April 22 - 28
The First Coming Prepares for the Second Coming
READ FOR THIS WEEK'S STUDY: Matt. 4:1-11; John 1:1-14; Acts 1:1-11; Gal. 4:4; Heb. 2:10; 4:15; 9:28; Rev. 3:20, 21.
MEMORY TEXT: "'Men of Galilee, why do you stand gazing up into heaven? This same Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will so come in like manner as you saw Him go into heaven"' (Acts 1:11, NKJV).
KEY THOUGHTS: The incarnation of Jesus fulfilled the promise inferred in the everlasting gospel, for it restored face-to-face communion between God and fallen human beings. He came to reveal the Father, to live His life in harmony with His will, and to die in our place in order to restore us completely to Himself when He comes back.
THE MYSTERY OF THE BIRTH OF JESUS. "How wide is the contrast between the divinity of Christ and the helpless infant in Bethlehem's manger! How can we span the distance between the mighty God and a helpless child? . . . Divinity and humanity were mysteriously combined, and man and God became one. It is in this union that we find the hope of our fallen race. Looking upon Christ in humanity, we look upon God, and see in Him the brightness of His glory, the express image of His person."Ellen G. White Comments, SDA Bible Commentary, vol. 5, p. 1130.
He became the bridge connecting heaven and earth. He became one with us in His incarnation, and He will be one with us for eternity when He returns. He will retain humanity forever.
What does the Bible say about Christ's nature? John 8:58; Col. 2:9. What did He possess within Himself? John 5:21, 26.
"It was Christ who from the bush on Mount Horeb spoke to Moses saying, 'I AM THAT I AM....' Ex. 3:14... . When He came 'in the likeness of men,' He declared Himself the I AM. The Child of Bethlehem, the meek and lowly Saviour, is God 'manifest in the flesh.' 1 Tim. 3:16."The Desire of Ages, p. 24.
Jesus was fully one with God. He was with the Father in the beginning. Creation took place through Him because He had life within Himself. He shared glory with the Father before the world began (John 17:5). If we have seen Jesus, we have seen the Father (Matt. 11:27; John 14:9). Therefore, Christ came into the world to reveal the Father (John 1:18). The climax of the Gospel of John recognizes Jesus as fully God when Thomas exclaims, "My Lord and my God" (John 20:28, NKJV).
What is the relationship between Jesus and the Holy Spirit and our glorious inheritance? Eph. 1:13, 14.
Jesus was God's emissary from heaven to earth at His first advent, making possible for Him to take us from earth to heaven at His second advent. He sent the Holy Spirit at the first coming as our guarantee for our total restoration when our glorious inheritance in Christ is acquired. Christ's incarnation is the down payment that verifies the surety of the Second Coming. Just as surely as the promises of Christ's first advent were fulfilled, so will the promises of His second advent also be fulfilled.
Christ's appearance in human form expresses His supreme interest in our ultimate redemption when He comes again. Our Lord intervened in human affairs when He created us and when He redeemed us, and He will intervene again when He returns to take us into His glory. Now He lives to make intercession for us. Our creation and redemption make it certain that our final restoration will be a reality.
His victory over death, His resurrection, guarantees our victory over death and our resurrection. Christ's resurrection is the "firstfruits, afterward those who are Christ's at His coming" (1 Cor. 15:23, NKJV).
|"By His life and His death, Christ has achieved even more than recovery from the ruin wrought through sin. It was Satan's purpose to bring about an eternal separation between God and man; but In Christ we become more closely united to God than if 'we had never fallen."The Desire of Ages, p. 25.|
What does the Bible say about Jesus' humanity? John 1:14; Gal. 4:4; 1 Tim. 3:16.
