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NOTES ON CHRIST’S BIRTH

By Larry A. Smail

This is a rather long study, but worth the time to read and ponder.

The accounts of Christ’s birth in scripture actually give very little details. Only a handful of verses within a couple books of the New Testament give any information of his actual birth. However, there are words in Old Testament prophecies that, also, affirm the New Testament accounts.

I believe this fact of little detail was by design. Perhaps, the infinite wisdom of God knew mankind would create rituals around Christ’s birth that would greatly lesson the importance of the reasons as to why the God of heaven would come to earth as a baby only to sacrifice his earthly life for mankind. Thankfully for us this same man would arise from the grave and death giving us all the opportunity for eternal salvation. (Gospel of Grace)

Before we dive into this study of Christ’s birth, I believe, some study needs addressed from Old Testament prophecies to learn why, and how, Christ’s birth came to be.
The Jews from antiquity knew they were destined to be a great nation. After all God had made covenant promises with the Jews’ fathers of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob… Other promises insured they were to be a special and holy nation of priests to take God’s message to the Gentiles if they only were obedient. (Exodus 19: 5-6 Also, see 1 Peter 2:9 and Isaiah 42: 6.)

In an early prophecy of Genesis 49: 8-10, the patriarch, Jacob told his twelve sons they would praise his one son named, Judah. He, also, added the scepter shall not depart from Judah. (A scepter is a ceremonial staff held by an imperial authority such as a king. This individual would be over a royal kingdom. This prophecy indicates the Messiah would come from the tribe of Judah. Remember, Jesus has been known in scripture as the Lion of Judah. See Revelation 5:5.)

In 2 Samuel 7 beginning with verse 12, the prophet Nathan told King David prophetically that after his death his offspring would establish a kingdom or a royal house. These shows a King and Spiritual kingdom would be established through David’s lineage. This natural, or earthly, kingdom (Israel) would be corrected as needed, but God would NOT remove his steadfast love and promises. (This is why Israel became a nation again in 1948. Those promises will be coming soon.)

Nathan continued that this royal house of David or kingdom shall be forever as well as the throne. (This will happen at the Second Advent of Christ.)
Israel and Judah would be greatly chastened with falling into Gentile control. This happened over 500 years before Christ beginning with King Nebuchadnezzar of the Chaldeans. However, during much of this Gentile control, Israel’s prophets continually told of a coming kingdom and King despite Israel’s failings.

Words from Isaiah’s prophecies regarding the future King and kingdom are often heard during the Christmas season. Take note: These words were written by a Jewish prophet to the Jews. Isaiah 9: 6- 7states: “For unto us is born, to 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. Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, upon the throne of David, and over his kingdom, to establish it, and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and for evermore.”

This King will, also, to be known as the Promised One, the Messiah and the Anointed One for the Jews. That King would be Christ! He will be King over Israel and set upon the throne of David. (Paul in Romans 15:8-12 stated: Christ came to earth to be a minster, or servant, to the Jews to confirm God’s covenant promises. This would allow the Gentiles to receive mercy and glorify God. Notice how everything fits together. Remember the scriptural verses mentioned earlier.) We know the Jews rejected Christ and they have been greatly chastised.
Micah 5: 2 tells us this ruler of Israel would come from Bethlehem. This man’s origin is from of old, from ancient of days. (This is Christ. John: 1-5 calls Christ the Word who was from the beginning.)
Matthew 1shows Christ’s genealogy and begins with Jesus Christ, the son of David. Joseph, who would be the husband of Mary, is shown to be of the seed of David, too. Mary would be the young woman to give birth to Christ. (Luke 3 appears to give Mary’s lineage, but there has been debate on this. Luke wrote of
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the ancestors of Christ beginning with Joseph, but then uses other names that do not fit with Matthew’s genealogy account. This can be explained for under Jewish culture the lineage is through the father. Luke, to stay within this cultural demand, appears to be using Mary’s lineage. However, after writing Mary’s father’s name Luke added Joseph’s name. This indicates both, Mary and Joseph are in David’s lineage.)

GABRIEL’S APPEARANCE TO MARY
As stated, Israel had been under Gentile control for over 500 years by this time in their history. The Lord knew the timing was right to move with the delivery of Israel’s King to fulfill prophecy. He sent an angel named Gabriel to visit a young Jewish virgin. Her name was Mary. (Mari) This visit was sometime within August and September. (See writings in Luke 1: 26-38.)The Bible records this happened in the sixth month. (The Jewish calendar and new year begin with Nisan. (Abib) Nisan1 varies within our March-April time frame.)
Mary, upon seeing this angel was troubled. Gabriel told her to not be fearful for she had found favor of God. Mary was told she was to deliver a son named Jesus. This baby would be called the Son of the Most High and receive the throne of David. This son would rule forever over the House of Israel and his kingdom would never end. (Remember the prophecies mentioned above from 2 Samuel and Isaiah.)

Of course, Mary couldn’t understand how she would have a son since she had not been married. Gabriel told her she would conceive through actions of the Holy Spirit and the power of the Most High. The child would be called holy (Set apart) and the Son of God! Mary was faithful and agreed to do whatever was required of the Lord. (How soon did this supernatural conception take place? It is impossible to know, but I suspect this all occurred quickly.)

JOSEPH’S ISSUE
Mary and Joseph were betrothed. (Engaged) Joseph learned of Mary’s pregnancy and was to divorce her privately to avoid public shame and scandal. (Remember Joseph and Mary had not any relationship that would have led to her pregnancy.)
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One can see Joseph was a man of integrity. (Under Jewish law a man could divorce a wife, or betrothed, simply by a formal act from the man with a certificate of divorce.)
However, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream explaining Mary’s pregnancy was the result of the Holy Spirit. The child, he was informed, would be called Jesus and he would save his people from their sins. Joseph was satisfied and the marriage would happen. (The story of Joseph is in Matthew 1: 18-25.)

A decree from Caesar Augustus (Reign 27 B.C.-14 A.D.) was issued for the Jews to be counted. (Luke 2: 1-5) Joseph and Mary were living in Nazareth, so they would be traveling to Bethlehem, known as the city of David. This town was his hometown. Mary was very well on her way by this time to give birth. However, they headed for Bethlehem. (The distance between Nazareth and Bethlehem is approximately 70-80 miles depending on the route they chose to use.)

NOTE: This trip would have been organized with others in the area since traveling alone for such a distance would have been extremely dangerous. Also, remember Joseph was a carpenter. He would have had wagons of some sort to carry tools and materials. Joseph would have used such a wagon to travel to Bethlehem with supplies, needed belongings and a place to sleep.

In Luke 2: 6-7, we see Mary would give birth while in Bethlehem. (This birth would have happened sometime in May or June depending on when she conceived through the Holy Spirit and assuming that supernatural event occurred quickly after the visitation of Gabriel.) This satisfied ancient prophecies. Jesus was born, wrapped with swaddling clothing and he would sleep in a manger until a better place would be had. (Placing swaddling clothes on a baby was customary. The baby was wrapped and this method seemed to be positive for a baby. This act was to have the baby feel secure as he was in the womb and to cut down on possible scratches as the baby moved his arms around. Mangers could have been made from wood or hewn-out stones. The livestock would feed from a manger.)

NOTE: Scripture states there was no room in the inn. Jesus was born elsewhere. Christmas traditions usually use a stable or barn. Some suggest a cave. However,
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many places had the living quarters upstairs and the livestock below. Jesus could have actually been born on the lower floor of some family members or friend’s abode. We simply can’t say from scripture except he wasn’t born at an inn.

THE SHEPHERDS
There were shepherds in a field watching over their livestock at night. The livestock were, probably, sheep. (This would need to be in warmer time of the year. Spring is lambing season.) An angel of the Lord appeared to them and they were fearful as the glory of the Lord shone around them. The angel told them to not be afraid because this appearing to them was to bring about good news. That good news was of the Savior, Christ the Lord’s birth in the city of David. (Bethlehem) They would find the baby wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger.
A heavenly host sung praises before their eyes. They searched out this baby. These men told the news to everyone they met. (See Luke 2: 8-20.)

NOTE: I wondered about this supernatural appearing to the shepherds and if there was any significance to this. Then I thought of the men commonly referred to as the wise men. Did the Lord use the lowly shepherds to indicate all common men would, now, have hope? Shepherds were considered to be at the “bottom of the heap.” The wise men of wealth and position in society were on their way to see this King. I believe these two groups of classes were supernaturally approached by the Lord to demonstrate that this baby would cover the sins of the world regardless of cultural standings and classes of people?

