist King.

Speaking of doctors, we're going to begin looking at a prophecy recorded in Dr. Luke's Gospel, that of John the Baptist's father, Zechariah. Here is how Luke records the announcement of the birth of John:

Luke 1:5 There was in the days of Herod, the king of Judea, a certain priest named Zacharias, of the division of Abijah. His wife was of the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth. 6 And they were both righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless. 7 But they had no child, because Elizabeth was barren, and they were both well advanced in years. 8 So it was, that while he was serving as priest before God in the order of his division, 9 according to the custom of the priesthood, his lot fell to burn incense when he went into the temple of the Lord. 10 And the whole multitude of the people was praying outside at the hour of incense. 11 Then an angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing on the right side of the altar of incense. 12 And when Zacharias saw him, he was troubled, and fear fell upon him. 13 But the angel said to him, “Do not be afraid, Zacharias, for your prayer is heard; and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall call his name John. 14 And you will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth. 15 For he will be great in the sight of the Lord, and shall drink neither wine nor strong drink. He will also be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother’s womb. 16 And he will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God. 17 He will also go before Him in the spirit and power of Elijah, ‘to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children,’ and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.”

Zechariah was obviously a devout Jew, even a priest. Six months later, when John was born, Zechariah was filled with the Spirit and prophesied of the new King, Jesus:

Luke 1
68 “Blessed is the Lord God of Israel,
For He has visited and redeemed His people,
69 And has raised up a horn of salvation for us
In the house of His servant David,
70 As He spoke by the mouth of His holy prophets,
Who have been since the world began,
71 That we should be saved from our enemies
And from the hand of all who hate us,
72 To perform the mercy promised to our fathers
And to remember His holy covenant,
73 The oath which He swore to our father Abraham:
74 To grant us that we,
Being delivered from the hand of our enemies,
Might serve Him without fear,
75 In holiness and righteousness before Him all the days of our life.
76 “And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Highest;
For you will go before the face of the Lord to prepare His ways,
77 To give knowledge of salvation to His people
By the remission of their sins,
78 Through the tender mercy of our God,
With which the Dayspring from on high has visited us;
79 To give light to those who sit in darkness and the shadow of death,
To guide our feet into the way of peace.”

Zechariah, familiar with the Old Testament Scriptures, sees in that first Christmas the fulfillment of those themes and promises. In the next couple of days we're going to focus on these:
• "The House of David"
• "His Holy Prophets"
• "Saved from our Enemies"
• "His Holy Covenant to Abraham"
• "Serving in Holiness and Righteousness"
• "The Way of Peace"
Together these themes give us a picture of the libertarian Kingdom of Christ, a Kingdom rejected by the religious leaders at the time of the first Christmas, just as their ancestors rejected it in the days of Samuel, and as "premillennialists" of the "Religious Right" reject it today.

This Kingdom is not a purely "spiritual" or "private" Kingdom, as Herod understood, as evidenced by his attempt to assassinate Jesus the Child-King. If King Jesus has His way, it's the end of business-as-usual for all earthly kings. Jesus is not a king like all the other kings. But He claims jurisdiction over the same social, political, military, and economic issues that earthly kings, presidents, prime minsters, and dictators-for-life claim to manage "for the people."

"The House of David"
At the first Christmas, the religious leaders and the people were expecting the arrival of the Messiah, but they were not expecting a Messiah who would also be a “suffering servant.” The concept of Christ’s Kingship was completely misunderstood by the Jews in His day, and is widely misunderstood in our day. Many in our day hold the same anti-Scriptural views that were held by those in Christ’s day, who rejected the Christ of the prophets and desired instead a rival Emperor and an army of armed shock-troops to violently overthrow the Roman Empire and an army of bureaucrats to establish another top-down empire––with themselves at the top, of course. They really didn’t want an end to all injustice and oppression; they hoped that the oppressors (Rome) and the oppressed (Israel) would simply change places. They wanted to do to their conquerors as their conquerors had done to them. And they wanted a king much like those of the demonic empires that had dominated human history up to that time. When they attempted to make Jesus the kind of king that would rule them from an earthly throne, He fled them (John 6:15).

