Every year, the four weeks before Christmas are often used by churches to focus on Jesus’ first coming. Special focus is put on the spiritual blessings that people can gain by knowing that the Son of God came to Earth by being born as the baby named Jesus so that he could grow into the man who would die to save us from eternal death.
These spiritual blessings are typically listed as hope, peace, love, and joy. Each blessing corresponds to one of the candles that are lit each week on Advent wreaths.
It is certainly true that the moment we believe Jesus died for our sins so we can have eternal life, we have all of these blessings. Nothing else is necessary for us to do, whether following the Old Testament laws or doing good deeds (John 6:28–29; Ephesians 2:8–9; Romans 3:19–28, 4:1–8; Galatians 2:16). Furthermore, these blessings are available to us not just during Advent, but every day of the year.
Jesus left the glories of heaven where he was worshipped constantly as the Son of God, the second Person of the Trinity, in order to be born in a humble manger in Bethlehem over two thousand years ago. As he lived in first-century Israel under Roman occupation, Jesus shared the sorrows and the sufferings that every person experiences while living in this fallen world (Isaiah 53:3). He was tempted in every way that we are, yet he never sinned (Hebrews 4:15).
All of this was necessary in order for Jesus to be qualified to be the perfect sacrifice for humanity’s sins (Hebrews 10:11–14). As the final, sacrificial Lamb of God, Jesus was beaten, whipped, and nailed to a cross where he died for the sins of the entire world (John 1:29, 1 John 2:2), and especially for the sins of everyone who would personally believe in him (John 3:16–17).
There is no greater demonstration of God’s love for us than this (John 15:13, Romans 5:8). Once we believe in Jesus’ death on our behalf, the Holy Spirit indwells us as a guarantee of our salvation (Ephesians 1:13–14) and also pours God’s love into our hearts (Romans 5:5). In response, Christians try to love God with all our heart, soul, and mind, and try to love others the way that we love ourselves (Matthew 22:36–39), although we will never do this perfectly in this life.
As a result of Jesus’ death on behalf of those who believe in him, we can have peace with God (Romans 5:1). This peace is beyond our understanding (Philippians 4:7) because we can experience it even in the middle of the constant trials and difficulties we face in this life (John 16:33). We also have peace with other believers from every possible background as we are brought together by the Holy Spirit into the unity of the Body of Christ (Ephesians 2:14–16).
Christians now have a constant and trustworthy hope that comes from our confidence that no matter what we experience in this world, nothing can separate us from God’s love (Romans 8:35). This brings us a fundamental joy that is not fully overcome even in the worst of circumstances. We can also count all our temporary suffering in this life for Christ as joy because this suffering refines both our character and our faith, which is more precious than gold (James 1:2–4, 1 Peter 1:6–8).
However, these two blessings of hope and joy will not be fully realized in this life. After all, hope is specifically about looking forward to things that are not yet seen (Romans 8:24–25).
This is where the season of Advent and celebrating Jesus’ first coming should naturally dovetail into speaking about Christians’ hope that results from our faith in Jesus’ second coming.
Unlike when Jesus first came quietly into the world as a sweet little baby, at his second coming, Jesus will return as the conquering King of Kings and Lord of Lords on a white horse, with the armies of his saints and angels following him (Revelation 19:11–16, Jude 14–15). This event will be as stunning as lightning that flashes all across the sky (Matthew 24:27). And when it happens, every person who is alive on Earth will see it (Revelation 1:7).
Jesus’ second coming will only occur once the remnant of Israel has finally accepted Jesus as their Messiah (Zechariah 13:8–9, Matthew 23:37–39) and has called out to him to save them from the Antichrist’s armies that have surrounded Jerusalem (Revelation 16:12–16, Zechariah 14:1–5).
With the same power that he used to speak creation into existence, Jesus will wipe out these enemies who have gathered together in a pitiful attempt to keep Jesus from setting his foot down on the Mount of Olives (Zechariah 14:4, Revelation 19:15, Colossians 1:16). This is the exact spot from which Jesus ascended to heaven nearly two thousand years ago (Acts 1:6–11).
After this victory at the battle of Armageddon, Jesus will set up his thousand-year Millennial Kingdom. Under his perfect guidance and incorruptible government comprised of glorified Christian saints, righteousness and justice will fill the world (Isaiah 9:6–7, Jeremiah 33:14–16).
Nature will flourish, society will be prosperous, and hunger and poverty will be no more (Amos 9:13–15, Isaiah 65:19–25). War will be unheard of, and all the resources that are currently wasted on producing weapons of destruction will be put to more productive use (Isaiah 2:4, Micah 4:3). Even the most common household objects will be engraved with praises to the Lord (Zechariah 14:20).
