The Background to the Baby in the Manger

Background to the Manger

A baby in a manger sounds so peaceful. But what was the background to this story and was it all peaceful?  gives the account of an intense battle. It is the story of a woman who is with child. As she reaches the point of labour pains, an enemy confronts her. This is no ordinary enemy – it is a furious dragon. The dragon rages against the woman because he knows that the child she is carrying is the coming King who will rule the world with a rod of iron. After the child was born the dragon did all he could to devour her child, but he was unsuccessful in this attempt. So he puts all his energy into raging against the woman and eventually against all her offspring. That is the story of . What does this mean? Though this contains symbolic language, it nonetheless gives the account of actual events both of the past and of the future.

I understand the woman () to be a reference to Israel (; Is. 26:17-18). In this story she is carrying a child (the Messiah cf. Is. 9:6) that is going to rule all the nations (). The fiery red dragon is a reference to Satan (cf. ). We are told, “the dragon stood before the woman” () indicating a perpetual stance of opposition against her.

What is happening here? Israel is ready to give birth and bring forth the Messiah. However, the dragon attacks her. Satan on many occasions throughout history has attempted to devour and destroy Israel and the Messianic promise, but on each occasion failed. Consider the following examples: Pharaoh’s elimination of male Hebrew children (). Saul’s many attempts to kill David, from whose line will the Messiah come. In 2 the royal line from which the Messiah would eventually come from was reduced to one individual (Joash) as a result of Athalia’s evil actions. Herod demanded that the male children in Bethlehem and surrounding regions two years and younger be murdered (). These are some of the biblical examples in which the dragon has raged against the woman and the male Child attempting to devour Him.

In all of these events in which Satan was trying to devour the woman and the Messiah, he failed on each occasion. reveals what happened next, “She gave birth to a male child, one who is to rule all the nations with a rod of iron, but her child was caught up to God and to his throne.” That night in which the baby laid in the manger would have been an amazing sight. Satan had done all he could to prevent the coming of this child, but He arrived. Satan continued to rage against Him, but He failed. Despite all the attempts to prevent the Messianic promise, Jesus Christ came into the world (cf. ) and after He fulfilled His mission () He ascended to Heaven (). Despite all that took place behind the scenes in-order to prevent the Messianic promise, Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners () and will one day return to rule (, ; ). This is the background to the Christmas story.

12:1 And a great sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars. She was pregnant and was crying out in birth pains and the agony of giving birth. And another sign appeared in heaven: behold, a great red dragon, with seven heads and ten horns, and on his heads seven diadems. His tail swept down a third of the stars of heaven and cast them to the earth. And the dragon stood before the woman who was about to give birth, so that when she bore her child he might devour it. She gave birth to a male child, one who is to rule all the nations with a rod of iron, but her child was caught up to God and to his throne, and the woman fled into the wilderness, where she has a place prepared by God, in which she is to be nourished for 1,260 days.

Now war arose in heaven, Michael and his angels fighting against the dragon. And the dragon and his angels fought back, but he was defeated, and there was no longer any place for them in heaven. And the great dragon was thrown down, that ancient serpent, who is called the devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world—he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him. 10 And I heard a loud voice in heaven, saying, “Now the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of his Christ have come, for the accuser of our brothers has been thrown down, who accuses them day and night before our God. 11 And they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they loved not their lives even unto death. 12 Therefore, rejoice, O heavens and you who dwell in them! But woe to you, O earth and sea, for the devil has come down to you in great wrath, because he knows that his time is short!”

13 And when the dragon saw that he had been thrown down to the earth, he pursued the woman who had given birth to the male child. 14 But the woman was given the two wings of the great eagle so that she might fly from the serpent into the wilderness, to the place where she is to be nourished for a time, and times, and half a time. 15 The serpent poured water like a river out of his mouth after the woman, to sweep her away with a flood. 16 But the earth came to the help of the woman, and the earth opened its mouth and swallowed the river that the dragon had poured from his mouth. 17 Then the dragon became furious with the woman and went off to make war on the rest of her offspring, on those who keep the commandments of God and hold to the testimony of Jesus. And he stood on the sand of the sea.

