Saturday, December 21, 2013

Revelation’s Christmas Story

A great and wondrous sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet and a crown of twelve stars on her head. She was pregnant and cried out in pain as she was about to give birth. . . . She gave birth to a Son, a male Child, who will rule all the nations with an iron scepter. And her Child was snatched up to God and to His throne. Revelation 12:1-2, 5 (NIV)

John, the beloved apostle and personal eyewitness of Jesus’ ministry, wrote three New Testament literatures inspired by the Holy Spirit: the Gospel of John, the three Epistles, and the book of Revelation. In his book of Revelation, John gives us the Christmas story of Jesus’ birth in heaven (Revelation 12). Many biblical scholars believe Revelation 12 describes our Christmas day.

At Revelation 12, the apostle John describes an extraordinary event or vision in heaven. John sees a woman in heaven clothed with the sun (God’s glory). Through great struggles and pains, she gave birth to a Son, a male Child to rule the nations. Prior to giving birth, this woman struggles with evil and overcame evil to give birth to a Son (Revelation 12:3-4). Evil desperately tried to destroy and prevent the royal birth in this great heavenly conflict of good verse evil. King Herod’s attempt to kill Jesus as a Baby embodied evil’s attempt on earth to destroy Jesus and His heavenly mission (see Matthew 2:7-8, 16).

Now there were in the same country shepherds living out in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. And behold, an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were greatly afraid. Then the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger.” And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying:  “Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace, goodwill toward men!” Luke 2:8-14 (NKJV)

This Son born is our Messiah – the Lord Jesus Christ (Revelation 12:5; see also Psalm 2:2, 7-9)! Even before His arrival to earth, Jesus had overcome and defeat evil in heaven to bring salvation and peace into the world (Luke 2:14). Jesus is the Son who rules all nations of the world (Luke 1:31-33; Luke 2:30-32; see also Psalm 8; Daniel 7:13-14). Amazingly, Jesus’ entire life on earth, from His miraculous birth to His sacrificial death and resurrection, is compressed into this scene from Revelation 12:1-5. The royal Son is born and is then caught up to the throne of God (Revelation 12:5; see also Acts 1:9-11). Most important, the royal Son is the Son of God and our Mighty God (Isaiah 9:6; see also John 1:1, 14) as He is part of the eternal Godhead – God the Father, God the Son, and God the Spirit (Revelation 19:16).

For a Child is born to us, a Son is given to us. The government will rest on His shoulders. And He will be called: Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, and Prince of Peace. His government and its peace will never end. He will rule with fairness and justice from the throne of His ancestor David for all eternity. The passionate commitment of the Lord of Heaven’s Armies will make this happen! Isaiah 9:6-7 (NLT)

Biblical scholars have put forth many views on the identity of the woman from Revelation 12. There are three viewpoints:  (1) the woman is the virgin Mary; (2) she is the church; or (3) the woman is Israel. The majority of biblical scholars find that the woman of Revelation 12 represents Israel (see Isaiah 7:14; Isaiah 9:6; Isaiah 66:7–8; Micah 5:2; and Romans 9:4–5). There is no biblical basis to believe that the virgin Mary experienced Revelation 12:6.  Moreover, the woman cannot be the church as the church did not give birth to Jesus. The Lord Jesus Christ gave birth to the church as He is the master Builder and Foundation of the church — of all believers (see Matthew 16:18; I Corinthians 3:11). Most important, the woman overcame evil by bring forth a Son to “crush” the head of evil (see Genesis 3:15). Now, all believers of Jesus Christ share in this victory over evil (see Romans 16:20).

Matthew and Luke’s Gospel give the human birth of Jesus in the town of Bethlehem just outside of Jerusalem (Matthew 1: 18-2:23; Luke 2:1-20). With human wrinkles and cries, Jesus entered the human world as a Jewish baby Boy to Mary and Joseph. Jesus was wrapped in strips of cloth laid in a manger inside a stable (Luke 2:5-6). Jesus was born a human Baby, died as God’s humble suffering Servant and Passover Lamb on the Cross, and will one day return to earth as the powerful, conquering King and Judge (Psalm 2:8-9; Psalm 110:1-2; Revelation 19:16). Until His return, the Holy Bible, particularly the book of Revelations, reminds all God's people to live righteous (good) lives (Revelation 19:8), fully devoted and faithful to Jesus (Revelation 14:12). 

So be encouraged! Jesus has overcome evil, and He gives victory to His faithful people (Romans 16:20). Christmas is a time for celebration of Jesus’ coming into the human world as the God-Man. “She will have a Son, and they will name Him Immanuel,” which means “God is with us.”  (Matthew 1:23, NCV). Jesus is the “Light to reveal God to the nations, and He is the glory” (Luke 2:32, NLT). With Jesus’ coming (the first advent) to a rustic stable in Bethlehem, He brought the world redemption and salvation for all people who believe (Luke 2:25-38). 

At that time there was a man in Jerusalem named Simeon. He was righteous and devout and was eagerly waiting for the Messiah to come and rescue Israel. The Holy Spirit was upon him and had revealed to him that he would not die until he had seen the Lord’s Messiah. That day the Spirit led him to the Temple. So when Mary and Joseph came to present the Baby Jesus to the Lord as the law required, Simeon was there. He took the Child in his arms and praised God, saying, “Sovereign Lord, now let your servant die in peace, as You have promised. I have seen Your salvation, which You have prepared for all people. He (Jesus) is a Light to reveal God to the nations, and He is the glory of Your people Israel!” Luke 2:25-32 (NLT)

KJV Bible Commentary. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 1994.
Life Application Study Bible. Carol Streams, IL: Tyndale House Pub., 2005.
New Student Bible. New York: Zondervan,1992.
NLT Study Bible. Carol Streams, IL: Tyndale House Pub., 2008.
Zondervan NIV Study Bible. New York: Zondervan, 2008.

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