Commentary

 

Prophecies About Jesus      

By Joe David

By Meister des Ludwig-Psalters [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons. Currently at Bibliothèque Nationale de France.

For Christians, Christmas time is one of the most sacred, most joyous celebrations of the year. What about for people who are thinking about it, but who aren't sure about the whole "reason for the season"? What do we really know about what happened in Judea, 2000 years ago?

We're going to try to approach this topic from a neutral standpoint, and see where that leads us.

It's well-established that Jesus existed. He was physically, historically real. There is voluminous evidence from Christian sources, of course. Jesus Christ was also mentioned in non-Christian historical documents that have survived from that period. He's referred to twice by Josephus, the Jewish historian, in his work "Antiquities of the Jews" published in 93-94 AD. Tacitus, the Roman historian, writing in around 116 AD, also refers to "Christus" being put to death by the Romans under Pontius Pilate.

Was Jesus special? Even skeptics would need to wonder why and how this man from a small village in Galilee could launch a religion which would become the biggest, most influential one for at least the next two millennia of human history.

One of the intriguing things about Jesus is that his birth and life seem to have fulfilled prophecies from the Old Testament, which date back to the time of Moses - at least 1500 years BC, and to far older stories in an oral tradition. Those prophecies existed in texts written long before the Christian Era started.

What were some of those prophecies? There are many of them! Swedenborg lists some here, Doctrine of the Lord 6. In this article, we're just going to focus on a few of them.

In this very early prophecy, it's indicated that the Messiah would be born as the son of a woman:

"And Jehovah God said unto the serpent, Because thou hast done this, cursed art thou above all cattle, and above every beast of the field; upon thy belly shalt thou go, and dust shalt thou eat all the days of thy life, and I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed: he shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel. Genesis 3:14-15. This is confirmed in the story in Matthew 1:20.

In Micah, much later in the Bible, we read that the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem, in Judea:

"But thou, Beth-lehem Ephrathah, which art little to be among the thousands of Judah, out of thee shall one come forth unto me that is to be ruler in Israel; whose goings forth are from of old, from everlasting."
Micah 5:2. This is confirmed in the story in Matthew 2:1, and Luke 2:4-6.

In Isaiah, we read that the Messiah would be born to a virgin:

"Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel." Isaiah 7:14. This is confirmed in the story in Matthew 1:22-23, and in Luke 1:26-31.

Lineage was an important factor, too. At least 5 forefathers of the promised Savior are named. First, he was prophesied to come from the line of Abraham, the progenitor of many of the peoples of the modern Middle East, including the Jews, the Arabs, the Lebanese, the Druze, and others. See Genesis 12:3, and Genesis 22:18. This prophecy is confirmed in Matthew 1:1, and Romans 9:5.

In the next generation, prophecy stated that the Savior would be descended from the line of Isaac, one of Abraham's two sons. See Genesis 17:19, and Genesis 21:12. This is confirmed in Luke 3:34.

For the third generation, the Word states that the Messiah would be a descendant of Jacob. It's prophesied in Numbers 24:17, and confirmed in Matthew 1:2.

For the fourth generation, attention focuses on the tribe of Judah, who was one of the twelve sons of Jacob (whose name was changed to Israel). See Genesis 49:10, and then Luke 3:33, and Hebrews 7:14.

Many generations later, in the second book of Samuel, and again in Isaiah, there are prophecies that the Messiah would be heir to King David's throne. Read 2 Samuel 7:12-13, and Isaiah 9:7. Then see Luke 1:32-33, and Romans 1:3.

There are many more prophecies, and we will look at more of them in a future article. But, to summarize these ones that we've just listed, what would Old Testament readers in the time of Caesar Augustus be expecting?

In Bethlehem, a virgin would bear a son. He would be descended from Abraham, through the line of Isaac, Jacob, Judah, and David. That's the way the story runs, in the Gospels.

