When we look at the Advent season, what is it for? It is just an excuse for more commercialism or can it be put to a good use for Christians?
Let us understand that Advent has some good things to teach us if we let it.
We will look at Advent’s message to prepare, signs, trees and the nearness of God’s kingdom. Along the way we will discuss why I don’t believe in a secret rapture.
Advent’s message: prepare
In the midst of the commercial chaos and pressure to buy and exchange gifts is a very important reminder for Christians: prepare. The Advent season is a time to prepare for the celebration of Christ’s first coming. The custom of the Advent wreath is one example of such preparation. We use the four weeks leading up to Christmas to visually remind ourselves of stories surrounding the birth of our Savior. In my experience, three red or purple and one pink candle surround a white one. Others use four red candles surrounding the white one. The first Sunday a candle is lit to remind us of important events. Then a second candle the next Sunday and so on until finally on Christmas Day the central Christ candle is lit. Preparation also reminds us to prepare for his second coming (Luke 21-25-36).
Why I don’t believe in a secret rapture
The word rapture summarizes 1 Thessalonians 4:16-18, being caught up in the air. People confuse this “rapture” which all Christians believe, with the doctrine of a “secret rapture” which most Christians do not believe. There are many weaknesses in this doctrine, but a main reason that I do not believe it is because Luke 21-25-36 says that men shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds. The popular “Left Behind” video series builds upon the idea of the rapture being a secret coming of Christ, but this contradicts the plain statements of many Bible texts which reveal that Christ will come visibly, not in secret. Every eye will see him (Revelation 1:7). He will come back in the same way that he went (Acts 1:11). The second coming will be obvious to the whole world.
Advent’s message: signs
In the Advent season we look backwards to the first coming of Christ and forward to his second coming. What are some of the signs preceding his second coming? The Bible warns of astronomical signs, wars, violence lawlessness, droughts, famines, earthquakes, natural disasters, disease epidemics, the rise of those a great false prophet and those who follow him, the rise of a great world power called the beast, the gospel preached into all the world, persecution of the faithful, a world crisis centered in Jerusalem, the abomination of desolation and the great tribulation unmatched by any in history. All these things would come to a culmination in one generation and experienced by the entire world. We must be alert and pray always that we may be accounted worthy to escape and even more importantly to stand before Jesus (Luke 21-25-36).
Advent’s message: trees
A message of advent is in the trees, no, not the Christmas trees, but all trees. Luke 21-25-36 contains the parable of the fig tree but, the actual wording says, behold the fig tree and all the trees. So, at least “all the [deciduous] trees” make leaves some time before summer. Our modern definitions of seasons are very rigid. And so we officially define a season’s beginning by our calendars rather than weather or other variables. However, conversationally, when it snows, we sometimes say that winter is early or when the crocuses pop out of the ground we say that spring is in the air. According to nature’s clock, we can never really be sure when a season will change. So it is with the return of Christ. Yet, there are clues that a change is just around the corner.
Advent's message: nearness
A constant message of the gospel is the nearness of the kingdom of God. While we look to world events for signs of the coming kingdom (Luke 21-25-36), we can easily miss the nearness of the kingdom now. That is part of the message to watch or be on guard. While we wait for the fullness of the kingdom to come at Christ’s return, let us not let go of that part of the kingdom that we have now. Let’s not allow the cares of this life to take that away from us. Let’s not get so discouraged or careless that we do something stupid like is so often the case with a worldly approach to Christmas, shopping, partying and getting drunk. Let’s remember the nearness of Christ and his reign in our lives, watching and praying at all times.
Advent season can teach us to prepare, look at the signs of the times and not forget God’s nearness. It has some good things to teach us if we let it. Let us be always in prayer and put our faith in God to see us through rough times before Christ returns.