12:1 And a great sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars. She was pregnant and was crying out in birth pains and the agony of giving birth. And another sign appeared in heaven: behold, a great red dragon, with seven heads and ten horns, and on his heads seven diadems. His tail swept down a third of the stars of heaven and cast them to the earth. And the dragon stood before the woman who was about to give birth, so that when she bore her child he might devour it. She gave birth to a male child, one who is to rule all the nations with a rod of iron, but her child was caught up to God and to his throne, and the woman fled into the wilderness, where she has a place prepared by God, in which she is to be nourished for 1,260 days.

Now war arose in heaven, Michael and his angels fighting against the dragon. And the dragon and his angels fought back, but he was defeated, and there was no longer any place for them in heaven. And the great dragon was thrown down, that ancient serpent, who is called the devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world—he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him. 10 And I heard a loud voice in heaven, saying, “Now the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of his Christ have come, for the accuser of our brothers has been thrown down, who accuses them day and night before our God. 11 And they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they loved not their lives even unto death. 12 Therefore, rejoice, O heavens and you who dwell in them! But woe to you, O earth and sea, for the devil has come down to you in great wrath, because he knows that his time is short!”

13 And when the dragon saw that he had been thrown down to the earth, he pursued the woman who had given birth to the male child. 14 But the woman was given the two wings of the great eagle so that she might fly from the serpent into the wilderness, to the place where she is to be nourished for a time, and times, and half a time. 15 The serpent poured water like a river out of his mouth after the woman, to sweep her away with a flood. 16 But the earth came to the help of the woman, and the earth opened its mouth and swallowed the river that the dragon had poured from his mouth. 17 Then the dragon became furious with the woman and went off to make war on the rest of her offspring, on those who keep the commandments of God and hold to the testimony of Jesus. And he stood on the sand of the sea.

12:1 And a great sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars. She was pregnant and was crying out in birth pains and the agony of giving birth.

Then he dreamed another dream and told it to his brothers and said, “Behold, I have dreamed another dream. Behold, the sun, the moon, and eleven stars were bowing down to me.” 10 But when he told it to his father and to his brothers, his father rebuked him and said to him, “What is this dream that you have dreamed? Shall I and your mother and your brothers indeed come to bow ourselves to the ground before you?”

She gave birth to a male child, one who is to rule all the nations with a rod of iron, but her child was caught up to God and to his throne,

And the great dragon was thrown down, that ancient serpent, who is called the devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world—he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him.

His tail swept down a third of the stars of heaven and cast them to the earth. And the dragon stood before the woman who was about to give birth, so that when she bore her child he might devour it.

15 Then the king of Egypt said to the Hebrew midwives, one of whom was named Shiphrah and the other Puah, 16 “When you serve as midwife to the Hebrew women and see them on the birthstool, if it is a son, you shall kill him, but if it is a daughter, she shall live.” 17 But the midwives feared God and did not do as the king of Egypt commanded them, but let the male children live. 18 So the king of Egypt called the midwives and said to them, “Why have you done this, and let the male children live?” 19 The midwives said to Pharaoh, “Because the Hebrew women are not like the Egyptian women, for they are vigorous and give birth before the midwife comes to them.” 20 So God dealt well with the midwives. And the people multiplied and grew very strong. 21 And because the midwives feared God, he gave them families. 22 Then Pharaoh commanded all his people, “Every son that is born to the Hebrews you shall cast into the Nile, but you shall let every daughter live.”

21:1 Jehoshaphat slept with his fathers and was buried with his fathers in the city of David, and Jehoram his son reigned in his place.

16 Then Herod, when he saw that he had been tricked by the wise men, became furious, and he sent and killed all the male children in Bethlehem and in all that region who were two years old or under, according to the time that he had ascertained from the wise men.

She gave birth to a male child, one who is to rule all the nations with a rod of iron, but her child was caught up to God and to his throne,

15 The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost.

21 She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.”

And when he had said these things, as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. 10 And while they were gazing into heaven as he went, behold, two men stood by them in white robes, 11 and said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.”

15 The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost.

27 and he will rule them with a rod of iron, as when earthen pots are broken in pieces, even as I myself have received authority from my Father.

