“For unto us a Child is born, Unto us a Son is given; And the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” (Isa. 9:6, NKJV)
Even though Christmas day is not the real anniversary of our Lord’s birth, but more likely closer to the annunciation day or the date of His human begetting (Luke 1:28), nevertheless, since the celebration of our Lord’s birth is not a matter of Divine appointment or injunction, but merely a tribute of respect to Him, it is not necessary to quibble about the date. We join with the civilized world in celebrating the grand event on the day which the majority celebrate – “Christmas day.”
In Isaiah 9:2-7, we find a lesson appropriate to the Christmas season – a prophecy of our Savior and the great salvation, the gift of God, provided through Him. The prophecy begins: “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.” (Isa. 9:2) This statement pertains to the future although it reads as if it relates to something in the past. (Similarly we read “unto us a Child is born,” whereas Jesus was not born until several centuries later.) The promised great Light is not yet shining upon the people. Mankind still dwells in the land of the shadow of death. The shadows of the demoralized, sinful, dying condition of Adam’s race affect all of life’s interests for the whole world of mankind. As the Apostle Paul subsequently explained, “For we know the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now.” (Rom. 8:22)
We are still in the time when darkness covers the earth (civilized society) and gross darkness the people (unbelievers). (Isa. 60:2) It is true that there is a measure of light in the world and that it emanated from our dear Redeemer, His words and His works. It still shines forth from all who are truly His, all whose hearts are illuminated by His promises and His Spirit. But this is not the light which is to scatter all of earth’s darkness and to cause all mankind to appreciate the glory of God. It is merely the light of faith, hope, and love that exists in believers.
Our Lord’s light shone into a little corner of the world called Israel and from His lamp many followers have lit their lamps. To these the Master pointed out, “Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house.” He instructed them, “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.” He added, however, “For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved.” (Matt. 5:15-16; John 3:20; 2 Cor. 4:4)
THE TRUE LIGHT OF THE WORLD
That the True Light is not now shining, that the Sun of Righteousness has not yet arisen with “healing in his wings” (Mal. 4:2) is fully evidenced by the gross darkness of the non-Christian world and by the comparatively lesser darkness of Christendom. Some light has spread throughout the world to the degree that Jesus’ true followers have kept their lights trimmed and burning. But all this is merely the shining of light in the midst of darkness and at the present time and under present conditions a light wholly inadequate to dispel the night and to bring in the glorious Day for which the whole creation groans and waits. That glorious Day cannot come until all the members of the Lord’s Body are found; together with Him they will constitute the Sun of Righteousness. (Matt. 13:43)
Soon the Church of Christ will be completed; soon the Sun of Righteousness will shine; soon its rays will light the farthest reaches of the earth. Then every child of Adam, all who shared in his curse, will share in Messiah’s great work of blessing. They will be brought under the influence of that great Light which will make the Millennial Age a Day of glory and of knowledge of the Lord as foretold by prophecy: “For the earth shall be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea.” (Hab. 2:14)
This prophecy goes beyond those living at the time and assures us that the Light will shine to those who are in the shadow of death – those already in the darkness of the death state – sheol, hades. The light must shine upon every member of Adam’s race, for Christ tasted death for all. (Heb. 2:9) Just as all of Adam’s children were condemned before their birth, so Christ died for all, before the majority were even born. Just as they shared in the curse that came upon Father Adam, so surely they will receive a blessing from the redemptive work of our Lord Jesus Christ. (1 Cor. 15:22; Rom. 5:17-18)
MULTIPLICATION BY RESURRECTION
The prophecy continues: “Thou hast multiplied the nation, thou hast increased its joy; they rejoice before thee as with joy at the harvest, as men rejoice when they divide the spoil.” (Isa. 9:3, RSV) This, the Revised Standard Version rendering, is evidently more accurate than the King James Version and is consistent with many other translations. This pictures the world of mankind during the Millennial Age, brought forth from the bondage of death, released from the Adamic curse, rejoicing as those who are dividing a spoil – sharing in something which is not theirs, something which has fallen to them. This is how it will be. The blessings of the Millennium will be distributed as Divine bounty; the curse will be rolled away; the Sun of Righteousness will shine for all, bringing Restitution to all. None will forfeit the blessings except those who willfully refuse them and disregard God’s favor.
