“Christ was offered once to bear the sins of many. To those who eagerly wait for Him He will appear a second time, apart from sin, for salvation” (Hebrews 9:28).
Our family enjoys disc golfing. Over the years and the courses that we played, we developed the practice of allowing each player one “mulligan” per course—one second chance to replay a tee shot. The benefit, obviously, was that if you had a bad tee shot, you got another try at it; the downside was that you had to accept the result of the second throw, even if it was as bad as (or worse than) the first.
“Seconds” can be bad or good. Having “second thoughts” means that one’s initial decision may not have been so good. On the other hand, taking “seconds” at Thanksgiving dinner means that the first helping was great!
When the writer to the Hebrews says that that Jesus
“. . . will appear a second time,” we could say that this “second,” too, is both bad and good.
The bad part is that it reminds us so clearly of the reason why Christ had to come the first time. As Paul concisely and bluntly puts it in 1 Corinthians 15:22, “[I]n Adam, all die.” It was because of that one man’s offense that many died (Romans 5:15). Through Adam “. . . sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned” (Romans 5:12).
And there is nothing and no one who can atone for that sin and death in the world except Jesus Himself! As we are reminded in the familiar hymn,
Not the labors of my hands
Can fulfill Thy Law’s demands;
Could my zeal no respite know,
Could my tears forever flow,
All for sin could not atone;
Thou must save, and Thou alone.
(TLH 376:2; see also stanza 3!)
Thank God that what Jesus alone could do, Jesus alone has done! “Therefore, as through one man’s offense judgment came to all men, resulting in condemnation, even so through one Man’s righteous act the free gift came to all men, resulting in justification of life” (Romans 5:18). “For since by man came death, by Man also came the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive”
(1 Corinthians 15:21-22).
So yes, while His first coming initially reminds us of our sin, we also rejoice in Jesus’ victory over sin and death! Because of His first coming, His second coming will be nothing but good for those of us who are His own by faith. We anticipate our Lord’s second coming with joy! “To those who eagerly wait for Him He will appear a second time, apart from sin, for salvation” (Hebrews 9:28).
For those who are not His, Jesus’ second coming will usher in an eternity of hell. “So it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come forth, separate the wicked from among the just, and cast them into the furnace of fire. There will be wailing and gnashing of teeth” (Matthew 13:49-50).
But thanks to Jesus, at His second coming we “. . . will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory” (Luke 21:27-28). On that Day we can and will lift up our heads, because our redemption draws near!
Jesus says, “‘Surely I am coming quickly.’ Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus” (Revelation 22:20).
Paul Krause is pastor of Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church in Watertown, South Dakota, and Zion Evangelical Lutheran Church in Hidewood Township, South Dakota.