“Seen by Angels”

In this series of posts we’re examining the six great truths about Jesus that Paul proclaims in First Timothy 3:16, “By common confession, great is the mystery of godliness: / He who was revealed in the flesh, / Was vindicated in the Spirit, / Seen by angels, / Proclaimed among the nations, / Believed on in the world, / Taken up to glory.”

Today the focus is on Jesus’ being “seen by angels.” Please see the post “Angels: Who Are They?” (December 1, 2017) and the original post in this series (December 12, 2017).

Above/Below/Above

The angels saw Jesus in two dramatically different settings. First, they had worshiped and served Him before He left heaven to become human. Then they served Him during His earthly pilgrimage. And they see Him now, enthroned in glory!

For the angels who had seen Him only in His resplendent heavenly glory, how strange it must have seemed to see their Lord in a lowly human body!

Peter describes the salvation Jesus came to bring us as “things into which angels long to look” (1 Peter 1:12).

Angels announced His birth to the shepherds (Luke 2:8-15).

After His victory over Satan’s temptations in the wilderness, “. . . angels came and began to minister to Him” (Matthew 4:11).

At His tomb “an angel of the Lord descended from heaven and came and rolled away the stone and sat upon it.” Then to the women who had come to anoint Jesus’ body, the angel announced His resurrection (Matthew 28:2-7).

What peals of praise!

Throughout Jesus’ earthly experience no doubt the angels were constantly keeping watch over Him with ever-attentive concern and care, prepared at any moment to go on any mission the Father might send them to serve the Son.

Imagine their thunderous praise after Jesus returned to heaven, having completed His redemptive work!

“Then I looked,” John wrote, “and I heard the voice of many angels around the throne and the living creatures and the elders, and the number of them was myriads of myriads, and thousands of thousands, saying with a loud voice, ‘Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power and riches and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing’” (Revelation 5:11-12).

Amen and Amen!

Jesus glorified-tagged

Scripture quotations taken from the NASB: http://www.lockman.org/

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“Revealed in the Flesh”

God in the flesh

Although the word “Incarnation” is not in Scripture, the concept is certainly biblical. Incarnation means “taking on flesh” and is commonly used of Jesus leaving heaven to become human.

Of the six great truths Paul cites about Jesus in First Timothy 3:16, the first is that He “was revealed in the flesh.”

Martin Luther wrote, “The mystery of the humanity of Christ, that He sank Himself into our flesh, is beyond all human understanding” (Table Talk).

J. I. Packer said, “The Almighty appeared on earth as a helpless human baby, needing to be fed and changed and taught like any other child. The more you think about it, the more staggering it gets. Nothing in fiction is so fantastic as the truth of the Incarnation” (Christian Reader, Vol. 33, no. 6).

God made visible

Before the Incarnation He was invisible to the world. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” (John 1:1).

But then He made Himself visible. “And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory . . .” (John 1:14).

Through His Incarnation Jesus: 1) identified with us, 2) made it possible for us to have a clearer picture of God (John 14:8-9), 3) connected Himself to a human line of ancestors stretching all the way back to Adam (Luke 3:23-38), and 4) took on a body capable of dying, by which He could defeat Satan’s hold on us (Hebrews 2:14-15).

Wesley’s hymn “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing” includes these lines: “Veiled in flesh the Godhead see; / Hail th’incarnate Deity; / Pleased as man with men to dwell, /Jesus, our Immanuel!”

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Scripture quotations taken from the NASB: http://www.lockman.org/

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Our Maker in the Manger

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It may come as a surprise to some that Jesus was actually God’s agent of creation.

“All things were made by him; and without him was not anything made that was made . . . . and the world was made by him . . .” (John 1:3, 10).

“For by him were all things created, that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible . . . all things were created by him, and for him” (Colossians 1:16).

God has “in these last days spoken unto us by his Son . . . by whom also he made the worlds” (Hebrews 1:2).

