Friday, January 04, 2008

Day 11: "All Flesh Will See the Salvation of God"

When "The 12 Days of Christmas" is sung, each verse adds the next day, and then all previous days are sung again. I started off yesterday's post (Day 10) with a short summary of the previous 9 days, and I refuse to sing them all again! (Which one of us is more grateful?) But Dorothy Day said of Peter Maurin, whom she credited as being the founder of the Catholic Worker movement, "He was the kind of teacher who believed in repetition, restatement, and the continual return to first principles." So permit me to repeat and restate a couple of first principles of Christmas.

Jesus came that first Christmas, according to the angel, "to save His people from their sins" (Matthew 1:21). This means leading people from darkness to light, from slavery to freedom, not just letting them in the pearly gates after a life of addiction to sin. And not just individuals, but nations (see the nations become a part of Zion in Psalm 87 and Micah 4:1-4). The very name Jesus comes from the Hebrew word yasha, a word which speaks throughout the Bible of a holistic, cultural, social and political peace and wholeness which is called (on this blog) "capitalism." The opposite is "socialism," a system of violence, poverty, and mass death. Christmas meant the end of the oppressive and debauched Roman Empire and eventually America, which the U.S. Supreme Court called "a Christian nation" in 1892. America's "experiment in liberty" made America the most prosperous nation in human history, while communism's 20th century experiment in central planning led to the deaths of hundreds of millions of human beings, and starvation and slavery for those left alive. America currently seems to want to abandon salvation and exchange it for socialism and a false savior-state. But as we will see in the next two days, God's people are streaming to zions in other hemispheres, and global Christmas is earth's future.

When John the Baptist appeared, he confirmed the message given by the Holy Spirit to Mary, Joseph, Zacharias, and Simeon, that the Lord was making His salvation known.

Luke 3:1-6
the word of God came to John, the son of Zacharias, in the wilderness.
And he came into all the district around the Jordan, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins; as it is written in the book of the words of Isaiah the prophet:
“The voice of one crying in the wilderness,
‘make ready the way of the lord,
make his paths straight.
‘every ravine will be filled,
and every mountain and hill will be brought low;
the crooked will become straight,
and the rough roads smooth;
and all flesh will see the salvation of god.’”

Luke says John fulfilled Isaiah’s prophecy of the “one crying in the wilderness,” and Isaiah’s prophecy that “all flesh would see the salvation of God” was also fulfilled. Most Christians today believe that Luke got it wrong: John could not possibly have fulfilled that prophecy, because “all flesh” did not see God’s Salvation. Luke should have stopped quoting Isaiah after the word “smooth.” Perhaps we should bring our interpretation of Isaiah in line with Luke’s.

If Mary, Joseph, Zacharias, Simeon, and other New Testament figures were to see our world, they would confess that they were seeing the salvation of the Lord.

We would correct those New Testament saints as they sang praises for what the Lord has done, telling them that things really aren’t that great, because we can see much room for improvement. But that’s because we’ve climbed up the mountain further than they had, and we can see more than they could see. They would see the end to the imperial brutality of an occupation army; we’re used to that. They would see an end to diseases that plagued mankind, and killed a majority of all infants; we’re used to that. We want to see problems solved that they couldn’t even see, because much greater problems were in their way.

How is it that the Lord’s Salvation has spread so far and been seen by so many? The answer can be seen in the Westminster Standards. Compared to creeds that were written a thousand years before, the Westminster Confession and Catechisms are richer, more mature, more detailed, more comprehensive. There is a greater display of the Righteousness of God in this modern creed compared with the more ancient creeds. And as mankind is exposed to the righteousness of God, we see the salvation of the Lord. Reflect on how America made the Westminster standards required reading in schools from the earliest grades to Yale and Harvard, and how they were made the official statement of belief for the colonies. When the righteousness of God is made public, society sees the Lord’s salvation. The removal of God’s Righteousness from schools has been unjustifiable.

The Proof of the Gospel”

Around A.D. 315, Eusebius, called the Bishop of Caesarea, wrote a work on the Gospels, proving that they fulfilled the Old Testament. Book Nine begins with these words:

It remains for me now to redeem my promise to go on to expound the dispensation connected with the Incarnation of the very Word of God. My previous labours in the eight books already completed have been concerned with Him. I have now devoted myself to tracing the Theology of His Person, now to considering His Descent to us from heaven, now His Character, His Name, and the time of His Advent. As the treatment of these subjects is complete, it is now time to consider the matters connected with His Coming, and to shew how these also were predicted among the Hebrews. And the fulfillment of the predictions shall be confirmed by the witness of the Holy Evangelists, and their historical account of the actual events

In chapter 5 of this book, Eusebius explains how John the Baptist fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah:

From Isaiah.
Of the Preaching of John in the Wilderness.

