Wednesday, January 02, 2013

Age of Gold

Isaiah 9:6 For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.

It is finally Christmas and along with the angels, we rejoice at the birth of Jesus. Our Savior has come into the world and we have been saved from our sins and our enemies. We seem to get the first part, salvation from sin, assuming we understand that we are sinners. But we have a harder time believing that God is going to chase down every enemy. We have a hard time believing this even in the direct and clear revelation of Scripture. Jesus will reign until all of His enemies are subdued. Every knee shall bow and every tongue shall confess that Jesus Christ is Lord.
         This great passage from Isaiah was immortalized and forever stamped in our minds by that illustrious composer Frederick Handel. It is difficult to even say these words without hearing the tune run through our minds.
         But like so much of Scripture, if we are not careful, the words run through our mind but not the meaning. We hear the words but we do not really believe them or heed them. 
         Many of our Christmas songs create this same contradiction.  We sing the words but we do not understand or perhaps do not believe what we sing.

It Came Upon the Midnight Clear, original verse 5
For lo!, the days are hastening on,
By prophet bards foretold,
When with the ever-circling years
Comes round the age of gold
When peace shall over all the earth
Its ancient splendors fling,
And the whole world give back the song
Which now the angels sing.

This reference to the age of gold harkens back to Virgil’s fourth eclogue, written around 40 B.C. It is likely that Virgil was anticipating the age of gold arising in those emperors to follow the rule of Julius Caesar. Although we are not certain of Virgil’s intent in this passage (some have claimed he actually prophesied the birth of Jesus) the hymn writer quotes it as a deliberate poke at the aspirations of a usurped authority to rule the world. No one but Jesus Christ can truly bring this ‘age of gold’ but the reality is that Jesus truly does bring the age of gold.

Think about these great lyrics.

Joy to the World, Isaac Watts, 1719
Verse 3
No more let sins and sorrows grow,
Nor thorns infest the ground;
He comes to make His blessings flow
Far as the curse is found,
Far as the curse is found,
Far as, far as, the curse is found.

Verse 3 says that Jesus comes to make his blessings flow far as the curse is found. The curse brought sorrow, sin and thorns. But the blessing of Christ will reverse that curse and restore the world to and Edenic state.

Verse 4
He rules the world with truth and grace,
And makes the nations prove
The glories of His righteousness,
And wonders of His love,
And wonders of His love,
And wonders, wonders, of His love.

         Verse 4 says that Jesus rules the world. Many Christians do not believe that but it is true and the

         All of this is said as a prelude to how we view the historic, current and future Kingdom of God.  By far and away the historic view of Christ’s Kingdom clashes with the modern American view.  We see this even in Christmas hymns, until the mid to late 19th Century.  Prior to that time, the prevailing view of Christ’s Kingdom is that it would continue to grow and fill all the Earth.
In the modern era, a particular pessimism has set into the church, largely as a result of dispensational thinking. Instead of the kingdom of God growing and filling the Earth, the kingdom of Satan grows, many think, filling the Earth, and threatens the saints until Jesus comes back to save them at the last possible moment.
We need to remember what Jesus has already done. We need to remember our Christmas songs. Satan has no kingdom. At best, he is a banished usurper, wandering the dry places of the Earth, hoping for a sympathetic ear.  He is a pathetic outcast.  How different that view than those who make Satan the archrival of the Lord Christ. Nothing of it! 
Jesus has already come to save us from our sins and to free us from our and His enemies. He made a show of them on the cross triumphing over them in it. We are not waiting for this to happen in the future, it happened over 2000 years ago!
Gladly, that dispensational view, along with its gospel hopelessness seems to be running out of steam. You can only predict the end of the world and the tribulation for so many decades and generations before people start to grow skeptical, although it is amazing what a tenaciously long life this view has had.
So, we arrive to this great anthem of the Christian faith.  Can you say these words without singing the song?
Wonderful, Counselor, the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace.
We sing these songs every year and there was a time when we actually believed them. It is true that the advent of Christ makes a tremendous impact in our personal lives. He saves each one of us from our sins. This gives us peace and assurance, knowing that our God is for us and not against us. But that is not main message of the Glad Tidings. The main message of the glad tidings is the universal rule of Jesus Christ over all things.
         I hope we can get excited about this. This is something we get to declare. It is the gospel message proclaimed. Although we do try to persuade others to see this great truth and submit themselves to Jesus, our declaration remains true whether they accept it or not. Jesus is ruling the world and will continue to rule the world until every knee bows and every tongue confesses that He is indeed the Messiah.  
Of the increase of His government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon His kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even for ever.
The zeal of the LORD of hosts will perform this!

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