From the beginning, God accommodated the hard hearts of Israel. They never wanted the kind of King God promised to be (Isaiah 33:22). They wanted a king “like all the nations” (1 Samuel 8), and God gave them a better king than they deserved. But when it came time for them to choose the man who would be king, they did not even choose David himself:

7 But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not look at his appearance or at his physical stature, because I have refused him. For the Lord does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” 8 So Jesse called Abinadab, and made him pass before Samuel. And he said, “Neither has the Lord chosen this one.”
1 Samuel 16:7-8

And in the eyes of those living at the first Christmas, Jesus was even less kingly than David:

He has no form or comeliness; And when we see Him,
There is no beauty that we should desire Him.
He is despised and rejected by men,
A Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief.
And we hid, as it were, our faces from Him;
He was despised, and we did not esteem Him.
Isaiah 53:2-3

But Jesus was the King promised by God's prophets in the Old Testament. Jesus was the heir of David’s Throne.

Read those two sentences again. They are truly momentous. Quite possibly, a majority of Christians today don’t believe this to be the true message of Christmas.

The Angel told Mary:

He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Highest; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David. And He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of His kingdom there will be no end.”
Luke 1:32-33

This is a reference to many prophecies in the Old Testament. One of the most important issues in Christian thought today is whether Jesus fulfilled these promises. Stated another way, Did the Jews correctly interpret the Old Testament prophets when they rejected Christ as their King? They expected a certain type of king. Were their expectations Scriptural? Millions of Christians today have these same expectations.

Christ’s Kingship Foretold
King David was told that his was not true Kingship; rather, one of his descendants would be established as the True King:

11 And it shall be, when your days are fulfilled, when you must go to be with your fathers, that I will set up your seed after you, who will be of your sons; and I will establish his kingdom. 12 He shall build Me a house, and I will establish his throne forever. 13 I will be his Father, and he shall be My son; and I will not take My mercy away from him, as I took it from him who was before you. 14 And I will establish him in My house and in My kingdom forever; and his throne shall be established forever.
1 Chronicles 17:11-14; see also 2 Samuel 7:12,13

The Psalmist sang,

The Lord hath sworn in truth unto David; He will not turn from it; Of the fruit of thy body will I set upon thy throne.
Psalm 132:11

This descendant is also called the Branch, a stem out of the root of Jesse (David’s father):

5 “Behold, the days are coming,” says the Lord,
“ That I will raise to David a Branch of righteousness;
A King shall reign and prosper,
And execute judgment and righteousness in the earth.
6 In His days Judah will be saved,
And Israel will dwell safely;
Now this is His name by which He will be called:
The Lord Our Righteousness.
Jeremiah 23:5-6

“For thus says the Lord: ‘David shall never lack a man to sit on the throne of the house of Israel; 18 nor shall the priests, the Levites, lack a man to offer burnt offerings before Me, to kindle grain offerings, and to sacrifice continually.’” Jeremiah 33:17-18

That last prophecy is very important. The Protestant Reformation emphasized a neglected Scriptural doctrine called “The Priesthood of All Believers.” In contrast to the Roman Catholic Church, with its sacerdotal priesthood and sacraments, the Reformation returned to the New Testament declaration that all believers are a new priesthood, building a new House, that is, a new Temple:

4 Coming to Him as to a living stone, rejected indeed by men, but chosen by God and precious, 5 you also, as living stones, are being built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. 6 Therefore it is also contained in the Scripture, “Behold, I lay in Zion
A chief cornerstone, elect, precious,
And he who believes on Him will by no means be put to shame.”
7 Therefore, to you who believe, He is precious; but to those who are disobedient,
”The stone which the builders rejected
Has become the chief cornerstone,”
8 and
“A stone of stumbling
And a rock of offense.”
They stumble, being disobedient to the word, to which they also were appointed. 9 But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; 10 who once were not a people but are now the people of God, who had not obtained mercy but now have obtained mercy. (1 Peter 2:4-10)

This whole concept was rejected by the guardians of the old temple, those who carried out the old sacrifices. They preferred “The Priesthood of Some Believers.”

Here’s the million-dollar Christmas question (and it really is worth millions of dollars, if only because best-selling fiction is based on the wrong answer): Is Jesus the final High Priest, are believers a “House,” a spiritual temple, and was Christ’s sacrifice on Calvary the final shedding of propitiatory blood in human history? Millions of Christians have bought millions of copies of books on prophecy which suggest that God is going to re-build the Old Testament temple and re-establish Levitical animal sacrifices. What does this say about the sufficiency of Christ’s work?

Obviously these are “leading questions,” and if you’re uncomfortable with where they lead, that’s understandable. But please accept the challenge to rethink your answers like the Bereans did, searching the Scriptures daily to find out the most Biblical answer (Acts 17:11).

The Protestant Reformers and the authors of the Westminster Confession believed that the Babe born in Bethlehem was this prophesied King. The most famous of all Christmas Carols and oratorios proclaim the Kingship of Jesus.

