Pt 14: Christmas – Jesus Dedicated at the Temple

Jesus Dedicated at the Temple

When the baby Jesus was eight days old, He was circumcised (Luke 2:21). At the circumcision ceremony, Mary and Joseph named Him JESUS, the name given by the angel Gabriel when he appeared to Mary in person and later on appeared to Joseph in a dream.

The Greek name translated into English as Jesus, is the name Iesous (pronounced ee-ay-sooce, Strong’s New Testament #2424). It is of Hebrew origin (Strong’s Old Testament #3091) from the name Yehowshua, or Joshua, meaning “Jehovah is Salvation”.

When the days of Mary’s post-birth purification had been completed, according to the law of Moses, Joseph and Mary brought Jesus to the Temple in Jerusalem to be dedicated to the Lord (Luke 2:22-24).

In the Barnes’ Notes Bible Encyclopedia, it states that among the Hebrews, a mother was required to remain at home for about forty days following the birth of a male child and about eighty days after the birth of a female child. During that time she was reckoned as impure, and was not permitted to go to the Temple or to engage in religious services with the congregation (Leviticus 12:3-5).

A sacrifice was required when dedicating the firstborn son at the Temple. Mary and Joseph brought a sacrifice to be offered. As it is written in the law of the Lord (Exodus 13:2), every firstborn male is to be consecrated to the Lord. And in keeping with the law of the Lord, a sacrifice must be offered of a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons.

At the temple, there was an elderly man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon (Luke 2:25-40). This man was just and devout, waiting for the Consolation of Israel (a name for the Messiah), and the Holy Spirit was upon him.

It had been revealed to him by the Holy Ghost that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ (the Messiah). So he came by the Spirit—he was led by the Lord to come—into the temple that exact particular day that Mary and Joseph were there with baby Jesus. When the parents brought in the Child Jesus, to do for Him according to the custom of the law, Simeon took Jesus up in his arms and blessed God and began to prophesy over Him saying:

“Lord, now You are letting Your servant depart in peace, according to Your Word. For my eyes have seen Your salvation which You have prepared before the face of all peoples, a light to bring revelation to the Gentiles, and the glory of Your people Israel” (Luke 2:29-32 NKJV).

Joseph and Mary marveled at those things which were spoken of Him (Jesus). Then Simeon blessed them and said to Mary, the mother of Jesus: “Behold, this Child is destined for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign which will be spoken against (yes, a sword will pierce through your own soul also), that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed” (Luke 2:34-35 NKJV).

Now there was a prophetess named Anna, who was the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher (Luke 2:36-38). She was 84 years old. When she was young, she was married to her husband for seven years and became widowed. She never did remarry but remained single the rest of her life. She remained at the Temple for all those years, serving God with fastings and prayers night and day.

When she saw the baby Jesus, at that very moment she came up and began to give thanks to God, and continued to speak of the newborn Messiah to those who were looking for the redemption of Jerusalem and all of Israel.

Pt 2: Christmas – A Priest Named Zacharias

A Priest Named Zacharias

The Christmas story begins with a priest named Zacharias. He lived in a town in the hill country of Judea, which is located in the region within the vicinity of Jerusalem. The specific town is not mentioned, but Smith’s Bible Dictionary says it was probably Hebron, the city of priests.

His wife’s name was Elisabeth, who was also a Levite and a descendant of Aaron, who is the father of the line of the Levitical priesthood.

The time in history took place during the reign of Herod, king of Judea, around 3 BC.

Zacharias was a member of the 8th division of the Temple priesthood, known as the division, or course, of Abijah.

Hundreds of years prior to the birth of Christ while David was king, David had divided the priesthood into 24 divisions or courses—each course serving in the Temple for one week twice a year (1 Chronicles 24). In addition to serving their one week duty bi-annually, all 24 divisions were also required to serve during the three most holy feasts:

  1. Unleavened Bread which is in the month of Abib-Nisan, the first month of the Hebrew year, which is in March/April
  2. Pentecost (also known as Feast of Weeks) which is 50 days following Unleavened Bread in the month of Sivan, the third month of the Hebrew year, which is late May/early June
  3. Tabernacles (or Booths) and also known as Feast of Ingathering of the Harvest, which is held in the month of Ethanim-Tishri, the seventh month of the Hebrew year, which is September/October

Deuteronomy 16:16 (AMP) says:

Three times a year shall all your males appear before the Lord your God in the place which He chooses: at the Feast of Unleavened Bread, at the Feast of Weeks, and at the Feast of Tabernacles or Booths. They shall not appear before the Lord empty-handed.

These three holy feasts are very significant in the birth of the early church.

