Christmas is about hope. "Long lay the world in sin and error pining. Till He appeared and the soul felt its worth. A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices, For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn." Jesus' first coming gives us perfect hope only when we grasp what it points to: His second coming, "looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ;" our hope is the second coming of Christ and being with our Triune God and all our saved loved ones in a perfect new heaven and new earth with perfect new bodies in sinless perfection forever and ever and ever. At His first coming our Lord Jesus set us free from the penalty of sin (hell) and the power of sin (Rom. 6-8) but when He returns He will set us (and all of nature) free from all the effects of sin.
But sadly many people (even some believers) still put so much of their hope for joy and happiness in this life, in this fallen world, and seldom think about and long for Jesus' return. "If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied." (1 Cor. 15:19) "And we believers also groan, even though we have the Holy Spirit within us as a foretaste of future glory, for we long for our bodies to be released from sin and suffering. We, too, wait with eager hope for the day when God will give us our full rights as his adopted children, (including the new (sinless) bodies he has promised us. We were given this hope when we were saved. (If we already have something, we don't need to hope for it). But if we look forward to something we don't yet have, we must wait patiently and confidently (and eagerly)." (Rom. 8:23-25)
"For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ." (Titus 2:11-13) Here and in other verses we hear Paul's longing for that Day when he will be face to face with the Lord he loves so, in his sinless glorified body in the glories of the new heaven and new earth. "I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far." (Phil. 1:23) "We are confident, I say, and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord." (2 Cor. 5:8) "For I am already being poured out like a drink offering, and the time for my departure is near. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day-and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing." (2 Tim. 4:6-8) We see in all these verses Paul 1) looking for, 2) longing for, 3) groaning for, 4) desiring, and 5) preferring to be with the Lord. Even Abraham and the OT saints longed for heaven (Heb.11:16) and John by the Spirit urges us to pray for Christ's soon return. "Even so, come Lord Jesus." (Rev. 22:20).
Before Jesus' first coming, the OT saints longed for the Messiah to come even as a young maiden longs for that special one to come into her life. Zacharias recalls with hope the prophecy of the coming Messiah. "He has sent us a mighty Savior from the royal line of his servant David, just as he promised through his holy prophets long ago." (Luke 1:69-70; also see Psalm 132:17)
Then when Jesus came at His first advent, we who put our trust in His soul-saving work at Calvary become engaged to Him. (That is one reason Jesus never married. He is engaged to us, His bride to be.) But what in-love, engaged couple does not long for the wedding day and the joy of consummation and communion for years to come. Likewise, if we don't regularly anticipate our marriage to Jesus (Rev. 19:6-8) and the bliss of heaven with our Lord, then our engagement to Him will lose its passion and joy. Yes He is with us in Spirit now but a lover longs to be with her beloved face to face. This is what is known as the beatific vision (beatific means, blissfully happy) – beholding our Lord face to face, literally, seeing God.
There is absolutely nothing a lover desires more than to be with her beloved (exceeding righteous desires such as marriage/family/grandkids/retirement/etc.). So even the greatest blessings in this life should never dampen or compete with our passion to be with our Lord the Lover of our soul and to see His righteousness cover the earth and the whole world giving Him the glory He so deserves. "Then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all that is in them, singing: "To him who sits on the throne (God the Father) and to the Lamb (God the Son) be praise and honor and glory and power, for ever and ever!" The four living creatures said, "Amen," and the elders fell down and worshiped." (Rev. 5:13-14)
Such misplaced hope reminded me of a most interesting passage in Scripture that serves as a good "bad example" of how we can prolong our misery by continually looking to this fallen world to meet our deepest hopes and longings.
ONE MORE NIGHT WITH THE FROGS – EXODUS 8:1-10
"Then the LORD said to Moses, "Go to Pharaoh and say to him, ‘This is what the LORD says: Let my people go, so that they may worship me. If you refuse to let them go, I will send a plague of frogs on your whole country. The Nile will teem with frogs. They will come up into your palace and your bedroom and onto your bed, into the houses of your officials and on your people, and into your ovens and kneading troughs. The frogs will come up on you and your people and all your officials.'" Then the LORD said to Moses, "Tell Aaron, ‘Stretch out your hand with your staff over the streams and canals and ponds, and make frogs come up on the land of Egypt.'" So Aaron stretched out his hand over the waters of Egypt, and the frogs came up and covered the land. But the magicians did the same things by their secret arts; they also made frogs come up on the land of Egypt. Pharaoh summoned Moses and Aaron and said, "Pray to the LORD to take the frogs away from me and my people, and I will let your people go to offer sacrifices to the LORD." Moses said to Pharaoh, "I leave to you the honor of setting the time for me to pray for you and your officials and your people that you and your houses may be rid of the frogs." "Tomorrow," Pharaoh said." One more night with the frogs.