It's clear that the Old Testament wasn't altered to suit the "facts on the ground". The prophecies are already there in pre-Christian scrolls. That leaves two possibilities:

1) Scenario A: The New Testament could have been written to twist the facts to match the old prophecies. Faithful Jews were awaiting the Messiah; they would have wanted to find matching stories. In this scenario, Jesus could have been just a regular man, but a standout leader and teacher and healer. He was so inspiring that his apostles endured hardship and death to spread what became a global religion. The stories about him were exaggerated or modified to help match the prophecies.

2) Scenario B: The Old Testament text contains deep inner meaning, and its prophecies were actually prophetic and true. The facts of Jesus' birth and life and ministry actually did match and fulfull the prophecies. In this scenario, Jesus was truly a miracle baby.

Which scenario is right? In both, there's a recognition that the teachings of Jesus contained wisdom, and that there is great value in them. In New Christian thought, the choice is for Scenario B -- that Jesus really was the Christ, the long-awaited Messiah, or Savior.

This of course requires some level of belief in miracles - prophecy, fulfillment, the virgin birth, angels bearing tidings, healings, feeding the multitudes. Can miracles really happen? Is it scientifically possible? Maybe they can... maybe as science advances, we will begin to understand those boundaries better.

At some level, don't most of us believe in miracles -- in the miracle of the very existence of the universe, and of living organisms that can reproduce, and of human life, and of love?

How to end this article? The whole subject of miracles needs more thought. And, here it is, December 22, and... instead of getting more analytical, I find that right now I just want to "be" in the holy days of Christmas.

If you're feeling skeptical, have a look at Arcana Coelestia 2568, and Arcana Coelestia 2588. They offer an interesting perspective!

---

One source for this article was "100 Prophecies Fulfilled by Jesus: Messianic Prophecies Made Before the Birth of Christ", by Rose Publishing.

(References: Teachings about the Lord 6)

The Bible

 

Luke 3:33

English: King James Version         

Study the Inner Meaning

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33 Which was the son of Aminadab, which was the son of Aram, which was the son of Esrom, which was the son of Phares, which was the son of Juda,

   Study the Inner Meaning

Explanation of Luke 3      

By Rev. John Clowes M.A.

Verses 1-2. When the remains in the Lord's human principle were opened to the Divine, it then became subject to temptation combats, on which occasion an assault is made by infernal spirits on the Divine love of saving mankind communicated to the human principle.

Verses 3-4. Under which assault it is suggested, that truth alone is sufficient for man's spiritual nourishment, from whatever source it be derived.

Verses 5-9. And that the love of the world is one principal source of human happiness.

Verses 9-13. Also the love of self.

Verse 13. That these temptation-combats were continued to the latest period of the Lord's life in the world.

Verses 14-15. That when the Lord's Human principle, through temptation-combats, was brought to a fuller union with the Divine, it became the medium of communicating truth to the Church in a greater abundance.

Verses 16-20. As had been predicted.

Verses 18-19. In agreement with which prediction, the poor in spirit were to receive from the Lord the knowledge of the Eternal Truth; they who were made sensible of their natural defilements were to be purified; they who were under the dominion of false persuasions were to be liberated; they who were in ignorance were to be instructed; they who had transgressed were to receive remission; and all were to hear the glad tidings of the Lord's Advent.

Verses 20-23. That the accomplishment of this prediction is at first received with joy.

Verses 23-28. Until declaration is made, that none can receive the eternal truth but those, who are in the love of it from a for principle of good, and who also are sensible that of themselves they are defiled with all false principles.

Verses 28-29. On which occasion, violent opposition is excited in the thoughtless and impenitent, attended with a total rejection of all truth and an attempt to destroy it.

Verse 30. Insomuch that the truth was entirely hid from them.

Verses 31-36. Nevertheless its Divine power was felt by others, and confessed even by the infernals, who yet are not allowed to declare it, but compelled to retire to their own kingdom.

