At the first advent of Christ, which was in apparent obscurity, the angels of heaven could scarcely be restrained from pouring forth their glories to grace the birth of the Son of God. The glorious manifestations of heaven were not entirely restrained. The wonderful event was not without some attestations of a divine character. That birth, so little prepared for on earth, was celebrated in the heavenly courts with praise and thanksgiving in behalf of man.
While the shepherds on the hills of Bethlehem watched their flocks by night, “the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you: Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.” [Luke 2:9–14.] The message given, the angels swept back to heaven, and the light and glory of their presence was no longer seen.
He who came in human flesh, and submitted to a life of humiliation, was the Majesty of heaven, the Prince of life, and yet the wise men of the earth, the princes and rulers, and even his own nation, knew him not. They did not recognize him as the long-looked-for Messiah. Notwithstanding mighty miracles did show forth themselves in him, notwithstanding he opened the eyes of the blind, and raised the dead to life, Christ suffered the hatred and abuse of the people he came to bless. They regarded him as a sinner, and accused him of casting out devils through the prince of devils. The circumstances of his birth were mysterious, and were remarked upon by the rulers. They charged him with being born in sin. The Prince of heaven was insulted because of the corrupt minds and the sinful, blasphemous unbelief of men. What a baleful thing is unbelief! It originated with the first great apostate, and to what fearful lengths it will lead all who enter upon its path is seen in the Jews’ rejection of their Messiah.
The leaders of the Jewish nation had the Old Testament Scriptures, which plainly foretold the manner of Christ’s first advent. Through the prophet Isaiah, God had described the appearance and mission of Christ, saying, “He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not. Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all. He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth: he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he openeth not his mouth.” [Isaiah 53:3–7.]
The leaders in Israel professed to understand the prophecies, but they had received false ideas in regard to the manner of Christ’s coming. Satan had deceived them; and all the glories of Christ’s second advent they applied to his first appearing. All the wonderful events clustering around his second coming, they looked for at his first. Therefore, when he came, they were not prepared to receive him. The disciple John tells of the reception with which he met. He says: “He was in the world, and the world was made by him, and the world knew him not. He came unto his own, and his own received him not.” [John 1:10, 11.]
Between the first and the second advent of Christ a wonderful contrast will be seen. No human language can portray the scenes of the second coming of the Son of Man in the clouds of heaven. He is to come with his own glory, and with the glory of the Father and of the holy angels. He will come clad in the robe of light, which he has worn from the days of eternity. Angels will accompany him. Ten thousand times ten thousand will escort him on his way. The sound of the trumpet will be heard, calling the sleeping dead from the grave. The voice of Christ will penetrate the tomb, and pierce the ears of the dead, “and all that are in the graves . . . shall come forth.” [John 5:28, 29.]
“And before him shall be gathered all nations.” [Matthew 25:32.] The very One who died for man is to judge him in the last day; for the Father “hath committed all judgment unto the Son: . . . and hath given him authority to execute judgment also, because he is the Son of man.” [John 5:22, 27.] What a day that will be, when those who rejected Christ will look upon him whom their sins have pierced. They will then know that he proffered them all heaven if they would but stand by his side as obedient children; that he paid an infinite price for their redemption; but that they would not accept freedom from the galling slavery of sin. They chose to stand under the black banner of rebellion to the close of mercy’s hour.
As they gaze upon his glory, there flashes before their minds the memory of the Son of Man clad in the garb of humanity. They remember how they treated him, how they refused him, and pressed close to the side of the great apostate. The scenes of Christ’s life appear before them in all their clearness. All he did, all he said, the humiliation to which he descended to save them from the taint of sin, rises before them in condemnation.
They behold him riding into Jerusalem, and see him break into an agony of tears over the impenitent city that would not receive his message. His voice, which was heard in invitation, in entreaty, in tones of tender solicitude, seems again to fall upon their ears. The scene in the garden of Gethsemane rises before them, and they hear Christ’s amazing prayer, “Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me.” [Matthew 26:39.]
