SOMEONE once said to me, "You can't find anything about the second advent of Christ in nature, can you?"
Oh, but that is exactly what you do find in nature. The second advent of Christ is, as Tennyson put it, the
"... one far-off divine event,
To which the whole creation moves."
The second advent of Christ is the aim, the purpose, the pivot of every process of nature. Christ said that He came to seek and to save that which was lost. His first and His second advents are the two halves of that whole; the first is not complete without the second; the second is not possible without the first. At His first advent the Saviour came seeking; at His second He comes saving. At His first advent He paid the penalty for our sins, thereby offering us His sufficient salvation. The whole period of the probation of mankind is filled with His seeking for those who will accept His offer. But the time is soon coming when He will consummate His offered salvation into His achieved salvation. No longer then will we look forward in hope to a time when death is no more, but that future becomes the Now. Hope becomes reality.
Every element and process of spiritual experience is focused toward that epoch of absolute harmony with God, when there will be no more tears, sorrow, crying, pain, or death. And, to repeat, every process of nature is focused toward that same epoch. That is, the processes of nature are processes of life, not death. It may seem that death reigns throughout nature; but it is always death in hope. "In sure and certain hope of the resurrection," says the minister beside the open grave of Cod's saints. "In sure and certain hope of the resurrection," says the seed as it dies in the furrow, the salmon that perishes after spawning, the caterpillar that falls asleep in the pupa, the leaves that flutter down in the autumn, and every life that dies that another might live. The fact that it is not their own resurrection but others' life they serve through death does not destroy the fact that, in spite of all present defects, nature looks forward, "in hope."
The hope that runs throughout creation is one of the most profound and moving aspects of nature. Nature did not sin. Nature's king did, and his kingdom fell with him. Not only did Adam pass on to his sons a nature tainted with tendencies to sin and containing even in birth the seeds of death; but from the moment of man's disobedience the lower world of his dominion became infected with decay and death. Can we now imagine a fraction of the grief Adam and Eve must have felt when the goodly trees first shed their leaves and the gentle creatures began to bite and devour one another? Utter despair would have seized on them had it not been for those words, "Cursed is the ground for thy sake." The death that we now see reigning in nature is not a penalty for sin, for the lower creation did not sin. But an innocent creation was subjected to death for our sake, to contribute to our salvation.
There is much more meaning in Genesis 3:17 than that labor was given to the human race to be a physical blessing, curbing indolence and providing healthful and gainful occupation. There is the highest spiritual meaning bound up in those words -"for thy sake." Genesis 3:17 interpreted by Paul in Romans 8:16-25 shines with the glory of the approaching second advent:
"The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God: and if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with Him, that we may be also glorified together. For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us. For the earnest expectation of the creature waiteth for the manifestation of the sons of God. For the creature was made subject to vanity, not willingly, but by reason of Him who hath subjected the same in hope, because the creature itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now. And not only they, but ourselves also, which have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body. For we are saved by hope: but hope that is seen is not hope: for what a man seeth, why doth he yet hope for? But if we hope for that we see not, then do we with patience wait for it."
That the race might look forward "in hope" to the time of its complete restoration, nature has suffered. A just, loving, and merciful God subjected all nature to decay and death that His own children, made in His image, might love Him instead of His works, might worship the Creator instead of the creature, and might look forward to when Jesus will return to restore all things. Let not the earth be too fair, lest we become satisfied with sin.
The sinning civilizations of the past turned earth's richest fields into deserts. The devilish destructiveness of the present age is fast doing the same with the rest of the earth. But when the river of life again flows throughout the new earth from Christ's throne in the New Jerusalem, there will be no deserts. Every pang of pain felt in all animate nature now is a groan of longing for that time. The sinless creatures that die by rod and hook or bullet under a Satan-inspired counterfeit idea of pleasure, in their death throes cry to God to hasten the time when we will be redeemed and they can be set free from subjection to our death. All nature, Paul says, waits and longs for us to hasten our preparation so Christ can return. What are we doing to hasten that hope for our sake—and nature's?