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Luke 2:11 says,

Luke 2:11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.

The verse declares Jesus to be the Savior, but at that point, he hadn't yet saved us, for he had yet to suffer for our sins.

Isaiah 53:5 But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed.
1 Peter 2:24 He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed.

Additionally, to be the Christ means to be the anointed. The only time the Bible declares that Jesus was specifically anointed was at his baptism.

37 You know what has happened throughout the province of Judea, beginning in Galilee after the baptism that John preached— 38 how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and power, and how he went around doing good and healing all who were under the power of the devil, because God was with him. - Acts 10:36-37

21 Now when all the people were baptized, and when Jesus also had been baptized and was praying, the heavens were opened, 22 and the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form, like a dove; and a voice came from heaven, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.” Luke 3:21-22

It was only after Jesus's baptism does he declare

18 “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because he has anointed me

to proclaim good news to the poor -Luke 4:18

Since Jesus had not saved us by merely being born and since he was not anointed until after his baptism, should we thus understand Luke 2:11's identification of the child as "a Savior, who is Christ the Lord" to be a prophetic identification or designation - a role Jesus was to fulfill and not his actual status since he had not yet saved or had been anointed?

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Jesus was already "slain from the foundation of the world" (Revelation 13:8). God cannot lie. Once He has committed to something, it is as good as done. And the first time that fallen man heard God's promise of a savior was in the Garden of Eden.

And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel. (Genesis 3:15, KJV)

Adam and Eve understood this to mean that one would be born to them who would be their savior. This is why Eve was so happy at the birth of Cain.

And Adam knew Eve his wife; and she conceived, and bare Cain, and said, I have gotten a man from the LORD. (Genesis 4:1, KJV)

She actually thought that Cain was the promised One. As we know, she was to be disappointed. But the promise was already made, and in due time it was fulfilled.

God's Anointing Can Precede the Birth

Thus saith the LORD to his anointed, to Cyrus, whose right hand I have holden, to subdue nations before him; and I will loose the loins of kings, to open before him the two leaved gates; and the gates shall not be shut; (Isaiah 45:1, KJV)

This prophecy was given by Isaiah, who was not even alive when Cyrus was born about seventy years later. Cyrus wasn't even named yet--but God knew his name. God knows the future, and to Him, it is as much the truth as if it had already happened. God even makes special mention of His ability to call Cyrus by name, in advance.

And I will give thee the treasures of darkness, and hidden riches of secret places, that thou mayest know that I, the LORD, which call thee by thy name, am the God of Israel. (Isaiah 45:3, KJV)

The story of Cyrus' birth is actually a fascinating one known to historians but not found in the Bible. God obviously preserved him from death so that he might do the work God had laid out for him.

If Cyrus can be "anointed" decades before his birth, why cannot Jesus be "anointed" before his baptism and after his birth? Yet, in fact, he was "anointed" well before his birth, as is also recorded in Isaiah, for Luke 4:18 is quoting from the Old Testament prophet.

The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me; because the LORD hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek; he hath sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound; (Isaiah 61:1, KJV)

Jesus was reading from Isaiah in the quote given in Luke, and Jesus finished reading that passage with a special pronouncement:

And he began to say unto them, This day is this scripture fulfilled in your ears. (Luke 4:21, KJV)

Therefore, what the Old Testament had already recorded as true became fulfilled in the days of Christ.

It hardly matters whether one considers Luke 2:11 to be a prophecy or not. In either case, Christ was the Anointed One--the One prophesied to be our Messiah and Redeemer. It was just as much true at his birth as at any later time when it may have been "fulfilled."

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Yes, it's prophecy in the true sense, which is revealing the hidden things of God. That is, prophecy is revelation, so John's Apocalypse is a work of prophecy because it is an apocalypse, completely independent of any predictions which may be in it. Most of the gospels are works of prophecy, and the sayings of Jesus are almost entirely prophecy. Jesus is a greater prophet than Moses.

It's not prophecy in secular parlance, which is predicting the future, because the savior was born that day and on no other day. If Luke said "tomorrow the savior will be born", then that would be a prediction of the future.

But revealing the things of the spirit -- e.g. that Jesus is the savior -- is the definition of prophecy. It is a revelation of Christ, just as much prophecy as anything in John's apocalypse, or the revelation given to Peter in Matt 16.6 ("You are the Christ, the son of the living God") which is also just as much of a prophecy as anything in the book of Isaiah.

The prediction of future events became entangled with the definition of prophecy in secular parlance because such predictions were used as proofs that the prophecies were authentic, but these proof-statements were in and of themselves incidental to the actual content of the prophecy, in the same way that a royal seal on an edict is incidental to the content of the edict, and in many cases such predictions were unnecessary because either the hearer was spiritually minded and so could discern the truth of the prophecy for themselves, or because the prophecy was a revelation of something they could immediately verify without additional proofs:

We are told by Paul in 1 Cor 14.3 (ESV)

the one who prophesies speaks to people for their upbuilding and encouragement and consolation.

No mention of predictions are needed, because upbuilding, encouragement, and consolation can be immediately validated by the hearer.

Paul continues in verse 24:

But if all prophesy, and an unbeliever or outsider enters, he is convicted by all, he is called to account by all, the secrets of his heart are disclosed, and so, falling on his face, he will worship God and declare that God is really among you.

Thus the unbeliever can immediately verify the truth of the prophecy without waiting for predictions to be fulfilled, because the secrets of his heart are disclosed.

We can see this in action with Jesus telling the Samaritan woman that she had five husbands, after which she responded by saying "I see that you are a prophet" (John 4.19). No prediction of the future was necessary for her to validate the truth of Jesus' statement. But it was still a prophecy.

So at this point it should be clear that "to understand something prophetically" is a nonsensical statement to those who are using the Biblical definition of prophecy. To understand something as a prophecy is just to understand it, nothing more.

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Luke 2:11 must be understood in the context of the other statements about Jesus being crucified:

  • Rev 13:8 - All inhabitants of the earth will worship the beast—all whose names have not been written in the Lamb’s book of life, the Lamb who was slain from the creation of the world.
  • Rom 1:20 - For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.

Thus, when Jesus was born, He was designated as the sacrificial Lamb of God, designated as the anointed Messiah, etc. That is, Jesus at His birth was the designated Savior, even though He had not yet endured the cross.

It is like the arrival of the un-defeated champion into a fight - such is still called the champion even before the fight is staged. Jesus was such a champion and confirmed as such when he conquered the cross -

Heb 12:2 - Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

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