Monday, December 26, 2011

Why The Messiah Must Come Twice

I was reading of a story that the Jews relate.  A New York City rabbi was being told by a witnessing Christian that Jesus was the Messiah.  The rabbi walked to his window, looked out at the city unchanged by all its corruption.  He returned and said, "No, when the Messiah comes there will be justice".  Perhaps he was thinking of Isa. 61:1-2, " The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me, because the LORD has anointed me to bring good news to the poor; he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound;  to proclaim the year of the LORD's favor, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn."  Here the prophet repeats what he has already said, that when the Messiah comes one of the things he will do is judge the wicked.  It might also be worth while pointing out that when Jesus quotes this passage early on in his ministry while in Nazareth he stops before he gets to the reference to judgment.

It seems to me there is a fundamental flaw in this rabbi's criterion for identifying the Messiah.  He assumes that the Messiah will only come once and when he does he will judge the wicked and exercise justice.  His assumption then is that this is a good thing at least for Jews.  The flaw is in thinking that he should have justice and not grace.  He has placed himself in a category that doesn't exist, at least not outside of Christ.  "There is none that does good, no not one"; why then does he assume that the Messiah will only come once and that this is a good thing for him?

This was the first thought that came to me when I read the story and perhaps the reason Jesus leaves out part of the quote from Isaiah when speaking of what his mission was during his first advent.  It is unmerited mercy and amazing grace that he came the first time without reference to judgment.  If Jesus hadn't come the first time to deal with our sin no one would be able to stand in the Day of Judgment.  It is a tragedy of monumental proportions to think that the only work the Messiah needs to do is make this world right by giving to everyone what they deserve.   It is supreme arrogance to think that you are ready to meet God's appointed Judge while you reject his work on the cross.

Heb. 9:26-28 seems to bring the need of these two advents together in the same passage, "For then must he often have suffered since the foundation of the world: but now once in the end of the world hath he appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself.  And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment: So Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many; and unto them that look for him shall he appear the second time without sin unto salvation."  The reason he had to come the first time was to put away sin and the reason was because all men are sinners proven by the fact that all men die.  And at death we are judged for our sin.  The ones that Jesus died for are the only ones who can legitimately look forward to his return.  He has taken away all the guilt of our sin and so when he comes back it will not be to judge us but to glorify us.  Clearly there is a connection between the cross and being ready for his return.  May each one reading this make his calling and election sure.  Have you fled to the cross of Christ as your only way for the forgiveness of your sins?

If the Messiah only comes once, we are all in trouble.  Praise God that he sent his Son the first time to save so we can be ready for the Second Coming.  The first advent secured our salvation.  There's your Christmas message in a nutshell.  Sorry it's a day late!

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