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Pastor Steven J. Cole: What Christmas Really Means (Luke 1:67-79)

Pastor Steven J. Cole: What Christmas Really Means (Luke 1:67-79)

 

Special Christmas Message

The children were putting on the annual Christmas play at church. To show the radiance of the newborn Savior, a light bulb was hidden in the manger. At the appropriate moment, all of the stage lights were to be turned off except for that one. But the boy controlling the light panel got confused and shut off all the lights. There was a dark moment of silence, broken when one of the shepherds said in a loud whisper, “Hey, you switched off Jesus!”

Even though we all know that Christmas is about the birth of the Savior, it’s easy to get caught up in the cultural approach to the holiday and switch off Jesus. While there’s nothing wrong with dreaming of a white Christmas or having a Christmas tree, or giving gifts to one another, the real meaning of Christmas deals with a much more urgent matter, namely, salvation.

Salvation has nothing to do with chestnuts roasting on an open fire or other warm, fuzzy feelings about an ideal Christmas holiday. Salvation deals with the messy fact that sinners need to be rescued from God’s judgment. God sent His Son to bear the judgment that guilty sinners deserve. If at Christmas time, we don’t think about the fact that God sent the Savior, we’ve switched off Jesus! As the angel told the shepherds that night when Jesus was born (Luke 2:11), “for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.”

This theme of salvation also comes through in the prophecy of Zacharias, the father of the forerunner, John the Baptist (Luke 1:67-79). You will recall that although Zacharias was a godly man, some months before the angel had struck him dumb because he doubted the promise that he and his wife, Elizabeth, would have a son in their old age (Luke 1:20). But now that son was born and Zacharias’ tongue was loosed. Filled with the Holy Spirit, he spoke this prophecy that focuses on the great salvation that God was about to bring. It shows us that …

Christmas means that God sent us the Savior in the person of Jesus Christ.

Our greatest need at Christmas time is not for more things. We’ve all got plenty of things. Neither is it for personal fulfillment, though many think that’s what they need and madly try to find it. Our greatest need is not even for the love of family and friends, as important as that is. The greatest need of every person is for salvation, because all have sinned against God. If we die in our sins, we face God’s eternal judgment. God’s salvation reconciles us with Him and gives us true hope, both for time and eternity. Our primary need is to know that we have received God’s salvation.

Salvation is the theme of Zacharias’ prophecy: He mentions “redemption” (1:68); “salvation” (1:69, 71, 77); and, “being delivered” (1:74). I want to draw out four themes from these verses related to salvation:

  1. Salvation is God’s doing, not our doing.

Salvation is of the Lord. This comes through strongly in these verses. Note first that the Lord God “visited us” (1:68, 78). We did not go searching for Him; He came and visited us. He saw our helpless condition, took pity on us, and came down to meet our enormous need in the person of the Savior.

This prophecy is steeped in the Old Testament. The theme of God visiting His people comes from Genesis 50:24, 25. As Joseph was dying in Egypt, he predicted that God would visit his descendants and bring them from there to the land which He had promised on oath to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. In the LXX, the Greek uses an emphatic Hebraism, “in visiting, God will visit you,” which means, “God will surely visit you.” Then Joseph repeats, “At the visitation with which God shall visit you, then you shall carry my bones with you.” After an interval of 400 years of slavery in Egypt, we read of God telling Moses (Exodus 3:16): “Visiting, I have visited you” (see also, Exod. 4:31; 13:19).

Even so, in Zacharias’ time, Israel had not heard a word from the Lord in 400 years. The nation was now under the Roman yoke of oppression. It seemed as if God had forgotten His people. But then, after the birth of the forerunner of Messiah, and knowing the angel’s promise to Mary that she would bear the Son of God, Zacharias prophesies, “Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, for He has visited us.”

If you were living in abject poverty and one day a kind billionaire visited you, you might have a ray of hope that he would take pity on you and give you some help. But God has done more than that. He not only saw our desperate condition and sent us help; He actually took our human condition on Himself! He took on human flesh, not as a mighty king, above our weaknesses, but as a baby, subject to our frailty, yet without sin. As if that were not enough, He even took our sin on Himself on the cross, bearing the penalty we deserve! It was all God’s doing because of His tender mercy (1:78), not because we deserved it. God visited us in the birth of Jesus Christ.

