Friday, December 9, 2011

the two advents -- part 2

The Word for today:
1 Corinthians 15:1-34

Whoever carefully considers Old Testament prophecies is struck by two contrasting (and seemingly contradictory) lines of prediction concerning the coming Messiah.

One body of prediction speaks of him as coming in weakness and humiliation:

He had no form or majesty that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him.
He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief;
and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not.
Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; 
yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted.
But he was wounded for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities;
Upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his stripes we are healed.
All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; 
and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all.  (from Isaiah 53)

The other line of prophecy foretells a splendid, conquering and unconquerable Sovereign, purging the earth with judgments, regathering dispersed Israel, restoring the throne of David to unparalleled splendor, and introducing a reign of profound peace and perfect righteousness:

Behold, One like the Son of Man,
Coming with the clouds of heaven!
He came to the Ancient of Days,
And they brought Him near before Him.
Then to Him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom,
That all peoples, nations, and languages should serve Him.
His dominion is an everlasting dominion,
Which shall not pass away,
And His kingdom the one
Which shall not be destroyed.  (Daniel 7:13-14)

The Old Testament prophets, as they looked ahead, were understandably puzzled by what the Spirit was telling them:
They wondered what the Spirit of Christ within them was talking about when he told them in advance about Christ's suffering and his great glory afterward. They wondered when and to whom all this would happen. (1 Peter 1:11)

Today, as we stand between the first and second advents--between Christ's suffering and his great glory--these once-perplexing prophecies have come into focus.  So it is now possible to compare the prophecies with their fulfillment. When we do, we are struck by how literally the prophecies were fulfilled.  They weren't fulfilled figuratively or symbolically. They were fulfilled precisely and exactly:

In Bethlehem of Judea (Micah 5:2), a virgin (Isaiah 7:14) gave birth to a son (Genesis 3:15).  Born into the nation Israel (Numbers 24:17), the tribe of Judah (Genesis 49:10), and the lineage of David (2 Samuel 7), he was rejected by his own (see Isaiah, Psalms, Zechariah).  Numbered with the transgressors (Isaiah 53:12; Mark 15:27), he was--like a lamb led to slaughter (Exodus 12, Isaiah 53:7)--crucified (Zechariah 12:10, Psalm 22) for the sins of his people (Leviticus 16, Isaiah 53:5).

But--most remarkable of all--he didn't stay dead! Resurrected (Psalm 16:9-10; the book of Jonah), he ascended to the right hand of Power (Psalms 16:11; 68:18; Daniel 7:13-14; Acts 7:56).

Having observed that the prophecies of Messiah's earthly sufferings were fulfilled literally and precisely, we can only conclude that the predictions concerning Messiah's earthly glory will receive the same precise and literal fulfillment.

When Jesus taught two disciples on the road to Emmaus--the greatest Bible lesson ever heard--he began with these words:
"O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?" (Luke 24:25-26)

The Jews were slow of heart to believe all that the prophets had spoken concerning the sufferings of their Messiah; we are slow of heart to believe all that they have spoken concerning His glory. Surely the greater reproach is ours, for it ought to be easier to believe that the Son of God would come "in the clouds of heaven, with power and great glory" than that He would come as the babe of Bethlehem and the carpenter of Nazareth. Indeed, we believe the latter because it has happened, not because the prophets foretold it, and it is time we ceased to reproach the Jews for their unbelief. If it be asked how they could possibly be blinded to the evident meaning of so many and such unequivocal predictions, the answer is that they were blinded in exactly the same way that many Christians are blinded to the equally evident meaning of a far greater number of predictions of His earthly glory, namely, by the process of "spiritualizing" Scripture. In other words, the ancient scribes told the people that the prophecies of Messiah's sufferings were not to be interpreted literally, just as some modern scribes are telling the people that the prophecies of Messiah's earthly glory are not to be literally interpreted. --C. I. Scofield, "Rightly Dividing the Word of Truth"

Jesus told his disciples that His coming again will be--like his departure--personal and bodily:
"Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father's house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also."  (John 14:1-3)

His personal and bodily return was re-emphasized in the very moment of Jesus' ascension:
While they were gazing into heaven as he went, behold, two men stood by them in white robes, and said, "Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven." (Acts 1:10-11)

This was re-emphasized again (!) in 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17--
For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord. (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17)

And again in Titus 2:13--
We wait for the blessed hope--the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ.

And again in 1 John 3:2--
Beloved, we are God's children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is.


The first advent teaches us that the second advent will be exactly, literally, and precisely as these scriptures depict.

So let's not be slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken!


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