As we enter this Advent season, when we joyfully anticipate celebrating our Lord’s first Advent, I thought it would be fitting to meditate for a few moments on not only the Babe in the manger, but also on those Advents or comings yet to come. I am sure that by now, you have already figured out that I think more than a little “outside-the-box” of conventional thought, so as always, sit back, relax and buckle-up, as we explore the glorious reality that Emmanuel, God with us, has not only come in human flesh, but that He has promised an even fuller presence to come.
Note: I had planned on finishing and posting this before Christmas 2014, but that didn’t happen. I got sidetracked by other projects, so this one didn’t get done as planned, however it is just as appropriate now as any time.
The Word became flesh…
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him was not any thing made that was made. In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. (John 1:1-5)
And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen His glory, glory as of the only Son of the Father, full of grace and truth. (John 1:14)
The Word not only took on human form, as some would have us believe, the Word BECAME human and walked this sod as we do today. The truth of the Incarnation was so important to the apostle John, that he devoted significant portions of 1st John to reinforcing Christ’s full humanity. Let’s look at some of the passages of Scripture which describe His first Advent.
Birth of Jesus Foretold
26 In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, 27 to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. And the virgin’s name was Mary. 28 And he came to her and said, “Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!” 29 But she was greatly troubled at the saying, and tried to discern what sort of greeting this might be. 30 And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. 31 And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. 32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, 33 and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.”
34 And Mary said to the angel, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?”
35 And the angel answered her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy—the Son of God. 36 And behold, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son, and this is the sixth month with her who was called barren. 37 For nothing will be impossible with God.” 38 And Mary said, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her. (Luke 1:26-38)
The Birth of Jesus Christ
2 In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. 2 This was the first registration when Quirinius was governor of Syria. 3 And all went to be registered, each to his own town. 4 And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the town of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, tbecause he was of the house and lineage of David, 5 to be registered with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child. 6 And while they were there, the time came for her to give birth. 7 And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn. (Luke 2:1-7)
Most of you would suppose that I am going to dive into the glorious return of Christ in great power and great glory, and that is how the Second Coming is traditionally understood, but there is a coming of Christ which is far more personal in nature. Have you accepted Jesus into your heart? If you have, Jesus now inhabits YOU in a very personal way, and that is an Advent which is too important to ignore.
“I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. 19 Yet a little while and the world will see me no more, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live. 20 In that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you. 21 Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me. And he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him.” 22 Judas (not Iscariot) said to him, “Lord, how is it that you will manifest yourself to us, and not to the world?” 23 Jesus answered him, “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. 24 Whoever does not love me does not keep my words. And the word that you hear is not mine but the Father’s who sent me. (John 14:18-24)
Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body. (1 Corinthians 6:19-20)
Did you spot it? Jesus, in John 14:23 promised that He and the Father will come and make their home in us, and Paul, in 1 Corinthinans 6:19 speaks to the present reality of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. This isn’t some “out-there” promise whose fulfillment will have to wait, rather it is a here-and-now indwelling by God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
Yes, we all have a sense of “not-yet” fulfillment, because we are still in this world, which has been corrupted by Satan and his lies, but we need to be assured that God hasn’t left us to fend for ourselves. He is here IN our battles, not merely watching from the sidelines.
This is the Advent which we so eagerly await, because we are promised that Christ will return to finally destroy Satan and all his allies. This will certainly be a very glorious occasion, and it will be accompanied by taking the saints out of this corrupted place to the glory which awaits us in heaven. Much has been written by others about this grand event, so there is nothing I can really add to it.
How could it get any better than Heaven? According to Revelation 21, it indeed does get even better. You see, mankind wasn’t created for some kind of ethereal existance removed from our full humanity. God created mankind for life in a physical realm, for life on Earth, and the final destiny of this Earth is not to be done away with forever, but to be recreated in ever greater beauty and glory than the original. The ultimate and final fulfillment of the promise of Emmanuel, God with us, will be realized when Heaven comes to Earth, and God, in His fullness, makes His home with and among His people. The Apostle John describes it in the book of the Revelation:
The New Heaven and Earth
21 Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth passed away, and there is no longer any sea. 2 And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, made ready as a bride adorned for her husband. 3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne, saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He will dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be among them, 4 and He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away.”
5 And He who sits on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” And He said, “Write, for these words are faithful and true.” 6 Then He said to me, “It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. I will give to the one who thirsts from the spring of the water of life without cost. 7 He who overcomes will inherit these things, and I will be his God and he will be My son. 8 But for the cowardly and unbelieving and abominable and murderers and immoral persons and sorcerers and idolaters and all liars, their part will be in the lake that burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death.”
