Soli Deo Gloria: For the Glory of God Alone
Posted: Thursday, March 29, 2012 4:59 pm
The Messenger, March 29, 2012
My Great Comfort?
By WALLY BUMPAS
Special to The Messenger
What comes to mind when you think of the second coming of Christ and the final day of judgment? Are you afraid? Are you curious? Are you comforted?
The Heidelberg Catechism has been taking us line by line through the Apostles’ Creed. The section of the Creed pertaining to Christ concludes by stating that Jesus will come again “to judge the living and the dead.” The return of Christ (and, more broadly, the end times) has always fascinated the Church, and rightly so. It is a major theme in the Bible. It is the goal of history.
But over the past 40-50 years, in many circles, the end times have become an unhealthy obsession, resulting in a great deal of useless speculation, date guessing, bad movies and what one recent writer called “last days madness.”
Paul referred to this future event as the Christian’s “blessed hope” (Titus 2:13). But what is this core Bible doctrine really about? The identity of the antichrist? The interpretation of current events? The timing of the rapture?
Question 52 of the Heidelberg asks:How does Christ’s return to judge the living and the dead comfort you? Answer: In all my distress and persecution I turn my eyes to the heavens and confidently await as judge the very One who has already stood trial in my place before God and so has removed the whole curse from me. All His enemies and mine He will condemn to everlasting punishment: but me and all His chosen ones He will take along with Him into the joy and the glory of heaven.
Notice how this question is asked: How does the hope of Christ’s return “comfort you”? The point is comfort, not speculation about dates, identities or current events. When Paul wrote of the coming of the Lord in I Thessalonians 4, he concluded, “Therefore comfort one another with these words.”
There are three Biblical ways the second coming is a comfort to Christians. First, we will be publicly declared righteous, forgiven and accepted by God the Father. This will be a public announcement based on a past event: the work of Christ in place of His people.
It is commonly believed that judgment day will be a trial in which our good deeds and bad deeds will be placed on a scale. Whichever way the scale tips is where we go for eternity: heaven or hell. This is not good news and certainly not a comfort. The Christian good news is that Christ “has already stood trial in my place and so has removed the whole curse from me.” Paul wrote in Galatians 3:13, “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us.” Our destiny was fixed the moment we put our faith in Jesus. There will be no trial for the Christian at the last day — just a public announcement of our acquittal, accomplished long ago by Christ, and received by faith alone. As all our thoughts and deeds are laid bare in that day, good and bad, it will only serve to heighten the glory of Christ’s accomplishment: He paid for all this. He died for even me. Amazing love.
The second coming will also be the day when all wrongs are made right, when God’s people will be vindicated. “All His enemies and mine He will condemn to everlasting punishment.” This is our comfort when we are mistreated, abused, neglected, left out and slandered because we are Christians.
Of course, one way God deals with his enemies is by changing them into His friends. This is called becoming a Christian. But those who persist in their rebellion against God will find Him at the last day to be the judge, announcing not their acceptance, but their final condemnation.
Some may have a hard time thinking of this as a comfort. Perhaps this is because we have no real enemies and have never suffered anything for being a Christian. If that’s the case, then are we living for Christ at all? Ponder the words of Jesus: “If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you … If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you” (John 15:18-20).
Finally, the return of Christ means the end of suffering, the end of depression, the end of being tired, the end of cancer, the end of loneliness, the end of broken relationships, the end of sinning, the end of coldness toward Jesus and the end of death. It will be the beginning of a new heaven, a new earth and a new life of joy and delight that increases forever.
C.S. Lewis, at the end of his Narnia children’s stories, imagined it like this: “… for them it was only the beginning of the real story. All their life in this world … had only been the cover and the title page: now at last they were beginning Chapter One of the Great Story which no one on earth has read: which goes on forever: in which every chapter is better than the one before.”
Editor’s note: Wally Bumpas serves as pastor of First Presbyterian Church in Dyersburg.
Soli Deo Gloria: For the Glory of God Alone