There are many other evidences in our text that salvation is God’s doing, not our doing. He accomplished it (1:68). “He raised up a horn of salvation for us” (1:69). The horn is a symbol of the strength of an animal, such as a bull (Ps. 132:17; 18:2). Here it points to the fact that salvation required God’s mighty power because our enemy is so strong. But God did it—He raised it up. He did it in accordance with many prophecies which He had given centuries before (1:70-71). Alfred Edersheim found more than 400 Messianic prophecies in the Old Testament, but even apart from these specific prophecies, the whole of the Old Testament points to Christ (in Norval Geldenhuys, Luke [Eerdmans], pp. 93-94).

Furthermore, God sent the Savior in accordance with the oath of His covenant with Abraham (1:72-73). Two thousand years before Jesus Christ was born, God sovereignly chose Abraham, a pagan living in the city of Ur of the Chaldeans, and promised to make a great nation of him, to give his descendants the land of Canaan, and to bless all the families of the earth through him (Gen. 12:1-3). During His ministry, Jesus told the Jews who contended with Him, “Your father Abraham rejoiced to see My day, and he saw it and was glad” (John 8:56). Jesus Christ was the descendant of Abraham in whom God’s promises were fulfilled.

God also raised up John the Baptist, the forerunner of Christ, in accordance with prophecies made hundreds of years before. In Isaiah 40:3 and Malachi 3:1; 4:5, God predicted that He would send His messenger in the spirit and power of Elijah to prepare the way before Messiah. Even though Zacharias and Elizabeth were humanly beyond their childbearing years, God sent His angel to promise them that they would have this son who would fulfill these prophecies by making “ready a people prepared for the Lord” (Luke 1:17).

The point is, God did all this apart from human initiative, effort, merit, or ability. God planned it, He prophesied it, and He carried it out, in spite of Zacharias’ doubts and inability to father a son. The salvation God provided in Jesus Christ comes totally from Him. We cannot do anything to earn it or work for it. All we can do is receive it.

This runs counter to the common notion that we can save ourselves by our own effort or ability. It goes against the idea that we deserve to be saved. No! Salvation is from God, apart from human merit, that no one can boast. If you think you can do something to save yourself or to provide for your own salvation, you do not understand what Christmas means.

  1. Salvation is accomplished through the person of Jesus Christ.

Though His name is not mentioned specifically in Zacharias’ prophecy, His person is described so that there is no mistaking it. This horn of salvation is from “the house of David” (1:69). Zacharias and Elizabeth were both descended from Aaron who was from the tribe of Levi (Luke 1:5), but Jesus was descended from the tribe of Judah through David (Matt. 1:2-17; Luke 3:23-38). As we’ve already seen, Jesus is the fulfillment of God’s promise to Abraham (John 8:56-58).

Also, as Luke 1:76 shows, the coming Savior was none other than the Lord God in human flesh. John went “before the Lord to prepare His ways,” The Lord (who is God) is Jesus. John recognized the divinity of Jesus when he affirmed that Jesus had a higher rank than he because He existed before him, even though physically John was six months older than Jesus (John 1:30).

Zacharias refers to this Savior as “the Sunrise from on high” (Luke 1:78), a reference to Malachi 4:2: “The sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its wings.” Jesus Himself claimed, “I am the light of the world; he who follows Me shall not walk in the darkness, but shall have the light of life” (John 8:12). Clearly, Jesus Christ is the Savior of whom Zacharias and all Scripture prophesied. As the angel told Joseph after explaining how Mary had conceived through the Holy Spirit, “You shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins” (Matt. 1:21).

  1. Salvation means the forgiveness of our sins by God’s mercy.

In the earlier part of this prophecy, Zacharias speaks of salvation with reference to national deliverance from enemy nations (1:71, 74). This political aspect of salvation will be fulfilled in Christ’s second coming, when He will return and defeat Israel’s enemies and establish His kingdom rule over all the earth. But the Jews in Jesus’ day erred in that they saw God’s salvation through Messiah almost completely in such political terms.

