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Called to Rejoice

“For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.”—Luke 2:11

These familiar words should gladden our hearts. The prophecy of the birth of the Messiah had now been fulfilled. “But thou, Bethlehem Ephratah, though thou be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of thee shall come forth unto me one that is to be ruler in Israel.” (Mic. 5:2) God chose this city because it was the city of David, Israel’s beloved king. However, few children in Judea or even the entire world were born in humbler circumstances. Due to the crowded conditions caused by many coming to pay their taxes, Jesus was born in a cattle stall. (Luke 2:1-7) But from these simple beginnings, the son of God would go on to complete his mission as the world’s Savior.

The birth of our Lord Jesus, to be properly understood, must be considered as a gift of divine love. “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son that whosoever believeth on him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16) God, through the life and sacrifice of Jesus, provided for the salvation of the entire world. Through the Father’s plan, Jesus was begotten by the Holy Spirit so that after he died as a ransom for Adam, he could be raised from the dead to be the high priest to bring mankind back to God in his earthly kingdom. Jesus would make it possible to recover all that was lost by disobedience in Eden—everlasting life, perfection and fellowship with God and his son. As the effects of Adam’s disobedience were inherited by his descendants, so the results of Christ’s obedient life will be shared by all.

The announcement delivered to the shepherds was sent to those who were humble, and trustworthy. The message of good tidings was an inspired one, and in harmony with the promise that God made to Abraham. (Gen. 28:14) While they were “keeping watch” and guarding their flocks, the shepherds became “sore afraid.” (Luke 2:8,9) This reveals that mankind generally does not view God as being gracious and loving, but God is a God of grace, love, and the father of mercies. (2 Cor. 1:3) The angels told the shepherds to “fear not,” for a message of “good tidings of great joy” was being proclaimed to them.—Luke 2:10

The order of the message is important. First, “good tidings,” then “great joy,” and finally, the crowning feature—it is “to all people.” The message declared a Savior had been born—the anointed one. God carefully declared he was sending his only begotten son to be man’s redeemer, “that he might be just, and the justifier of him who believeth.”—Rom. 3:26

Luke 2:14 adds a grand chorus of angelic voices to the message singing, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.” (Luke 2:14) This was a declaration of the wonderful character and power of God concerning the work by which this babe just born would bring glory and honor to his Father everlastingly.

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Elisha

Elijah had been a faithful prophet of God. After exposing the false prophets of Baal, demonstrating that Jehovah was God, the Lord had more work for him to do. We read in 1 Kings 19:15-21 that he was to anoint kings, and also to anoint Elisha to succeed him as the prophet to Israel. When Elijah first met Elisha, Elisha was plowing with twelve yoke of oxen indicating he came from a family of wealth. Elisha’s family served the Lord and was not affected by the idolatry of the day. This is shown by his name, Elisha, signifying “God is deliverer.”

Elijah approached and indicated Elisha’s call to a special service by laying his mantle upon Elisha. His call was not to a place of ease, but to become a servant of the prophet. Elisha accepted the service joyfully and sacrificed his oxen. He humbly became Elijah’s servant, learning from him. Here is a lesson for us as Christians. If we are called to a service for the Lord, do we accept the invitation? Are we as quick to follow as Elisha?

Continuing in 2 Kings 2, Elijah asked Elisha what blessing he would desire before their separation. Elisha requested a double portion of Elijah’s spirit. This does not signify his desire to have twice as much as Elijah enjoyed, but rather was the familiar way of expressing an elder son’s double portion. Elijah responded his request would be granted, if Elisha would see Elijah at the time of their separation. Circumstances would tend to separate the two, and if they were separated for any reason, Elisha would not receive the blessing. The Lord led Elijah on a circuitous route. At various stopping places, he suggested that Elisha tarry. Instead, Elisha clung closely to the Prophet, allowing nothing to hinder being with Elijah to the very end. He stayed with Elijah until Elijah was separated by the chariot of fire and the whirlwind.

