PROPHECIES OF CHRIST’S BIRTH INTO THE WORLD
The Greatest Story Ever Foretold
The birth, the ministry, the death, and the atonement and resurrection of Jesus Christ are beautifully foretold in Old Testament and Book of Mormon Messianic prophecy.
I would like to try and give a flavor of what the ancient peoples had to go on in their search for the Birth of the Savior on the earth – and possibly make some parallels to our own time with a Second Coming impending in our day.
One of the things that fascinates me is how much disparity there is between how the story of the coming of the Lord to the earth was received among the House of Israel between the old World and the New World. In the New World, there were prophets actively preaching of his coming for 600 years up to His birth including many direct and pointed references to His life. The Book of Mormon prophecies of Christ were clear and direct.
In the Old World, there was apostasy and spiritual decline for 400 years before he came – and the references in the Old Testament to what his mission would be were scant, and where they existed, they were more oblique and relatively obscure.
Elder Bruce R. McConkie of the Quorum of the Twelve explained that “all of these biblical passages are either hidden in difficult contexts, have other matters interwoven with them which open the door to uncertainty as to their real meaning, or have a dual application; that is, they apply both to our Lord’s First Coming, when he was subject to mortal men, and to his Second Coming.” (The Promised Messiah, Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1978, p. 81.)
Bruce R. McConkie further said that in our time, however, “We have the advantage of hindsight in pondering the Messianic prophecies and seeing their fulfillment in the mortal ministry of the Son of God among men.”
IF WE CAN FORENSICALLY (WITHOUT JUDGING) LOOK AT WHERE OTHERS HAVE GONE WRONG IN THEIR PROPHETIC QUEST FOR THE FIRST COMING OF THE SON OF MAN, WE CAN HOPEFULLY AVOID THE SAME PITFALLS AS WE PREPARE YET AGAIN FOR THE LORD’S SECOND COMING.
FIRST, WE HAVE TO UNDERSTAND THE ROLE OF PROPHETS AND THE SPIRIT OF PROPHECY AND HOW WE HAVE A PART IN IT.
IN TALKING WITH PEOPLE OF OTHER FAITHS – AND SETTING DOWN WHAT CONSTITUTES A PROPHET OF GOD, THERE IS ONE CLEAR STANDARD:
A TRUE PROPHET OF GOD WHO LIVED BEFORE CHRIST LIVED HAS ALWAYS PREACHED OF HIS ADVENT INTO THE WORLD TO TAKE ON A TABERNACLE OF FLESH, TO BE TRIED AND TESTED AND TO PASS THROUGH MORTAL SUFFERING AND THAT HE WOULD, THROUGH THE ATONEMENT OVERCOME SIN AND THEN BE RESURRECTED TO OVERCOME PHYSICAL DEATH. THE TWO GREAT OBSTACLES TO OUR BECOMING LIKE OUR FATHER IN HEAVEN:
1) SPIRITUAL DEATH
2) PHYSICAL DEATH.
AS MOSIAH, IN THE BOOK OF MORMON SAID ABOUT CHRIST’S MISSION,
“Have they not said that God himself should come down among the children of men, and take upon him the form of man, and go forth in mighty power upon the face of the earth?
“Yea, and have they not said also that he should bring to pass the resurrection of the dead, and that he, himself, should be oppressed and afflicted?” (Mosiah 13:33–35)
A TRUE PROPHET THAT HAS COME AFTER CHRIST HAS ALWAYS CLEARLY TAUGHT THAT HE CAME AMONG MEN AND THAT HE HAS A PERFECTED BODY OF FLESH AND BONE AND THAT HE WILL RETURN AGAIN IN GLORY TO REDEEM HIS PEOPLE FROM A FALLEN WORLD AND TO USHER IN MILLENIAL PEACE AND BLISS. That was the role of Joseph Smith and others who have followed.
Yes, all of the prophets have testified of Jesus Christ, “……for the testimony of Jesus is the Spirit of Prophecy.” (REVELATIONS 19:10)
In the Book of Mormon, the prophet Abinadi taught the wicked King Noah and his priests about the mission of Jesus Christ by quoting the fifty-third chapter of Isaiah. He had earlier asked: “Even all the prophets who have prophesied ever since the world began—have they not spoken more or less concerning these things?”
