“Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations…teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:19-20, NASB).
1) Bible Prophecy (Tom Edwards)
One of the reasons we can accept the Bible as being divinely inspired is because of the fulfillment of Bible prophecy. Consider, for instance, the following which pertain to the first promise of the Messiah and those prophecies concerning and pointing to the time of and around His birth:
According to Genesis 3:15, Christ would be born of a woman. But before one would say, “Well, what is so special about that?,” we must realize that what makes it extraordinary is that Jesus had been with God before the world began and the same in Deity (cf. Jn. 1:1-3); but instead of just coming into this world, already appearing as a man, as some angels have done, Jesus entered, instead, in the form of an infant that had to grow and develop into manhood.
But notice what else Genesis 3:15 shows in God’s statement to Satan (who was in the form of a serpent):
“And I will put enmity
Between you and the woman,
And between your seed and her seed;
He shall bruise you on the head,
And you shall bruise him on the heel.”
The term “seed” is sometimes used in the Bible to refer to descendants. Notice, for example, Genesis 22:17-18 where God tells Abraham, “indeed I will greatly bless you, and I will greatly multiply your seed as the stars of the heavens and as the sand which is on the seashore; and your seed shall possess the gate of their enemies. In your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed, because you have obeyed My voice.”
In this passage, “seed” is not only used to refer to Abraham’s descendants (as also seen in Psalm 105:6), but, in addition, to a specific One, as Paul shows in Galatians 3:16: “Now the promises were spoken to Abraham and to his seed. He does not say, ‘And to seeds,’ as referring to many, but rather to one, ‘And to your seed,’ that is, Christ.”
That the serpent would “bruise” Christ on the heel, while Jesus would “bruise” the serpent on the head, figuratively refers to the crucifixion of Christ and what Jesus was able to accomplish by it. For though Jesus had to go through great suffering and death, yet He also, through that death, was able to “render powerless him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, and might free those who through fear of death were subject to slavery all their lives” (Heb. 2:14-15).
Also, in going along with Christ’s birth (and even though He has existed prior to the creation), is that the birth would be from one who was a virgin. As also prophesied, “Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, a virgin will be with child and bear a son, and she will call His name Immanuel” (Isa. 7:14).
Mary conceived Jesus by the Holy Spirit. The account declares concerning Joseph and Mary that “before they came together she was found to be with child by the Holy Spirit” (Matt. 1:18). Having not initially known that, Joseph was planning on sending Mary away secretly; but, prior to doing so, an angel of the Lord assured him that “the Child who has been conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit” (v. 20).
Matthew then points out that “…this took place to fulfill what was spoken by the Lord through the prophet: ‘BEHOLD, THE VIRGIN SHALL BE WITH CHILD AND SHALL BEAR A SON, AND THEY SHALL CALL HIS NAME IMMANUEL,’ which translated means, ‘GOD WITH US’” (v. 23).
And to think that even way back during the time of Adam and Eve, while they were still in the garden of Eden and before they became parents, God had indicated Satan’s defeat at Calvary by Jesus’ death on the cross that brought about that triumph – and a triumph, as we see in the New Testament, that would lead to the victory of many!
As we continue on, not only would Jesus be born of a virgin and of the lineage of Abraham, but He would also be a descendant of David (Acts 2:29-32; Matt. 1:1). Jesus Himself acknowledged this as well: “I, Jesus, have sent My angel to testify to you these things for the churches. I am the root and the descendant of David, the bright morning star” (Rev. 22:16). But, of course, as Paul shows, Jesus being “born of a descendant of David” was only “according to the flesh” (Rom. 1:3). For that is the part of Christ that did have a beginning, while His true essence has always existed. And when it comes to the Deity-side of Jesus, He was “declared the Son of God with power by the resurrection from the dead, according to the Spirit of holiness, Jesus Christ our Lord” (v. 4). While on earth, Jesus was the “Son of Man” (Luke 22:48) as well as the “Son of God” (John 10:36).
It is also interesting to see that the very place where Jesus would be born was prophesied several centuries prior. For Micah wrote about 700 to 681 B.C. and foretells:
“But as for you, Bethlehem Ephrathah,
Too little to be among the clans of Judah,
From you One will go forth for Me to be ruler in Israel.
His goings forth are from long ago,
From the days of eternity” (Micah 5:2).
