“This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven.” (Acts 1:11, NIV)
Advent is about Christmas — hope you’re making the most of the opportunities! (See stag.org/Christmas).
But it’s not just about Christmas. Traditionally, it has also been a time to reflect on Christ’s second coming.
The New Testament promises that one day, unannounced, He will return in glorious splendour and judge the living and the dead. It will be the end of the present age. It will mark the final and ultimate separation of humanity into two eternal destinations, heaven and hell.
All over the New Testament an urgent expectation of this is to be found, and it’s expressed for us in the creed: And he will come to judge the living and the dead.
But can we really believe it? Haven’t two thousand years of delay made the possibility of it seem rather remote?
Not at all, because:
1) It is promised by God many times in Holy Scripture (e.g. Isaiah 63:1-6). The Bible, itself full of prophecy and fulfilment, shows God to have an outstanding track record of keeping His promises — why not this one?
2) Jesus Himself promised it, alongside promising the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70, before it happened (Mark 13:1-36). The fulfilment of the nearer event, just as He predicted, should encourage us to believe in the fulfilment of the further event.
3) Three facts — the character of God, the nature of human responsibility and the state of our present world — all require a day of reckoning.
4) The New Testament itself, while urging an attitude of present expectation (because we do not know when Christ will return) also hints that it may not come for a long time (e.g. Luke 20:9). So a delay should not surprise us.
5) The New Testament itself also explains why, in God’s plan, there needs to be a delay: the gospel must first be preached, so that people may be made ready for that day (Mark 13:10).
6) Jesus’ own resurrection from the dead is God’s notification that He will be back again to judge the world (Acts 17:31).
This is a reality we must be ready for. Make friends now with the one who will be your judge: settle out of court! (Luke 12:54-59)
Here is the Collect, the special prayer, for Advent Sunday:
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 your 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 lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, now and ever.
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