Joy to the World, The Savior Reigns

On Advent Sunday, two weeks before Christmas, I preached for Archbishop Dale Howard at the Chapel in Jacksonville, Florida. Bishop Howard specifically asked me to minister on the theme, "Joy To The World; The Savior Reigns.” I ministered the same message for Joshua Kouri at Frontline in downtown OKC, Christmas Eve. There was such a special anointing upon the message, that I have taken the liberty of posting the message for your encouragement and meditation at this special Holiday Season!


Joy to the world! The Lord is come!
Let earth receive her King!
Let every heart prepare Him room...

Isaac Watts wonderful Christmas hymn proclaims the message of the Angel to shepherds watching over their flocks near Bethlehem, known as the city of David.

“Do not be afraid, I bring you good news of great joy for all people… There has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord!” Luke 2:9-ll

After more than 2000 years, this is still the message of Christmas!

“Fear not...fear not...for there has been born a Savior, Christ the King!”

The second verse of Isaac Watts advent hymn boldly declares,

“ Joy to the earth...The Savior reigns...”

Sung all over the world at the Christmas season, Isaac Watts’ wonderful hymn of joy boldly declares the good news of the coming of the Savior and His government over the nations as King.

Today, with all the turmoil in our world and the amazing controversy over the meaning of Christmas, I want to share some crucial biblical keys to understanding the full meaning of Christmas. Then, I want close with a very practical application regarding Christ’s saving rule over the nations.

I. The first key, the coming of the Savior and the establishment of His government over the nations as King were the predetermined plan and purpose of the Lord before creation.

Before He made the heavens and the earth or created anything, the Lord created the heaven of the heavens and established His throne for judgment. (Ps. 9:7)

Think of it...don’t miss this...because of His foreknowledge, in full anticipation of the fall of man, and before He created anything, the Lord God established His own kingship or government of the universe, so that in the fullness of time He might send forth His own Son as Savior of the world, to redeem the world, and so that He might establish the throne of His Son at His own right hand in Heaven as ruler of Heaven and Earth.

This is a crucial key to truly understanding Christmas!

II. The second key, the coming of the Savior and the establishment of His government over the nations as King were the pronouncement of the Heavenly Father after the fall of the human race in the Garden of Eden. 

In prophetic anticipation of Christ’s advent in the fullness of time as Savior and King, the Lord God pronounced judgment upon the serpent, declaring:

“I will put enmity between you and the woman and your seed and her seed.  He shall bruise you on the head and you shall bruise him on the heel.” Gen. 3:l5)

Thus, in these amazing words, spoken at the dawn of creation, in the very beginning of the world, even as the Lord pronounces righteous judgment upon the evil one, He also promises the coming of His own Son, who would be born of a virgin (the seed of the woman) and crucified on a cross (bruised on the heel) to save the world from the Old Serpent, sin and death; but He would also triumph over the enemy in His resurrection (bruise the serpent’s head) and reign over creation forever as Lord and King.

This is a critical key to understanding Christmas!

III. Key number three, the coming of the Savior and the establishment of His government over the nations as King were the promise of God to the fathers of Israel and the basis of Israel’s hope for the coming of the Christ Child. 

A. God called Abraham out of Ur of the Chaldees, Modern Iraq, promising a blessing for the nations of the world: 

“In your seed all the families of the earth will be blessed.” (Gen l2: 3)

Thus, in these amazing words, God promises Abraham that through His Son, the Christ, all the families of the earth (the nations) would be blessed with eternal salvation!

Many years later, speaking of the Christ and His kingly government of the cities and nations of the earth, the Lord again declared to Abraham: 

“Your seed shall possess the gates of their enemies.” (Gen. 22:l7-l8)

The Lord Jesus is clearly referring to this particular promise when at Caesarea Philippi He declares to Peter and the other apostles, “Upon this rock (the rock of My Kingship or government over the nations) I will build My Church, and the gates of hell (the spiritual governments or the principalities and power of darkness over the cities and nations of the earth) shall not prevail against it.” (Matthew 16: 18)

With these powerful images, Jesus prophesies the Church’s victory in possessing the cities and nations of the earth! 

