The Fourfold Advent of Our Lord
Sunday, December 24th, 2023
Christ Covenant Church – Centralia, WA
2 Out of Zion, the perfection of beauty, God hath shined.
3 Our God shall come, and shall not keep silence…
O Father, we praise you for your infinite wisdom. We thank you for making good on your promise to send a savior to crush the serpent’s head, to save the world from sin and death, and to renew all creation, so that your will is done on earth as it is in heaven. Come unto us now, by the power of your Holy Spirit, for we ask this in Jesus’ name, and Amen.
Tonight, we celebrate the fourth and final Sunday of Advent. Advent simply means “coming” or “arrival,” and traditionally, the first Sunday of Advent marks the beginning of the new church year, and then the final Sunday of Advent marks the beginning of Christmastide, or the twelve days of Christmas. It was also customary in the church to preach a sermon on each Sunday of Advent that focused on one of the different comings/advents of our Lord. In Holy Scripture, Jesus is said to come to us in many ways, and so this is a season not only of remembering his first coming to earth as a baby, born of the virgin Mary, but also to remember the other ways he has promised to come to us. And so this evening I want to consider the fourfold coming/advent of our Lord. You can consider this four different advent sermons all condensed into one.
So what are the four ways in which Jesus is said to come to us in Holy Scripture?
#1 – The First Advent: Incarnation
The first, as I mentioned before, is Christ’s coming to us in the Incarnation.
This coming of God in the flesh, was prophesied in manifold ways in the Old Testament.
For example, Micah 5:2 speaks of a ruler who will come from Bethlehem, “Whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting.”
Whoever this ruler is that will come from Bethlehem, is someone who also has existed from time everlasting, from ancient of days. Who else but God can be said to “go forth from everlasting?”
Likewise, Isaiah 9:6 speaks of a child who will be born, “And the government shall be upon his shoulder, And his name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.”
Jesus is called Wonderful because a single name cannot suffice to describe all his excellency. As the angel of the Lord said to Samson’s father in Judges 13:18, “Why do you ask My name, seeing it is wonderful?”
Jesus is also called Counselor because he possesses the fullness of all wisdom.
He is called the Mighty God because His power is infinite.
He is called the everlasting Father, not referring to God the Father, but to the Son as the one who begets many sons to glory (Heb. 2:10), and as it says in Isaiah 22:21, “he shall be a father to the inhabitants of Jerusalem, And to the house of Judah.”
Jesus is also called The Prince of Peace because he is the one mediator between God and man, and as it says in Ephesians 2:14, “He Himself is our peace, who has made both one, and has broken down the middle wall of separation.”
Who else but God could be this child born and given to rule forever? His goings forth were of old, even from everlasting, and yet this eternal Word from the Father was made flesh and dwelt among us (John 1:14).
So Christ comes to us in the fullness of time, born of a woman, born under the law, born to save us from our sins. The God who cannot change, the God who cannot die, took to himself a human nature, so that in our nature, he could die and in so doing conquer death (and our fear of death) once and for all. As Jesus says in John 10:18, “No one takes my life from Me, but I lay it down of Myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it up again.” Who else can say this but God?
It is this first coming of Christ that establishes all the rest. And during his first advent and ministry on earth, Jesus promised also to come into us. And so we’ll call this second advent, “the coming of Christ into our soul.”
#2 – The Second Advent: Christ Comes into Our Soul
Jesus says in John 14:23, “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him.”
How does Christ and the Father, come to dwell in us?
Well, first we must consider who we are as human beings, what are the “places” inside of us that God could possibly come and dwell in?
Because God is immaterial, it should be obvious that He cannot dwell in us like food dwells in our bodies.And of course, Jesus says in Matthew 15:17, “whatever enters the mouth goes into the stomach and is eliminated.” So (transubstantiation notwithstanding) God does not come and dwell in our bodies in any corporeal or material fashion, nor could He, because God is a spirit (John 4:24).
So if it’s not our body that God comes into, well there is only one other place God could come and dwell, and that is in our soul.
In order to understand how God comes into our soul, we need to know what our soul is.
The soul is that which gives life to the body. In technical terms, we say the soul is the substantial form of the body, it is what gives us our shape. So the essence of human nature is to have soul and body joined together, and when they are separated, we call that death.
And yet within the soul, we can distinguish different powers. The highest of our powers are what we call rational/intellectual powers, in biblical terms this is the image of God in us, and is sometimes called the spirit, or the mind, or the heart (1 Thess. 5:23, Heb. 4:12, Mark 12:28). This refers to the strictly immaterial aspect of our soul which we can further distinguish into two powers or “places.”