But John’s ministry was intended to show Israel that salvation “consisted in the forgiveness of their sins” (1:77, literal translation). John preached “a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins” (Luke 3:3). Even though Israel was God’s chosen people by nationality, they still had to be reconciled to God individually through repentance and the forgiveness of their sins. Since God is holy, no sinner can stand in His presence. Since He is just, He cannot dismiss sins without the payment of the penalty. He has ordained that the penalty for our sins is death (Rom. 6:23). But because of His tender mercy, He took on Himself the penalty we deserved so that we might go free. John would later announce Jesus as “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29).

Zacharias (1:79) brings together a couple of references from Isaiah (9:2; 60:1-3), which describe those who need God’s salvation as “those who sit in darkness and the shadow of death.” The picture is of travelers who have lost their way in the wilderness and night falls. They grope for the path, but it eludes them. Finally, in despair, they can do nothing but sit down in the darkness, where death from wild beasts lurks in the shadows. They can’t sleep because they are too cold and too afraid. Every time a wolf howls in the darkness, they shiver in fear. They huddle in the darkness, hoping for the morning light. Finally, they see a faint glow in the eastern sky. Slowly but surely the darkness yields to the bright morning sun. In its light, they find the path that leads to peace and safety.

It’s a graphic picture of those who sit in the darkness and shadow of death that comes from sin. They are lost in the darkness, not knowing which way to go. They are afraid of death, always lurking in the shadows. They don’t know what to do and they can’t do anything to find their way. They need light!

Then, perhaps at Christmas time, they hear that a Savior has been born. The glimmer of hope in the eastern sky begins to dawn. They hear further that this Savior died to save His people from their sins. The sky brightens. But, still, they wonder if they can be good enough to earn this salvation which Christ offers. Then they hear that it is not something that anyone can earn, but that God offers forgiveness of sins freely because of His tender mercy. The sun rises in its full light into their soul, guiding them into His way of peace.

The word “tender” (1:78) literally means, “bowels.” The Hebrews thought of the bowels as the seat of the emotions. It points to God’s deep compassion for sinners. Many erroneously think that God is mean and harsh, waiting to strike them down for their sins should they dare show up at His doorstep. But Jesus portrayed the heavenly Father as the father of the prodigal son who, when he saw his son in the distance, felt compassion for him (the Greek verb in Luke 15:20 is related to this noun, “bowels”), and ran and embraced him, and kissed him. Do you know this tender mercy of God in your life today?

You must understand that God must judge all sin or He would no longer be just. He can’t just brush it aside. At the judgment, He will pour out His eternal wrath on all sinners who have not put their trust in Jesus. But, God is not only just, but also merciful. His great love and mercy caused Him to send His own Son to bear the penalty that we deserved. If, like the prodigal son, you repent of your sins and come to Jesus, He will forgive you completely and you will know His tender mercy.

Years ago, a man named Dr. Barnardo, who ran a London orphanage, was approached by a dirty, ragged little boy who asked for admission. The doctor looked at him and said, “But my boy, I don’t know you. What do you have to recommend you?”

The boy was not only needy, but also bright. He quickly held up before Dr. Barnardo his ragged coat and with a confident little voice said, “If you please, sir, I thought these here would be all I needed to recommend me.” Dr. Barnardo caught him up in his arms and took him in, because that truly was all he needed to recommend him—his rags.

Do you need forgiveness? Then bring the rags of all your sins and apply to Jesus. He bore your penalty in His body on the cross. Because of His tender mercy, God will pardon all who seek His forgiveness. Salvation means the forgiveness of our sins by God’s mercy. There’s no such thing as sin that is greater than the tender mercy of our God!

Thus salvation is God’s doing, not ours. It is accomplished through Jesus Christ, the Sunrise from on high. And, it means the forgiveness of sins by God’s mercy. But that’s not all:

  1. Salvation results in a life of holy service to God.

Zacharias says that we, “being rescued from the hand of our enemies, might serve Him without fear, in holiness and righteousness before Him all our days” (1:74-75). Contrary to what many think, salvation is not primarily about us and our happiness. The Christian life is a blessedly happy life, full of joy and gladness. But God doesn’t save us so that we can live happily ever after, ignoring the needs of others. He saves us so that we might glorify Him (make Him look good) as our joy in Him overflows into a life of holy service. People who think they’re saved but who live for themselves and their own happiness to the neglect of others are deceived. True salvation always results in a holy life given over to serving our gracious God who has granted deliverance from the bondage of sin.

