The Great Difference in the Two Advents of Christ

The Great Difference in the Two Advents of Christ

He came to endure the penalty, he comes to procure the reward. He came to serve, he comes to rule. He came to open wide the door of grace, he comes to shut to the door. He comes not to redeem but to judge; not to save but to pronounce the sentence; not to weep while he invites, but to smile while he rewards; not to tremble in heart while he proclaims grace, but to make others tremble while he proclaims their doom.

Spurgeon lived during a time when the doctrine of the incarnation was being challenged. With the growth of German higher criticism, the authority and trustworthiness of Scripture were increasingly being questioned. The translation of David Strauss’ The Life of Jesus into English in 1846 led many to adopt a rationalistic understanding of the Gospels, stripping it of its supernatural elements. For them, the incarnation was no longer the miraculous joining of the eternal Son of God with our humanity. Instead, it was simply mythical language pointing to the disciples’ high view of their rabbi. Even as Christmas grew in cultural popularity, its meaning was increasingly lost.

But Spurgeon would have none of this. Even as he led his church in celebrating Christmas, Spurgeon made sure that this was a celebration rooted in doctrine. They rejoiced in the arrival of the Son of God, the miracle of the incarnation for their salvation. Jesus was no ordinary man. He is the Word made flesh. And His first coming lays a claim on our lives because He is coming back again.

On his first Christmas Sunday at the newly-built Metropolitan Tabernacle in 1861, Spurgeon drove this point home as he chose Hebrews 9:27-28 for his Christmas sermon text: “And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment, so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him.”

His takeaway was this: to understand Christ’s midnight birth rightly, we must see it in the radiance of his second coming. Even as we adore the Savior-infant in the manger, we must recognize He is also the coming Judge and King. What difference would it make in our Christmas celebration if we kept both advents in view?

Consider, then, four ways his second coming will be different from his first.

“How different I say will be his coming.”

At first he came an infant of a span long; now he shall come— “In rainbow-wreath and clouds of storm,” the glorious one.

Then he entered into a manger, now he shall ascend his throne.

Then he sat upon a woman’s knees, and did hang upon a woman’s breast, now earth shall be at his feet and the whole universe shall hang upon his everlasting shoulders.

Then he appeared the infant, now the infinite.

Then he was born to trouble as the sparks fly upward, now he comes to glory as the lightning from one end of heaven to the other.

A stable received him then; now the high arches of earth and heaven shall be too little for him.

Horned oxen were then his companions, but now the chariots of God which are twenty thousand, even thousands of angels, shall be at his right hand.

Then in poverty his parents were too glad to receive the offerings of gold and frankincense and myrrh; but now in splendor,

King of kings, and Lord of lords, all nations shall bow before him, and kings and princes shall pay homage at his feet. Still he shall need nothing at their hands, for he will be able to say, “If I were hungry I would not tell ye, for the cattle are mine upon a thousand hills.” “Thou hast put all things under his feet; all sheep and oxen, yea, and the beasts of the field.” “The earth is the Lords, and the fullness thereof.”

“There will be a most distinct and apparent difference in his person.”

He will be the same, so that we shall be able to recognize him as the Man of Nazareth, but O how changed!

Where now the carpenter’s smock? Royalty hath now assumed its purple.

Where now the toil-worn feet that needed to be washed after their long journeys of mercy? They are sandaled with light, they “are like unto fine brass as if they burned in a furnace.”

Where now the cry, “Foxes have holes and the birds of the air have nests, but I, the Son of Man, have not where to lay my head?” Heaven is his throne; earth is his foot-stool.

Methinks in the night visions, I behold the day dawning. And to the Son of Man there is given “dominion, and glory, and a kingdom, that all people, nations, and languages, should serve him.” Ah! who would think to recognize in the weary man and full of woes, the King eternal, immortal, invisible.

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