It is also very important to remember that the Heavenly Father gave the same promises He had given to Abraham to both Isaac and to Jacob.

B. Thus in Genesis 49, in his old age, the Patriarch Jacob gathers his l2 sons around him and prophesies over them. He prophesies the coming of Israel’s Savior and King, declaring of Judah: 

“He crouches, he lies down as a lion, and as a lion who dares rouse him up?” (V.9)

This is a powerful prophetic picture of the Messiah! From this important prophecy comes Christ’s Kingly title, “the Lion of the tribe of Judah.”

Jacob continues,

“The scepter (the rod of government) shall not depart from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet until Shiloh comes (’Shiloh’ means ‘Peace,’ and speaks of Christ as Savior) and to him shall be the obedience of the peoples.” (V.10)

This phrase “The Obedience of the peoples,” prophesies the obedience of the nations of the earth to the promised King and His kingdom.

The Scriptures declare that before Christ returns at the end of history, “all nations” shall come to the faith of the Son of God and shall joyfully obey God’s King! This includes the troublesome nations of the Middle East, Iraq, Iran, Syria, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, and yes, even Israel.

“All nations” also includes the nations of Asia, India, China, Korea, and Japan.

“Unto Him shall the obedience of the peoples be ...”

Finally, the Old Patriarch declares,

“He ties his foal to the vine, and his donkey’s colt to the choice vine, He washes His garment in wine, and his robe in the blood of grapes.” (V. 11)

Jacob thus prophesies the promised King’s judgment or government of Israel and the nations, using the figure of the grape harvest and the treading of the grapes in a winepress.

When Jesus of Nazareth rode into Jerusalem on a donkey (please don’t miss this) during the Feast of Passover, amidst joyful shouts of “Hosanna to the son of David, Hosanna to the King,” He was identifying Himself with Jacob’s great Messianic prophecy, boldly proclaiming, “I am the Lion of Judah, I am the promised King.” And He did this knowing that before He would be able to rule as King, He would first suffer and die as the Passover Lamb to save His people and the nations of the world from sin and death. (Matthew 2l)

C. But God’s promise to the fathers of Israel and the hope of the Messiah reach a grand climax in the promise God made to King David.

Moved by David’s great heart of love for the Heavenly Father, and his desire to build God a house (amazingly, the Lord is powerfully moved to Divine action by our love for Him and our devotion to Him), the Lord makes a great promise to David. (II Samuel 7)

“The Lord will make a house for you. I will raise up your descendent after you, who will come forth from you and I will establish His Kingdom.” (Vs. 11-12)

God promises David a Son!  This is why Christ is called the “Son of David.” This is very, very important!

“He shall build a house for My Name (the Church), and I will establish the throne of His Kingdom forever.” (V. 13)

The Lord promises this Son of David an everlasting throne for an everlasting Kingdom!

“I will be a father to him and he will be a son to me.” (V. 14)

This Son of David will be the Son of God! This is the significance of the witness of the Lord’s apostles throughout the New Testament that Jesus of Nazareth is truly the Son of God. When the apostles declare, “Jesus is the Son of God,” they are saying far more than merely, “Jesus is divine.” They are declaring that Jesus is the promised Son of David, God’s Christ!

Now look at verse 16 of II Samuel 7; don’t miss this, as it is critically important to understanding the true meaning of Christmas:

“Your house and your kingdom shall endure before Me forever...your throne shall be established forever.” (V. 16)

God promises King David that the house He would build for him, also David’s kingdom and throne would be established before the Lord God forever! What is the Lord saying to David?

Amazingly, our great Heavenly Father promises David that the everlasting house the Lord would build for David, and the everlasting house the Messiah, David’s Son, would build for the Heavenly Father would the same house (the Church of Jesus Christ). Also, Christ’s eternal Kingdom would actually be the restored Kingdom of David, and His throne would be the everlasting throne of his father David.

Sadly, because most of us are from Gentile backgrounds, much of the modern Church ignores or disregards this great promise to David. We mistakenly believe this promise made to King David is only for the Jews and postpone its fulfillment until after the Second Advent of Christ. But David’s Son would not only be King of the Jews, but also ruler of the nations.