Again they hear the voice of Pilate, saying, “I find in him no fault at all.” [John 18:38.] They see the shameful scene in the judgment-hall, when Barabbas stood by the side of Christ, and they had the privilege of choosing the guiltless One. They hear again the words of Pilate, “Whom will ye that I release unto you? Barabbas, or Jesus, which is called Christ?” They hear the response, “Away with this man, and release unto us Barabbas.” To the question of Pilate, “What shall I do then with Jesus?” the answer comes, “Let him be crucified.” [Matthew 27:17; Luke 23:18; Matthew 27:22.]
Again they see their Sacrifice bearing the reproach of the cross. They hear the loud, triumphant tones tauntingly exclaim, “If thou be the Son of God, come down from the cross.” “He saved others, himself he can not save.” [Matthew 27:40, 42.]
Now they behold him not in the garden of Gethsemane, not in the judgment-hall, not on the cross of Calvary. The signs of his humiliation have passed away, and they look upon the face of God,—the face they spit upon,—the face which priests and rulers struck with the palms of their hands. Now the truth in all its vividness is revealed to them. It is the wrath of the Lamb that they have to meet,—of him who came to take away the sin of the world,—of him who had ever acted toward them with infinite tenderness, long-suffering patience, and inexpressible love. They realize that they have forfeited all the riches of his great salvation. As they look upon him who died to take away their guilt, they cry out to the rocks and mountains, “Fall on us, and hide us from the face of him that sitteth upon the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb: for the great day of his wrath is come; and who shall be able to stand?” [Revelation 6:16, 17.]
Perils of the Last Days
We are now amid the perils of the last days. The scenes of conflict are hastening on, and the day of days is just upon us. Are we prepared for the issue? Every deed, small and great, is to be brought into recognition. That which has been considered trivial here will then appear as it is. The two mites of the widow will be recognized. The cup of cold water offered, the prison visited, the hungry fed,—each will bring its own reward. And that unfulfilled duty, that selfish act, will not be forgotten. In the open court around the throne of God it will appear a very different thing from what it did when it was performed. The secret sin that appears as nothing now, when placed before men in the light of God’s countenance, will appear grievous. It will be seen that these selfish pleasures and indulgences have made the human being a lover of pleasure more than a lover of God.
How stands our account in the books of heaven? Have we chosen to be partakers with Christ in his sufferings? Have we been learning in the school of Christ his meekness and lowliness of heart? Have we stood by the side of Christ to bear his reproach? Have we taken his yoke upon us, and lifted the cross in self-denial and self-sacrifice? Have we helped to bear his burdens, and co-operated with him in his work?
Satan has come down with great power, working with all deceivable-ness of unrighteousness in them that perish; but it is not necessary for any to be deceived; and we shall not be if we have fully taken our stand with Christ to follow him through evil as well as through good report. The serpent’s head will soon be bruised and crushed. The glorious memorial of God’s wonderful power is soon to be restored to its rightful place. Then paradise lost will be paradise restored. God’s plan for the redemption of man will be complete. The Son of Man will bestow upon the righteous the crown of everlasting life, and they shall “serve him day and night in his temple; and he that sitteth on the throne shall dwell among them. They shall hunger no more, neither thirst any more; neither shall the sun light on them, nor any heat. For the Lamb which is in the midst of the throne shall feed them, and shall lead them unto living fountains of waters: and God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes.” [Revelation 7:15–17.]
Review and Herald, September 5, 1899.
Ellen G. White (1827–1915) wrote more than 5,000 periodical articles and 40 books during her lifetime. Today, including compilations from her 50,000 pages of manuscript, more than 100 titles are available in English. She is the most translated woman writer in the entire history of literature, and the most translated American author of either gender. Seventh-day Adventists believe that Mrs. White was appointed by God as a special messenger to draw the world’s attention to the Holy Scriptures and help prepare people for Christ’s second advent.