Coming out of the Christmas season, we have been reminded of the reason Jesus came. Sometimes we call it the advent season because we commemorate Christ’s advent (arrival) two thousand years ago. But let us remember that Immanuel is not a one-advent Messiah.
The reason Jesus is coming again is inseparable from the reason He came: He is coming to judge those who reject His first coming. Here’s a startling reality about Christ’s first and second comings: both are judgments. It is easy to see Christ’s second coming as a judgment (e.g., 2 Thess 1:6-10). But how was the first advent of Christ a judgment?
First, Jesus came to judge and condemn sin: “For what the Law could not do, weak as it was through the flesh, God did: sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and as an offering for sin, He condemned sin in the flesh” (Rom 8:3). God condemned sin through Christ’s suffering on the cross.
Second, Jesus came to judge Satan. He indicated that “the ruler of this world has been judged” (John 16:11; cf. John 12:31; Col 2:15). John later wrote, “The Son of God appeared for this purpose, to destroy the works of the devil” (1 John 3:8).
Third, Jesus came, not to execute judgment on sinners, but to pronounce judgment on all who would reject these completed judgments against sin and Satan: “For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him. He who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God” (John 3:17-18; cp. 12:31). He goes on, explaining His pronouncement on everyone who “has been judged already”: “This is the judgment, that the Light has come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the Light, for their deeds were evil” (John 3:19). Moreover, “And Jesus said, ‘For judgment I came into this world, so that those who do not see may see, and that those who see may become blind’” (John 9:39). Jesus’ first advent was a pronouncement of judgment upon those who love the darkness yet think they can see apart from the light of Christ.
In Jesus’ first advent He condemned sin and Satan, and He pronounced judgment upon all who reject that condemnation (cf. John 3:36). Now “all the inhabitants of the earth” (Zeph 1:18) stand on trial for whether they receive or reject Christ’s first judgment and would thereby escape or receive “the day of wrath” (Rom 2:5) in His second advent.
Here’s the key distinction between Christ’s two advents: in His first advent He came “in the likeness of sinful flesh” and “for sin” (Rom 8:3). In His second advent He’s coming, not in the humility of veiled glory, but in manifest glory (cf. Isa 63:1-6; 2 Thess 1:6-10; Rev 19:11-16). “So Christ also, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time for salvation without reference to sin, to those who eagerly await Him” (Heb 9:28). He came for sin, but He’s coming for sinners.
Christ has lived, died, risen, and ascended. And that is where we stand today—between advents—“knowing that Christ, having been raised from the dead, is never to die again” (Rom 6:9). He is now seated in heaven where the Father says to Him, “Sit at My right hand until I make Your enemies a footstool for Your feet” (Ps 110:1). Those who look back in faith to the first judgment will be spared when the two-advent Messiah comes again.
People wanted a political savior in Christ’s first coming—a sort of second-advent Messiah who would topple the Roman occupation. They rejected Christ’s first coming because they were more concerned about the government on their back than sin in their soul. Conversely, they will want a sort of humble first-advent Messiah in His terrifying second coming when He comes to topple sinners.
Thus has the world received the Messiah, proving its opposition to the purposes of God. And when Christ comes again, the rebels will beg that He be gentle and riding on a donkey.
A graduate of The Expositors Seminary, Whitney Oxford serves as an associate pastor at Grace Immanuel Bible Church in Jupiter, FL, and as Professor of Old Testament and Assistant Dean of Administration at TES.