THE SIXTH DAY OF DECEMBER IN THE YEAR OF GRACE TWO THOUSAND AND FIFTEEN.
The Jewish leaders sitting before me were in Houston from several states, guests of B’Nai B’rith for a week of continuing education and self-improvement. Waiting to teach, advise and encourage them were a physician, a psychologist, a financial planner, a personal trainer, and a rabbi.
My assignment was to explain in one hour the Christian understanding of the Old Testament. I did as asked, and ended by urging these Jewish men to consider with an open mind the claim of Jesus of Nazareth to be the Messiah foretold by the Hebrew prophets. Next came Q&A. Almost immediately someone asked: “If Jesus was the Messiah, why is the world still in such a mess?” The short answer is “because Messiah’s work requires him to come here twice, and the second coming (or advent) has not yet occurred.” Peter explains this more fully in Acts chapter 3.
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Peter and John have just healed a lame man in the name of Jesus Messiah and the Jewish leaders have demanded an explanation. Peter explains this reversal of lameness as a Stage Two salvation event in God’s three-stage program foretold by the ancient prophets. Stage One included Jesus’ faithful living, rejection, suffering, death, resurrection and ascension (Acts 3:13-15). When God raised Jesus from the dead, the Resurrection began–as also did the End of the world. God then paused both the Resurrection and the End until a time we do not know. Meanwhile, both physical healing and forgiveness of sins are signs of the present kingdom of God (4:12).
Stage Two occurs during the present period between Jesus’ return to the Father and his final appearance at the end of earthly history. This is the time of the “until” in Psalm 110:1 (the most-cited Old Testament verse in the New Testament). This is the era of the gospel announcement, the time of messianic blessings poured out on those who turn to Jesus. The Risen Jesus sends “times of refreshing” from his place at God’s right hand in heaven (3:20). This includes the presence of the Holy Spirit, spiritual renewal and fruitfulness of forgiven believers, fellowship with God, grace gifts, and inner joy despite external circumstances. All this the prophets also anticipated. We are experiencing this stage of prophetic fulfillment even now, as are saved people among all nations of the earth (3:25).
The third stage will occur when God sends Jesus back from heaven to complete the restoration of all things foretold by the prophets, in new heavens and a new earth (3:20-21). We think of prophetic visions of the end of wars and of universal peace, of a harmonious creation where the lamb sleeps safely beside the lion, of plentiful harvests, of the total healing of bodies and the end of death itself. All this will take place — as surely as Messiah has died and been raised again — when Jesus returns to close this earthly history and to usher in the completion of the Kingdom of God. Even so come, Lord Jesus!”