The same is true for those who receive Divine mercy now. It is a gift; they can do nothing for it; they are merely assured that they are forgiven. The difference is that now only a very few have the eye to see, the ear to hear and the heart to appreciate God’s mercy as it is told us in the Good Tidings which can only be understood by the hearing of faith. In the next age sight and knowledge will largely take the place of faith. The world will then realize the grace of God in Christ Jesus, forgiving their sins and providing them with life everlasting if they will accept it; and they will rejoice to divide the great spoil, the great gift of God. (Rom. 6:23)
The next verse describes the cause for this rejoicing: “For thou hast broken the yoke of his burden, and the staff of his shoulder, the rod of his oppressor, as in the day of Midian.” (Isa. 9:4) It will be because the great oppressor, Satan, will no longer have control. His yoke of sin, sorrow, pain and death, his rod and his staff of affliction and slavery, will be broken forever, as the Lord explains. (Rev. 20:1-3) The victory over the Adversary is not to be a slow and gradual one, not to be accomplished by missions or any human power; but the Lord Himself will interpose His Power, “as in the day of Midian.”
The day of Midian was the day when Gideon and his little band, armed with trumpets and pitchers with lights in them, delivered Israel from the hosts of Midian. (Judges 7:15-22) By the blowing of the trumpets, the breaking of the pitchers and the shining of the lights, they confused the Midianites, so that they killed one another with a great slaughter. The Lord overwhelmed the powerful enemies of His people, granting them a miraculous deliverance.
Our Lord Jesus is the antitypical Gideon, and His “little flock” (Luke 12:32), the Church of this Gospel Age, are the antitype of Gideon’s little army. It will be through their intervention (on the other side of the vail) that the hosts of sin and the present weapons of evil will be utterly defeated and will self-destruct in the great Time of Trouble drawing near. The great victory for truth and righteousness will result in the binding of Satan and the release of all the oppressed.
In the next verse we read of the grand conclusion, the end of sin and trouble: “For every boot of the tramping warrior in battle tumult and every garment rolled in blood will be burned as fuel for the fire.” (Isa. 9:5, RSV) The interpretation of this figurative statement is that everything pertaining to this great conflict between righteousness and unrighteousness, all of the weapons of Satan, all the accessories of sin and death which have prevailed in the world for centuries, shall be utterly destroyed. The picture shows us the world cleansed from every evidence of opposition to the Divine Government and the Law of Righteousness, and harmonizes well with the statement of Revelation: “And every creature which is in heaven, and on the earth, and under the earth, and such as are in the sea, and all that are in them, heard I saying, Blessing, and honour, and glory, and power, be unto him that sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb for ever and ever.” (Rev. 5:13)
HOW WILL IT BE BROUGHT ABOUT?
Next the Lord gives the explanation of the process by which this prophecy of blessing and release will be accomplished, drawing attention to the fact that no such blessing and enlightenment would be possible until Messiah has come. He also shows that Messiah was to be born after the manner of mankind, but would nevertheless be the Son of the Living God: “For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given . . . . “ (Isa. 9:6, NKJV)
How beautiful, how simple, is the entire statement from the standpoint of faith! Yet the wisdom of this world still may stumble over even such simple statements as these, claiming, as Higher Critics do, that this prophecy was wholly to the Israelites of Isaiah’s day, and that the promised one was King Hezekiah! Blessed are our eyes if they see and our ears if they hear the true meaning of this prophecy and thus permit us to recognize in it the Messiah, Immanuel – meaning “God with us” – the one sent of God to be the great Deliverer and to accomplish for us all the wonderful things which God has promised by all the holy Prophets since the world began, confirming His promise made to Abraham: “In thy seed shall all the families of the earth be blessed.” (Acts 3:19-21; Gen. 28:14; Gal. 3:8,16,29)
The prophecy continues, picturing the Child grown to manhood, and the government placed upon His shoulders: “. . . . And the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” (Isa. 9:6, NKJV) The responsibility falls upon Him as a royal mantle from the Heavenly Emperor, God the Father. Skipping over the earthly trials and sufferings of our Redeemer and the Church during the Gospel Age, the prophecy points to the complete and glorified Messiah at His Second Advent, viewed from God’s standpoint, the standpoint from which the whole world will ultimately recognize Him.