The Feast of Passover and Feast of Unleavened Bread is actually one long feast (or two feasts back to back—Passover and then Unleavened Bread immediately following). Jesus was crucified and rose again during the season of the feast of Passover and Unleavened Bread.

Fifty days after the offering of the barley sheaf at the Feast of Unleavened Bread, the Holy Spirit was poured out on the Day of Pentecost and the early church was birthed (Acts 2).

The Feast of Tabernacles, or known as Booths, is the final feast of the Hebrew year. It is held on the 15th day of the month of Tishri (5 days following the Day of Atonement, which is held on the 10th of Tishri). This is the seventh month of the Hebrew calendar, around September/October.

It is believed by Bible scholars that Jesus was born during this time of the year. Many Bible theologians believe that when Jesus returns for the second time as Conquering King, marking the beginning of the Millennium, that it will be during the Feast of Tabernacles.

Zacharias’ division, and every other division, had just finished serving in March/April during Passover and Unleavened Bread.

The first “regular” assigned week for the course of Abijah happened to fall on the week prior to Pentecost at the end of May/early June.

After Zacharias served his first regular assigned week, he had to remain at the Temple for several extra days to carry out his priestly duties during the Feast of Pentecost (and the other 23 priestly divisions were required to come to Jerusalem during Pentecost to serve in the Temple). Zacharias’ second “regular” week of service was scheduled several months later in the year.

It was approximately in the month of May or early June while Zacharias was ministering in the Holy Place in the Temple that the angel Gabriel appeared to him, announcing that he and Elisabeth would bear a son in their old age, and his name was to be John.

It was approximately the month of June, after Zacharias had fulfilled his duty of service in the Temple, when Elisabeth conceived.

She was in her 6th month of pregnancy (around December), which is the month of Kislev in the Hebrew calendar, when the angel Gabriel appeared to Mary announcing that she was chosen to be the mother of the Messiah.

Mary’s immaculate conception took place during the month of Kislev (December).

Jesus’ cousin John was born three months later in March (or Abib-Nisan, the first month of the Hebrew year).

Pt 1: Christmas – The Stage Was Set

The Stage Was Set

The key themes of the Christmas Story are:

  •  Joy
  •  Redemption and Salvation
  •  Peace And Goodwill towards men
  •  God is faithful to fulfill His promises
  •  Fear not
  •  Nothing is impossible with God
  •  God speaks to us in dreams; listen to Him

God has a perfect season and timing for everything in our lives.

“For the vision is yet for an appointed time; but at the end it will speak, and it will not lie.  Though it tarries, wait for it; because it will surely come, it will not tarry” (Habakkuk 2:3 NKJV).

God’s Word is filled with precious promises.  Have you asked the Lord to do something specific in your life and you know deep in your heart that He said “yes” and made a promise to you that He would do it?

He may have quickened a Scripture that pertains to your situation or maybe He dropped a promise into your heart. Perhaps a prophetic message was spoken over you and it bore witness in your spirit that it was of God, and was a confirmation of what the Lord had been speaking to your heart.

What is your circumstance?  What are you believing God for?

When God first promises something to us there is the feeling of being overjoyed and a sense of expectancy.  It seems like the promise will come to pass right away.  In some cases it does, but in most instances a period of time elapses between the moment the promise is first given and the time it comes to fulfillment.

Many times months and years go by and the promise still has not happened.  Have you ever experienced that feeling of disappointment that just when it seemed like the promise was finally going to come to pass, there was a sudden turn in the road?

Proverbs 13:12 (NKJV) says, “Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but when the desire comes, it is a tree of life.”

The devil uses these opportune times in our lives to taunt us with words like: “It will never happen” … “Did God really say that?” … “It’s too late for you”.

God’s delay in answering prayer does not necessarily mean denial.  God’s promises are “Yes” and “Amen” (2 Corinthians 1:20).  Though the promise tarry it will surely come to pass and not prove false.  God wants us to have faith and to trust him.

Psalms 145:13 (NIV) tells us:  “The Lord is faithful to all his promises and loving toward all he has made.”

Ecclesiastes 3:1 (NKJV) says, “To everything there is a season, a time for every purpose under heaven.”

Even in the timing of the birth of Christ, the Messianic promises had been spoken hundreds and thousands of years before Christ became flesh.

Why did God wait so long to send His Son?  The answer:  Because the stage had to be fully set first.

In looking back on history, God waited until certain things were in place before sending Jesus to earth.  For instance, roads had been built by the Romans.  The Romans ruled much of the known world during that time, and they had built wide highways and roads going every direction from Rome to the Middle East, Africa, Far East and European countries.  Because the roads were built, travel to almost any destination was possible.

