The Advent season that we are now entering speaks of the coming of Jesus Christ.
It is not so much that we are to remember Him at Christmas time, and the fact that He came about 2,000 years ago, but that He will return again.
Our Advent time is to be spent in remembrance of the promises of that return, that we would not lose hope, no matter what is happening in our lives, or in the world around us.
As we observed in our preparation verse for this morning, that was the hope, the hope of Jesusí first coming, that Isaiah gave the people. (Isaiah 7:14)
14. "Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, a virgin will be with child and bear a son, and she will call His name Immanuel.
And a virgin, Mary, did give birth to a Son, Jesus the Christ, the Son of God, our Lord and Savior.
And the proof of this prophetic fulfillment should give every one of us the hope and assurance of His second coming.
Many of the prophets and writers of old, hundreds of years before Jesus' first coming, also prophesied of His second coming.
Let's take a look at a few of these, beginning with Job 19:25-27.
25. "And as for me, I know that my Redeemer lives,
And at the last He will take His stand on the earth.
26. "Even after my skin is destroyed,
Yet from my flesh I shall see God;
27. Whom I myself shall behold,
And whom my eyes shall see and not another.
My heart faints within me.
Job lived some 2,000 years before Jesus' first coming, and yet he had the faith to understand that Messiah would come and bring forth his own (Jobís) resurrection even long after his death.
And remember that the resurrection of the Old Testament saints did not occur until after Jesus' first resurrection; thus, Job was looking even beyond our present time, for he says:
"Whom I myself shall behold,
And whom my eyes shall see..."
He is seeing Jesus' second coming.
This is the kind of faith and assurance that each one of us needs.
When Job said this, everything in his life was going wrong, yet he still saw beyond his problems, just as we should.
Listen to what Joel says (1:13-20), and as we look at these verses, remember that Joel is speaking forth these words to a people who had turned away from God.
13. Gird yourselves with sackcloth,
And lament, O priests;
Wail, O ministers of the altar!
Come, spend the night in sackcloth,
O ministers of my God,
For the grain offering and the libation
Are withheld from the house of your God.
Even the priests were not living as they should have been living. The whole nation of Israel had become corrupted, but there was still hope.
14. Consecrate a fast,
Proclaim a solemn assembly;
Gather the elders
And all the inhabitants of the land
To the house of the Lord your God,
And cry out to the Lord.
15. Alas for the day!
For the day of the Lord is near,
And it will come as destruction from the Almighty.
Everyone who has not repented of his or her sins will face the wrath of God.
But if people change their ways, or even are sincerely trying to do so, the Lord will forgive them.
Remember, to say we sorry and still continue in our sinful ways is not really being sorry.
To repent of our sins is to turn away from them, and to truly seek to live as the Lord desires us to live.
Thus Joel reminds them of what God has already done.
16. Has not food been cut off before our eyes,
Gladness and joy from the house of our God?
17. The seeds shrivel under their clods;
The storehouses are desolate,
The barns are torn down,
For the grain is dried up.
18. How the beasts groan!
The herds of cattle wander aimlessly
Because there is no pasture for them;
Even the flocks of sheep suffer.
19. To Thee, O Lord, I cry;
For fire has devoured the pastures of the wilderness,
And the flame has burned up all the trees of the field.
20. Even the beasts of the field pant for Thee;
For the water brooks are dried up,
And fire has devoured the pastures of the wilderness.
We, too, can look around and see clearly that our world isn't following the teachings of Jesus, not even by most of the professed Christians.
But even in the midst of this, we are not to lose hope, for the Lord will return.
When Jesus came the first time, He destroyed nothing; with His second coming there will be great destruction.
If we believe, and are faithful, we will not be part of the destruction, but only of the everlasting life with the Lord to come.
Obadiah also has a similar word (15-16):
15. "For the day of the Lord draws near on all the nations.
As you have done, it will be done to you.
Your dealings will return on your own head.
16. "Because just as you drank on My holy mountain,
All the nations will drink continually.
They will drink and swallow,
And become as if they had never existed.
In other words, what goes around, comes around.
The evil or the good, whatever a person does, will eventually come back upon themselves.
If it doesn't come now, it will come when the Lord returns.
The world is heading for hell, and they don't even seem to realize it or care.
Our warring madness has created a living hell for millions of our fellow human beings, and for billions of animals who suffer and die every day.
The hell that is brought upon them will one day be returned upon those who caused it and deliberately turned a blind eye to their pain and suffering.
Let's now take a look at what Zephaniah says (1:14-18):
14. Near is the great day of the Lord,
Near and coming very quickly;
Listen, the day of the Lord!
In it the warrior cries out bitterly.
15. A day of wrath is that day,
A day of trouble and distress,
A day of destruction and desolation,
A day of darkness and gloom,
A day of clouds and thick darkness,
16. A day of trumpet and battle cry,
Against the fortified cities
And the high corner towers.
17. And I will bring distress on men,
So that they will walk like the blind,
Because they have sinned against the Lord;
And their blood will be poured out like dust,
And their flesh like dung.
18. Neither their silver nor their gold
Will be able to deliver them
On the day of the Lord's wrath;
And all the earth will be devoured
In the fire of His jealousy,
For He will make a complete end,
Indeed a terrifying one,
Of all the inhabitants of the earth.
Once the day of judgment comes, there is no longer any hope for the unsaved or the unrepented.
As Zephaniah reminded them and reminds us today --- today, before the return of the Lord, while we are yet alive, is the time for repentance and for returning wholeheartedly to the Lord.
And finally letís look at one more passage from the prophets, this time from the words of Zechariah, 14:1-5.
1. Behold, a day is coming for the Lord when the spoil taken from you will be divided among you.
2. For I will gather all the nations against Jerusalem to battle, and the city will be captured, the houses plundered, the women ravished, and half of the city exiled, but the rest of the people will not be cut off from the city.
3. Then the Lord will go forth and fight against those nations, as when He fights on a day of battle.
The message is still the same: if there is no repentance and returning to the Lord, there will be utter destruction.
But here the prophet is even more specific about the Lord's return, for he tells us where this will occur, so that we are not misled.
4. And in that day His feet will stand on the Mount of Olives, which is in front of Jerusalem on the east; and the Mount of Olives will be split in its middle from east to west by a very large valley, so that half of the mountain will move toward the north and the other half toward the south.
5. And you will flee by the valley of My mountains, for the valley of the mountains will reach to Azel; yes, you will flee just as you fled before the earthquake in the days of Uzziah king of Judah. Then the Lord, my God, will come, and all the holy ones with Him!
Yes, these are the fire and brimstone preachers of old; but even in the midst of their messages of gloom for those who have turned away from God, there is the message of hope for those who love the Lord our God.
Someone recently said to me that they don't see me as a fire and brimstone preacher; and she's correct, for I don't have to preach hell, because everyone who doesn't receive Jesus Christ will go there anyway.
Everyone who doesn't receive what I am offering them is going there, too.
What I preach is the hope of heaven and the love of God, that some might desire to come along.
And that's really what the prophets of God spoke of, but they also tried to frighten the people into repenting.
These frightening words are still before us, for all to read.
But the people who are heading towards hell don't want to read these words, and neither do they want to hear my words of hope and love, for they believe neither.
So, I will continue to preach the love and compassion of our Lord and of the glory of the life to come, that at least we, who hear these words and take them to heart, will have peace and hope in a world gone mad.