And understanding the promise God made to David and the fathers of Israel about seating David’s Son on David’s throne is a crucial key to understanding the message of the Angel to the shepherds at Christ’s birth and recovering the true meaning of Christmas!

IV. Key number four, the coming of the Savior and the establishment of His government over the nations as King were the message of hope proclaimed beforehand by the prophets of Israel.

A. The great prophet Isaiah proclaimed the manner of Messiah’s miraculous birth.

“Behold a virgin will be with child and bear a son, and she will call his name Immanuel.” (Isaiah 7:14)

These are very familiar Christmas themes!

With these Holy Spirit inspired words Isaiah describes the mystery of the incarnation. This child would indeed be the promised “seed of the woman,” who would crush the head of the serpent.

B. In Isaiah 9, the prophet declares the identity of this miracle child and describes the purpose of His government over all the nations of the earth.

“For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us (the Son of David); and the Government (the government of the Kingdom of Heaven) will rest on His shoulders;

“And His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace.  (He will be called the Son of God.)

“There will be no end of the increase of His government or of peace. (Once Messiah’s Kingdom begins, it will continue to expand and increase, and will never end.)

“On the throne of David and over His kingdom (Messiah’s throne will be the throne of David and His Kingdom will be the restored Kingdom of David), to establish it and to uphold it with justice and righteousness from then on and forevermore.” (Isaiah 9:6,7)

According to the great Prophet Isaiah, the promised King will sit on the throne of His father David and govern all men and nations in order that He might establish righteous judgment or justice and peace on the earth!

Bringing God’s government to the nations and establishing peace on earth is the divinely declared purpose of Messiah’s Kingdom and the real message of Christmas!

Sadly, today many in Christ’s Church have totally lost hope and given up on peace on earth. They are only too eager to get off the planet in a secret rapture. But because so many in the Church do not really understand or have lost hope in Christ’s authority and power to govern the nations, the governments and nations of the world have also largely forgotten God’s King and given up hope for peace on earth.

Yet Isaiah clearly proclaims that the purpose of the Messiah’s reign is to establish righteous government and bring peace to the nations of the earth.

And Luke tells us that the message of the Angel to the shepherds near Bethlehem was magnified by a multitude of the heavenly host who praised God and joyfully proclaimed the purpose of the Savior’s birth:

“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace and good will to men.”

I am talking about the prophetic key for understanding the meaning of Christmas.

C. The Prophet Micah foretold the place of Messiah’s birth, declaring that out of Bethlehem, the city of David, David’s Son, the Son of God would come forth to govern. (Micah 5:1ff)

D. Daniel prophesied the very time of Messiah’s coming and His presentation to Israel.

Every Jewish youth knew by memory the prophesy of the Seventy Weeks given by the Angel Gabriel to Daniel and recorded by him in Daniel Chapter 9.

Contrary to the popular postponement theory, the final or 70th Week actually began as John, the great time man, baptized Jesus in the Jordan. John proclaimed, “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world,” introducing Jesus to the nation of Israel as the long awaited Savior.

Thus in His baptism, Jesus foreshadowed prophetically His death and resurrection. And just as Gabriel prophesied, after three and a half years of public ministry, the Christ was literally cut off or crucified in the middle of the 70th Week of Daniel.

The Gospels tell us that after Jesus came up out of the waters of the Jordan at His baptism, the heavens opened and the Holy Spirit descended like a Dove upon Him, anointing Him as the Christ. Then His Father spoke from Heaven, “This is My beloved Son,” proclaiming Jesus the promised Son of David, the Son of God, the promised King.

Knowing what the prophets of Israel, Isaiah, Micah, Daniel, and the rest actually proclaimed centuries before Christ’s birth in Bethlehem is a crucial key to truly understanding Christmas.

V. Key number five, the birth of the promised Savior and King, and the establishment of His government over the nations was the message announced by Gabriel to Joseph and Mary.

A. An angel (probably Gabriel) proclaimed the birth of the Savior to Joseph as he wrestled with the disturbing circumstances of Mary’s miraculous pregnancy:

“Joseph, son of David, do be afraid to take Mary as your wife; for the Child who has been conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit.

