“Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son,
and they shall call His name Immanuel, which is translated, ‘God with us.’” Mat 1:23
An Ancient Sign to Israel (Isa 7:10–17; Isa 8:10; Isa 9:6–7)
In the days of Isaiah, in the eighth century before Christ, God gave a sign to King Ahaz in Jerusalem that was a prophetic prelude to the coming of the Messiah. At a time when the kingdom of Judah was under attack from the combined forces of Israel (the northern kingdom) and Syria, God sent the prophet Isaiah to give comfort and hope to the people of Judah (Isa 7:1–9). The prophet, speaking on behalf of the God of Israel, offered King Ahaz the opportunity to ask for a “sign” that these enemies would be defeated and Judah delivered (Isa 7:10–12). King Ahaz, in a display of pseudo-humility, refused the offer.
Therefore, Isaiah declared that God Himself would give the sign:
“Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and [she] shall call His name Immanuel.” Isa 7:14
Critics of the Bible have made much of the fact that the word for “virgin” here is literally “young woman” (almah in Hebrew). The word was generally used of a young woman of marriage age, which would assume—in the culture of the day—that she was a virgin. However, there is a vital reason why this word was used.
Like many Old Testament prophecies, this one also has a two-fold fulfillment. Generally, the first fulfillment is “near” in time, while the second, and the greatest, is “far-off.” Note that the immediate fulfillment would occur in the days of Ahaz.
“For before the Child shall know to refuse the evil and choose the good,
the land that you dread will be forsaken by both her kings.” Isa 7:16
So, who was this child, and what was the fulfilled “sign”? Reading on into Isaiah chapter 8, we see the prophet given the name for his son before he was born—“Maher-Shalal-Hash-Baz” (Isa 8:1–4). Quite a name for a child! It literally means, “Hurry to plunder, hasten to spoil.” It spoke of the coming of the king of Assyria, who would destroy both Syria and the northern kingdom of Israel—the fulfillment of Isaiah’s promise to King Ahaz. Why is this important? The “young woman” of the prophecy had to include the wife of Isaiah—as well as Mary, the true virgin—750 years later. Note in the New American Standard translation, “She will call his name Immanuel.” Because the definite article in the phrase is best translated as a demonstrative pronoun, the earlier part of the verse would read, “this young woman shall conceive.” This matches the feminine pronoun, “she will call …,” Isaiah’s wife being was the “young woman” of the immediate prophecy.
Note that the birth of Isaiah’s son, followed by the Assyrian victory which it foretold, would give hope to Judah that “Immanuel” truly was “God … with us” (see Isa 8:7–10). In a very dark and dangerous time, God proved His faithfulness to His people, giving them a miraculous deliverance—a prophetic preview of a far greater deliverance in the future fulfillment of the prophecy.
By reading on in Isaiah chapter 9, we see the ultimate, anticipated fulfillment of the coming of “Immanuel”:
“For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given; and the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” Isa 9:6
Although this verse is often quoted at this time of year, seldom is it seen in the full context of the prophecy of Isaiah. It is Jesus Christ—and He alone—who is all of this, and so much more, to those who trust and obey Him.
Fulfilled in Jesus Christ (Mat 1:20–23)
The ultimate fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy is realized in the virgin birth of our Lord Jesus Christ. His coming had one great objective, and that was “to save sinners, of whom I am chief,” so said the Apostle Paul (1Ti 1:15).
In the substitutionary death of Christ, our Savior took all our sins upon Himself (1Jo 2:2) in order that we could claim His righteousness by faith (2Co 5:21). In the God-Man, God’s holiness confronted and defeated sin and death (1Co 15:54b–57). He alone had the power to “[bind] the strong man [Satan] … and plunder his house” (Mat 12:29).
Not only was the ideal of Immanuel realized by the presence of Jesus Christ when He was living among men, but by the coming and indwelling of the Holy Spirit, Immanuel is with each and every one who enters eternal life by believing in Christ as Savior (Joh 14:17–18; Rom 8:9–11; 1Jo 3:24).
If we are walking in the power of His Spirit (Gal 5:16), we will experience His presence and power (Joh 14:21, Joh 14:23), and His fellowship will strengthen and sustain us in all the tests and trials of our life.
