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Grace Bible Church
Tree of Life
A Weekly Review
Week ending 122312
Christmas special - A Tale of Two Kings.

 

 

I want to talk this morning about a man who hated Christmas even more than the Grinch and Scrooge combined. In fact, he tried to kill Christmas.

It’s a story that doesn’t quite fit among the Christmas carols, the bright lights and Christmas decorations. So, there’s one man who wasn’t happy about Christmas when it originally took place. In fact, he’s pretty angry about the whole thing. He hates Christmas, and he’s never even heard the word. He’s the man history calls Herod the Great. His story is told in Mat 2.

Born into a politically well-connected family, Herod was destined for a life of hardball and a power agent. At 25 years of age he was named the governor of Galilee, a high position for such a young man. The Romans were hoping that Herod could control the Jews who lived in that area. In 40 B .C. the Roman Senate named him “King of the Jews.” It was a title the Jews hated because he wasn’t religious nor was he a Jew.

Herod portrayed the ultimate villain. He exhibited 4 classic characteristics:

  1. Preoccupation with Power.

Our King said in MAT 28:18, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth.”

Herod was addicted to power. Power was his ultimate human obsession. Power is defined as the ability to control resources and assets in order to secure one’s own destiny, and Herod was the epitome of power. His life, and his use of power, can be summed up in three words -- he was capable, crafty, and cruel.

Herod was extremely capable in what he was asked to do. Soon after becoming King, he wiped out several bands of guerrillas who were terrorizing the countryside and used subtle diplomacy to make peace accords with many competing factions.

Because he had a morbid distrust of anyone who might desire to take his throne, he was also known as a cruel man. He held tightly to the reins of power and brutally removed anyone who got in his way. Over the years he killed many people: His brother-in-law, his mother-in-law, two of his sons, and even his wife. Above everything else, Herod the Great was a cruel killer. That was his nature. He murdered out of spite and he killed to stay in power. Human life meant nothing to him.

The intensity of Herod’s cruelty grew in direct proportion to the amount of power he possessed. At least we can say that he lived a consistent life.

  1. Preoccupation with Possessions.

Our king said in LUK 9:25, “For what is a man profited if he gains the whole world, and loses or forfeits himself?”

Herod wanted it all. He wanted everything a Roman Caesar had. Herod built 7 palaces and 7 theaters, one of which seated 9,500 people. He even built stadiums for sporting events the largest could seat 300,000 fans. He also constructed a new temple for the Jews.

  1. Preoccupation with Prestige.

Our King said in JOH 5:41, “I do not receive glory from men;”

Herod loved to make an impression on others. He built entire cities with state of the art architecture and politeness and named them after his superiors. He was also a smooth talker and had a special ability to win over his opponents.

Several of his 10 marriages were prestige-oriented and politically motivated. He once married the daughter of his leading rival in order to gain prestige and power.

  1. Preoccupation with Paranoia.

Our King said the solution to paranoia or insucurity is found in JOH 8:32, “and you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.”

Ever since an enemy poisoned Herod’s father, who was a king himself, Herod was plagued with paranoia. When he became king, he commissioned tens of thousands of slaves to build over 10 emergency fortresses, all heavily armed and well provisioned. In addition, he established an elaborate network of spies.

Anyone with a plot to dethrone Herod was sniffed out and eliminated. He ruled for more than 40 years -- until he clashed with another King -- one who was also called, the King of the Jews.

With that as background, let’s fast-forward to the final months of Herod’s life. Herod the Great, King of the Jews, is slowly dying of a disease. His body racked with convulsions, his breath foul, his skin covered with open sores, he’s rapidly losing his mind. But he is still the King.

One day word comes to him in Jerusalem that some visitors have arrived from the East. So that we read in MAT 2:1, Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, magi from the east arrived in Jerusalem,

The magi was an ancient fraternity which drew a lot of attention when they came into Jerusalem. So the visitation of the magi into Jerusalem was a dramatic event!

The magi were well respected by all the nations in the ancient world and many individuals actually lived in fear of them. They were considered to be very strange people! In fact, DAN 2:48 tells us that Daniel belonged to the magi and he was a chief officer in this fraternity.

Who were they?

The magi were basically all Gentiles. They were great teachers, physicians, chemists, astrologers, astronomers, and mathematicians. Somewhere between astronomy, mathematics, and astrology, they developed a system for predicting the lives of people and history.

As far as we can tell, a portion of this fraternity was made up of born again believers and perhaps all,...we really have no way of knowing. We do know that there were many of them and they did travel hundreds of miles to follow the star.

