With Christmas days away, I want to do a study on the birth of Christ. In our recent Sunday School lessons, we have already been looking at the coming birth of Christ. What I want to do in this week’s study is go as deep as we can in this study about the birth of Christ; from the prophecies, to the genealogy, and the reason for His birth. At the end, we will even speculate when Christ was born.
Birth of Christ Foreordained
In his first letter, Peter wrote, “[Christ] was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you (1 Pet. 1:20) …” Foreordained: to be destined or ordained in advance. So, Christ, Peter said, was destined or ordained before the foundation of the world.
Before the foundation of the earth
When I think about “the foundation” of the world, my thoughts instantly goes back to what God asked Job. In the book of Job, Job had been questioning God as he was going through his time of grief so the Lord responded to Job with questions of His own (Job 38:1-7).
4 “Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth? Tell Me, if you have understanding.Job 38:4-5 NKJV
5 Who determined its measurements? Surely you know! Or who stretched the [a]line upon it?
Note: The foundation of the earth, is the same as the foundations of the world – this speaks about the foundation (or beginning) creation itself. So, Peter’s statement was that Christ was preordained before creation.
Questions, again, can arise from such a thought. We could ask did God know that His Son would need to save the world from sin before He created it? Did the Lord know that mankind would fall to sin before He created mankind?
The answer to this question is actually quite simple. What you and I have to remember about the Lord is that God is all knowing – He is omniscient. The Lord being all knowing would mean that He knows the potential outcome to an unlimited number. So, the Lord knows what you and I are capable of doing to an unlimited degree; this was true for mankind.
Does this mean that God created mankind to sin? Absolutely not. When God created mankind, all distinct persons of God – the Father, Son, Holy Spirit – said “let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness (Gen. 1:26).” God is perfect, and when God completed His creation He said that it was very good (Gen. 1:31). When mankind was created in Adam and Eve, it did not know sin; it was without fault – it was perfect.
The reason for Christ
Why do you think God desired to make mankind in His image and likeness? The answer is because God desired to dwell with mankind; God, we should understand, will only dwell with those that are like Him. God will not dwell with anything that opposes Him and His way; the devil is proof of this thought.
Something that we have to remember about sin is that sin existed the very moment that Satan turned against the way of God in his heart (Ezek. 28:14-16). Satan’s turn against the Lord happened in heaven; in fact, Satan turning against the way of God led to the war in heaven between Satan and his forces vs Michael and the angels that stood with God. (Is. 14:12-15; Rev. 12:7-9).
Though sin was clearly present within Satan and the angels that fell with him, there was no sin in His creation. Sin did not corrupt God’s creation until after man fell for the deception of Satan in the garden. Again, God did not create mankind to sin, but because He knows all potential outcomes, we could say He knew the potential. Even knowing this potential, God gave mankind the freedom to choose to be obedient or disobey His rule in the garden (Gen. 2:15-17).
Note: Christ was foreordained for the very reason that mankind might have one day needed a Savior should it have chosen to disobey God’s instructions. The Lord, we must understand, truly desired to dwell with mankind and would save those that desired to dwell with Him by sending His only begotten Son.
This point is made clear to us in the garden, where we see the Lord say to the devil, “Because you have done this, you are cursed more than all the 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. 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 (Gen. 3:14-15).”
Note: This is the actual first mention of the Son and the role that He would go on to fulfill in defeating Satan and sin, and saving mankind. Throughout Old Testament scripture, we can see the preincarnate Christ already working to help and to save Israel. Any time in Old Testament scripture where you read “the Angel of God”, know that this is the preincarnate Christ – the Son – present and fulfilling His role.
Messianic Prophecies of the Messiah
Now that we know the reason and purpose for the birth of Christ, I want to briefly mention the Messianic prophecies that foretold the birth of Christ. The reason why I want to do this is because prophecies were used as a means for the Lord to prove that He truly was omniscient, omnipotent, and omnipresent. Prophecies, we should consider, were promises by God and by fulfilling each prophecy to the very detail should show that God is God; He is all powerful, all knowing, everywhere at all times, and He is one that keeps His promises.
In the Abrahamic covenant
One of the first foretellings of the coming of Christ is seen when the Lord spoke to Abraham about the covenant He was making with him.
15 Then the Angel of the Lord called to Abraham a second time out of heaven, 16 and said: “By Myself I have sworn, says the Lord, because you have done this thing, and have not withheld your son, your only son— 17 blessing I will bless you, and multiplying I will multiply your descendants as the stars of the heaven and as the sand which is on the seashore; and your descendants shall possess the gate of their enemies. 18 In your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed, because you have obeyed My voice.”Genesis 22:15-18 NKJV
Who else is capable of making this promise? Who else is capable of being a blessing to all nations of the earth aside from Christ? Nobody.
Note: God declared that Christ would come through the seed of Abraham. When we take a look at the genealogy of Jesus, on either side, they both trace back to Abraham, the grandfather of Jacob (Israel).
