Today we talk about this coming that we’re expecting – the second advent. Here Peter puts Christ in the grand narrative of human (and pre-human) history.
“He was foreknown before the creation of the world, but was manifested in these last times for your sake” (1 Pet. 1:20)
That Jesus would save the world was known even before the world was made, much less before sin entered that world through Adam and Eve. But, for several millennia the advent of the heaven-known, heaven-established savior, though expected, did not take place. Luther says that “in the prophets it was truly promised, yet dimly and not publicly.” There are certainly numerous prophecies in the Old Testament about the coming of the Messiah. But the details of Jesus’ coming were “dim” … which is why so much of the incarnation came as a surprise, even to the Bible experts!
But, yes, He did come – “in the fullness of time”, as the Apostle Paul says in Galatians 4:4. Luther continues: “Now, since the resurrection of Christ and the sending forth of the Holy Ghost, it is publicly preached and sounded forth in the whole world.” The gospel! Now that we have beheld Jesus in the flesh, a clear explication of the story of Christ can now be, and in fact has been, preached all over the world, to billions of people!
So … the coming of Jesus that we celebrate each Christmas was only His first advent. Then, after rising from the dead, He informed his disciples that He was leaving them, this time under the power and guidance of the Holy Spirit, but would return again to implement our final, complete redemption. That’s what we’re waiting for now. But…when will that be? Are these the “last days”?
I became a Christian in the ‘70s, when predicting the return of Christ was all the rage. I wore out my copy of Hal Lindsey’s There’s a New World Coming which made it very clear, through the tagging of current events, that the return of Jesus must be within our lifetimes. One of my favorite Christian music artists, Keith Green, formed a commune in the San Fernando Valley called The Last Days Community. It was truly an exercise in the practice of Advent – wholehearted pursuit of holiness in preparation for His coming.
But…He didn’t come in the 70s. Or in the 20th century. Were those not “the last days”? If those weren’t, are today’s? When is the next “fullness of time”? It is going to be soon? Or might it be another millennia or two?
Luther makes a great, simple statement that I wish I had heard back in the 70s! “The end of time, of which Peter speaks, is the time of grace, when the Gospel was preached in all the world by the apostles after Christ’s ascension, and will continue to be preached until the last day. The prophets, apostles and Christ himself call it ‘the last hour,’ not because soon after the ascension of Christ the last day would come, but because, after this preaching of the Gospel of Christ, no other shall come, and there will be no better Gospel revealed and explained than that which is now explained and revealed.”*
It’s the last hour. Because it’s the last chapter. The end of the scroll. The gospel was the last unveiling of God’s plan before the ultimate restoration. Living in this chapter, we know the full story – from the very beginnings to the end that is still to come. – the gospel. “Salvation is now already revealed and completed,” reminds Luther. “God permits the world stand yet longer that his name may be still further honored and praised.”
How blessed we are to live in the last days! And how blessed we’ll be when he finally comes again!
E * O
* I guess this means that even the Apostles themselves were “latter-day saints” … which is why they spoke so vehemently against further, false revelations (Gal. 1:8-9).