1. Intellect/Reason, which is ordered towards the universal truth. Our intellect is where we apprehend, judge, and reason. It’s also where we abstract species from our physical senses and retain them in our memory.
2. Will/Rational Appetite, which is ordered towards the universal good. It is where we enjoy, delight, intend, deliberate, take counsel, and choose.
Put another way, the intellect is where we judge what is true, and the will is where we love what is good. And together these two rational powers are given to us by God to order everything beneath them (our appetites, our passions, emotions, etc.).
And it is in these two highest “places” of our soul that God comes and indwells us by grace. Christ dwells in us as the truth that we apprehend and hold onto (we call this faith), and Christ dwells in us as the object of our love, as the beloved is in the lover (we call this charity). When we tell our spouse or our children that they are “inside of our hearts,” this is basically what we mean. In a similar way Christ comes into us, and we are in Him.
Let give me you some examples of this from the New Testament.
Paul says Ephesians 3:17-19, I pray, “that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love, 18 may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height—19 to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.”
Likewise in 1 John 4:12-16 it says, “No one has seen God at any time. If we love one another, God abides in us, and His love has been perfected in us. 13 By this we know that we abide in Him, and He in us, because He has given us of His Spirit. 14 And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent the Son as Savior of the world. 15 Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God. 16 And we have known and believed the love that God has for us. God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God in him.”
Notice that in both these texts (and there are many others), God is said to come and dwell inside of us when we have true knowledge of Him by faith, and when we love God and love one another.
So if you want Christ to come and live within you, you must first know who He is in his first coming, and then adore Him. Jesus says, “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him.”
That is the coming of Christ into our soul. So Christ comes first in the incarnation, He then comes by grace into our soul, and then the third advent/coming of Christ is when He comes to us at death.
#3 – Third Advent: Christ Coming to Us at Death
Jesus says in John 14:3, “And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.”
The context of this statement is the immanent death of Christ, and the fear the disciples have about Jesus dying and leaving them. And so to give them comfort, Jesus tells them that although he is indeed going away, he is going to prepare a place for them, and afterwards he will come and receive them to himself, so that they will be together always.
The place that Jesus is going is to the Father. Just before this in verse 2, he says, “In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you.”
According to the Apostle Paul in 2 Corinthian 5, our life in this mortal body is like living in a house that wears out, and breaks down, and has issues, and is eventually demolished. We are all fixer-uppers that eventually get bulldozed. And Paul says that while we are in this earthly house, “we groan, earnestly desiring to be clothed with our habitation which is from heaven.”
The promise that Jesus gives his disciples, is that there is a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens, that awaits us when we die. It is the Father’s house, and there are many mansions inside of it. That is, there are many ways in which we will enjoy the infinite happiness of God.
And so for the Christian, who has Christ dwelling in them by knowledge and by love, death is when Christ comes to us with an inseparable fullness. Death is when Christ brings us to the Father’s house, and we behold God face to face. For as Jesus promises in the Sermon on the Mount, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God” (Matt. 5:8).
If God is your refuge and strength in this life, then when you die, He will become your home and dwelling place forever. This is how Christ comes to us at death, to receive us into everlasting life.
Finally, Jesus promises to come again at the final judgment.
#4 – Fourth Advent: The Final Judgment
After Jesus ascended into heaven in Acts 1, the angels say to the disciples, “Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven? this same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven.”
So just as Jesus ascended bodily into heaven, so also He shall come bodily back to earth.
This final coming in judgment is described in Revelation 20 as follows. John says, “Then I saw a great white throne and Him who sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away. And there was found no place for them. And I saw the dead, small and great, standing before God, and books were opened. And another book was opened, which is the Book of Life. And the dead were judged according to their works, by the things which were written in the books. The sea gave up the dead who were in it, and Death and Hades delivered up the dead who were in them. And they were judged, each one according to his works. Then Death and Hades were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. And anyone not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire.”
This present life is passing away. We are only here a for a little while, and then judgment. And how you feel about the final coming of Christ, will depend upon how you respond to the first coming of Christ.
Do you believe that Jesus Christ is God? Do you receive from Him forgiveness for your sins? Do you love Him and embrace Him as your ruler, king, and master?
If so, then the final coming of Christ, will be your victory. It will be the day of your resurrection unto glory, it will be a day of crowning, and entrance into an ever-increasing enjoyment of His kingdom.
But if you refuse this Christ, if you do not repent of your sins. Then this life is as close to heaven as you’ll ever get. And that’s pretty sad. So do not choose the lake of fire, do not choose the second death. Choose Christ today, and know that this time when he comes, he will not keep silent.
In the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit, Amen.