The fourth stanza of Charles Wesley’s classic Christmas carol Hark! The Herald Angels Sing is a wonderful between-the-Advents look at what happened at the First Advent, and what we have to look forward to in the Second Advent. The key thing to note in this stanza is the verbs: come, fix, rise, bruise, efface, stamp, and reinstate.
COME, Desire of nations—What is the “desire of nations”? It’s the restoration of God’s glory on earth, so it’s not really a what but a Who. The prophet Haggai informs us that our Desire is realized in the Advent of Jesus (2:1-9).
FIX in us Thy humble home—At His First Advent, Jesus came and humbly made His home among us, even dying to pay the penalty for our sins (Hebrews 2:14, 17; Philippians 2:7-8).
RISE, the woman’s conquering seed—Although Jesus was obedient to death—even death on a Cross, He didn’t stay dead but was resurrected (Philippians 2:8-9; Revelation 1:18)!
BRUISE in us the serpent’s head—With His death and resurrection, Jesus took away the sting of death from satan, fulfilling one of God’s first prophesies (Genesis 3:15; 1 Corinthians 15:19-26, 54-57).
Adam’s likeness now EFFACE—That means to wipe out, do away with, expunge. That’s exactly what God does with our forgiven sins (Psalm 103:1-4, 10-12)!
STAMP Thine image in its place—Although our sin has been effaced, God doesn’t leave us as blank slates, but instead He allows the image of His Son Jesus to be stamped onto our lives (2 Corinthians 1:21-22; 2 Corinthians 3:18).
REINSTATE us in Thy love—The relationship we longed for is now reborn in us (1 Corinthians 15:49)!
The Desire of Nations HAS come, and yet He WILL come again! We’re living between the Advents now, so a good question for Christians to ask is: “How are we to live?” I think there are three key things—
Nowhere else do we see such a concentration of angels as during Christ’s time on earth, and especially at His birth. In the Old Testament prior to Christ’s birth, and in the New Testament following Christ’s ascension, we don’t see as many angels clustered together on Earth—
Charles Wesley wrote a Christmas carol called Hark! The Herald Angels Sing. In the first stanza, we’re invited to “join the triumph in the skies.” But how can someone sing a song grand enough, majestic enough, or worthy enough to honor Almighty God?! That would be like me being asked to compose a song or play something on the piano to honor Mozart—how could I play anything worthy of his musical talent?
In a similar way, when the Israelites thought about coming into God’s presence, they were gripped with knee-knocking, gut-churning fear (Exodus 19:16-19; 20:18-19)!
But notice that the angels didn’t sing, “God is born in Bethlehem.” They sang, “Christ is born in Bethlehem.” Christ: the Messiah; the One who sets things right. No wonder this is such good news of great joy that brings peace and God’s favor (Luke 2:10, 14).
The simple fact is that we couldn’t approach God and join in their angelic song. Instead, Jesus approached us as our Messiah, our Deliverer. How could this happen? Wesley’s carol reminds us that Jesus came so that God and sinners are reconciled!
The First Advent is God approaching us. If we allow Jesus to reconcile us to our Holy Heavenly Father, then we have no fear of Christ’s Second Advent. His Second Advent will be attended to by angels just like His First Advent (Matthew 25:31-32; Mark 8:38; Jude 1:14-15). Those who haven’t had their sins forgiven will hear a song that is soul-crushing to them, while those who have accepted the reconciling work of Jesus will join with the angelic host in a victorious song bringing glory to God forever and ever (Revelation 14:9-11; 15:1-4).
We don’t have to wait until we get to Heaven to join the triumph of the skies. We can join the angelic choir right now in singing our praise to God today. And every day!
Join me this Sunday as we continue to look at the fantastic messages in our Christmas carols.
But think about Jesus. Even before His first Advent, He was given numerous “nicknames” or titles that foretold what He was going to do. In the Christmas carol “O Come O Come Emmanuel” four of Christ’s nicknames/titles are key for us today.
It’s so important for us to look back at these First Advent titles because they give us perspective for today and hope for Christ’s Second Advent.
Paul makes it clear that we are living in a time of both already and not yet. We have redemption (Ephesians 1:7), and we are waiting for the day of redemption (Ephesians 4:30). Jesus has already paid for our freedom (First Advent), but we are still awaiting the rewards that will come with His Second Advent.
