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Christmas Through Heaven's Eyes

Christmas looks very different from a heavenly perspective than it does through our eyes on Earth.


Jesus did not deserve to be hung on a wooden cross to suffer for the sins of the human race. While that's exactly what the Christmas story is a prelude to, that reality gets lost sometimes in the busyness of the season.

The death of an innocent life to pay the penalty for our failures seems too negative an idea to think about during the festive holiday season. Instead, we focus our attention on spending money to stimulate our economy, singing familiar Christmas carols, and enjoying time with friends and family. That's what Christmas looks like through our eyes.

But what if we could look at the birth of Jesus from the perspective of heaven? Would what we see be any different than what we see through our own eyes? Would we still emphasize the same things about Christmas if we could see it through heaven's eyes?

Fortunately we don't have to guess, because the Bible itself presents us with a picture of Christmas through heaven's eyes. This picture isn't found in the traditional Christmas story as it's recorded in the New Testament books of Matthew or Luke. It's not even found in the more overtly theological retelling of the story in the book of John. This retelling of the birth of Jesus is found, of all places, in the Book of Revelation.

Revelation provides an interpretation of Christmas.

The Book of Revelation is a written description of a vision that the apostle John experienced while he was in exile on the island of Patmos. John was one of Jesus' followers, and he personally witnessed most of Christ's miracles, including his death on the cross and resurrection from the dead.

John emerged as a leader in the early church, especially among the churches in Asia Minor, which is in modern day Turkey. He was sent into exile for his commitment to Jesus when a horrible outbreak of violence erupted against the Christian faith. The Roman government decided to try to exterminate the Christian faith, and one way to do that was to get rid of the Christian leaders. So John finds himself on a small island off the coast of modern-day Turkey, totally isolated from other Christians. While the people John was called to pastor suffer and die at the hands of government persecution, John is helpless, powerless to do anything to help.

One day while in prayer, John experiences an incredible vision of Jesus Christ in which John sees heaven open. One of the major purposes of this vision is to help us see suffering and pain from heaven's perspective. The vision recounted in the Book of Revelation also sheds light on the future, as it uses symbols, images, and visions to describe the end of human history and the future second coming of Jesus Christ.

In chapter 12 of Revelation, we experience a heavenly flashback to the first Christmas. This flashback looks back at the birth of Jesus, which probably occurred about 80 years before John had this vision. It lifts the curtain and shows John—and us—what the first Christmas looked like from heaven's perspective.

First, we're introduced to a woman clothed with the sun. Exactly who this woman is has been debated by Christians for generations. Some identify this woman as Eve, the mother of the human race. Some of you might remember that the first promise God made about sending his son Jesus Christ was made back in Genesis 3:15. There, God predicted that a future descendant of Eve would crush Satan's head, reversing the effects of sin in the world. Others identify this woman as the nation of Israel. The crown of 12 stars would then stand for the 12 tribes of Israel, and the focus would be on God's using the nation of Israel to bring his son into the world. Still others see the woman as Mary, since she's the one who was actually pregnant and gave birth to Jesus.

I'm not sure we have to decide exactly who this woman represents, since the visions in Revelation often have multiple points of reference. Perhaps the woman refers to Eve, Israel, and to Mary all at once.

The second character in this vision is the child that's born to this woman. Clearly, this is a reference to the birth of Jesus Christ, God's Son. The Book of Revelation is rich with imagery to describe Jesus—calling him "the beginning and the end," "the lamb that was slain for the world's sins," "the conquering king," a lion, and so forth. This is because Revelation is first and foremost a revelation of Jesus Christ, an unveiling of Christ's true character. Here the focus is on Jesus' birth.

Jesus is presented here as a king, a child who's destined to rule the nations with a rod of iron. The word translated "rule" in verse 5 is the verb "to shepherd." It presents Jesus as the true shepherd of the nations, the true guide and leader, who can lead the nations to peace and freedom. A shepherd is a leader who's tender and loving in his leadership, a leader who guides instead of forces. Yet Jesus leads with a rod of iron, which refers to his power and authority as the rightful king. The "rod of iron" balances out the imagery of a shepherd—as a king, Jesus is both tender and firm, caring and just.

The end of verse 5 skips from the birth of Jesus Christ to his ascension, his return to heaven after his death and resurrection. By mentioning the birth of Jesus and then the ascension of Jesus, John is bracketing his entire life together. This is a way of presenting the life of Christ as a comprehensive work. Jesus was born into the world, lived a perfect life, died a sacrificial death for our sins on Good Friday, rose from the grave on Easter Sunday, and then ascended to heaven in the sight of his followers, promising to return again.

The third major character in this vision is a grotesque seven-headed dragon. Throughout the ancient world, there were myths and legends retold about a monster-like dragon that had many heads. Here, the dragon is what John calls "a sign," which means the dragon is a symbol for something else. Verse 9 identifies the dragon as a symbol for Satan, the personification of evil.

Satan is presented as a real supernatural being who has at his disposal one third of the angels, as well as power and authority. When Jesus is born into the world, Satan is waiting to destroy him. While shepherds are watching, angels are singing, and wise men are worshipping, Satan is waiting to make his move.

The attempt to kill the child John sees in this vision is probably a reference to king Herod's attempt to kill Jesus. Herod was the Roman government's puppet king over the nation of Israel. The biography of Jesus called Matthew in the Bible tells us that, when Herod learned that Jesus had been born, he the murder of all boys 2-years-old and younger, because he knew that he wasn't the rightful king and that Jesus was. He did what political leaders do when threatened—he tried to exterminate the competition. John pictures Herod's brutal attempt to kill Jesus as a satanic attempt to stop Jesus in fulfilling his mission.

