Joy to the world! the Lord is come;
Let earth receive her King;
Let every heart prepare Him room,
And heaven and nature sing.

Isaac Watts wrote these words centuries ago, and George F. Handel put them into the beloved Christmas song that we so enjoy.

As we begin once again to sing the songs about Christmas, we are reminded that the messages they carry are not so much about the ancient past as they are about an awaiting future for the child of God.

Jesus Christ came to us at Bethlehem in Israel’s Judean province, but there remains His future coming for us and also the return back with us to establish His Kingdom. The first advent or coming “to” earth as a helpless baby is celebrated by Christians most devotedly during the four sabbath weeks prior to Dec. 25.

The second advent is yet a future series of events that includes Christ’s descent “from heaven with a shout” (1 Thessalonians 4:16) to catch up both the deceased and the living Christians “to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord” (verse 17).

This is known as the “rapture” of true believers dating back to the disciples and apostles. When this “church” of grace-age Christians is taken from the earth, the church will be completed and removed. There will be no last-minute additions of “wannabe” folks who have heard the gospel and rejected it “because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved” (2 Thessalonians 2:10). The delusion that Christ-rejectors have bought into will become stronger in that day (our day?), so that only true believers in Christ will be included in the catching away to Heaven.

Daniel writes in 12:1 of the tribulation scheduled for this earth once the children of God are removed: “and there shall be a time of trouble such as never was since there was a nation even to that same time: and at that time thy people shall be delivered, every one that shall be written in the book.” Documented believers who have determined to belong to Christ will have their personal name written in the book of life and will be delivered from this seven-year period of time. It is spoken of as the “time of Jacob’s trouble” and also as the “70th week of Daniel.” The word “week” speaks of a “week of years” and indicates seven, just as a dozen indicates twelve.

These seven years of tribulation are also described by Jesus Christ in Matthew 24. This week of years is the last of the 70 weeks, or 490 years (70 x 7), that the Israelites “owed” to God for disobedience. They had been instructed to honor God by virtue of allowing their land to enjoy a rest every seventh year. For the period of 490 years, they had not done this, and so God made note of the account due. He has already collected 483 of these years, beginning in the mid-440s BC. The 483rd year was completed when Christ entered into Jerusalem on His way to the crucifixion a short time later. Since that time, we have been in the “church age” in which man has been given the opportunity to be saved from the penalty of sin purely by the grace of God and without adulteration of our achievement or ritual.

This “age of grace” could close out at any instant (1 Corinthians 15) and will initiate the last seven-year period (or week) of God’s account settlement. No one should decide to take their chances with God concerning eternity because that “chance” of going to Heaven without Christ does not exist. Not only will a nonbeliever suffer unimaginable tribulation during this brief time (Matthew 24), but they are then appointed to an eternal second death: “And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire” (Revelation 20:15).

At the end of this seven-year “week” of tribulation on earth, Christ will return “with” the saved to establish His kingdom. Matthew writes in 24:22 that “except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved.”

He not only came “to” us as Bethlehem’s babe and will come “for” His own to keep them forever in His care, but will physically return “with” true believers to begin His righteous rule. John writes in Revelation 19:11 that Jesus Christ is “called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he doth
judge and make war.”

God is the “Great Accountant,” among many other of His infinite virtues. He sees the sparrow that falls and tabulates the hair on our heads. If He is the God of exactitude in accountability, He must then settle that which is past due. God will not overlook or let slide, and He must judge our sin so that He can love and justify our souls.

For those who refuse to be forgiven, judged and redeemed at the Cross of Christ, there can only remain the furious retribution of eternal and righteous ferocity. It is each accountable person’s responsibility to do business with God before the time He is forced to then do business with us
in the only remaining form.

Isaac Watts is writing “Joy to the World!” more to the believer’s future than to the world’s past. He writes about beautiful situations that mankind has not yet realized: “the Savior reigns,” “no more let sins and sorrows grow” and “He comes to make His blessings flow.”

Christ’s thousand-year reign on earth will blend perfectly into His eternal reign with God in Heaven. Sin and unrepentant sinners will be judged. Brother Watts writes about this coming time:

“He rules the world with truth and grace,
And makes the nations prove
The glories of His righteousness,
And wonders of His love, and wonders of His love
And wonders, and wonders of His love!”

This is the perfect season, day and time to surrender to the beautiful wonders of God’s love.

In the quietness of your heart at this Christmas time, allow the Lord to come – and receive your King!

R.D. “Bob” Hottle is a retired schoolteacher, farmer and pastor of the Anchor Baptist Church.