Christian Living

Spiritual Life

Living Between Two Advents

"O come, O come Emmanuel,
and ransom captive Israel
that mourns in lonely exile here
until the Son of God appear." 

The words of this popular Christmas song capture the tone of Advent—intense longing for the coming of the Savior.

With Christmas festivities often beginning in November—or September, for that matter, when Christmas decorations appear in stores—it can be easy to skip over the season of Advent and go straight to the joy of Christmas Day and the celebration of Jesus’ birth.

However, Advent is a season of preparation that reminds us to long for Jesus. As the people in darkness waited for the Messiah’s first coming (Matthew 4:16), so now we await His return. We need to keep both of Jesus’ advents in mind as we prepare our hearts: 

  1. In His first coming, Jesus suffered and died as our Savior.
  2. In His second coming, Jesus will return as Judge and reigning King.

The season of Advent invites us to look back to the humility of His first coming in order to prepare for the glory of His second coming. 

Our Suffering Savior

The prophets anticipated Jesus’ first coming for hundreds of years. They awaited the Messiah who would save God’s people from oppression and exile, yearning for salvation. The apostle Peter wrote of this in his first epistle: 

As to this salvation, the prophets who prophesied of the grace that would come to you made careful searches and inquiries, seeking to know what person or time the Spirit of Christ within them was indicating as He predicted the sufferings of Christ and the glories to follow. (1 Peter 1:10-11 NASB)
The prophets looked ahead to Jesus’ birth, but we have the benefit of being able to look back and read about the incarnation, when the second Person of the Trinity, the One who holds the cosmos together, “became flesh and dwelt among us” (John 1:14 NASB).

This is a deep and profound mystery.

The Son of God took on the humility of humanity and came not as reigning King but as our suffering Savior. He was fully God and fully man, living in righteousness and dying for our sins so we might move from alienation to intimacy with God.

The season of Advent reminds us of the reason Jesus came to earth: to suffer and die for us, rising again so we might be made new in Him. Meditating on Jesus’ first coming reminds us to worship Him for this salvation, bought at so high a price. 

Our Reigning King

However, Jesus’ first coming is not the end of the story. 

Instead of immediately establishing an earthly kingdom, Jesus ascended into heaven, where He is seated at the right hand of God (Ephesians 1:20). We are still waiting for Him to return as Judge and reigning King.

The prophets also anticipated His eternal reign (see Daniel 7:14), but the timeline between His two comings was not yet evident to them. Imagine Jesus’ two advents in terms of looking at two mountain peaks. From miles away the distance between them may look small, as if you could ascend one mountain and step onto the next with ease. Up close, however, the true distance is revealed—there is a valley between the peaks.

We are living in the valley, waiting for Jesus to come again. He has given us salvation, and in Him we have “every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 1:3 NASB). However, we have not yet experienced the fullness of His promises—though we are being progressively sanctified, we wait for the day when we will be fully transformed into His image.

Even though we do not know when Christ is coming back, we can have confidence that He will return (2 Peter 3:8-9). The season of Advent reminds us to prepare for His coming, not continuing to live in sin but submitting to Him. 

As we celebrate Christmas this year and the marvelous mystery of the incarnation, let us shift our perspective to live every day in light of that Day when Jesus will return. In doing so, we can join in the final words that close the Bible, praying, “Come, Lord Jesus” (Revelation 22:20 NASB).

Copyright © 2020 Ken Boa, used with permission.

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