Isaiah prophesied that the incarnate Jesus would be called “Everlasting Father,” among other titles listed in Isaiah 9:6. What does this title mean? Commentators have given a variety of answers to these words contained here:
For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given;
and the government shall be upon his shoulder,
and his name shall be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Of the increase of his government and of peace
there will be no end,
on the throne of David and over his kingdom,
to establish it and to uphold it
with justice and with righteousness
from this time forth and forevermore.
The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this. Isaiah 9:6-7 (ESV)
Jesus, the divine Son, in taking on human flesh, was qualified to fulfill God’s covenant requirements for man in ways that sinful men could not. He became the covenant fulfillment of those who had prefigured him in the Old Testament.
In the title Prince of Peace that comes after Everlasting Father it is easy to see that Jesus is the princely son of David who is qualified to sit on the throne of David forever as promised in 2 Samuel 7:13.
Jesus is the Everlasting Father in that he is uniquely qualified to be the covenant fulfillment of Abraham. Yes, one can point to his being the father of a new race of people as the last Adam. However, the people of Isaiah’s day would have much more rapidly associated this child to be born with Abraham, the father of his people through whom all the nations of the earth would be blessed.
Jesus is qualified to stand as the human father or leader of his people eternally in fulfillment of Abraham who could not shepherd his family forever due to his frailty and death (Galatians 3). Similarly, David’s mere human sons could sit on the throne only for as long as they could live. We see this principle at work in other aspects of the covenant that Jesus fulfills. For instance, you will remember that Aaron’s sons “were prevented by death” from continuing in the office of priest, “but Jesus holds his priesthood permanently, because he continues forever” (Hebrews 5:1-10; 7:23-25).
Notice that this in no way confuses Jesus with his Father in heaven. God the Father is eternally the first person of the Trinity, and God the Son is eternally the Son in the relationship of the Trinity. Jesus does not assume the role of the Heavenly Father.
We celebrate Jesus, who continues to shepherd us in his humanity, as the fatherly head of his own flesh and blood here on earth. Jesus is still the Everlasting Father to us as we remember his incarnation today. He still shows us his fatherly affection (Psalm 103:13). The increase of his government is seen, most clearly, as he governs his church through father-figures who are called to represent him as elders. From his throne, Jesus reigning on the throne in human flesh still takes the children in his arms through the his body (Matthew 19:13-15). As the covenant fulfillment of Abraham, he still wants his children to receive the sign of the covenant, which is today baptism.
At Christmastime, families gather together. The children are beautifully included in all the celebrations in our homes. As the story of our Lord’s birth is read, fathers call their children afresh to faith. Abraham believed the Lord, and it was counted to him as righteousness, and he and his sons received the sign of God’s covenant love to set apart the family of God (Genesis 15:6; Romans 4:3; Genesis 17:1-14). He was to live his life calling his children to faith (Genesis 18:19).
Jesus called people to “believe in me” (John 14:1) when he walked on earth and reminded people that he was not only a man who was born into Abraham’s family but also that “before Abraham was, I Am” (John 8:58). As the fulfillment of Abraham, he still stands at the head of his family and calls us to faith.
So, let us embrace Jesus as our Everlasting Father in flesh and blood this season, the true Abraham to us and to our children forever. May we and our children know his fatherly love. May we submit ourselves to his increasing governance as our Everlasting Father and enjoy the peace that comes under his reign as the Prince of Peace.