Isaiah 9:6-7 For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. 7 Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and forevermore. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will do this.
Revelation 19:11-16 Then I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse! The one sitting on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he judges and makes war. 12 His eyes are like a flame of fire, and on his head are many diadems, and he has a name written that no one knows but himself. 13 He is clothed in a robe dipped in blood, and the name by which he is called is The Word of God. 14 And the armies of heaven, arrayed in fine linen, white and pure, were following him on white horses. 15 From his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations, and he will rule them with a rod of iron. He will tread the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God the Almighty. 16 On his robe and on his thigh he has a name written, King of kings and Lord of lords.
Originally, I had planned to continue on in Titus throughout the Advent season. However, as I thought and prayed more about it, it seemed best to take a different course. Instead, then, we’re going to take a break from Titus and spend the next three weeks considering three aspects of the glory of Jesus’ Advents: 1) the glory of the promises of the Advents (today), 2) the glory of the first Advent (next week), and 3) the glory of the second Advent (December 20th). There is so much here that it’s hard to imagine limiting it to just three weeks, but I’ll do my best to give you the best in order to help you worship the God who promised to come, came, and promises to come again.
Advent, you may remember from last week, means “coming”. When we speak of the Advents, therefore, we’re speaking of Jesus’ coming to earth, originally, 2000 years ago as a baby in Bethlehem (which, of course, is what Christians celebrate at Christmas), and then again in the future as the conquering King. As I mentioned, this morning we’re going to look at the glory of the promises of those Advents.
Before I pray and before we get to the promises, in order to set the stage for the glory of the promises of the Advents, consider this:
Imagine for a moment that you are a married man. Imagine taking a once-in-a-lifetime trip to the country of your wife’s family heritage. While there you enjoy the sights and sounds and food and culture of her ancestors. And while you are there you also visit the local records office in order to look up your wife’s family line. Imagine your wife telling the eager clerk her maiden name and watching him routinely flip through the records. Things seem a little strange as his demeanor changes from surface-pleasant to curious-confused before asking to see your wife’s passport. Things seem even more strange as he excuses himself to get his boss. And things seem stranger still as his boss asks you and your wife to join her in her office.
After asking the two of you to sit, the woman in charge explains that your wife’s ancestors had been a ruling family for generations. They had been exceedingly wealthy and there was still a great deal of property and inheritance being held in trust. What’s more, the records clerk tells your wife that it had been believed that her family line had ended decades ago. But that now, as the only known living relative, all of the property and wealth and titles would become hers and yours.
That would be absolutely unbelievable, wouldn’t it? It’s hard to even try wrapping my mind around what that would feel like; the shock, the joy, the excitement, the anticipation, the wondering, the overwhelmingness of it all. What a story it would be…the kind of thing they make movies out of.
Now, consider one more thing. Imagine after thinking all the dust had settled, finding a centuries old document in one of your newly inherited castles that predicted all of this in significant detail. Imagine discovering a rolled up parchment that spoke of the royal line being broken for generations before being restored by an unsuspecting foreigner on a vacation. That would take the story to an entirely new level, wouldn’t it? It would take what was an already amazing story in its own right and make it even more amazing still. This is in many ways exactly what we have in the promises of the Advents of Jesus.
Here’s the big idea of this sermon, then: Our view of the glory of the Advents of Jesus (and, as we’ll see over the next two weeks, they are unimaginable glorious in and of themselves) is made even more glorious when we see that they were promised and described centuries and centuries before they happened.
With that in mind, let’s pray that God would open our eyes to behold His glory as they are put on display in His promises concerning the Advents of His Son. And let’s pray that the result of our new view of God’s glory would result in the lives of worship and joy and obedience that we were made for.
The Glory of the Promises
One more thing before we get to the promises themselves…I want to make sure that everyone in this room understands the context in which the promises were made. Without the following three contextual considerations, the promises will be underwhelming at best.
First, the Advent promises are promises of bad news before they are ever good news. Jesus’ first and second comings are not good news for everyone, and they are always bad news for everyone first. Grace, don’t miss this: God’s promise to send His Son into the world was a promise that the world was lost. The promised Advents of Jesus are first a proclamation that sin is in the world and that God’s creatures are in a dire predicament because of it. Jesus came—Christmas exists—because sin reigned on the earth and all mankind was receiving its wages of death.
Let me say this another way (because I really don’t want you to miss it): If I promised you all that I had good news for you, that I had just discovered the cure for Bullough Bocholifotitus, two things would be required for it to be good news for you. First, Bullough Bocholifotitus would need to be a condition bad enough for you to care if you had it. If it caused nothing more than an extra eyelash to grow once every ten years, you wouldn’t consider its cure good news. If, on the other hand, Bullough Bocholifotitus caused massive, malignant tumors to grow inside you, that’d be a different story altogether.
