Why “He will save His people from their sins” doesn’t mean what most Christians think
by Bob Wilkin
“And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.”
Most pastors and authors suggest that what an angel told Joseph concerned the spiritual salvation of all people, especially the church.
Most commentators admit that the OT expectation was for the Messiah to be the national liberator of Israel from the situation of loss of national sovereignty which resulted from their national sins. R. T. France acknowledges this, and then like most commentators says, “Salvation from sins…warns the reader not to expect this Messiah to conform to the more popular hope of a national liberator…” (Matthew, Tyndale, p. 78). Yet that is exactly what readers were to expect.
F.W. Beare directly contradicts the text as well when he writes, “There is an implicit repudiation of the notion that the function of the Messiah is to win an earthly dominion for Israel, or to deliver the nation from subjection to an alien power” (Matthew, pp., 70-71).
The church did not even exist when this statement was made. And Joseph would surely understand the words His people to refer to Israel.
In His first coming the Lord offered salvation to the nation of Israel. That salvation would mean deliverance from Roman rule. It would mean that Messiah would reign on earth from Israel over all the nations.
But Israel rejected His offer of the kingdom. So that generation died without the kingdom coming. So have scores of generations of Jews since that time.
When Jesus comes again, then He will save His people Israel from their sins. That is, He will defeat the Gentile armies that have surrounded Jerusalem and who threaten to annihilate Israel. He will establish His promised kingdom.
Because of their sins, Israel was not the leading world power as it should have been. In fact, it was not even self-governing. The Romans ruled over Israel. But the Lord will save, or deliver, Israel from the consequences of their sins.
The Judges anticipated the work of the Messiah. Each judge delivered or saved Israel from Gentile oppression and rule. One day soon, Messiah Jesus will return and will deliver Israel from Gentile oppression and rule.
Yes, Jesus saves believers, Jewish and Gentile, from eternal condemnation (John 3:17-18). But that is not what Matt 1:21 is talking about. The angel was promising Israel the long-awaited kingdom.
We who are Church Age believers must never forget that Israel is God’s chosen people. We are the bride of Christ. They are the chosen people. Both groups will have a role to play in the Millennium and on the new earth. But the lead nation on earth forever will be Israel. There will be no nation called Church. The Church will be spread among all the nations of the world (Rev 21:24).
As we remember the virgin birth of our Lord and Savior this Christmas, let’s remember Israel. It isn’t all about us. Israel is still God’s chosen people. He will deliver (save) the nation from their sins when he brings his Messianic Kingdom. We have not replaced Israel. God will be faithful to His promises to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.