“Ephrathah” is an ancient name of Bethlehem. It is also seen as Ephrath (Gen. 35:16,19; Gen. 48:7). That Bethlehem would be the place of Christ’s birth is also referred to in Matthew 2:5-6. For in answering Herod’s question concerning where the Messiah was to be born, the chief priests and scribes said to him: “…’In Bethlehem of Judea; for this is what has been written by the prophet: “AND YOU, BETHLEHEM, LAND OF JUDAH, ARE BY NO MEANS LEAST AMONG THE LEADERS OF JUDAH; FOR OUT OF YOU SHALL COME FORTH A RULER WHO WILL SHEPHERD MY PEOPLE ISRAEL.”’” See also Matthew 2:1.
A terrible event of great sadness was also prophesied that would have one of its fulfillments to take place around the time of the birth of Jesus:
“Thus says the LORD,
‘A voice is heard in Ramah,
Lamentation and bitter weeping.
Rachel is weeping for her children;
She refuses to be comforted for her children,
Because they are no more’” (Jer. 31:15).
This second fulfillment of this dual prophecy is seen in Matthew 2:16-18: “Then when Herod saw that he had been tricked by the magi he became very enraged and sent and slew all the male children who were in Bethlehem and all its vicinity, from two years old and under, according to the time which he had determined from the magi. Then what had been spoken through Jeremiah the prophet was fulfilled…,” which goes on to cite Jeremiah 31:15, as seen above, but with just a slight change in wording.
Why is Rachel the one mentioned as mourning for her children? Though there are several different Ramahs in the Bible, this particular one was in the territory of Benjamin, which was settled by those who could trace their lineage back to Jacob and Rachel. Hence, we read of Rachel weeping over her children (descendants) to figuratively express the sorrowful events that would come to them (and though she had long been deceased). “Ramah was intimately connected with one of the saddest epochs of Jewish history.” The leading residents of Jerusalem who survived Nebuchadnezzar’s attack on the city had been placed under guard at Ramah, while the Babylonians continued to plunder Jerusalem, destroy the temple and the palace, and cause other ruin. Jeremiah had also been held captive at Ramah (Jer. 40:1). The Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature further states: “Perhaps there was also a slaughter… of the captives as, from age, weakness, or poverty” who “were not worth the long transport across the desert to Babylon. There, in that heart-rending scene of captives in chains wailing over slaughtered kindred and desolated sanctuaries, was fulfilled the first phase of the prophecy uttered only a few years before: ‘A voice is heard in Ramah, lamentation and bitter weeping: Rachel weeping for her children… ’ That mourning was typical of another which took place six centuries later, when the infants of Bethlehem were murdered, and the second phase of the prophecy was fulfilled (Matt. 2:17).”
Let us close with the following prophecy concerning Jesus who was a very special “seed” indeed — and of far superior worth and value, as Isaiah 9:6-7 sets forth:
“For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us;
And the government will rest on His shoulders;
And His name will be called Wonderful Counselor,
Mighty God, Eternal Father [the Father of Eternity], Prince of Peace.
There will be no end to the increase of His government or of peace,
On the throne of David and over his kingdom,
To establish it and to uphold it with justice and righteousness
From then on and forevermore.
The zeal of the LORD of hosts will accomplish this.”
How glad and thankful we can be that Jesus fulfilled these prophecies written about Him, that He came to our rescue, and that He manifested His love in the greatest of all ways!
(All Scripture from the NASB, unless otherwise indicated.)
The Steps That Lead to Eternal Salvation
1) Hear the gospel, for that is how faith comes (Rom. 10:17; John 20:30,31).
2) Believe in the deity of Christ (John 8:24; John 3:18).
3) Repent of sins (Luke 13:5; Acts 17:30).
4) Confess faith in Christ (Rom. 10:9,10; Acts 8:36-38).
5) Be baptized in water for the remission of sins (Mark 16:16; Acts 2:38; 22:16; Rom. 6:3,4; Gal. 3:26,27; 1 Pet. 3:21).
6) Continue in the faith, living for the Lord; for, if not, salvation can be lost (Heb. 10:36-39; Rev. 2:10; 2 Pet. 2:20-22).
CHURCH OF CHRIST
1402 Tebeau Street, Waycross, GA 31501
Sunday services: 9:00 a.m. (Bible class); 10 a.m. & 5 p.m. (worship)
Wednesday: 7 p.m. (Bible class)
evangelist/editor: Tom Edwards (912) 281-9917
http://thomastedwards.com/go (Older version of Gospel Observer website without pictures, but back to March 1990)
http://ThomasTEdwards.com/audioser.html (audio sermons)