The Cradle, the Cross, and the Crown
Updated: Dec 31, 2020
First published December 1st, 2014. Updated for 2020.
After the year we’ve had, it is time we enjoy this hard-earned Christmas Season. 2020 has definitely been an exceedingly difficult year for many. As we reflect on the prophetic promise fulfilled in Christ’s first coming let us take hope in His promise to come again.
It is often fitting for Christian households and churches to focus on the first coming of Jesus Christ. In times past, and perhaps, not as much anymore, there used to be some common signs that we were in the season of our Lord’s birth.
The sight of manger scenes in town squares all across America, and also in front of churches from all denominations. Christmas cards bearing the Star or the three Wise men were passed amongst believers during this season. Preachers preached mostly from Matthew 1-2 or Luke 1, while churches held their annual cantatas, and the sounds of “peace on earth, goodwill toward men” filled the ears of believers around the world. Bethlehem, Israel, once again becomes the focus of the world stage, as Christians flock to see the Church of the Nativity, which is currently being held hostage by the Palestinians.
However, by 2020 standards, our westernized way of life has largely become post-modern and post-Christian. The gaining worldview is that Christ is too controversial. Christianity is too exclusive and divisive. Christians are too intolerant. Thus, everything is watered down so as not to offend. Furthermore, paganism is on the rise again and rivals everything we thought we knew about the season with the offerings of Saturnalia and the winter solstice. Controversy sweeps in as Christian families become divided over things like gift-giving, Christmas trees, and whether we keep up pretenses about ‘Old Saint Nick.’ This controversy was not a surprise to God. Jesus said,
“Do not think that I came to bring peace on earth. I did not come to bring peace but a sword. For I have come to ‘set a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law’; and ‘a man’s enemies will be those of his own household. Matthew 10:34-36
But the world will only tolerate two forms of the real Christ. The first is Christ as a baby. The second is a Christ dying on a cross. The former, because babies are deemed helpless. The latter, because it presumably shows Christ’s defeat. However, as believers, we know this is far from true. Even as a newborn babe, Jesus (Yeshua), was already fulfilling numerous Old Testament prophecies (Isaiah 7:14, Micah 5:2, Jeremiah 31:15, Hosea 11:1, etc.). The Incarnation (God putting on flesh) in the form of Jesus through a virgin birth, was the only hope mankind had for redemption. It was the four-thousand-year-old fulfillment of the first prophecy/promise God made in the Bible. In the Garden of Eden, God said this to the Serpent (Satan);
And I will put enmity Between you and the woman, And between your seed and her Seed; He shall bruise your head, And you shall bruise His heel.
But when the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption as sons. Galatians 4:4-5
When the fullness of time had come…is a phrase so packed with meaning that it would not be possible to break it all down in the limited space (or ability) I have at my disposal. But it speaks to the eternal purpose of God’s plan for the redemption of mankind, and of all the created order. It speaks to the specific moments on mankind’s timeline, where (and when) God would intervene in a supernatural and visible way, to put feet to His plan. Dr. Andy Wood’s makes much use of this phrase in his teachings, and really brought to my mind, the preciseness and purpose for why God chose that particular time frame for Christ’s first coming. Consider these points:
Since Alexander the Great, Koine Greek had become the predominant language in the Mediterranean. Koine Greek is a very precise language which is perfect for capturing the original intent and meaning of the Scriptures…no matter which language they get translated into in the future.
The Roman republic form of government ends under Julius Caesar and he creates a total dynastic dictatorship under what would become the rule of the Caesars. Christ was born and dies under the reign of a Caesar, and will return one day when another Caesar (Antichrist) who has set his empire up over the entire world.
The Romans perfected the creation of the road networks, which spanned the boundaries of the Mediterranean, Asia Minor, Europe, and even up into Britain.
Israel remained under the subjugation of Gentile powers (as described in Daniel 2:31-45, 7, 8, & 11) which had played out from the time of their exile to Babylon (605-539BC)
Looking at it from a holistic point of view, there is a lot of commonalities for why Christ came when He did. There was a common language (Koine Greek), an advanced network for travel (all roads lead to Rome), a dominant pagan world power (fertile fields no doubt), and Israel in the final years before her diaspora. While there is still some debate as to exactly which year Christ was born in, all we know for sure is that when He was born, the nation of Israel wasn’t expecting it. We know from the world’s perspective, the birth of Christ in some backwater province of the Roman Empire, did not even register as a blip on their geopolitical radar.