Through God’s promise to David
The second foretelling of the birth of Christ that we will mention is one that we have discussed in a recent Sunday School lesson. This is a prophecy, or foretelling, that was given to David from the Lord.
12 “When your days are fulfilled and you rest with your fathers, I will set up your seed after you, who will come from your body, and I will establish his kingdom. 13 He shall build a house for My name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. 14 I will be his Father, and he shall be My son. If he commits iniquity, I will chasten him with the rod of men and with the blows of the sons of men.2 Samuel 7:12-14 NKJV
Note: The one that would build a house for God’s name would come through David’s seed. The one spoken of here would be the Son of the Father. The Son, God said, would have an everlasting kingdom. So, we should understand that Christ, the Messiah, was being spoken of in this promise to David. The Messiah would come through the seed of David.
Note: David’s genealogy traces all the way back to Judah, one of Jacob’s (Israel’s) 12 sons, through Jesse, who came through the seed of Hezron (1 Chr. 2:3-17). Hezron was the grandson of Judah and Tamar. Tamar has a soap opera/drama like story that you find in scripture! All she wanted was to have a son that could be in the lineage of Judah but Judah did wrong by her. If you don’t know her story, I would certainly recommend reading it because, as we see, it plays a major role to the lineage of Jesus (Gen. 38).
A Son is given
Another foretelling of the birth of Christ is shown to us in the book of Isaiah; in fact, there are a few that we will see in the book of Isaiah. The first Messianic prophecy we see in the book of Isaiah comes from the prophecy of the virgin’s birth.
14 Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel.Isaiah 7:14 NKJV
Note: Nobody could claim to be the Messiah if they were not born a virgin’s birth. The virgin’s birth should never be taken as a side note as it was very significant. Not only could one not claim to be the Messiah if they were not born a virgin’s birth, but being born of a virgin shows the purity of the birth of Christ.
To add on to this prophecy, we see another prophecy of the Messiah in Isaiah 11.
1 There shall come forth a [a]Rod from the [b]stem of Jesse, And a Branch shall grow out of his roots.Isaiah 11:1-2 NKJV
2 The Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon Him, The Spirit of wisdom and understanding, The Spirit of counsel and might, The Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the Lord.
Note: This, again, speaks to the Messiah coming through the seed of David, by way of Jesse, the father of David, who came through the seed of Judah.
Note: There are two qualifications we have clearly seen set for one to be able to claim to be the Messiah. The first qualification: the Messiah had to come through the seed of David, by way of Judah. The second qualification: the Messiah had to be born a virgin’s birth. Not meeting these qualifications meant that one could be challenged on being the Messiah.
In the book of Micah, we can find the prophecy that then speaks of the Messiah being born in Bethlehem – another qualification.
2 “But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, Though you are little among the thousands of Judah, Yet out of you shall come forth to Me The One to be Ruler in Israel, Whose goings forth are from of old, From everlasting.”Micah 5:2 NKJV
In both Matthew and Luke’s gospel, we see that these prophecies were all fulfilled. We are told that the Holy Spirit overshadowed Mary, the virgin, and she conceived in her womb the Son (Matt. 1:18-25; Luke 2:1-7). Jesus, God the Son, was born in a manger in the little town of Bethlehem. So, through the work of the Holy Spirit, the Son entered the flesh and was born.
God being in the flesh is a major stumbling block for many people but scripture tells us the exact process the Lord took to become a man. For me, it is not a struggle because I accept and believe what was witnessed when it came to the birth of Christ. In fact, I believe the most amazing part about the birth of Christ is how far out His birth was prophesied, yet every single detail of prophecy “fall into place”. For example, the fact that a census was put in place and it was a census that led to both Joseph and Mary ending up Bethlehem. Some will say it was coincidence but that is not how the Lord works.
Beyond the prophecies I have already mentioned, there are more things that were prophesied about the birth of Christ that was fulfilled. In the book of Psalms, it was prophesied that those who “dwelt in the wilderness” would bow before Him, and His enemies would lick the dust (Ps. 72:9). Remember the shepherd that was watching over their flock by night and ended up making their way to Jerusalem to see the child that was born? This psalm was about them!
In the book of Hosea, the Lord said, “When Israel was a child, I loved him, and out of Egypt I called My son (Hos. 11:1).” Now, we may think that this verse is about Jacob (Israel), but this is verse speaks of Jesus.
When Jesus was born, He was born at a time when Herod killed male babies up to 2 years old because he feared the coming of the Messiah (Matt. 2:1-3, 16-18). The killing of all of those young children was also prophesied about in Jeremiah 31:15. In Matthew’s gospel, we are told that an angel of God visited Joseph in a dream to warn him of what Herod was doing and told Joseph to go to Egypt (Matt. 2:13). So, Joseph, Mary, and Jesus remained in Egypt until Herod died, and then they made their way out of Egypt and to Nazareth, just as it was prophesied in the book of Hosea.
