The Purpose of Advent, Part 4

 

 

Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many; and he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him.  (Hebrews 9:28 | TNIV)

 

It’s hard to believe, but we are at the end of our four week study, The Purpose of Advent. Advent is celebrated by many churches, and it’s the four week period just before Christmas Day. I’ve tried to answer the question, Why did Jesus come to us? There is, to me, a four-fold purpose to that first Advent. He came, first of all, to destroy all the works of the Devil. Second, He came to take away sins. And third, Jesus came the first time to reveal the Father. 

 

So far, we’ve been looking backward at the first Advent – that first coming of Jesus into our world. For the fourth reason of the first Advent, we look in the other direction; we look forward to His Second Advent because the fourth reason for the first Advent is that that Jesus came the first time to prepare to come a Second time.

 

The first Advent was a joyous time. Two thousand years on, we still “celebrate” that first coming of Jesus, with all kinds of joyous activities. We give and receive gifts; we spend time with friends and family; we sing cheerful Christmas carols; we decorate our homes, churches, and offices with pine trees and bright lights. Much of that is the “secular” side of Christmas. If you’re an atheist, you can thank a Christian that during the lousiest, darkest, most miserable time of year, you probably get a few days off and can enjoy some “goodwill toward men.” 

 

The first Advent was announced like this, by angels, no less!

 

But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”  (Luke 2:10 – 12 | TNIV)

 

“Good news of great joy!” That was how the Advent was announced to a bunch of lonely shepherds on a cold, dark night. But to Mary, the mother of Jesus, the announcement went like this:

 

But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God. You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; his kingdom will never end.”  (Luke 1:30 – 33 | TNIV)

 

And even the prophet Isaiah, many centuries before the first Advent, wrote about it is a positive and upbeat manner:

 

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. The zeal of the Lord Almighty will accomplish this.  (Isaiah 9:6 – 7 | TNIV)

 

And yet, we now know that almost none of that happened. The birth of Jesus came and went almost unnoticed. He lived His life, not venturing more than a few miles from His home town. He did a lot of good things, changed some lives for the better, and was even the reason for the growth of the greatest movement of faith ever in history. And yet, we are all very aware that the world, for the most part, hasn’t changed. Nothing is perfect, much of what He came to do, is still undone. Look around you on any given day, and you can see all the works of the Devil on full display. Sin is still all over the place, too. Most of the world still has yet to discover the Son of God, who came to us on that first Advent. 

 

There must be more. The first Advent demands something else.

 

We don’t know who wrote it, but the letter to the Hebrews states in no uncertain terms that, “Christ will appear a second time…” There’s no other way to interpret that statement other than the obvious way. At some point in time, Jesus Christ will come back here; He will be seen by everybody. As a matter of fact, the Second Advent is a major teaching of the New Testament.

 

For example, when the risen Christ ascended to heaven, leaving behind a group of bewildered followers on the mountainside, we read this:

 

“Men of Galilee,” they said, “why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven.” (Acts 1:11 | TNIV)

 

Three decades earlier, an angel announced the immanent arrival of Jesus to the earth, and as He left to return home, an angel declared that one day, Jesus would come back, “in the same way you have seen him go into heaven.” In other words, human beings will see Him coming back with their own eyes! He’s coming back, or the angels were wrong.

 

The apostle Paul, in his letters, was well aware that Jesus absence was just a temporary one – that one day He would be back. In his letter to the church at Thessalonica, he wrote this:

 

For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first.  (1 Thessalonians 4:16 | TNIV)

 

This hope in the Second Advent was one the driving forces behind the incredible growth of the early church. Peter, when he wrote a letter to encourage some discouraged believers, used the reality of the Second Advent as a way to bolster their faith.

 

Therefore, with minds that are alert and fully sober, set your hope on the grace to be brought to you when Jesus Christ is revealed at his coming.  (1 Peter 1:13 | TNIV)

 

Look at the words Peter used and you’ll realize that believing in and hoping for the Second Advent is no pie-in-the-sky, escapist fantasy. Our minds are to “alert and fully sober” even as we wait for and anticipate our Lord’s return. James, the half-brother of Jesus, used the fact that Jesus was coming back as a way to encourage his readers to live better lives.

 

Be patient, then, brothers and sisters, until the Lord’s coming. See how the farmer waits for the land to yield its valuable crop, patiently waiting for the autumn and spring rains. You too, be patient and stand firm, because the Lord’s coming is near. Don’t grumble against one another, brothers and sisters, or you will be judged. The Judge is standing at the door!  (James 5:7 – 9 | TNIV)

 

The apostle John, who loved the Lord like no other, also wrote a powerful truth about the Second Advent as a way to encourage hope for the future and holy living for the present:

 

Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. All who have this hope in him purify themselves, just as he is pure.  (1 John 3:2, 3 | TNIV)

 

This is just the briefest sampling of what the New Testament says about the Second Advent. Every single New Testament writer presents the Second Advent as a common believe of the Christian faith. It motivated them to live better lives, to treat each other better, to spread the Gospel to the lost, and to take seriously the Word of God. I believe that the church today needs to rethink the Second Advent – to start looking for the event to happen; to start talking about it; to live with the expectation that Jesus could come back any time. 

 

The writer to the Hebrews not only declared that Jesus would appear again, but that when He appears next time, He will “not bear sin.” The first Advent was all about Jesus coming to deal with the sins of the world; to destroy the devil’s works. It’s no exaggeration to say that while all the work Jesus did during His first Advent paved the way for His Second Advent, the Second Advent will bear NO resemblance in any way to the first. Man’s sin necessitated the first Advent. Jesus came to deal with sin. By our Lord’s first Advent, the awfulness of sin was revealed. From the “slaughter of the innocents” which accompanied His birth to His own death on the Cross, Jesus’ presence on earth the first time showed man just how bad sin was and the extreme effect it has on people.

 

At the Second Advent, our Lord will come to “bring salvation to those who are waiting on him.” What does that mean? Well, there are actually three tenses or phases to the salvation you possess. To all of you who have heard the message of the first Advent and believed it and have trusted in Christ to be your Savior, then you are saved. But you are also being saved in the present tense as you are grow in your faith and in holiness and righteousness. And you will be saved when the Lord returns in the future tense because at His Second Advent there will be complete salvation for you – you will be made completely righteous, you will be actually sanctified, and your body redeemed.  

 

There is so much more waiting for us than what we have received thus far. The Second Advent will be for those who are watching and waiting for it. In fact, all of creation is waiting for the Second Advent to take place.

 

I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. The creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed.  (Romans 8:18, 19 | TNIV)

 

The Lord is coming back. I trust this is your hope today, as we are days away from Christmas. Jesus came to begin a great work which He will finish when He returns. You and I, today, stand between the two Advents. Our relation to the first creates our relation to the Second. I hope you’re ready for the Second Advent. Jesus can come back any time!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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