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Doctrine Illuminated: The Return of Christ

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[6 Minute Read]

 
Section 14:  The Return of Christ
“We believe that the end of this world is approaching. On the last day, Christ will descend from heaven and raise the dead from the grave to the final judgment. A separation will then take place: the wicked will go to endless punishment, and the righteous, who have believed in Jesus Christ and been sanctified by the Holy Spirit, will go to endless joy.”

As you may notice, our doctrinal statement provides ample space for a diversity of thought on the specific timing of what will occur leading up to Christ’s return. However, all Christians agree: Christ will come again. This is the blessed hope to which every Christian clings. For the believer who looks on the coming days with fear, the Scriptures provide comfort and confidence to press on in King Jesus. 

“We believe that the end of this world is approaching.”

These words sound apocalyptic, like something a man holding a “the end is nigh!” poster would shout at those who pass him by on the sidewalk. However, the Bible attests to the fact that the earth itself “groans” under the weight of sin which mankind willfully introduced it to (Romans 8:19-22). Therefore, the “end of the world” is not a bad thing—unless your hope is in the world. Rather, the end of this age means the end of that which has characterized this age: death, sin, tears, and suffering (1 John 2:17).

“On the last day, Christ will descend from heaven and raise the dead from the grave to the final judgment.”

To usher in that new age free from any evil thing, Christ will return physically (Acts 1:11) in great glory—His true nature being revealed to every human eye (Matthew 16:27; Revelation 1:7). The Apostle Paul in his letter to the Thessalonian believers takes special care to inform them that the “dead in Christ will rise first” (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18). This is such a blessing! We can be confident that the believers who have passed away will not be neglected by our Lord, for he is sufficiently powerful to care for them. Not only will the righteous dead be resurrected, but also the wicked (Acts 24:15), and both will be brought before judgment to give an account for their life on earth (2 Corinthians 5:10; John 5:28-29).   

“A separation will then take place.”

Jesus, who has been given the right to judge by his Father (John 5:22; Acts 10:42), will separate believers from unbelievers as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats (Matthew 25:31-46).

“The wicked will go to endless punishment.”

The “wicked” (those who have rejected Christ Jesus and rebelled against his authority) have stored up wrath for themselves (Romans 2:5). The just judgment for sin against an eternal God is eternal punishment; this doctrine has become increasingly unpopular in our day, but it is thoroughly biblical (2 Thessalonians 1:9). Christ himself repeatedly states the unending degree of wrath which will be poured out on sinners in hell, forever (Mark 9:47-48).

“The righteous, who have believed in Jesus Christ and been sanctified by the Holy Spirit, will go to endless joy.”

Believers will also appear before Christ’s judgment, but it will not be to decide where they spend eternity, for God’s wrath against their sin was taken by Jesus as he died upon the cross (1 Thessalonians 5:9; Romans 5:9). Rather, this judgment will be to determine the rewards given for faithful service; though there are no differing degrees of salvation (and all God’s people will be saved), there are differing degrees of reward (1 Corinthians 3:12-15). Christians should desire to please the Lord by doing good works, trusting to one day hear those sweet words: “well done my good and faithful servant… enter into the joy of your Master” (Matthew 25:23).

In today’s article, we have seen that the Scriptures provide the worried and fearful saint great comfort—that Christ will come again and set all things right, welcoming his Bride into an eternity of joyful fellowship with him and one another. Despite the variety of views on the specific sequence of final events, all Christians can join in echoing the ending words of Revelation: “Maranatha!” “Come, Lord Jesus, come!” 

Posted by Elisha Walker with

Doctrine Illuminated: The Holy Spirit

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[10 Minute Read]


Section 5:  God the Holy Spirit.
  
“We believe that the Holy Spirit is fully God and is to be worshipped as God. He worked in the creation of the world, the incarnation and ministry of Jesus Christ, and the writing of Holy Scripture. His mission is to draw people to the Son, apply the work of redemption, regenerate and indwell believers, baptize them into union with Christ and His body. He also endows believers with gifts, transforms them in the image of Jesus, and secures them for final salvation.”

The Holy Spirit has been referred to as the “forgotten God” or “shy member of the Trinity.” These nicknames fall short in describing who he is, and more so describe our own deficiency in understanding the third person of the Godhead. He might functionally be third, but he’s not of least importance. It can be easy to sideline the Holy Spirit’s person and work while trying to construct a sound theology of Jesus Christ’s person and work. Yet, we are tempted also to swing the pendulum by over-emphasizing the Holy Spirit’s work to the exclusion or minimization of his Christ-centered focus.
                                                                                         

“We believe that the Holy Spirit is fully God and is to be worshipped as God.”

Personhood isn’t merely about having a body. God is three persons. This is the mystery of the Trinity. The third person of the Trinity, the Holy Spirit, has always had a vital place in history and in the Bible (from Genesis 1 to Revelation 22). While his own person, he is always identified with God the Father and God the Son as co-equal (Matthew 28:18-20; 2 Corinthians 13:14; Revelation 1:4). He is “cut out of the same cloth” (John 14:26; 15:26; 16:7). He has all of the divine attributes, like omnipresence, which means “all-present” (Psalm 139:7). He also knows everything (Isaiah 40:13-14). When we worship Christ rightly, we are doing so through his Spirit and will know that we have worshiped the Spirit.
 

