Results tagged “Second Coming” from Reformation21 Blog

The Advent Season: Not Just Christmas

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Early in my pastoral ministry a thoughtful young man came with an interesting question while our congregation was in the midst of celebrating the Advent season. The question arose from a hymn sung during a Lord's Day worship service. The hymn was the Isaac Watts classic "Joy to the World." The question was, "Pastor, why are we singing a hymn during Christmas containing lyrics that refer to the 2nd coming of Christ?" My pastoral response was twofold.

First, together we examined the hymn. It soon became obvious the hymn actually contained lyrics that referred to both the 1st Advent (i.e. His Incarnation and Birth) and lyrics to the 2nd Advent (His Second Coming). Furthermore, the hymn, verse by verse, traces the triumph of Christ as the Redeemer of His people from His 1st Advent to His 2nd Advent.

Secondly, we noted there are multiple hymns sung during the Advent season which exalt the Lord for His redeeming work in both the 1st and 2nd Advents. Then, it was my turn to ask a question. "Why do you think so many Advent hymns sung at "Christmas" extol both Advents of Christ?" The answer though simple has been lost to many. But, if recaptured can lead us to a profound blessing.

The reason so many hymns and confessions associated with the Christmas celebrations reference both the 1st and 2nd Advents is because the early church intentionally designed the Advent Season to celebrate both the 1st and 2nd Advents of Christ. Why?

The Advent is a work of God's grace whereby God Himself has come to us, to be among us and become one of us in order to save us from our sins and will come again for us to be with us forever. The Old Testament, through types, symbols, prophecies and Christophanies (i.e. pre-incarnate appearances of Christ) anticipated the coming of the Messiah - the Promised One - in whom "all of the Promises of God are yes and amen." Those Messianic prophetic Promises can be summed up with two specific Promises.

  • The first Promise was that the Messiah would "save His people from all of their sins" and deliver them from all of His and their enemies.
  • The second Promise was that the Messiah would not only defeat these enemies but would ultimately destroy them and deliver His people into a glorious forever Kingdom.

But when the Messiah came into the world to fulfill God's promises He revealed a surprising yet Biblically consistent truth. The Epiphany of the Messiah was not one Advent to accomplish two Divine Promises but two Advents, each one designed to accomplish one of the two Promises.

The 1st Advent or the Incarnation when the Son of God humbled Himself by taking upon Himself true humanity through the prophesied Virgin conception/birth was designed to fulfill the first Promise that God would "save His people from their sins" and defeat all of His and their enemies. The second Promise that He would receive His people to Himself and destroy His defeated enemies in His 1st Advent would be fulfilled by a 2nd Advent when He would "come again" in that same incarnate body now resurrected and transformed for all eternity - Two Epiphanies - Two Advents.

"For the grace of God has "appeared" (ἐπεφάνη - 1st Advent) bringing salvation to all men; disciplining us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously and godly in this present age; looking for the blessed hope and "appearance" (ἐπιφάνειαν - 2nd Advent) of our great God and Savior Christ Jesus, who gave Himself for us to redeem us and to purify for Himself a people for His own possession zealous for good deeds" (Titus 2:11-14).

Gradually for multiple reasons the Advent season initiated by the celebration of His 1st Advent - Christmas - when He was born "to save His people from their sins" and to defeat His and our enemies at the Cross, became the singular focus of the Advent season. One reason is that the 1st Advent is the occasion of His humiliation which was accomplished, not by the subtraction of His deity but, by the addition of His humanity. Another reason is that the 1st Advent celebrates His Incarnation, a necessary act of God to save sinners - "by a man came death, by a man comes the resurrection of the dead." Yet another reason is that the triumph of the 1st Advent assures the 2nd Advent and the 2nd Advent consummates the victory of the 1st Advent. A final reason is the 1st Advent is a fact of history while the 2nd Advent is a prophetic promise which makes it pre-written history.

