Then in the sixth month, the angel Gabriel was sent by Adonai into a town in the Galilee named Natzeret and to a virgin engaged to a man named Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Miriam (Mary). And coming to her, the angel said, “Shalom, favored one! Adonai is with you.” But at the message, she was perplexed and kept wondering what kind of greeting this might be. The angel spoke to her, “Do not be afraid, Miriam, for you have found favor with God. Behold, you will become pregnant and give birth to a son, and you shall call His name Yeshua. He will be great and will be called Ben-Elyon. Adonai Elohim will give Him the throne of David, His father. He shall reign over the house of Jacob for all eternity, and His kingdom will be without end.”Luke 1: 26-33 – Tree of Life Version
Merry Christmas! I hope you enjoy my annual Christmas letter.
“His name shall be Yeshua.” I selected the Tree of Life version for this year’s letter because I wanted to highlight a few of the Hebrew ideas surrounding Jesus’ birth that are not often expressed in our modern reading of the Christmas account. Yeshua is a transliteration of the Hebrew name for Jesus. This transliteration teaches us how a Jewish person at the time would have said His name. These transliterations are a consistent feature in the TLV.
Wrapped into the name Yeshua is the very core of His identity as the savior-deliverer. Yeshua means salvation, and He is salvation in every sense of the word. This baby, born of the virgin, reveals the full wealth of His greatness and wonder in His own name. The little child from the tribe of Judah, who would grow up in the most natural human way, is also the Ben-Elyon, or “Son of the Most High God.” In but a few sentences spoken to the trembling young mother, Gabriel proclaimed the fullness of the gospel of salvation.
Interestingly, many of us stop at the idea of salvation when celebrating Christmas. We stop at the “salvation” part of His gospel even though there is so much more. Friends, salvation in Jesus alone is the doorway into the Kingdom of God, and there a wealth of promises laid out before us that we might partake of if we would only walk through the doorway of salvation but a few feet.
Gabriel continues, “Adonai Elohim will give Him the throne of David, His father.” There is far more to this statement than I will unpack here, but I want to point out a couple things we often miss. If the promise of salvation mentioned in the previous verse is true, so is the promise granted to Jesus that He will receive the throne of His earthly ancestor David. Jesus will receive David’s throne by the means, methods, and definitions of His Heavenly Father. What does this mean? Well, first of all, it means that to Jesus Messiah belong all the promises prophesied over King David and His descendants. The idea that Jesus is “King of the Jews” is not figurative. It is literal. Though it is completely true today as it was the day Jesus was conceived in Mary’s womb, it is a yet-to-be fulfilled promise of Scripture. Jesus is currently dwelling in heavens, seated at the right hand of the Father. In the near future, Jesus will return, and when He does He will inherit the throne of David in earthly Jerusalem. The One who rules beside His Father in heavenly Zion will yet again come back to earthly Zion to rule over Israel and grant to the Jewish people the fullness of their ethnic, territorial, and national covenant promises. This is what it truly means for Jesus to be Messiah.
“He shall reign over the house of Jacob for all eternity, and His kingdom will be without end.” The promise is reiterated in the familial sense here. Jesus will be the head of His natural, earthly family – namely, Israel (Jacob), for all eternity. He is committed to the promise that was made to Abraham, Issac, and Jacob. His kingdom is a family covenant before it is any kind of religion. This eternal and endless kingdom is tied to a specific family chosen from among the sons of men, and in Jesus Messiah alone, they will one day be delivered from every last opposition to their inheritance.
These ideas are often missing from our typical presentation of the gospel of salvation, but they are essential to a pure presentation of the foundational gospel message. It is easy to become so fixated upon the notion that God will spiritually save all nations and peoples from their sins that we forget there is so much more to the Gospel. The truth is, if Jesus were unable to fulfill His promises to ethnic, territorial, and national Israel, He is unfit to be our spiritual Savior. Praise God we know the end of the story! We know that Jesus will live up to the fullness of His name.
It is easy to look at the birth of Jesus, His life, His death, and His resurrection and think that there’s nothing left but to preach salvation. Keep preaching salvation, friends, but let us humbly build our message on the cornerstone foundation of the Gospel of the Kingdom. Everlasting righteousness will not come until the return of Jesus, when He rules from Jerusalem and ushers in an era of peace that will result in the salvation of Israel. It is at the very beginning of the days of the earthly rule of Jesus from Jerusalem when He will bless all nations, bring everlasting peace to all peoples, and resurrect the dead in Messiah. Even Paul writes in his letter to the Romans that the future salvation of Israel means life from the dead. (Rom. 11:11-32)
We have been equipped with a Gospel of the Kingdom, one that is heavenly of origin and will one day descend upon earthly Jerusalem. We have been equipped with the power of Jesus’ resurrection to be witnesses of this coming kingdom, and whenever we minister by the power and wisdom of the Holy Spirit, we give people a “foretaste” of the great feast to come.
Today is the day of spiritual salvation, the day of supernatural healing, and the day of the Holy Spirit’s power. But today is also the day of prophecy, of enduring tribulation, and of contending for the fullness of the promise which is yet to come. One day, Jesus will join the heavens and the earth into one new realm in perfect unity. It will be a new creation. It will be a new heavens and earth.
Today, if you have received the salvation provided by this same Jesus, you are a new creation in Messiah and have been made a minister of this coming redemption. As we look back to Jesus’ birth, let us also look forward to the day the Savior will return and bring an end to this evil age. As you look towards these promises, let us also do the work of demonstrating the wonder of this coming Kingdom to others.
Merry Christmas and Maranatha!
J. S. Marek