The Turning Point of History
We live in uncertain times. Protesters say, “Not my President!” ISIS is waging a war of terror everywhere they can. The world is in turmoil over the civil war in Syria. Iran is testing missiles, and North Korea is developing intercontinental ballistic missiles. The list can go on and on.
History is working toward a conclusion. Great hope and encouragement is available through an understanding of the point on which history turns. It is all about Jesus. Jesus said quite clearly, “And the Good News about the Kingdom will be preached throughout the whole world, so that all nations will hear it; and then the end will come.” (Matthew 24:14)[i]
History is about this “Good News.” I want to look at how history centers on Christ so that we will never lose hope and our minds can be at peace in the Lord. In John 14:27, Jesus said, “I am leaving you with a gift--peace of mind and heart.”
First, we find peace of mind in knowing that Jesus Christ is the anchor or turning point of all history. The world moves inexorably toward its consummation to the glory of God, and it all revolves around Jesus Christ.
The book of Genesis starts with the account of the creation of the world. We know that it was through Jesus that God created all things. John 1:3 says, “God created everything through him, and nothing was created except through him.” In explaining the beginning of human history, Genesis uses a statement, “This is the account of…” Genesis 2:4 says, “This is the account of the creation of the heavens and the earth.” Then Genesis 5:1 says, “This is the written account of the descendants of Adam.” Using the same formula, Genesis 6:9 says, “This is the account of Noah and his family.” Genesis 10:1, “This is the account of the families of Shem, Ham, and Japheth. Genesis 11:27, “This is the account of Terah’s family.”
Matthew ties into this history by using the same statement or formula. Matthew 1:1, “This is a record of the ancestors of Jesus the Messiah, a descendant of David and of Abraham…” The translators, in trying to make it understandable to us in English, have unwittingly covered up the obvious mimicking of the Genesis formula. However, there is no covering up the association with David and Abraham. Abraham and David represent God’s covenant relationship with His people and His promise to send the Messiah.
Abraham’s story is the account of Terah’s family begun in Genesis 11:27. God chose Abraham out of all the people on earth, and made an everlasting covenant with Abraham. From Abraham’s children, God chose Isaac, and from Isaac’s children, God chose Jacob. Genesis lays this foundation and the Old Testament tells the story of God’s dealings with the descendants of Jacob.
The Old Testament’s history ends with Nehemiah rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem in 422 B.C. However, history was moving inexorably toward the coming of the promised Messiah. The world scene was shaping up toward its turning point. Here is a rough outline of what was happening.
Going back to a little before Nehemiah, during the time of Esther, Xerxes tried to expand the Persian Empire. He was victorious against the Greeks at Thermopylae but was defeated at the battle of Salamis in 480 B.C. This was the last bid of the East for world dominion.
In 333 B.C., Alexander the Great defeated the Persians at Issus. This was foretold in Daniel chapter 8 where the united Greek forces are pictured as a goat from the West.
In 332 B.C., Alexander the Great visited Jerusalem and seeing the prophecy of Daniel, which spoke of him, he decided to spare Jerusalem.
In 323 B.C., Alexander the Great died and his world empire of both East and West was split between his four generals. Again, this was foretold in Daniel.
In 320 B.C., Ptolemy Soter annexed Judea to Egypt.
In 203 B.C., Antiochus the Great took Jerusalem and Judea passed under the influence of Syria.
170 B.C., Antiochus Epiphanes took Jerusalem and defiled the temple.
166 B.C., Mattathias, the priest of Judea, led a revolt against Syria, beginning the period known as the Maccabees.
63 B.C., Pompey, the Roman, took Jerusalem, and the people of Israel passed under the dominion of the Roman Empire. They remained under the Roman government throughout the New Testament period.
31 B.C., Caesar Augustus became Roman emperor.
19 B.C., Construction began on the Herodian Temple.[ii]
These and many more events during the 400 years from the closing of the Old Testament to the beginning of the New Testament show a world in turmoil. However, in the midst of all the wars and struggles for dominion, God’s plan was coming together.
According to the promises of the Old Testament, Jesus had to be born in Bethlehem. Literally, hundreds of prophesies came together in the birth of our Lord. Galatians 4:4 says, “But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law.” (ESV) “The fullness of time” refers back to Galatians 4:2, which says, “the time appointed of the father.”