The Beginning of Mysteries (1Ti 3:16)
With the birth of Christ, we have the beginning—and the greatest—of a series of “mysteries” which all lead to the final fulfillment of God’s eternal purpose for the human race.
In 1Ti 3:16, Paul declares, “And without controversy, great is the mystery of godliness.” He then outlines the “mystery of godliness” in six rapid phrases, beginning with the virgin birth and incarnation of Christ, and ending with His ascension into glory.
In the New Testament, the word “mystery” refers to new revelation, which can only be understood by those who are regenerated (born again) believers (Joh 3:3, Joh 3:7; 2Co 5:17).
With the advent of Jesus Christ into the world, there is a gradual unfolding of these mysteries: From the mystery form of the Kingdom of God (Mat 13:11; Luk 8:10; Mar 4:11), to the partial blinding of Israel (Rom 11:25) and the formation of a new spiritual family—the Church (Eph 3:1–9; Eph 5:22; Col 1:26–27). This new spiritual body—fulfilling the world-wide missionary role abdicated by Israel—will then culminate in the mystery of the Rapture (1Co 15:50–57; 1Th 4:13–18). With the catching up of the Church, Israel will re-awaken to her spiritual role during the time of Tribulation, where Antichrist will be revealed as “the mystery of iniquity” (2Th 2:3–10), ruling over a kingdom known as “MYSTERY, BABYLON” (Rev 17:1–8).
With these seven “mysteries” completed, “the mystery of God [would] be finished” (Rev 10:7), and Christ will return to establish His long-awaited Kingdom on Earth. None of this great plan could have been accomplished without the incarnation, life, death, and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ.
One God, One Mediator (1Ti 2:3–6)
In the Person of Jesus Christ, we have the union of Almighty God, and the perfect humanity of the “only begotten Son of God” (Joh 3:18). He alone is the one and only mediator between God and men, for He is God and man in the same Person. God Himself became man in order to reconcile mankind to Himself (2Co 5:19, 2Co 5:21).
In his suffering and anguish, Job cried out for a mediator between himself and God (Job 9:32–33). By spiritual revelation, he was given the understanding that his mediator would indeed come into the world (Job 19:25–27).
By means of the mystery and miracle of the virgin birth, God entered into His own creation, and “Immanuel,” meaning “God with us,” was historically realized. He entered the human family, that by faith we might enter into the family of God (Eph 3:14–19).
The Song of Angels (Luk 1:13–14)
In the solitude and isolation of the shepherd’s fields outside of Bethlehem, a vast army (Luk 2:13, “host”) of angels sang with joy of the effects of the work of the Savior, inaugurated with His birth, and completed on the cross:
“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, toward those with whom He is pleased.” Luk 2:14
You will notice that the translation above differs from many versions of the Bible. This more literal version indicates that the coming of the Savior provides the pathway to “peace with God,” which is the way of simple, child-like faith. It is those who believe in Jesus Christ with whom God is “well pleased.”
Two thousand years ago, in a lonely sheep-camp outside of Bethlehem, the prophecy of Isaiah was literally and eternally fulfilled. God came among us in the incarnation of the living Word (Joh 1:1–4, Joh 1:14). He continues to be the One who divides the entire race of men into either the kingdom of light or the kingdom of darkness. Those who trust Him as Savior are transferred into His kingdom (Col 1:13); those who reject Him remain slaves of the prince of darkness (Joh 3:19).
To know Him is to know forgiveness, comfort, hope, assurance, power, and love. For those who believe, He is always with us, and though we are often unfaithful, “He remains faithful; [for] He cannot deny Himself” (2Ti 2:13).
Whatever our state at this present time, approaching Christmas 2017, “with Christ alone” we have more reasons to rejoice and celebrate than we could ever count. Because of Him who suffered for us, we have the assurance of ultimate victory and eternal glory.
“Now unto Him who is able to keep you from stumbling, and to present you faultless
before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy, to God our Savior, who alone is wise,
be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and forever. Amen.” Jud 1:24–25
Let His Word to us be our cause of celebration at this time!
Gene, Nan, and all the BTBM team