Tomorrow – Ask some people when they want the Lord to come back and many, like Pharaoh, will say – tomorrow , later , after I marry (and have sex), after I have a family, after my grandkids grow up, after I enjoy some years of retirement, after, later, but not today! …. In the meantime….
In the meantime…"The whole world is under the control of the evil one." (1 John 5:19) And Jesus says in Matthew 24:12 that evil will increase in the last days "Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold." Life since the Fall is called "this present evil age" (Gal. 1:4) and evil and suffering will not end until our Lord returns and establishes His kingdom where "There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away." (Rev. 21:4) Just one sad example of why we should long for Christ's return is that thousands of children are starving to death each day and our best efforts as God's church have not been able to remedy this sad (and evil) situation. That along with the almost unspeakable evil done every day (child molestation/sex-slaves) should cause us to beg for our Lord's soon return. We are in a war of life and death and it will not end until our Lord returns. We want all wars to end and especially the war against Satan, sin, and death. "Then the devil who had led them astray [deceiving and seducing them] was hurled into the fiery lake of burning brimstone, where the beast (the Antichrist) and false prophet were; and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever (through the ages of the ages)." (Rev. 20:10) ["God made a world, and He made it perfect, and He looked at all His creation, and He said, "It's good. That's the way I want it." Satan infiltrated His world and messed it all up. And then he has his fallen angels, the ones that went with him, infiltrating the society of man. He's brought death, disease, and pain. He's brought into our world every conceivable evil thing; murder and lying, (of which he is the father), evil, false religions. And I don't like what Satan's done to this world. Do you? He attacks God, defames His character and blasphemes His attributes. He denies the very work of God and twists it around so it appears as though God didn't do it at all. He counterfeits the truth. While God is endeavoring to accomplish His will Satan is busy trying to stop Him. And then he attacked the Christ. The lovely, spotless, absolutely pure and holy Son of God was the object of his attack. He tried every way he could to destroy Him, every way he could to dishonor Him, to defame Him, to dilute His teaching, to direct people away from Him. And finally, he even brought Him to the cross. And since that time he has considered Christ as the primary objective of his attack. And throughout the history of the world he has continued his persecution against Christ. He attacks Christians. He slanders them. He plants doubt in their minds. He tempts, persecutes, hinders, infiltrates, divides and accuses the brethren. In Matthew 25:41, it says, "There is a place prepared for the devil and his angels." What is tragic about it is that Satan doesn't want to go alone, so he's taking as many people as he can. I want Jesus to come, because I want Him to end Satan's rule. "And when he had opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of them that were slain for the Word of God and for the testimony which they held. And they cried with a loud voice, saying, 'How long, oh, Lord? How long? Holy and true, dost thou not judge and avenge our blood on them that dwell on the earth?'" (Revelation 6:9) How long can evil sway? How long can injustice rule? How long can the persecution of your own children go without avenging? How long? "And will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off? 8 I tell you, he will see that they get justice, and quickly." (Luke 18:7) Satan is gonna get what he deserves. I want Jesus to come, because I want Satan to get what he deserves." John MacArthur]
In the meantime….All of nature is cursed "For all creation is waiting eagerly for that future day when God will reveal who his children really are. Against its will, all creation was subjected to God's curse. But with eager hope, the creation looks forward to the day when it will join God's children in glorious freedom from death and decay. For we know that all creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time." (Rom. 8:21-23) One of my favorite gospel songs is, Where the Roses Never Fade. Beginning with the Millennial Kingdom and going into the eternal state our glorious future will include a new heaven and a new earth and all the good things of earth we are familiar with and greatly enjoy– but a purified and perfect earth. "Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth." "Behold, I am making all things new." "See! The winter is past; the rains are over and gone. Flowers appear on the earth; the season of singing has come, the cooing of doves is heard in our land. The fig tree forms its early fruit; the blossoming vines spread their fragrance." (Revelation 21:1,5; Song of Songs 2:11-13) Imagine the most beautiful spring day you have ever experienced, especially after a particularly long, cold, gray winter season. The "new earth" will be like an eternal spring – "The mountains and hills will burst into