THE STAR
At some time during this event of Christ’s birth a “Star” appeared. This star probably made its debut much prior to the actual birth. Much speculation and theories have been used to find out exactly what this star was in those ancient skies. One thing for certain the star was an event known or recognized by only a few. The star wasn’t something that impressed most of the people of the area. People educated in astronomy, or the study of the stars, saw the star. Apparently, some who knew enough of prophecies recognized this star as something very
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important. Perhaps, they had visions from an angel of the Lord. Scripturally, we can’t know how their knowledge came to be. Regardless, these men began the quest to find the King of the Jews. More on the star shortly.

THE “WISE” MEN
Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea during the reign of King Herod. Men, some- times called Magi, from the east came to Jerusalem seeking information on a new King of the Jews. They, added, they had seen “HIS STAR” in the east and came to worship him. (Nowhere in scripture does it state there were three wise men. All we can know there were, at least, two men because of the plurality in scripture. Of course, they would have had their servants along with supplies needed to travel. They were not “kings” as per common Christian songs, but rather learned and educated men, possibly, in a study of the heavenly stars and various religious cultures. This study of stars is astronomy. They may have been priests of Zoroaster from eastern lands near Persia which is present-day Iran or Iraq. They were, most likely Gentiles, but they could have been Jews since many Jews had lived in these areas. Remember, the Jews had been carried off hundreds of years ago. Some remained in these countries to live their lives. Personally, I lean towards these men being Gentiles and practiced the ancient religion of Persia known as Zoroaster. Somehow they knew of the promise of a Messiah to the Jews. Did an angel of the Lord appear to them with words of this coming King? Did they see this from dreams? Were they to arrive in Bethlehem representing the Gentiles?) The story of the “wise men” is in Matthew 2: 1-12.

KING HEROD
Herod was king over Judea. He was a Roman appointee who was an Arab that had converted to Judaism. These educated “wise” men came to Jerusalem to inquire as to where this King would be born. These people of Jerusalem were not aware of any star apparently, or at the least, didn’t think anything special from the appearance. This Star was not the bright illuminating star featured in Nativity images and Christmas cards. The Star was only special to those educated with such knowledge of the heavenly stars. Herod called his priests and such and was told the prophecies exclaimed the King would be born in Bethlehem. Herod wanted to
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know when the star first appeared and told the “wise” men to return once this King was found so he too could go and worship him. (This proves even King Herod wasn’t aware of anything all that unusual in the night sky. Herod’s story is in Matthew 2:1-19.)

The men headed to Bethlehem. The Star appeared to them and led them to where the child was living. (Notice this time a Star led them to where the baby was staying. This star mentioned here, I believe, was an angelic-style star. Many times in scripture the word “Star” was used to indicate an angel. It seems a heavenly star was viewed by these men with heavenly knowledge. It indicated to them a King was born. But, note this star, now, went before them as a guide and stood over where the baby was. I do not see this to be the same heavenly star. This star, apparently, was for their guide only.) The men worshiped the King and gave gifts. They found the Christ in a “house.” (Some time may have elapsed since the star’s first appearance until these men first saw the star, realized the importance of it, planned to go to Judah, traveled and found the Christ. Jesus and Mary were still in Bethlehem at this time. This was, probably, the time of waiting for the eight days for circumcision and rest for Mary.) The men realized through dreams they were not to return to Herod. The wise men may have arrived about this time of circumcision for Matthew 2: 13 states after the Magi had gone Joseph was told to go and take the child to Egypt. (It is six miles between Bethlehem and Jerusalem.)

Herod was angry when he realized the “wise” men were not coming back and ordered the murder of all male babies from two years old and younger. He, apparently, through the wise men’s description as to when the original star appeared wanted to make sure that King would not live. He ordered all male babies from two years and under to be killed. Herod wanted to be thorough so he added a two year time span. (Matthew 2: 16-18)

Herod, according to the Jewish historian, Josephus, died in 4 B.C. shortly before Passover of April 9-11 in the year of 4 B.C. (My research has three dates of possible Passover for that year.)This date would mean that Christ had to have been born prior to Herod’s death. Remember Herod ordered male babies murdered from two years and under. This may indicate the star witnessed by the educated
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astronomers from the east actually appeared and stayed in the sky for a period of time prior to Christ’s birth. (More details below.)
Jesus’ parents would have had him circumcised on the eighth day. (Luke 2:21) Since the travel would take time to get back to Nazareth and Mary would need to gain some strength, Jesus may have been circumcised in Bethlehem. According to Jewish law Mary would be required to go through the “Rite of Purification” This rite is found in Leviticus 12: 1-8. This purification for having a male child lasts 40 days. These facts indicate Jesus was, probably, born in early 4.B.C. shortly before Herod’s death. A 5 B.C. date could only work if the birth was very later into that year as in March 30 or the last day of the year 3757. Some claim the birth was 2 or 3 B.C. as the year of Christ’s birth. I can’t see how considering Herod’s death of 4 B.C.
By adding these known dates, I believe quickly after the eight days since the birth of Christ, Joseph and Mary headed to Egypt. Herod ordered all male babies of Bethlehem murdered. Herod died shortly thereafter and the family returned from Egypt, at the proper time to Jerusalem, to make an offering for Mary’s purification completion. (Luke 2: 22) At this time, while in Jerusalem, scripture states of a man named, Simeon who realized the baby was the Messiah.

Upon the completion of the circumcision; the escape to Egypt; the return to Jerusalem for the purification rite to be fulfilled as per Jewish law, the family returned to Nazareth. It seems apparent that the family left quickly after the circumcision to Egypt and once Herod died they returned to Jerusalem immediately.

Although, many of the traditional ideas of the Christmas season do not fit into the reality of those times, it is important to realize his birth is what truly is important. The world would have a Savior and an opportunity to see salvation if they believe that Jesus died for their sins was buried and rose from the grave.

One needs to believe Jesus died for their sins to have forgiveness of sins. One, also, has to believe Jesus rose from the grave to receive salvation.
THIS IS GRACE.
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THE BIRTH OF CHRIST IN BRIEF
1. The prophetic time was right for the King of the Gentile-controlled nation of Israel. Mary was approached by the angel Gabriel to announce she would give birth of the Messiah. Daniel’s 490 year prophecy dictated when the birth would need to be. (Found in Daniel 9.)
2. Joseph was told the same information through a dream and they married.
3. The STAR has, probably, had already been in the heavenly nights with only a few understanding the significance of the appearing.
4. Joseph and Mary began the trek to their hometown of Bethlehem as commanded by law for a census.
5. Mary gave birth while in Bethlehem. This fulfilled prophecy.
6. Shepherds came that night due to the appearance of a heavenly host of angels with an announcement of the birth of a Savior.
7. The Magi show up sometime around the eight day law pertaining to circumcision. The Star led them to the house where the baby was now living. Joseph, via a dream, learned of Jesus’ peril and immediately moved the family to Egypt after the Magi had left. Herod placed an order for all males of Bethlehem two years old, and younger, to be murdered.
8. Herod died shortly after and Joseph traveled to Jerusalem to complete the forty day Purification Law of the Jews for Mary’s birth of a male child. The notes here of 7 and 8, above, would require all of these events to fall within a forty day time period. This would include the birth of Jesus; the eight day until circumcision; the wise men visiting; Joseph’s dream to go to Egypt; Herod’s death, the travel to Jerusalem to complete the offering and forty day time of Mary’s purification. That is a lot happening in a short time.
9. The family moved back to Nazareth to await the ministry of Christ at thirty years of age.

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THE JERUSALEM COUNCIL
By Larry A. Smail

One of the most important events to have occurred in New Testament Bible times is the JERUSALEM COUNCIL. (Jerusalem Conference) If one studies this debate, and understands the results, the decisions, and their final agreement the significance of Bible truths will fall into place much easier. This eliminates much of what is often heard as Bible contradictions.

The Jerusalem Council occurred somewhere around the years of 50 A.D. I found it difficult to pinpoint a date to this conference. (The year of 50 A.D. seems to be the most accepted date.)

The Jerusalem Council event appears twice in the New Testament. The two times are found in Acts 15, and Galatians 2. (Luke wrote the Acts account, and Paul wrote the Galatians account of the debate.)

A brief history of events in the years prior to the council is needed to help “set the stage.”

At the time of the conference, Christ had been crucified, and resurrected for approximately 20 years. Christ had, also, ascended into glory. Pentecost had happened giving the Apostles the Holy Spirit power. The Apostles began preaching to the JEWS ONLY. (You can read of this in Acts 2 and 3 where Peter’s sermons address the MEN OF ISRAEL, MEN OF JUDEA, ALL OF ISRAEL, and ALL OF THE HOUSE OF ISRAEL …no Gentile talk here.)