So, these were strange men with a strange question. They would read the stars from heaven, and so these stargazers had an interview with Herod. They asked him a question that shook him to his core.

MAT 2:2, “Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we saw His star in the east, and have come to worship Him.”

They were looking for someone who was born King of the Jews. Herod was probably thinking what’s up with that, that’s supposed to be me. What were these men talking about? Why didn’t his spies tell him about this threat to his throne?

MAT 2:3, And when Herod the king heard it, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him.

The word “disturbed” means to shake violently, and no wonder. He had finally subdued his enemies. He had killed all his enemies and was ready to die triumphantly. Now these strangers come with their strange question.

So now there was one more person to kill, a young boy who claims to be King. No wonder the Bible says that all of Jerusalem was shaken -- no one knew what this wacko would do next.

Even though Herod is old, remember the three words that define him -- he was capable, crafty, and cruel. He knew that somewhere in the ancient oracles was a prediction of the exact place where the Messiah, or special one of God, was to be born. So he called together all the ministers and religious leaders to find out if the Bible had anything to say about a coming King.

Specifically, he wanted to know where He was supposed to be born.

MAT 2:4-5, And gathering together all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he {began} to inquire of them where the Christ was to be born. And they said to him, “In Bethlehem of Judea, for so it has been written by the prophet,”

Then a quotation from MIC 5:2;

MIC 5:2, “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.”

This is a reference to our king who said in ISA 41:4, “I am the eternal one Who has performed and accomplished {it,} Calling forth the generations from the beginning? ‘I, the Lord, am the first, and with the last. I am He.’”

ISA 48:12, “Listen to Me, O Jacob, even Israel whom I called; I am He, I am the first, I am also the last.”

So back in MAT 2:6, “And you, Bethlehem, land of Judah, Are by no means least among the leaders of Judah; For out of you shall come forth a Ruler, Who will shepherd My people Israel.”

Herod cringes when he hears the word, ruler. Suddenly things are getting serious. Maybe these strangers are on to something. What if the boy they are looking for is the One the Bible predicted would come? He must take Him out now.

So Herod called the stargazers secretly and found out from them the exact time the star had appeared. We now have the introduction of Dumb and Dumber.

MAT 2:7-8, Then Herod secretly called the magi, and ascertained from them the time the star appeared. And he sent them to Bethlehem, and said, “Go and make careful search for the Child; and when you have found {Him,} report to me, that I too may come and worship Him.”

Off they went. The star that led them over 800 miles through the desert and miraculously led them to the exact house Jesus was in. When they found Jesus they bowed down and worshipped him, offering him expensive gifts.

MAT 2:9, And having heard the king, they went their way; and lo, the star, which they had seen in the east, went on before them, until it came and stood over where the Child was. And when they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy. And they came into the house and saw the Child with Mary His mother; and they fell down and worshiped Him; and opening their treasures they presented to Him gifts of gold and frankincense and myrrh. And having been warned {by God} in a dream not to return to Herod, they departed for their own country by another way.

The theological meaning of Christmas has to do with the Advent or the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ. Basically it is all summed up in the verse that is the Bible in miniature:

JOH 3:16, “For God so loved the world, that He gave His uniquely born Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life.”

The greatest Christmas gift that God has ever given, of course is His Son for the sins of the entire world. This is the principle of giving with no strings attached and the doctrine of the unlimited atonement, which means that the Lord Jesus Christ died for all. God the Father did not just give to those who would appreciate His gift, but He so loved the world that He gave His uniquely born Son for every member of the human race.

However, we are also reminded at Christmas time that even though God gave to the human race, the majority of the human race have rejected God’s gift and not accepted it.

Therefore, one of the principles behind the celebration of Christmas is giving with no strings attached because of the virtue and integrity in you.

Now, for those who accept the free gift which God has given, there are also more gifts to follow. For example, in JOH 3:34, for those who receive the gift of God's Son, He gives the Spirit without measure. This means you can have as much fellowship and power with the Holy Spirit as you desire.

MAT 2:9-10, And having heard the king, they went their way; and lo, the star, which they had seen in the east, went on before them, until it came and stood over where the Child was. And when they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy.

One of the prophecies concerning the Lord Jesus Christ is the fact that He is called a star, NUM 24:17, says “I see Him, but not now, I behold Him, but not near. Behold, a star shall come forth from Jacob.”

In REV 22:16, “I am the root and the descendent of David, the bright morning star.”

So, God the Father gave the morning star to the world at the first advent, even though many rejected Him.

