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The Eternal Christ: Before the Manger and After the Resurrection

November 8, 2016

“. . . the sun of righteousness shall rise with healing in its wings.” Malachi 4:2

One of the most fascinating aspects of my biblical studies has been a study of the preincarnate Christ. In his book Christ Before the Manger: The Life and Times of the Preincarnate Christ ( 1992, Wipf and Stock Publishers), Ron Rhodes explains, “In addition to the Incarnation, God’s eternal plan apparently called for many preincarnate appearances of Christ as the ‘Angel of the Lord’ to various men and women in Old Testament times. It would seem from the scriptural evidence that the Father appointed Jesus to be the visible manifestation of God among people in both the Old and New Testaments . . . Christ’s activities among people in the Old Testament were similar in many ways to those described in the New Testament.” (Id, p. 15)

In these last two weeks before the beginning of Advent, we begin looking to events before the manger and events to come after the Resurrection. This week’s Old Testament Scripture points the way to Christ, and the New Testament readings point to his second coming.[1]

Malachi’s name means “my messenger.”   His book predicts the coming of “my messenger to prepare the way for me, and the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple” (3:1). “This ‘messenger’ was John the Baptist (see Is. 40:3), who prepared the way for Christ. John would not appear for over four hundred years.” (Peter Kreeft, You Can Understand the Bible (2005) Ignatius Press, p. 160). Malachi was the last book written in the Old Testament. “The whole Old Testament has been like an arrow, and here at its tip, pointing to the center of the target, the center of all things (Col. 1:17), Christ.” (Id, p. 161). In the reading for this week, we are promised that “For you who fear my name, the sun of righteousness shall rise with healing in its wings.” (Malachi 4:2)

In the reading from Luke, Jesus warns his disciples about the difficult years ahead of them. The “times of the Gentiles” (v. 24) is a reference to the destruction of Jerusalem and also to the “continuing and mounting persecutions of God’s people until the end.” (Life Application Bible note, p. 1852). Verse 28 points us to Christ’s second coming: “Now when these things begin to take place, straighten up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.”(v. 28)

In the second chapter of 2 Thessalonians leading up to this week’s epistle lesson, Paul’s use of the Old Testament phrase “Day of the Lord” (2 Thessalonians 2:2) is a reference to Christ’s second coming (Peter Kreeft, You Can Understand the Bible (2005) Ignatius Press, p. 275). “The term ‘day’ (yom in Hebrew) does not necessarily mean a literal twenty-four hour day but a period of time, perhaps a very long time. The six ‘days’ of creation in Genesis 1, for instance, took millions of years. When Paul spoke of ‘the day of the Lord’ to the Thessalonians he meant the last times, the last era in world history. In one sense this era had come already with Christ’s first coming. Yet in another sense (the one Paul emphasizes here), it had not yet come, for there are certain events that have to happen before the end . . . “

Paul tells us in the epistle lesson that since we do not know when Christ will return (like a thief in the night), we need to be ready. Some of the Thessalonians had given up on life, and were just waiting around for Christ’s return. Paul tells them to get back to work—we don’t know when Christ is returning! This is still a good lesson for us today. Remember that the eternal Christ, who existed with the Father and the Holy Spirit since the beginning of time, is with us each step of the way. When you don’t feel like you can get out of bed, that you can’t go on, Jesus is there with you: “. . . the sun of righteousness shall rise with healing in its wings.” Malachi 4:2. Put the first foot on the floor and the second will follow.  He will be there to heal you, to encourage you. Take the first step. He will help you with the second and the third.   He will be with you to the end.  He will carry you home.

Diane Cieslikowski Reagan



[1] The Scripture texts for the Twenty-Sixth Sunday after Pentecost are Psalm 98; Malachi 4: 1-6; 2 Thessalonians 3:6-13; Luke 21: 5-8.

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