The message preached was from Acts 2-3: Repent, (The Jews were to repent of their unbelief and of crucifying their Messiah.) and be baptized every one of you (Jews) in the NAME OF CHRIST for the forgiveness of sins, and receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. Peter, also, added in Chapter 3 about the time of refreshing and the return of Christ with the kingdom. (Peter’s words are much different than Paul’s Gentile message of believing the gospel of 1 Corinthians 15:1-4. The message of believing in faith that Christ died, was buried, and was raised again to be saved. NO WORKS!)

Opposition of the apostles’ message by the Jewish elites began, and eventually the stoning of the Holy Spirit, inspired, Jewish, Jesus believer, Stephen occurred. (Acts 7) Immediately, these Jewish, Jesus believers were forced to leave Jerusalem heading to Gentile cities to avoid persecution, capture, and death. (Acts 8) It is apparent the Lord had given the Nation of Israel its last chance to accept Christ as their Messiah. The Lord would be changing directions!

In Acts 9, a Jewish man of authority, and power, named Saul began to travel to these Gentile cities to capture, and return the Jewish, Jesus believers to Jerusalem. As he approached the city of Damascus, he was struck blind with the power, and voice of Christ. The man, Saul (later to be named Paul.) was converted to a believer on the spot. Soon, he would learn his mission, and that was to carry the message of GRACE THROUGH FAITH FOR SAVATION TO THE GENTILES.

The other Apostles are still preaching to JEWS ONLY! Paul spends years preaching, primarily, to the Gentiles. This is different from the Apostles’ message shown above.

However, Peter is, supernaturally, convinced into visiting a Gentile named Cornelius against his strong law-keeping Jewish indoctrination. (Acts 10) Peter is surprised to witness the Holy Spirit come onto these Gentiles even before he completed his talks, and before any water baptism. (This is important to remember for the Jerusalem Council meeting. The Lord had Peter visit these Gentiles for this future purpose.)

The stage of the Jerusalem Council has been set.

THE DEBATE

In Acts 15: 1-5, we read of men coming from Judea, (Law-keeping, Jewish believers.) and telling the Gentile believers they had to be circumcised, and follow law (Customs of Moses) to be saved. Paul, and Barnabas, argued with them. They would go to Jerusalem to answer questions from the Apostles, and elders. They were welcomed, and they declared what God had done with
the Gentiles. Pharisee believers claimed again they were to obey Jewish law.

In Galatians 2: 1-4, Paul writes, after 14 years, he (Paul) went back to Jerusalem with Barnabas, and the Greek, Titus. He told them of the gospel
(1 Corinthians 15:1-4) he preached among the GENTILES. Paul wrote
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here about going before those of repute privately prior to going to the council. (Those men of repute are the Apostles of Christ in Jerusalem.) He added of the false brethren brought in secretly to spy on our freedom. (That freedom was Liberty from Jewish law.) These people wanted to force the Gentiles into Mosaic Law.

In Acts 15: 6-7, there was a great debate with the Apostles, and elders. (This debate, probably, became argumentative and quite heated at times.)

In Galatians 2: 5-6, Paul wrote that we did not yield submission that the truth of the gospel be preserved. Paul adds that he was with those men of repute, or reputed to be something. (Paul was referring to the Apostles and believing Pharisees.) He added they meant nothing to Paul. (This would be difficult for me, but Paul stood up to the Apostles. I would be standing in awe at their presence.)

In Acts 15: 7-11, Peter finally stood up reminding these believing, yet law-keeping, Jews about his experience with Cornelius a while ago. (Acts 10) Peter remembered that these Gentiles received the Holy Spirit through faith. Peter asked them why we should be making trial by putting the yoke (law) upon these Gentiles that we (nor the fathers) bare. (This was the purpose of Peter’s direction, by the Lord, to visit the Gentile Cornelius. Had this not been done the outcome of this debate may have been quite different.)

In Acts 15: 12-21, the assembly was silent during Paul and Barnabas’ talks including the signs and wonders God had done among the Gentiles. James, at some point in the debate, agreed with Peter’s statements of what was witnessed to the Gentiles. James suggested we (Jews) make no more trouble to the saved Gentiles. A decision to write to the Gentiles with requests of various things to avoid was made. (Verse 20)

In Acts 15: 24, the Apostles and elders had letters written up apologizing to the Gentiles for the Jewish believer’s previous actions. The letters, also, added they suggested the Gentiles would follow certain things from Jewish
Law. Note the Apostles are still adhering to the law!

In Galatians 2: 7-8, they realized that Paul was entrusted to the Gentiles (uncircumcised) and Peter had been entrusted to the circumcised. (Jews)
He (Christ) worked through Peter to the Jews, and he (Christ) worked
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through Paul to the Gentiles. Jews, and Gentiles, are still separated here.

In Galatians 2: 9-10, once they perceived the grace message preached by Paul, the apostles who were reputed to be pillars, namely, Peter, James and John SHOOK HANDS with Paul and Barnabas. (This was a gentlemen’s agreement.)

All through the Old Testament a separation of the Jews and the Gentiles is present. The Nation of Israel, and the Jews, would come through the man, Abraham. God promised they would be a unique people. In Exodus 19: 5-6, God tells these people if they would obey him they would become priests to take the message to the Gentiles. They failed!

Christ, in the four gospels, was a Jew living as a Jew, and a law-keeper! Christ’s original mission was to be a minister, or servant, to the Jews in accordance to the scripture as their MESSIAH! (Romans 15:8) Even Christ maintained a separation between the Gentiles, and Jews as was his mission. A couple of verses stating this from Christ can be found in Matthew 10: 5-6, and Matthew 15: 22-28. Christ said his mission was to go to the LOST SHEEP OF ISRAEL! This is important to remember!

Christ was rejected by the Nation of Israel. The Gentiles were a pagan people caring little to nothing about the Jews, and their culture. The Jews hated the Gentiles. Another form of separation!

Even at the Jerusalem Council, you can easily read, and see how the Holy Spirit was keeping the Gentiles, and Jews separated. The results: The disciples would go to the JEWS, and Paul would go to the Gentiles! Remember they shook on this! A separation! The separation was constant throughout the New Testament scriptures. We should, too as we study!

If you can learn to study the Word with this separation in place the words of the Bible will begin to open up, and an understanding of the scriptures will be the result. You will soon enjoy studying the WORD! Contradictions will become nil!

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BIBLICAL MYSTERIES REVEALED TO PAUL
By Larry A. Smail

When one hears the word, “mystery”, or secret, the immediate thought goes to suspense of an unknown subject. Also, it must be remembered the normal scenario features someone knowing of a specific bit of information while others do not have the knowledge. However, any mysteries will no longer be a secret once that knowledge has been told to others through the one originally having the secret.

The Bible has various mysteries as well. In any situation of a Biblical secret the one holding onto the mystery is the Lord, and the mystery will only be revealed when God deems the time is right for the next stage of the plan. These mysteries are very different, in so much, as God’s mysteries are spiritual in nature.

One Bible verse I often refer to comes from Deuteronomy 29: 29, where Moses through the words of God spoke the following: “The secret things belong unto the Lord our God: but those things that are revealed belong unto us, and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law.” This particular instance was to the early Israelites under Moses’ leadership. However, this remained true all through scripture. In brief, the Lord will not expect anybody to come to a belief or understanding of anything of spiritual aspects until the information has been revealed via his prophets, the Word, or in these cases, described here, through Paul, the Apostle of the Gentiles!

The entire book of the Bible is a book of transitions over many years with secrets, and mysteries revealed when the time was ripe for a fulfillment. The next step in God’s plan brings about the knowledge needed to understand for the next stage of events. Abraham. David, and all of those of times past would not have known Christ was to die on the cross or be brought back to an eternal life from the grave. All they were required to know what was revealed to them at their time of life. Prophetically they wrote of Christ’s events, but they had little, to no, understanding as to what was meant. They wrote as inspired by the Holy Spirit. An example is how the Pharisees of Christ’s time knew the prophet’s words but couldn’t put it all together about that man named Jesus! Hence the rejections!

This study deals, primarily, with Paul’s words through his writings. This great man was chosen from all Judaism to become the message bearer to the Gentiles, and even the Jews if they were willing to hear, and believe the gospel as preached by Paul. This one man received the mysteries via the RISEN CHRIST! (Galatians 1: 11-12 states this important fact. Paul declared he didn’t receive this gospel from man, he wasn’t taught this gospel by man, but he received this gospel through the RISEN CHRIST.) It needs to be understood that this change in direction came to be only after the Nation of Israel and the Jews rejected Christ with no chance of Israel repenting of killing the Messiah. The final rejection seems apparent after the stoning of Stephen. Biblically, that stoning of Stephen is the turning point of God towards the Nation of Israel. Immediately after the stoning, the Holy Spirit brings another zealous Jew named Saul into the story. Saul hated anything, and everything about the man, Christ! Of course, Saul would become PAUL, the Apostle to the Gentiles! Approximately, forty years later Israel ceased to exist as a nation at 70 A.D.

