If ever proof was needed that God loves us it’s in Advent, which pictures God not only saving us once, or twice, but three times. Three salvations – past, present, and future – which tie in very nicely with the three “comings” of Jesus that Advent pictures too.
The first coming of Jesus ties in with our first salvation, when Jesus died to save all humanity from eternal death. Jesus then told his disciples he would come back to them after his death (in a second coming), to enable them to experience a second salvation, described in Acts 3:26 as “turning each of you from your wicked ways.” Paul also talked about Jesus returning at a later time (his third coming) to begin a third salvation that would “bring all things in heaven and earth together under one head, even Christ,” Ephesians 1:10.
So that makes three comings of Jesus with three salvations – the first when Christ died, the second that we’re living in right now, and the third when Jesus comes again in the future. And the purposes of all three salvations are made clear too: the purpose of the first was forgiveness; the purpose of the second is transformation; and the purpose of the third will be restoration (Acts 3:21).
The first salvation has already been done, completed by Jesus on the cross at his first coming, sealed in Jesus’ own statement, “It is finished” (John 19:30). The second salvation is a work in progress right now in Jesus’ second coming, in which those who believe in the first salvation of forgiveness in Jesus’ death “are being transformed into Jesus’ likeness with ever increasing glory,” 2 Corinthians 3:18. The third salvation kicks in at Jesus’ third coming, when, in partnership with those transformed into his likeness, Jesus readies this planet and all humans who’ve ever lived for God himself to dwell here to put a final stop to “death, mourning, crying and pain,” Revelation 21:3-4.
So that’s three salvations tying in with Jesus’ coming to us at three different times and in three different ways, or in three different roles, as Saviour first of all, as our High Priest now, and as King of kings in his full glory later. It’s no coincidence, then, that all three of Jesus’ roles were revealed very soon after Jesus was born, when foreigners from the east arrived with three gifts for the baby Jesus: gold, frankincense and myrrh. Myrrh might seem strange, because it was used as an embalming resin for dead people, but it tied in perfectly with Jesus’ role as our Saviour dying to save us from eternal death.
The second gift was frankincense, which seems like an odd gift for a baby too, but frankincense played an essential part in the high priest’s job on the Day of Atonement for the cleansing of Israel from all their sins (Leviticus 16:12-13, 30). And that tied in perfectly with the role Jesus would play as high priest too (Hebrews 4:14-16), in cleansing us now from all “our wicked ways” (Acts 3:26).
The third gift of gold was the primary choice of gift for kings, so it’s no surprise that gold was given to Jesus, and by people who knew Jesus filled the role of a king (Matthew 2:2). So that’s three gifts for the baby Jesus that perfectly illustrated and recognized the three roles Jesus would play, as our Saviour, High Priest, and King.
So now we have three separate comings of Jesus for three different salvations, and three gifts illustrating the three roles of Jesus. But for those who accept Jesus’ first role and first coming as Saviour, it is the second role and second salvation that Jesus brings in his second coming that becomes the all important one, because it is part and parcel of the second season of Jesus’ ministry that we’re living in right now, in which Jesus as our High Priest is there for us every second of every day to fill us with himself (Colossians 2:9-10).
The first season of Jesus’ ministry was fulfilled in his human life and death, providing the forgiveness and clean slate we’d need for receiving the gift of the Holy Spirit. It would then be the work of the Spirit in the second season of Jesus’ ministry to transform us into the likeness of Christ in preparation for the third season in Jesus’ ministry at his third coming when we partner with him in restoring “everything” (Acts 3:21) to the way God originally meant it to be.
So we now have three seasons in Jesus’ ministry too, and each one tying in perfectly with the three roles Jesus fulfills through his three comings. And all of them picturing God’s love for us, in not only saving us once, or twice, but three times. And all nicely wrapped up for us in just one word: Advent.