The second thing required for the cure to be good news is that people would have to have it. If no one had Bullough Bocholifotitus the news of its cure wouldn’t be good news either. Again, though, the more universal the condition was, the better the news would be.
Grace, the bible is wholly unambiguous about the fact the entire world has been inflicted with the deadly disease of sin. Everyone has sin by nature and choice—every man, woman, and child; every race and religion; every size and shape; every level of intelligence and beauty; everyone. And the bible is equally unambiguous about the fact that the result of all sin is death—eternal conscious torment at the hands of the almighty God. There is nothing more serious than sin’s effects, and everyone has been infected by it.
Therefore, only once we come to understand that the Advent promises are first promises of bad news, can we ever righty appreciate them as good news. Only once we’ve seen them as a declaration that all mankind is dead in sin can we truly see them as God’s promises to cure our sin condition. Only once we’ve felt the depth of their bad news are we able to feel the depth of their good news—the best news we could ever hope for. That is one aspect of the context in which the promises are made.
The second important piece of Advent-promise context is the fact that the Advent promises are only good news for those who believe them. As we just saw, the Advent promises are first the promise of the bad news that we’ve all sinned and are dead in our sin. In addition, however, they are also the promise that Jesus came into the world to save the people of the world from their sins. They are the promise that God loved the world in such a way that He sent His one and only Son into the world so that the world might not perish but, instead, have everlasting life. But again, and don’t miss this, they are the promise of forgiveness and eternal life only for those who believe in them—for those who believe that they are sinners and that the work of Jesus at his comings is their only and certain hope of salvation.
Do you see this? Do you see that this means there is no place for mere sentimental “holiday spirit”? Do you see that Christmas ought to be a season of lament for all those who are not trusting in the God who came to save mankind from his sin? Do you see that, on the other hand, Jesus’ comings are good news for everyone who would believe in Him? This morning, right now, the comings of Jesus can be good news for you if you trust in them and all that Jesus accomplished (and will accomplish) in them. If you believe them, they will be the good news of eternal life for you today. That’s the second contextual thing to see about the Advent promises.
The third thing to see is that the promises of the Advents of Jesus aren’t merely the promises of forgiveness of sins, they are also the promises of much, much more. (As Greg Gilbert reminds us,) the promises of Jesus’ Advents are also the promise of adoption as God’s children, a true relationship with Jesus, the gift of the Holy Spirit, freedom from sin’s tyranny, the fellowship of the church, the final resurrection and glorification of the body, the new heavens and new earth, eternity in God’s presence, seeing God’s face, etc.).
Again, do you see this, Grace? The promises that we’re about to look at concerning the comings of Jesus are God’s declaration that our sins will be forgiven and that we will be able to glorify and enjoy God forever and ever and ever; to have our souls completely satisfied eternally in perfect, eternal fellowship with God. Now there is glory!
In the way of context, then, the following Advent promises are only truly understood in the proper context. And the proper context includes the understanding that the promises are bad news before they are ever good news, they are only good news only for those who are trusting wholly in them, and that they are the promises of far, far more than mere forgiveness of sin.
With that, let’s look at the promises of the Advents.
The Glory of the Promises of Jesus’ First Advent
It has been estimated (by J. Barton Payne) that the bible contains 127 promises, spanning over 3000 bible verses, concerning the first Advent of Jesus. One of the clearest sets of these promises comes in our first verse for this morning, Isaiah 9:6-7. In it, God promises to send his Son and describes his nature and work.
“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. 7 Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and forevermore. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will do this.”
What a remarkable passage. What a remarkable set of promises concerning the first Advent (or “coming”) of Jesus. The Son of God would be born as a child, he would have the governance of the world placed on his shoulder, he would be given titles fit for his glory, he would rule with power and might unending, he would be of the line of Israel’s greatest King, David, and would far surpass even David’s glory, he would rule in justice and righteousness forever, and He would accomplish all of this because of the zeal of the Father! Wow. That’s quite a list of Advent promises even by itself.
But, as I just mentioned, there are many, many more as well. In addition to the promises of Isaiah 9, (as Walter Kaiser notes,) God promises that Jesus’ first Advent…
- Would result from the seed/offspring of a woman and would result in the crushing of the head of Satan (Genesis 3:15).
- Would come from the seed/offspring of Abraham and would bless all the nations on earth (Genesis 12:3).
- Would have him come as a “prophet like Moses” to whom God said we must listen (Deuteronomy 18:15).
- Would begin in Bethlehem of Judah (Micah 5:2).
- Would come through a virgin (Isaiah 7:14).
