The Great Fulfillment
BookTrends: Come, Thou Long Expected Jesus (ed. by Nancy Guthrie)
By: Martyn Lloyd-Jones|Published: December 9, 2009 7:22 PM
The incarnation is the supreme example of fulfilled prophecy, the supreme example of God’s faithfulness to his promises.
The great covenant promise concerning redemption was made in its most explicit manner to Abraham. You can find it prior to that, but the definition of it, as it were, the explicit statement of it, is made to Abraham when he is told that in him, in his seed, shall all the world be blessed (Gen. 12:3). That is what Mary is referring to when she says: “He hath holpen his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy to Abraham, and to his seed for ever” (Luke 1:54, KJV).
Mary at once sees the significance of what is happening—the significance of the Son that is to be born out of her womb. She remembers what the archangel Gabriel said about him; she did not understand it then, but now she does, and she begins to realize the meaning of “He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest” (Luke 1:32,
KJV). She begins to understand what Elisabeth means when she says, “Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb. And whence is this to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?” (Luke 1:42–43, KJV).
Mary sees now God is going to fulfill all these promises that he has made—“mercy to Abraham, and his seed forever.” But how is it happening? “It happens,” she said, “like this: ‘He hath holpen his servant Israel,’” and that word means to succour, to help, or, perhaps better still, to lift up. The people of Israel had been cast down; they needed to be lifted up, they needed to be saved.
They had been thrown down by an enemy, but someone comes and rescues them; he takes hold of them and helps them to stand upon their feet. So she says in effect, “When I give birth to the Son, I am giving birth to the Savior, the one prophesied, predicted, promised. He is coming. All that was promised to Abraham, all this great mercy, here it is, literally coming into being and into action.”
She is referring primarily, of course, to salvation itself, and this is where her statement is so significant. God had made this promise to Abraham concerning salvation, forgiveness of sins, and reconciliation unto himself. We tend to forget that what God said to Abraham was that this salvation that was to come was to be brought about through this descendant of his that was yet to be born into this world. Now Abraham did not understand this fully; but he understood enough to rest his faith upon it. “He [Abraham] believed in the Lord; and he counted it to him for righteousness” (Gen 15:6, KJV).
Paul takes this up and works it out as a great argument in the fourth chapter of his epistle to the Romans, and also in the third chapter of the epistle to the Galatians. Our Lord himself also said to the Jews on one occasion, “Your father Abraham rejoiced to see my day: and he saw it, and was glad” (John 8:56, KJV). That is a reference to salvation. That statement means that Abraham was given to see, in a flash—not very clearly, but he saw it—that God’s great salvation, the forgiveness of sins, and reconciliation was to be brought about ultimately by someone who would come into the world, who would be of his seed.
Mary is making a very basic statement here. “That,” she says, “is what is happening.” In other words, we have here a summary of the whole of the Old Testament, and nothing is more important than for us to realize that the whole of the Old Testament is looking forward to this event. The children of
But let us never make the mistake of imagining that they had everything. All they ultimately had was the promise. But it was enough. Thank God it was enough. But they had nothing more than that. You will find that this is frequently elaborated in the New Testament. There is that tremendous statement of it in Galatians 3; but you find it again in a striking manner in the epistle to the Hebrews, at the end of that great eleventh chapter: “And these all, having obtained a good report through faith, received not the promise: God having provided some better thing for us, that they without us should not be made perfect (vv. 39–40, KJV). They did not receive the promise. What they received was the promise of the promise, the certainty that the promise would be fulfilled.
And here is the key, of course, to the understanding of the Old Testament. Look at those people as they went to their tabernacle and to their temple taking their burnt offerings and meal offerings and sacrifices—animals being killed, blood being shed and offered, placed before the alter, and so on. What is it all about? What was happening there? Well, the answer is, that was but a covering, as it were, of their sins for the time being. This argument is developed in the tenth chapter of Hebrews: “For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and of goats should take away sins” (v. 4, KJV). They were simply covered over. Those sacrifices were by types pointing to the coming of the great anti-type; they did not really deal with sin.
But they were indications that God had a way of dealing with sin, and that, says Mary, is what is now happening. Here are the promised mercies. God had promised Abraham and his seed that there would be mercy and compassion. Their sins would be forgiven and blotted out; they would be made the children of God and heirs of glory. But all that they knew by way of offerings and sacrifices was not the fulfillment of that. It was merely another way of giving the promise and of indicating in a measure the way in which it was going to be fulfilled.
But here now, says Mary, is the great anti-type himself. Now God is going to fulfill all this mercy that he had promised “to Abraham, and to his seed forever.” And this means there is only one way of salvation; it means that all salvation and every aspect of it comes in this one way—in Jesus Christ, the Son of God and him crucified, made an offering for sin. “A body hast thou prepared me” (Heb. 10:5, KJV). What for? In order that he might be the Lamb of God. That he might be slain, that he might be offered. One sacrifice forever. “The Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29, KJV).
That is what Mary is saying. Here is the fulfillment of all mercies. There is no forgiveness apart from Jesus Christ and him crucified. There is no true knowledge of God apart from him. There is no blessing apart from him. As the apostle Paul puts it in 2 Corinthians 1:20 (KJV): “For all the promises of God in him are yea, and in him Amen, unto the glory of God by us.” “He hath holpen his servant
But here is the great fulfillment; and so you will find all the Old Testament prophets, psalmists, and seers have seen this. They are looking forward; they know that this is what will fulfill all the promises and bring the mercy into the individual experience. It is all in and through our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and what he did when he was in this world, and what he is now continuing and applying in the glory.
What God did when he sent his Son into the world is an absolute guarantee that he will do everything he has ever promised to do. Look at it in personal sense: “All things work together for good to them that love God”—that is a promise—“to them who are the called according to his purpose” (Rom. 8:28, KJV). “But how can I know that is true for me?” asks someone. The answer is the incarnation. God has given the final proof that all his promises are sure, that he is faithful to everything he has ever said. So that promise is sure for you. Whatever your state or condition may be, whatever may happen to you, he has said, “I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee” (Heb. 13:5, KJV)—and he will not. He has said so, and we have absolute proof that he fulfills his promises. He does not always do it immediately in the way that we think. No, no! But he does it! And he will never fail to do it.
Excerpted from Come, Thou Long-Expected Jesus: Experiencing the Peace and Promise of Christmas, edited by Nancy Guthrie. Copyright © 2008 by Nancy Guthrie. Excerpted by permission of Crossway Books, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Articles on the BreakPoint website are the responsibility of the authors and do not necessarily represent the opinions of Chuck Colson or Prison Fellowship. Outside links are for informational purposes and do not necessarily imply endorsement of their content.