song before you, and the trees of the field will clap their hands." ( Isaiah 55:12) The greenest grass, the greatest variety of flowers, colors and aromas we can hardly imagine; the majesty of the mountains and the bluest skies of the new heavens. And no more strip malls, strip mines, or strip joints. "The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of His hands." (Psalm 19:1) Every day all of God's renewed creation will proclaim the glory of our Great God. The kingdom of God brings restoration, fruitfulness, harmony, beauty and all that is beautiful, true and good. "The days are coming declares the Lord, when the reaper will be overtaken by the plowman and the planter by the one treading the grapes. New wine will drip from the mountains and flow from all the hills." "The wolf will live with the lamb, the leopard will lie down with the goat, the calf and the lion and the yearling together. The cow will feed with the bear, their young will lie down together and the lion will eat straw like the ox. They will neither harm nor destroy on all of My holy mountain, for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea." (Amos 9:13; Isaiah 11:6-9)
In the meantime…. Even on our best day we still have to deal with the flesh and sin that grieves us and our Lord. "For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do-this I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death?" (Rom. 7:19-20, 24) The closer we get to Jesus (spiritually) the clearer we see our sinfulness and the more it grieves us. That is why a godly saint like Paul called himself the chief of sinners near the end of his life. (1 Tim. 1:15-16) We want to be at last and forever the pure, sinless bride without spot or wrinkle for our pure and perfect Bridegroom. "Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when Christ appears we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. All who have this hope in him purify themselves, just as he is pure." (1 John 3:2-3; Also see Eph. 5:27) I can so relate to what John MacArthur says regarding this: ["I wish I had better sensitivities. I wish the curse hadn't affected my sympathy, whatever that organ is inside of you or me that thing in your mind. I wish I was more sympathetic, and I sometimes struggle with that, and I wish that sin didn't mess me up there, because I don't want to be unsympathetic to people. And I wish that there was more love in me. I wish the curse didn't affect my love, because I want to love people, because that's right, and that's what God does, and that's what Jesus does. I mean, I don't like living in a cursed body. Do you? Perfect knowledge, perfect love, perfect joy, perfect peace, perfect gentleness, perfect goodness, perfect everything, and the full potential of all that I could ever be realized. I want Jesus to come. Don't you? I want to experience that. Imagine. Just think about it. Imagine being everything God made it possible for you to be without any limits. And you know what? God will look at that, and He'll say, "It's good again. That's the way I meant it to be." And I think about what kind of body I'm gonna have. Boy, you know, I spent enough years playing ball, and there was a time when my body recovered fast. My body doesn't hear my mind. Do you know that? My mind says, "Body, do this." My body says, "Forget it." I'm gonna get another body. That's a glorified body. You say, "What's it gonna be like?" It's gonna be like Jesus. "We shall be like Him, for we shall see him as he is."]
In the meantime…. The world hates our Lord. I want to see Jesus come so He will get what He deserves: He commanded us to pray for His Father's Glory and righteous rule on this earth just like it is in heaven (Matthew 6:9-10) and this will not occur in its fullness until Jesus returns. Most of the world hates, ignores or belittles Jesus and many religions reduce Him to a human being as a prophet or good moral teacher. This should break our hearts every day. Only when He returns will He and our Father receive all the glory they so greatly deserve. "Then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all that is in them, singing: "To him who sits on the throne (God the Father) and to the Lamb (God the Son) be praise and honor and glory and power, for ever and ever!" The four living creatures said, "Amen," and the elders fell down and worshiped." (Rev. 5:13-14) ["All through His life, Jesus was misunderstood. When He came back to the town in which He had been raised, in Nazareth, and started to do some mighty works, they didn't believe Him. He was rejected. He was turned away. "Foxes have holes. The birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man hath no place to lay His head."