- Would lead to Jesus having a throne, a kingdom and a dynasty, or house, starting with King David, that will last forever (2 Samuel 7:16).
- Would include Jesus riding into Jerusalem on a donkey, righteous and having salvation, coming with gentleness (Zechariah 9:9-10).
- Would end with Jesus being pierced for our transgression and crushed for our iniquities (Isaiah 53:5).
- Would mean Jesus dying among the wicked ones but be buried with the rich (Isaiah 53:9).
- And it would lead to Jesus resurrection from the grave, for God would not allow His Holy One to suffer decay (Psalm 16:10).
Again, this is not an exhaustive list, but what a start! The glory here is plain to see as we know that every one of these promises came to pass. The Father remained faithful in them all. This is what we’re celebrating throughout Advent: the faithfulness of God in sending His Son just as he said he would to accomplish all that he said he would. This is what we’re celebrating in Christmas—the first coming of Jesus, the Savior of the world. What promises, what glory!
With that, let’s look also at God’s promises throughout the bible to send the Son for a second time.
The Glory of the Promises of Jesus’ Second Advent
Jesus came first as a lowly baby in a lowly manger in a lowly town. He was mocked and beaten and crucified. But he is coming again, God has promised a second Advent, and this one will be significantly different. Perhaps the most well known promise and description of Jesus’ second Advent comes from our second passage for this morning, Revelation 19:11-16.
“Then I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse! The one sitting on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he judges and makes war. 12 His eyes are like a flame of fire, and on his head are many diadems, and he has a name written that no one knows but himself. 13 He is clothed in a robe dipped in blood, and the name by which he is called is The Word of God. 14 And the armies of heaven, arrayed in fine linen, white and pure, were following him on white horses. 15 From his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations, and he will rule them with a rod of iron. He will tread the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God the Almighty. 16 On his robe and on his thigh he has a name written, King of kings and Lord of lords.”
Wow. We’ll look more closely at this passage in two weeks, but see now the glory of this promise. Jesus will return. He will come again. And when he does, he will come from heaven above, in full majesty. When he comes again, he will judge and make war and win the war that will truly end all wars. He will be fierce and mighty. That he is Lord and savior will be known by all. He will command heavenly armies and names of honor. He will stomp out his enemies and rule in righteousness and peace and joy and love forever!
Again, what promises! What an awesome description of Jesus’ second Advent. But there’s more! In his second coming, God promises that Jesus will…
- Come from the clouds of heaven as the Son of Man (Daniel 7:13-14).
- Come as the “Sun of Righteousness” for all who revere Him and look for His coming again (Malachi 4:2).
- Come as the One whom Israel will one day recognize as the One they pierced, causing bitter grief (Zechariah 12:10).
- Come suddenly in order to bring his people with him into the Father’s presence (Matthew 24:44).
- Come to save those who eagerly await him (Hebrews 9:28; Philippians 3:20).
- Come at a time we are not expecting (Matthew 25:13; Mark 13:32-33).
- Come to make us more like Him and to let us see Him as he truly is (1 John 3:2).
- Come to set all things right (Revelation 21:4).
These are just a few of the many promises concerning Jesus’ second Advent. Don’t miss the glory. Don’t let your hearts grow fond of the promises of this world such that they grow numb to the promises that Jesus is coming back in glory and power beyond comprehension.
The glory of the promises of the first Advent are easy to see because we know that all things happened just as they were promised. Let that fuel your trust in the promises of second Advent. Let the faithfulness of God in the past cause your trust and worship to rise in the present. Look for this glory. Long for this glory. Live for this glory.
There you have it, Grace. Glory in the highest in the promises of the Advents of Jesus!
Next week we’ll look at the story of Jesus’ first advent, and in two weeks we’ll look at the story of the second. This morning, though, again I invite you to see and consider and be awed by the glory of the promises concerning them both. Jesus came and he will come again and those are remarkable truths. These truths, though are made even more remarkable by the fact that they were promised in such detail so far in advance.
Grace, see the glory of God in the fulfillment of His promises to send His Son to dwell as a man among men on earth in order to reconcile mankind to God. And see the glory of God in the certainty of the fulfillment of His promise to send His Son again to conquer and rule and set all things right and fully and finally reverse the effects of sin. See the glory of the promises and the certainty of their fulfillment and praise God for them.
I charge you today to set your minds on these things and allow their glory to wash over you. I charge you today to order your Christmas celebrations and your whole lives around these things and not the patterns of this world. I charge you today to get creative in the ways you demonstrate your love for and trust in these promises to your friends and family and children and world. And I charge you today to find both rest and excitement in the glory of God put on display in his promises concerning the Advents of His Son Jesus and all that they have and will accomplish. Amen.