But pastorally, while not being enslaved or conscience-bound to observe a church calendar, I would suggest that if we intentionally returned to the historic emphasis of the Advent season which intentionally celebrates the 1st Advent while also anticipating the 2nd Advent we could add a theological focus which would enhance our pastoral ministries of both celebration/worship and discipleship/equipping. So, here is a pastoral recommendation: Start reclaiming the vibrancy of the advent season from secularization by enhancing our commitment to the great commission of making disciples through emphasizing the inseparable dynamic relationship of both advents of Christ.

In a word, let's return to the historic objective of using the Advent season to affirm both the victory of Christ in His 1st Advent and our longing for the consummation of His victory in the 2nd Advent. In so doing we would not only minister to a heart-felt need in the lives of God's people we would also more effectively disciple God's people and more effectively proclaim the Gospel of Hope to the world.

The Advent season, historically, was designed to minister to the grace-implanted and grace-nurtured heart of every Christian. A heart which both "rests" in the joy of our Savior's victorious 1st Advent and yet a heart which is also "restless" in the anticipation of our Savior's 2nd Advent to receive us to Himself that we might be with Him in a New Heavens and a New Earth forever.

"I go away to prepare a place for you and if I go away to prepare a place of you I will come again so that where I am there you may be also... Even so come quickly Lord Jesus."

 

Prepping in Biblical Perspective

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Like any movement, the prepping community includes a wide range of individuals. From preparing for zombie attacks to doomsday scenarios to hurricanes to simply preparing for the winter season, the underlying motives behind this movement have taken many forms--spanning the spectrum of personal preparedness and personalities. Some, within the prepping community, simply enjoy a homesteading lifestyle while others seem to be preparing for World War III.

To be transparent, I am sympathetic with the overarching idea of prepping. I learned early on as a boy scout to "be prepared." As an adult, I have come to understand the sobering reality of buying insurance, locking the front door at night, and having a fire escape plan--all "just in case" something bad happened. From preparing for our week ahead to thinking through the coming year, we all prepare to some degree or another. But is preparation contradictory to biblical teaching? Didn't Jesus tell his disciples not to worry and be anxious about tomorrow (Matt. 6:25-34)?

Before answering these questions directly, here is a survey of some biblical passages that speak about our need to be prepared--both by way of example and precept:

  • (Gen. 6-9) - the example of Noah, preparing for the flood. See also (Heb. 11:7) "By faith Noah, being warned by God concerning events as yet unseen, in reverent fear constructed an ark for the saving of his household."
  • (Gen. 41:47-49) - the example of Joseph. During the seven plentiful years the earth produced abundantly, and he gathered up all the food of these seven years, which occurred in the land of Egypt, and put the food in the cities. He put in every city the food from the fields around it. And Joseph stored up grain in great abundance, like the sand of the sea, until he ceased to measure it, for it could not be measured."
  • (Neh. 4) - the example of Nehemiah rebuilding the wall and all of the preparations of both building and protection involved.
  • (Prov. 6:6-9) "Go to the ant, O sluggard; consider her ways, and be wise. Without having any chief, officer, or ruler, she prepares her bread in summer and gathers her food in harvest. How long will you lie there, O sluggard? When will you arise from your sleep?"
  • (Prov. 16:9) "The heart of man plans his way, but the LORD establishes his steps." We see here the complementary truths of our planning and God's sovereignty.
  • (Prov. 22:3) "The prudent sees danger and hides himself, but the simple go on and suffer for it."
  • (Prov. 24:27) "Prepare your work outside; get everything ready for yourself in the field, and after that build your house."
  • (Prov. 27:12) "The prudent sees danger and hides himself, but the simple go on and suffer for it." [note: repetition of Prov. 22:3]
  • (Eccl.  11:1-2) "Cast your bread upon the waters, for you will find it after many days. Give a portion to seven, or even to eight, for you know not what disaster may happen on earth."
  • (Ezek. 33:6) "But if the watchman sees the sword coming and does not blow the trumpet, so that the people are not warned, and the sword comes and takes away one of them, that person is taken away in his iniquity."
  • (Ezek. 38:7) "Be ready and keep ready, you and all your hosts that are assembled about you."
  • (Luke 14:28) "For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it?"
  • (Luke 22:36) "He said to [his disciples], 'But now let the one who has a moneybag take it, and likewise a knapsack. And let the one who has no sword sell his cloak and buy one."
  • (1 Tim. 5:8) "But if anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever."
  • While one could include all of the passages on preparing and being ready for Christ's Second Coming under the general theme of "preparation," I've chosen to leave these out for the purposes of this discussion.
  • The words "prepare," "preparation," "keep watch" (and the like) appear over 150x throughout Scripture.