(Matt. 8:20) Here was the Lord of Glory. Here was the King of all Kings who dwelled in the universe as a temple, and He had no home. There was never any place for Him. Even in His birth, there was no room in an inn. He was born in a borrowed stable. He was crucified on a Roman cross. He was buried in a borrowed tomb that didn't even belong to Him. He fellowshipped in an upper room that wasn't His own. "If the world hates you, you know that it hated Me before it hated you." (John 15:18) Imagine. God condescending to the creatures that He made and being hated by them throughout His entire time spent with them. He was betrayed by one who followed Him for three years, Judas, who betrayed Him for 30 pieces of silver. He was denied by an apostle who promised he would even die before he would do that. He was persecuted. They plotted to kill Him. He was mocked. "And they shall mock Him and beat Him and spit on Him and kill Him." (Mark 10:34) I want Jesus to come back, because the next time He comes, it's gonna be all different. He's not gonna come again as a servant. I want Him to come under the conditions of verse 9 of Philippians 2. "Wherefore, God also has highly exalted Him and given Him a name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven and things in earth and things under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the Glory of God the Father." That's what I want to see. I've spent so many years of my life learning to love the Lord Jesus Christ, and the more I love Him, the more it is intolerable for me to see Him defamed. Well, when I hear His name taken in vain, it just does something to me. When I see people who are either indifferent or antagonistic toward Him, it just tears at my heart. He doesn't deserve that. I want to see what was originally promised when He came. It said in Luke 1:31, "And behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, Mary, and bring forth a son, and she'll call His name Jesus. He shall be great and shall be called the Son of the Highest, and the Lord God shall give unto Him the throne of His father David. And He shall reign over the house of Jacob forever. And of His kingdom there shall be no end." That's what I want to see, because that's what He deserves. And I go to Revelation 5 sometimes to get a glimpse of Jesus Christ, and I see the scroll, the title deed to the earth in the hand of the Father. And everybody's looking around and saying, "Hey, who can unroll the scroll? Who can take back the earth?" And John begins to weep, and he says, "There's nobody that can do it. The earth is gonna stay in the hands of the usurper, because there's nobody who's worthy." And one of the elders says, "Weep not, John. Behold the lion of the tribe of Judah. The root of David has prevailed to open the scroll and loose its seven seals." There is somebody, and it's none other than the lion of the tribe of Judah, the root of David. And Jesus Christ comes out described as a lamb that had been slain. And He takes the scroll and unrolls it, and they sang a new song. "Thou art worthy to take the scroll and open its seals, for Thou was slain and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood out of every kindred and tongue and people and nation and made us unto our God a kingdom of priests. And we shall reign on the earth." And then the chorus begins. "Worthy is the lamb that was slain to receive power and riches and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and blessing. And every creature that is in heaven and on the earth and under the earth and such as are in the sea, and all that are in them heard I saying 'Blessing and honor, glory and power be unto Him that sits on the throne and unto the lamb forever and ever.'" Now I don't know what's going on there. I don't know whether the fish are singing and the birds are singing and everything else, but every single thing in the universe that's still around is echoing the worthiness of the lamb. And I go over to chapter 11 in Revelation. I just love it. In verse 15, it says, "And the seventh angel sounded, and there were great voices in heaven saying, 'The kingdom of this world is become the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ, and He shall reign forever and ever.' And the four and twenty elders who sat before God on their thrones fell on their faces and worshipped him, saying, 'We give Thee thanks, oh, Lord God Almighty, who art and wast and art to come, because Thou hast taken to Thee thy great power and hast reigned.'" That's exciting. Further on in chapter 19, the most beautiful picture of Jesus Christ. "And I saw heaven open," verse 11, "and a white horse, and He that sat on him was called faithful and true, and in righteousness He doth judge and make war. His eyes were like a flame of fire, and on His head were many crowns. And He had a name written that no man knew but He Himself. And he was clothed with a vesture dipped in blood, and His name is called The Word of God." That's no baby wrapped in swaddling clothes, folks." And out of His mouth goes a sharp sword, and with it He'll smite the nations and rule with a rod of iron. He treads the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God, and He has on His vesture and on His thigh a name written." King of Kings and Lord of Lords." Yeah, I want Jesus to come, because I want him to get what he deserves." John MacArthur]