This song of praise in verses 10-12 reflects back on what the birth, death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus have accomplished. The work of Christ has brought to Earth God's salvation and kingdom. God's salvation is God's deliverance from the sin in our lives; it is reconciliation with the creator. God's kingdom is God's government, his rule over his creation that's been marred by sin and evil since the fall of the human race in Genesis.

Proof that this has all come through Christ is the fact that Satan has been cast down to Earth, and although Satan is still active, he's a defeated enemy of God. Satan still accuses us of our sins and failures. He reminds us of the times we've lied and been unfaithful, of the times we've lost our temper and broken our promises. Yet those who've received God's salvation are able to overcome these hateful accusations through the sacrificial death of Jesus Christ—the blood of the lamb—and by their unflinching allegiance to following Jesus no matter what. Even though Satan is still active and filled with rage, he's on the run and knows his time is short. Since Christ has brought God's salvation and kingdom to the world, the time will come when Christ will be crowned as king and Satan will be finally bound forever.

This vision is designed to help us on the Earth in the meantime endure in our faith, even in the face of evil, suffering, and death. Furthermore, this vision of Christmas through heaven's eyes gives us four insights we wouldn't normally see if all we had was Matthew and Luke's account of the Christmas story. These four insights balance out what we find in the gospel accounts.

The birth of Jesus was a declaration of war.

From heaven's perspective, the birth of Jesus Christ was a declaration of war. The words "Christmas" and "war" don't seem to go together. We tend to picture the birth of Jesus as a tranquil, quiet, and peaceful event. We picture shepherds in wordless wonder gazing at Jesus. We picture animals silently milling about in the stable. Even our songs tell us that when Jesus awakes, "no crying he makes." It's a silent night, in which all of creation holds its breath in silent wonder. But in the unseen world, all hell breaks loose as God finally seeks to wrestle creation from the power of evil. The birth of Jesus was the launch of God's assault on the power of evil. Eugene Peterson notes, "This is not the nativity story we grew up with … Jesus' birth excites more than wonder; it excites evil."

Evil is clearly in our world. We know that better today than we did 100 days ago. I'm talking about the kind of evil that inspires people to fly airplanes into towers, killing thousands of innocent people. God's assault on evil was to bring his Son into the world in a remarkable way, and this assault would ultimately be the defeat of Satan and the works of evil.

The birth of Jesus brought the world's rightful ruler to Earth.

Jesus was the rightful king from his very birth, which is why Herod tried to destroy him. Yet Jesus isn't just king of the Jews, the rightful heir to King David's throne in Israel. Jesus is truly King of kings, Lord of lords—the rightful ruler and creator of the entire universe. Until Jesus assumes his rightful throne over this Earth, every other ruler and political leader will be imperfect and inadequate. As earnest and eager as we are to rid the world of terrorism, we will never be able to bring about the lasting peace that the Prince of Peace, Jesus Christ, will bring to this Earth. Only Christ can truly shepherd the nations and rule with a rod of iron. The birth of Jesus brought the world's rightful ruler to the earth.

The birth of Jesus signaled an invitation to the human race.

Evil has infected the human race like a deadly virus. God has the power to destroy the virus, but if he does, he will also destroy everyone infected with it. This deadly virus is called sin in the Bible, and it's a condition of rebellion to God. According to the Bible, all people have been infected with sin—it's worked itself into the very fabric of our lives. God is going to destroy the sin and evil, but first he wants to offer the human race a cure of the virus, so they don't get swept away when he destroys evil.

When God sent Jesus into the world on Christmas day, he offered an open invitation to flee the eventual destruction of evil and experience God's salvation and reconciliation. It was a call to live under the government of God, to re-orient our lives to live as subjects of God's kingdom rather than the kingdoms of darkness we experience around us.

Once you respond to the invitation, all the other stuff takes on deeper meaning—the lights, the carols, the trees, the gifts. But if you haven't yet responded to this invitation, you've missed the most important part of Christmas. From heaven's perspective, Christmas signaled an invitation to the human race.

Jesus Christ has already overcome the power of sin.

From heaven's perspective, Jesus Christ has already overcome the power of sin. I'm not sure Satan's being cast out of heaven in this vision is supposed to mean anything more than that Satan has been defeated. Although Satan may still be active on the Earth, from the perspective of heaven, he's been defeated and his days are numbered. Any opposition he gives in the meanwhile is simply the desperate act of a defeated foe.

The birth, life, death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus Christ was the only way to overcome Satan and offer salvation to the human race. Only Christ's work could defeat the power of Satan, and Jesus was willing to do whatever it took to accomplish that goal. Though we may still suffer and see evil active in our world, these are merely the desperate convulsions of a defeated enemy. We overcome in the midst of such evil not by striking back with evil ourselves, but by trusting in the power of Christ to finish what he started. We overcome through Christ's death—the blood of the Lamb—and our faithfulness to follow Jesus, even in the face of death. Christmas was the first step Jesus took in overcoming the power of evil in our world.


Christmas through heaven's eyes looks a little different than it looks through our eyes. Through heaven's eyes, Christmas means war has been declared, the world's ruler has come, an invitation has been offered, and evil has been overcome.

Timothy J. Peck is director of the chapel and a lecturer in the school of theology at Azusa Pacific University, Azusa, California. He preaches regularly at Christ our King Church in Azusa.

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Sermon Outline:


Does heaven's perspective of Jesus' birth differ from our perspective?

I. Revelation offers a heavenly description of Jesus' birth.

II. From heaven's perspective, the birth of Jesus was a declaration of war.

III. From heaven's perspective, the birth of Jesus also brought the world's rightful ruler to Earth.

IV. From heaven's perspective, the birth of Jesus signaled an invitation to the human race.

V. From heaven's perspective, Jesus Christ has already overcome the power of sin.


Heaven's perspective on Jesus' birth changes everything.