Many Bible passages refer to Jesus as a man (Rom. 5:15; 1 Cor. 15:21). Normal human emotions and activities are ascribed to Him. Jesus grew and became strong. He increased in stature and in favor with God and man (Luke 2:40, 52). He was tempted (Heb. 2:18), and He suffered (Heb. 5:8). He showed the full range of human emotion: He agonized in Gethsemane (Matt. 26:38), was sorrowful and wept at the death of Lazarus (John 11:34, 35), and showed righteous indignation (Mark 3:5). "Who, in the days of His flesh, when He had offered up prayers and supplications, with vehement cries and tears to Him who was able to save Him from death. . ." (Heb. 5:7, NKJV).
Jesus also manifested the physical traits of humanity. He was weary (John 4:6), thirsty (John 4:7), hungry (Matt. 4:2), took bread (Matt. 26:26), slept (Matt. 8:23, 24), his sweat became like great drops of blood in Gethsemane (Luke 22:44), breathed His last at the crucifixion (Luke 23:43-46), and was buried (John 19:38-40). He took upon Himself flesh and blood (Heb. 2:14). He was not a spirit; He was flesh and bones (Luke 24:38-43). Christ did not "make believe" He had human nature, He really took it.
How do Luke and Paul link Christ's first coming in the flesh to His second coming in glory? Acts 1:9-11; Titus 2:11-14.
The ascension of Jesus into heaven illustrates the connection between heaven and earth, divinity and humanity. Beholding His disciples' faces at His ascension, He was soon to behold His Father's face in heaven. The angels comforted the disciples in emphasizing that this same Jesus will come back from heaven to earth the second time. That was their firm assurance that one day they would gaze into heaven and see their precious Redeemer come back in like manner. The grace of God so abundantly manifested in Jesus at the cross for our salvation leads us to walk with Him in this world and prepares us to welcome Him at His glorious appearing.
|"In taking our nature, the Saviour has bound Himself to humanity by a tie that is never to be broken. Through the eternal ages He is linked with us."The Desire of Ages, p. 25. What link can you discern between the first and the second coming of Christ, implied in this statement?|
What makes Jesus uniquely qualified as our sympathizing High Priest? Heb. 4:15; 2 Cor. 5:21; Ps. 51:5.
Christ was tempted in all points as we are. His temptation was real. If He could not have fallen, then His temptation had no power. "Many claim that it was impossible for Christ to be overcome by temptation. Then He could not have been placed in Adam's position; He could not have gained the victory that Adam failed to gain. If we have in any sense a more trying conflict than had Christ, then He would not be able to succor us. But our Saviour took humanity, with all its liabilities. He took the nature of man, with the possibility of yielding to temptation. We have nothing to bear which He has not endured. . . . In man's behalf, Christ conquered by enduring the severest test."The Desire of Ages, p. 117.
Christ was the spotless Son of God. In Him was no sin. He lived the life that God originally intended for us a life in harmony with the life of God. He lived in constant communion with His Father.
Compare Christ bearing the sins of the world at His first coming and appearing "apart from sin" at His second coming. Heb. 9:28, NKJV.
The expression "'without sin"' is "in contrast with the phrase 'to bear the sins of many.' At His first advent Christ took upon Himself the sins of the world.... He was made 'sin for us,... that we might be made the righteousness of God in him' (2 Cor. 5:21). But the work he [sic] came to do for sin is all completed ere He comes the second time."SDA Bible Commentary, vol. 7, p. 457.
Jesus passed through the pangs of temptation not only to sympathize with us but also to be our delivering substitute. His success in this world opens for us the gates of heaven, for in His merits we are reconciled to God through His grace. Thus, His first coming is the basis for His second coming. He, indeed, has every right to save us.
|Living in this modern age, we have the tendency to take something, dissect it, examine, and reconstruct it according to what makes sense to us. To dissect a rose, however, is to destroy it. Much more so with Christ's incarnation. We can only marvel at the mystery that the eternal God of the universe would humble Himself to become one with us. It is time for us to lay aside the scalpel and stand back in awe and wonder and worship Him!|
What relationship is there between the suffering of Christ in this world and the joy of the world to come? Heb. 12:2; 2:10. How does this apply to our experience?
