Out of Bethlehem

THE GREATEST NEWS item of all time came out of Bethlehem. This item was the brightest of all news items that have ever pierced the darkness of the world’s night of sin and death. It was the announcement of the birth of Jesus. No other single event has so changed the course of the world, nor given so many millions of people a ray of hope for the future. For Jesus’ followers it has been a bright hope.

The circumstances associated with the birth of Jesus were strange. Destined to be “The Prince of Peace” and the King of the whole earth, yet, he was born under very humble circumstance in the proximity of a stable and laid in a manger. The world as a whole knew little or nothing of what was taking place, yet the coming to earth of the Son of God was announced by an angel, who said to the shepherds on the hills of Judea, “Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.” Then the angel together with a “multitude of the heavenly host,” sang “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.”—Luke 2:10-14

What an introduction this was to the world, and with what authority it was given! It was full of hope, peace and life for all mankind and ‘good tidings of great joy’ because a Savior was born, one who had come to save mankind from sin and its penalty, death. No wonder the angels sang, ‘Glory to God in the highest!’


He who was born to be a king was soon confronted with difficulties. His parents were instructed to flee with the young child into Egypt to save him from the wrath of Herod. From the beginning of his short ministry, he was hated and persecuted by the religious leaders of his own people. Finally, he was put to death upon a cross. A few years later, the nation to which Jesus ministered, instead of entering an era of peace as a result of his coming, was destroyed, and the people scattered throughout the earth, and, subsequently, bitterly persecuted.

Meanwhile, many Gentile nations professed to accept Christ and to practice his teachings; but, as it turned out, this was in name only. Instead of promoting peace on earth under the banner of the Prince of Peace, they waged war upon each other in Christ’s name. The bloodiest wars of the Middle Ages were participated in by professed Christian nations; and some of them—such as the “Crusades”—under the banner of the cross.

There has hardly been a decade since the birth of the Prince of Peace that the world, or some part of the world, has not been plagued by war or the fear of war. Nor has the advancement of so-called civilization in recent centuries materially changed this picture.

But this does not mean that the purpose of Jesus’ coming to earth has failed, nor that the accomplishment of that purpose has in any way been delayed. The storm clouds of human passion hovering over the distraught and fear-filled world today are the result of human failure. This failure was foreknown by the Lord, and foretold; and he has permitted it in order that the human race might come to realize its need of looking to him for a way out of its confusion and perplexities.


One of the basic teachings of the Bible is that the ‘peace on earth’ proclaimed by the angels when Jesus was born is to be realized through the establishment of Christ’s kingdom. This great truth was almost completely lost sight of very early in the Christian era, and the view was adopted that Christ’s kingdom was to be set up through human efforts. Men thought that whatever God had designed to do for the human race depended upon their efforts, those who would work and fight in the name of Christ. How shortsighted to suppose that the great God of the universe, the Creator of heaven and earth, would depend upon the feeble, imperfect, and misguided efforts of his human servants.

The professed Christian world has done the best it could to set up Christ’s kingdom, and the result is what we see throughout the earth today. Failure is emblazoned upon all the monuments reared by human folly and selfishness. But for those who have faith in the promises and prophecies of the Bible, the heart-cheering message is that God will do for the human race what it could not do for itself, and soon is our hope.


One of the promises of God is found in the prophecy of Isaiah and pertains to the birth of Jesus. “Unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even for ever. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this.”—Isa. 9:6,7

There are two statements in this prophecy of Jesus’ birth to which many fail to give proper heed. One is that the government here promised shall be upon ‘his’ shoulder; and the other, that the ‘zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this’. Both of these statements emphasize that the Lord takes the responsibility for the fulfillment of this promise. Christ will ‘shoulder’ the responsibility for the successful establishment and functioning of his kingdom and the ‘zeal’ of Jehovah himself, operating through Christ, guarantees the results.

For centuries professed Christians have been trying to set up Christ’s kingdom by their own zeal. In devious ways they have endeavored to shoulder the responsibility of Christ’s kingdom themselves. In Europe, for example, they united with the State and called the union Christ’s kingdom—“Christendom.” But this arrangement did not bring peace on earth. Instead, it fostered wars, cruel and bloody wars. Christianity, so-called, was spread by the sword, followed by the “Holy Inquisition” to force conformity. This was not the ‘zeal of the Lord of hosts’, but the work of ambitious, power-thirsty zealots whose zeal was contrary to the will and plan of God.


Another prophecy which assures us that the Lord, not man, establishes the messianic kingdom is found in Daniel 2:31-44, where Gentile rulership is depicted, beginning with Babylon, when the Jewish kingdom was overthrown. It concludes with the divisions of the Roman Empire as they existed in Europe prior to the First World War, and referred to in the prophecy as ‘these kings’. The prophecy points to our day and says, “In the days of these kings shall the God of heaven set up a kingdom.”

Christ’s kingdom is not set up by human intrigue and diplomacy. Nor will it function through balances of power brought about by the threat of destruction in the use of nuclear weapons. Instead, it is established by direct intervention in the affairs of men, and in spite of all the misguided efforts prompted by human selfishness.

