Jack Graham - The Christ of Christmas Future
I want you to take your Bibles now and turn to the ninth chapter of the book of Hebrews, beginning at verse 24. We meet Him first as the Priest: "For Christ has entered, not into the holy places made with hands, which are copies of the things, the true things, but into heaven itself, now", say now, "now in the presence of God on our behalf". That is Jesus as our great Priest. Christmas present, this very moment Jesus is before the throne of God as your representative and He is praying for you. Don't you think that you can face anything in your life right now if you know that Jesus is praying, or pleading for you? How many of you believe that all the prayers of Jesus get answered? Yeah. And He is praying for you.
And according to the great high priestly prayer in John 17, we know what He prayed for His disciples and all who would follow through the years. He prayed that our faith would be kept, that our faith would not fail. He's praying that you will not fail. That's great security. But then scroll down, look down at the middle of verse 26, "But as it is, he has appeared", there's the second appearance, "he has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself".
That's Jesus appearance in His first appearance as the Prophet, as the One, the Messiah who came to save us from our sins; to die on the cross in order that we would be saved. That's Christmas-past. As Priest He is Christmas-present, as Prophet, Christmas-past. But as they say, there's more, and that is Christmas-future. He's the Christ, the Savior for all seasons. He is the Christ of every Christmas, and that's why it says in verse 27, "And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes the judgment, so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many", watch it, here it is again, "will appear a second time"! He will come again!
The Christ of Christmas, the One who has come, who has appeared, is coming again! And when He comes again, not as Prophet, not as Priest, but rather, as King of kings and Lord of lords! And so I have two simple points that I want to bring to you today regarding Jesus the King, this third appearance of Christ. And point number one is the fact that Jesus the Messiah has come as a King. He is born as a King. Now I want to make something very, very clear. When Jesus was born, when I say Jesus was born as a King, let's make sure we understand that Jesus has always been the King! Before He was born He was King, the Lord of heaven, the Creator, the Sustainer of the universe. Jesus did not begin at Bethlehem but in the heart of God the Father, the Son, the Holy Spirit. This is the mystery of God, but Christ the King has always been on the throne of the universe.
So He was King before He was born, before His birth, He was King at His birth when He is born, and He is forever King of kings and Lord of lords, now and forever! When He was born, people recognized, some people recognized that He was King, and worshiped Him. The angels worshiped Him as King. "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill to men". The shepherds ran to Him in adoration and worship, and lived to tell about it in that explosion around the manger. Mary and Joseph bowed before Him. "Mary pondered all of these in her heart". There are others in the cast of characters that we read about in the New Testament that worshiped Him as King.
Like Simeon, the great old man who knew that the Messiah would come, and when the Messiah would come, he was expecting Him. And God had given him the word that he would live until the Messiah was come. He lived expecting the King, and when he embraced the Infant Christ, he worshiped Him. It's interesting when you read about these who worshiped Him. Of course, most didn't. Most didn't know the King had come. Wise men from distant Persia traveled and they, of course, worshiped Him. But most did not worship Him, even the religious people of that day. The Romans didn't worship Him. And yet, even as a Baby, think about this, the King was controlling all the circumstance and conditions of His birth and His life. Nothing was out of control. This story was prewritten history. This story of Jesus didn't just happen. It wasn't an afterthought. It certainly wasn't an accident. But in the fullness of time God sent forth His Son at the right exact moment.
And so when Caesar Augustus sent forth a decree that the Christ would be, or that everyone should be taxed in Bethlehem, that was right on schedule with God's plan that the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem. Mary and Joseph lived in Nazareth, and yet, God writing the script, the King who was in control brought the family to Bethlehem where Christ was born right on schedule, right where the Bible said He would be born. And that's so important because it reminds us that all the Caesars and kings and pharaohs, Caesar Augustus was in power at that day, Herod the Great. But all the Caesars, the kings, the pharaohs, the potentate, the president, the prime ministers, the rulers, the dictators, these all come and go briefly on the world stage. Basically they have a bit part in history.
I know Caesar Augustus, really he's just an afterthought now. He's a footnote in history. He was the most powerful man on earth in the minds of the people, yet today, unless you eat a Caesar salad I mean, he's a footnote in history! We would have never heard most likely (unless you're a history buff) you would have probably never heard of Caesar Augustus had it not been for the story of the King, that Jesus is born. That's the point I want you know, that history, history is all about Him! History is His Story! In fact, all of history is divided by His Story! BC and AD! All of history breaks down at the focal point of Christ the King who has been born! All honor to the King! It means that the Savior has been born a King! A Shepherd King, a saving King. He came the first time as a King, born a King, even worshiped as a King by those who received Him. But ultimately in His first coming, not to establish an earthly kingdom, but as He said, "My kingdom is within you". The King is to rule on the throne of our heart. And the question today is, for each one of us: Is He your King?