Christ confronted and defeated Satan's temptations in perfect obedience to His Father's will. It is in the light of His coming kingdom of glory that we find purpose in what He endured in this sinful world. It was no abstract experience for Him, but the practical requirement necessary to guarantee eternity for all of us who give ourselves wholly to Him. As we by grace remain in Christ, we learn through the indwelling Spirit to resist temptation and endure suffering so that we may be found perfect in Him at His second coming.
"To share eternity with the ransomed of all ages and the unfallen beings of other worlds was a prospect that brought utter joy to our Lord as He suffered in Gethsemane and on the cross of Calvary."SDA Bible Commentary, vol. 7, p. 482.
Compare what Jesus heard His Father tell Him after His baptism with what He heard Satan tell Him during the first temptation in the wilderness. Matt. 3:16, 17; 4:3. What significance does Christ's answer to Satan have? Matt. 4:4.
"Christ, in the wilderness of temptation, stood in Adam's place to bear the test he failed to endure.""The Temptation of Christ," Ellen G. White, Present Truth, and Review and Herald Articles (July 28, 1874), vol. l, p. 143.
Satan led our first parents to doubt God's Word and trust their own senses. Also, Christ's temptation was to doubt His Father's Word that had been spoken at His baptism. Christ could have reasoned: "Is it logical that God would leave His Son in the wilderness for forty days and nights without food and companionship? I will prove my divinity by an undeniable miracle!" Instead, He relied wholly on the Word of God. "It is written," He replied. The Savior's temptation translates into the desire to live independently from God. In contrast to our first parents, Christ gained the victory by depending totally upon the power of His Father's word.
|As Christ's coming draws near, "are the people of God now so firmly established upon His word that they would not yield to the evidence of their senses?"The Great Controversy, p. 625.|
How are Christ's temptations and victory related to ours? How does our abiding in Him affect our view of the judgment and the Second Coming? 1 John 4:17; Rev. 3:20, 21.
We can never honestly say that our temptations are more powerful than Christ's. He met temptation when He was emaciated from hunger and when He was abandoned by humans and felt abandoned by God in Pilate's courtroom, in Gethsemane, and at Calvary. "It was in the time of greatest weakness that Christ was assailed by the fiercest temptations."The Desire of Ages, p. 120. He sank to the depths of human temptation to win the battle for the weakest of us, so that in His victory we may become like Him and enter into His glory. "Notice, however, that this description of our being like Christ in the world is conditional upon our dwelling in love and in God (v. 16). It is love that links us to the Master and makes us like Him."SDA Bible Commentary, vol. 7, p. 670. Those who love Christ overcome in Christ and will share in His glory when He comes.
"Those who are truly like the Judge need not fear the judgment! The believer's ground for confidence is not his own imperfect attainments, but the faultless character and propitiatory sacrifice of Christ his Saviour."Page 669.
The temptations of Christ actually were greater than those of human-kind, for none of us have ever been tempted to use our "divinity" to our advantage. When Christ was before Annas, the High Priest, "He knew that in a moment, by the flashing forth of His divine power, He could lay His cruel tormentors in the dust. . . . By a word, by a look, He could compel His persecutors to confess that He was Lord above kings and rulers, priests and temple. But it was His difficult task to keep to the position He had chosen as one with humanity."The Desire of Ages, p. 700.
Christ did not overcome through the use of His own divine power. "Jesus gained the victory through submission and faith in God."Page 130. "He exercised in His own behalf no power that is not freely offered to us."Page 24. We must first submit ourselves to God, because we "cannot save ourselves from the tempter's power...." For "when we try to stand in our own strength, we shall become a prey to his devices...."Page 131.
Have you applied these promises for spiritual victory? (Phil. 4:13; James 4:7). Remember that "Satan trembles and flees before the weakest soul who finds refuge in that mighty name [of Jesus]."The Desire of Ages, p. 131.
FURTHER STUDY: John 1:4, 6-8; 11:43; 14:30; Rom.5:8; 9:5; 1 Cor. 15; Phil. 2:5-8; 1 Pet. 2:22; Jude 23, 25.
Read "The Lord Is Risen," in The Desire of Ages, pp. 779-787. Also read pp. 24, 25, 26.
"The voice that cried from the cross, 'It is finished,' was heard among the dead. It pierced the walls of sepulchers, and summoned the sleepers to arise. Thus will it be when the voice of Christ shall be heard from heaven. That voice will penetrate the graves and unbar the tombs, and the dead in Christ shall arise. At the Saviour's resurrection a few graves were opened, but at His second coming all the precious dead shall hear His voice, and shall come forth to glorious, immortal life. The same power that raised Christ from the dead will raise His church, and glorify it with Him, above all principalities, above all powers, above every name that is named, not only in this world but also in the world to come."The Desire of Ages, p. 787.
"God has adopted human nature in the person of His Son, and has carried the same into the highest heaven. . . . In Christ the family of earth and the family of heaven are bound together. Christ glorified is our brother. Heaven is enshrined in humanity, and humanity is enfolded in the bosom of Infinite Love."The Desire of Ages, pp. 25, 26.
"The humanity of the Son of God is everything to us. It is the golden chain that binds our souls to Christ, and through Christ to God. This is to be our study. Christ was a real man; He gave proof of His humility in becoming a man. Yet He was God in the flesh."Selected Messages, book l, p. 244.
SUMMARY: Jesus was Heaven's emissary to bridge the gulf between God and fallen humanity. His first coming is the guarantee of ultimate restoration at His second coming. He accomplished all that was necessary in this world in order to have us inherit the world to come. Every facet of His earthly ministry should lead us to dwell on our heavenly inheritance.
J. H. Zachary
The evangelism training seminar in Germany had just ended. As Uwe Wiesenberg, one of the participants, drove home, he was eager to share his faith with someone. But this was Germany, where people's materialistic focus makes witnessing for Christ difficult. As he drove, he asked God to help him find someone who needed to know Him.
He stopped to visit his uncle Paul, a hospital nurse who also had attended the seminar. As Uwe stood in the hospital foyer, an old man walked up and began talking to him. He told Uwe that he had decided to end his life.
Uwe guided the man to a bench and listened as the man unburdened his heart, telling a story of heartache and disappointment. Uwe could understand why the man was deeply depressed.
When the man stopped talking, Uwe shared his faith in God and his confidence in the power of prayer. He shared the story of Jesus and the love of God that led Jesus to die on the cross. "God loves you very much," Uwe offered. "He will forgive your sins and fill your heart with joy and peace. He will make you a new man." Then the two men prayed.
Hope flickered in the man's eyes, and a smile crept across his face. Then the man asked, "May I go to church with you?"
As Uwe began to explain that he does not live in Neustadt, his uncle Paul walked up. Uwe introduced him to the old man and relayed the man's request to go to church. Paul promised to take him the next Sabbath and then for a walk in the Black Forest where they could commune with God. Paul arranged with the man to begin Bible studies.
"I have never met such wonderful people in all my life!" the old man smiled. Uwe and Paul gave him a copy of Steps to Christ, then the three men prayed. The old man said, "I wanted to end my life today; now I have been born anew!"
Uwe's enthusiasm bubbled over as he shared how, in just one hour, God had answered his prayer for one soul by bringing this man to him. "He came in despair, and now he has hope," Uwe said. "I thank God for the power of the Holy Spirit. Souls can be won to Jesus even here in Germany."
J. H. Zachary is international coordinator for The Quiet Hour and a consultant for the General Conference Ministerial Association.
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