Life and Ministry of Jesus:
Promise and Fulfillment
As soon as Adam and Eve fell from grace, before they were cast out of the Garden of Eden, God promised that a Redeemer would someday be born on earth. Centuries later, God chose for Himself a covenant people whom He prepared to receive this Redeemer. Throughout the history of Israel, God renewed the promise.
God’s Promise Concerning the Birth of Jesus Christ:
1. A Redeemer will be born of the seed of a woman (Genesis 3:15)
Before Adam and Eve were evicted from the garden, God revealed that Someone born of the seed of the woman will someday bruise the head of the serpent, though He would be bruised on the heel. It’s not biologically correct to speak of the seed of a woman but this would be a special birth not involving the seed of a man. This uniquely conceived Man will crush the head of the serpent (a mortal wound) though He would be bruised on the heel, that is, He would be wounded. Interpreting this Scripture from our perspective we see Jesus, conceived without a human father, who, though He was beaten and crucified, broke the power of Satan.
2. He would be born of a virgin (Isaiah 7:14)
It was necessary that the Redeemer be born of a woman so that He could share the same human nature as those whom He came to save. But it was equally necessary that He be perfectly God, for only a perfectly holy God can offer a perfectly holy sacrifice for sin. Thus Jesus, pre-existent Second Person of the Trinity, was conceived by the Holy Spirit in the womb of a virgin: Son of Man and Son of God, perfectly human and perfectly divine; two natures, one Person.
God revealed this through the prophet Isaiah 700 years before the birth of Christ. In context, God was calling the Israelite king, Ahaz, to trust Him during a time of adversity. To bolster the king’s faith, the Lord said, “Ask a sign for yourself from the Lord your God,” (7:11). The king replied, self righteously, “I will not ask nor will I test the Lord,” (7:12). God responded by providing a sign that would not come into being for seven centuries, “Behold, a virgin will be with child and bear a son and she will call his name Immanuel,” (7:14). Immanuel means, “God with us.”
There are those who argue against the virgin birth of Christ by reminding us that the Hebrew word alma can be translated maiden, which would read, “A maiden will be with child.” But how would that be a sign from God? Young women, maidens, have babies every day. The word alma is usually translated virgin and must mean virgin in this context or it makes no sense that God would use this as a sign. God would not say, “Behold, a maiden, a young woman, will bear a son.” That is not a sign. It is a normal, every day occurrence.
3. The Redeemer would be born in Bethlehem, His existence is from everlasting, and He will be ruler, a shepherd of Israel and a peace maker:
“But as for you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you One will go forth for Me to be ruler in Israel. His goings forth are from long ago, from the days of eternity. Therefore He will give them up until the time when she who is in labor has borne a child. Then the remainder of His brethren will return to the sons of Israel. And He will arise and shepherd His flock in the strength of the Lord, in the majesty of the name of the Lord His God. And they will remain, because at that time He will be great to the ends of the earth. This One will be our peace” (Micah 5:2-5a)
Seven hundred years before the birth of Jesus, Micah prophesied that someone will be born in an obscure Judean village, Bethlehem. He will be sent from God and His origins are from the days of eternity, that is, He will pre-exist His life on earth. He will rule Israel, but not as a tyrant, rather, as a shepherd — He will shepherd His flock in the strength of the Lord. And He will be our peace — He brings peace and He makes peace.
4. Isaiah also prophesied that the coming One would be eternal, everlasting, “For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us; and the government will rest on His shoulders; and His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace” (Isa. 9:6).
Notice the subtle promise — a child will be born — the Second Person of the Trinity was incarnate in human flesh, the Word became flesh and was born of Mary. But a son will be given — not born — He was given because He already existed.
Eternal Father may also be translated Father of the age to come and it is Christ who ushers in the age to come through His atoning death and resurrection, through His ascension to the right hand of majesty from which throne He oversees the outworking of history. Gabriel said to Mary, “His kingdom will have no end” (Luke 1:33) because He is Father of the age to come.