Nephi then listed a number of prophets who had detailed the Savior’s advent. Among these prophets were Moses, Abraham, Zenos, Zenock, Ezias, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Lehi, and Nephi. Indeed, Nephi pointed out, “many prophets” over the centuries had testified of Christ
Testimony about the ministry of the Lord Jesus Christ is clearly evident in the teachings of the prophets who preceded him.
This observation was not unique to Nephi. More than a century earlier, Abinadi told King Noah: “Did not Moses prophesy … concerning the coming of the Messiah, and that God should redeem his people? Yea, and even all the prophets who have prophesied ever since the world began—have they not spoken more or less concerning these things?”
So clear was the understanding of the Savior’s advent, that Amulek could tell the apostate Zoramites in 74 BC that it was “impossible that [they] should be ignorant of the things which have been spoken concerning the coming of Christ,” for that fact had been taught to them bountifully. Mosiah 13:33
If the Nephites weren’t aware of Christ’s impending mortal ministry, it was because they were unacquainted with God’s word.
An in-depth study of the Book of Mormon reveals this to be true. So clear are the revelations that the Nephites should have known the name by which the Messiah would be called in mortality, when he would be born, where he would be born, the name of his mother, many details of his ministry, how he would suffer and die, and that his resurrection would break the bands of death for all mankind. More importantly, they should have understood how his atonement could reconcile them to God and what they had to do to receive that marvelous gift. All this was known and taught by the prophets on what we know today as the American continent.
The same details—in the same clarity—seem not to have been available to the people in Jerusalem, at least not at the time of the Lord’s appearance among them.
Is it any wonder, that there was a general state of apostasy in the Holy Land as the last O.T. Book of Malachi was recorded 400 years before Christ’s birth – no prophetic utterance for 400 years.
The people were so blinded and lost to the truth that it could not be said that they recognized Truth when it came among them. Not that the Old World prophets were guilty of doing a poor job, might it be that the people were guilty of doing a poor job of receiving them. So much so, that even one of the minor prophets, Lehi, was forced to flee into the wilderness with his family where these things could be openly taught.
The fact is that at the time of Christ’s birth, the people in the new world (most notably the Lamanites who were sending prophets to the Nephites to repent) – they had Prophets actively teaching them the prophesied coming of the Savior because they had not utterly rejected them.
The questions we have to ask ourselves is that if we had been among those taught by Nephi, son of Helaman, how would we have reacted? Would we have known the prophecies well enough to recognize the truth when it came? Would we have rejoiced in the Savior’s future advent? Or would we, too, like so many did, have looked beyond the mark?
BORN OF A VIRGIN INTO ROYAL LINEAGE
OT Isa. 7:14
“Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.”
BOM 1 Nephi 11:18–21
Nephi prophesies that the Son of God will be born to a virgin.
“And I looked and beheld the virgin again, bearing a child in her arms.”
“Now the birth of Jesus Christ was on this wise: When as his mother Mary was espoused to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Ghost.”
CHRIST WOULD COME OUT OF EGYPT
It was foretold that Christ would come out of Egypt
“When Israel was a child, then I loved him, and called my son out of Egypt”.
There was dualism here with the Israelites having come out of Egypt, as well.
How confusing would that be? Born of Bethlehem but coming out of Egypt!
For those of you who are suffering major setbacks in your lives, consider that it might just be an uncomfortable bump in a road that leads to something great. Patience is the key. Joseph Smith’s family also endured failed crops over several years and the loss of livelihood before they were forced to move to NY where the church would be born.
Christ, the Bread of Life – to be BORN IN BETHLEHEM, the HOUSE OF BREAD
“And he humbled thee, and suffered thee to hunger, and fed thee with manna, which thou knewest not, neither did thy fathers know; that he might make thee know that man doth not live by bread only, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of the Lord doth man live.”
“But thou, Beth-lehem Ephratah, though thou be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of thee shall he come forth unto me that is to be ruler in Israel; whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting.”
“Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judaea in the days of Herod the king, behold, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem.”
“And Jesus said unto them, I am the bread of life: he that cometh to me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on me shall never thirst.”
THE KNOWLEDGE THAT CHRIST WAS TO BE BORN IN BETHLEHEM, THE CITY OF DAVID ISN’T OF IMPORT UNTIL WE KNOW THAT JESUS CHRIST, WHO DECLARED HIMSELF THE BREAD OF LIFE, WOULD BE BORN IN A TOWN CALLED THE “HOUSE OF BREAD”?
