I barely slept Christmas eves as a child, opening my eyes numerous times in hopes of grasping a golden hue of sunlight. As soon as the pitch black lightened to gray, my brother and I ran into mom and dad’s room—pulled them out of bed—and tore through the blockade of wrapping paper over hallway door into the living room. Santa came!
I think of the long dark nights of my childhood Christmases when I think of Advent—waiting for Jesus. Thousands of years the Israelites waited in pitch black night, hoping to see the Light dawn. Finally, in the little town of Bethlehem, on the outskirts of the up and up—the Light shone in the darkness (John 1:5) as a humble baby.
But the first Advent is not the whole story! Advent is hope proved (fulfillment of prophesy in Messiah’s first coming). And Advent is hope continued—as we wait for Him to return.
Advent is both rejoicing in hope fulfilled and waiting for fulfilled hope to come. But looking back can seem clearer than looking forward. We stand firm on all the prophesies Jesus fulfilled in His first coming, but then our feet slip around when we try to figure out the images and time clues in biblical prophetic literature about the future.
The study of end-time biblical events is called “Eschatology”—from the Greek word, “Eschaton” (final event in God’s divine plan) and “ology” (the study of). Biblical scholars of eschatology hold various opinions about the order and timing of end-time events—but we all can agree on some things that will happen.
Let’s take the time to reflect on what we are still waiting for as we reflect on Jesus’ coming (Advent) this year.
The good news for the Christian is not just that Jesus Christ has come. In the Advent season, we are also looking forward to his next coming—we are still people of waiting.
What Are We Waiting For?
We are waiting for Jesus to return.
1 Thessalonians 4:16-18 (NET)
For the Lord himself will come down from heaven with a shout of command, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be suddenly caught up[v] together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will always be with the Lord. Therefore encourage one another with these words.
We are waiting for new bodies that will never decay.
There will be no more death for those of us in Christ Jesus. There will be no more hot flashes. No more arthritis. No more heart attacks or cancer or gallbladder disease. All will be made new. All will stay whole. Forever.
1 Cor. 15:42-58 (NET)
It is the same with the resurrection of the dead. What is sown is perishable, what is raised is imperishable. It is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power;it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body. So also it is written, “The first man, Adam, became a living person”; the last Adam became a life-giving spirit. However, the spiritual did not come first, but the natural, and then the spiritual. The first man is from the earth, made of dust; the second man is from heaven. Like the one made of dust, so too are those made of dust, and like the one from heaven, so too those who are heavenly. And just as we have borne the image of the man of dust, let us also bear the image of the man of heaven.
Now this is what I am saying, brothers and sisters:[d] Flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. Listen, I will tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed—in a moment, in the blinking of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality. Now when this perishable puts on the imperishable, and this mortal puts on immortality, then the saying that is written will happen,
“Death has been swallowed up in victory.”
“Where, O death, is your victory?
Where, O death, is your sting?”
The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law.But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ! So then, dear brothers and sisters, be firm. Do not be moved! Always be outstanding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord.
Note: When the passage says, “spiritual body” it does not mean our spirits will not have substance/flesh. Remember, Jesus is in the flesh at the right hand of the Father in Heaven. When He ascended, He ascended with his resurrected, imperishable body that also ate and drank with the disciples when He appeared to them. (Acts 1, Luke 24:36-49). Therefore, a spiritual body is a physical body that is also somehow superior to the trap of sin and death.
We are waiting to receive rewards.
All people will face judgement (Heb. 9:27), but there will be two judgements. One will be for those who are not in Christ—and they will be separated from God forever, which is called the “second death.” (Rev. 20:11-15). But for those of us in Christ, our names are written in the Book of Life and we will receive rewards for our works done in obedience to God.
2 Corinthians 5:10
For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each of us may receive what is due us for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.
For the Son of Man will come with his angels in the glory of his Father, and then he will reward each person according to what he has done.
We are waiting for a new earth.
Eternity is not just a spiritual reality, it is also a physical one.
“Look, I am coming soon! My reward is with me, and I will give to each person according to what they have done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End.
“Blessed are those who wash their robes, that they may have the right to the tree of life and may go through the gates into the city. Outside are the dogs, those who practice magic arts, the sexually immoral, the murderers, the idolaters and everyone who loves and practices falsehood.
“I, Jesus, have sent my angel to give you this testimony for the churches. I am the Root and the Offspring of David, and the bright Morning Star.”
The Spirit and the bride say, “Come!” And let the one who hears say, “Come!” Let the one who is thirsty come; and let the one who wishes take the free gift of the water of life.
I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this scroll: If anyone adds anything to them, God will add to that person the plagues described in this scroll. 19 And if anyone takes words away from this scroll of prophecy, God will take away from that person any share in the tree of life and in the Holy City, which are described in this scroll.
He who testifies to these things says, “Yes, I am coming soon.”
Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.
The grace of the Lord Jesus be with God’s people. Amen.
How Do We Live Futurally?
Adults prepare for the future by saving for retirement. We live differently right now because of the reality of our needs in a time to come.
Our future reality of eternity is like us looking forward and preparing for retirement. Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote, “Our whole life, however, is Advent—that is, a time of waiting for the ultimate, for a time when there will be a new heaven and new earth…”
But how do we live now in the reality of Jesus coming again?
I like the way James K.A. Smith (philosopher and theologian) puts it:
“… to live futurally means that my very mode of being-in-the-world is infused by anticipation. Instead of being defined by waiting, my active life is shaped by what I hope for. I receive myself from the future. I am what I am called to be. We are what we hope for. And hope, like love, takes practice.”
We are people of hope. Our present life is changed, infused with deeper meaning, as we meditate on what is to come at the return of Christ.
Reflect or Discuss:
What do you hope for in this life (Health? Future financial security? Marriage? Etc.)?
How does that hope shape your daily life?
How might living with anticipation of Jesus’ return shape the way we live?
What is one way you want to live differently as you think about Jesus’ return?