Verses 36-37. Since this was one great end of the revelation of truth in the person of jesus Christ to remove the powers of darkness from mankind.

Verses 38-39. And to deliver from the love of evil all those who are in the affection of truth.

Verses 40-41. Also to liberate, and render receptive of good and truth, those who are infested with falsities.

Verses 40-44. With which view the truth at times hides itself, that so a stronger affection may be excited towards it, and it may be manifested in every direction.

Other New Christian Commentary

  Stories and their meanings:


  Spiritual Topics:



Hop to Similar Bible Verses

Genesis 29:35, 38:29, 46:12

Numbers 2:3

Ruth 4:17

1 Chronicles 1

Word/Phrase Explanations

Phares
Phares,' which means 'breach,' in Genesis 38:29, signifies the apparent separation of truth from good.

Resources for parents and teachers

The items listed here are provided courtesy of our friends at the General Church of the New Jerusalem. You can search/browse their whole library at the New Church Vineyard website.


 Baptism of the Lord
Use felt tip markers to draw a picture of John baptizing the Lord in the Jordan River. Then dip a paintbrush in water and go over the picture to give the effect of watercolor. 
Project | Ages 4 - 14

 John the Baptist Prepares the Way
Sunday School Lesson | Ages 9 - 12

 The Baptism of Jesus
Connect the dots to make the dove appear in this picture of the Lord's baptism.
Project | Ages 4 - 10

 Years Have Their Beginnings
Worship Talk | Ages 7 - 14

The Bible

 

Luke 1:32-33

English: King James Version         

Study the Inner Meaning

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32 He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David:

33 And he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end.

Full Chapter   Next →

   Study the Inner Meaning

Explanation of Luke 1      

By Rev. John Clowes M.A.

Verses 1-5. That revelation of the eternal Word made flesh is imparted to all who are in the love of truth for its own sake.

Verses 5-26. His representative as to the Word must teach the doctrine of repentance and faith in Him, the origin of which doctrine is described.

Verses 5-7. As being born from celestial good and truth.

Verses 8-18. And announced by the most high, as being instrumental in promoting purification from evils and falsities, and thus preparing mankind for the reception of good and of truth.

Verses 18-24. Nevertheless this doctrine is not admitted without doubt respecting it, the effect of which doubt is manifested in the inability to make confession of the Lord, and to preach faith in Him.

Verses 23-25. Notwithstanding however this doubt, the doctrine of repentance and faith gains confirmation, though as yet it is seen only obscurely.

Verses 26-34. It is at the same time announced from heaven, that Jehovah will come into the world, and that the Humanity, which He will assume, is the Son of god, by virtue of the Divinity from whom it came forth.

Verses 29-34. Which annunciation causes trouble and surprise, until information is given, that to that Humanity will be transferred the All of Divinity, so that in it Divinity and Humanity will be one, and in that one-ness will have rule over all things of heaven and the church.

Verses 34-36. Since the Humanity is born from the Divine Good and Divine Truth, which is Jehovah.

Verses 36-38. And preparation is made for its reception, through the doctrine of repentance and faith, which was to be taught in the church.

Verses 39-46. That on this occasion, the internal affection of good and of truth in the church is conjoined with the external, so that the productions of the latter become vivified, and the latter affection itself is made holy by virtue of it's exaltation of the former.

Verses 47-51. The former affection, at the same time, exalts the Divine Good and Divine Truth above all things, under a devout sense of the Divine mercy, which attends to the lowest concerns of man, and is ever operative in good to those who desire good.

Verses 51-54. And which assumed a Humanity, that through it the hells might be subdued, and a new church might be established, to which divine good might be imparted, and in which, truth separate from good might be rejected.

Verse 55. As had been predicted.

Verses 56-59. That for this purpose the doctrine of repentance and faith in the incarnate god is taught in the church, to the great joy of those who receive it.

Verses 59-64. The quality of which doctrine is described, as being grounded in the Divine love and mercy.