“He worked in the creation of the world, the incarnation and ministry of Jesus Christ, and the writing of Holy Scripture.”

In almost every place where the Bible records one of those hard to believe events, the Holy Spirit is there. The book of beginnings, Genesis, tells from the outset that the Holy Spirit was actively fluttering over the formless creation that God was speaking into existence out of nothing (1:2). Mankind, the pinnacle of the creative order, is said to have been fashioned after God who, in this context, is an ‘us’ (Genesis 1:26). This means that the Creator was a unity of persons, and that fluttering Spirit was among those persons who created everything. Moreover, the New Testament explicitly accounts for the supernatural conception of Jesus Christ through Mary, who was a young virgin (Matthew 1:20; Luke 1:35) by the Holy Spirit. And, it was the blessed Holy Spirit of God who descended upon the baptized Jesus as the symbol of God’s approval and power upon him as the Messiah (Mark 1:10). All of Holy Scripture, furthermore, is produced by Holy Spirit’s breath (2 Timothy 3:16). Even the great king David recognizes this when he says, “The Spirit of the Lord speaks by me; his word is on my tongue” (2 Samuel 23:2).
 

“His mission is to draw people to the Son, apply the work of redemption, regenerate and indwell believers, baptize them into union with Christ and His body.”

While Jesus was on earth, he boldly asserted that if anyone wants to come to God the Father, they must come through himself, God the Son (John 14:6). But, what if you don’t have an embodied Jesus physically visible to see? The plan all along was that Jesus wouldn’t physically be present throughout the rest of history in Palestine—or anywhere else for that matter. Starting most overtly at Pentecost (Acts 2), the Holy Spirit would serve as a spotlight on Jesus the Redeemer (John 14:26; 15:26; 16:8-11) who would counter the intractable hearts of the world bringing them to faith in the Son (1 Corinthians 12:3) through inward regeneration (Titus 3:5). This Holy Spirit, through the effective planning of God the Father and execution of the plan by God the Son, becomes sovereign Applicator of redemption, which is the sum of God’s saving work (Ephesians 1:13-14). Once the Holy Spirit has effectively prevailed upon the hardened sinner in leading them to Jesus Christ the Savior, he doesn’t leave them. His work has essentially just begun (Philippians 1:6). The Spirit then enters or indwells the believer (Romans 8:9-11). The indwelling of the believer by the Holy Spirit mystically (and inseparably) unites him or her forever through Spirit baptism to Christ (Romans 6:3-5) and to his body, the Church (1 Corinthians 12:13).
 

“He also endows believers with gifts.”

Much confusion and Christian “turf war” has existed over the last century about the Holy Spirit’s gifting of believers. Unfortunately, it has led to widespread misunderstanding and even heterodoxy, which is a deviation from orthodox Christian teaching. That has come in the form of believing that baptism of the Holy Spirit, gifting, filling, and tongues-speaking are different benchmarks on a spirituality spectrum to be achieved. While conversely, those who see the failings of overemphasis tend to keep the Spirit in a minimized corner of their theology and practice. 

The fact of the matter is that we can be clear as God wants us to be if we just study his Word. We don’t have to be uninformed (1 Corinthians 12:1). Every true believer has the Spirit and therefore is spiritual. There are different kinds of spiritual gifts, and each Christian has been blessed with at least one (Romans 12:3-8; 1 Cor 12:4-10; 1 Peter 4:10-11).

The whole point of the Spirit’s gifts to local churches is for service, and it is the kind of self-forgetful service in sacrificial love for brothers and sisters. Sometimes we get obsessed with figuring out our spiritual gift mix that to the neglect of using what we have “for the common good” (1 Corinthians 12:7). Others insist confidently on their own gifting to the point of imposing themselves on churches as if they were the lord of their gifts. Love, clarity, and order must govern the exercise of our gifts for the unity of Christ’s Church (1 Corinthians 13-14).


“[He] transforms [believers] in the image of Jesus, and secures them for final salvation.”

Because the Holy Spirit is invisible God, we sometimes are unaware of how truly present and powerful he is (Haggai 2:5; Zechariah 4:6). It is specifically God the Spirit who produces lasting change in the believer (2 Corinthians 3:18) through the truth of Christ (John 16:13-14). It is the Holy Spirit who banishes any sense of fear and causes us to lean into our identity as God’s heirs; his royal sons and daughters (Romans 8:15-17; Galatians 4:6-7). This restful relationship is not without its own measure of effort, however. God’s child must “keep in step with the Spirit” by striving against their own fleshly tendencies (Galatians 5:16-25) and being filled by him (Ephesians 5:18-20). You have the very word of God that the Holy Spirit of peace will fully prepare for eternity in heaven (1 Thessalonians 5:23-24).

The book of Revelation ends with an invitation from the Holy Spirit and the Church to “Come.” This invitation bids you, for now, to freely enjoy union to Jesus Christ, the Husband, in spiritual betrothal until our faith will be made sight; when our marriage is consummated eternally in heaven to God’s Son, and it’s the Holy Spirit who will get us there.

 

 

Posted by Will Pareja with

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