THE EARTHLY ROYAL LINE WAS PREDICTED TO COME THROUGH DAVID
THIS TOWN WAS ALSO KNOWN AS THE CITY OF DAVID – AND WHY IS THAT SO IMPORTANT? BECAUSE DAVID WAS THE CHOSEN ONE THROUGH WHOM IT WAS PROPHESIED THAT THE CHOSEN ONE WOULD COME. MORE PRECISELY, CHRIST’S MATRIARCHAL LINE CAME THROUGH THE LOINS OF DAVID AND BATHSHEBA.
THE FACT THAT MARY IS JESUS’ MOTHER IS AS MUCH A LEGAL ISSUE AS IT IS ANYTHING ELSE. MARY WAS HIS MORTAL MOTHER AND DIRECT DESCENDENT OF DAVID, AS WAS HIS STEPFATHER, JOSEPH.
“AND THE SCEPTER OF JUDAH SHALL NOT DEPART FROM JUDAH, NOR A LAWGIVER FROM BETWEEN HIS FEET UNTIL SHILOH COME – AND UNTO HIM SHALL THE GATHERING OF THE PEOPLE BE.”
“For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The Mighty God, The Everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.”
WHEN HE CAME THE FIRST TIME, WHEN THE PEOPLE IN THE OLD WORLD WERE LOOKING FOR A CONQUEROR TO RELIEVE THEM OF HARSH ROMAN RULE, HE HAD THE EARTHLY CREDENTIALS NECESSARY TO ASSUME THE EARTHLY REIGNS OF POWER AND DELIVER THEM FROM THE YOKE OF BONDAGE.
PREDICTED THAT HE WOULD BE THE LIGHT OF THE WORLD
“The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light: they that dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them hath the light shined.”
Samuel the Lamanite prophesies of the signs at Jesus’ birth.
3 Nephi 1:4–21
On the night of Jesus’ birth, there was no darkness in America and a new star rose.
A new star appeared in Israel.
ISN’T IT BEAUTIFUL – EVEN POETIC THAT WONDERFUL SIGNS OF LIGHT IN THE HEAVENS WOULD ATTEND THE BIRTH OF CHRIST INTO THE WORLD?
JUST AS THE STAR OF BETHLEHEM LIT UP THE DARKNESS OF NIGHT, POINTING ITS TAIL DOWNWARD TOWARD THE SAVIOR OF THE WORLD, SO DOES THE SON OF MAN LIGHT UP THE WORLD THAT IS FILLED WITH DARKNESS, POINTING THE WAY TO LIGHT AND SALVATION.
JUST AS LIGHTS ATTENDED HIS FIRST COMING, SO WILL A BRIGHT LIGHT BURST UPON THE WORLD FROM THE EAST AS THE GREAT SIGN OF THE COMING OF THE SON OF MAN. WE HAVE SIMILAR EXCITING EVENTS TO LOOK FORWARD TO.
CONCLUSION AND TESTIMONY
“How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him that bringeth good tidings, that publisheth peace; that bringeth good tidings of good, that publisheth salvation; that saith unto Zion, Thy God reigneth!” (Isaiah 52:7)
“For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.” (Isaiah 9:6)
NOW THAT WE KNOW OF THE GREAT GOODNESS AND CONDESCENSION OF GOD IN GIVING US THESE GOOD TIDINGS OF HIS FIRST COMING, LET US BE READY AND PREPARE FOR HIS SECOND COMING.
HAVING A FOREKNOWLEDGE OF HOW SOME OF THE FIRST PEOPLE MISSED OBVIOUS SIGNS OF HIS FIRST COMING, LET US NOT FALL INTO A SIMILAR STATE OF COMPLACENCY AND DISREGARD FOR THE GIFT OF PROPHECY THAT SHOULD BE IN ALL THAT HAVE THE TESTIMONY OF JESUS.
MAY WE ALL BE AMONG THE 5 VIRGINS WHO HAVE OUR LAMPS TRIMMED WITH THE OIL OF TESTIMONY AND FAITH AND READY FOR THE BRIDEGROOM’S EVENTFUL RETURN, IS MY PRAYER IN THE NAME OF JESUS CHRIST, AMEN.