This past Sunday marked the first day of the Advent season leading up to the universal church’s celebration of the first appearing of the Christ, whose name is Jesus, the eternal Son of God incarnate, on Christmas. His first appearing was promised from of old. Even in the opening acts of the biblical drama, God promises there would come an offspring born of woman who would defeat the serpent. The rest of the Old Testament anticipated the coming of this offspring and prophesied in increasing specificity who this offspring would be. Years passed and decades passed. Centuries passed and millennia passed. The angst of waiting had become a nearly unbearable weight.
It is perhaps too easy for us to dismiss how unbearable the waiting had become for God’s people. They had this ancient promise from the God who had time and time again proven faithful to them despite their constant unfaithfulness to Him. And yet this promise, the greatest promise of them all, seemed to be empty.
My oldest daughter is nearly two now, and every time I promise her something, she expects me to make good on that promise immediately. If daddy says he will take her to play on the playground tomorrow, she grabs her shoes and gets ready to go now. For older children, the wait until their birthday or even Christmas is exhausting. They will wake up in October asking if it’s Christmas yet. They don’t just know the angst of waiting, they feel it. They have the promise of playgrounds and birthdays and Christmas morning, and they want nothing more than to feel the joy of realizing the things promised to them. The rest of the world fades away and all that matters is that promised day.
This is the beauty of the Advent season—we live intentionally in the angst of waiting so that we can feel the joy of the greatest promise ever kept.
This is the beauty of the Advent season—we live intentionally in the angst of waiting so that we can feel the joy of the greatest promise ever kept. God’s people had long hoped for the advent of the Christ. Through the shame of banishment out of the Garden, the distress of slavery in Egypt, the agony of wandering the desert, the sorrow of exile, there flickered still the light of promise. The promise of an offspring who would crush the head of the serpent, of a son of Abraham through whom all the nations would be blessed, of the son of David who would rightly and justly rule over his people, of the very presence of God with His people, shone as a beacon of hope enduring the generations and prevailing through the night. And, at last, He came with the angelic announcement: “I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.” As the old Christmas hymn sweetly sings: “The hopes and fears of all the years are met in Thee tonight.”
Yet for us, Advent is not merely a looking back upon the night when Heaven’s Light broke into our world. It is also a looking forward to the day when He will return! We, like Israel, possess the promise from God that Christ will come. The promise of Acts 1.11 is that “Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.” Jesus himself promises in Revelation 22 that He is coming soon. The work He began at His first advent to reconcile all things back to God He will finish once and for all at His second advent.
The appearing of the Lord deserves a supreme love. It should consume us like the toddler waiting for Christmas in October.
According to the apostle Paul, the soon coming of Christ’s second advent ought to inform and compel the whole of the Christian life. Near the end of his life, Paul wrote to Timothy in 2 Timothy 4.7-8, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that Day, and not only to me but to all who have loved his appearing.” The appearing of the Lord deserves a supreme love. It should consume us like the toddler waiting for Christmas in October. But we await something far greater than presents under the tree. There are, among a thousand others, seven things that will prove true and be for us unimaginable, unending joy when Christ, as promised, comes again.
Christ’s righteousness will be fully, manifestly the believer’s. Those to whom God has granted by faith Christ’s righteousness will at last act in perfect accordance with Christ’s righteousness. No more will there be disparity between our identity in Christ and our behavior in the flesh. No more will we be led away by the lingering desires to indulge in sin. We will at last be set free from our bondage to our body of death to righteousness and life. All ailments—spiritual and physical—will be healed the very first moment we enter the light of His presence. We will see Him and become like Him.
The Lord’s judgement of sin will be fully, perfectly just. The Lord has made gracious provision for sin in the death of Christ. There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ. But for those who still refuse Him, His appearing will once and for all reveal the evil of the world as the cosmic offense against God’s holiness. The evil against God and His people will meet its just retribution. The cries of the martyrs, “How long, O Lord?” will be no more because on the Day He returns, Christ will bring with Him His recompense to repay each one for what He has done. He shall execute justice and righteousness in the land. And all will be made right.
His appearing brings His kingdom. The Kingdom of God characterized by the glorious presence of God with His people will come on earth as it is in heaven. And we, His people, will reign with Him. So it shall be forever and ever, world without end.
Scripture will be fulfilled. The perfect Word of God will be upheld for all of eternity. The tears and joys, the conviction and comfort the Word of God has brought us over the years will prove seeds that produce a harvest of love from which we will gladly glean for all of eternity as we enjoy unending fellowship with the Word become flesh.
Our labors in the Lord will prove not in vain. Our work in this world is marked with frustration and strife, with disappointment and incompletion. But when Christ comes again, we will see how, in the providence of God to which we are now so blind, our labors in the Lord are not in vain. We will see the completion of all of our work we aimed at loving God and loving neighbor, and the fruit of our work will forever be offered for the welfare of our neighbor in the Kingdom of God.
The gospel will have gathered all the nations. God’s concern for all nations will result in a gathering around the throne of the Lamb some from every tribe and language and people and nation. The glory of God’s grace will shine radiantly in the diversity of His blood-bought bride, and it will be a sign forever more that He alone is God and He alone will be exalted among the nations.
Unity within the church will be made perfect. The strife and dissension among the people of God will dissolve into perfect unity. We will have the mind of Christ among us that will produce an ethic of love toward one another. And in doing so, we will actually share in the life of the Trinity of love.