Years ago a Salvation Army officer, Captain Shaw, went to India as a medical missionary to a leper colony. His eyes welled with tears as he saw three lepers in front of him, their hands and feet bound by chains that cut into their diseased flesh. Shaw turned to the guard and said, “Please unfasten these chains.” “But it isn’t safe,” the guard replied. “These men are not just lepers; they’re dangerous criminals.”

“I’ll be responsible; they’re suffering enough,” Shaw said, as he took the keys, and tenderly removed the shackles and treated their bleeding ankles and wrists.

About two weeks later Captain Shaw had his first misgivings about freeing these criminals. He had to make an overnight trip and feared leaving his wife and child alone. His wife insisted that she wasn’t afraid; God would protect her. So the doctor left. The next morning when Mrs. Shaw went to her door, she was startled to see the three criminals lying on her steps. One explained, “We know the doctor go. We stay here all night so no harm come to you.” That was their response to the doctor’s act of love for them—to serve him freely out of gratitude. That should be our response to God’s freeing us from bondage to sin—to give our lives in holy service to Him.

Conclusion

Zacharias’ prophecy tells us the meaning of Christmas: That God sent us a Savior in the person of Jesus Christ. I am inadequate to explain this to you; God Himself must break through if you would grasp it and respond.

During the Christmas season of 1879, an agnostic reporter in Boston saw three little girls standing in front of a store window full of toys. One of them was blind. Coming closer, he heard the other two trying to describe the playthings to their friend. He said he had never thought of how difficult it would be to explain what something looks like to someone who has never been able to see. That incident became the basis for a newspaper story.

Two weeks later this same agnostic attended a meeting conducted by the famous evangelist, D. L. Moody. His purpose was to catch Moody in some inconsistency. But he was greatly surprised to hear Moody use his newspaper account of the three children to illustrate a spiritual truth. He said, “Just as the blind girl couldn’t visualize the toys, so a lost person can’t see Christ in all His glory.” He said that God must open the eyes of those without Christ so that the person will acknowledge his sin and trust the Savior in humble faith. God opened that newsman’s eyes. He saw his own need and discovered for himself the truth of Moody’s words. (From, “Our Daily Bread,” Winter, 1980-1981.)

If you have never trusted in Christ as your Savior, you sit in darkness and the shadow of death. But through my words today, God is visiting you with the good news that He is merciful to sinners. Ask Him to shine into your heart to guide you into the way of peace. Repent of your sins and trust in Jesus Christ as your Savior. If you turn to Christ you will know His tender mercy that forgives all your sins. You will know the real meaning of Christmas: that God sent us a Savior in the person of Jesus Christ.

Application Questions

  1. How can we help people who do not know Christ see their true, desperate condition before God (seeGal. 3:10, 24)?
  2. Why are people inclined to think that they can do something to save themselves? How doesRomans 9:16 refute this?
  3. Will the fact that God offers forgiveness by His mercy lead to loose living? Why/why not?
  4. How can we deepen our daily awareness of God’s tender mercy toward us?

Copyright, Steven J. Cole, 2007, All Rights Reserved.

Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture Quotations are from the New American Standard Bible, Updated Edition © The Lockman Foundation

 

 

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Six Biblical reasons why Christians should embrace same-sex Relationships. Better Believe It… The Bible Shows Us SIX Reasons!

Six Biblical reasons why Christians should embrace same-sex Relationships. Better Believe It... The Bible Shows Us SIX Reasons!

An essay donated by Anthony Ashford:

Summary:

While so many Christians in the world believe that gays and lesbians CANNOT go to Heaven, simply because of the interpretations of about 20 verses out of the nearly 31,000 verses in the Christian Bible, I’d like to argue that this anti-gay perception actually goes AGAINST what the Bible and what Christ really say about people who love people of the opposite sex.

I will present six compelling Biblical arguments, using theology, socio-cultural understandings of specific Biblical settings, and good old common sense & logic to prove that the Bible should be used as an ally for same gender-loving relationships.

 

Reason six: The biblical passages typically used to “condemn” LGB relationships are NOT talking about LGB relationships:

While I’m not trying to sound like a Biblical scholar or know-it-all, it irks me how blind so many Christians are to the historical context of the stories, which are typically used to condemn gay people and the fact of being gay.

