Christ And His Church Are Indestructible
By Martin Holdt
The entire Bible has one main theme. Though authors wrote at different times and in different places over thousands of years, the message was either the Saviour to come or the Saviour that has come. Writing about the Saviour to come, Isaiah penned these words approximately 700 years before Christ: "Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel" (Isa. 7:14). This verse is quoted with reference to the birth of the Lord Jesus in Matthew 1:22-23.
Isaiah 7:14 is rooted in history. Isaiah was speaking to a live situation. He lived in Judah. The king was Ahaz and the land was being threatened: "In the days of Ahaz the son of Jotham, son of Uzziah, king of Judah, Rezin the king of Syria and Pekah the son of Remaliah the king of Israel came up to Jerusalem to wage war against it, but could not yet mount an attack against it. When the house of David was told, ‘Syria is in league with Ephraim,’ the heart of Ahaz and the heart of his people shook as the trees of the forest shake before the wind" (Isa. 7:1-2).
Clearly, people were gripped by fear! Ahaz the king was panicking. He wanted to get help from Tiglath-Pileser, the king of Assyria. However, God sent Isaiah with a message. Ahaz was not to get any help. Pekah and Rezin may appear to be an overwhelming force, but their plans would fail. Were they weak? Certainly not! God’s words were meant to reassure the king and the people (7:3-9).
For a confirmation of his faith, God invited Ahaz to ask for a sign, any sign (v. 11). However, Ahaz’s faith was weak and he gave a feeble reason why he would not ask for a sign. Isaiah was angry, but he added that in spite of Ahaz’s poor response, God would give him a sign:
"And he [Isaiah] said: ‘Hear then, O house of David! Is it too little for you to weary men, that you weary my God also? Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel’" (Isa. 7:13-14).
What has the sign to do with the problem? The invasion threatened the very existence of Judah, and with that the eventual fulfillment of the promised Messiah (Gen. 49:10). To Ahaz, the case seemed hopeless and that is why he was desperate to get help. To God there was no problem! The threats would come to nothing! The Saviour that God had promised, born of the very tribe of which Ahaz and his people were part, would certainly be born! God would deal with the situation in order to keep His promise. Within two years, those who wanted to extinguish the Messianic line would be no more (7:15-16).
And so Matthew triumphantly quotes Isaiah 7:14 with specific reference to the birth of the Lord Jesus (Matt. 1:22-23). It is as if Matthew is saying, as he understands the context of the verse in Isaiah 7:14, that against all human odds Jesus has been born. In the next chapter, Matthew tells us about Herod’s attempts to destroy Christ. Before Christ was born, and in the time of Isaiah the prophet, there was an all-out attempt to prevent His birth by destroying His physical ancestry, His forebears in Judah. Now, after His birth, there is another all-out attempt to kill Him before He had done His life’s work.
Jesus Christ was born, lived, died, rose from the dead and ascended up on high. The battle rages on. In our day and age, there are frequent attempts to misrepresent Jesus Christ. The film industry has tried it. The book industry has attempted it. In various ways attempts are made to reduce our glorious Lord to one among several gods.
Note, in this regard, the words of Revelation 12:3-5. Satan is still trying hard to "destroy" Christ and His cause. His means to do so are very subtle. He can no longer prevent the birth of Jesus, or the empty tomb, and so now he threatens His Body, the church, whether by direct persecution or by destroying its testimony to its Lord. He will even harness the political world to kill whatever he can of the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. He will use every means possible to destroy the church.
What Is God’s Answer?
1. The threat will fail. The Body of Christ is as indestructible as her Lord. Go to Bethlehem. Look at the sight! God’s Son born into the world when once it seemed to Ahaz and others that it would never happen! If you are a follower of the Lord Jesus Christ, you are being threatened. Satan does not like your faith. The world does not! The cults do not! What is God’s answer? In spite of apostasy, in spite of desertions to the cause of Christ, God’s Word stands firm:
"But avoid irreverent babble, for it will lead people into more and more ungodliness, and their talk will spread like gangrene. Among them are Hymenaeus and Philetus, who have swerved from the truth, saying that the resurrection has already happened. They are upsetting the faith of some. But God’s firm foundation stands, bearing this seal: ‘The Lord knows those who are His,’ and ‘Let everyone who names the name of the Lord depart from iniquity’" (2 Tim. 2:16-19).
Indeed, nothing will ever crush the Lord’s people (John 10:27-29). We have had our share of disasters this past year. It does not require the foresight of a prophet or the son of a prophet to predict that each year will have its own share of fatalities on the roads, of human and ecological disasters. Nevertheless you are safe in Jesus.
2. The coming of Christ has meaning. His name is what He is, namely God with us. The birth of Jesus is so astonishing that words failed even Paul to describe it: "Great indeed, we confess, is the mystery of godliness: He was manifested in the flesh, vindicated by the Spirit, seen by angels, proclaimed among the nations, believed on in the world, taken up in glory" (1 Tim. 3:16).
It means that you do not have to go in search of God. No one need attempt a ladder-climb to get to heaven, if that were possible. And so, we are not saved by human works of our own merit. God became Man, and He has come to us in Christ. Read Romans 10:6-9: "But the righteousness based on faith says, ‘Do not say in your heart, "Who will ascend into heaven?"’ (that is, to bring Christ down) or ‘"Who will descend into the abyss?"’ (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead). But what does it say? ‘The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart’ (that is, the word of faith that we proclaim); because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved."
"Upon a life I did not live
Upon a death I did not die
I stake my whole eternity!"
Christ’s coming also means that by becoming Man, He has entered our experience of pain. "For surely it is not angels that He helps, but He helps the offspring of Abraham. Therefore He had to be made like His brothers in every respect, so that He might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. For because He Himself has suffered when tempted, He is able to help those who are being tempted" (Heb. 2:16-18). Whatever a child of God suffers, however intense, there is a sympathetic and understanding friend in Jesus Christ, who has been on our planet, and who has even suffered, bled and died in order to identify with us.
Finally, the incarnation means that we will become like Him one day in perfection. He will always be God and we will always be His servants, but we will yet resemble Him in holiness and happiness. "Beloved, we are God’s children now; and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when He appears we shall be like Him, because we shall see Him as He is. And everyone who thus hopes in Him purifies himself as He is pure" (1 John 3:2-3).
Isaiah 7:14 is telling us loud and clear that God is with us. He will be with us through life, and then on to all eternity. Whatever threats, from man or men, God’s purposes are imperishable and indestructible. Believers have every reason to hold on to the Word of God. God’s promises of a Saviour did not fail despite the attempts to thwart them – and His promises to preserve His church are sure. Immanuel, God with us, will keep us to all eternity.
– Taken from the January 2006 issue of The Gospel Witness. Edited and used by permission.