We have emphasized in the past that the gospel consists of two aspects—the person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ. The first has to do with who He is, and the second aspect concerns what He has done. Regarding the person of Christ we confess that He is YHWH come in the flesh, Jehovah Incarnate. With regard to His work, we are talking about His life of sinless obedience, His death on the cross, and His resurrection from the dead. What did the Messiah do? He became one of us, only without sin, and He was crucified, buried, resurrected and crowned in Heaven. And who was it that did this thing? It was Emmanuel—God with us.
This incarnate reality is closely connected with various Old Testament prophecies concerning the Lord’s nativity. Let’s consider some of them now.
“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, Counseller, the mighty God, the everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even for ever. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this” (Isaiah 9:6–7).
SUMMARY OF THE TEXT
Remember that this passage is just a few verses down from our earlier text, the one that predicted that a virgin would conceive. That prophecy received a double fulfillment—first when Isaiah’s wife gave King Ahaz a sign, and the second coming to pass when Gabriel to Mary with his message. All of that took us into Isaiah 8. Here in Isaiah 9, we see that Galiee of the Gentiles will see a great light (vv. 1-2). And then a few verses below that, the prophet Isaiah opens up and starts delivering stupefying truths.
We need to take this whole passage in together. Taken together, you have something that requires the tight theology hammered out at Chalcedon. This is why we hail “the Incarnate Deity.” We are talking about incarnation—true humanity. But we are also talking about the eternal God being the one who becomes incarnate.
First, the humanity—a child is born (v. 6), a son is given (v. 6). He will be named (v. 6). He will sit on the throne of David, meaning He is descended from David (v. 7).
But what names are included? He will be called “mighty God” (v. 6). He will be called “everlasting Father” (v. 6). He will rule on His throne “forever” (v. 7). This is a man, but no ordinary man.
“Mighty God” is a title that is assigned to the Lord Himself. See the next chapter (Is. 10:20-21). Consider Deuteronomy 10:17. The Lord your God is the mighty God. God is the great, the mighty, the awesome God (Neh. 9:32). The great and mighty God is the one whose name is the Lord of hosts (Jer. 32:18).
Everlasting Father: This is not a Trinitarian reference, where the Second Person is being confused with the First Person. But it is an ascription of Deity. Whatever else it is, He is everlasting. The image is one of a benevolent protector and provider (Is. 22:21; Job 29:16), which describes the behavior of an ideal king. Fathers provide and fathers protect. The Christ, when He comes, will be that for His people (Is. 63:16; 62:8; Ps. 103:13). Christ is going to be this way for us, and He is going to be this way in an everlasting fashion. In short, He is able to save “to the uttermost.”
“Wherefore he is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them.” (Hebrews 7:25).
FROM BETHLEHEM, FROM EVERLASTING
We considered Micah’ prophecy earlier, but it pays to revisit it. He is making the same point. The Christ is going to be a man, but not just a man. Where is this man from? We use that word from in two ways. He is from Bethlehem, and He is from everlasting. What does it mean to be from everlasting? This can mean nothing short of Deity.
“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” (Micah 5:2).
WHAT WE MUST NOT SAY
In all of this, recall what we are confessing when we recite the Definition of Chalcedon together. In this Incarnation, there is a union of two distinct natures—human nature and divine nature. This is a complete mystery to us because we do not understanding how finitude can be united with infinitude. But it united, and the point of union is known by us as Jesus of Nazareth.
And what can be predicated of one nature can certainly be predicated of the person. And what is predicated of the other nature can also be predicated of the person. We do this when we say that the Creator of the galaxies was laid in a manger. We say that this particular man child was circumcised on the eighth day. But what is predicated of one nature cannot be predicated of the other nature. Thus, for example, it would be incoherent to say that Christ’s body, which was, say, six feet tall, was also omnipresent.
WHAT HE WAS BORN TO DO
“But when the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption as sons” (Galatians 4:4–5).
Collapse that phrase. “Born of a woman . . . to redeem.” God did this at just the right time, when the fulness of time was complete. God sent His Son into the world in order to accomplish a full and complete redemption for His people. And because all of this is true, and true in every respect, it is possible for Him to come to us, and in that coming, save to the uttermost.