As is evident from the passages above, faith and preparedness often go hand-in-hand. We see this so clearly the example of Noah. If you see danger coming--whether from a forecasted ice storm, home invasion, solar EMP, financial collapse, or a hurricane--you prepare. God has given us minds to use and guidance to follow.

At the same time, we are called to trust in God and not to be plagued by worry or anxiety. The biblical "prepper" trusts in God's goodness and sovereignty and, therefore, doesn't succumb to being gripped by sinful fear. However, he is also one who looks ahead with wisdom to provide for his family (1 Tim. 5:8) and, in a broader context, the household of faith (Gal. 6:10).

We should also strive to be less dependent on others--including the government--for basic means and living (1 Thess. 4:11; 2 Thess. 3:6-12). The Scriptures include many "one another" instructions (e.g., forgiving, bearing with, caring for, etc.), but we should not want to be a perpetual burden on others or become reliant on Uncle Sam to take care of us (as many in New Orleans sadly learned the hard way in 2005). As our society and nation have become increasingly interconnected with other societies and nations, one weak link can have an increasing crippling impact on the entire "system." We've seen this in recent times with the collapse of Greece's financial system and its subsequent havoc on Western retirement accounts. We've seen how a leak in a gas pipeline cripples many states over night. One company's bad news in the stock market sends fear throughout our entire culture. Most of us have lost the old arts of preserving food, keeping a family garden, obtaining clean water, making household items, taking care of animals, and even changing oil in a car. As a whole, Americans are not prepared to weather any significant storm.

The church, in particular, will face perilous times in the coming years. Christian men, women, and children will have to endure increasing persecution from an increasingly hostile culture, intolerant government, and from Islamic militants. This shouldn't surprise us. Jesus often prepared his disciples for this reality. In many ways, the church is starting to reflect the plight of Israel in Babylon. In the midst of their exile, God told his people, "Build houses and live in them; plant gardens and eat their produce...seek the welfare of the city" (Jer. 29:5-7). Build houses, plant gardens, and pray for your city. Not exactly earth-shattering news; just simple, sustainable, and faithful living.

If you and your family do the research and sense a significant likelihood of danger approaching, take reasonable and appropriate steps to prepare. If you live in Florida, the preparations you would make will certainly be different than if you live in Kansas or Alaska. If you live in a volatile financial culture, consider other ways to diversify your assets, like acquiring commodities. I'm not suggesting that you spend your entire retirement overnight on a doomsday bunker, but I am suggesting that you think about whether or not you and your family could survive for a short season (at the least) if you didn't have access to electricity, gas, or the grocery store. That doesn't seem too far-fetched. As an Uzbek Christian once said, "Trust God and keep your donkey tied up."

Brian Cosby (PhD, Australian College of Theology) is senior pastor of Wayside Presbyterian Church (PCA) on Signal Mountain, Tennessee, and visiting professor of church history at Reformed Theological Seminary, Atlanta. Brian has authors numerous books including Giving Up the Gimmicks: Reclaiming Youth Ministry from an Entertainment Culture.