SOME OF PAUL’S MYSTERIES

Paul, in 1 Corinthians 15: 51, was dealing with concerns of Corinthian believers on the resurrection message. Some were having doubts and misunderstandings over the resurrection. Paul was attempting to reinforce his message of resurrection via letters. This chapter goes into great detail of resurrection. This chapter (Verses 1-4), also, gives the GOSPEL TERMS to the Corinthian Gentiles. The verse is one of the best examples of the GOSPEL OF GRACE FOR SALVATION. The words state; …I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also you have received, and wherein you stand; by which you are SAVED, if you keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless you have believed in vain. For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received; how Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; and that he was buried, and that he rose again on the third day according to the scriptures.”

Beginning with verse 51, Paul wrote of the MYSTERY of resurrection. He began with: WE shall not all sleep, but WE shall all be changed. (Note the pronouns “WE” used here. Paul always wrote to believers. That is important to remember. He told these believers that WE shall not all die, but WE shall all be changed. Paul believed the time of this event was just out ahead because of the terrible times they were witnessing with persecution.)
Paul continued, stating this event will happen in the twinkling of an eye at
the last trumpet. In other words, this event will be fast! He added, the trumpet will sound, and the DEAD WILL BE RAISED IMPERISHABLE; (Gospel believers who had died would have a bodily resurrection back to life.) and WE shall be changed! (Note the “WE” pronoun again. Paul was including himself here as one who would be changed.) He then added the mortal nature will be changed to immortality. (Those believers living at this time will be changed from a corruptible body to a glorious body.) This knowledge, as preached by Paul, wasn’t revealed with detail for it wasn’t time. If Israel would have believed Christ’s ministry, and later the apostles’ message, they would have had their King, and kingdom. If that would have happened, then the words of Exodus 19: 5-6 would have become reality. Those words of Exodus state that if the people of Israel would have obeyed God’s voice they were to become a nation of priests to take the message of God to the Gentiles.

This message of above is furthered verified with Paul’s words in Romans 11: 25. Paul wrote of wanting his Gentile readers to understand the MYSTERY, how Israel had witnessed a hardening of the heart, and mind. They rejected Christ, and now were in a time of disbelief, and falling away from God’s grace. (However, although they fell away it must be remembered God’s promises to Israel were still in place at Paul’s time, and are, still in the ready.) This hardening will remain upon the nation until the time of the Gentiles is fulfilled. The Gospel of the Kingdom will be preached again to the Jews, and then Israel will be saved. (Mathew 24:14) The stage of Israel’s salvation will occur at the end of the Time of Jacob’s trouble of Jeremiah 30: 7. (Often referred to as the Great tribulation.) The stage of Christ’s second coming is falling into place. The time of the Gentiles is winding down.

Paul wrote in Romans 16: 25 of an important MYSTERY. The RISEN CHRIST revealed how long this particular MYSTERY was hid in time. Paul wrote of his gospel which is THE BELIEF IN FAITH OF THE DEATH, BURIAL, AND RESURRECTION OF CHRIST! (Gospel of salvation is found in 1 Corinthians 15:1-4, and Romans 10:9-10.) Paul continued of the revelation of the MYSTERY which was kept secret for long ages, but now is disclosed, and through the prophetic writings made known to all nature…to bring about the obedience of FAITH… The book of Romans is the book of Christian doctrine revealed after the rejection of Christ, and his kingdom message.
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The Nation of Israel continued the rejection after the cross, and the resurrection! This is where Christianity is at
NOW!!!! One usually hears that to be saved you need to believe that Jesus died on the cross. That is a true statement, but salvation is more than simply believing that fact! One needs to believe with FAITH Jesus actually rose from the grave to have salvation!!!!! The cross gave every person on earth the opportunity to be free of their sins; however, they need to acquire that fact. BUT, to be truly saved they need to believe the resurrection for salvation!!! Look at the reality in this example. I am sure many atheists may believe a man named Jesus did die on the cross. However, that is where it stops with them. They view the man as just a man. Since, the man who died was a man; he in no way could have risen back to life. The gospel of Grace is a two-part faith of believing Christ died for our sins on the cross and to believe with faith he rose in a glorified body at the resurrection. True salvation comes from faith through true believing with both the cross and the resurrection. (This truth cannot be emphasized enough!)

In 1 Corinthians 4:1, Paul reminded the Corinthian believers that he, and them, as believers in Christ, are stewards of the MYSTERIES of God. The gospel believers were, and are, to tell of the revealed MYSTERIES as set forth from the RISEN CHRIST to Paul. So, these MYSTERIES revealed by the RISEN CHRIST to Paul are to be delivered to the people as doctrine.

Paul wrote of his understandings of the revealed MYSTERIES, and faith, but he added that without love he would have nothing. This can be found in 1 Corinthians 13: 2.

Notice in Ephesians 1: 9, Paul wrote of Christ revealing to him wisdom, and insight, and the MYSTERY of HIS WILL to his purpose set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time to unite all things… (This will happen at the second advent.) Paul is verifying he had been given this wisdom, and insight for the time was right in God’s plan through the RISEN CHRIST!

Paul added in Ephesians 3: 2-9 of the stewardship that was revealed to him (Paul) and given to them (The gospel believers of Ephesus in this case.) how the MYSTERY was revealed. The MYSTERY was not revealed to men of past generations. (Those of the past didn’t receive the truth as preached by Paul because it wasn’t time to have it revealed.) The MYSTERY spoken of here was how the Gentiles are fellow heirs now. (This is a result of Israel’s 4.
rejection of Christ as their King.) The Gentiles NOW after this new direction or revealed MYSTERY are members of the same body, and partakers of the PROMISES in CHRIST because of the gift of grace through the gospel. Again, where is the gospel as preached by Paul found? Two of the primarily places are in 1 Corinthians 15: 1-4, (See above.) and Romans
10: 9-10. This gospel of salvation for us today was preached after it was
revealed to the Apostle Paul after the cross; after the resurrection, and after
Israel gave up its opportunity to believe who Christ was! (The disciples of Peter, James, John… were to have Israel repent of unbelief, and accept that the man they crucified was, indeed, their Messiah, and King.)

Ephesians 6: 19, has Paul, once again, boldly proclaiming the gospel which was a MYSTERY, and revealed to him by the RISEN CHRIST. Paul added that “HE” (Not the twelve disciples.) is the ambassador in chains as he declares the gospel boldly, as he ought to speak.

In Colossians 1:25-27, Paul wrote of becoming the minister according to the divine office which was given to him for the believers to make the Word of God fully known, with the MYSTERIES of the ages, but made manifested to the saints. (Manifest means to be made clearly evident, and the saints are the believers in scripture.) To them, the saints, God made known how great among the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of the MYSTERY which is Christ in You! Christ is the hope of glory!

Also, in Colossians 2:2 Paul is encouraging the hearts of the Gentile believers to have all the riches of the assured knowledge of God’s MYSTERIES of Christ in whom are hid all the treasures of wisdom, and knowledge!

Paul wrote in 2 Thessalonians 2:7 of the events prior to the second coming of Christ. He wrote of the man of lawlessness. (What we would call the anti-Christ.) Paul added the MYSTERY of lawlessness is already at work. Paul goes on talking about this lawless man. God sends a strong delusion causing many to perish because they refused to believe the truth

(Paul’s truth is what? The truth is the gospel of grace for salvation.)

Paul in 1 Timothy 3: 9 and 16 wrote of the MYSTERY of the faith, and the
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need to hold to that faith with a clear conscience. He added of confessing the MYSTERY of out religion. That MYSTERY is: Christ was manifested in the flesh and vindicated in the Spirit….

1 Corinthians 2:7 confirms of the wisdom of the MYSTERY of the hidden
wisdom of God, which God decreed before the ages for our glorification…

The MYSTERIES were revealed to Paul, the Apostle of the Gentiles by the RISEN CHRIST.

THIS FACT IS SO IMPORTANT TO UNDERSTANDING SCRIPTURE.

