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Joy to the World and Christ’s First Advent

As a small child, I didn’t think very much about the lyrics to Joy to the World. It was just a song about how Jesus came to save us. When I was a little older, I was told by an adult that the song actually has no business being a Christmas song at all. “He comes to make His blessings flow far as the curse is found”? Look at the news! This song is clearly about Christ’s second advent and the millennial kingdom—so I was informed. I readily agreed and began heartily mocking anyone who dared to even whistle that tune within a month of December the 25th.

But in order to see the Kingdom of God, you must become like a child. It turns out that a childlike interpretation of the song is the correct one and we would all do well to learn from them. Things become quite muddled when we bring out our eschatological charts and start watching FOX News. The people who told me that Joy to the World wasn’t a Christmas song had ignored the song’s authorial intent. The song was more intentionally written then most of our Hillsong tainted ears can easily grasp.

Isaac Watts, you see, was a postmillennialist. He actually believed that when the angels proclaimed that Christ’s coming would bring peace on earth and good will among men, they weren’t prophesying some event that would happen multiple thousands of years later when the shepherds were long dead and humanity had practically destroyed itself in wars. The angels speaking of something Jesus was going to begin at his birth.

Isaac Watts actually believed that Christ came (past tense) to make His blessing flow far as the curse is found. Watts believed that Christ does currently rule the world with truth and grace, making the nations prove the glories of His righteousness and wonders of His love. That is, Watts really believed that Jesus wasn’t exaggerating when He says “all authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Me.” I’d argue that in doing so, he actually took the Bible more literally than our dispensational brethren.

Joy to the World is something that has already come and is indeed growing. Hear the words of Isaiah:

For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given:
and the government shall be upon his shoulder:
and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God,
The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.
Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end,
upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom,
to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice
from henceforth even for ever.
The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this

Isaiah 9:6–7 AV

This prophecy is not something that we yet look forward to. It was fulfilled at Christmas. Of the increase of His government and peace there shall be no end. Christ’s Kingdom is here and will continue to expand until all his enemies have become his footstool (Psalm 110:1). He must reign until He has put all His enemies under His feet (1 Corinthians 15:25). He will continue to build His church and the gates of Hell (or FOX news, or complicated eschatological charts) will not prevail against it (Matthew 16:18).

Joy to the World! The Lord is come; now let earth receive her king.

Comments

  • MarkO says:

    Very well said. Authorial intent is no small matter. So many make the mistake of thinking that “Joy To The World” is not about Christ’s 1st Advent. Indeed it is. I was thinking recently about how many of our Christmas songs and hymns mention the kingship of the Christ child. There are a lot of them that do. Thanks brother.

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