In the meantime…. We are strangers, pilgrims, sojourners, exiles; God has set eternity in our hearts. (Eccl. 3:11) As believers we do not belong in this world anymore and things of the world grow increasingly less satisfying because we long to be with our Lord and with the family of God who loves Him too and in our true home – the unimaginable beauty and glory of a new heaven and a new earth forever and ever and ever. And they lived happily ever after. The deepest longing of our heart, the Dream of all dreams, really does come true. John MacArthur speaks about the joy of reunion and communion with the saints of all ages: ["I want to see the believers of all the ages. Look at Hebrews 12:22, "But you are come onto Mount Zion," (that is, the Mount of Grace, as opposed to Sinai, the Mount of Law), "unto the city of the Living God, the heavenly Jerusalem and to an innumerable company of angels. To the general assembly and the church of the first born." As soon as we get there, we're gonna meet everybody in the church of the first born. Who's the first born? Who's the protocas? Christ. The church of Christ, "who are written in heaven, and to God." He's gonna be there too. "And to the spirits of just men made perfect." Who's that? Old Testament saints. When we get to heaven, we're gonna see the church, and they'll be in glorified bodies already, but we'll see also the spirits of Old Testament saints still waiting their resurrection at the end of the tribulation. You see that? And somehow those spirits are gonna be…I mean, we're gonna be able to see them, if not with the physical eye, somehow to understand their presence. Do you enjoy Christian fellowship? I enjoy that. Imagine. You know, the only drawback in Christian fellowship is some Christians just aren't that much fun. Just imagine having all wonderful Christians and no imperfections. It's gonna be bliss. Imagine having only the greatest divine love toward everybody and just being all together. Just get old Elijah in a corner and spend a few decades with him. It's incredible to think about. I want Jesus to come, because I want to meet the saints. I want to see Adam. I think Adam and Eve are gonna be there. I'd like to know what it was like before the Fall. I want to talk to David, because I just love David. And I want to spend some time with some of the prophets. I'd particularly like to see Hosea, because he really intrigues me. Such a patient man, a loving, forgiving. And then, of course, I've just got to see Paul and Silas and Barnabas, and I want to see John. I just sometimes can't believe that I'm a split second away from being with all those people. It's incredible, because sometimes I feel like, you know, they're out there somewhere, but it's sort of a long ways away. And then somebody that I know dies, and I say, "Uh. I was in the wrong spot again."]
In the meantime….. we are separated from the Lover of our soul. Jesus longs to be with His bride (us) and we long to be with our Bridegroom, Jesus, face to Face continually and forever. "Then I heard what sounded like a great multitude, like the roar of rushing waters and like loud peals of thunder, shouting, "Hallelujah! For our Lord God Almighty reigns. Let us rejoice and be glad and give him glory! For the wedding of the Lamb has come, and his bride has made herself ready." (Rev. 19:6-7) Job yearned to see Jesus face to Face (Job 19:25-27), Paul longed for His appearing (second coming; 2 Tim 4:8) and Jesus said, "[Surely] I am coming quickly (swiftly, speedily). (And John prayed) Amen (so let it be)! Yes, come, Lord Jesus!" And we should pray the same with great passion. [‘Most of all I want Jesus to come, because I want to be with Him. Do you think about that? I just want to say…I don't know how to say this. "Lord, I want to say thank You. I want You to know that I blew it so many times, and I failed so many times, and my life was so incomplete, but I just want You to know that I really love You. I don't know how to say thanks. And maybe something that I did somewhere along the line made You smile, and if it did, boy, that would be terrific." I've loved Him. I've longed for Him. I've prayed with Him. I've communed with Him. I've served Him with my limitations, and I've desperately all my life wanted to know His fullness, and that's what I want more than anything else is to know that fullness and experience His presence without any hindrances, without any hang-ups, without any flesh in the way, without any obstacles. Imagine a world where justice always prevails. Imagine a world where righteousness is always honored, where godliness rules, and holiness dominates, a world where everything is absolutely right, absolutely good, and absolutely fair, a world where there is total joy and lasting peace, a world where the loving, all-powerful, blessed Son of God Jesus Christ reigns and rules. And then you've got the world that God intended in the beginning, and I don't know about you, but I'd like to be there. Wouldn't you? Well, those are the reasons that I want Jesus to come. And I don't know about you, but I am looking (longing) for His appearing. Are you? I hope so, because Paul said in 2 Timothy 4:8, "For I am already being poured out like a drink offering, and the time for my departure is near. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day-and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing." Do you love His appearing? Let me tell you something, people. You can't love His appearing unless you love Him.
"There shall no longer be any curse; and the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it, and His bond-servants shall serve Him; and they shall see His face, and His name shall be on their foreheads" (Revelation 22:3-4)
"Even so, come Lord Jesus." (Revelation 22:20)