Christians can have a firm and trustworthy hope that one day all of these prophecies will be fulfilled. The New Heaven and New Earth that God will create after the Final Judgment will be even better than the Millennial Kingdom (Revelation 21:1, 2 Peter 3:11–13).
Although we get a few glimpses of the glorious city that will be called the New Jerusalem in Revelation chapters 21 and 22, no one alive today can fully imagine the wonderful things that God will create in the New Heaven and New Earth for his people to eternally enjoy (1 Corinthians 2:9, Psalm 16:11). Then finally, there will be no more need for prophecies, faith, or hope, because everything we hoped for will finally be seen (Romans 8:24–25, 1 Corinthians 13:8–13). The entire universe will be full of perfect, eternal love since God, who is Love, will be all in all (1 Corinthians 15:24–28, 1 John 4:16).
But even more relevant and exciting for Christians today is the hope of the imminent appearing of Jesus in the clouds at the Rapture. This sudden world-changing event will occur with the trumpet of God, the shout of an archangel, and the command to Christians to “Come up here!” (1 Thessalonians 4:16–18, Revelation 4:1).
In an instant, all deceased Christians will be resurrected, and their glorified, immortal bodies will burst from their graves and rise up to meet Jesus. All currently living Christians will likewise be instantly transformed from mortal to immortal, and then we will be caught up to join Jesus in the clouds. From there on, we will always be with Jesus (1 Corinthians 15:51–54, 1 Thessalonians 4:16–18).
When we return with Jesus to heaven, we will see the eternal homes that he has been preparing for us in his Father’s house (John 14:1–3). We will have our works judged, and faithful Christians who have served God well during our lives will be rewarded with crowns and greater positions of service and authority that we will exercise in Jesus’ Millennial Kingdom and also in eternity afterward (1 Corinthians 3:10–15, Matthew 25:14–30).
Unfortunately, all of these amazing prophecies are rarely spoken about in churches today, especially during Advent.
People are busy planning Christmas parties and getting their baking done. Buying and wrapping gifts or attempting to make the sale to round out the year’s financial results. Maybe even getting married in a ceremony with a beautiful winter theme. Building homes and decorating them with all the lights, tinsel, wreaths, and ornaments that come with the Christmas season.
No one wants to be distracted by thinking about the ‘depressing’ reality of going to heaven one day, hopefully far in the future, after a long, pleasant life spent chasing worldly wealth and success. No one wants to think that perhaps even in this season, Jesus could suddenly return like a thief in the night at the Rapture, interrupting all of that careful party planning and bringing sudden destruction upon the world (1 Thessalonians 5:1–3).
After all, Christmas is the season for being happy and joyful—not for watching the news as the wars and rumors of wars, earthquakes, famines, and pestilences increase in frequency and intensity, just like a pregnant woman’s labor pains do before she gives birth (Matthew 24:6–8).
Yet even during the rest of the year, pastors rarely take the time to speak about the ‘last things’ and end-times Bible prophecy to their congregations.
At best, these topics are treated as the obscure interests of only a few wacky Christians in the congregation. At worst, Bible prophecies regarding things like the Rapture, seven-year Tribulation, final judgment, and heaven are deemed too depressing and scary to preach about. If the average parishioner is very lucky, they might hear a few brief and vague allusions to these things, but only if the week’s designated Scripture reading absolutely requires it.
Instead, it seems it is more trendy for pastors to speak about how being a Christian benefits people in their lives right now, despite how the Apostle Paul said that if Christians have hope for this life only, then we should be pitied (1 Corinthians 15:19). This misplaced focus seems to be present even in churches that have not completely given in to the unbiblical idea that God’s main goal is to help Christians become wealthy, healthy, and successful in this life.
But what if there actually are many spiritual blessings that Christians can experience in their lives right now as a result of studying the end times and other ‘last things’?
What if, rather than these topics being unnecessary, studying the end times could actually increase Christians’ spiritual maturity in ways that all pastors would love to see happen for people in their congregations?
Jesus said that everyone who reads the Book of Revelation is blessed if they take the things that it discusses to heart (Revelation 22:7). The present tense used here means that these Christians will not just be blessed at some point in the future but that we currently are blessed from reading the Book of Revelation.
Furthermore, God would not have given us the Book of Revelation if it were not useful for Christians of every time period, just like the rest of the Bible is (2 Timothy 3:16–17).
Laying out the spiritual benefits of studying the Book of Revelation and other related biblical end-times prophecies is the task I undertook in my latest book, Why Study the End Times?: The Relevance of the Rapture, Tribulation, Final Judgment, and Heaven for Christians’ Lives Right Now.
There, I argue that if we understand and take to heart what the Bible teaches about the end times, Christians will be blessed in a number of ways.