15 Then the seventh angel blew his trumpet, and there were loud voices in heaven, saying, “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he shall reign forever and ever.”

Then I saw thrones, and seated on them were those to whom the authority to judge was committed. Also I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for the testimony of Jesus and for the word of God, and those who had not worshiped the beast or its image and had not received its mark on their foreheads or their hands. They came to life and reigned with Christ for a thousand years. The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were ended. This is the first resurrection. Blessed and holy is the one who shares in the first resurrection! Over such the second death has no power, but they will be priests of God and of Christ, and they will reign with him for a thousand years.

And when the thousand years are ended, Satan will be released from his prison and will come out to deceive the nations that are at the four corners of the earth, Gog and Magog, to gather them for battle; their number is like the sand of the sea. And they marched up over the broad plain of the earth and surrounded the camp of the saints and the beloved city, but fire came down from heaven and consumed them, 10 and the devil who had deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and sulfur where the beast and the false prophet were, and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever.

What are Angels and Demons?

Angels & Demons

Angelic beings have and continue to gain much attention and fascination in our society. There are many bizarre and dangerous teachings when it comes to the angelic, which clearly ignore the clear teaching of Scripture. Angelic beings are not eternal as they are created beings (). The Scriptures speak of angels worshipping God during creation (), so it would seem probable that God created them on the first day of creation (cf. ). They are distinct from mankind as they are they do not contain physical bodies because they are spirits (), and they are not bound by the same kind of limitations. The Bible speaks of angelic beings in two categories: the elect angels and the fallen angels.

 

ELECT ANGELS
The elect angels () are those angels that did not rebel against God. They are holy and obedient to their creator. These angles whose number is innumerable () can be identified by at least two different classes: (1) Cherubim and (2) Seraphim. The Cherubim guarded the entrance of the Garden of Eden () and appeared above the Ark of the Covenant (). Their role seems to be one of power and protection. The Seraphim are only mentioned in (cf. ). In addition to this the Bible speaks of various ranks of angels (). Only two elect angels are mentioned by name in the Scriptures – Gabriel and Michael. Gabriel is a special messenger (; ) and Michael is an archangel and appears to have the highest rank among the angels (; ; ).

 

FALLEN ANGELS
Demons are fallen angels. They were a part of the original creation of angels, but they rebelled against God and were removed from the glory of heaven (). This demonic host is also divided into ranks (). The chief leader of this demonic host is Satan (the accuser) otherwise known as the Devil (slanderer). In Jesus calls him a “murderer” and “the father of lies.” Before his fall, it would seem that he was one of the highest angels in rank () and possibly an equal to Michael. His fall was due to pride (cf. ) and is outlined in (cf. ). The people of God are warned to be aware of Satan’s ongoing schemes and devices ().

16 For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him.

when the morning stars sang together
and all the sons of God shouted for joy?

1:1 In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.

14 Are they not all ministering spirits sent out to serve for the sake of those who are to inherit salvation?

21 In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus and of the elect angels I charge you to keep these rules without prejudging, doing nothing from partiality.

11 Then I looked, and I heard around the throne and the living creatures and the elders the voice of many angels, numbering myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands,

24 He drove out the man, and at the east of the garden of Eden he placed the cherubim and a flaming sword that turned every way to guard the way to the tree of life.

And he made a mercy seat of pure gold. Two cubits and a half was its length, and a cubit and a half its breadth.

Above him stood the seraphim. Each had six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. And one called to another and said:

“Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts;
the whole earth is full of his glory!”

And the foundations of the thresholds shook at the voice of him who called, and the house was filled with smoke. And I said: “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!”

Then one of the seraphim flew to me, having in his hand a burning coal that he had taken with tongs from the altar.

And the four living creatures, each of them with six wings, are full of eyes all around and within, and day and night they never cease to say,

“Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God Almighty,
who was and is and is to come!”

16 For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him.

16 And I heard a man’s voice between the banks of the Ulai, and it called, “Gabriel, make this man understand the vision.”

Daniel 9:21

21 while I was speaking in prayer, the man Gabriel, whom I had seen in the vision at the first, came to me in swift flight at the time of the evening sacrifice.