9 Then one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls full of the seven last plagues came and spoke with me, saying, “Come here, I will show you the bride, the wife of the Lamb.”
The New Jerusalem
10 And he carried me away in the Spirit to a great and high mountain, and showed me the holy city, Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, 11 having the glory of God. Her brilliance was like a very costly stone, as a stone of crystal-clear jasper. 12 It had a great and high wall, with twelve gates, and at the gates twelve angels; and names were written on them, which are the names of the twelve tribes of the sons of Israel. 13 There were three gates on the east and three gates on the north and three gates on the south and three gates on the west. 14 And the wall of the city had twelve foundation stones, and on them were the twelve names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb.
15 The one who spoke with me had a gold measuring rod to measure the city, and its gates and its wall. 16 The city is laid out as a square, and its length is as great as the width; and he measured the city with the rod, fifteen hundred miles; its length and width and height are equal. 17 And he measured its wall, seventy-two yards, according to human measurements, which are also angelic measurements. 18 The material of the wall was jasper; and the city was pure gold, like clear glass. 19 The foundation stones of the city wall were adorned with every kind of precious stone. The first foundation stone was jasper; the second, sapphire; the third, chalcedony; the fourth, emerald; 20 the fifth, sardonyx; the sixth, sardius; the seventh, chrysolite; the eighth, beryl; the ninth, topaz; the tenth, chrysoprase; the eleventh, jacinth; the twelfth, amethyst. 21 And the twelve gates were twelve pearls; each one of the gates was a single pearl. And the street of the city was pure gold, like transparent glass.
22 I saw no temple in it, for the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb are its temple. 23 And the city has no need of the sun or of the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God has illumined it, and its lamp is the Lamb. 24 The nations will walk by its light, and the kings of the earth will bring their glory into it. 25 In the daytime (for there will be no night there) its gates will never be closed; 26 and they will bring the glory and the honor of the nations into it; 27 and nothing unclean, and no one who practices abomination and lying, shall ever come into it, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life. (Revelation 21)
In this scene, John the Apostle is shown what we all look forward to, the new heavens and the new Earth, and the new Jerusalem. The scene is certainly glorious, but did you spot His advent? In verses three and four, we are told: 3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne, saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He will dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be among them, 4 and He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away.” This is the ultimate culmination of God’s redemptive plan, and the final and ultimate fulfilling of all of the prophesies in which God promised to come and be with and among His people.
We can’t imagine the enormity of the New Jerusalem because it is mind-bogglingly huge, but it speaks to the grandeur of the plans God has for His children when everything is restored to how it is supposed to be. Even without the grandeur, the experience will be beyond comprehension, because everything that has made this life less than what it should have been will be history. Everything that has caused you pain, physical, psychological, emotional and spiritual will be forgotten as God Himself will make everything right. He has seen all the tears that you have cried, even those that never made it to the surface, and He awaits, hankie in hand, to wipe them away personally. That is what I am excited about, being with Daddy forever.
Unlike His first Advent, which was of limited duration, just for approximately thirty-three years, and the other Advents, which are also of limited duration, this Advent is FOREVER. Unlike His first Advent, which ended with His ascension, God promises that He will never “go back home“, because His home will be with and among His people. That has been His desire all along.
I don’t know about you, but my concept of God has always been as Him being detached, distant, the scowling Judge and stern Father, but that is not how He reveals Himself in Scripture. In the first three chapters of Genesis, God reveals Himself as our personal Creator. He could have just spoken mankind into existence, as He did the animals and everything else, but instead, He personally created Adam and Eve. He could have spoken them into existence, given them the rules, and gone His merry way, but He didn’t. He delighted to visit them in the cool of the day as they went about their normal activities. It was an intimate relationship, Dad spending time with His kids. Had Adam and Eve not rebelled against God, we would all be enjoying the same kind of intimacy with God, but they did rebel. Their rebellion didn’t change God’s desire to have an intimate relationship with His kids, but it did require a plan of redemption to restore His children to their former estate.
Many Christians have a problem with the idea of a “return to Eden” concept of heaven, but the more I read and study Scripture, the more convinced I become that God’s desire for us IS a return to Eden, a return to God’s original plan for mankind. For those of us who had a “less-than-pleasant” childhood, who grew up way too quickly, I believe that we will get to experience the true joys of childhood with a loving Father who adores us far more than we can ever imagine. Yes, we will love and adore Him, and His love for us will make our love and adoration for Him as natural as breathing.
I pray that, particularly during this Advent season, but really year around, that we – you and I – will look with great expectation for the final coming of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, as the Children of Israel waited expectantly for the coming of the Messiah, Emmanuel, God with us.