5. He would be born of royal lineage, in the line of King David.
Isaiah prophesied, “For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us and the government will rest on His shoulders ... There will be no end to the increase of His government or of peace, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and righteousness from then on and forevermore,” (Isa. 9:6,7).
If this coming ruler sits on the throne of David then He must be descended from David. This is an important prophecy because it was understood that the long awaited Messiah must be of royal descent.
Gods’ Fulfillment Concerning the Birth of Jesus Christ:
1. Jesus was born of a virgin (Matthew 1:18-25 Luke 1:27, 34,35 2:1-7).
This is the testimony of Matthew and Luke, in fulfillment of God’s promise through Isaiah.
Matthew, writing under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, testifies that Joseph and Mary, though betrothed (engaged), had not yet come together in intimate union. Yet, “She was found to be with child by the Holy Spirit,” (1:18).
The angel of the Lord then testified, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife; for the Child who has been conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit,” (1:20). The clear testimony of Scripture is that the Holy Spirit conceived Jesus in Mary’s womb.
Matthew then writes, “Now all this took place to fulfill what was spoken by the Lord through the prophet, ‘Behold, the virgin shall be with child and shall bear a son,’” (Matt. 1:23). Because Matthew was quoting from a Greek translation of Isaiah 7:14, he used the word parthenos, which means an unmarried daughter who has not had sexual relations — a virgin.
Luke, also writing in Greek, testifies that the angel Gabriel came “to a virgin ... and the virgin’s name was Mary,” (1:27). Luke also uses the word parthenos, which, as we have said, is normally translated virgin. The angel tells Mary that though she is a virgin, she will conceive and bear a son. Mary then asks, “How can this be, since I am a virgin?” (Luke 1:34). Literally, Mary said, “How can this be, since I know not a man.” She is testifying of her virginity.
The angel replies, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; and for that reason the holy Child shall be called the Son of God,” (Luke 1:35). In other words, you will conceive, even though you do not have a husband, because God the Holy Spirit will conceive this life in you. There is nothing ambiguous or unclear about the testimony concerning the virgin birth. It was prophesied in the Old Testament and fulfilled.
Why is this important? Because only a perfectly holy God can offer to God a perfectly holy, acceptable sacrfice for sin. But only a perfectly holy human being could give Himself as a substitute for sinful humanity. God’s solution was the God / Man, Jesus, Son of God and Son of Mary, conceived by the Holy Spirit in the womb of Mary.
2. Jesus was born in Bethlehem (Luke 2:1-7), in a clear fulfillment of Micah’s prophecy.
Remember, though, that Joseph and Mary lived in Nazareth, not Bethlehem. In order for Micah’s prophecy to be fulfilled, God moved a Roman ruler, Caesar Augustus, to call for a world wide census to be taken. Families had to return to their ancestral home to register. Because Joseph and Mary were both descended from David, and Bethlehem was the ancestral home of David, they had to journey more than eighty miles from Nazareth to Bethlehem. Because Mary was in the final days of pregnancy, the child was born in Bethlehem. God used a pagan ruler, who knew nothing of God or Messianic prophecy, to fulfill the words of Micah.
3. Micah prophesied that the coming One would exist from eternity. This was John’s testimony of Jesus, writing under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, “He was in the beginning with God,” (John 1:1). This was Jesus‘ testimony of Himself, “Truly, truly I say to you, before Abraham was born, I am,” (John 8:58).
Micah prophesied that the coming One would be the ruler of Israel and though Jesus was not recognized by the majority of His day as the King of Israel, there were some who greeted Him as He rode into Jerusalem with this Messianic shout, “Hosanna to the Son of David; blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord; Hosanna in the highest!” (Matt. 21:9).
Matthew says that this was in fulfillment of the prophecy of Zecharia, “Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout in triumph, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your king is coming to you; He is just and endowed with salvation, humble, and mounted on a donkey, even on a colt, the foal of a donkey” (Zech 9:9). Though this prophecy has yet to be completely fulfilled, we know Jesus to be truly the King of all kings and Lord of all lords who will someday sit on His throne in Jerusalem, ruling the earth.