These mysteries were not preached by the twelve after the cross. The disciples were law-keeping Jews. The church mentioned in early Acts was a Jewish church of Jesus-believing Jews. Much evidence is in scripture stating or alluding to this fact. The disciples were doing what they were commanded to do, and that was to go only to the Jews. (Matthew 10: 5-7 tells the reader that Christ told the disciples to not go to the Gentiles, but only to the lost sheep of Israel.) However, Peter towards the end of his life wrote of grace salvation as preached by Paul. BUT, Peter wrote those words to those believing Jews in exile after Stephen’s murder in Acts 8: 1. (Also, see 1 Peter1:1, and 2 Peter 3:1.) Peter was shown of the grace transition when the Lord “encouraged” the visit to a Gentile in Acts 10. However, some twenty years after the cross the disciples, including Peter, were still practicing Mosaic Law, but preaching Christ was the Jews Messiah, and the need to believe that fact. This evidence can be found in Acts 15, and Galatians 2 at the Jerusalem Council. The Jewish believers, including, at least, several of the disciples wanted Paul to insist on law (Works) over grace to the Gentiles! The Book of James still preached of works. That is another study.

Peter, in 2 Peter 3: 14-18, gave Paul’s wisdom credence. He mentioned of Paul writing to the exiled Jewish believers and wrote of Paul’s wisdom with all his letters. This is proof of Peter’s knowledge of Paul’s writings.

The new direction to the Gentiles came about because Israel refused to believe who Christ was. The Lord began another transition through, the Apostle Paul. Israel would fall from God’s grace in 70 A.D. We, as Gentiles today, can be grateful for this.
I am available to explain as needed.

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1 Corinthians 15 (GOSPEL MESSSAGE FOR SALVATION; RESURRECTION)

We are now at a place in Paul’s letter to the Corinthians that has much to say. This chapter has vital Biblical doctrine within. Paul reminded the carnal, Gentile believers of the gospel he had preached to them. Paul continued reminding them of this message of the gospel they received by which they were SAVED, but only if they hold fast through faith. Otherwise they BELIEVED in vain.(Verses 1-2) Paul continued with the gospel message he had received from the Risen Christ, and delivered to them, and us today. (See Galatians 1.)

THE GOSPEL OF GRACE 1 CORINTHAINS 1-4

I remind you brethren in which terms I preached to you the GOSPEL, which you received, in which you stand, by which you are SAVED if you hold it fast-unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that CHRIST DIED FOR OUR SINS IN ACCORDANCE WITH THE SCRIPTURES, (Old Testament prophecy) THAT HE WAS BURIED, THAT HE WAS RAISED ON THE THIRD DAY IN ACCORDANCE WITH THE SCRIPTURES … Paul added, and he appeared to Cephas (Peter) and the twelve…

Paul explained that the Risen Jesus had been seen by over 500 people, and lastly by Paul, himself. Paul reminded them of his past as a Jewish zealot persecuting the early Jewish, Jesus believers, known as the Way. (This was before his conversion, and having the Grace doctrine revealed by Christ in Arabia. See Galatians 1.) Paul stated he was saved by the Grace of God, and because of his past has worked harder than the disciples.

From the words of their letter, Paul realized some of the Corinthians were having doubts about resurrection. (Like today, there were always those trying to deviate from truth, and Biblical doctrine willing to cause doubt, and confusion.) Paul expressed  that his preaching, and your faith, would be in vain if resurrection be untrue. If Christ hadn’t risen from death then no one would be resurrected either. Everybody will still be with sin. All that have already died were perished. (This should make one think!!)

However, Paul reassured the Corinthians that Christ, the first fruit, did rise from the tomb! He compared Adam whose actions brought about death, and the second Adam (Christ) brought about life! Resurrection had an order in God’s plans. Christ first, then at His coming, the believers. Then the end of the age (Commonly called the Age of the Gentiles in various places in scripture.) will come only because of the Risen Christ, and then the Kingdom that was preached by Christ and the disciples to the Jews will be reality! (Early Acts)

NOTE: This is not simply a spiritual resurrection. This is a bodily resurrection of the physical and the spiritual. Those in this resurrection will have a glorious body as Christ. Can you even imagine this?

Christ will put all his enemies under his feet. (In other words he will conquer all the enemies including DEATH!) Death will be the final enemy to be destroyed.

Some were being baptized in behalf of dead loved ones. Paul emphasized this fact of him being in potential daily peril as he preached of the Risen Christ. Why would Paul do that if the dead be not raised. He spoke of the beasts of Ephesus, where Paul was threatened with death by the idol-loving Ephesians. (See Acts 19; 23-41.) Paul stated the baptism (Holy Spirit baptism.) was not because of a dead man but for a raised man! Paul stated how his well-being was forever in danger. Why would Paul face these mounting issues, and threats? The answer: Because of the Risen Christ!

At God’s time all worldly authorities, powers and kingdoms will be placed under Christ’s subjection including death! This is the last enemy to be destroyed.

Paul compared the glorified, and risen, body to a kernel of wheat. The resurrection of the dead is just like the rebirth of a dead seed. The body is sown perishable, in dishonor, and in weakness, but the body is raised in glory, and with imperishable strength. The grain has to die before it can germinate into a complete new living plant. So are our bodies. He made other comparisons from the natural world too. The dead are like that. Paul compared Adam, and Christ again. Adam was of the natural body, and Christ was the Spiritual body.

Adam was from the earth. (Natural) Christ came from heaven. (Spiritual) The famous verse of Romans 15: 50, Paul told the believers that the man of flesh, and blood will not inherit the kingdom.

(Note the pronouns used by Paul.) A mystery revealed by Christ to Paul: WE shall NOT all sleep, (Die) but we believers will be all changed in an immeasurable amount of time. The dead will be raised perfect (non-corruptible)and the believers on earth will be changed.  This is commonly called in English the “Rapture”! (See 1 Thessalonians 4-5.) The perishable body will become imperishable, and immortal!

Beginning with verse 54 some famous words of Paul. He wrote, “Death is swallowed up in victory. O death where is thy victory. O Death where is thy sting? He continued, the sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law…God who gives us the victory through Christ.

Paul told these believers to be steadfast, strong in the faith, and victory by faith through our Lord Jesus Christ!. (This is to not listen to the believing Jews, or false teachers. Such people were, and are, always distorting Biblical truth.)

 

 

 

 

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Air Force Cadet Chapel

The Colorado trip is winding down and the travel east is about to begin. However, a stop at the Air Force Academy near Colorado Springs was on the agenda.

A number of small-scale war planes are on site.

Those individuals entering this academy will have a four-year program earning a Bachelor of Science degree. Upon

Inside the chapel

graduation the graduates are awarded the rank as Second Lieutenants. The program is demanding, but those who complete are the best of the best.

Looking up at a plane we witnessed a small plane towing and releasing a glider. In fact we saw this twice while we were on site.  This is part of the training.

Locally, a beautiful; chapel stands tall. In fact the spirals are 150 feet high. Protestants, Catholics, Jewish and Buddhists all have their own worship areas. Also, faith rooms are present for other faiths. The cost of this chapel was three and a half million dollars.

 

 

 

 

Jewish “synagogue”

 

 

 

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Notes on Christ’s Birth

NOTES ON CHRIST’S BIRTH

By Larry A. Smail

The accounts of Christ’s birth in scripture actually give very little details. Only a handful of verses within a couple books of the New Testament give any information of his actual birth. However, there are words in Old Testament prophecies that, also, affirm the New Testament accounts.

I believe this fact of little detail was by design. Perhaps, the infinite wisdom of God knew mankind would create rituals around Christ’s birth that would greatly lesson the importance of the reasons as to why the God of heaven would come to earth as a baby only to sacrifice his earthly life for mankind. Thankfully for us this same man would arise from the grave and death giving us all the opportunity for eternal salvation. (Gospel of Grace)

Before we dive into this study of Christ’s birth, I believe, some study needs addressed from Old Testament prophecies to learn why, and how, Christ’s birth came to be.

The Jews from antiquity knew they were destined to be a great nation. After all God had made covenant promises with the Jews’ fathers of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob… Other promises insured they were to be a special and holy nation of priests to take God’s message to the Gentiles if they only were obedient. (Exodus 19: 5-6 Also, see 1 Peter 2:9 and Isaiah 42: 6.)

In an early prophecy of Genesis 49: 8-10, the patriarch, Jacob told his twelve sons they would praise his one son named, Judah. He, also, added the scepter shall not depart from Judah. (A scepter is a ceremonial staff held by an imperial authority such as a king. This individual would be over a royal kingdom. This prophecy indicates the Messiah would come from the tribe of Judah. Remember, Jesus has been known in scripture as the Lion of Judah. See Revelation 5:5.)

In 2 Samuel 7 beginning with verse 12, the prophet Nathan told King David prophetically that after his death his offspring would establish a kingdom or a royal house. These shows a King and Spiritual kingdom would be established through David’s lineage. This natural, or earthly, kingdom (Israel) would be corrected as needed, but God would NOT remove his steadfast love and promises. (This is why Israel became a nation again in 1948. Those promises will be coming soon.)