We know Christ lived up unto the age of 30 virtually as an unknown, before exploding onto the scene to present the world with 3 ½ years of God in the flesh, ministry. At the end of that, He managed to make the Pharisees, Sadducees, and Zealots mad enough to trump up false charges and have Him brought before the Sanhedrin to be tried as a political prisoner.
In Genesis 49, we see Jacob blessing his sons who would become the heads of the 12 tribes of Israel. When Jacob came to bless Judah, he gave him an interesting prophecy;
The scepter shall not depart from Judah, Nor a lawgiver from between his feet, Until Shiloh comes; And to Him shall be the obedience of the people.
Modern Jewish scholars today will refute that Christ is the Messiah because their argument is that the ‘scepter’ departed from Judah back in 605BC when the Babylonians under Nebuchadnezzar laid siege to Jerusalem. Furthermore, from then, until 1948, the Jewish nation had been under some form of Gentile domination. All that is true.
But what is also true is that the Babylonians, Persians, Greeks, and Romans allowed the Jews to have a form of semi-autonomous rule over themselves (Zerubbabel, Ezra, Maccabeus) up until King Herod Archelaus was removed from power by Julius Caesar in 6AD (Josephus, Antiquities 17:13). That’s when the Jews lost any remaining semblance of autonomy and were subject to a series of Roman procurators with Pontius Pilate being the most famous.
When Christ came, the Jews were either not anticipating the coming of their Messiah, or had largely ignored the literal fulfillment of the prophecies pertaining to His coming (Matt. 2:3-8). They thought they had lost their right to wield capital punishment on Him, which is partially why they no longer believed the Messiah would come. This is why when they finally did get the chance to kill Him, they had to turn it over to Pilate for the official sentencing.
Now, that didn’t stop them previously from trying to stone Him to death on a couple of prior occasions when they were riled up, but He always managed to allude them (John 8:58-59, 10:30-33). They (the Sanhedrin) didn’t want to crucify Him on Passover because of the negative publicity, but again, the timing was such that God orchestrated everything to coincide with exactly the Passover Feast. (Mark 14:1-2; 1 Cor. 2:6-8)
Also, in Numbers 24:17, the prophet Balaam prophesied that this same scepter would be accompanied by a Star, by which the wise men (Matt. 2:2) would later use to know where this One born King of the Jews, would be found.
“I see Him, but not now; I behold Him, but not near; A Star shall come out of Jacob; A Scepter shall rise out of Israel, And batter the brow of Moab, And destroy all the sons of tumult
The victory at the Cross represented something much more significant than a literal kingdom on earth (which is still to come), but that Christ conquered death and hell. (Rev. 1:18) Because Christ had to be a man to die for the rest of mankind as our Kinsman Redeemer, Christ willingly endured the joy set before Him, in order to pay the price for OUR salvation. (Lev. 25; Heb. 12:2; Rev. 5:6-10) It would be equivalent to God rigging a game that placed all of the burden and rules against Himself so that by His losing, we win. Christ trading His own perfect holiness, for our sinful and corrupted lives, is oft referred to as the most lopsided trade in all of recorded history. And yet, that is exactly what transpired. We don’t think about it this way, but God the Son, traded His former estate, to take on forever, that of God in a glorified human body.
I’ve often heard Amillennialists and Preterists state emphatically, that Christ will not return to rule and reign on earth because they say that we are in the Kingdom already. I couldn’t disagree more. The Scriptures tell us, that this world, is currently (and temporarily) under the sway and control of Satan himself (Luke 4:5-6; 1 Peter 5:8; 1 John 5:19; Rev. 2:13). And as much as these Christian-skeptics might wish, the Cross didn’t usher in some Edenic age where lambs lay down with wolves, children play with cobras, and nations beat their swords into plowshares (Isaiah 2:4, 11:2-8). Any theological interpretation or hermeneutic that detracts from the certainty that God Himself will right all the wrongs, and restore nature back to its original order, is heresy. Any teaching that states anything less than the literal fulfillment of Christ’s kingdom on the earth, is to depart from the plain reading of the text and making it allegorical folly. It was to King David that God said,
And it shall be, when your days are fulfilled, when you must go to be with your fathers, that I will set up your seed after you, who will be of your sons; and I will establish his kingdom. 1 Chron. 17:11
God states over and over, that the Kingdom Come is not established by man or by earthly efforts, but by God Himself (Dan. 2:44-45; Psalm 2; Rev. 19:11-16). Christian liberals and skeptics have introduced this idea that the Kingdom is purely spiritual, and they ignorantly argue that the Kingdom is now in play, however, only in the heavenly realms. They do this by taking several texts out of context such as Luke 17:20-22 and Romans 14:17. If those who deny the coming, literal Millennial Kingdom on earth had their way;
Christ would only come to earth to die, and not to reign; for Christ to be born ‘King of the Jews’, but to not actually become “King of the Jews”; for Him to ride a donkey, but not a white horse; for Christ to be spat on, beaten, and hang naked upon a cross of shame, but not to return in triumphal glory coming on the clouds with the armies of heaven behind Him. If Christ doesn’t return, then He remains defeated on the earth that He spoke into existence, that God’s word does not mean what it says, and that God can break unbreakable promises.
