“She bore a male child who was to rule all the nations with a rod of iron. And her Child was caught up to God and His throne” (Revelation 12:5).
“And she brought forth her firstborn Son…” says Luke as he begins his gospel narrative concerning the events of Christmas. (Luke 2:7)
“She bore a male child…” John echoes, as he sketches the history of salvation. (Rev. 12:5)
The ‘she’ in Luke’s case is Mary, the betrothed of Joseph.
The ‘she’ in John’s case, is the queen of heaven: the church of God.
Do those two statements agree with each other?
Undoubtedly, for they both describe the Christmas event. But each speaks with a different purpose; Luke records the events as they happened, while John places them in a much broader context.
Luke describes the wonderful reality of Christ’s birth. John immediately takes us to the tremendous significance of that fact: “She bore a male child who was to rule all the nations with a rod of iron”.
John says: this is the fulfillment of that age-old psalm of the antithesis (Psalm 2) wherein the kings are portrayed as mutineers and rebels against God. For here we see Eve, the woman (signifying the church), receiving (from God) the Seed of the woman (Gen. 3:15): a male child who is to rule the heathens with an iron rod. She receives a Man from the LORD who is able to rule all.
This is what it’s all about at the birth of the Christ: He shall establish His kingdom. It will not be a kingdom according to the style of the world, but a kingdom in which He is to be given all power in heaven and on the earth; a kingdom wherein He will subject peoples under Him, and break down opposition so that people can obey Him.
But thereby the prophecy of Psalm 2, the song of the antithesis, is completely fulfilled. And then that great opponent, the dragon, will rage furiously. For this is what is at stake: will the kingdoms of the world continue to stand fast or will the coming kingdom of God?
This is why the dragon stands ready to devour that Man-child, the Son of the King—but that Child is suddenly caught up to God and His throne.
John outlines this panorama in broad brush strokes. He provides the big picture, omitting various details—the details concerning the birth and childhood of Jesus, His time on earth, His miracles, His preaching, His cross. Not, of course, as though they are of little significance; no, but to show that it’s all ultimately about that one thing: the coming of the kingdom of God. And so John brings everything together and jumps from the birth of Christ right over to His ascension.
Of course, all the other details are there too: the enmity of Satan and his attempts to prevent the coming of the kingdom of God into this world. But John does not pause there; he pushes through to the end of the struggle: the Child is suddenly caught up to God and His throne.
Christmas and Ascension—ultimately they are tied together, and are directly connected to one another. Christ’s humility in becoming man is linked to His exaltation. Just look at how Paul puts it to the Philippians: “Christ has humbled Himself and was obedient until death, therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him a name which is above every name.”
That is the gospel of Christmas.
But it is a gospel of war.
It is the fulfillment of Psalm 2.
It urges us to accept God’s Word obediently: “Kiss the Son – who became Man − lest He be angry, and you perish in the way when His wrath is kindled but a little.”
Blessed are all those who take refuge in Him!
Thank God that this Child is born, whose government is on His shoulder, and whose name is “Wonderful, Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace”.
Furthermore: believe that God has appointed a day in which He shall judge the earth in righteousness through a Man: Jesus Christ our Lord.
First published in De Reformatie Dec. 24, 1960, translated and slightly paraphrased.