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Second Isn’t Always Second Best!

February 6, 2015

What do February, the letter “B” and a silver medallist have in common? Yes, that’s right: they all come second. I don’t think the letter “B” is too bothered by that, but February might feel a bit dejected, stuck as it is between January’s optimism and March with its promise of spring. And the silver medallist – however well they’ve done – might be really disappointed that they didn’t end up with gold.

On the other hand, “second” isn’t always “second best”. In a family, calling one child “second” is simply stating a chronological fact; and at a big dinner, the second course is usually the main one. In the Bible, there are also a few “seconds” that overshadow the first.

There are two occasions where God enters into a mutual agreement – a covenant – with a large group of people. The first was sealed at Sinai, complete with regulations and penalties – this is what we now call the Old Covenant, exclusively between God and Israel. But already within the Old Covenant there were hints that it would one day be replaced or (better) renewed (see Jer 31:31-34); and this happens when Jesus dies and comes back to life again. The New Covenant, based on Jesus’ death and open to all nations, has been inaugurated (Heb 8:6) – and it would be hard to argue that the first version was better than the second!

In biblical theology, Jesus himself is sometimes called “the second Adam”; this exact phrase doesn’t appear in the Bible, but the thought is there (1 Cor 15:45). Adam was the first human, and he plunged the whole human race into sin and destruction; Jesus is the second (or “last”) Adam, starting again from a sinless position and keeping it, and in the process taking the sins of all descendants of the first Adam upon himself. Those who trust in him become members of a new humanity (Eph 2:15), where the effects of the sin of Adam 1 will eventually be erased by Adam 2.

Because of deadlines and holiday busyness, I originally wrote this on Christmas Eve (!), so we were just about to celebrate Jesus’ first coming to earth. But the Bible promises a second coming, to complete what the first coming started. They’re both necessary, and I don’t want to downplay the wonder of the Incarnation; but Jesus’ return as King of kings will definitely be the most glorious and overwhelming event the world has ever experienced. Don’t miss out – make sure you’re part of the new humanity that will welcome Jesus when he returns to set up his eternal kingdom!

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From → Christianity, Faith, Jesus

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