Verses 64-66. So that they, who acknowledge this quality, are enabled to make confession of the Lord, and to preach faith in Him, exciting devout adoration in all who hear them.

Verses 68-73. Because they teach from Divine truth, that Jehovah assumed a Humanity, for the purpose of effecting redemption and salvation, by conjoining Himself with His church.

Verses 73-76. And that His church, being thus purified from evils and falsities, might be reciprocally conjoined with Him, through the reception of His love and wisdom.

Verses 76-80. Therefore the doctrine of repentance and faith in the incarnate god is of Divine origin, being intended to prepare man for the reception of the Divine mercy, through the removal of all opposing principles, and through the communication of the light of Divine truth, by virtue of which the church would be delivered from the falsities of evil.

Verse 80. Which doctrine is more and more confirmed, though for a time it is received by few.

From Swedenborg's Works

Explanations or references:

Arcana Coelestia 2798, 2921, 3305, 3421, 5313, 10248

Apocalypse Revealed 294, 504, 520, 548, 613, 664, 962

A Brief Exposition of New Church Doctrine 120

The Lord 19, 29, 42

True Christian Religion 92, 111, 112, 188, 342, 538, 683


References from Swedenborg's unpublished works:

Apocalypse Explained 253, 328, 376, 852, 1069, 1104

Canons of the New Church 43

De Domino 38

Justification 13

Spiritual Experiences 4332

Marriage 92, 111, 112

Scriptural Confirmations 2, 13

Other New Christian Commentary

  Stories and their meanings:


  Spiritual Topics:



Hop to Similar Bible Verses

2 Samuel 7:12, 13, 16

Psalms 2:7, 45:7, 132:11

Isaiah 9:6

Jeremiah 23:5

Daniel 2:44, 7:14

Obadiah 1:21

Micah 4:7

Word/Phrase Explanations

son
Father, son, mother, and daughter, as in Luke 12:51, 53: By father against son, and by son against the father, is understood evil against truth,...

highest
'Highest' denotes the 'inmost,' because interior things, with person who is in space, appear as higher things, and exterior things as lower. But when the...

Father
Father, son, mother, and daughter, as in Luke 12:51, 53: By father against son, and by son against the father, is understood evil against truth,...

over
'Upon' or 'over' signifies being within.

Jacob
Jacob is told twice that his name will now be Israel. The first time is when he wrestles with an angel on his journey to...

ever
“Age” is used in slightly different ways in natural language, and those differences are reflected in the word’s spiritual meanings. All the variations, though, reflect...

kingdom
In the most general sense, a kingdom in the Bible represents a church. In a more specific sense, a kingdom represents a church in regards...

Resources for parents and teachers

The items listed here are provided courtesy of our friends at the General Church of the New Jerusalem. You can search/browse their whole library at the New Church Vineyard website.


 Angel Appears to Joseph
Coloring Page | Ages 7 - 14

 Angel Appears to Mary
Coloring Page | Ages 7 - 14

 Angel Appears to Zacharias
Coloring Page | Ages 7 - 14

 Angelic Appearances at the Time of the Advent
A sermon about the angel Gabriel's appearances to different people and how this pictures aspects of the preparation we must do for the Lord's birth in our own lives. 
Worship Talk | Ages over 18

 Angel with Mary
Coloring Page | Ages 7 - 14

 Angel with Zacharias
Coloring Page | Ages 7 - 14

 Annunciation
Coloring Page | Ages 7 - 14

 Birth of the Lord
Sunday School Lesson | Ages 9 - 12

 Blessings: Good Tidings of Great Joy
Blessings to say at mealtime.
Activity | Ages over 7

 Call His Name Jesus
Coloring Page | Ages 7 - 14

 Christmas Joy and Happiness
Worship Talk | Ages 7 - 14

 Elizabeth Greets Mary
Coloring Page | Ages 7 - 14

 His Name Is John
Coloring Page | Ages 7 - 14

 His Name Will Be Called: The Development of the Lord in Our Lives
Worship Talk | Ages over 18