THE TITLES GIVEN TO JESUS
All the titles given to our Lord – “Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace” – represent His majesty, dignity, power and glory. Our Lord is already recognized by His true followers, who know Him as the most wonderful Counselor. No other counsel, no other teaching is like His. The world in general has yet to learn this fact about Him; but before the close of the Millennium it will be generally known: “That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (Phil. 2:10-11) If after confessing Him any willfully and deliberately ignore and reject His teachings, sinning willfully and intentionally, such will die the Second Death. (Acts 3:23)
Our Lord Jesus is recognized now by His true followers as the Mighty Lord, the Mighty God, but not as God the Father. (1 Cor. 8:6) He is the Father’s representative, voice, mouthpiece, the well-beloved Son whom the Father has clothed with glory, honor and immortality, and given all power in Heaven and in earth necessary to the accomplishment of the great work entrusted to Him. (Matt. 3:17; Matt. 28:18) He demonstrated His fitness for this office by His love and His loyalty even unto the death of the Cross.
Our Lord Jesus will be the Everlasting Father of the human race in the sense that, while their father Adam failed to give them life, our Lord redeemed Adam and all his posterity, thus becoming the Author of everlasting life to all who will obey Him. This will include all of the human family that will attain to everlasting life, except the Church class of this Gospel Age, who are chosen out of the world and begotten of the Heavenly Father to a new, spiritual nature. (1 Pet. 1:3-4) These spirit-begotten ones are separate and distinct from the world, and are Scripturally designated the New Creation. (2 Cor. 5:17) They are spoken of as the brethren of Christ in one figure, and as His Bride and Joint-heirs in another, but never as His children. (Heb. 2:11; Rev. 21:2) To the world, however, He will be the Everlasting Father, or Life-giver through whom they may have everlasting life – life to all eternity – if they will become obedient to God’s arrangements.
Another of our Lord’s titles will be Prince of Peace. While His Kingdom will be introduced by the great Time of Trouble such as never before was, the trouble will not be of His producing. (Dan. 12:1) It will be the result of the wrong course of sin and selfishness fostered by the great oppressor, Satan. The Prince of Peace will subdue all enemies, all sin, all unrighteousness, all insubordination to the Divine will. He will neither fail nor be discouraged. Nothing will hinder the accomplishment of this great mission entrusted to Him by the Father. His love of peace will not hinder Him from dashing the nations to pieces as a potter’s vessel, in order that righteousness be established upon a firm and sure foundation. (Psa. 2:9; Rev. 2:26-27)
“UPON THE THRONE OF DAVID”
Our lesson concludes: “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.” (Isa. 9:7)
The word David signifies “beloved;” and the kingdom entrusted to King David was God’s Kingdom in a typical form, which was never to pass away. (1 Chron. 29:23; 2 Sam. 7:16) It was maintained by the Lord down to the time of Zedekiah, when we are told that the crown and the scepter of authority and power were removed to be overturned until He would come whose right it is. (Ezek. 21:27).
Our Lord in the flesh, as a descendant of King David, was the legitimate Heir to that Kingdom of David which was to have no end. But instead of establishing His Kingdom at His First Advent, He declared, “My Kingdom is not of this world.” (John 18:36) That is to say, His Kingdom was not of that age, that dispensation. He then began the selection of the Little Flock who in the world to come, the Millennial Age, will be His joint-heirs and associates in the Millennial Kingdom. This work of selecting the Church – the kings, rulers, priests – has since been in progress, and we have the assurance of God’s Word that it will reach a final and glorious consummation worthy of our God.
When Christ and the glorified Church reign over the earth, their rule will be the continuation or exaltation of the Kingdom of God which was begun in King David and Natural Israel. This greater David, this greater Beloved of the Father, full of grace and truth, will establish righteousness in the earth with judgment – with punishments for wrong-doing and rewards for right-doing.