1 “Comfort, yes, comfort My people!”
Says your God.
2 “Speak comfort to Jerusalem, and cry out to her,
That her warfare is ended,
That her iniquity is pardoned;
For she has received from the Lord’s hand
Double for all her sins.”
3 The voice of one crying in the wilderness:
“Prepare the way of the Lord;
Make straight in the desert
A highway for our God.
4 Every valley shall be exalted
And every mountain and hill brought low;
The crooked places shall be made straight
And the rough places smooth;
5 The glory of the Lord shall be revealed,
And all flesh shall see it together;
For the mouth of the Lord has spoken.”

Isaiah 40
This prophecy too was necessarily to be fulfilled in the times of our Saviour. And according to the Evangelist Luke, in the fifteenth year of Tiberius Caesar, when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judaea, and those numbered with him, the Word of God came to John, the son of Zachariah, in the wilderness, “And he went into all the country around Jordan, preaching the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins.” To this the evangelist adds the witness, saying, “As it is written in the books of the words of Isaiah the prophet, ‘The Voice of One crying in the wilderness, Prepare the way of the Lord,’” and that which follows. What then did John’s voice shout in its preaching in the wilderness, but an invitation to the crowds that came out to be baptized by him, as to reptiles of the wilderness, akin to his “generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come? “And he changed too the crooked souls into straight, and the rough roads into smooth by saying to them, “Bring forth therefore fruits meet for repentance.” And this was fulfilled when John had prepared them to behold the glory of the Lord, and what is called “the salvation of our God,” which is the Christ, as he bore witness, saying:

“I indeed baptize you with water, but there cometh one after me that is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear: He shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost and with fire.”
Who also seeing Jesus coming cried:
“Behold, the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world: This is he of whom I spake, a man cometh after me, who was before me.”
And Symeon also bare witness that the same Jesus was “the salvation of God,” who took Him in his arms when He was still an infant, and said:
“Now thou art letting thy servant, O Lord, depart in peace, according to thy word: For mine eyes have seen thy salvation, which thou hast prepared before the face of all people, a light to lighten the Gentiles.”
With which the prophet agrees, saying, “And all flesh shall see the salvation of God.” For “all flesh” stands for “all the nations.” And I need not say this was fulfilled, and that all nations knew the Christ of God. Such was the literal fulfillment of the prophecy.

But why did John go forth to preach in the wilderness, and not in cities, or in Jerusalem itself? It might be answered that he did so in fulfillment of the prophecy. But a critical questioner will at once inquire, what this prophecy meant to teach when it spoke of the wilderness and the things to do with it. And I should reply to him that it is a symbol of the destruction of Jerusalem, and the Altar there, and of the Mosaic worship, because the forgiveness of sins was no longer extended to them by the legal sacrifices, but by the cleansing and washing delivered to her that was before thirsty and deserted; I mean the Gentile Church, in which also the prophetic voice bids to prepare the way of the Lord, foretelling that the souls which are lying deep in sin as in a valley will be raised up, and that the old heights of Jerusalem, and of her rulers and kings, called “mountains and hills,” shall be laid low, which being completed, he says, “All flesh shall see the salvation of God,” meaning every soul united with a body, both Greek and Barbarian, of every nation without exception, and this is seen to have been fulfilled according to the prophecy.

The reason why “all flesh” (that is, all nations) could see the Salvation of God is because Christmas meant that the nations were no longer under Satan’s dominion. In the Old Testament, Israel was God’s chosen people. But in the New Testament, every nation under heaven (which should be understood in terms of the original 70 nations in Genesis 10 from which all humanity has descended) is chosen to see the Salvation of the Lord. There are now Christians in every nation. Christianity, beginning with a handful of disciples, now has a truly global reach. The promises of Christmas have been fulfilled, and our task today is to live in terms of that reality. Though generally the world’s knowledge of Christianity has increased over the centuries, every individual and every family passes through seasons of temptation and must continue to “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 3:18), and this knowledge needs to be handed down to each new human being who is born. This on-going responsibility is a different task than that which confronted the first disciples.