First of all, we will be blessed by knowing that we definitely will have eternal life, thanks to how we have believed in Jesus and been sealed by the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 1:13–14). Our names are written in the Lamb’s Book of Life, and so we will have the right to enter the New Jerusalem and eat from the Tree of Life (Revelation 21:27, 22:14).
As a result, no matter how much we might suffer in this life, the incredible eternity God has promised us in the New Heaven and New Earth will make it all infinitely insignificant (2 Corinthians 4:17–18, Romans 8:18). This hope gives us strength to endure through suffering, and a permanent source of peace and joy when we think about our future.
This faith also frees us from any fear of death. We can also rejoice when we think of Christians we know who are now in Jesus’ direct presence rather than fear that we will never see them again (2 Corinthians 5:6–8, Philippians 1:21–23).
Furthermore, our eternal glorified bodies will be beautiful and strong and will never again age, become injured, or ill (1 Corinthians 15:42–49). This helps us bear temporary dissatisfaction with our bodies and any physical suffering we experience in this life. We will wait patiently for these new bodies rather than seeking to spend excessive time and money trying to perfect our current appearance. We will also not judge others for their current bodies or appearances but try to look at their inner character like God does (1 Samuel 16:7).
As a result of knowing that all this will be our future, Christians can have a radically different set of priorities than the average person does. If we are wise, we will realize that we should prioritize the things of eternity rather than wasting our lives seeking wealth or success in this life (Luke 12:13–21).
The promises of heavenly rewards will motivate us to spend our money differently by giving to the poor and supporting Christian churches and ministries. In this way, we can earn heavenly treasure that lasts forever and will never be stolen or inflated away (Matthew 6:19–20).
Our motivation to serve Jesus well and earn these heavenly rewards will only increase once we realize that the Rapture could occur practically anytime. Thus, we will not put off until later the good works that God has planned for us to do today (Ephesians 2:10).
If we believe that Jesus could return at any time, we may also have a way to motivate ourselves to avoid sin in order to avoid any shame that we might feel if the Rapture were to occur when we are in the middle of sinning (1 John 2:28).
Additional benefits come from considering events that will happen during the Tribulation, even though Christians today will be Raptured before the Tribulation begins.
For example, having an awareness of how people during that time will be led astray to worship the Antichrist by the False Prophet will make us motivated to study the Bible for ourselves (Revelation 13:11–14, Matthew 24:23–28, Acts 17:11) so that we will not risk being deceived by any authority figures or false prophets today.
Similarly, if we consider the severe persecution that the Tribulation saints will face, it can put any lesser forms of persecution we may face before the Rapture into perspective. It will not seem so terrible to us to hear friends or family mock us for our beliefs, when we remember that during the Tribulation, people will be arrested and killed for their faith in Jesus (Revelation 6:9–11, 13:7–10, 13:15, 20:4). Losing a job for doing what is right will pale in comparison to being cut off from the entire global financial system for not taking the Mark of the Beast (Revelation 13:16-17).
Additionally, by living with eternity and the imminent Rapture in mind, we will earn the Crown of Righteousness for loving and longing for Jesus’ return (2 Timothy 4:8). Our excitement for the Rapture will motivate us to watch for Jesus’ return by keeping up to date with the news, or by following various credible Christian end-times ministries.
In turn, watching for the signs of the end times in our world today will open up opportunities to discuss these events with unbelieving friends and family members. From there, it may be easy to naturally share about our faith in Jesus’ soon return and how our friends and family can believe in Jesus in order to avoid the Tribulation, as well as enjoy all the other blessings that Christians will experience in eternity.
In all of these ways and more, which I explain in detail in my book, Christians who study the end times will both be personally blessed, and we will also be a blessing to others.
So perhaps, if only pastors were more aware of all the spiritual benefits and blessings that Christians can gain by studying the end times and taking these things to heart, they would be more willing to preach on this topic. Contrary to the misperception that the end times are unnecessary for most Christians to know about, this topic can be argued to be an essential part of the Christian faith.
Therefore, the end times and other ‘last things’ of the Christian faith should be preached about regularly. They may also be especially powerful topics for Christians to consider during this special time of Advent when it is so easy to get caught up in the daily demands of the Christmas season, even though the signs are all around us that Jesus’ return at the Rapture is truly imminent.
If you are interested in reading an easy-to-understand introduction to what the Bible teaches about the end times and the gospel, check out Arden’s book, A Detailed Biblical Introduction To The End Times: The Pre-Tribulation Rapture, Seven-Year Tribulation, and Pre-Millennial Return of Jesus Christ.
Links to Arden Kierce’s books and other writings can be found at https://ardenkierce.com.