O come, O come…
Literally, this means “God is with His people.” The prophesy was originally given to the prophet Isaiah (see 7:14 and 8:6-10), but it was repeated when Jesus was born (Matthew 1:23). Only One Who was fully God and fully Man could pay the price for our ransom from sin.
David, the son of Jesse, prayed, “Who am I, Sovereign Lord, and what is my family, that You have brought me this far?” (2 Samuel 7:18). Yet God was going to continue to keep David’s family line alive (although at times it looked like the dead stump of a long-forgotten tree) to give a throne to Jesus as the King of kings that would once and for all crush satan’s tyranny.
When I think of Dayspring, I think of light exploding immediately into the darkness (Isaiah 9:2 and Luke 1:77-78). Jesus Himself told us of His victory over the darkness: I have told you these things, so that in Me you may have [perfect] peace and confidence. In the world you have tribulation and trials and distress and frustration; but be of good cheer [take courage; be confident, certain, undaunted]! For I have overcome the world. [I have deprived it of power to harm you and have conquered it for you] (John 16:33, AMP).
Only Jesus holds the key to open wide our heavenly home (Isaiah 22:22; Revelation 1:8)!
What do you need?
All our longings—all our O come! O come!—are satisfied in Jesus. His First Advent is the already, and His Second Advent gives us hope for the not yet.
Check out some of the other Carols of Christmas we are looking at this year.
Celebrating Advent means both looking back at Christ’s First Advent in Bethlehem and looking ahead to His Second Advent at the end of time. Faith in the First Advent fuels hope in the Second Advent. Let’s take a look at the events leading up to and surrounding Christ’s Second Advent to help us appreciate what was begun at His First Advent.
Overarching all of the end times events is a Christian’s blessed hope: “The resurrection of those who have fallen asleep in Christ and their translation together with those who are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord is the imminent and blessed hope of the church.”
The word “rapture” doesn’t appear in Scripture, but we get this word from the Latin word raptu, which comes from the Greek word harpazo. We first see it when Philip is “caught away” from the Ethiopian’s presence in the desert (Acts 8:39). This is the same word Paul uses when he says that Christians will be “caught up” to meet Christ in the air (see 1 Thessalonians 4:13-17).
Note that the rapture of the Church is not the Second Coming of Christ. His Second Coming takes place at the end of the period known as the Tribulation when Jesus returns to earth as a conquering King and establishes His Millennial Reign on earth (Revelation 19:11-16; 20:1-4).
During Christ’s Millennial Reign, the devil and his cohorts are locked up until the end of the 1000-year reign and are allowed to tempt people one final time. The devil will succeed in tempting quite a few people, as he will once again muster a sizable army to attack Christ and His followers. This decisive battle will culminate in the final judgment.
“There will be a final judgment in which the wicked dead will be raised and judged according to their works. Whosoever is not found written in the Book of Life, together with the devil and his angels, the beast and the false prophet, will be consigned to the everlasting punishment in the lake of fire” (Revelation 20:11-15).
After this will come the New Heavens and New Earth where Christians will commune with God for ever and ever (Revelation 21:1-5, 22-27; 22:1-5, 12-21).
In light of Christ’s First Advent in Bethlehem, and His soon return (His Second Advent), how are Christians to live? In a word: HOPEFUL!
In all of these passages discussing the end times, hope-filled words are used—
Jesus also pointed out that Heaven is a place “prepared for you since the creation of the world,” while Hell is “prepared for the devil and his angels.” GOD WANTS YOU WITH HIM IN HEAVEN!
As you rejoice in the First Advent, remember that Christ’s First Coming was to provide a way for you to have your sins forgiven and be able to spend eternity with Him. So as we look forward in hope to Christ’s Second Advent we say with the Apostle John, “Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!”
Scholars, tradesmen, politicians, theologians, pastors, and martyrs—all have spoken or written about the greatness of God over the past two millennia. In How Great Is Our God we are treated to a sampling of these writings. Check out my full book review by clicking here, and then enjoy this second set of quotes.