“She will bear a Son; and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.” (Matthew 1: 20, 21)

B. Gabriel also appeared to Mary and announced to her that she would soon give birth to the long awaited King.

“Do not be afraid, Mary; for you have found favor with God.

“And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a Son, and you shall name him Jesus.

Watch this! Take careful notice of the content of Gabriel’s proclamation:

“He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His Father David; and He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and His Kingdom will have no end.”

There you have it from the Archangel himself, the true purpose of Christmas...the coming of the King into His world and His enthronement on the throne of His father David!

At last, after centuries of longing, just as the Lord God had purposed before creation and promised David and the fathers of Israel and just as He had proclaimed beforehand by His prophets, the time had finally arrived for the Word to become flesh, dwell among men, and for God’s gracious promise to be fulfilled.

This is a crucial key to understanding Christmas.

VI. Finally, key number six, the coming of the Savior and the establishment of His government over the nations as Lord and King were the world-changing message of the Apostles of the Lamb and the living faith of the early Church.

A. Speaking to the Jewish people gathered in the streets of Jerusalem on the Day of Pentecost Peter stands with the eleven and quoting from Psalm 132 proclaims:

“And so, because he (David) was a prophet and knew that God had sworn to him with an oath to seat one of his descendents (the Christ) on His throne,

“he (David) looked ahead and spoke of the resurrection of the Christ...” (Acts 2: 30, 31)

God gave David a great promise. He also gave him a great revelation of how that very promise would be fulfilled!

Contrary to the postponement message of many preachers today, Peter boldly proclaimed the good news that the promise (oath) God had made to David concerning seating his Son on David’s throne has already been fulfilled in the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Amazingly, Peter doesn’t mention a secret rapture of the Church or the Second Coming of Christ in his entire message. Instead, Peter proclaims that David “looked ahead and spoke of the resurrection of the Christ!”

Peter goes on to explain in verse 33, that after Christ’s death on the cross, He was raised from the dead, exalted to the right hand of God, and was given the promise of the Holy Spirit, which He poured out upon His followers on the Day of Pentecost, as seen and heard by the Jews who had gathered to hear Peter’s message.

Then the big fisherman quotes David’s great enthronement Psalm (Psalm 110):

“For it was not David who ascended into heaven, but he himself says,

‘The Lord (the Heavenly Father) says to my Lord (David’s Lord, the Messiah),

“Sit at My right hand (in heaven),
Until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet.”’ (Acts 2:34-35)

It is critically important for us to remember not only at Christmas, but in every season that in the second verse of David’s Psalm, our Heavenly Father commands His King, “Rule in the midst of your enemies!” And in the third verse He proclaims, “your people will volunteer freely in the day of your power.”

Peter closes his great apostolic message by proclaiming,

“Therefore let all the house of Israel know for certain that God has made Him both Lord (David’s Lord) and Christ (God’s anointed King), this Jesus whom you crucified.”

Peter boldly declares to the house of Israel the amazing good news that in raising Him from the dead, the Heavenly Father has declared Jesus to be the Son of God with power, and in His ascension and exaltation to the right hand of God the Father, Jesus of Nazareth has been seated on David’s throne, as David’s Lord and Christ.

Like David, the great apostle understood the implication of Christ’s resurrection. He understood that when God raised Jesus from the dead, He moved the throne of David’s Kingdom from the earthly realm to heaven and established it at His own right hand, the place of all authority and power, where it would never again fail or be defeated; I am not talking about the physical throne upon which David sat in the golden age of Israel’s history, that throne had long since turned to dust; I am speaking of the seat of governmental authority of David’s Kingdom.

Peter did not stand up alone! He spoke for the twelve who had been chosen by the Lord Jesus to be eyewitnesses of His majesty. The message of those first apostles that the promise to David has already been fulfilled in the resurrection, ascension, and enthronement of Jesus of Nazareth on the throne of David at the right hand of God in heaven, the place of all authority and power became the basis of the early Church’s faith, enabling them to extend Christ’s governmental authority and power, and transform the world of their day!

Understanding the message of the apostles and the early Church’s faith is without doubt the single most important key to understanding the true meaning of Christmas.