6 For unto us a Child is born, Unto us a Son is given;
And the government will be upon His shoulder.
And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
7 Of the increase of His government and peace
There will be no end,
Upon the throne of David and over His kingdom,
To order it and establish it with judgment and justice
From that time forward, even forever.
The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this.

Isaiah 9:6-7

which He promised before through His prophets in the Holy Scriptures, 3 concerning His Son Jesus Christ our Lord, who was born of the seed of David according to the flesh,
Romans 1:2-32

“I, Jesus, have sent My angel to testify to you these things in the churches. I am the Root and the Offspring of David, the Bright and Morning Star.”
Revelation 22:16

Most of the New Testament was written by Jewish writers to a Jewish audience, and all this talk about "the House of David" is driving home the claim that Jesus is the promised New King David.

"His Holy Prophets"
We have two very different views of the Kingdom of God in conflict. The Jewish majority always had a distorted view of the Kingdom. But there was always a remnant that was faithful. The prophets spoke for this remnant, looking forward to Christmas in Jesus’ day (John 8:56; Matt 13:17; Heb 11:13). Again, this is not how the Jews of Jesus’ day saw it. They rejected a Kingdom which made progress by suffering and peace-without-strength,

which God has spoken by the mouth of all His holy prophets since the world began. Yes, and all the prophets, from Samuel and those who follow, as many as have spoken, have also foretold these days.
Acts 3:21,24

The New Testament quotes the Old Testament prophets over and over again. Nothing could be clearer than the attempt by the writers of the New Testament to claim that Jesus fulfilled Old Testament prophecies about Davidic Kingship.
The most frequently-quoted prophecy in the New Testament is Psalm 110:

1 The Lord said unto my Lord, Sit thou at my right hand, until I make thine enemies thy footstool. 4 The Lord hath sworn, and will not repent, Thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchizedek.

Jesus is not only the Christmas King, but also Priest. How can Christians believe that Christ is their Priest without also believing that He is their King? In fact, the very word “Christ” means “anointed King.” "Jesus Christ" is not a name like "Bob Smith." It's a title: Jesus the King. Is Jesus really the Christ, the Messiah, the world-ruler? According to the New Testament writers, yes.

“But Jesus is not on David’s throne in Jerusalem,” some will say. “And what about His enemies, like Osama bin Laden? Surely it’s obvious that Jesus will not really be the Christ until He comes again in great glory.”

This question is huge. It is not only an important theological question, but it has significant impact on our nation’s foreign policy, which has been influenced by tens of millions of voters who hold certain ideas about prophecy and the Middle East. Billions of dollars and billions of lives, literally, are at stake in understanding the Biblical answer to these questions.

Let’s first look at how the New Testament answers these questions. If nothing else, the New Testament answer is consistent, but not necessarily clear to those who have been raised hearing another answer.

Jesus is everywhere in the New Testament spoken of as the Christ, that is, the King spoken of by the prophets. This is the central theme of Christmas.
The Wise Men from the east knew this:

saying, “Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we have seen His star in the East and have come to worship Him.”
Matthew 2:2

The Angel told Mary,

He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Highest; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David.
Luke 1:32

Zecharias, filled with the Holy Spirit, said:

And has raised up a horn [symbol of a powerful ruler] of salvation for us In the house of His servant David,
Luke 1:69

The shepherds were told

For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.
Luke 2:11

His disciples believed that Jesus was the One foretold by the Prophets, and Jesus did not tell them they were wrong:

Nathanael answered and said to Him, “Rabbi, You are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!”
John 1:49

In fact, Jesus often criticized the disciples for not believing everything that was said about Him:

50 Jesus answered and said to him, “Because I said to you, ‘I saw you under the fig tree,’ do you believe? You will see greater things than these.” 51 And He said to him, “Most assuredly, I say to you, you shall see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man.”

Jesus was willing to ride into Jerusalem and perpetuate this belief:

saying: “‘Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord!’
Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!”
Luke 19:38

“Tell the daughter of Zion,
‘Behold, your King is coming to you,
Lowly, and sitting on a donkey,
A colt, the foal of a donkey.’”
Matthew 21:5, Zechariah 9:9

took branches of palm trees and went out to meet Him, and cried out:
‘Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!’
The King of Israel!”