Micah prophesied that the coming One would minister as a shepherd. Jesus testified that He was, “The good shepherd (who) lays down His life for the sheep,” (John 10:11)
Micah prophesied that this coming One would be our peace and Jesus is our peacemaker, reconciling us to God through His atoning sacrifice. This is Jesus’ testimony of Himself, “Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful” (John 14:27). In laying down His life for us Jesus, “made peace through the blood of His cross” (Col. 1:20).
4. Jesus is the royal descendant of King David.
It was necessary that Jesus was descended from King David because the Messiah had to be of royal lineage. As Isaiah prophesied, He will sit on the throne of David and “the government will rest on His shoulders,” (Isa. 9:6,7).
Jesus was of royal descent genetically because Mary was from David’s line (the genealogy in Luke 3 is considered to be Mary’s lineage). He is the Son of David legally because Joseph, though not His birth father but His father by human family identity, was also a descendant of David (Matt. 1:6,16). So Jesus inherited David’s royal line legally from His father and David’s royal blood from His mother. This is why the angel could say to Mary, “And the Lord will give Him the throne of His father David and He will reign over the house of Jacob forever,” (Luke 1:32,33).
Jesus was the Son of Mary in His humanity, Son of Joseph in the legal sense, Son of David in royal lineage and Son of God in His divine nature and essence. Son of God and Son of Mary. Great David’s greater Son. God in human flesh.
God fulfilled each of His promises concerning the birth of Jesus: born of a virgin, born in Bethlehem yet existing from eternity, born to be our Shepherd and our peace and born of the royal lineage of David.
The Fulness of God’s Timing
1. “But when the fullness of the time came, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law so that He might redeem those who were under the Law…” (Galatians 4:4,5).
The word fulness could be used of a vessel filled to the brim. God, who works all things according to the counsel of His will, who alone governs the times and seasons of all events, sent forth His Son into the world at the hour in human history which perfectly fulfilled His purpose.
Born of a woman refers to Jesus’ human, genetic inheritance. All that it means to be human, apart from sin, He inherited from His mother. Humanly speaking, she was fully His mother and He was fully her Son. This was necessary because Jesus was born to be the holy Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. In order to be the Substitute for sinful humanity, that is, to bear human sin and the wrath of God, Jesus had to be fully human.
2. In the fullness of time, Jesus was born under the Law (Galatians 4:4,5).
By virtue of His birth to a Jewish mother and into a Jewish home, Jesus was born into the yoke of the Law so that He could redeem humanity from the curse of the Law. By obeying the Law perfectly, sinlessly, He was qualified to be the sinless Sacrifice for sin.
3. In the fullness of time, Jesus was born in the likeness of men (Philippians 2:7).
Jesus was fully Man. The word likeness, homoioma, refers to the true reality of something that not only appears to be like something but is of the same reality and essence. Jesus was truly, genuinely human, having all the attributes of a man. This was obviously true because most people did not recognize Him to be anything other than a man and rejected His claim to be the Son of God.
Jesus in His incarnation possessed two natures — He was the God / Man — Son of God, Son of Mary, two natures, one Person. As we discussed in our last lesson, Jesus did not cease being God but while maintaining the morphe of God, the true essence and nature of God, He also took on the homoioma, the true reality of a man (Phlpns. 2:6,7). As a baby He needed the same care and protection from His parents that any infant requires. As a child He grew “in wisdom and stature and in favor with God and men,” (Luke 2:52). As a man He became weary, hungry, thirsty and was subject to death. Jesus endured temptation in the wilderness test with Satan (Matt. 4:1-11) and no doubt throughout His life (Hebr. 2:18), “tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin,” (Hebr. 4:18). Jesus was perfectly human, yet without sin.