And, as we will see, He will also give the morning star to believers who have accepted His plan at the Second Advent or the Second coming.

So in MAT 2:2, “Where is he who has been born King of the Jews? For we saw His star in the east,”

Saw his star actually means we have calculated his star. They have done some mathematical calculation, they have put the whole thing together under the principle of astronomy, mathematics, and astrology. The Messiah is now somewhere in the world and they’re looking for Him.

They do not follow the Old testament or the spiritual life of the Jews with the New Testament spiritual life as well. But they have calculated this thing through astronomy, mathematics, and astrology.

So, one of the titles for the Lord Jesus Christ is found in REV 22:16, “I, Jesus, have sent my angel to declare these things to you for the churches; I am the root [Jesus Christ as eternal God], and the descendent of David [Jesus Christ in hypostatic union], the bright morning star [his title for the First and Second Advents].”

Therefore, in MAT 2:2, the star is a reference to the morning star related to the first advent. The morning star also refers to a special decoration which will be given to mature believers at the 2nd advent or the 2nd real Christmas. However, just like many rejected the morning star at the First advent, many of God’s people will reject the morning star decoration at the Second Advent. This morning star at the Second Advent is a decoration awarded the ultimate in Christian service and the maintenance of spiritual maturity.

In REV 2:26, “Furthermore, the winner, even he who keeps my assignments [fulfilling the PPOG] until the end [of his life], to him I will give authority over the nations.”

REV 2:28, “Furthermore I will give to him the order of the morning star.”

This means that the mature believer will be a king over a Gentile nation during the Millennium. Receiving this reward is the highest manifestation of glorifying the Lord Jesus Christ in the Church-age.

The order of the morning star authorizes the recipient to reign with Christ in the Millennium and hold the highest privileges for all eternity. Such a believer can eat from the tree of life in the paradise of God, located in the New Jerusalem.

So, there are seven privileges or Christmas gifts that accompany the second king the Lord Jesus Christ as the order of the morning star:

  1. The uniform of honor, being invisible and worn in the soul, is exchanged at the Judgment seat of Christ for the uniform of glory, in REV 3:4-5. The uniform of glory is a monument to right decisions. The uniform of glory is given as a translucent light which covers the resurrection body.
  2. The decoration includes presentation in the court of heaven during the Tribulation, REV 3:5.

REV 3:5, “He who overcomes shall thus be clothed in white garments; and I will not erase his name from the book of life, and I will confess his name before My Father, and before His angels.”

Those on the honors list are taken to heaven first, and presented to God the Father by the Lord Jesus Christ. The honors list is made up of those believers who make Bible doctrine their highest priority daily.

  1. A new knighthood and eternal order of chivalry belongs to the believer winning this award, REV 2:17 cf. COL 3:4, 6. A new order of chivalry includes a new title after your name in the lamb’s book of life. The new knighthood is given to the winner.

REV 2:17, “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes, to him I will give some of the hidden manna, and I will give him a white stone, and a new name written on the stone which no one knows but he who receives it.”

  1. The winner will rule with Christ during the Millennium, 2TI 2:12, REV 3:21.

You must remember that God the Father has already given you the order of the morning star.

REV 3:21, “He who overcomes, I will grant to him to sit down with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne.”

However,  just like the morning star was rejected at the First Advent, as per the doctrine of the unlimited atonement, the decoration at the Second Advent is also rejected by the majority of believers who have become losers instead of winners.

  1. Your name is recorded in the permanent historical record section because of your invisible impact on history during the Church-age, REV 3:12.

REV 3:12, “He who overcomes, I will make him a pillar in the temple of My God, and he will not go out from it anymore; and I will write upon him the name of My God, and the name of the city of My God, the new Jerusalem, which comes down out of heaven from My God, and My new name.”

The impact of the winner is anonymous as far as the record of history is concerned, but not as far as God is concerned. The mature believer’s historical record will be recorded forever in the heavenly temple.

  1. You are the recipient of a coat of arms of glory which will give you special privileges from your special rank, REV 3:12.
  2. You have special privileges related to the tree of life, the Gazebo of the Garden, called the Paradise of God.

You are a member of a special club with special parties to which only you are invited; you're a member of the paradise club forever.

REV 2:7, “To the winner, I will give to him the privilege of eating from the tree of life which is in the paradise of God.”

REV 2:14, “blessed are they [winners] who have washed their robes, that they may have the right to the tree of life, and may enter by the gates into the city [New Jerusalem].”

The tree of life is the ultimate in eternal reward and blessing.

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