By Barnabas Piper
The first advent came to fruition on a silent night when the star came upon a midnight clear in royal David’s city, that little town of Bethlehem when Mary laid her baby boy away in the manger. The herald angels sang and declared joy to the world. It’s easy to think of that first advent in soft hues, hushed voices, and sweet melodies, a sort of Rembrandt-meets-Thomas-Kinkade moment.
But we would do well to consider the fearful, human circumstances of that day because to consider Advent is to consider a real-life event with all it’s pungent, raucous tangibility. And to consider the second advent is all that wrapped in heavenly beauty and power. When Jesus completed His mission on earth, Acts tells us that “he was taken up as they were watching, and a cloud took him out of their sight” (Acts 1:9). Jesus physically ascended. Then the text tells us “This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come in the same way that you have seen him going into heaven” (v.11).
Did you see that? This same Jesus will come back in the same way. “The Lord himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the archangel’s voice, and with the trumpet of God” (1Thessalonians 4:16). The first advent celebrated the humble arrival of an infant King. The second advent anticipates the glorious, overwhelming return of that King in all His splendor and power.
Revelation 19 paints a magnificent dual picture of what we have to anticipate. John describes a massive, rejoicing wedding party for the King as he arrives to wed His bride, the church, in all the glory he has given her. Then the passage describes the royal groom differently, riding a white horse, wearing a crown, adorned in blood-dipped robes and wielding a sword from His mouth. He leads an army and “with justice he judges and makes war…He will also trample the winepress of the fierce anger of God, the Almighty” (Revelation 19:11,15). The second advent is one of deep joy and deep justice. Our King Jesus will return to make us His and make us whole, and He will wipe out all that opposes Him and oppresses. He will bring true and final peace on earth and good will toward men.
We wait eagerly for Christ’s return, but we do not wait passively. We’ve been told how we’re to live as we await this second advent: “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come on you, and you will be my witnesses…to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8). We have the presence of our King in us now, by His Spirit. That is the seal and proof of His promise to come back. And we live for Him as we await His return.
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