As we reflect on the birth of Jesus and the events that followed, we often criticize the Jewish people, and rightfully so, for overlooking the Old Testament teachings regarding the suffering of Christ for our sins, instead skipping directly to the conquering Christ who will subdue Israel’s enemies and sit on the throne of David. This oversight resulted in a great deal of confusion and tragedy.
However, perhaps we are guilty of the opposite error, a fixation on Christ’s coming to die for our sins that results in our overlooking the part of the story that the Jews remembered, His coming as conqueror and ruler. This second aspect of the Christmas story is the focus of one of Isaiah’s accounts of His birth.
For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Isaiah 9:6 ESV
Isaiah begins with mention of the birth of the Messiah, and describes Him as a Son, His growth to adulthood. Next Isaiah discusses His role as ruler during the Millennial Kingdom by asserting that “the government shall be upon His shoulder.” This expression connotes that Christ will assume both of the authority and responsibility related to the throne.
Isaiah then goes lists Christ’s qualifications to rule as King. As a ‘Wonderful Counselor” He will display the wisdom to deal with every situation effectively. The term “Mighty God” literally means “warrior God.” Christ fights two battles to in order to earn the right to sit on this throne. He fought the battle to pay for our sins with is hands and feet nailed to a cross, and He triumphed. At the battle of Armageddon He will fight against the combined armies of the earth, destroying them. Therefore He sits on the throne of David as conqueror. Though Jesus is God the Son, He serves as “Eternal Father” in the sense that as the shepherd of Israel He fulfills the fatherly functions of protecting, correcting, and guiding them, and caring for their needs. As ruler He will fulfill those roles even more directly. Regarding Isaiah designating Him as “Prince of Peace,” we find Hebrews referring to him as King of Righteousness and King of the Peace, apparently a reference to the role of Christ as our redeemer. However, Isaiah’s reference to Him as “Prince of Peace” seems to be referring to His capacity to bring and maintain peace when He rules as king over all the earth, even bringing peace within nature and the animal kingdom.
Why is including this aspect of the Christmas story important? As we share the gospel message at Christmas, including this part of the story might help listeners to better grasp the role of Christ in history, making Him more real to them. The fact that in less than a decade we could be living under and enjoying the Millennial reign of Christ assigns an added dimension to receiving Him. Likewise, making this emphasis to those we are discipling and those attending our churches will provide a fuller understanding of the nature of Christ. And to all of us, the thought that in a short time Christ could be reigning over all the earth will be a source of hope and encouragement, especially as our present existence descends into chaos.
So this Christmas, as the return of Christ is closer than ever before, it is important to tell both parts of the Christmas story.