In Part 1, we marveled at how few people were looking forward to the arrival of the Messiah at His First Coming. Now we will examine the same scenario with Christ’s Second Coming.
If the anticipation of His first coming was so sparse, what about today? Like society in ancient Judea, people still tend to fall into one of several different categories:
- Some people literally do not know that Jesus is coming again. They either don’t know Him at all, or nobody has told them that He is coming.
- Others claim to know Him, but do not live as if He has had any impact on their lives. They manifest complete apathy about His return.
- Other ostensibly faithful Christians are convinced that He is not coming anytime soon, or at least not in a glorious manner that will fulfill the prophecies of His coming literally. They are often ignorant or fearful of Bible prophecy, convinced that it doesn’t have any relevance to their daily lives.
- But for some of us, the promise of His coming resonates in our hearts and inspires our days. We wake up every morning hoping that He will come that very day. We take communion faithful to Paul’s admonition that we commemorate Christ’s death “until He comes” (1 Corinthians 11:26). We long for Jesus to come again even as we seek to serve Him in this life.
The unbelieving world clearly fits in Category 1. People who do not know the Lord or have rejected Him outright do not realize that He is coming soon. They live carefree lives oblivious to the fact that they live on the brink of eternity and that the wrath of God abides on them (John 3:36). Living in spiritual darkness, they say, “peace and safety,” unaware that “destruction will come upon them suddenly like labor pains upon a woman with child” (1 Thessalonians 5:3). Like most of the people living in the time of Noah, they will be swept away when God’s wrath is poured out upon the world.
Too many professing Christians fall into Category 2. Polls by the Pew Research Center, the Barna Group, and other Christian-affiliated organizations have proven that many self-declared Christians do not adhere to the basic tenets of the faith. They don’t believe in Creation as described in the Bible, the virgin birth of Christ, the literal death and resurrection of Jesus, or the promise of His return.
(Astoundingly, 20% of professing Christians say they don’t believe in the God of the Bible!)
We are witnessing a great falling away of these Christians of convenience as our society becomes increasingly hostile to genuine Christian faith. Without social capital to be gained from church membership, the rolls have declined dramatically in many urban areas. The accelerating drift of lukewarm Christians toward secularism explains why “None” is the fastest-growing category of religious affiliation in the United States today.
Over the past several years, I’ve come to realize that most churches fit into Category 3. Even vibrant churches full of sincere followers of Jesus Christ manifest an aversion to His prophetic Word. Disdainful of extremists who have sown division and fanatics who peddle in the sensational and manipulate and misquote the Word of God, many pastors are leery of any presentation relating to Bible prophecy.
But the signs of the times are so obvious that faithful Christians are moving into Category 4 — eagerly awaiting the Messiah and hungry for teaching and preaching about Bible prophecy.
Casting Our Crowns
When the magi came from the East, they brought gifts to the infant Jewish King. Scripture says that they presented Him with gold, frankincense, and myrrh — rich gifts suitable for royalty. Over time, song and lore envisioned these wise men as kings, and assumed that there were three of them because that was the number of their gifts. But the Bible does not specify that detail and it is unlikely that they were rulers in the classical sense.
What we do know is that the wise men discerned a sign in the heavens and undertook a long and difficult journey to see the Messiah. The magis’ quest to encounter the Holy One of Israel offers a model for us — along with their determination to have something of value to present to Him.
I opened this article focusing on Simeon and Anna, the only two Jews recorded in the Gospels as eagerly anticipating the Messiah other than Jesus’ parents and Zacharias and Elizabeth. Even John leaped for joy while still in his mother’s womb in the presence of his unborn Lord.
We believe that the wise men learned of the coming Messiah from the Hebrew scriptures and from the testimony of faithful Jews who lived in the pagan kingdom of Babylon. In that regard, they had the same prophetic Word we have in the Old Testament — although we have the complete canon of the Old and New Testament prophecies. And, we have the gift of the Holy Spirit dwelling in us, illuminating God’s Word in our hearts.
So why aren’t we as determined to watch for the signs the Lord is revealing all around us today? The signs of the times are multiplying before our eyes — and converging as never before. Soon — perhaps very soon — He will burst from the sky. We won’t have to follow “yonder star” to find His humble birthplace, He will come in radiant glory to reign upon the earth.
Have you ever wondered what you will give Him when you first see Him?
That is a question worth pondering. Scripture speaks of several crowns we will be awarded in heaven:
- An imperishable crown (1 Corinthians 9:24-25)
- A crown of exultation or rejoicing (1 Thessalonians 2:19)
- A crown of glory (1 Peter 5:4)
- A crown of life (Revelation 2:10)
Paul also says that there is a crown of righteousness laid up for all who have loved Jesus’ appearing (2 Timothy 4:8). That is one crown reserved just for those who have been eager to see the Messiah, like Simeon and Anna.
I’ve always wondered what I would do with a crown. Then, reflecting on the magi’s gifts and turning to God’s prophetic Word, it dawned on me. Like the elders described in Revelation 4:10, we will cast our crowns before the throne of the Lamb and say:
Worthy are You, our Lord and our God, to receive glory and honor and power; for You created all things, and because of Your will they existed, and were created.
Oh, how I want those crowns! Not for my own glory — or to give me what David Reagan describes as an eternal neckache!! Any glory that I experience will be a reflection of the glory that is His. The eternal life I enjoy will be thanks only to His death and resurrection.
And the righteousness manifest in the crown I receive will be credited to me from His infinite righteousness and holiness.
Even the crowns He gives me belong to Him. I want all five crowns to be able to lay them as gifts at the feet of my Lord and Savior.
I believe that some reading this will not see death before the Lord’s Messiah comes (Luke 2:26). Are you praying earnestly for Jesus to rend the heavens and come down? Do you wake up each day crying out, “Maranatha! Come quickly, Lord Jesus!”
The “Light of revelation to the Gentiles and the glory of [God’s] people Israel” has come. He is coming again — not as a humble babe to be wrapped in swaddling cloths, but in power and glory.
The last stanza of We Three Kings sounds the expectant, triumphal chorus of the Second Coming:
Glorious now behold Him arise;
King and God and sacrifice:
Sounds through the earth and skies.
Amen. Come Lord Jesus!