The Old Testament describes how all nations were overseen by demonic “guardians.” But the New Testament shows Christ being given authority over all nations (Matthew 28:18-20). The promises of Christmas came to pass because Christ bound the strong man. This was one of the first prophecies of Christmas in the Bible: in the Garden of Eden the Lord had promised that the Christmas Messiah would crush the serpent.

Genesis 3
14 So the Lord God said to the serpent:
“Because you have done this,
You are cursed more than all cattle,
And more than every beast of the field;
On your belly you shall go,
And you shall eat dust
All the days of your life.
15 And I will put enmity
Between you and the woman,
And between your seed and her Seed;
He shall bruise your head,
And you shall bruise His heel.”

The New Testament emphatically declares that Jesus of Nazareth dealt Satan a death-blow, terminating his power over the nations. The saints are even now tightening the chains. This is how we know the Kingdom was established: we see the binding of Satan. Let’s look at it:

Christ’s Victory Over the Serpent
Even during Christ’s life on earth, Satan and his henchmen knew that the jig was up, and relished every last minute of freedom. Some particularly fierce demons (Matthew 8:29) even hoped to persuade Jesus that He had come too soon:

And behold, they cried out, saying, What have we to do with thee, Jesus, thou Son of God? Art thou come hither to torment us before the time?

Some of the people who saw Jesus’ power over the demons were going to accuse Him of casting out the demons by the power of Satan:

And Jesus knew their thoughts and said unto them, Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation; and every city or house divided against itself shall not stand: And if Satan cast out Satan he is divided against himself; how shall then his kingdom stand? But if I cast out devils by the Spirit of God, then the Kingdom of God is come unto you. Or else how can one enter into a strong man’s house, and spoil his goods, except he first bind the strong man? and then he will spoil his house.
Matthew 12:25-29

Since this was obviously an exhibition of the power of the Holy Spirit, not of Satan, then according to verse 28 the Kingdom of Christ had at that time come. Indeed, for Satan and his thugs, the time had come: the strong man was being bound and his house readied for spoiling:

Now is the judgment of this world: now shall the prince of this world be cast out. And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto Me.” This He said, signifying what death He should die
John 12:31-33

That through death He might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil.
Hebrews 2:14

All people can now reign with Christ because Jesus in His triumph over death has rendered Satan impotent to deceive the nations; those demons and powers that held sway over the empires, nations, and kingdoms of the Old World Order have been spoiled, making room for the Kingdom of Christ:

And having spoiled principalities and powers, He made a show of them openly, triumphing over them.
Colossians 2:15

In His victory over the Principalities and Powers, Christ inaugurated His messianic reign, in which the saints are personally victorious in Him. We now press for open, public acknowledgement of the success Christmas, and official repudiation of the Old Regime. Violent and selfish habits die hard.

The Saints’ Victory over the Serpent
The reign of Christ in His Kingdom and the power of Christ over Satan and his pseudo-kingdom is extended by His saints. The battle between the seed of the woman and the seed of the serpent (Genesis 3:15-16) is more than just a battle between the Person of Christ and the person of Satan. It is a battle between their descendants. Just as Satan would “lick the dust,” so would his descendants:

And the nations shall see and be confounded at all their might: they shall lick the dust like a serpent. . . .
Micah 7:17

And just as the seed of the woman would bind the serpent so would those who are in Christ and reign with Him:

And if ye be Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.
Galatians 3:29

And the God of peace shall bruise Satan under your feet shortly.
Romans 16:20

The saints of God should therefore be aware of their power over the Devil:

And the seventy returned again with great joy, saying, Lord, even the devils are subject unto us through thy Name. And He said unto them, I beheld Satan as lightning fall from the sky. Behold I give unto you power to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall by any means hurt you.
Luke 10:17-20

Greater is He that is in you than he that is in the world.
1 John 4:4; cf. Ephesians 2:2

The saints should thus be active in extending Christ’s reign, replacing the so-called “New World Order” with Micah's "Vine & Fig Tree" vision, dethroning the prince of the Old World’s powers. Yet when the task is completed, all the glory will be His, not ours:

Then cometh the end, when He shall have delivered up the Kingdom to God, even the Father; when He shall have put down all rule and authority and power. For He must reign till He hath put all enemies under His feet.
1 Corinthians 15:24-25

The honor which the saints have of executing Christ’s judgment (cf. Psalm 149:4-9) is the work of the Holy Spirit:

Nevertheless I tell you the truth, it is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send Him unto you. And when He is come, He will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment . . . because the prince of this world is judged.
John 16:7-8,11

Thus is Satan bound, and thus “the kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ; and He shall reign for ever and ever” (Revelation 11:15).

