PMW 2017-101 by Kenneth L. Gentry, Jr.

If you reading this at its original posting: Merry Christmas! If not, then Happy New Year! Unless you are way late, then Happy Birthday ( perhaps).

The original Christmas was a time that fully anticipated the postmillennial hope in history. Not only are many of our Christmas hymns very postmillennial, but they are so because the biblical narrative presenting Christ’s birth is!

In paradigmatic, biblico-theological fashion, in the first chapter of his gospel Luke draws upon and arranges the old covenant expectations that arise in response to the announcement of Christ’s birth. As he brings the Old Testament expectations over into the New Testament, he rephrases the prophecies in terms of their New Covenant fruition. Interestingly, most of these are in poetic-song format, indicating the joyousness of the expectations (Lk 1:46–55, 67–79; 2:14, 29–32).

The angelic annunciation

In the angelic annunciation to Mary, we hear of God giving Christ David’s throne and promising that he will rule endlessly: “‘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’” (Lk 1:32–33). This is surely an “echo of the sublime prediction” in Isaiah 9:6–7 [David Brown, “Matthew,” Jamieson, Faussett, Brown Commentary, 2:97].

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We should remember that Isaiah 9:6–7 ties in kingdom dominion with the birth of the king as historically successive realities. We also see that Daniel 7:13 equates Christ’s coronation with his historical ascension. Daniel 2 also speaks of his kingdom coming in the days of the fourth kingdom, Rome (Da 2:40–45). The New Testament pattern is: humiliation followed immediately by exaltation (Jn 7:39; Lk 24:26; 1Pe 1:11). Furthermore, the New Testament shows that he presently rules as Messianic king and that his rule never ends. Christ receives “David’s throne” as per Old Testament prophecies (Ac 2:29–36; 3:13–15; 5:29–31; Rev 3:7).

The reference in Luke 1:33 to Christ’s ruling over “the house of Jacob” is significant. Jacob is the father of the “twelve tribes of Israel” (Ge 35:22–27). Thus, this we should understand this as alluding to the totality of the “Israel of God,” which includes all of the redeemed, Jew and Gentile alike. Luke’s companion, Paul, makes this especially clear (Gal 3:29; 6:16; Eph 2:12–22).

Mary’s Magnificat

Mary’s praise to God in Luke 1:46–55 reverberates with the victory theme. In verses 47 and 48, she exalts the Lord as Savior, recognizing God’s glorious blessing upon her: “From this time on all generations will count me blessed.” Why this universal homage? Because “the Mighty One” (v 49) is now moving in history in a powerful way and using Mary for his glory. This declaration receives its impulse from the prophetic victory theme; it counters any notion of despair, any tendency to lamentation, any expectation of perpetual suffering.

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Mary recognizes that in the soon-coming birth of Christ, God will do “mighty deeds with His arm” for he will “scatter the proud” (Lk 1:51). He will “bring down rulers” and “exalt those who are humble” (v 52). He will fill “the hungry with good things” (v 53). He will do it through his people (v 54) in keeping with the Abrahamic Covenant (v 55). This glad song reverberates with hope and contains absolutely no intimation of defeat.

Zacharias’ prophecy

Zacharias continues the hope-filled joy, for he sees Christ’s birth as bringing glad tidings of victory for God’s people over their enemies (Lk 1:68–71). This again fulfills the Abrahamic Covenant (v 73; cf. Ro 15:8–12). Christ is the sunrise that will “shine upon those who sit in darkness and the shadow of death” (vv 78–79). Elsewhere this refers to the Gentiles (Isa 9:1, 2; Mt 4:16).

Later in the New Testament we see this light as a positive force, dispelling darkness in the present age (Ro 13:11–13; 1Jn 2:8). Because Christ has come, he will bring “peace on earth” (Lk 2:14a). His birth at his first coming insures peace on earth — not his second coming (although in the consummative new earth this peace will come to perfect, eternal realization).

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