The prophecies of the Old Testament had foretold the history leading up to the birth of Christ. None of the turmoil, unrest and trouble of those days caught God off guard. Men like Xerxes, who claimed to be divine, ended up being significant only in that they advanced the plan of God.
Matthew starts the account of the New Testament by tying in all the history of the Old Testament, and focuses it in on Jesus Christ. In doing this, he divides Old Testament history into 3 sections: 1) Abraham to David, 2) David to the Babylonian exile, and 3) the Babylonian exile to Christ.
The turning point of all history is the birth of Jesus Christ. The central point of all history is the Good News.
Matthew 1:17 says:
All those listed above include fourteen generations from Abraham to David, fourteen from David to the Babylonian exile, and fourteen from the Babylonian exile to the Messiah.
From Abraham to David, the focus was on the promise of God to make a nation out of Abraham’s descendants through Isaac. With the ascension of David to the throne of Israel, in one sense this promise was fulfilled. During this age, the people of God were under the administration of judges raised up by God.
From David to the exile to Babylon, the focus was on the promises of God to bless or curse the nation based on obedience. The reign of David was meant to reflect the coming reign of Christ, but the kings of Israel failed in this regard. During this age, the people of God were under the administration of kings.
From the exile to Christ, the focus was on the coming Messiah. The people of God were living in darkness, subject to foreign powers, princes and kings.
Fourteen generations in each age allowed time for the people of God to prove they would be faithful. The period of the judges started out well with Moses and Joshua, but quickly degenerated into a cycle of unfaithfulness and wandering. The period of the kings started out well with David and Solomon, but quickly degenerated into a cycle of good and bad kings, a divided nation. The period after the exile started out with reforms by Ezra and Nehemiah, but degenerated into the Sadducees, Pharisees, Hellenists and Zealots of the time of Jesus. God patiently allows each age to test the limits of their ability to live by faith according to the administration of that age. Could people direct themselves only calling on judges when they found themselves in trouble? Could kings faithfully lead people to follow God? Would God’s people patiently look forward in hope for God’s promised Messiah?
The answer, sadly, to all of these queries is “no.” Therefore, at the fullness of time, at just the right time, God brought forth His Son.
It is important for us to be patient and wait upon the Lord. The times may seem uncertain, but God is at work. We should never give up hope. We have seen history centers on Jesus, and that God has a plan and an administration for each age. We also see in this genealogy that God keeps His promises.
It is important that Jesus be both a descendant of David and a descendant of Abraham. God promised to bless all peoples on earth through Abraham’s seed. This promise is fulfilled in Jesus. God promised that a descendant of David would sit on the throne forever. Jesus is that descendant.
Although Jesus is not the physical son of Joseph, the genealogy of Matthew establishes His legal right to the throne of David, this legal right being passed down through the male line.
However, it is significant that Mary is also a descendant of David as recorded in Luke. However, there is a difference in Mary’s line. Jeremiah 22:30 says of one of the descendants of David listed in Joseph’s line:
This is what the LORD says: ‘Let the record show that this man Jehoiachin was childless. He is a failure, for none of his children will succeed him on the throne of David to rule over Judah.’
While Matthew shows Joseph as the descendant of David through his son Solomon, Luke shows Mary descended from David through his son Nathan. So, true to the prophecy, none of Jehoiachin’s children will sit on the throne of David, even though that line secures Jesus’s legal right to the throne. God keeps His promises.
Matthew’s genealogy is unique. Most genealogies follow the male line and if it is royalty, goes through the firstborn. However, Isaac, Jacob, Judah, David and many others listed were not firstborn. Furthermore, the genealogy contains women. Of the four women listed, all were Gentiles, Rahab was a prostitute and Tamar’s children were born of adultery and incest. This is significant because Jesus is the Savior for all people. Just as the Apostle Paul says in Romans 1:16:
For I am not ashamed of this Good News about Christ. It is the power of God at work, saving everyone who believes—the Jew first and also the Gentile.
Jesus ushered in a new period of history. In this, this Church age, all people can come freely to God through Jesus Christ. The turmoil of our day signals the end of this Church age. Jesus will soon sit on the throne of David and rule over all the earth.
Keep your hope fixed firmly on Him.
[i] Unless otherwise noted Scripture quotations are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation. Copyright © 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Steam, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.
[ii] McGee, J. Vernon, Through the Bible with J. Vernon McGee, Copyright 1983. Thomas Nelson, Nashville, TN. Vol. 4, pg. 1-2.