Besides roads for land travel, there were technological advances in sea travel with ships to transport people to almost any coastal destination, including the isles of the sea.

Jesus said to make disciples of every nation, and with access to land and sea travel, it was now possible for His disciples to fulfill Jesus’ commission and to spread the Gospel to every nation in the known world.

Another important factor which set the stage for the coming of Christ is that during that time in history, Greek was the universal language.

While every country and region spoke their own native tongue, all nations also spoke Greek.  The New Testament was written in Greek so that everyone could understand the Gospel.  Business and foreign relations with other countries was possible since everyone understood the language.

Unlike centuries prior, most people in the known world were able to read and write in Greek.  Most street signs were written in Greek, as well as public announcements from the Romans.  With everyone knowing Greek, and most people able to read and write in Greek, communication was possible so that the Gospel could spread to the ends of the earth.

The political climate was ripe for the Messiah to come.  There had been Jewish revolts taking place, the most notorious being the Maccabean revolts.  There was conflict over Judaism and Hellenism.  The Seleucid Empire persecuted the traditional Jews and tried to eradicate their religion and religious practices altogether.

The lifestyle of the Greco-Roman world was incompatible with that of the Jews.  Because the Greco-Roman influence was so heavy, the younger generation of Jews began to adopt many of the ways of the pagan culture and abandon Judaism.

The revolts were also to rebel against Roman rule over their country Israel, and the heavy taxation.  Israel had been an independent nation, having had possessed the land thousands of years before.  Now their nation was being taken over by Roman rule.  There was tremendous upheaval and unrest.

Roman soldiers could be very brutal with citizens and everyday life posed many dangers.

A forerunner was needed to “prepare the way of the Lord” (Luke 3:4, Isaiah 40:3-5, Malachi 4:5-6).  He was born six months prior to Jesus’ birth.

The fullness of time had come for the Messiah to come to earth and the stage was completely set in place.

In our own lives, sometimes the promises of God are not fulfilled until the stage has been set in place.  The Lord takes us through a period of preparation.  He is at work behind the scenes getting everything ready.  When it is God’s timing, things begin to fall into place.

Ecclesiastes 3:11 says, “He has made everything beautiful in its time.”

Pt. 13 – The Christmas Story (Angels Appear to the Shepherds)

Angels Appear to the Shepherds

Mary had given birth to her firstborn son, Jesus, and used a manger as a crib to lay Him in.

Meanwhile, in the same country there were shepherds out in the fields keeping watch over their flocks by night. And behold, an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone brightly all around them, and they were greatly afraid (Luke 2:8-9).

Then the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign to you; ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger” (Luke 2:10-12 KJV).

And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude (a countless number) of the heavenly hosts (angels) praising God and saying:

“Glory to God in the Highest, and on earth peace, goodwill toward men!” (Luke 2:14 KJV)

So it was, when the angelic hosts had gone away from the shepherds into heaven, that the shepherds said to one another, “Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us!” (Luke 2:15 KJV)

Church history records that when the mass angelic choir appeared to the shepherds in the fields at night, the whole sky lit up like the noonday sun and the singing was heard for miles away by the villagers. That must have been awesome to experience.

All the angels worshiped Jesus at His birth.  Hebrews 1:6 (NKJV) says, “But when He again brings the firstborn into the world, He says: ‘Let all the angels of God worship Him’.”

In the same way in which the angels appeared in the sky to herald the first coming of the Messiah (with loud singing, shouting and praising God), that when Jesus appears in the clouds to catch His Bride away (some call it the rapture, some refer to it as being translated to heaven, while others call it the catching away of the saints), that He will be heralded by the angels and saints.

Gabriel will sound the alarm by blowing a shofar. Then millions of angels will begin blowing trumpets (and I’m sure other musical instruments as well), and the angels and saints will begin rejoicing and praising God as they meet the Lord in the air.

I personally believe that the rapture will not be silent as movies portray—where people suddenly disappear—but the whole world will hear the trumpets blowing, the singing and victorious shouting. Those who are left behind will visibly see the saints who are ready for the rapture, begin to ascend straight up into the air like a rocket into the clouds, in the same manner that Jesus ascended into heaven.

Matthew 24:30-31 (NIV) says, “At that time the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky, and all the nations of the earth will mourn. They will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky, with power and great glory. And He will send His angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather His elect from the four winds, from one end of the heavens to the other.”

The Son of Man is a name that refers to Jesus.

The four winds are in reference to the four corners of the earth (North, South, East and West). This means that the rapture will be a worldwide event where His elect are caught up to heaven from every part of the world all at the same moment.