Below are the some facts about the Biblical time periods, in which the “Clobber Passages,” the texts typically used to say “The Bible clearly states that being gay is a sin,” take place. Take note, as you might learn something new about Biblical ambiguities in the Scripture.

Why do I call these passages “ridiculously-used”? Check out these passages from the Hebrew Scriptures (Old Testament) and Christian Scriptures (New Testament):

Genesis 2: 19-25 “Adam and Eve:” Read the rest of this entry »

 

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Book of Revelation: The Millennial Reign of Jesus Christ

 The Millennial Reign of Jesus Christ

Beyond the tumultuous times of today lies the promise of a transformed world of peace and plenty-the age of Christ’s glorious reign on the earth!

The Millennial Reign of Jesus Christ | United Church of God.

When Jesus Christ returns to earth He will initiate “the time of universal restoration that God announced long ago through his holy prophets” (Acts:3:21, NRSV). Those prophets consistently assured ancient Israel and Judah that a righteous King would restore God’s Kingdom to earth.

The prophets reveal the exact spot to which the Messiah, God’s anointed King, will return: “And in that day His feet will stand on the Mount of Olives, which faces Jerusalem on the east” (Zechariah:14:4). Starting with Jerusalem as His capital city, He will expand His reign to the world (verses 9).

Once God’s Kingdom is established in Jerusalem among the people of Israel, Christ will ask representatives of all nations to come to Jerusalem to learn about His laws. He will summon them to Jerusalem to attend God’s annual Feast of Tabernacles: “And it shall come to pass that everyone who is left of all the nations which came against Jerusalem shall go up from year to year to worship the King, the LORD of hosts, and to keep the Feast of Tabernacles” (verse 16; see Leviticus:23:33-44).

Not all nations will immediately cooperate. Remember, Satan will have organized these same nations to fight Christ at His return. They will not quickly accept Him even after Satan is bound. Therefore Christ will “judge between the nations, and rebuke many people” (Isaiah:2:4). Early in Christ’s reign, strong measures still will be necessary to convince most nations that He intends to enforce the laws of God.

How will He make this clear, especially to nations who obstinately refuse to attend the Feast of Tabernacles? His means of communicating His message to them will be straightforward. He will simply demonstrate His control over the natural forces of earth. “And it shall be that whichever of the families of the earth do not come up to Jerusalem to worship the King, the LORD of hosts, on them there will be no rain” (Zechariah:14:17).

The nations will quickly learn that their existence depends on God’s blessing. Good weather and bountiful crops are blessings from God. From this time forward only nations that obey God will reap those blessings. All others will not. Such a system will serve as a convincing argument. In time, all nations will respond.

Let’s now examine some of the specifics of Christ’s reign.

Rewarding the saints

Jesus Christ has promised to reward people who through the ages have faithfully served Him (Revelation:11:18; 22:12). Notice their part in His Kingdom: “Blessed and holy is he who has part in the first resurrection. Over such the second death has no power, butthey shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with Him a thousand years”(Revelation:20:6). This future period is often simply called the Millennium (a 1,000-year span).

From the beginning of Christ’s millennial reign the faithful servants of God—including many who will have suffered severe persecution and martyrdom—will serve as the teachers and administrators of that wonderful world to come. They will assist Jesus in teaching the ways of peace and righteousness to the nations. This will fulfill Christ’s promise to His Church: “To him who overcomes I will grant to sit with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne” (Revelation:3:21).

The prophet Daniel foretold the same thing: “Then the kingdom and dominion, and the greatness of the kingdoms under the whole heaven, shall be given to the people, the saints of the Most High. His kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and all dominions shall serve and obey Him” (Daniel:7:27).

Christ does not plan to change the world single-handedly. At His coming His faithful servants will be immediately transformed from flesh and blood into immortal spirit beings who can assist Him. Paul explained:

“Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; nor does corruption inherit incorruption. Behold, I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed—in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality” (1 Corinthians:15:50-53).

