His name was Maranatha. He was a little towheaded boy in my cabin at New England Keswick Bible Conference and Camp during the summer of 1970, and I was his camp counselor. He was a funny little guy. I’ll never forget the night he fell out of his bunk bed onto the hardwood floor landing with such a thud that it sounded as if a bowling ball had been dropped through the roof. No bones were broken, and he didn’t even have a bump on his head, but it really gave us all a scare. Needless to say, we made him sleep in a lower bunk from then on. But I remember thinking, “Maranatha” what an unusual name for a boy.
Maranatha is an Aramaic expression which occurs but once in the Bible, specifically in Paul’s first epistle to the Corinthians [1 Corinthians 16:22] meaning, “Our Lord, come!” In the early church, when Christians were persecuted for the faith and didn’t know who could be trusted, marantha was used commonly by believers as a watchword [a password]. It expressed what early believers of the first century longed for, the personal and visible return of the risen Christ to rule and reign over the earth as both Lord and King.
Old and New Testaments alike speak of the coming of one called “the Son of Man,” “the Son of David,” “the Messiah” or the “Anointed One,” that is to say “the Christ” to reign over the world. The New Testament records a first coming as a matter of history, and anticipates a second coming yet future. What the Old Testament saints didn’t comprehend nor even the prophets who wrote of it, was that the Messiah they anticipated would need to come twice in order to fulfill two very different and distinct lines of prophecy spoken of him. It was as if there were two missions to be fulfilled. The missions were related, and the latter would be based on the former, but two separate and distinct advents were essential nevertheless.
One line of prophecy spoken of by Isaiah, Daniel and Zechariah, concerned a suffering servant or Messiah whom Israel would reject, a Messiah who would be afflicted for the sins of the nation, a Messiah who would be cut off. Isaiah spoke of him in these words:
“Surely he has borne our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him and afflicted. But He was pierced for our transgressions, crushed for our iniquities, the punishment which brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed. We all like sheep have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all. He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth. He was led like a lamb to the slaughter and as a sheep before her shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth. By oppression and judgment he was taken away and who can speak of his descendants, for he was cut off from the land of the living; for the transgression of my people he was stricken.” Isaiah 53:4-8 NIV84
But then the prophets also spoke of a very different coming, in which the Son of Man would come in glory to judge the nations and establish His kingdom over the earth.
“I was watching [Daniel writes] in the night visions, and behold, One like the Son of Man, coming with the clouds of heaven! He came to the Ancient of Days, and they brought Him near before Him. Then to Him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve Him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, And His kingdom the one which shall not be destroyed.” Daniel 7:13-14 NKJV
Is this Messiah who comes once to suffer and the Messiah who comes a second time to reign as king really one and the same Messiah? Listen to the words of the prophet Zechariah.
“In that day the LORD will defend the inhabitants of Jerusalem; the one who is feeble among them in that day shall be like David, and the house of David shall be like God, like the Angel of the LORD before them. It shall be in that day that I will seek to destroy all the nations that come against Jerusalem. And I will pour on the house of David and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem the Spirit of grace and supplication; then they will look on Me whom they pierced. Yes, they will mourn for Him as one mourns for his only son, and grieve for Him as one grieves for a firstborn.” Zechariah 12:8-10 NKJV
The New Testament identifies Jesus of Nazareth, as that Christ, the Messiah, who alone fulfills both the mission of the suffering servant, and will come again a second time, to fulfill the prophecies of a reigning Messiah, who will judge the nations and rule in righteousness and peace over an everlasting kingdom. Jesus himself understood that.
You will recall the words of Jesus on the night he was betrayed and forced to endure the mockery of a trial before the Sanhedrin.
“Tell us if you are the Christ, the Son of God,” he was asked.
“Yes, it is as you say,” Jesus replied. “But I say to all of you. In the future you will see the Son of Man [simply another designation for the Messiah] sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven.” Matthew 26:63b-64 NIV
At that, he was charged and dispatched ultimately to Pilate, who ordered him crucified. But then on the third day following his death, Jesus rose bodily from the dead, later to ascend in a cloud into heaven, where he is presently seated at the right hand of the Father. But we are reminded that he will return just as he left, first for the church (1 Thessalonians 4:161-18), and then to judge the nations (Matthew 25:31-48). Maranatha!
“For as lightning that comes from the east is visible even in the west, so will be the coming of the Son of Man.” Matthew 24:27
“’Surely I am coming quickly’ Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus! ” Revelation 22:20b NKJV