Although the Millennial Kingdom will be under the direct supervision of our glorious Lord and His associated Church, yet behind it will be the Father’s delegated power. As the Apostle assures us, when it is said that all things will be put under subjection to Christ, it is manifest that the Father is excepted, for it is He that puts all things under Christ. “Then shall the Son also himself be subject unto him that put all things under him, that God [the Father] may be all in all.” (1 Cor. 15:27,28)
Immanuel’s government, from the time of its beginning to the time it will be transferred to the Father, will be one continuous success; there will be no breaks or changes of course. “Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end.” The discipline and order which He will establish will be on such a firm basis that day by day will see it more secure, until finally the consummation having been reached, the trials all being complete, the willfully incorrigible having been destroyed, the dominion without end will be passed to the Father.
It was the Father’s Kingdom from the time of David; it will be the Father’s Kingdom under the control of Messiah during the period of subjugation and Restitution, the Millennial Age; and it will be the Father’s Kingdom without end after “he shall have delivered up the kingdom to God, even the Father.” (1 Cor. 15:24) The assurance given is that the work of reconstruction will be so thoroughly carried out that never again will sin bring a curse upon the earth. (Rev. 21:4)
CALL HIS NAME JESUS
“Thou shalt call his name Jesus, for he shall save his people from their sins.” (Matt. 1:21)
This text sums up the entire work of our Lord Jesus, indicating that it is all implied in the meaning of the name Jesus, Savior. We sometimes refer to our Lord as the Savior of sinners, and properly so, because we are all sinners through our share in the Adamic fall. We sometimes speak of Him as the Savior of the world, and properly so, because the whole world was lost through Adam’s disobedience, and the whole world was redeemed and is to have the glorious opportunity of reconciliation to the Father through their Redeemer. But it is also appropriate that we note the statement of this text that He will save His people from their sins.
This statement, that only the Lord’s people are to be saved from their sins, is in full agreement with the other statements that He is the Savior of sinners and the Savior of the world. Although His salvation (from the Adamic death) extends to and embraces every member of Adam’s race, yet only those who accept the great salvation and the opportunities accorded them once they learn of them, thus becoming His people, only they and no others will get the full salvation and be delivered completely from death, and attain to the life everlasting, which is the gift of God to all those who obey Him. (Rom. 6:23)
(Derived from several writings of Pastor Russell, primarily Reprints 3685-3687)
THE SCOPE OF THE ANGELS’ SONG
“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.” (Luke 2:14)
The song which the angels sang at the birth of the Savior has been seized upon and misapplied by some who do not see the plan of God for the salvation of the world. Becoming discouraged by the seemingly poor prospect for the world’s conversion, these have put forth a version of this passage more in harmony with their own doubts and misconceptions. To these the prayer which our Master taught His disciples to pray, “Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven,” has lost its meaning; for they see no hope of its fulfillment except in a very limited sense. Hence they prefer to translate the latter part of the verse, “And on earth peace, among men of good will.” Were this the proper rendering, our hopes for the ultimate good of all, as far as this passage is concerned, would surely be eclipsed; for very few thus far in the history of the race have been “men of good will,” men who have unselfishly endeavored to any appreciable degree to bring about the good of their fellows.
But we do not believe this to be the thought of the original. It is not in harmony with what we have clearly seen to be the plan of God for mankind. Such a translation eliminates the thought of God’s eventual good will toward all the world, and greatly minimizes the scope of this glorious song. It implies merely that men who have a feeling of good will are, or will be, at peace among themselves. How utterly barren of hope for all men would such an expression be! And how little the song of the angels would signify if this were its meaning!
On the contrary, this song was a prophecy of God’s purpose to bring about through the newly born Child the overturning of the curse and the establishment of peace and sinlessness among mankind, in which God and man would become at-one. It was an expression of God’s good will, His good purpose, to bring man back to the image and likeness of Himself in which Adam was created. When this shall have been accomplished, then peace will dwell in all the earth; for the causes of discord will have been eliminated.
