—Luke 2:8-11 (NASB)
When Satan cannot persecute something away he resorts to deceiving it away. His methods of deception are not limited to completely counterfeiting the genuine or entirely making something up, but is most often a blend of truth lying side-by-side with error so that even what is true becomes tainted. Therefore it is no surprise to find such attacks on Easter, the seminal event defining Christianity through the cross. Just look at how we use the name of a false god to refer to that day and how the world is more interested in a rabbit delivering eggs than the work of the cross. But he has been even more effective at completely diluting and twisting the nativity narrative of what we now call “Christmas”. The average Christian really does not understand the greater significance of why God chose to provide certain details about His Son’s first coming.
Setting aside the fact that the whole unsaved world is deceived into celebrating the humble arrival of the Messiah the Suffering Servant who would offer Himself for the sins of the world by turning the holiday into a gala dedicated to a flying sled filled with the contents of a shopping mall, consider how the average Christian treats Christmas. Even those who are sincere in their remembrance of the birth of their Savior do not study the nativity narrative in the same way they do the rest of Scripture. It has been reduced to more of a children’s holiday with a mixture of nice songs and pageant plays focusing on the cute baby Jesus in a manger. What the vast majority fail to realize is that His first coming foreshadows in almost every detail His Second Coming.
At His first coming there is a one-world government based out of Rome; at His Second Coming there will be a one-world government based out of Rome. At His first coming Caesar as a type of the Antichrist marks everyone through a census; at His Second Coming the final person of the Antichrist will mark everyone. At his first coming a concerted effort is made to find and kill Him; so it is at His Second Coming. Nearly every detail provided in the nativity narrative in the Gospels corresponds to an ultimate, final fulfillment in His Second Coming. But because Satan has been so successful at re-packaging it as a children’s story not meriting adult attention in this way, most Christians never glean the deeper significance of what is going on.
Hebrew extra-biblical writings from that era are very clear that they understood that this was the time the Messiah was to come. So why is it that the shepherds were among the very few to whom His arrival was revealed? The Magi would go to the religious authorities in Jerusalem who knew all about and could even quote from Scripture where His birth would take place, but they did not know He had actually come. It is very important to consider this similarity, that just as they knew it was time according to Scripture that the Messiah was to arrive, so the general church population today knows from Scripture that He is likewise about to return. But why were so few ready the first time? We will probably learn who is going to be ready the second time by learning from those who were ready back then.
It is very interesting to me that the good news is communicated to shepherds “keeping watch over their flock by night“. The word for “pastor” both in the Hebrew and Greek means both “pastor” and “shepherd” and a shepherd is the most common metaphor in Scripture describing their role and responsibilities. So too a flock of sheep is an oft-repeated description of believers in a pastor’s care. But an even more interesting metaphor to consider is “night”, which is used throughout Scripture to describe the Last Days. In the nativity narrative we have a picture of the few remaining and faithful shepherds who are not found in the cities with the so-called religious authorities, but out living with and tending to the needs of the sheep even though things are growing darkest spiritually.
At His first coming, the priests, Levites, Pharisees, scribes, and all manner of religious experts were telling the people that the time of the Messiah’s arrival was near. But because of their great apostasy — their falling away from God’s Word and ways in favor of living God’s Word according to their own interpretation — they not only failed to recognize His coming, they often wound up actively working against Him. Who among us does not see this same thing playing out yet again in these final hours leading up to His return?
—Luke 18:8 (NASB)
If you want to learn about His Second Coming, learn everything possible from His first.†††