Nathan continued that this royal house of David or kingdom shall be forever as well as the throne. (This will happen at the Second Advent of Christ.)

Israel and Judah would be greatly chastened with falling into Gentile control. This happened over 500 years before Christ beginning with King Nebuchadnezzar of the Chaldeans. However, during much of this Gentile control, Israel’s prophets continually told of a coming kingdom and King despite Israel’s failings.

Words from Isaiah’s prophecies regarding the future King and kingdom are often heard during the Christmas season. Take note: These words were written by a Jewish prophet to the Jews.  Isaiah 9: 6- 7states: For unto us is born, to 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. Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, upon the throne of David, and over his kingdom, to establish it, and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and for evermore.”

This King will, also, to be known as the Promised One, the Messiah and the Anointed One for the Jews. That King would be Christ! He will be King over Israel and set upon the throne of David. (Paul in Romans 15:8-12 stated: Christ came to earth to be a minster, or servant, to the Jews to confirm God’s covenant promises. This would allow the Gentiles to receive mercy and glorify God. Notice how everything fits together. Remember the scriptural verses mentioned earlier.) We know the Jews rejected Christ and they have been greatly chastised.

Micah 5: 2 tells us this ruler of Israel would come from Bethlehem. This man’s origin is from of old, from ancient of days. (This is Christ. John: 1-5 calls Christ the Word who was from the beginning.)

Matthew 1 shows Christ’s genealogy and begins with Jesus Christ, the son of David. Joseph, who would be the husband of Mary, is shown to be of the seed of David, too.  Mary would be the young woman to give birth to Christ. (Luke 3 appears to give Mary’s lineage, but there has been debate on this. Luke wrote of

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the ancestors of Christ beginning with Joseph, but then uses other names that do not fit with Matthew’s genealogy account. This can be explained for under Jewish culture the lineage is through the father. Luke, to stay within this cultural demand, appears to be using Mary’s lineage. However, after writing Mary’s father’s name Luke added Joseph’s name. This indicates both, Mary and Joseph are in David’s lineage.)

GABRIEL’S APPEARANCE TO MARY

As stated, Israel had been under Gentile control for over 500 years by this time in their history. The Lord knew the timing was right to move with the delivery of Israel’s King to fulfill prophecy. He sent an angel named Gabriel to visit a young Jewish virgin. Her name was Mary. (Mari) This visit was sometime within August and September. (See writings in Luke 1: 26-38.)The Bible records this happened in the sixth month. (The Jewish calendar and new year begin with Nisan. (Abib) Nisan1 varies within our March-April time frame.)

Mary, upon seeing this angel was troubled. Gabriel told her to not be fearful for she had found favor of God. Mary was told she was to deliver a son named Jesus. This baby would be called the Son of the Most High and receive the throne of David. This son would rule forever over the House of Israel and his kingdom would never end. (Remember the prophecies mentioned above from 2 Samuel and Isaiah.)

Of course, Mary couldn’t understand how she would have a son since she had not been married. Gabriel told her she would conceive through actions of the Holy Spirit and the power of the Most High. The child would be called holy (Set apart) and the Son of God! Mary was faithful and agreed to do whatever was required of the Lord. (How soon did this supernatural conception take place? It is impossible to know, but I suspect this all occurred quickly.)

JOSEPH’S ISSUE

Mary and Joseph were betrothed. (Engaged) Joseph learned of Mary’s pregnancy and was to divorce her privately to avoid public shame and scandal. (Remember Joseph and Mary had not any relationship that would have led to her pregnancy.)

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One can see Joseph was a man of integrity. (Under Jewish law a man could divorce a wife, or betrothed, simply by a formal act from the man with a certificate of divorce.)                                          

However, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream explaining Mary’s pregnancy was the result of the Holy Spirit. The child, he was informed, would be called Jesus and he would save his people from their sins. Joseph was satisfied and the marriage would happen. (The story of Joseph is in Matthew 1: 18-25.)

A decree from Caesar Augustus (Reign 27 B.C.-14 A.D.) was issued for the Jews to be counted. (Luke 2: 1-5)) Joseph and Mary were living in Nazareth, so they would be traveling to Bethlehem, known as the city of David.  This town was his hometown.  Mary was very well on her way by this time to give birth. However, they headed for Bethlehem. (The distance between Nazareth and Bethlehem is approximately 70-80 miles depending on the route they chose to use.)

NOTE: This trip would have been organized with others in the area since traveling alone for such a distance would have been extremely dangerous. Also, remember Joseph was a carpenter. He would have had wagons of some sort to carry tools and materials. Joseph would have used such a wagon to travel to Bethlehem with supplies, needed belongings and a place to sleep.

In Luke 2: 6-7, we see Mary would give birth while in Bethlehem. (This birth would have happened sometime in May or June depending on when she conceived through the Holy Spirit and assuming that supernatural event occurred quickly after the visitation of Gabriel.) This satisfied ancient prophecies.  Jesus was born, wrapped with swaddling clothing and he would sleep in a manger until a better place would be had. (Placing swaddling clothes on a baby was customary. The baby was wrapped and this method seemed to be positive for a baby. This act was to have the baby feel secure as he was in the womb and to cut down on possible scratches as the baby moved his arms around. Mangers could have been made from wood or hewn-out stones. The livestock would feed from a manger.)

NOTE: Scripture states there was no room in the inn. Jesus was born elsewhere. Christmas traditions usually use a stable or barn. Some suggest a cave.  However,

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many places had the living quarters upstairs and the livestock below. Jesus could have actually been born on the lower floor of some family members or friend’s abode. We simply can’t say from scripture except he wasn’t born at an inn.

THE SHEPHERDS

There were shepherds in a field watching over their livestock at night. The livestock were, probably, sheep. (This would need to be in warmer time of the year. Spring is lambing season.) An angel of the Lord appeared to them and they were fearful as the glory of the Lord shone around them.  The angel told them to not be afraid because this appearing to them was to bring about good news. That good news was of the Savior, Christ the Lord’s birth in the city of David. (Bethlehem) They would find the baby wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger.

A heavenly host sung praises before their eyes. They searched out this baby. These men told the news to everyone they met. (See Luke 2: 8-20.)

NOTE: I wondered about this supernatural appearing to the shepherds and if there was any significance to this. Then I thought of the men commonly referred to as the wise men. Did the Lord use the lowly shepherds to indicate all common men would, now, have hope? Shepherds were considered to be at the “bottom of the heap.” The wise men of wealth and position in society were on their way to see this King. I believe these two groups of classes were supernaturally approached by the Lord to demonstrate that this baby would cover the sins of the world regardless of cultural standings and classes of people?

THE STAR

At some time during this event of Christ’s birth a “Star” appeared. This star probably made its debut much prior to the actual birth. Much speculation and theories have been used to find out exactly what this star was in those ancient skies. One thing for certain the star was an event known or recognized by only a few. The star wasn’t something that impressed most of the people of the area. People educated in astronomy, or the study of the stars, saw the star. Apparently, some who knew enough of prophecies recognized this star as something very

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important. Perhaps, they had visions from an angel of the Lord. Scripturally, we can’t know how their knowledge came to be. Regardless, these men began the quest to find the King of the Jews. More on the star shortly.

THE “WISE” MEN

Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea during the reign of King Herod. Men, some-times called Magi, from the east came to Jerusalem seeking information on a new King of the Jews. They, added, they had seen “HIS STAR” in the east and came to worship him. (Nowhere in scripture does it state there were three wise men. All we can know there were, at least, two men because of the plurality in scripture. Of course, they would have had their servants along with supplies needed to travel. They were not “kings” as per common Christian songs, but rather learned and educated men, possibly, in a study of the heavenly stars and various religious cultures. This study of stars is astronomy. They may have been priests of Zoroaster from eastern lands near Persia which is present-day Iran or Iraq. They were, most likely Gentiles, but they could have been Jews since many Jews had lived in these areas. Remember, the Jews had been carried off hundreds of years ago. Some remained in these countries to live their lives. Personally, I lean towards these men being Gentiles and practiced the ancient religion of Persia known as Zoroaster. Somehow they knew of the promise of a Messiah to the Jews. Did an angel of the Lord appear to them with words of this coming King? Did they see this from dreams? Were they to arrive in Bethlehem representing the Gentiles?) The story of the “wise men” is in Matthew 2: 1-12.