These transformed beings will sit with Jesus Christ on His throne. They will serve with Him as teachers and administrators during His millennial reign. (For more details about the incredible future God has in store for mankind, be sure to download or request your free copies of the booklets The Gospel of the Kingdom , What Is Your Destiny? andWhat Happens After Death? )

The restoration of all Israel

Long ago God also promised: “The days are surely coming, says the LORD, when I will raise up for David a righteous Branch [his descendant, the Messiah], and he shall reign as king and deal wisely, and shall execute justice and righteousness in the land. In his days Judah will be saved and Israel will live in safety” (Jeremiah:23:5-6, NRSV).

The restoration of all of the tribes of Israel as one nation under the reign of the Messiah is foretold again and again in the writings of the prophets.

Through Ezekiel God says: “Surely I will take the children of Israel from among the nations, wherever they have gone, and will gather them from every side and bring them into their own land; and I will make them one nation in the land, on the mountains of Israel; and one king shall be king over them all; they shall no longer be two nations, nor shall they ever be divided into two kingdoms again” (Ezekiel:37:21-22).

And through Jeremiah: “Now therefore, thus says the LORD, the God of Israel, concerning this city [Jerusalem] of which you say, ‘It shall be delivered into the hand of the king of Babylon by the sword, by the famine, and by the pestilence’: ‘Behold, I will gather them out of all countries where I have driven them in My anger, in My fury, and in great wrath; I will bring them back to this place, and I will cause them to dwell safely. They shall be My people, and I will be their God; then I will give them one heart and one way, that they may fear Me forever'” (Jeremiah:32:36-39).

Since Christ will establish Jerusalem as His capital, the first people to experience the effects of His rule will be the restored kingdom of Israel. As their King, He will immediately establish a close working relationship with them: “Moreover I will make a covenant of peace with them, and it shall be an everlasting covenant with them; I will establish them and multiply them, and I will set My sanctuary in their midst…Indeed I will be their God, and they shall be My people. The nations also will know that I, the LORD, sanctify Israel, when My sanctuary is in their midst forevermore” (Ezekiel:37:26-28).

The people of Israel will play a necessary role in helping other nations implement God’s ways. Once God has forgiven their sins, Jesus Christ will begin using a humbled and repentant Israel to spread the knowledge of God’s law to other nations. The whole world will gradually come under the administration of a unified code of law, the law of God. Jesus will coordinate this as He reigns over the nations from Jerusalem. The world will finally learn to obey God’s law.

Israel will help the nations learn God’s ways

Concerning the restored nation of Israel during Christ’s millennial reign, God says: “Behold … I will heal them and reveal to them the abundance of peace and truth. And I will cause the captives of Judah and the captives of Israel to return, and will rebuild those places as at the first. I will cleanse them from all their iniquity by which they have sinned against Me, and I will pardon all their iniquities … Then [Jerusalem] shall be to Me a name of joy, a praise, and an honor before all nations of the earth, who shall hear all the good that I do to them; they shall fear and tremble for all the goodness and all the prosperity that I provide for it” (Jeremiah:33:6-9).

As the people of Israel learn to follow God’s ways, their example will inspire other nations to seek the same way of life and to want to reap the same blessings: “Yes, many peoples and strong nations shall come to seek the LORD of hosts in Jerusalem, and to pray before the LORD. Thus says the LORD of hosts: ‘In those days ten men from every language of the nations shall grasp the sleeve of a Jewish man, saying, “Let us go with you, for we have heard that God is with you”‘” (Zechariah:8:22-23).

Nations will see that keeping God’s law works. They will come to Jerusalem to learn how they can apply it in their own lands: “Many nations shall come and say, ‘Come, and let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob; He will teach us His ways, and we shall walk in His paths.’ For out of Zion the law shall go forth, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem ” (Micah:4:2). Eventually “the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the LORD as the waters cover the sea” (Isaiah:11:9).

The fruit of right knowledge

With Jesus Christ as King, Jerusalem will be the center of learning for the world. God’s Word, the Bible, will provide a solid foundation for the development of education and knowledge:

“So shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth…It shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it. For you shall go out with joy, and be led out with peace; the mountains and the hills shall break forth into singing before you, and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands. Instead of the thorn shall come up the cypress tree, and instead of the brier shall come up the myrtle tree; and it shall be to the LORD for a name, for an everlasting sign that shall not be cut off” (Isaiah:55:11-13).