Elijah’s mantle, a symbol of his authority, fell to Elisha. Elisha took off his own outer garment and tore it in two, showing his grief. He then took Elijah’s mantle, along with the blessing and power of Jehovah that came with it. Elisha continued on to serve the Lord. May we also use our talents and abilities to serve the Lord with joy. as quick to follow as Elisha.

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The Messiah

The expression “Jesus Christ” is the same as saying “Jesus the Messiah.” “Messiah” means to anoint or to smear with oil. In Biblical times Kings Solomon, Saul and David were anointed as a sign that they were approved of God. Abraham, Isaac and Jacob are referred to in scripture as God’s anointed ones. The practice of anointing was accomplished by pouring oil on their heads. We find this expression in the 23rd Psalm: “Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.” Jesus was anointed with the Holy Spirit, following his baptism by John making him the Messiah, God’s anointed savior of the world.—Matt. 3:16,17

The Bible provides insights into the Messiah’s appearance, background and activities. The Prophet Isaiah said the Messiah would be anointed “To bring good news to the afflicted; … to bind up the brokenhearted, To proclaim liberty to captives And freedom to prisoners. To proclaim the favorable year of the Lord” (Isa. 61:1,2) Jesus applied this prophecy to himself in Luke 4:16-21.

Daniel prophesied that Messiah would come during the time when Jesus was born. When King Herod heard of Jesus’ birth, he learned that the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem, Subsequently, Herod had all of the male children of Bethlehem, two years old and under, put to death in a futile attempt to thwart God’s plans, but God provided a way of escape for the baby Jesus—to Egypt.

Early Christians believed that the Messiah would come to do battle with their oppressors. Acts 4:26 tells us the believers prayed for courage in the face of the adversity of their day. They quoted Psalm 2:1,2: “The kings of the earth rise up and the rulers band together against the Lord and against his anointed one.” Despite their opposition, God will set his Son, the Messiah, as a king upon his holy hill of Zion. Then, Messiah will dash the earthly kingdoms to pieces, replacing them with his kingdom which will bless all mankind—vss. 6-12

The Highway of Holiness – Isaiah 35:8

Jesus said in Matthew 7:13,14 (NASB) concerning our day, “The gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it, for the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it.” How strange! Why is the way so restricted for those who wish to follow Jesus and attain to eternal life?

There are only two ways open at this time: the narrow way and the broad way. Billions are on the broad way that leads to destruction while relatively few are on the narrow way that leads unto life. Why? Because the narrow way is a way of sacrifice and suffering in the name of Jesus and few are interested in following it. Does that leave any hope for the billions walking the broad road? Yes, because God’s plan includes a feature to bring those who walked the broad road back to life and give them the opportunity to walk a new road, the “highway of holiness,” back into harmony with God in Christ’s earthly kingdom.

This highway leads to everlasting life and will be offered to all, who when resurrected and enlightened, choose to walk on it. Isaiah 35:8-9 (NASB) describes this way: “A highway will be there, a roadway, And it will be called the Highway of Holiness. The unclean will not travel on it, But it will be for him who walks that way, And fools will not wander on it. No lion will be there, Nor will any vicious beast go up on it; These will not be found there. But the redeemed will walk there.” Satan will be bound and not be able to hinder those who wish to walk on this highway. The stones of oppression, poverty and other troubles will be removed so they will not hamper man’s walking this highway. (Isa. 62:10) The highway will be made plain and Jesus as a shepherd will lead the human family up the highway. (Isa. 42:16; 40:11) There will be springs of water, picturing the blessings of God’s truth, that will be available to the travelers of the highway. (Isa. 41:18; 49:10) Mankind will be healed of the physical effects of the curse of sin and death, which will make it easier for them to walk this highway­—­Isa. 35:5,6; 33:24

By walking this highway, mankind “shall obtain joy and gladness, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away.” (Isa. 35:10) If obedient, those who walk this highway will regain harmony with God, perfection, and everlasting life—everything Adam lost due to sin.

