Skip to content

The Eternal Christ: Before the Manger and After the Resurrection

November 11, 2019

“. . . the sun of righteousness shall rise with healing in its rays.”  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,[1] 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.”[2]

In these last two weeks before the beginning of Advent, we meditate on texts written 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.[3]

Malachi’s name means “my messenger.”   His book predicts the coming of a messenger who would prepare the way for Christ.  God told him, ‘‘’I will send my messenger, who will prepare the way before me. Then suddenly the Lord you are seeking will come to his temple; the messenger of the covenant, whom you desire, will come,says the Lord Almighty” (Malachi 3:1).  This messenger was John the Baptist who would appear over 400 years later to prepare the way for Christ: “In the wilderness prepare the way for the Lord; make straight in the desert a highway for our God” (Isaiah 40:3).  Malachi was the last book written in the Old Testament.  The entire Old Testament, ending with Malachi, is an arrow pointing to Christ.[4]

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 rays” (Malachi 4:2). What a comforting image—God healing us as the rays of his Son, Jesus, shine on us and heal us through his love and warmth.  In dying for us on the cross, Christ healed our sin wounds. He took our brokenness and made us whole again.

The psalmist also points the way to Christ, and entreats us to praise God in anticipation of the coming of God:  “Sing to the Lord a new song, for he has done marvelous things; his right hand and his holy arm have worked salvation for him.  The Lord has made his salvation known and has revealed his righteousness to the nations” (Psalm 98: 1-2). Jesus fulfilled this prophecy.

In the gospel lesson, Jesus warns his disciples about the difficult years ahead of them. The “times of the Gentiles” (Luke 21: 24) is a reference to the destruction of Jerusalem, and also to the continuing persecution of God’s people until Christ comes again.  The text 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” (Luke 21: 28).

Paul’s use of the Old Testament phrase “day of the Lord,” in the second chapter of 2 Thessalonians leading up to this week’s epistle lesson,”[5] is a reference to Christ’s second coming.  Peter Kreeft, a respected Catholic theologian, explains, “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 . . .”[6]

Paul tells us in the epistle lesson that because we do not know when Christ will return, we need to be ready: For you yourselves are fully aware that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night” (1 Thessalonians 5:2).  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 before 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 rays” (Malachi 4:2).  His Spirit 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 help you through the challenges of today, tomorrow, and the months and years to come.  You can count on God.  And on your final day on earth, he will take you home where you will be enveloped in peace, joy, and love forever with him and with your loved ones who have gone before you.

Prayer: Lord, help me this day to do your will and to live according to your precepts. Keep me in your sight and shine your cleansing and healing rays on me.  Put your hand on me to guide me through the day’s challenges.  Amen

Diane Cieslikowski Reagan

[1] Ron Rhodes, Christ Before the Manger: The Life and Times of the Preincarnate Christ (1992), Wipf and Stock Publishers.

[2] (Id, p. 15)

[3] The Scripture texts for Sunday are Psalm 98; Malachi 4: 1-6; 2 Thessalonians 3:6-13; Luke 21: 5-8.  Another version of this blog was published on this website on November 8, 2016.

[4] Peter Kreeft, You Can Understand the Bible (2005), Ignatius Press, p. 160, 161.

[5] 2 Thessalonians 2:2

[6] Peter Kreeft, You Can Understand the Bible (2005) Ignatius Press, p. 275.

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: