Advent has begun. It’s a season of expectation, a season of waiting, as we wait for the celebration of the birth and coming of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. We also wait expectantly for His second coming. The kingdom of God is an already-but not yet kingdom. Jesus came to earth over 2,000 years ago and the kingdom of God was established in the hearts of those who believe in Him. But the kingdom of God will one day be established on earth in a physical sense. Just as the nation of Israel, as they waited for the coming of the Messiah, did not know the day or the hour when He would come, so we do not know the day or the hour when He will return.
Israel had been through years of exile and captivity, living at the mercy of the empires that ruled over them. They needed to be set free, to be ransomed. And they believed that the coming Messiah would bring that freedom. They believed that He would set them free from the oppression of their captors. They believed that He would rule over them and establish His kingdom in Israel, restoring it to what it was in the reign of King David. And so, they waited in anticipation, waiting and longing for the Son of God to finally appear. This anticipation is captured in the first verse of the beautiful hymn, O Come, O Come, Emmanuel:
O come, o come, Emmanuel
And ransom captive Israel,
That mourns in lonely exile here
Until the Son of God appear.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Has come to thee, O Israel!
Emmanuel, God with us, has come. He came in the form of a tiny baby born to a virgin named Mary in the city of Bethlehem. He is Jesus, the Son of God, the promised Messiah. He came to set the captives free, just as it was foretold in Isaiah 61:1: “The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is upon me, for the LORD has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to comfort the brokenhearted and to proclaim that captives will be released and prisoners will be freed.” But the freedom that is promised here is not the freedom that the people of Israel expected rather, it is freedom from the chains of sin that bind each and every one of us and from the sin that results in death (Romans 3:23; 5:12). Jesus came to earth and died so that those chains could be broken.
Jesus’ first coming set us free from our sins. One day He will return. When He does, He will set up His kingdom here on earth, and peace will reign. One day, God will live among His people, those who believe and follow Him, and there will be another type of freedom, freedom from death, freedom from sickness, freedom from sorrow and pain (Revelation 21:3-4). The curse of sin will be lifted (Revelation 22:3). In the last verses of the Bible (Revelation 22:20), Jesus says, “Yes, I am coming soon!” As the apostle John wrote in response to that, “Amen! Come, Lord Jesus!”
O come, o come Emmanuel!
Scripture quotations are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.