The Rainbow Covenant

We have been hearing and reading in the news about global warming, the threat of more violent storms, and rising seas that could flood the earth to the point of destroying it. God, however, in the Scriptures made a covenant that “neither shall all flesh be cut off any more by the waters of a flood; neither shall there any more be a flood to destroy the earth.” (Gen. 9:11) The seal of this covenant of nature was the rainbow, which Noah had never seen in the clouds before. Regarding this seal of the covenant made by a divine institution, we observe several important things.

This seal is affixed with repeated assurances of the promise it was designed to ratify. “I do set my bow in the cloud and it shall be for a token of a covenant between me and the earth.” (vs. 13) “The bow shall be seen in the cloud and I will remember my covenant … the waters shall no more become a flood to destroy all flesh.” (vss. 14,15) The bow was given so that its sight might strengthen man’s heart and confirm faith in God’s promise. “I will look upon it, that I may remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature.”—vs.16

A rainbow appears in the clouds when the clouds are most likely to deliver rain. It often returns after the rain; when we have most reason to fear the rain continuing. Then, God shows this seal of the promise that it will not continue. In this way God calms our fears with such encouragements that are both suitable and reasonable. The thicker the cloud the brighter the bow in the cloud. Thus, as threatening afflictions abound, encouraging consolations abound much more.—2 Cor. 1:5,4

The rainbow appears when one part of the sky is clear, which implies mercy remembered amid wrath, and the clouds may appear to be hemmed in by the rainbow. The rainbow is caused by the refraction and dispersion of the sun’s light by rain or other water droplets in the atmosphere. This illustrates that all of the glory and significance of the seal of the covenant are derived from Christ, the “Sun of righteousness” (Mal. 4:2), who is also described with a “rainbow about his throne,” and a “rainbow upon his head.” (Rev. 4:3,10:1) This intimates, not only his majesty, but his mediatorship.

The colors of the rainbow signify God’s faithfulness (blue), Jesus’ sacrifice (red), Jesus exalted to be the “Sun of righteousness” (yellow), and the promise of life to man (green). It is a bow directed upwards toward heaven and not downwards, towards the earth. The seal of the covenant was intended to comfort man, not to terrify him. Marvelously adapted, it serves as a type of mercy following judgment—as a sign of the connection between man’s sin and God’s free and unmerited grace. As God looks upon the bow that he may remember the covenant, we, too, should also be mindful of the covenant with faith and thankfulness, for God hath truly promised, “The earth abideth forever.”­—­Eccles. 1:4

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Elijah

Elijah was a prophet from Tishbe in Gilead—a historical region located east of the Jordan River in present day Jordan. His name means “Yahweh is my God.” He was considered as one of the greatest prophets of Israel. He walked and talked with God and encouraged others to believe the Lord is God, just as his name purported.

He heard the word of the Lord and followed God’s direction. Often, the message was difficult and was met with opposition. Still, Elijah did not falter. He confronted face-to-face those who spent their life in the worship of Baal. In 1 Kings 18:21, New International Version, Elijah went before the Israelites and said, “How long will you waver between two opinions? If the Lord is God then follow him; but if Baal is God, follow him.”

Elijah following the Lord’s instruction, approached King Ahab and said, “As surely as the Lord, the God of Israel, lives—the God I serve—there will be no dew or rain during the next few years until I give the word!” (1 Kings 17:1, New Living Translation) Elijah then hid from King Ahab by the brook Cherith where the Lord directed ravens to bring food to Elijah and where he drank from the water from the brook. As Elijah warned, the rain stopped, and the brook and all the land dried up.

The Lord then directed Elijah to the village of Zarephath where he met a widow who would feed him. When they met, she was gathering sticks to cook her last meal. Elijah asks her to bring him some water and some bread. (vss. 10-12) She responds that she has very little flour and oil. Still, Elijah directs her to make a small loaf of bread and use the remainder of her supplies for her and her son. He assures her the Lord would provide food for them and it was so. There was always enough flour and oil left in her containers until the day the Lord sent rain to water the land again.

While in the house, the woman’s son fell gravely ill, and stopped breathing. Elijah prayed to God, and the Lord brought the boy back to life.—vss. 17-23

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The Prodigal Son—Luke 15:11-32

As we walk in Jesus’ footsteps, we may stray from the path he set. These failures can lead us to feel unworthy of our calling. Nevertheless, we must remember that without Christ’s sacrifice and covering, we could never be worthy. We must not allow these thoughts of discouragement to linger. They are a tool of the Adversary.