KING HEROD

Herod was king over Judea. He was a Roman appointee who was an Arab that had converted to Judaism. These educated “wise” men came to Jerusalem to inquire as to where this King would be born.  These people of Jerusalem were not aware of any star apparently, or at the least, didn’t think anything special from the appearance. This Star was not the bright illuminating star featured in Nativity images and Christmas cards. The Star was only special to those educated with such knowledge of the heavenly stars. Herod called his priests and such and was told the prophecies exclaimed the King would be born in Bethlehem.  Herod wanted to

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know when the star first appeared and told the “wise” men to return once this King was found so he too could go and worship him. (This proves even King Herod wasn’t aware of anything all that unusual in the night sky. Herod’s story is in Matthew 2:1-19.)

The men headed to Bethlehem. The Star appeared to them and led them to where the child was living. (Notice this time a Star led them to where the baby was staying. This star mentioned here, I believe, was an angelic-style star. Many times in scripture the word “Star” was used to indicate an angel. It seems a heavenly star was viewed by these men with heavenly knowledge. It indicated to them a King was born. But, note this star, now, went before them as a guide and stood over where the baby was. I do not see this to be the same heavenly star. This star, apparently, was for their guide only.) The men worshiped the King and gave gifts. They found the Christ in a “house.” (Some time may have elapsed since the star’s first appearance until these men first saw the star, realized the importance of it, planned to go to Judah, traveled and found the Christ. Jesus and Mary were still in Bethlehem at this time. This was, probably, the time of waiting for the eight days for circumcision and rest for Mary.) The men realized through dreams they were not to return to Herod. The wise men may have arrived about this time of circumcision for Matthew 2: 13 states after the Magi had gone Joseph was told to go and take the child to Egypt. (It is six miles between Bethlehem and Jerusalem.)

Herod was angry when he realized the “wise” men were not coming back and ordered the murder of all male babies from two years old and younger. He, apparently, through the wise men’s description as to when the original star appeared wanted to make sure that King would not live. He ordered all male babies from two years and under to be killed. Herod wanted to be thorough so he added a two year time span. (Matthew 2: 16-18)

Herod, according to the Jewish historian, Josephus, died in 4 B.C. shortly before Passover of April 9-11 in the year of 4 B.C. (My research has three dates of possible Passover for that year.) This date would mean that Christ had to have been born prior to Herod’s death. Remember Herod ordered male babies murdered from two years and under. This may indicate the star witnessed by the educated

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astronomers from the east actually appeared and stayed in the sky for a period of time prior to Christ’s birth. (More details below.)

Jesus’ parents would have had him circumcised after eight days. (Luke 2:21) Since the travel would take time to get back to Nazareth and Mary would need to gain some strength, Jesus would have been circumcised by priests in Bethlehem. According to Jewish law Mary would be required to go through the “Rite of Purification” This rite is found in Leviticus 12: 1-8. This purification for having a male child lasts 40 days. These facts indicate Jesus was, probably, born in early 4.B.C. shortly before Herod’s death. A 5 B.C. date could only work if the birth was very later into that year as in March 30 or the last day of the year 3757. Some claim the birth was 2 or 3 B.C. as the year of Christ’s birth. I can’t see how considering Herod’s death of 4 B.C.

By adding these known dates, I believe quickly after the eight days since the birth of Christ Joseph and Mary headed to Egypt. Herod ordered all male babies of Bethlehem murdered. Herod died shortly thereafter and the family returned from Egypt, at the proper time to Jerusalem, to make an offering for Mary’s purification completion. (Luke 2: 22) At this time, while in Jerusalem, scripture states of a man named, Simeon who realized the baby was the Messiah.

Upon completion of the circumcision, the escape to Egypt, the return to Jerusalem for the purification rite to be fulfilled as per Jewish law, the family returned to Nazareth. It seems apparent that the family left quickly after the circumcision to Egypt and once Herod died they returned to Jerusalem.

Although, many of the traditional ideas of the Christmas season do not fit into the reality of those times, it is important to realize his birth is what truly is important. The world would have a Savior and an opportunity to see salvation if they believe. Jesus died for their sins, was buried and rose from the grave.

One needs to believe Jesus died for their sins to have forgiveness of sins. One, also, has to believe Jesus rose from the grave to receive salvation.

THIS IS GRACE.

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THE BIRTH OF CHRIST IN BRIEF

  1. The prophetic time was right for the King of the Gentile-controlled nation of Israel. Mary was approached by the angel Gabriel to announce she would give birth of the Messiah. Daniel’s 490 year prophecy dictated when the birth would need to be.
  2. Joseph was told the same information through a dream and they married.
  3. The STAR has, probably, had already been in the heavenly nights with only a few understanding the significance of the appearing.
  4. Joseph and Mary began the trek to their hometown of Bethlehem as commanded by law for a census.
  5. Mary gave birth while in Bethlehem. This fulfilled prophecy.
  6. Shepherds came that night due to the appearance of a heavenly host of angels with an announcement of the birth of a Savior.
  7. The Magi show up sometime around the eight day law pertaining to circumcision. The Star led them to the house where the baby was now living. Joseph, via a dream, learned of Jesus’ peril and immediately moved the family to Egypt after the Magi had left. Herod placed an order for all males of Bethlehem two years old, and younger, to be murdered.
  8. Herod died shortly after and Joseph traveled to Jerusalem to complete the forty day Purification Law of the Jews for Mary’s birth of a male child. The notes here of 7 and 8 above would require all of these events to fall within a forty day time periods. This would include the birth of Jesus; the eight day until circumcision; the wise men visiting; Joseph’s dream to go to Egypt; Herod’s death, the travel to Jerusalem to complete the offering and forty day time of Mary’s purification. That is a lot happening in a short time.
  9. The family moved back to Nazareth to await the ministry of Christ at thirty years of age.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The following is a review study for an upcoming Bible study I shall be doing. The original 13 pages of the detailed study can be found on my September 28 and 30, 2016 entries.

A REVIEW OF THE THREE DISPENSATIONS

By Larry A. Smail

Much time has elapsed since we have studied the first four books of the New Testament through the early chapters of Acts. I believe a review may be needed to remind us of the three dispensations over that forty year time frame of transitions. Remember, dispensations are times of transitional changes. As stated, this time frame covered approximately forty years from Christ’s ministry; the cross; resurrection; the disciples’ Jewish kingdom messages; Paul’s Gentile, believing with faith, message; ending with Israel’s removal from the scene in 70 A.D.

I believe it is sad that these facts of scripture are seldom to, mostly, never heard. The usual attempt has been to try to pick and choose from scripture to fit the pre-conceived years of thought and teachings. Also, most people attempt to place all these dispensations in a blender, but they need to remain separate and understood just where they stand in scripture. This is especially true due to the fact these dispensations are scriptural and provable upon a willingness to see for oneself and throw aside any pre-conceived or denominational teachings.  Once these times are understood the Bible will open up like you never thought possible!

FIRST DISPENSATIONAL TIME

Jesus’ ministry included many, many signs, wonders and miracles. Why did Jesus do these things? He was proving to the Jews just who he was! Jesus was their Promised One; their King and ready to usher in the promised kingdom on earth. This is known as the Kingdom of the Gospel. The only “catch” was the Nation of Israel had to BELIEVE HE WAS THEIR PROMISED ONE! All those parables Christ used to teach were directed to the Jews of Israel to help them grasp their coming kingdom, if they would only believe. This is the NUMBER ONE TIME OF DISPENSATION AND THAT WAS TO BELIEVE WHO JESUS WAS! That takes a faith the Jews didn’t have despite seeing so many miracles!

In Romans 15:8 we can learn why Christ came to Israel. Paul wrote: …Christ became a minister (Servant) to the circumcised (Jews) to show God’s truthfulness, (Faithfulness) in order to confirm (Fulfill) the promises given to the fathers; (Covenant promises of Genesis.) in order that the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy. (Grace)   Read again using words in parenthesis.

Remember, in Exodus 19: 5-6 when God told the young nation of Israel if they were obedient to the covenant they would be his own possession (Chosen People) among all people (Gentiles)…and they were to become a kingdom of priests and a holy nation!       WOW!

Despite the miracles, the nation of Israel, the Jewish people, rejected Jesus leading to the cross and his death. They could not accept this man, but anything, other than a man of Nazareth. Israel would not be that kingdom and not be that holy nation of priests and they would not be taking God’s mercy to the Gentiles from the Exodus 19 words of God. However, Israel would be given another chance.

Jesus was hastily entombed to beat the HOLY “ANNUAL” SABBATH of the Feast of Unleavened Bread including Passover. The timing of this was exact since prophetically Christ would be required to be in the grave for three days and three nights. (See Matthew 12: 38-41.) This would prove beyond doubt that he had died! Also, Christ to be the sacrificial Lamb had to be killed during Passover season to become the savior.

