12 And being warned of God in a dream that they should not return to Herod, they departed into their own country another way.
13 And when they were departed, behold, the angel of the Lord appeareth to Joseph in a dream, saying, Arise, and take the young child and his mother, and flee into Egypt, and be thou there until I bring thee word: for Herod will seek the young child to destroy him.
14 When he arose, he took the young child and his mother by night, and departed into Egypt:
15 And was there until the death of Herod: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying, Out of Egypt have I called my son.
16 Then Herod, when he saw that he was mocked of the wise men, was exceeding wroth, and sent forth, and slew all the children that were in Bethlehem, and in all the coasts thereof, from two years old and under, according to the time which he had diligently inquired of the wise men.
17 Then was fulfilled that which was spoken by Jeremiah the prophet, saying,
18 In Rama was there a voice heard, lamentation, and weeping, and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children, and would not be comforted, because they are not.
19 But when Herod was dead, behold, an angel of the Lord appeareth in a dream to Joseph in Egypt,
20 Saying, Arise, and take the young child and his mother, and go into the land of Israel: for they are dead which sought the young child’s life.
21 And he arose, and took the young child and his mother, and came into the land of Israel.
22 But when he heard that Archelaus did reign in Judaea in the room of his father Herod, he was afraid to go thither: notwithstanding, being warned of God in a dream, he turned aside into the parts of Galilee:
23 And he came and dwelt in a city called Nazareth: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophets, He shall be called a Nazarene.
Jesus Christ is our example for life. He began his life as a refugee. Are we ready to follow Him?
This story is a typology of the end days; Herod is the first type of the antichrist which we find displayed in the New Testament. In fact he is the first agent of the devil that intentionally attempts to kill the anointed of God – the Messiah. Herod reigns in Israel, over not only the political sphere, but also the religious. Herod the Great initiated the construction of ‘Herod’s temple,’ the temple spoken of throughout the New Testament, which was later destroyed by the Romans in 70 A.D. Herod had a close-nit relationship with the Jewish priesthood, and the Sanhedrin; when Herod had heard that Magi from the East had come under prophetic revelation to pay homage to the King in Israel, he knew immediately that this meant God’s Messiah had come.
Herod called together ‘ALL the CHIEF PRIESTS and scribes of the people [i.e. the SANHEDRIN counsellors] and demanded of them where Christ should be born. (Matt 2:4)
After doing so he PRIVATELY called the wise men from the East to himself, in order to ascertain the exact timing of the star’s appearance (v.7). Notice his tact, here: he gathered the Sanhedrin experts in the Law to ascertain exactly WHERE the Messiah was to be born, then he called to the wise men with the prophetic revelation and found out exactly WHEN the Messiah was born.
Of all the masses in Israel, Herod was one of the first to know that Messiah had come (those who preceeded him in this knowledge were: Zachariah the priest (John the Baptist’s father), Mary, and Joseph; Anna, and Simeon (Luke 2:25-39), the wise men from the East, and a few shepherds.)
It is important to note that Herod’s knowledge of the Messiah’s presence came through lines which we might call ‘hearsay.’ He did not have his own personal relationship with God – though he had a show of one; indeed, he was supporting the priests, and raising up the temple of the Jews! Yet Herod knew that he could not hear from God, himself, and by craft he extracted spiritual information from religious leaders and prophets. Notice, also, that Herod BELIEVED the reports he received. He had no need of convincing, he believed the Messiah had come as soon as he heard the report of the Magi! He believed it, and with all shrewdness, he kept the information to himself, because it was in his heart not to herald the Messiah, but to murder him.
All of these dynamics of how Herod behaved teach us about the coming antichrist. As I said before, Herod is the first New Testament type of the Antichrist person. Yet the point of this post is not necessarily to teach on the antichrist, but to prepare for the reign of the real one.
There was a plot on Jesus life from the day he was born, let there be no mistaking the devil intended to kill Him – approximately two years after His birth, the devil found a ready, and willing agent to carry out his plot to murder the Son of God in Herod ‘the Great.’
If you are a Christian, the devil intends to kill you. Indeed he comes only to steal, kill, and to destroy (John 10:10). Notice, though, that although there was a great evil afoot, God did not snatch baby Jesus up out of the earth – NO, Jesus still had His full destiny to fulfill. But here is the wisdom of our preparation:
The Spirit of Prophecy
…I am thy fellowservant, and of thy brethren that have the testimony of Jesus: worship God: for the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy. – Rev 19:10
Notice in the story of Herod, and Jesus’ birth, that those who were listening to the Spirit of God were ALL warned of God, and SAVED from harm. The wise men were clearly hearing from God, for they, alone, of all the masses of people in the earth – even among Israel – knew that the Messiah of God had arrived. Although these were initially deceived by the craft of Herod when they met with Him, yet God warned them prophetically in a dream not to return to Herod. THEY HAD COME TO THE LAND OF ISRAEL PREPARED! How had they prepared? By listening to the voice of God – we already know they had an excellent track record of doing so, BECAUSE they had received the revelation of the coming Messiah.