There is security in our relationship with God. He looks at us as sons and daughters. He has begotten us by his holy spirit and has provided for our justification in his sight and the Lord as our advocate.—Rom 8:31-34; 1 John 2:1,2

This reminds us of the story of the prodigal son. The prodigal son disregarded his father’s counsel, squandered his inheritance and ignored his opportunity to stay with his father. This is similar to when we sin after having embarked on walking in the narrow way. (Matt. 7:13) The prodigal son degraded himself in every way possible and ends up mucking out a pig sty and craving what the pigs eat. He and the pigs were in a similar state, but there was a big difference between the son and the pigs. The pigs could not say to themselves, “I will arise and go to my father.” (Luke 15:18) When the prodigal son came home, his father welcomed him, cleaned him up and then, celebrated his return because, despite all of his mistakes, he was still his father’s son.—vss. 20-32

The son knew that he was unworthy of this treatment. (vs. 19) Still, it did not stop him from returning to his father with repentance in his heart. The son knew he had failed, but he humbly desired to rejoin his father’s household, regardless of the position.

Paul reminds us that he, too, had failings, “What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death?” (Rom. 7:24, New International Version) Paul assures us that God is just as anxious to welcome us back if we would return to him. “There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”—Rom. 8:1 NIV

Therefore, let us always remember that if we are willing to correct our path and return to God through the merit of Jesus’ sacrifice, he will be just to forgive us and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.—1 John 1:9

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Restitution

The word restitution in Acts 3:19-21, means “to restore” back to its original condition. What is to be restored? What did mankind lose from the fall of Adam? LIFE and HEALTH. Ezekiel 18:20 reads, “The soul that sinneth, it shall die.” Romans 6:23 tells us, “The wages of sin is death.” Additionally, man lost his RELATIONSHIP WITH GOD, and DOMINION OVER THE ANIMALS AND THE EARTH.—Gen. 3:8-11,17-19,23

Nevertheless, we learn that, “the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” (Rom. 6:23) Divine justice required a perfect human life, the man Christ Jesus, to sacrifice that life, to ransom mankind from what they inherited—sin and death from the disobedience of Adam. John 3:17 tells us, “For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.” Our Lord was raised from the dead by the Heavenly Father that he might apply the merit of his sacrifice on man’s behalf. Additionally, he was seated on God’s throne and became the head of his body, the church, for the purpose of restoring the human family back to what was lost in his coming earthly kingdom.—Rom. 4:25; Eph. 1:20-23; Rev. 20:6; Rev. 14:1; Col. 1:18

“As in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive. But every man in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, afterward they that are Christ’s at his coming.” (1 Cor. 15:22,23) In Jesus’ kingdom, “All that are in the graves shall hear his voice, and shall come forth.” (John 5:28) At that time mankind will be restored to health and dwell in a perfect environment because Satan will be bound for a thousand years. (Isa. 35:5-10; Rev. 20:1-3) Then, mankind will learn righteousness and obedience, and have an opportunity to rebuild that relationship with God because God will have all men to “come to a knowledge of the truth.” (1 Tim. 2:4) “All will know the Lord from the least to the greatest.” (Heb. 8:11) Then, it will be up to each individual to learn obedience and regain the perfection that was lost. “God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.”—Rev 21:4

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For more information, please see the following:

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Peace Through Christ's Kingdom
Peace Through Christ’s Kingdom
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Bright Hope for the World
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A Vision of the Kingdom Explained
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After Armageddon God’s Kingdom
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This Gospel of the Kingdom
This Gospel of the Kingdom
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The Times of Restitution of All Things
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A River of Water of Life
A River of Water of Life

 

Reeling To and Fro Like a Drunkard

The Prophet Isaiah described our current day with these words: “The earth reels to and fro like a drunkard And it totters like a shack, For its transgression is heavy upon it, And it will fall, never to rise again.”—Isa. 24:20 New American Standard Bible

The world bounces back and forth between competing political, economic, social and religious philosophies, looking for and never finding one that meets its needs or solves its problems. Instead, mankind becomes more and more divided into competing groups with a growing anger for, and intolerance of, those who do not share their values and philosophies.