The world of mankind came under the curse, or sentence, of death because of the sin in Eden – because our first parents disobeyed God’s righteous command. All humanity, therefore, are members of an accursed race – under penal servitude, which ends in the tomb. The race has been learning the lesson of the exceeding sinfulness of sin, and its terrible effects. But God has promised to take away the curse and to bring a permanent blessing in its place. This will mean a return to His favor, to full harmony with Himself.
PROGRESSION OF GOD’S GREAT PLAN
We speak of this song as a prophecy because the peace has not yet come, nor the good will, in the sense that God’s face is not yet turned toward man. It is a declaration of what God purposes to do. He does not have good will toward the present sinful, rebellious attitude of the race. He has never had good will toward sin. We are not to understand that God was expressing His good will toward man when He pronounced the sentence of death upon him. God’s curse indicated His ill will toward man – in other words, His displeasure because of man’s sin. He wished man to suffer ill as a just punishment for his willful disobedience. God cut him off from fellowship with Himself. He was not bound in justice to do anything more for the race. But in His infinite mercy He provided a deliverance for mankind. He foreknew man’s fall, and planned his redemption from before the foundation of the world. (1 Pet. 1:18-20)
Through all the ages since the fall of Adam God’s plan has been slowly, steadily progressing. While men have been learning in pain and tears and trouble the nature and results of sin, God has been selecting His saintly ones, His elect – first, the elect who are to be the earthly princes in His Kingdom of blessing; then, the elect who are to reign over all as kings and priests of God on the highest plane of existence. The chief of all the elect is His well-beloved Son, the Savior of the world, whose birth the angels proclaimed to the shepherds watching on the plains of Judea, some twenty centuries ago. (Isa. 42:1) When all the elect ones are chosen the blessing of the world at large will be inaugurated. “For the earnest expectation of the creature [creation] waiteth for the manifestation of the sons of God [the Church]. For the creature was made subject to vanity [futility], not willingly, but by reason of him who hath subjected the same in hope, Because the creature itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God.” (Rom. 8:19-21)
The coming of the Son of God to earth was only preliminary to His offering of Himself as a ransom for the forfeited life of Adam, the father of the race, in whom all his posterity fell. But even when our Lord had died as man’s ransom-price, God’s favor did not come to the world. Jesus was next raised from the dead a glorious, Divine being. Then He ascended up on high, and appeared in the presence of God for those who were to be of the spiritual elect. Thus the last became first in God’s plan. The merit of Jesus’ death was utilized first on behalf of these. It has not yet been applied for any others. The Church of Christ now has this promised peace and good will. It is granted only to those who have come into vital relationship with God through Christ – the fully consecrated ones.
The Scriptures show that after these are all selected, prepared and glorified, the next step will be the application to all men of the merit which has been imputed to these elect, and through whom it is to go to the Worthies of old and to the entire world of mankind. This spiritual class has been chosen to be members of the body of Christ, joint-associates with Him in the Messianic Kingdom. All of these who prove entirely faithful are to attain this exalted position. As soon as all the spiritual class have been glorified, the sins of all the world, those living and the dead as well, will be legally canceled by the application of the virtue, the merit, of the sacrificial death of Jesus. Then they will be freed from the condemnation of the sentence of death. The death penalty will be lifted. They will be turned over to The Christ, Head and Body, the Great Mediator. The curse will be removed.
The great work of the Millennial Age will then begin. It will be a work of gradual uplift during the entire thousand years of the reign of The Christ. The dead will be gradually awakened and brought to a clear knowledge of the salvation of God in Christ. All will then have the opportunity of coming into the blessed condition of peace and good will proclaimed by the angels. By degrees they will be brought, if they will, to where they will be ready to be received by the Father, to be introduced to Him. This will be the blessed experience of all who will be obedient to the rules and requirements of the Kingdom. If they prove unwilling and disobedient, after being brought to a clear understanding, they will be “cut off,” destroyed, as not worthy of further effort on God’s part for their reclamation. (Acts 3:23)
(Excerpt from Reprint 5576, with minor editing)
 The first verse of this chapter properly belongs with the previous chapter; accordingly, in the Hebrew text it is numbered 8:23. Therefore our topic begins with the second verse.