Article for December edition of the Newsletter
“The Second Advent of the Lord Jesus Christ”
The season of Christmastide is one to which many look forward, especially all who are selling wares that people purchase to give as gifts. If somehow Christmas were not to be celebrated this year, but only the Second Advent of the Lord Jesus Christ, how many would celebrate? When the focus is on gift-giving, nativity scenes, and Christmas trees, it is easy for many people to abandon themselves to the joy of shopping for gifts for those whom they love. But what if suddenly the spotlight weren’t illuminating the manger, but the whole sky, and the Lord himself were suddenly descending from heaven in all his majesty?
In the sixth chapter of the Book of Revelation, as well as in other passages of Holy Scripture, we are warned of the cosmic catastrophes and signs that will occur before the coming of the great Day of the Lord (Rev. 6:12-14), such as a great earthquake, a solar eclipse, the moon appearing red, the stars falling to the earth, and a shaking of mountains and islands. But with these signs, many people will hide themselves “in the dens and in the rocks of the mountains” (Rev. 6:15) to attempt to escape the wrath of the Lamb, the Son of God. Why is this? Most people in this world live as if the Lord Jesus Christ will never return to earth, or as if he does not exist. The cataclysmic events which will suddenly happen just before his second coming will boldly challenge their fondly-held stubbornness, unbelief and disobedience.
When the great day of God’s wrath comes, who shall be able to stand? This rhetorical question is meant to warn everyone now. All are called to be reconciled with God through the Lord Jesus Christ, by turning from a sinful selfish way of life, confessing their sins before God and asking for forgiveness from God and from those whom they have wronged. There is no way out of the weakness of man’s sinful condition except by repentance and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ (Acts 2:38; Romans 3:23-24). Zephaniah the prophet clearly states that neither people’s silver nor their gold shall be able to deliver them in the day of the Lord’s wrath (Zephaniah 1:18). St. Paul testifies, “There is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus; Who gave himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time” (1 Timothy 2:5-6, KJV). Once we have turned to Christ and are living by faith in him and obedience to him, we are included in the community of the faithful to whom God gives the grace to stand, for though we shall all stand before the judgement seat of Christ (Romans 14:10), which is why we should not pass judgment on our fellow-Christians, God enables us to stand in his presence. St. Paul affirms this when he writes of each of God’s servants, “To his own master he standeth or falleth. Yea, he shall be holden up: for God is able to make him stand” (Romans 14:4, KJV). Not only is the Holy Spirit able to make God’s people stand in his presence, but he is able to “keep them from falling and to present them faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy” (Jude 24, KJV; see also 1 Thessalonians 5:23-24).
Being assured of God’s ability to keep his servants from falling, and of both his ability and firm purpose to present all of them faultless to the Lord Jesus Christ at his second coming, we must make every effort to cooperate with the grace of the Holy Spirit that has been given to us so lavishly. To this effect, the Holy Spirit warns us through the writer of the Epistle to the Hebrews:
See that ye refuse not him that speaketh. For if they escaped not who refused him that spake on earth, much more shall not we escape, if we turn away from him that speaketh from heaven: Whose voice then shook the earth: but now he hath promised, saying, Yet once more I shake not the earth only, but also heaven. And this word, Yet once more, signifieth the removing of those things that are shaken, as of things that are made, that those things which cannot be shaken may remain.
Wherefore we receiving a kingdom which cannot be moved, let us have grace, whereby we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear: For our God is a consuming fire.
(Hebrews 12:25-29, KJV)
The penitential nature of the Church’s season of Advent agrees well with the call for all to be reconciled with God through the Lord Jesus Christ, and for all to be reminded that because the second coming of the Lord Jesus could happen at any time, we must all be ready to meet with the Lord, whether it be today or any day in the future. In this vein, the second verse from Thomas Ken’s Hymn, “Awake my soul” (Hymn 151 in the 1940 Hymnal) is very appropriate:
Redeem thy misspent moments past;
And live this day as if thy last;
Improve thy talent with due care;
For the great day thyself prepare.
This verse combines a number of themes from the Bible in its exhortation to the Christian: the idea of redeeming the time and living wisely (Ephesians 5:15-17), using and improving the spiritual gift or “talent” (Matthew 25:14-30) given one by God, leaving “the misspent moments” in the past by not trying to relive or repeat them (1 Peter 4:2-3) and preparing oneself to meet with Christ on the Day of the Lord (2 Thessalonians 3:4-5).
As we prepare our hearts and minds to meet with Christ this Christmastide, we do well to remember the petition we pray in the Collect for Advent Sunday, which so eloquently both contrasts Christ’s second advent to his first, and highlights the need to be prepared and ready for his second advent:
ALMIGHTY God, give us grace that we may cast away the works of darkness, and put upon us the armour of light, now in the time of this mortal life, in which thy Son Jesus Christ came to visit us in great humility; that in the last day, when he shall come again in his glorious majesty to judge both the quick and [the]* dead, we may rise to the life immortal, through him who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Ghost, now and ever. Amen.
(p. 90, Book of Common Prayer, 1928)