In Micah’s prophecy, we are given a similar assurance. We quote: “In the last days it shall come to pass, that the mountain of the house of the Lord shall be established in the top of the mountains, and it shall be exalted above the hills; and people shall flow unto it. And many nations shall come, and say, Come, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, and to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths: for the Law shall go forth of Zion, and the Word of the Lord from Jerusalem. And he shall judge among many people, and rebuke strong nations afar off; and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruninghooks: nation shall not lift up a sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more. But they shall sit every man under his vine and under his fig tree; and none shall make them afraid: for the mouth of the Lord of hosts hath spoken it.”—Mic. 4:1-4


Beginning with David, the kings of Israel ruled as the representatives of God, with the headquarters of the government in mount Zion at Jerusalem. (I Chron. 29:23) To the people of Israel, therefore, the ‘mountain of the house of the Lord’ would readily be understood as meaning the kingdom of the Lord, functioning through a ruling house of Divine appointment. The ruling house of David was typical of this foretold ‘mountain of the house of the Lord’. God’s typical ruling house ceased to function with the overthrown of Judah’s last king, Zedekiah. A prophecy then given declared that it would be no more “until he come whose right it is.”—Ezek. 21:25-27

This one ‘whose right it is’ was found as a babe in a manger at Bethlehem. In the annunciation to Mary, the angel Gabriel said, “Fear not, Mary: for thou hast found favor with God. And, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name Jesus. He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David: and he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end.”—Luke 1:30-33

This is in keeping with the prophecy of Isaiah, already quoted, in which we are told that Jesus would sit upon the throne of David, ‘to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even for ever’. Thus it is that Jesus became the head of God’s antitypical ruling house. And then, beginning with his first advent, there began the selection and preparation of a company called from the world of mankind to be ‘joint-heirs’ with him in this ruling house. Through the begetting and birth of the Spirit, these are made members of the Divine family with Jesus.


For a time the opportunity of becoming a part of this royal house of sons was limited to the natural descendants of Abraham. These were the typical people of God to whom the promises had been made, and it was among these that Jesus conducted his ministry. “As many as received him,” we read, “to them gave he power to become the sons of God.” (John 1:11,12) But not a sufficient number of the Jewish nation responded to this call, so later, through the Gospel, the invitation was extended to Gentiles. The work of gathering and preparing these to live and reign with Christ has continued throughout the age. As each one, through trial, has proved worthy, he has fallen asleep in death to be awakened at the close of the age in the “first resurrection” to live and reign with Christ a thousand years. (Rev. 20:4,5) Just as Jesus was raised from the dead by the mighty power of God at the beginning of the age, so his joint-heirs are resurrected at the close, or harvest of the age, joining him to make up the spiritual and all powerful ‘mountain of the house of the Lord’ which is established in the ‘top of the mountains’, that is, dominating all the affairs of men.


One reason men have misunderstood God’s plan is that they have failed to take into consideration his mighty power. Thinking that he has been limited to what impotent humans are able to accomplish in his name, it appears that the Divine plan has failed. But, on the contrary, God is abundantly able to accomplish his purposes despite the efforts of men and devils to hinder.

A good example of this is in the case of Jesus. He was born to be a king and to sit upon the throne of his father, David. The religious rulers of his day hated him, and finally succeeded in having him put to death, one of the charges against him being that he claimed to be a king. So they killed the King; but this did not thwart the Divine purpose centered in him. Indeed, it was necessary that Jesus die in order to redeem the world from death; and God raised him from the dead.

The significance of this, as it relates to God’s promises pertaining to the ruling house of David, is brought to our attention by the Apostle Paul in a sermon preached at Antioch. We quote, “We declare unto you glad tidings, how that the promise which was made unto the fathers, God hath fulfilled the same unto us their children, in that he hath raised up Jesus again; as it is also written in the second Psalm, Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee. And concerning that he raised him up from the dead, now no more to return to corruption, he said on this wise, I will give you the sure mercies of David.”—Acts 13:32-34; Isa. 55:3

Just as it was ‘good tidings’ that he who was to sit on the throne of David forever had been born, it was also glad tidings that, when his enemies put him to death thus serving as cohorts of Satan in his efforts to thwart the Divine plan, God raised this antitypical David from the dead. Can we doubt the triumph of the Divine plan for the salvation and peace of the human race when power like this can be utilized to assure its successful conclusion?

It is by the exercise of such almighty power that Divine authority is established in the earth. And when, in the Lord’s own way, the fact is made known to the nations that God’s kingdom has been established, the people will begin to “flow unto it.” “Many people shall go and say, Come, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, and to the house of the God of Jacob.”—Isa. 2:2,3


When the people and nations of the world take this attitude, they will want to be taught the Lord’s ways; and when they do, they will no longer learn war nor practice the arts of war. All the time and resources now being devoted to the manufacture of munitions of war will be directed toward peaceful ends. And then there will be security for all, as symbolized by the thought of dwelling under the ‘vine’ and the ‘fig tree’.

Then none ‘shall make them afraid’. Today, the world is filled with fear. The nations are afraid of one another. There is fear of war with nuclear weapons, germ and chemical weapons, and ballistic missiles. There is no genuine peace and security anywhere. It is as though the angels’ message of ‘peace on earth’ had never been proclaimed. This is because we are living at the end of the age when, as foretold by the prophets, Satan’s empire is being overthrown by a “time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation.”—Dan. 12:1; Matt. 24:21,22

To those not enlightened by the prophecies of the Bible concerning the meaning of the present ‘distress of nations’, it appears as though the angelic message of “peace on earth” is composed of empty words. This has led to an incorrect translation of the angels’ words. Instead of ‘peace on earth, and good will toward men’, as it is correctly rendered in the King James Version, it is now more frequently quoted as ‘peace on earth among men of good will’. The reason that this translation is not correct is because it has always been God’s intention and good will toward mankind to send his Son to be man’s Redeemer.

Dawn Bible Students Association
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