John 12:13

Blessed is the kingdom of our father David That comes in the name of the Lord!Hosanna in the highest!”
Mark 11:10

Jesus outraged the Jewish leadership with His Kingly claims to being the Christ, which they saw as blasphemous:

And the high priest answered and said to Him, “I put You under oath by the living God: Tell us if You are the Christ, the Son of God!” 64 Jesus said to him, “It is as you said. And I say to you, you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Power, and coming on the clouds of heaven.” 65 Then the high priest tore his clothes, saying, “He has spoken blasphemy! What further need do we have of witnesses? Look, now you have heard His blasphemy! 66 What do you think?” They answered and said, “He is deserving of death.”
Matthew 26:63-66, and Mark 14:62, Luke 22:69

Pilate therefore said to Him, “Are You a king then?” Jesus answered, “You say rightly that I am a king. For this cause I was born, and for this cause I have come into the world, that I should bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice.”
John 18:37

Jason has harbored them, and these are all acting contrary to the decrees of Caesar, saying there is another king—Jesus.”
Acts 17:7

For He must reign till He has put all enemies under His feet.
1 Corinthians 15:25

Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, to God who alone is wise, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.
1 Timothy 1:17

Now this is the main point of the things we are saying: We have such a High Priest, who is seated at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens,
Hebrews 8:1

But His Kingdom does not derive its power from the political machinery of the old world, He does not administer justice from any earthly throne in the capitol of any nation, nor does He claim any one nation as “His nation” (John 18:35-36). This is probably what confuses many people. They believe that if Jesus is going to “rule,” He must be physically located in Washington, D.C., or on a literal throne in Jerusalem. That's where real power is wielded, after all.

It should have been obvious to everyone who had read the Old Testament that Christ’s Kingship would be very very different from the kingship that began in 1 Samuel 8, and in fact, it was obvious, but the politically-minded, unspiritual, power-hungry Jewish hierarchy suppressed this knowledge and eventually assassinated the Christmas Child. Because of this self-deception, the people of Jesus’ day did not understand how kingship could be exercised without resorting to intimidation, violence, and coercion, and it was necessary to repeat continually that this Jesus, born of a peasant virgin, was indeed the Christ, the Son of David, the Promised King (Matthew 9:27; 12:23; 15:22; 20:30-32; 21:9,15; Matthew 22:42-45 + Mark 12:35-37; Mark 10:47-48; 11:10; Luke 1:32,69; 18:38-39; 20:41-47; John 7:41-42; Acts 13:23; 15:15-16; Romans 1:3-4; 2 Timothy 2:8; Hebrews 12:2; Revelation 3:7; 5:5; 22:16).

Christ’s accession to the Davidic throne is at the heart of the Christmas message, and was at the heart of Peter’s sermon on the Day of Pentecost. When David prophesied of the coming King Who would sit on his throne, he had in mind the Resurrection and Ascension of Christ to the heavenly throne, which is called “the right hand of power” (Mark 14:62), and not to any finite, earthly throne in Jerusalem –– or in Washington D.C. As Peter explained:

Men and brethren, let me freely speak unto you of the patriarch David, that he is both dead and buried, and his sepulchre is with us unto this day. Therefore, being a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him that of the fruit of his loins, according to the flesh, He would raise up Christ to sit on his throne; he seeing this before spake of the resurrection of Christ. . . . This Jesus hath God raised up, whereof we are all witnesses. Therefore being by the right hand of God exalted, and having received of the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, He hath shed forth this, which ye now see and hear. For David is not ascended into the heavens: but he saith himself,
“The LORD said unto my Lord,
sit thou on my right hand
until I make thy foes thy footstool.”
Therefore, let all the House of Israel know assuredly, that God hath made that same Jesus, whom ye have crucified, both Lord and Christ.
Acts 2:29-36

The writers of the New Testament wanted to make sure it was clear to their readers that Jesus was the Christ foretold by the Old Testament prophets.

That the Messiah now sits at the right hand of God (the position of True Power and Might) is claimed of Jesus again and again in the New Testament (Matthew 26:64; Mark 16:19; Luke 22:69; Acts 7:55-56; Romans 8:34; Ephesians 1:20; Colossians 3:1; Hebrews 1:3-13; 8:1; 10:22; 12:2). This is clearly the fulfillment of Psalm 110, and is said to be so in Peter’s sermon on Pentecost.
The very term “Christ” means “Anointed King,” and for His co-conspirators to claim that Jesus was the Christ was a dangerous political act (Acts 17:7). Can any true Christian claim that Jesus is not the Christ, the Anointed King?

“But what about Osama and the commies?” you ask, still unconvinced. “Isn’t the ‘millennial reign of Christ’ a time without troubles, responsibilities, challenges, or enemies of any kind?”

We’ll look at that question on the 4th day of "The 12 Days of Liberty." We’ll also look at these other themes from Zechariah's prophecy:
• "His Holy Covenant to Abraham"
• "The Way of Peace"
• “Serving in Holiness and Righteousness.”
We'll see that Christmas means working today for a global libertarianism.

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