The King is born. The King has come. Always King. But there's more. Because point number two is: The King is coming again! "This same Jesus who came the first time is coming a second time"! That's why we read that Scripture, that He will appear again a second time! Now this is one of the great themes of the Bible. Not just in the New Testament, but in the Old Testament which is the coming of the King and the coming kingdom of God on the earth. The eternal kingdom of God! Emmanuel is with us forever, and one day because Christ is coming for us, Emmanuel is coming again, we will be with Him! There are 260 chapters in the New Testament and did you know in those 260 chapters in the New Testament there are 318 references to the return of Jesus Christ, to the Second Coming of Christ.
I read years ago it's something like 1 out of every 26 or 27 verses in the New Testament have to do with the Second Coming. Jesus first came in humility but when He comes again He's coming in honor. He came the first time in grace, to deliver grace; He's coming the second time in great glory! He came the first time as the Lamb, Mary's little Lamb to take away the sin of the world; but He's coming the second time as the Lion of the tribe of Judea. And the Lion is on the throne. He came the first time and was wrapped in swaddling clothes and laid in a manger; when He comes again He's wrapped in sovereign clothes, King of kings and Lord of lords! Jesus is coming again! And that's a good place for an expectant Amen!
He's coming again! And when He returns He will be revealed as the King of kings and Lord of lords. And angels are involved. They announced His birth to Mary, and on the night that Jesus was born the angels declared His glory. And when Jesus ascended into heaven, it was an angel who announced the second coming of Christ. Acts 1:11, "You men of Galilee, why are you standing, gazing up into heaven? This same Jesus who has come will come again, will so come again in the same way that you've seen Him go"! That Christ will come again, visibly, victoriously, conquering every enemy, bring righteousness and judgment! We pray for justice in the world. We pray for justice in our country. This side of eternity there will be no ultimate real justice. We work for it and we should work for justice. But the fact is that ultimately justice cannot finally come until the King comes and establishes His just and righteous kingdom of brotherhood forever and ever and ever! That's the kingdom that is coming. Yet to come!
Now when Christ came the first time most people missed it. Now they should have known, all the prophecies were being fulfilled and some were waiting, some were looking expectantly for the Messiah. It was very dark, Roman oppression, subduing the Israelites and they wondered if there was a future, if there was a hope as Jeremiah the prophet had promised from God. It was such a dark, dark time. And so many had given up hope. Many had buckled under the weight of the Roman boots. Herod and Caesar, and even the religious system was so messed up, and in many ways had abandoned God.
And so when Jesus was born the first time, most weren't expecting it. Remember that innkeeper? He didn't have a clue, did he? He didn't have room for Jesus? Gratefully he gave them the barn or the cave out back. Good for him. But he's the man who almost missed Christmas because he didn't have room for Mary and Joseph and the Baby who would be born. And I think about that story and, of course, it's a great truth, it's a powerful sermon in that many do the same thing today. Like that innkeeper. We don't have room for Jesus in our Christmas. We got everything else going on. We have so much going on, we don't have room for the King of kings and the Lord of lords.
Now today these are dark days in America; they're dark days in many ways around the world. And we wonder, "Is there any hope? What's the world coming to"? Well, I'll tell you what the world's coming to. The world is coming to Jesus, because Jesus is coming to this world. He is coming again! And we should live, therefore, not like the innkeeper who missed it, and others, who did not even know that Christ was born, but we should live with joyous expectation of the return of our King! Christmas is coming again when Christ the King comes again!
And the question is: Are you ready? Because the signs are all around us! Jesus spoke of these birth pangs, these signs that would be indicators of the season of His return. And can I tell you that there is no sign that needs to be fulfilled that has not already been fulfilling to prepare the way for Christ to come and rapture His people, take His people to heaven with Him. There's nothing left. Now there are things left in the Millennium that is yet to come, but there's nothing left right now, I mean, Jesus could come today! I believe in the eminent return of Christ. I have a little plaque on my desk in my library at home which says: "Perhaps today"! I remind myself of that often, "Perhaps today"!
