We live in a culture where what we see and hear can so easily be manipulated, deceiving us into believing something that is false. Have you heard of deep fakes? That is video technology in which you can make videos of people saying whatever you want them to say, and it really looks like a video of that person. But it is fake. This is not just impersonation. This is the use of a person’s real image and voice, through sophisticated computer-generated alterations. It is very, very difficult to tell that the video you are watching is fake.
It is very easy to be deceived, and not just by deep fake videos. As we continue our Advent study of 2 Thessalonians, Paul was concerned that the Thessalonian Christians were being deceived. Turn in your Bibles to 2 Thessalonians chapter 2, and read verses 1-12.
In verse 1, Paul uses the word “advent.” In fact, we’ll see him use the word three times in verses, 1-12. Look at verse 1. I bet you don’t see the word “advent,” though, do you?
The word advent means “arrival” or “coming”. Now do you see the word? Paul writes, “Concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Any of our Bibles could have translated this phrase, “Concerning the advent of our Lord Jesus Christ.” But we don’t use the word “advent” nearly as frequently as the word “coming,” so it makes more sense to talk about Jesus’ coming. Yet, “advent” is an important word.
We do use the word “advent,” for more than the season of the year leading up to Christmas. You might hear it in history class or on the History channel like this, “Before the advent of the printing press, the written word was very expensive and not very accessible.” Then the printing press was invented, and things changed. We call that invention “the advent of the printing press,” the arrival of the printing press.
In more recent years we talk about the advent of the internet. Life was so different before the internet, wasn’t it? Since the mid-1990s when the internet really grew, things have changed fast. The word “advent” can refer to the arrival of anything, but it is often used for paradigm-shifting inventions or people or epochs in history. Something appears where there was nothing before, and that new thing makes a significant change in the world.
You can see why “advent” is used for Jesus. There is no doubt that there is a distinct before and after the advent of Jesus. Think about the advent of Jesus. He was a Jew, and in the First Century, the Jews were a conquered people, because the powerful Roman Empire occupied the land of Israel. So Jesus was born to a powerless people. You’d think a world-changer would be born into the family of the Roman emperor, or at least a wealthy Roman citizen. Nope, he was born into a no-name family who came from a no-name town in Israel, which was a tiny, non-influential province in a far-flung corner of the Empire. Worse still, when Jesus was born, his life was immediately threatened by the insane local leader, Herod, who decided to kill all newborns in the area because of a prophecy that said a contender to his throne would be born. So Jesus’ parents had to flee their country to Egypt. That means Jesus started his life as a refugee. His early years didn’t seem like they were leading to the kind of significant life that would have a before and after.
When the threat from Herod was gone, Jesus’ family moved back to their small town in northern Israel where Jesus lived in obscurity for 30 years. No royal training. No military training. No leadership training. He just learned the family business, which was carpentry or masonry.
When he finally does leave home and fulfill his calling, there is no doubt that his ministry is powerful, but he stays in Israel. You’d think he would start traveling the world and preaching like Paul did. But no. He stayed right there in Israel. In fact, he rarely even went to the capital of Israel, Jerusalem. Most of his ministry was in Galilee to the north.
Because he did gain, however, a large following, that kind of thing always stuck out to the Romans who were known for keeping the peace by brutally putting down any uprising. Even though the crowds adored him, it didn’t take much for the Romans to dispense with Jesus. After a ministry of less than three years, Rome killed Jesus, and his ministry was over. From the perspective of the Roman Empire, Jesus and the movement he led was a tiny blip on their radar. It didn’t seem like much of an advent. Nearly 2000 years later, what we well know is that the Advent of Jesus was a before and after like the world has never seen. Jesus’ birth, life, death and resurrection was the ultimate Advent.
But here in verse 1, Paul is not looking backwards to the first advent of Jesus. The Christian Season of Advent not only looks backward to the first advent of Jesus, when he was born, but it also looks forward to the second coming of Jesus. Paul is looking forward too. Paul looks forward by teaching the Thessalonian Christians about the second advent of Jesus. He describes it as a day in the future when Christians will be gathered to Jesus. What does that word “gathering” mean?
Check back to the next post, as we’ll investigate it.