Prosperity will increase while crime and corruption will cease: “Instead of bronze I will bring gold, instead of iron I will bring silver, instead of wood, bronze, and instead of stones, iron. I will also make your officers peace, and your magistrates righteousness. Violence shall no longer be heard in your land, neither wasting nor destruction within your borders” (Isaiah:60:17-18).

It takes much more than mere knowledge, however, to produce lasting peace and cooperation. A spiritual change is also necessary. It will be that spiritual change in the people of Israel that will inspire other nations to admire their way of life and want to emulate it:

“O house of Israel,…for My holy name’s sake…I will take you from among the nations, gather you out of all countries, and bring you into your own land. Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean; I will cleanse you from all your filthiness and from all your idols. I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will keep My judgments and do them” (Ezekiel:36:22-27).

The spiritual restoration of humanity is the most important transformation that will occur during this millennial period when the world is transformed. The Spirit of God will enable people to willingly and enthusiastically obey Him from the heart: “But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put My law in their minds, and write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people” (Jeremiah:31:33; Hebrews:8:10).

God’s Spirit will phenomenally transform people. Obedience will be widespread; people will exhibit honorable leadership and enjoy a stable society: “I will restore your judges as at the first, and your counselors as at the beginning. Afterward you shall be called the city of righteousness, the faithful city” (Isaiah:1:26).

The changes will be permanent, lasting throughout subsequent generations: “Also your people shall all be righteous; they shall inherit the land forever … that I may be glorified. A little one shall become a thousand, and a small one a strong nation. I, the LORD, will hasten it in its time” (Isaiah:60:21-22).

Each new generation will carry on this tradition of righteousness: “All your children shall be taught by the LORD, and great shall be the peace of your children” (Isaiah:54:13). People the world over will notice and respect their example: “Their descendants shall be known among the Gentiles, and their offspring among the people. All who see them shall acknowledge them, that they are the posterity whom the LORD has blessed” (Isaiah:61:9).

Spirituality spreads

As people from other nations see what happens in Jerusalem and its environs, they too will want to serve the living God: “Also the sons of the foreigner who join themselves to the LORD, to serve Him, and to love the name of the LORD, to be His servants—everyone who keeps from defiling the Sabbath, and holds fast My covenant—even them I will bring to My holy mountain, and make them joyful in My house of prayer…For My house shall be called a house of prayer for all nations” (Isaiah:56:6-7).

Finally the barriers between Israel and other nations will fall. This will occur because all will eventually realize “there is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians:3:28).

Physical blessings

As people the world over begin to obey God, first by getting their spiritual priorities straight, they will begin to experience unprecedented physical prosperity:

“‘Behold, the days are coming,’ says the LORD, ‘when the plowman shall overtake the reaper, and the treader of grapes him who sows seed; the mountains shall drip with sweet wine, and all the hills shall flow with it…They shall build the waste cities and inhabit them; they shall plant vineyards and drink wine from them; they shall also make gardens and eat fruit from them'” (Amos:9:13-14).

Isaiah compares this time to a perpetual feast with the best of everything: “On this mountain the LORD of hosts will make for all peoples a feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged wines, of rich food filled with marrow, of well-aged wines strained clear” (Isaiah:25:6, NRSV).

Notice this inspiring description of blessings yet to come: “They shall build houses and inhabit them; they shall plant vineyards and eat their fruit. They shall not build and another inhabit; they shall not plant and another eat; for like the days of a tree shall the days of my people be, and my chosen shall long enjoy the work of their hands. They shall not labor in vain, or bear children for calamity; for they shall be offspring blessed by the LORD—and their descendants as well.

“Before they call I will answer, while they are yet speaking I will hear. The wolf and the lamb shall feed together, the lion shall eat straw like the ox … They shall not hurt or destroy on all my holy mountain, says the Lord ” (Isaiah:65:21-25, NRSV).

This vision of the millennial reign of Christ is not an illusion but a promise of reality. Jesus Christ will return to earth to spiritually transform its people and establish utopia, a paradise on earth. The combination of removing Satan’s influence, giving humanity God’s Spirit and teaching the world the laws and ways of God will produce 1,000 years of peace and a society blessed beyond its wildest dreams.

But, incredible as this sounds, prophecy reveals that an even more amazing period awaits mankind.

 

 

 

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