Every major prophecy we think of when it comes to the birth of Christ, and even these minor ones that we may not even be familiar with were all fulfilled. Again, to me, the most amazing part about the birth of Christ was how everything that was prophesied was fulfilled. For every prophecy to be fulfilled, we would say that it was a miracle but, this was simply the Lord doing what He does on an everyday basis. As Gabriel said to Mary, there is nothing impossible with God (Luke 1:37).
Jesus, the only begotten Son, met every qualification to be able to be the Messiah and king. Jesus was born a virgin’s birth in Bethlehem and because of both Mary and Joseph’s lineage, He came through the seed of David. Joseph’s lineage is shared in Matthew 1:1-17. Though Jesus was not born through the seed of Joseph, by marriage, He could claim the through. Joseph’s lineage is filled with some very familiar names, with people like: Solomon, Uzziah, Hezekiah – these were all kings of Judah.
Mary’s lineage is shared in Luke 3:23-37. Mary’s lineage could not boast about having former kings. However, her connection to David came through Nathan, his third son with Bathsheba. Yes, that Bathsheba that he committed his great sin with. As I said before, the genealogy of Jesus is very interesting as there are some interesting names you come across. So, Jesus could truthfully lay claim to the throne and as the Messiah through both of His parents!
When was Jesus Born
Now, there are many people that question when Jesus was born. Scripture does not give us a specific date of the birth of Christ. The fact that scripture does not give us an exact date of birth for Christ has become a cause of mockery to some and a cause for debate to others.
Personally, I don’t care to know the exact date for when Jesus was born; it does not matter to me and my faith. Yet, trying to figure out when Jesus was born is something that some enjoy doing and theorizing about. So, for those of you that may be curious about this, scripture does at least give us hints to when Jesus was born. So, we can use these hints to speculate about the time frame of when Jesus was born. This part of our study is pretty much speculation, and should not be taken as fact.
Counting from John the Baptist’s conception
To start off our speculation, we will begin with the birth of John the Baptist. The reason why we are going to start off with John the Baptist’s birth first will be recognized in a moment.
Now, in Luke 1:5-13, we are told about Gabriel visiting Zacharias, the father of John the Baptist, to announce the conception of John the Baptist. Scripture actually gives us hints to when John was conceived, and so because we get this hint, we can have an idea about when John the Baptist was born.
Scripture tells us that Zacharias was a priest of the division of Abijah, and his lot fell to burn incense in the temple when Gabriel announced Elizabeth, his wife, conceiving a child. You may ask what is so significant about this? Well, this statement gives us a specific time frame to look at when Zacharias was serving, and therefore, when John the Baptist was conceived.
In 2 Chronicles 24:6-19, the schedule for each of the 24 divisions (or orders) of priests serving in the temple is laid out for us. Each division would serve a two week period The lot for the division of Abijah fell eighth. So, the division of Abijah would serve in the temple during the 10th week of the priestly cycle. This week would land the starting date in the month of Sivan (from mid May to mid June) which means John was conceived during that time frame.
Jesus not born in December
So, what does the conception of John the Baptist have to do with knowing when Jesus was born? Well, scripture tells us that six months after Gabriel visited Zacharias with that news, he visited Mary to tell her that she would conceive a child (Luke 1:26-31).
If we count the six months from when Gabriel spoke to Zacharias, we can speculate that Mary potentially conceived Jesus in her womb in the Hebrew month Kislev (December). So, what this means is that Jesus was most likely not born in the month of Kislev (December).
To add to this point, we can call on Luke 2:8-12, which speaks about the shepherds living in the fields with their flock; they were even out in the fields at night. Now, according to some research, it does not get freezing cold in the winter months in that land but it does get cold enough that they have to harvest crops before winter. Shepherds would not live in the fields tending to their flock during the winter months; they would provide cover for their flocks during the winter.
So, when was Jesus born? If Jesus was conceived in Kislev (December), we can count out the months of a natural pregnancy to speculate the month. Therefore, it is speculated that Jesus was born during the Hebrew month Tishri (September). Tishri, you should recognize it as an incredibly sacred month for Israel as several holy feasts and celebrations take place in this month.
What is most important
The fact that Jesus was born, and all the prophecies of His birth being fulfilled, is not satisfactory for a lot of people. There are several who love to point out that it is silly of us to celebrate Jesus’ birth on December 25th because Jesus was not born on that day. With some research, you can find out why Christmas is celebrated on December 25th and not during another month.
However, my question for those that would refuse to believe in Christ or celebrate His birth because He was not born on December 25th is this: Does it really make a difference to know when Jesus was born? It should not. What should matter is the fact that Christ was born in the flesh and died for the sins of mankind. What should matter is that loved mankind and He gave His only begotten Son for our salvation.
So, have no shame in celebrating the birth of Christ! Personally, I celebrate Jesus’ birth, death, and resurrection every single time I speak of Him! In other words, I don’t wait for a day to do so, but if you do, there is absolutely nothing wrong with doing so. Alright, that is our last bible study for this year! I hope that all of you will have a wonderful Christmas and that you will come back for more studies in the new year.