 Jesus' Childhood
People are born without a set purpose and develop a purpose as they learn and choose a pathway. Jesus was born with an identity and a purpose; He had to discover His identity and become true to it.
Sunday School Lesson | Ages 11 - 17

 John the Baptist
Compare the birth of John the Baptist with the birth of Jesus Christ. What do the births of these men mean in our lives?
Sunday School Lesson | Ages 11 - 17

 Mary and Elizabeth
Coloring Page | Ages 7 - 14

 Mary's Song of Praise
Mary's song of praise, often called the Magnificat, in a color border.
Picture | Ages over 15

 Mary Visits Elizabeth
Coloring Page | Ages 7 - 14

 Naming John the Baptist
Coloring Page | Ages 7 - 14

 Our Savior
Article | Ages 15 - 17

 Picture of the Angel Gabriel
Project | Ages up to 10

 Prophecies of the Advent
Prophecies of Jesus' advent on earth often use the image of new light dawning in darkness to describe the spiritual impact His birth would have on the world.
Sunday School Lesson | Ages 11 - 17

 Quotes: Good Tidings of Great Joy
Teaching Support | Ages over 15

 Quotes: Prophecies of the Advent
Teaching Support | Ages over 15

 Scroll of Angelic Appearances in Christmas Story
Project | Ages 7 - 14

 The Angel Appearing to Mary
Use oil pastels and watercolors to show the angel Gabriel appearing to Mary.
Project | Ages 7 - 14

 The Angel Appears to Mary
This lesson discusses a story from the Word and suggests projects and activities for young children.
Sunday School Lesson | Ages 4 - 6

 The Angel Appears to Mary
A lesson for younger children with discussion ideas and a project.
Sunday School Lesson | Ages 4 - 6

 The Angel Appears to Mary Mobile
Make a simple mobile to show the angel Gabriel coming to tell Mary that she would give birth to a Son and should name Him Jesus.
Project | Ages 3 - 8

 The Angel's Promise to Mary
Coloring Page | Ages 7 - 14

 The Annunciation
Worship Talk | Ages 7 - 14

 The Birth of John
Zacharias and Elizabeth were very good people who wanted a child very much. The Lord answered their prayers. John was born to help prepare people to learn from the Lord. Sample from the Jacob's Ladder Program, Introductory Level, for ages 5-6.
Religion Lesson | Ages 5 - 6

 The Birth of John the Baptist
A New Church Bible story explanation for teaching Sunday school. Includes lesson materials for Primary (3-8 years), Junior (9-11 years), Intermediate (12-14 years), Senior (15-17 years) and Adults.
Teaching Support | Ages over 3

 The Birth of John the Baptist
Lesson outline provides teaching ideas with questions for discussion, projects, and activities.
Sunday School Lesson | Ages 7 - 10

 The Magnificat
Worship Talk | Ages over 18

 The Maidservant of the Lord
Spiritual tasks offer a reflection on a Biblical story and suggest a task for spiritual growth.
Activity | Ages over 18

 The Mother of the Lord
Imagine what it must have been like to suddenly see an angel and be told such great news.
Worship Talk | Ages 4 - 6

 The Name Mary
Article | Ages 15 - 17

 The Savior
Worship Talk | Ages 7 - 14

 The Spread of the Lord's Word
We can be like the shepherds and others who have spread the good news as we learn about the Lord and find ways to tell people. Maybe this Christmas you can share your enjoyment of the story of the Lord’s birth with a friend or neighbor. Sample from the Jacob’s Ladder Program, Level 5, for ages 10-11.
Religion Lesson | Ages 10 - 11

 Understanding the Virgin Birth
Article | Ages 15 - 17

 Zacharias and the Angel
Coloring Page | Ages 7 - 14

 Zacharias’s Dumbness
Article | Ages 15 - 17

 Zacharias Sees Angel
Coloring Page | Ages 7 - 14


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