Had these returned to Herod, there is no doubt he would have killed them. How do I know this? They brought the news of the Messiah, whom he intended to murder – he couldn’t just let them go, and blaze the message of the Lord’s coming throughout the world (especially if he was able to succeed in killing the Christ)! THE WISE MEN WERE PREPARED TO ESCAPE THE TRIBULATION BECAUSE THEY WERE IN THE VOICE OF GOD. They had not immediately discerned the Antichrist person, he seemed to be the leader of God’s people, and was building the temple of YHWH (Jehovah) (This also mirrors the work of the final Antichrist, by the way – I warn you not to fall into the trap of supporting the construction of the Antichrist’s temple.)
Joseph: Joseph was a rightous man (Matt 1:19). We know that Joseph, also, had begun to live, and operate in the Spirit of prophecy. If he had not heard from God, he would have gone on believing that Mary had committed adultery against him. But God had spoken to him, sending an angel in a dream to convince Joseph of Christ’s legitimacy. Joseph BELIEVED the report, and acted accordingly, marrying Mary although she was pregnant, and naming the child Jesus at the angel’s command. Were Joseph not used to hearing, and obeying the Lord’s command, he might have missed it, or acted slowly when the angel returned, and warned him of the child’s life. But, again: JOSEPH WAS PREPARED TO ESCAPE THE TRIBULATION BECAUSE HE WAS IN THE VOICE OF GOD!
Now, one thing about this story which is simply tragic, but is generally overlooked is this: on the wide scale, the people of God were not on page with God in the prophetic seasons which were taking place. Notice that Herod only found out that Messiah had been born because of the prophetic revelation of some Gentile strangers! Israel was supposed to be a kingdom of priests! Where were the prophets in the land? Bear in mind, this was not information that God was hiding from the people! He wanted the news of the Messiah broadly heralded – surely the Christ should have been perceived, elevated, and adored as king from His birth!
Surely the Lord God will do nothing, but he revealeth his secret unto his servants the prophets.
God spoke this news to anyone who was listening! Not only did He announce it to Mary, Joseph, and Zachariah (John Baptist’s father) – to whom it directly pertained as flesh and blood relatives – He also had told a random pious old man named Simeon, and an old prayer warrior named Anna. The eyes of the Lord were searching diligently to find ANYONE He could share this great news with – indeed the greatest news which would ever be told! In the end He had to announce the news to a group of uncircumcised Gentiles (the Magi) so far removed from the people of God (Israel) that the biblical writers did not even seem to know what nation it was they were actually from(!) and a crowd of working shepherds in the fields. The rocks were crying out!
It seems that EVERYONE who was on page with the Spirit of prophecy to any degree was aware of the coming Messiah (and some who weren’t necessarily on page with the Spirit of prophecy, for God sought out the Shepherds, and we have no record of their ever having heard from God before).
Once again I will emphasize this fact from the story: those who were listening for God’s voice, and willing to obey it were preserved.
Likewise we can learn much from the people who were NOT hearing the voice of God in the story. First, there was Herod, himself. Herod is the antichrist figure – God is not speaking to Him; but this man is shrewd. He learns from the things that God HASN’T said to Him. Further, although his heart is set against God, Herod knows that the Word of God is completely, and infallibly True. He also is wise enough to listen to prophetic voices – He believes both in the Word of God, AND that God still speaks to men through the Spirit of prophecy.
Understanding that he is in opposition to the will of God, Herod, by craft goes to the experts. He goes to those who he knows understands the things of God. First he goes to the chief priests, and scribes of Israel, and learns from the Book (notice, that the chief priests, and scribes, themselves are not in the present, and living voice of God – rather than discerning the motives of Herod’s heart through the spirit of prophecy, they conspire with him (whether wittingly, or unwittingly). I believe that had there been even a single prophet in the bunch, the motives of Herod’s heart would have been called out, and at the very least, they would not have assisted the serpent in his search to murder the Messiah.
Here is something interesting though, too. Herod had confidence that the chief priests were not in the voice of God! He had no qualms learning from the Word at their mouth, for they were experts in the Law, but when it came to learning the present, living Word to declare the season he called the Magi to him instead. He also called them ‘privily,’ and had no fear that the priests of Israel would prophetically find out what he was doing.
The Antichrist knew good and well that the very priests of God were not on page with what God was presently doing! He was intentionally upholding a dead religion for the power it gave him – and he was shrewd enough to outsmart all the blind priests. AH! But NOT those who were presently in the voice of the living God!
How to prepare for the tribulation? SPIRIT OF PROPHECY! In the same way that God guided Joseph, and the wise men out of danger, the days will come when saints must diligently heed the voice of the Spirit of God for the safety of their life, and limb.
Consider what happened in the region when Joseph left: TRIBULATION. Herod took and killed EVERY CHILD two years old and under. Joseph was in the voice of God and took warning. We can’t simply assume that only Joseph heard God because his Son was the Messiah; I believe that God was warning ANYONE WHO WOULD LISTEN, but only those with ears to hear took heed, and only those who obeyed the voice of God were saved.
Here was Jesus’ warning concerning the last days:
34 And take heed to yourselves, lest at any time your hearts be overcharged with surfeiting, and drunkenness, and cares of this life, and so that day come upon you unawares.
35 For as a snare shall it come on all them that dwell on the face of the whole earth.
36 Watch ye therefore, and pray always, THAT YE MAY BE ACCOUNTED WORTHY TO ESCAPE ALL THESE THINGS THAT SHALL COME TO PASS, and to stand before the Son of man.
While there is no rapture, there WILL be those who escape the greatest trials of the great tribulation. The key is this: just as Joseph, and the Magi…
WATCH AND PRAY.