On the Sunday morning following the WEEKLY SABBATH the tomb was found to be empty. Christ was resurrected from the dead! Annual Sabbaths can occur any day of the week. (Note the differences in the two Sabbath times. Important!) Weekly Sabbaths begin on Friday evening at sunset and go to Saturday evening.

After his resurrection, Jesus spent forty days on the earth in his glorified body to add more proof as to who he was! During those forty days what did Christ talk about? He talked about the very same thing as he did during his ministry…the KINGDOM! (See Acts 1:3.) Israel was to receive a second chance to believe Jesus was their Promised One! Their KING! Their Messiah! Christ was “setting the stage” again for what was very soon to begin…that second chance for Israel!

The disciples asked Jesus if he was going to restore the kingdom to Israel, now. Christ told them it was not for them to know. However, their success or failure with the Nation of Israel would determine when that kingdom would come to reality. Israel’s first opportunity to be that Exodus 19 nation was over!

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SECOND DISPENSATIONAL TIME

After Pentecost, Jesus’ disciples began the second dispensational time for Israel. Peter, James, John… preached, as did Jesus, the message of the Gospel of the Kingdom to who?…The JEWS. There is no Gentile language here at all!

However, this dispensational time was a little different than what Christ preached. In Acts 2 and 3 Peter preached to whom?  He preached to the NATION OF ISRAEL, the JEWS, after the cross. Notice the Jews had to repent first.  Ask yourself, repent of what? The answer is twofold. The Jews needed to repent of their UNBELIEF AS TO WHO JESUS WAS WHICH LED TO CHRIST’S DEATH ON THE CROSS! And, they, now, needed to BELIEVE CHRIST WAS INDEED THEIR KING AND CLEANSE THEMSELVES AS PER JEWISH LAW VIA BAPTISM!

Notice Peter’s language here; if ALL THE HOUSE OF ISRAEL repented and was baptized Christ would return and bring along the promised kingdom. (This is the Gospel of the Kingdom.) There is still no Gentile language being used here!  Many did as Peter preached, but it must be understood these Jews became part of the ASSEMBLY OF JEWISH BELIEVERS. (The Greek word is ecclesia which means “a called out assembly.”) Most everyone thinks these are Christians, but they were still law-keeping, works required, religious Jews with the only difference being they believed Christ was their Promised One. These Jewish believers attended synagogues and the temple; ate only foods allowed by Jewish law; followed all Jewish feast days; (Annual Sabbath times) Friday at sunset to Saturday at sunset weekly Sabbaths, law-keeping, circumcision, etc. Notice Peter, also, used other words such as: men of Israel and men of Judea to describe the people who he was addressing. Jesus never once told them to do anything other than go to the Jews. (See Matthew 10: 5-7.)

For more proof on this fact study Acts 10 where Peter went to a Gentile against his will because, as he stated; you know it is unlawful for a Jew to associate with a Gentile. Read Acts 11: 19 for more proof.

Also, study Acts 15 and Galatians 2 on the Jerusalem Council. This meeting occurred about twenty years after the cross. The decision was the twelve would 3.

continue with the Jews and Paul would continue with the Gentiles. More understanding is available upon reading the disciples’ epistles and to the people they were directed. They were written to the Jews in dispersion. You seldom hear of these realities on a Sunday. Read and study for yourself.

I realize this is not what the vast majority understand today, but these Jesus-believing Jews were not Christians as we have come to understand Christianity today. Labeling these Jewish believers as Christians causes much confusion in studying the Bible. However, if any Jew repented of their disbelief and was baptized they would still be saved under that dispensation. They were doing what they were supposed to do at that time and that was to have Israel believe Jesus was their Promised One! These Jews did not hear of believing only with faith.

In fact, the Holy Spirit first directed the writer in Acts 11:26 to address these faith-based Gentiles as Christians for the first time under Paul’s preaching. This fact alone must demonstrate the importance of the differences between the law following, but believing, Jews and the faith-based only believing Gentiles. However, under grace there were some Jews who would become Christians through faith and abandoning their religion of law, or Judaism. (This was the entire reasoning behind the Book of Hebrews and that was to convince believing Jews to abandon Law to complete faith only. More details under the third dispensation.)

A major event occurred approximately nine years after the cross. In Acts 7, a Holy Spirit inspired man named Stephen was murdered by the non-believing Jews. Although, they didn’t know it, this murder would lead to the steady decline of Israel into oblivion. This was Israel’s final rejection. Jesus’ disciples continued to preach to the Jews hoping the Nation of Israel would repent and believe who Christ was just as they were supposed to do. The above statement concerning Exodus 19: 5-6 would continue to be on hold. Israel would not become that special nation of priests to take the word to Gentiles. That would have to wait! This will occur during the time of the Second Advent of Christ. The Jews will, again, preach the Gospel of the Kingdom during the final seven years. (This is the time Christ prophesied about during the Oliver Discourse. I believe the144, 000 Jews of Revelation will be the Jews carrying this gospel kingdom to the world.)

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A zealot Jew, named Saul, immediately rose to the forefront at Stephen’s murder. He instituted a great persecution against those Jews who had become believers in Christ as their Messiah. They were known as the WAY!  He hated anything to do with the man, Jesus.  He was a Pharisee, so he donned a lot of power.  He created widespread fear on these Jewish believers. He had them tortured, imprisoned and killed if they refused to renege on their beliefs. Many believers fled to Gentile countries to get away from Jerusalem and Saul! (See Acts 8:1.) Saul, however, headed for Damascus to remove more of these believing Jews.

Saul was immediately converted on the road to Damascus when the Risen Christ made himself known to him. (Acts 9) He was fearful since the very same person he was trying to stamp out of the area was, now confronting Saul, OUCH!

Saul would, shortly, learn what his role was to be in this plan of God. He would be taking the message to Gentiles since the Jews had lost their opportunity to follow through with the Exodus 19: 5-6 words from God. Like I said, Israel was in decline! The Lord was using another Jew to do what the nation of Israel failed to do and that was to take the gospel of grace, or faith only, to the Gentiles.

Prior to Saul having his mission revealed went to the Jews in the Damascus Synagogue and preached what? He told them the exact message of the other disciples at this time and that was that Jesus was their Promised One. Saul would learn more of his message from the Risen Christ. Saul, soon to be Paul, would be the APOSTLE TO THE GENTILES. Paul would be learning the mysteries of God and going to the Gentiles and all mankind with his words.

THIRD AND PRESENT DISPENSATIONAL TIME

In Galatians 1:17, we learned that Paul went to Arabia sometime, soon, after his conversion for three years. Lots of time would be needed to separate Paul from his strong Jewish indoctrination, Law-keeping ways, and being a Pharisee. Christ began teaching him the mysteries of God pertaining to grace! This time in Arabia strongly implies as this time period when the Risen Christ revealed his mission to the Gentiles. As stated, Paul would learn of grace through faith through the Risen Christ. (Galatians 1:11-12.) The Risen Christ taught him of

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the faith through believing, grace doctrine. All through Paul’s writings this doctrine is easily viewed. Watch for the key words and phrases such as: gospel of God; grace; gospel of his Son; gift of his grace; raised from death; faith apart from works; grace of God; abundance of grace; believes… And these are just from the Book of Romans! Look for such key words in all of Paul’s writings!!!

This is, in fact, the THIRD, AND PRESENT, TIME OF DISPENSATION FOR SALVATION THROUGH FAITH ONLY! NO WORKS . Paul, actually, calls this time of dispensation by the name in some translations. (Ephesians 3) In Ephesians 2: 8-9, Paul wrote of GRACE strongly and amplified the words of NO WORKS! PAUL BECOMES THE MINISTER FOR THE GOSPELOF GRACE!

LEARN THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THE KINGDOM AND GRACE GOSPELS!

1 Corinthians 15:1-4 states very well of THE GOSPEL FOR SALVATION. PAUL WROTE TO BE SAVED ONE IS REQUIRED TO BELIEVE IN FAITH THAT CHRIST DIED, WAS BURIED AND ON THE THIRD DAY ROSE AGAIN.  Notice how under the first and second dispensation the nation of Israel was required to believe. Under grace an individual can be saved. An individual may be saved be he/she either a Jew or Gentile, now.

If you feel you need to work for salvation then the gift of grace isn’t a gift at all. Paul stated in Romans that if you do anything other than believe with faith you are doing actions crucifying Christ again.

Whenever, God deems the time of the Gentiles to be over, the kingdom gospel will return, as stated above, for that kingdom was foretold many times to Israel. This will become reality upon Christ’s return! Those covenant promises are very much still in place with Israel.

 

 

 

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