Advent: Jesus yesterday, today and forever

171 jesus yesterday today eternitySometimes we go with so much enthusiasm to the Christmas celebration of the Incarnation of God's Son, that we let it over the Advent in the background, the time with which the Christian church year begins. The four Sundays Advent season begins this year at 29. November and heralds Christmas, the feast of the birth of Jesus Christ. The term "Advent" derives from the Latin adventus and means something like "coming" or "arrival". In Advent, Jesus' threefold "coming" is celebrated (typically in reverse order): the future (Jesus' return), the present (in the Holy Spirit) and the past (Jesus' incarnation / birth).

Even better, we understand the meaning of Advent, when we remember how this coming three times is related. The author of the Letter to the Hebrews put it this way: "Jesus Christ yesterday and today and the same for eternity" (Hebr 13,8). Jesus came as a fleshed man (yesterday), he lives in us through the Holy Spirit (today) and will return as king of kings and lord, of all lords (for ever). Another view from which one can look at this is with regard to the kingdom of God. The incarnation of Jesus brought man the kingdom of God (yesterday); he himself invites the faithful to enter and participate in that kingdom (today); and when he returns, he will reveal to the whole of humanity the already existing kingdom of God (for ever).

Jesus used several parables to explain the kingdom he was about to establish: the parable of the seed that grows invisible and silent (Mk 4,26-29), the mustard seed that comes from a small seed grows and grows into a large shrub (Mk 4,30-32), as well as that of sourdough, which acidifies the whole dough (Mt 13,33). These parables show that the kingdom of God was brought to earth with the Incarnation of Jesus and is still and truly true today. Jesus also said, "If I cast out the evil spirits by the Spirit of God [which he did], then the kingdom of God has come to you" (Mt 12,28, Lk 11,20). The kingdom of God is present, he said, and the evidence for this is documented in his demon extermination and other good works of the church.

The power of God is continually manifested by the faithful who live in the reality of God's kingdom. Jesus Christ is the Head of the Church, it was yesterday, it is today and it will be forever. As the kingdom of God was present in the ministry of Jesus, it is now present in the ministry of his church (though not yet in perfection). Jesus, the king dwells among us; His spiritual power dwells in us, even if his kingdom is not yet fully effective. Martin Luther drew the comparison that Jesus had bound Satan, albeit on a long chain: "[...] he [Satan] can no more than a bad dog on a chain; he might bark, run back and forth, tear himself on the chain. "

The Kingdom of God will become a reality in all its perfection - that is the "eternal" we hope for. We know that in the here and now we can not change the whole world, however much we try to reflect Jesus' way of life. Only Jesus can do that, and he will do so on his return in all glory. If the Kingdom of God is already present reality, it will only become reality in its entirety in the future. If it is still largely hidden today, it will be fully revealed at the time of Jesus' return.

Paul often spoke of the kingdom of God in its future sense. Above all, he warned us against "inheriting the kingdom of God" (1Kor 6,9-10 and 15,50, Gal 5,21, Eph 5,5). As his wording often shows, he constantly believed that the kingdom of God would be realized at the end of the world (1Thess 2,12, 2Thess 1,5, Kol 4,11, 2T in 4,2 and 18). But he also knew that wherever Jesus was, his kingdom was already present, even in "this present, evil world," as he called it. Since Jesus lives in us in the here and now, the kingdom of God is already present, and according to Paul we already have civil rights in the kingdom of heaven (Phil 3,20).

Advent also speaks of our salvation, which is referred to in the New Testament in three tenses: past, present, and future. For the past is our salvation already done. It was brought about by Jesus at his first coming - through his life, his death, his resurrection and ascension. We are experiencing the present now that Jesus lives in us and asks us to participate in his work on the kingdom of God. The future stands for the perfect fulfillment of salvation that will come to us when Jesus visibly returns to all and God is all in all.

It is interesting to note that the Bible emphasizes the visible appearance of Jesus in his first and all-coming coming. Between the "yesterday" and the "eternal," Jesus' present coming is invisible insofar as we see him moving about, unlike those who lived in the first century. But as we are now messengers of Christ (2Kor 5,20), we are called to stand for the reality of Christ and His kingdom. Even though Jesus may not be visible, we know that he is with us and will never abandon or abandon us. Our fellow human beings can recognize him in us. We are called to make the glory of the kingdom fragmentary, giving the fruit of the Holy Spirit room to penetrate us and keeping Jesus' new command to love one another (Joh 13,34-35).

As we realize that the focus of Advent is on Jesus being yesterday, today, and forever, we are better able to understand the traditional motif in the form of four candles that precedes the time of the Lord's arrival: hope, Peace, joy and love. As Messiah, from whom the prophets spoke, Jesus is the real incarnation of hope that gave strength to the people of God. He did not come as a warrior or a submitting king, but as a prince of peace to show that God's plan is to bring peace. The motive of joy points to the joyful expectation of the birth and return of our Redeemer. Love is what God is all about. He who is love, loved us in yesterday (before the founding of the world) and continues to do so (individually and confidently) both today and forever.

I pray that the season of Advent will be filled with Jesus' hope, peace and joy and that you will be reminded by the Holy Spirit day by day how much He loves you.

Trusting in Jesus yesterday, today and forever,

Joseph Tkach

president
GRACE COMMUNION INTERNATIONAL


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