The reason that men and women promote these heretical teachings, is because man-made religion, be it Roman Catholic or Protestant, has become too invested in the things of this world. They want life to continue on in some endless cycle of man rising and falling (2 Peter 3). They depart from a plain reading of the text and insert their own interpretations, which supplants God’s promise to return in victory and claim what is rightfully His. Not only to claim what is rightfully His, but also that every knee should bow, whether it is in heaven, on earth, under the earth. Throughout all of creation, all will confess that Jesus Christ is King (Philippians 2:9-11).
So are these skeptics and liberals (who deny that Christ will literally return and rule on the earth) saying that Christ is free to rule everywhere, but the earth?
The Christ-rejecting world, as well as those Christians who have fallen into spiritual slumber, will be astonished in that Day when Christ comes for His Church. Because that Day opens the window of time for Daniel’s 70th Week (the Tribulation) to begin. The Rapture doesn’t begin the Tribulation, but it clears the path for it, as the Church must be removed prior to the start of that final week of years.
After the Rapture, perhaps a few days, weeks, months, years after, the seven-year Tribulation will begin just as it has been foretold in Daniel 9:27.
The final seven-years will be the most horrifying, ferocious, and disturbing time humanity has ever experienced (Matt. 24:21-22). God will accomplish two things by it; first, He disciplines the nation of Israel, and secondly, He destroys all the Gentile nations round about her, by bringing the whole Babylonian system crashing to the ground (Jer. 30:7-11).
It is noted by the Old Testament Prophets, that THAT DAY will begin in unimaginable calamity, perhaps masking the Church’s departure. The prophet Joel records…“The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the coming of the great and awesome day of the Lord.” Paul writes that “For you yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so comes as a thief in the night. For when they say, “Peace and safety!” then sudden destruction comes upon them, as labor pains upon a pregnant woman. And they shall not escape. But you, brethren, are not in darkness, so that this Day should overtake you as a thief.” 1 Thessalonians 5:2-4
Make no mistake that the Lord will return and will come with the clouds and in great power and glory. Christ will come and reclaim that which was lost with Adam. He has the title deed to the earth. He no longer wears the crown of thorns, but now wears ‘many crowns’, meaning He has ALL authority. When the prophet Isaiah saw the throne room, he was undone. When the holy prophet Daniel sees the throne room, he was shaken. When John sees the glorified Christ in all His splendor, he falls over as dead. How much more traumatized will an unrepentant, Christ-rejecting world be when it sees the sky splitting open and Christ returning in power and glory?
The whole world will mourn (Rev. 1:7). The world at this moment doesn’t care. The religious academics try to minimalize or explain-away His soon coming with fanciful wordsmithing. Those actively opposed to Christ, who loathe Him, are filled with anger because they know deep down that this age is coming to an end. Thus, they are ramping up their evil plans in these final moments…
But you, O man of God, flee these things and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, gentleness. Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life, to which you were also called and have confessed the good confession in the presence of many witnesses. I urge you in the sight of God who gives life to all things, and before Christ Jesus who witnessed the good confession before Pontius Pilate, that you keep this commandment without spot, blameless until our Lord Jesus Christ’s appearing, which He will manifest in His own time, He who is the blessed and only Potentate, the King of kings and Lord of lords, who alone has immortality, dwelling in unapproachable light, whom no man has seen or can see, to whom be honor and everlasting power. Amen. 1 Timothy 6:11-16