Deliverer, Lifegiver

“Thou shalt call his name Jesus: for he shall save his people from their sins.” —Matthew 1:21

THE story of the angel’s visit to the shepherds, informing them of the birth of Jesus, is one that never grows old. It was “good tidings of great joy” (Luke 2:10) then, and it is the same today. Throughout the centuries since that holy night, many millions have had their hearts made glad by this story, and yet its real fulfillment is still future. Eventually it will be glad tidings to all people, not merely as a story, but in the fact that salvation from sin, sickness, and death will be made available to all.

That the shepherds were in the fields tending their sheep the night Jesus was born would indicate that December 25th is not the correct anniversary of his birth. While the winters in Israel are not as severe as they are in many other parts of the world, they are too cold for sheep to be kept in the open fields. The approximate date of Jesus’ birth is October 1st. This is deduced from the fact that he was crucified in the spring of the year, at the time of the Jewish Passover. (Matt. 26:2) Jesus was thirty years of age (Luke 3:23) when he began his ministry—a ministry which lasted for three and one-half years. Thus he was thirty-three and one-half years old when he was crucified. This being in the spring of the year would mean that he was born about the first of October.

Of course the date of Jesus’ birth is not too important. The important thing is that he was born, that thus he was “made flesh” for the “suffering of death,” and that by the grace of God he tasted “death for every man.” (Heb. 2:9) The infant Jesus could not be the Savior of the world. Only the “man Christ Jesus” could give himself a “ransom for all.” This he did, and the glorious fact of the redemption from death thus made possible, will, in God’s due time, be testified to all mankind.—I Tim. 2:3-6

A “multitude of the heavenly hosts” sang, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill toward men.” (Luke 2:13,14) In modern times this has been translated to read, “Peace on earth among men of goodwill.” But this is an erroneous translation, devised to compensate for a lack of understanding of just what was implied by this prophecy of the angels. The professed Christian world knows that peace has not been established as a result of Jesus’ birth, so they assume that the angels meant that peace would come only to men of goodwill.

Actually, men of goodwill have always had peace among themselves. (John 14:27) It did not require the birth of Jesus to bring this about. What the angels really told the shepherds was that the birth of Jesus was a manifestation of God’s goodwill toward men; for God, in his love, had sent his Son to be the Deliverer and Lifegiver of the world.

Except in the making of promises through his prophets, God’s goodwill had not been manifested toward mankind since our first parents were driven out of the Garden of Eden and sentenced to death because of sin. He had shown limited favor to a few who exercised faith in his promises, but he had given life to none. He had given the Israelites an opportunity to gain life by keeping the Law, but they had failed. But now, in fulfillment of his promises to send a Deliverer and Lifegiver, Jesus was born as a marvelous manifestation of God’s goodwill.

The name Jesus means ‘savior’. In order for Jesus to be the Savior, it was necessary for him to die as the Redeemer. And in his death we see another manifestation of God’s goodwill toward men. Then Jesus returns to prepare for the establishment of his kingdom, that through the agencies of that kingdom the world might be enlightened, and given an opportunity to benefit from his death as their Deliverer and Lifegiver. This opportunity will reach the living, and also the dead, who will be brought forth from the grave (John 5:25)—another manifestation of God’s goodwill! And in his kingdom, peace will also come to the world.

The ministry of the disciples was at first confined to the Israelites, but with the conversion of Cornelius the Gospel began to be preached more and more to the Gentiles. (Acts 2:39) However, only in a limited sense did this begin the fulfillment of the angel’s prophecy that the glad tidings of Jesus’ birth as a Savior would be to all people.

The purpose of the general witnessing of the Gospel in this age is to reach those who respond in terms of full devotion, to follow in the footsteps of Jesus which lead to sacrificial death. Those who now react to the Gospel, and meet the terms of this “high calling” (Phil. 3:14), will be exalted to immortality (Rom. 2:7) in the resurrection, to live and reign with Christ for the blessing of the remainder of the resurrected world of mankind. (Rev. 5:9-13) Only then will they know the full meaning of the titles given to Jesus—Deliverer, Lifegiver!

Dawn Bible Students Association
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