Although the disciples were all stunned when Jesus was executed by the Empire, we should not be. The prophets foretold it. Everything in Jesus’ life went exactly as planned. All the Christmas prophecies were fulfilled.

By His Power over demons, Jesus indicated that Satan was being bound. This binding was a first-century event:

Matthew 12:29
Or how can one enter a strong man’s house and plunder his goods, unless he first binds the strong man? And then he will plunder his house.

Luke 10:18
And He said to them, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven.

Luke 11:17-22
But He, knowing their thoughts, said to them: “Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation, and a house divided against a house falls. 18 If Satan also is divided against himself, how will his kingdom stand? Because you say I cast out demons by Beelzebub. 19 And if I cast out demons by Beelzebub, by whom do your sons cast them out? Therefore they will be your judges. 20 But if I cast out demons with the finger of God, surely the kingdom of God has come upon you. 21 When a strong man, fully armed, guards his own palace, his goods are in peace. 22 But when a stronger than he comes upon him and overcomes him, he takes from him all his armor in which he trusted, and divides his spoils.

Mark 1:24 saying, “Let us alone! What have we to do with You, Jesus of Nazareth? Did You come to destroy us? I know who You are—the Holy One of God!”

Revelation 12:10-12 Then I heard a loud voice saying in heaven, “Now salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of His Christ have come, for the accuser of our brethren, who accused them before our God day and night, has been cast down. 11 And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, and they did not love their lives to the death. 12 Therefore rejoice, O heavens, and you who dwell in them! Woe to the inhabitants of the earth and the sea! For the devil has come down to you, having great wrath, because he knows that he has a short time.”

Revelation 20:1-4 Then I saw an angel coming down from heaven, having the key to the bottomless pit and a great chain in his hand. 2 He laid hold of the dragon, that serpent of old, who is the Devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years; 3 and he cast him into the bottomless pit, and shut him up, and set a seal on him, so that he should deceive the nations no more till the thousand years were finished. But after these things he must be released for a little while. 4 And I saw thrones, and they sat on them, and judgment was committed to them. Then I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for their witness to Jesus and for the word of God, who had not worshiped the beast or his image, and had not received his mark on their foreheads or on their hands. And they lived and reigned with Christ for the thousand years.

Through the death (execution) of Christ, Satan was judged in the first century.

John 12:31-33
Now is the judgment of this world; now the ruler of this world will be cast out. 32 And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all peoples to Myself.” 33 This He said, signifying by what death He would die.

John 14:30
I will no longer talk much with you, for the ruler of this world is coming, and he has nothing in Me.

John 16:11 of judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged.

In His Resurrection and Ascension, Christ was enthroned, and the power which Satan and his host formerly held over the nations has been transferred to Christ.

Matthew 28:18-20 18 And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen.

Luke 10:18 And He said to them, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven.

Luke 11:17-22

Colossians 2:15
Having disarmed principalities and powers, He made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them in it.

Psalm 68:18
You have ascended on high,
You have led captivity captive;
You have received gifts among men,
Even from the rebellious,
That the Lord God might dwell there.

Ephesians 4:8
Therefore He says:
“When He ascended on high,
He led captivity captive,
And gave gifts to men.”

Hebrews 2:14
Inasmuch then as the children have partaken of flesh and blood, He Himself likewise shared in the same, that through death He might destroy him who had the power of death, that is, the devil,

1 John 3:8
He who sins is of the devil, for the devil has sinned from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that He might destroy the works of the devil.

1 John 4:4
You are of God, little children, and have overcome them, because He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world.

Genesis 3:15
And I will put enmity
Between you and the woman,
And between your seed and her Seed;
He shall bruise your head,
And you shall bruise His heel.”

Romans 16:20 And the God of peace will crush Satan under your feet shortly.

Thus, at the first Christmas, the world changed from darkness to light. We are now to be the light of the world.

Tomorrow: Just as Jesus was anointed King, we are anointed to serve as kings and priests under Christ. We are used by Christ to bring salvation to the world: global capitalism.

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