These then are the biblical keys for truly understanding and celebrating Christmas. Just as the Heavenly Father purposed before creation, pronounced to the serpent in the garden, promised to David, prophesied through the ancient prophets of Israel, announced by Gabriel to Mary, and proclaimed to the world by those first apostles, so indeed the Savior has come. He died on the cross to save us, He rose again from the dead and sits enthroned on the throne of His father David, as our Lord and King.

Born to be King at His birth…
Anointed to be King at His baptism…
Declared to be King by His resurrection…
Crowned King at His ascension and enthronement…
He reigns as King forever throughout the ages of the ages!
Jesus of Nazareth is Lord and King!

VII. What does all of this mean to you and to me and to the world of the 21st century?

Today, as in the first century, governments take counsel together against the Lord and against His Anointed, and nations are in an uproar. Our world is facing a bitter and costly war in Iraq, the escalating dangers of the Islamic Jihad in Iran and that is spreading like wildfire throughout the Middle East, as fanatical Moslems strive to conquer the modern world for Allah! This is not to mention the growing challenges with Korea, China, the aids crisis, world hunger and the problems of an ever-diminishing oil supply.

Nevertheless, the message of the Angel to the shepherds is still the joyous message of Christmas:

“Fear not, I bring you good news of great joy for all the people...For unto you has been born a Savior, Christ the Lord.”

The words of Isaac Watts great Christmas Hymn, “Joy to the earth...the Savior reigns,” are still true and still relevant for our century.

The message of Christmas is much more than a sentimental story about a young mother and her precious baby or poor shepherds in a field and a stable full of quaint animals. In making this statement I do not want to decry or take anything away from the human drama or the poignancy of the Christmas story. But I simply want to declare that the message of Christmas is indeed the good news that just as God promised, His King has come, and the Savior reigns!

The Christ has come into history, redeemed the world, and rules the nations as King!

The Lord has indeed installed His Son on His Holy Mountain. (Psalm 2: 6)

God’s governmental decree to His Christ, “Sit at My right hand until I make Your enemies a footstool for Your feet...rule in the midst of Your enemies,” stands today and will stand forever. (Psalm 110:1-2)

The message of Christmas is the glorious news that David’s throne is occupied! It is not is fully occupied by the Lord Jesus! Today is Messiah’s Day; today is the day of His power! (Psalm 110:3, Acts 2: 33)

Just as promised, all authority, all rule, all dominion, and all power have been given to the Lord Jesus and His Church to establish His saving rule in every human heart and in every city and nation until the whole earth is filled with God’s righteousness, justice, and peace.

Our wonderful Heavenly Father has given His Son a name that is above every name in heaven, in earth, and under the earth, so that at the name of Jesus every knee must bow. All who have been baptized into His name have also been given the authority to use His name to extend His authority and power in the earth, so that whatever we command in His Name He will do it.

The Good news of Christmas is that today there is a Man, the God-Man, the Savior, enthroned at the right hand of God in Heaven, and reigning as Christ the Lord!  Jesus of Nazareth, Mary’s boy, the promised Son of David, the Son of God, is seated on the throne of His father David, reigning as David’s Lord and as God’s anointed King.

As Savior He is forgiving sins (yours and mine); He is pouring out the Holy Spirit, transforming lives and enabling His saints to live righteously and godly in this present world; He is healing broken hearts and sick bodies, transforming marriages and families, and changing cities and cultures.

As King, the Lord is working through His saints to establish His justice, righteous judgment, in the nations of the earth. In answer to the Church’s governmental prayers, Jesus of Nazareth, God’s King and ruler of the nations, is releasing His power and righteous judgments in the earth, casting down thrones and dominions and raising up thrones and dominions until the whole earth is filled with His government and peace! (See Isaiah 9: 6, 7)

Today, no matter the uproar among the nations or what is happening in your own life, the message of Christmas is still, “fear not!”

The message for each of us is still, “Joy To the Earth; the Savior reigns.”

Prayer: Lord open our hearts today and help us to understand the meaning of Christmas. Fill us full of your joy and send us forth to proclaim with the angel, “Joy to the world; the Savior reigns."

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