Matthew 24:29-31. 29 “Immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken. 30 Then will appear in heaven the sign of the Son of Man, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. 31 And he will send out his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.
The last angelic advent will be quite different from the first. The Son of Man will come riding on the clouds as a warrior king to execute judgment with power and great glory. It will be a day of world-wide mourning. Everything finally revealed. The kingdom of God brought to earth. The cosmos reborn.
If we went through all of scripture and put all the puzzle pieces together concerning this final advent of Christ, we would see a picture forming of a great battle followed by a great judgment. Christ compared it in one of his parables to a harvest. The angels will reap the harvest of souls.
Matthew 13:36-43. 36 Then he left the crowds and went into the house. And his disciples came to him, saying, “Explain to us the parable of the weeds of the field.” 37 He answered, “The one who sows the good seed is the Son of Man. 38 The field is the world, and the good seed is the sons of the kingdom. The weeds are the sons of the evil one, 39 and the enemy who sowed them is the devil. The harvest is the end of the age, and the reapers are angels. 40 Just as the weeds are gathered and burned with fire, so will it be at the end of the age. 41 The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will gather out of his kingdom all causes of sin and all law-breakers, 42 and throw them into the fiery furnace. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. 43 Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears, let him hear.
At this final advent no law breaker will survive. Only the righteous.
The Triumph of Christianity Over Paganism (1868), Gustave Dore (1832-1883).
What does all this mean? It means the baby in the nativity is your judge. The Christ child holds the power to either destroy you or preserve you. It means that how you respond to the first advent of Christ will determine your fate at the second advent of Christ.
Praise God there’s something in between the two advents of Christ. Another judgment. A judgment before the final judgment. The judging OF Christ before the judgment BY Christ. The cross. The pivotal event of history. A judging of humanity and all of our evil in the body of the incarnated Christ on the cross. Now what you do with the cross of Christ determines if you are a son of the kingdom or a son of the evil one. Wheat or weed. Law-breaker or righteous.
Union with Christ alone will save you. On the cross Christ was judged in our place. By union with Christ we too have already been judged. Do you know what this means? It means that all these scary prophecies and parables about Christ’s final advent don’t have to scare us anymore. The final advent is now something we actually look forward to with great anticipation. In fact, our entire lives, our entire ethic, our entire motivation is rooted in this return of the King. It is not our greatest fear. It is our greatest hope!
How then should we live in light of the coming judgment? In Matthew 16 Jesus tells his followers to take up their cross and follow him. He says that we should lose our lives in order to gain them back. Why? For the Son of Man is going to come with his angels in the glory of his Father, and then he will repay each person according to what he has done (Matthew 16:27).
What have you done with Christ? What have you done with the baby your nativity set? Have you packed him back up until next year? Did Christmas and the first advent of Christ take your thoughts to his second advent? Did you move beyond the baby to the judge?
What have you done with the cross? Are you desperately clinging to it as your only hope in judgment?
What have you done with your life? Have you lost it in order to find it again in Christ?
One day Christ will return and ask you all these same questions. He’ll ask what have you done with me?
What will be your answer?