Because of this dilemma, Jesus prophesied regarding our day, “On the earth dismay among nations, in perplexity at the roaring of the sea and the waves, men fainting from fear and the expectation of the things which are coming upon the world; for the powers of the heavens will be shaken.” (Luke 21:25,26 NASB) Men’s hearts are failing them for fear of the coming political, religious, economic and social strife. To man there appears no way out of their current trouble. Man has neither the wisdom, the resources, nor the proper spirit to resolve all of the ills afflicting this planet and its many human and animal inhabitants.

Still, Jesus prophesied that these signs would herald the approach of his earthly kingdom. “When these things begin to take place, straighten up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.”—Luke 21:28 NASB

This trouble signals the imminent implementation of Christ’s earthly kingdom which will bless all the families of the earth. The Apostle Paul wrote, “The anxious longing of the creation waits eagerly for the revealing of the sons of God.” (Rom. 8:19 NASB) The heavenly deliverance of the completed church, Jesus’ faithful followers or “the sons of God,” will then bring an end to this present evil world. (Gal. 1:4) They will replace it with a “new heavens” (religious government) and “new earth” (civil government) based on righteousness that will bring peace and life to all mankind.—2 Peter 3:13

This new heavens and earth pictures Christ’s kingdom, which will resurrect every man, woman and child from the grave, wipe away tears from off all faces and eliminate death, mourning, crying and pain from man’s experience. (Rev. 21:4) In this kingdom, the blind will see, the deaf will hear, the lame will walk, and all will know the Lord, from the least unto the greatest.—Isa. 35:5,6; Jer. 31:34

The competing philosophies of man will be replaced by the law of God—the law of righteousness and love for their fellow men. A highway of holiness will be cast up for all mankind to walk upon to perfection, harmony with God, and everlasting life. (Isa. 35:8; 62:10) Man will no longer fear the future but rejoice in the love of God and his deliverance.—Isa. 25:9

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Entering the Promised Land

Delivering the Israelites from Egyptian bondage fulfilled God’s promise to Abraham that he would make his descendants into a great nation and lead them to a land flowing with milk and honey. God was also delivering them from the bondage of slavery.—Exod. 3:8

When they came to enter the promised land, Moses sent spies from the 12 tribes. All the spies reported that it truly was a wonderful land. However, the majority frightened the people with an evil report.—Num. 13:33,34

When two of the spies, Joshua and Caleb, tried to encourage the people to put their trust in God, the people sought to stone them. The Lord became angry and determined that the people were not worthy to enter the land. Instead, they would remain in the wilderness for forty years until that generation, who lacked faith and obedience in God, died off. It would be their children who inherited the promised blessings of the land.—Num. 14:1-35

Forty years later, when the people were gathered near Shittim, God allowed Moses a glimpse of the promised land. Moses would not be permitted to enter because of his personal disobedience. Instead, authority over the nation was turned over to Joshua. Joshua gathered the people to the Jordan River and commanded the priests carrying the ark to cross the raging river. (Josh. 3:1-4) It was harvest time and the river overflowed the banks. Miraculously, the waters were dammed up twenty miles north in the city of Adam. When the priests’ feet touched the waters, the waters dried up and the people crossed on dry land.—Josh. 3:15-17

With this crossing of the Jordan, the Lord pictured mankind crossing into the righteous kingdom ruled by Christ Jesus. Jordan means “judged down” and the overflowing water illustrated the condemnation of death now resting on mankind. The damming of the waters at Adam shows how the curse of death, put upon mankind due to Father Adam’s disobedience, will be stopped by the ransom provided through Jesus’ obedience and sacrifice. (1 Cor. 15:22) The people crossing on dry ground shows us the favorable conditions the Lord will provide for men to enter into his Kingdom and gain everlasting life.