I would like to draw back the curtains on the Drama of World Redemption and take a peek at what was going on behind the scenes during the second half of the first century BC. I will also consider the events leading up to the birth of the Lord Jesus and the announcement of that birth by the angels to the shepherds in the fields surrounding Bethlehem.
This may seem like a daunting task; and I am not presuming that I have all the answers. I am like the Monday morning quarterback that analyzes the Sunday afternoon football game with 20-20 hindsight pointing out the team’s mistakes, analyzing why they lost the game, and showing how they could have won.
As an archaeologist, historian and a student of the Scriptures, I will bring some of the “secular” and “sacred” sources together to see the announcement of the birth of the Lord Jesus by the angels in the greater context of world redemption and the “conflict of the ages,” the war between God and Satan. For a good Biblical overview of the conflict between God and Satan, see Renald E. Showers’s, What on Earth is God Doing? Satan’s Conflict with God (1973).
An Overview of the Conflict of the Ages
This drama, or conflict, actually began in the Garden of Eden. Eve, our first mother, was deceived by Satan who was disguised as a serpent. She fell into transgression and disobeyed the Word of God (I Tim. 2:13, 14). God cursed the serpent and said to him: “And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her Seed; He shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise His heel” (Gen. 3:13). This was the first prophecy at the beginning of the long war between God and Satan.
Years later, God made an unconditional covenant with Abraham where He promised a land to Abraham and his descendents (Gen. 12:1-3; 13:14-18; 15:1-21; 17:4-8). After God tested Abraham to see if he would offer his “son, [his] only son Isaac,” Abraham passed this test and God reconfirmed the covenant with Abraham by saying:
By Myself I have sworn, says the LORD, because you have done this thing, and have not withheld your son, your only son – blessing I will bless you, and multiplying I will multiply your descendents as the stars of the heaven and as the sand which is on the seashores; and your descendents shall possess the gates of their enemies. In your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed, because you have obeyed my voice (Gen. 22:16-18)….
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