In regards to Jesus’ second return—which is a separate event from the rapture—when He comes riding triumphantly on a white horse and touches the Mount of Olives, many Bible theologians believe that the second return will probably take place during the month of Tishri (the seventh month of the Hebrew year during September/October).

During this time of the year is the Feast of Trumpets, followed by the Day of Atonement, and then followed by the Feast of Tabernacles (Jesus tabernacling with us or making His home with us).

The Feast of Tabernacles is also known as the Feast of the ingathering of the harvest. This harvest is not about harvesting crops, but a figurative harvest—a worldwide harvest of souls.

It is important to be ready for Christ’s return. No man knows the day or the hour that Jesus will return—not even the angels, nor the Son of Man (Jesus). Only the Father knows (Mark 13:32).

In the parable of the ten virgins (Matthew 25:1-13), five were wise and five were foolish. The wise virgins were prepared when the bridegroom arrived and were ready to enter into the Marriage Supper. They had oil for their lamps.

The five foolish virgins ran out of oil, and while they went to go purchase some more, the Bridegroom came and they were not ready and prepared. They were not able to go in to the Marriage Supper because the door had been shut. Although they knocked, the door was not opened.

Could this parable possibly be saying that when the rapture takes place, that only one group of the Body of Christ will be ready to ascend to the Marriage Supper of the Lamb?

Jesus spoke to Kat Kerr that right now, 80% of Christians would not be ready for the rapture because they are living carnal lives.

It is not enough to just have said an initial prayer of salvation and been water baptized. God is looking for good fruit (the fruit of the Spirit mentioned in Galations 5:22-23 and John 15) in our lives. He is looking for holiness and walking in the fear of the Lord. We cannot have one foot in the world and another in Christ. He is looking for those who seek to have a close relationship with Him and who love Him.

It is possible to be in the church and even be involved in ministry, and not even be saved. To be saved means that you are a new creature in Christ Jesus—the old is gone and the new has come. To be saved means that you are walking according to God’s Word, not according to the ways of this world. It means a transformation of the heart, with corresponding actions following.

We do not know the exact date that Christ will return. We just know the season. It is important to be ready at all times—not only should the rapture occur in our lifetime, but also because we do not know with positive certainty when we will take our last breath. It’s important to be right with God and to have a clean heart, and a conscience that is free from guile and has been purified by the Blood of the Lamb.

If you need to get right with God, just call out to Him. Confess your sins, and He will be faithful and just to forgive you of all of your sins (1 John 1:9). Ask Him to cleanse your heart and conscience with the Blood of Christ. Invite the Holy Spirit to come and fill you to overflowing and to transform you into Christ’s image. Ask the Holy Spirit to help you walk in the Spirit and not in the flesh.

The Word says to not be deceived, God is not mocked (Galations 6:7). Whatsoever a man sows, that shall he also reap. He who sows to the carnal nature (fruits of darkness such as hate, jealousy, envy, strife, malice, unkindness, injustice, fraud, selfishness, immorality, corruption) shall reap what they sowed. He who sows to the Spirit (love, joy, peace, goodness, kindness, patience, self-control, faith, gentleness, truth, honesty, integrity, the Golden Rule, fairness, just weights and balances, righteousness) he will reap what he has sowed.

Ask the Lord to bring you into a closer relationship with Him, and that you want to know Him. To know Him is to love Him more and more as the years go by.

In Luke 2:15-20, the shepherds came with haste and found Mary and Joseph in the stable or cave, and the baby lying in a manger.

Now when they had seen the babe, they spread the word concerning what had been told to them concerning this child. All those who heard it marveled at those things which were told them by the shepherds. Mary treasured all these things and pondered them in her heart. Then the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told them.

Notice that God sovereignly chose to have the hosts of angels appear to shepherds to announce the birth of Christ. Then the shepherds in turn, told everyone about the good news.

Taking care of sheep was considered to be a lowly job, and shepherds did not have much of a voice in society. They were considered to be less important and of low-ranking status. Yet they were given the honor of seeing and hearing the angels herald the birth of Christ and the honor of announcing to the whole community the birth of the Son of God.

God could have sent His angels to announce the birth of Christ to the elite. The world we live in equates socio-economic status with importance and degree of favor shown. The prominent and wealthy have the most voice in society. This is all based in pride, and God abhors pride.

The Lord is a God of equality. He views everyone with equal importance and value. He shows favor to whomever He chooses. He enjoys raising the needy out of the ash heap and empowering them to prosper. The Lord will often take people who had major setbacks and disadvantages, and raise them up to become very successful. God often chooses those who others think are the least qualified and uses them mightily.

God looks for those who are available to Him—regardless of status or education—and who say “yes” to God.