Jesus said, “I am the Alpha and the Omega, who is, and who was, and who is to come, the Almighty….Look, I am coming soon! My reward is with me, and I will give to each person according to what they have done.” (Revelation 1:8; 22:12)
A Hymn About Jesus’ Two Comings
I use this hymn below to remind us that Christ’s First Coming (His incarnation and nativity) points ahead to His Second Coming (His return on the Last Day). Martin Luther (1483-1546) said: We are to live as if Jesus died yesterday, as if He rose this morning, and as if He is coming back tomorrow. The Lutheran Liturgy affirms: Christ has died; Christ is risen; Christ will come again. This is what the Bible teaches and Jesus’ Second Coming is mentioned on average once every 25 verses in the New Testament.1
John Blanchard, the author, evangelist, and Christian apologist, warns that it’s a bad sign when we argue about eschatology instead of preparing for Jesus’ return. He says that many people will be surprised when the Lord comes again, but nobody will be mistaken. “Look, Christ is coming with the clouds and every eye will see Him, even those who pierced Him….So shall it be! Amen.”2 Blanchard echoes Scripture when he says: The certainty of the Jesus’ Second Coming should impact every part of our daily behavior.3
The Hymn Lyrics
Stanzas 1 and 4 are by Charles Wesley (1774) and Stanzas 2 and 3 are by Mark E. Hunt (1978). This is copied with permission from Trinity Hymnal (Revised edition, Great Commission Publications) and modernized.
I’ll make comments on the hymn’s words below.
1. Come, O long-expected Jesus, Born to set your people free;
From our fears and sins release us; Let us find our rest in you.
Israel’s strength and consolation, Hope to all the earth impart,
Dear Desire of every nation, Joy of every longing heart.
2. Joy to those who long to see you, Day-spring from on high, appear;
Come, O promised Rod of Jesse, Of your birth we long to hear!
O’er the hills the angels singing news, Glad tidings of a birth,
“Go to Him, your praises bringing; Christ the Lord has come to earth.”
3. Come to earth to taste our sadness, He whose glories knew no end;
By His life He brings us gladness, Our Redeemer, Shepherd, Friend.
Leaving riches without number, Born within a cattle stall;
This the everlasting wonder, Christ was born the Lord of all.
4. Born your people to deliver, Born a child and yet a King,
Born to reign in us forever, Now your gracious kingdom bring.
By your own eternal Spirit Rule in all our hearts alone;
By your all-sufficient merit, Raise us to your glorious throne.
This Hymn Recalls Many Scriptures
Like most of Wesley’s poems, this hymn alludes to many Bible passages. The double nature of Advent is reflected here, recalling Christ’s birth and earthly ministry as we watch and wait for our Bridegroom to return. Our English word advent comes from the Latin word adventus meaning coming or arrival. This translates the Greek word parousia, the New Testament term used for Jesus’ Second Coming.
Stanzas 1 and 2 recall Old Testament prophecies like Haggai 2:7. God says: “I will shake all nations, and they shall come to the Desire of All Nations.” Stanza 3 speaks of Christ’s nativity and lordship. He is “the Ancient of Days…and to Him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve Him.”4 Stanza 4 affirms Christ’s kingship and prays for His rule in our hearts as we prepare for His Second Coming. The last line reminds us that we enter heaven only by Jesus’ all-sufficient merit and mediation, never own our own. Christ says, “To the one who overcomes, I will give the right to sit with me on my throne, just as I overcame and sat down with my Father on His throne.”5
Chaplain Dale Cooper, recalled traveling home to his family after spending the summer in Europe. He was phoning his wife from the airport when his four-year-old son asked: “Daddy, when am I going to be where you are?” This what Wesley’s hymn expresses. Even though Christ spiritually goes with us and before us every day, we long to be Him physically and see Him face to face. We long for the day when we are with Him in a New Heaven and New Earth, when all things are made new.6 And just as a four-year-old crawls into his father’s arms after an extended absence, so too Christ’s followers long for the day when we will rest in Christ, enfolded in our Savior’s loving embrace.
Prayer: Lord God, give us your endurance and encouragement that we may press on in following you until Jesus returns for us. Make us patient and cheerful and help us live at peace with each other, as we imitate Jesus. Give us one mind and one voice to glorify Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and to keep your commandments out of love for you. We pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.7
Notes (various translations): 1 Leon Morris. 2 Rev 1:7. 3 John 17:19; 2 Cor 7:1; Titus 2:12-14; Heb 12:14; James 4:8; 1 John 3:1-3; 1 Pet 1:5 4 Dan 7:13-14. 5 Rev 3:21. 6 2 Peter 2:13. 7 This prayer alludes to Rom 15:5-6.