Now Jesus said no one knows the hour of His coming. If anybody, any preacher or anybody else tells you they know, just write them off. They don't know, they don't know! Again, we can read signs, we can read the seasons. Jesus taught us to do that, but anyone who starts setting dates and, you know, that's just crazy! That's bazaar. We don't know. Jesus said, "You don't know"! But while we don't know when He's coming, it is certain that He is coming! Don't let the delay trip you up, because He's coming, and I believe He's coming soon. And we should live everyday on tiptoe with expectation to embrace, waiting and watching for our coming King. I'm going to live my life today as if it were the day!
Martin Luther said, "Every Christian should live for two days: this day and that day". Psalm 118:24, "This is the day the Lord has made; we will rejoice and be glad in it". This day, live it fully. Live it enthusiastically. Live it engaging the culture and engaging people with the Gospel. Live your life to the fullest this day. But then that day, taken right out of the Scripture which says, "I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that He is able to keep what I have committed unto Him against that day". That means I know I'm saved, I know I believe, I know the one in whom I have believed and I am as certain for heaven as though I were already there, and I am ready for the return of the King. This day and that day.
So we live today for the day when Christ shall come again. We ought to lean into that and look forward to that. There's a special crown the Scripture says for those who love His appearing. Are you loving, longing, leaning in to the moment you see Jesus? Get ready. Are you ready for the return of Christ? Because, you see, we not only want to go and be ready ourselves, but we want to take as many people with us as possible! We don't want to stand before God with nothing in our hands! No soul, no life that we have influenced for Him. We want to be ready and we want to get others ready.
That's why "Today is the day of salvation," as we have read in Hebrews, again and again. "Now is the accepted time". Because when Christ comes for us, and you know He's coming in the twinkling of an eye it says, the twinkling of an eye. Say it's the blinking of an eye. No, it's faster than that. The twinkling of an eye is like I see you and recognize you. It's quick. Now Jesus is coming just like that. There'll be no time to make preparations then. It's over. He comes in a moment, in a twinkling of an eye! And when that happens we're going to be enraptured, taken, caught up together with the Lord, and this is 1 Thessalonians chapter 4. I believe I can quote it to you:
"I would not have you to be ignorant or uninformed, brothers, concerning them which are asleep, that you do not sorrow with those who no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them that sleep in Jesus will God bring with Him. For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord will not precede them who are asleep. For the Lord Himself will descend with a shout and the voice of the archangel (There's those angels again) with the voice of the archangel and the trumpet of God (Gabriel, blow your horn!) with the trumpet of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we who are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord will be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so will we ever be with the Lord. Therefore, wherefore comfort one another with these words".
We are going to fly with the angels! So what we need to do in view of getting caught up, we don't need to get caught up too much with this world and everything in it. We need to turn loose of this world with both hands and be ready to fly! Ready for the rapture! Ready for the return of Christ! Those early Christians, they would encourage one another in those dark days of persecution when they would often face death for their faith. They would say a word and that word was repeated in Scripture, Maranatha, Maranatha! The Lord is coming! And upon hearing it, the other would reply, "He's coming indeed"! We ought to be like the Apostle John when he saw that great vision of the King of kings and Lord of lords, he said, Revelation 22:20, "Even so, come, Lord Jesus, even so, come".
Now we have things to do and until that day we're going to occupy and get it done until our time or His time comes for us. But we need to get ready. We need to get ready; we need to stay ready! And the only way to get ready to live is to live expectantly and enthusiastically. Love every day and live every day to the max. Do what God has called you to do. If you're ever going to serve the Lord, do it now! If you're ever going to witness to that friend, do it today! If you're ever going to start being faithful in church and being a part of the worship, now's the time to start! No more delay! Let your light shine; get your lamp burning cause Christ is coming again! And you need to make sure that you're ready for the trip. When we travel internationally, many of you have done that, you know what you have to have, right?
If you've been to travel, that's a passport. We tell our people that go to Israel with us, no passport, no trip. You show up without your passport, bye bye. You've got to have a passport. It's your authority to go from country to another. No passport, no trip. And when it comes to this trip above, when Christ returns and raptures us home: no passport, no trip. The passport, your authority is written in red which is the color of Christmas; the blood of the Lord Jesus Christ who died for you and rose again. And when you respond and receive Him as your Lord and Savior, your name is written down in glory in the Lamb's Book of Life, and you now have authority, you now have a passport for heaven and you're ready to go. Are you ready to go?