19 And the angel answered him, “I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God, and I was sent to speak to you and to bring you this good news.

Luke 1:26

26 In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth,

13 The prince of the kingdom of Persia withstood me twenty-one days, but Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me, for I was left there with the kings of Persia,

But when the archangel Michael, contending with the devil, was disputing about the body of Moses, he did not presume to pronounce a blasphemous judgment, but said, “The Lord rebuke you.”

Now war arose in heaven, Michael and his angels fighting against the dragon. And the dragon and his angels fought back,

Now war arose in heaven, Michael and his angels fighting against the dragon. And the dragon and his angels fought back, but he was defeated, and there was no longer any place for them in heaven. And the great dragon was thrown down, that ancient serpent, who is called the devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world—he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him.

12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.

44 You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and has nothing to do with the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies.

14 You were an anointed guardian cherub.
I placed you; you were on the holy mountain of God;
in the midst of the stones of fire you walked.

12 “How you are fallen from heaven,
O Day Star, son of Dawn!
How you are cut down to the ground,
you who laid the nations low!
13 You said in your heart,
‘I will ascend to heaven;
above the stars of God
I will set my throne on high;
I will sit on the mount of assembly
in the far reaches of the north;
14 I will ascend above the heights of the clouds;
I will make myself like the Most High.’
15 But you are brought down to Sheol,
to the far reaches of the pit.

Now war arose in heaven, Michael and his angels fighting against the dragon. And the dragon and his angels fought back, but he was defeated, and there was no longer any place for them in heaven. And the great dragon was thrown down, that ancient serpent, who is called the devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world—he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him.

18 And he said to them, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven.

Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.

This is War!

© Dusan Kostic – Fotolia.com

WE ARE INVOLVED IN A WAR
We have a sermon series at present on the book of Revelation.  There is much in this book about spiritual warfare.  Spiritual warfare is a very important topic.  We are involved in a war.  But what does this war entail and how do we fight it?

Right from the start of the book we are told that we are partners in “tribulation”
().  Tribulation is another word for suffering.  Christians will suffer in this world.  Like John we will be persecuted for our witness to Jesus.  Thus the churches of Smyrna, Pergamum and Philadelphia all experienced persecution.  Christians are killed because of the word of God and their witness to Jesus
().  So right from the start it is clear that as we hold on to the truth and proclaim it, we will suffer.

Of course we can avoid the fight.  Continue reading This is War!

I, John, your brother and partner in the tribulation and the kingdom and the patient endurance that are in Jesus, was on the island called Patmos on account of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus.

When he opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain for the word of God and for the witness they had borne.

A Handbook of Enemy Strategies

Written by John Piper

A wartime mindset must include shrewd knowledge of enemy tactics: , “Take no part in unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them.

Christianity stands or falls with the reality of Satan and demons. Why? Because Jesus spent his whole ministry fighting them. If they are not real he is reduced to a comic figure.

What is Satan’s aim and his strategies?

He is the Father of lies.
His nature is falsehood! He only speaks the truth in order to deceive.

Therefore, his chief enemy is truth – he opposes God’s word.

He casts doubt on God’s goodness.
He destroys the obedience of faith.

Continue reading A Handbook of Enemy Strategies

11 Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them.

44 You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and has nothing to do with the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies.

3:1 Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the Lord God had made.

He said to the woman, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?” And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden, but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.’” But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”

3:1 Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the Lord God had made.

He said to the woman, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?” And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden, but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.’” But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”

Defining the Gospel

If you read Christian blogs, you will know that a current hot topic is defining what the term ‘gospel’ entails. I’ve read many definitions, but here’s one that ressonates with me.

“God created man in His image to glorify Him
Mankind rebelled against God in sin
The gospel is the good news of Godʼs provision of redemption
Through the atoning work of Jesus the Christ
Who died in our place for our sin on the cross
Rising from the grave to conquer Satan, sin and death
Giving new life to all who by grace
turn to Him in repentance and faith
Calling them to a life empowered by His Spirit
To accomplish the mission of His kingdom
To the glory of His name.” Continue reading Defining the Gospel