Our Designer

Science continues to discover the spectacular evidences of Jesus’ creative handiwork—planets and caverns and plant and animal species unknown until recently. As research continues, we can expect many more marvels to come to light.

But even more astonishing is this: Jesus, the Creator of all, entered the womb of the virgin Mary, developed as babies do for the duration of the pregnancy, then was delivered into the world He Himself had made!

And yet even more astounding: “He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him” (John 1:10).

Our decision

John goes on to explain, “He came to His own, and those who were His own did not receive Him” (John 1:11). Even His hometown Nazareth rejected Him. “And He wondered at their unbelief” (Mark 6:6).

“But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name, who were born . . . of God” (John 1:12-13).

Two millennia later many still reject Him, while others receive Him.

Our Maker won’t make us serve Him.

But His offer still stands . . . .

 

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Scripture quotations from Mark 6:6 and John 1:10-13 taken from the NASB: http://www.lockman.org/

Born to Die

Why was He born?

“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, that we might receive the adoption as sons” (Galatians 4:4-5).

For Jesus to be Redeemer He had to die. For Jesus to die He had first to be born.

If you add up the chapters of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, the total is 89. About 29 of these chapters pertain to Jesus’ last week, His death, burial, resurrection, and His appearances following His resurrection.

So about a third of the Gospels is devoted to what Paul refers to as matters of “first importance” (1 Corinthians 15:3-4).

But while the great weight of the Gospels is on His redeeming work, only about three of the 89 chapters pertain to Jesus’ birth, and only Matthew and Luke give much attention to it. All four emphasize His death, as does the apostolic preaching in the book of Acts. Jesus instituted a memorial to His death, not His birth (1 Corinthians 11:26).

This is not at all to minimize His birth, but to put it in perspective: Jesus was born to die.

The shadow of the cross

Even in the birth narratives the cross casts its long shadow.

The angel announced to Joseph regarding Mary, “She will bear a Son; and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21).

As Simeon held the infant Jesus in his arms, he prophesied to Mary, “Behold, this Child is appointed . . . for a sign to be opposed—and a sword will pierce even your own soul . . .” (Luke 2:34-35).

Mary gave birth to Jesus, but also watched Him die. She experienced pain on both occasions—followed by great joy (John 16:20-22).

Myrrh was one of the wise men’s gifts, but it was also used in Jesus’ burial (Matthew 2:11; John 19:39-40).

Look in the manger and you see a babe whose tiny hands and feet will one day be pierced by cruel Roman nails, and whose infant brow will someday wear the crown of thorns.

The wise men asked, “Where is He who has been born King of the Jews?” (Matthew 2:2).

The sign on the cross said, “This is Jesus the King of the Jews” (Matthew 27:37).

Born to die.

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Scripture quotations taken from the NASB: http://www.lockman.org/

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Why Did Jesus Leave Heaven for Earth?

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God . . . . And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory . . .” (John 1:1, 14).

“. . . although He existed in the form of God, [He] did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men” (Philippians 2:6-7).

That the Son of God became Son of Man has to be one of the most astounding historical events of all time.

Even more amazing is that He was willing to do it! Never before or since has anyone undergone such an austere demotion.

But why?

Why would He voluntarily give up the glories of heaven for the hardships of earth, knowing how dearly it would cost Him? The author of the book of Hebrews explains:

First, since those He would come to save “share in flesh and blood, He Himself likewise also partook of the same, that through death He might render powerless him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, and might free those who through fear of death were subject to slavery all their lives” (Hebrews 2:14-15).

In other words, in heaven Jesus was immortal. Since His death would be the price of our redemption, He had to take on a body capable of dying.

Second, “He had to be made like His brethren in all things, so that He might become a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. For since He Himself was tempted in that which He has suffered, He is able to come to the aid of those who are tempted” (Hebrews 2:17-18).

Finding our place in His plan

God sent His Son not only to rescue us from our sins, but also that we would “become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren” (Romans 8:29).

He became like us so we could become like Him.

Will wonders never cease!

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Scripture quotations taken from the NASB: http://www.lockman.org/

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