Although Jesus was born in the fullness of time to a human mother, under the Law and in the likeness of men, this was not a normal conception. As we have said, Jesus was conceived by the Holy Spirit (Matt. 1:20, Luke 1:35). In a manner unexplained but merely stated as fact and truth, we are told that the Third Person of the Trinity, the Holy Spirit, overshadowed Mary and caused her to conceive (Luke 1:35). In Matthew 17:5, when Jesus was transfigured before Peter, James and John, it says that “a bright cloud overshadowed” them. That was the shekinah glory of God encompassing them on the mountain. That word, overshadowed, is the same word used by the angel Gabriel to describe to Mary the conception of Jesus.
God Himself, the sovereign Creator of the universe, overshadowed Mary’s being with His life and creative power. As God encompassed Mary in the womb of His glory, He conceived in her womb the life of Jesus. For that reason, because of this divine creative miracle, the angel said, “The holy Child shall be called the Son of God” (Luke 1:35).
Jesus was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the virgin Mary. In summary, Jesus Christ was perfectly God and perfectly Man.
The traditional, orthodox position on the nature of Christ, formulated at the Council of Chalcedon in 451 AD, states that Jesus was truly God and truly Man, possessing two natures, human and divine. As the Son of God, He existed with the Father before time and as the Son of Man, He was conceived in the womb of Mary by the Holy Spirit. Both divine and human natures are distinct but united in one Person, as Paul says, “For in Him all the fullness of Deity dwells in bodily form” (Col. 2:9).
There is an erroneous teaching that because Jesus had a human mother but not a human father, He was exempt from the sin nature, as if the sin nature is passed genetically from the father. There’s nothing in Scripture or medical science to indicate that the human predisposition to commit sin is transmitted through the male chromosomes. You can't find the sin nature in DNA. Women are perfectly capable of passing on the sin nature. We don't know how it is transmitted but we do know that it is passed on from generation to generation.
David said, “Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity and in sin my mother conceived me,” (Ps. 51:5). He did not mean that his mother conceived him through an immoral act but that from the time of conception he was a sinner. David was born with a sin nature. The Apostle Paul says that we were “by nature children of wrath” (Eph. 2:3). Paul, speaking of the original sin of Adam says, “For as through the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, even so through the obedience of the One the many will be made righteous,” (Rom. 5:19).
Through Adam, all are born with a sin nature, a predisposition to commit sin. Jesus was born without a sin nature because that’s the way God created Him — sinless from conception. The child in the womb of Mary was untouched by sin because that was God’s purpose. He was a holy offspring, as the angel said to Mary, “The holy child shall be called the Son of God” (Luke 1:35).
The title Son of God refers to the eternal relationship between the First and Second Persons of the Trinity. Jesus is God's Son, not Joseph’s Son. He is the Son of God with all that this implies in terms of His nature, His essence. Jesus Christ was God in human flesh. Jesus also is the Son of Mary, conceived by the Holy Spirit but nurtured in Mary’s womb.
Because He is the Son of God, eternal Second Person of the Trinity, Jesus is Immanuel, God with us. The angel said to Joseph, “Behold, the virgin shall be with child and shall call His name Immanuel, which translated means, ‘God with us,’” (Matt. 1:23).
God had always dwelt in the midst of His covenant people, covering them in the wilderness with His glory cloud by day and His glory fire by night. He placed His glory in the tabernacle and in the temple. But in the birth of Jesus, God came to dwell among us in a special way. He was the revelation of the Father’s glory, God spreading His glorious tabernacle among us in human form.
The word tabernacle, mishkan, means dwelling, habitation. Mishkan is derived from shakan which means to abide. Shekinah, the glorious presence of God, is derived from shakan. The shekinah glory of God encompassed Mary, conceiving in her womb the Son of God, Immanuel, who is the revelation of the glory of God dwelling among us.
“And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth,” (John 1:14).
“God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways, in these last days has spoken to us in His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the world. And He is the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His nature,” (Hebr. 1:1-3a).
The shekinah glory of God tabernacled over Mary,
conceived in Mary the shekinah glory of God,
birthed through Mary the shekinah glory of God,
that we might behold the shekinah glory of God
among us, abiding with us, in human form.
1. Name one Old Testament promise of God regarding the Messiah and its fulfillment in the birth of Jesus.
2. Why did Jesus need to be fully human and fully divine?