“Some of us, no doubt, have to live outwardly solitary lives. We all live alone after fellowship and communion. We die alone, and in the depths of our souls we all live alone. So let us be thankful that the Master knows the bitterness of solitude, and has Himself walked that path. Jesus Christ’s union with the Father was deep, close, constant; altogether transcending any experience of ours. But still He sets before us the path of comfort for every lonely heart: ‘I am not alone, for the Father is with Me.’ If earth be dark, let us look to Heaven. If the world holds no friend, let us turn to Him who never leaves us. If dear ones are torn from our grasp, let us grasp God.” —Alexander Maclaren
“The blessedness of individuals must not be determined by the value of their known wealth, but according to the voice of their conscience within them.” —Ambrose
“If God gave you not only earth but heaven, that you should rule over sun, moon, and stars, and have the rule over the highest of the sons of men, it would not be enough to satisfy you, unless you had God Himself.” —Jeremiah Burroughs
“Father in Heaven! What is a man without You! What is all that he knows, vast accumulation though it may be, but a chipped fragment if he does not know You!” —Soren Kierkegaard
“Great are You, O Lord, and greatly to be praised; great is Your power, and Your wisdom is infinite. You awaken us to delight in Your praise; for You made us for Yourself, and our heart is restless, until it rests in You. They that seek the Lord shall praise Him: for they that seek shall find Him, and they that find shall praise Him. I will seek You, Lord, by calling on You; and will call on You, believing in You; for to us You have been preached.” —Augustine
“In the Old Testament, there are twenty times as many references to the second coming of Christ, as to His first coming. … The Cross must ever precede the Crown. He came with the Cross, fulfilling Isaiah 53; and now He is coming with the Crown, the Messiah and King.” —Aimee Semple McPherson
“The Word is the one Shepherd of things rational which may have an appearance of discord to those who have not ears to hear, but are truly at perfect concord. … For all the Scripture is the one perfect and harmonized instrument of God, which from different sounds gives forth one saving voice to those willing to learn, which stops and restrains every working of an evil spirit.” —Origen
“So desperate is the need that we have no time to engage in vain babblings. While we are discussing the exact location of the church of Galatia, men are perishing under the curse of the law; while we are setting the date of Jesus’ birth, the world is doing without its Christmas message.” —J. Gresham Machen
“If the Christian plan is true, then all others are false. If others are true, then there was no need of the sacrifice on the Cross.” —Albert Barnes
“I want through the day to walk with God; God has taken charge of me, He is going with me Himself; I am going to do His will all day in His strength; I am ready for all that may come.” —Andrew Murray
“When the time for the Advent of the Antichrist approaches, people’s minds will grow cloudy from carnal passions, and dishonor and lawlessness will grow stronger. Then the world will become unrecognizable. People’s appearances will change, and it will be impossible to distinguish men from women due to their shamelessness in dress and style of hair.
There will be no respect for parents and elders, love will disappear, and Christian pastors, bishops, and priests will become vain men. At that time the morals and traditions of Christians and the Church will change. People will abandon modesty, and dissipation will reign. Falsehood and greed will attain great proportions; and lust, adultery, homosexuality, secret deeds, and murder will rule in society.
At that future time, the churches of God will be deprived of God-fearing and pious pastors, and woe to the Christians remaining at that time; they will completely lose their faith because they will lack the opportunity of seeing the light of knowledge from anyone at all.” —Nilus the Elder (d. 430 AD)
“It is the Bible itself that drives us out beyond ourselves and invites us, without regard to our worthiness or unworthiness, to reach for the last highest answer. … We need only dare to follow this drive, this spirit, this river, to grow out beyond ourselves toward the highest answer. This daring is faith; and we read the Bible rightly when we read it in faith. The Bible unfolds to us as we are met, guided, drawn on, and made to grow by the grace of God.” —Karl Barth
“Who is regulating affairs on this earth today—God or the devil? That God reigns supreme in Heaven, is generally conceded; that He does so over this world, is almost universally denied—if not directly, then indirectly. More and more are men relegating God to the background. … Therefore we need not be surprised that men exclude Him from the realm of human affairs. … In light of this [Isaiah 55:8-9], it is only to be expected that much of the Bible conflicts with the sentiments of the carnal mind, which is at enmity against God.” —Arthur Pink
You can check out the first set of quotes I shared from How Great Is Our God by clicking here. Stay tuned: more quotes coming soon!