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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!” 

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Doctrine Illuminated: The Church

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[9 Minute Read]


In these Doctrine Illuminated articles, the core beliefs of Addison Street Community Church are fleshed out in more detail. Begin by examining the section of the Doctrinal Confession, found at the top, and then discover an explanation of each of its lines below.


 
Section 12. The Church
“We believe that there is one holy, universal, and apostolic Church. The Church is united spiritually now and will one day be gathered together for the praise and glory of God and Jesus Christ. The local church is a gathered congregation of baptized believers, united by their faith in the gospel, led by elders and deacons, and observing the ordinances of Christ—baptism and the Lord’s Supper. Baptism is the immersion of a believer in water, in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. It is a sign of the new covenant and a public display of our faith in Jesus Christ. The Lord’s Supper is a communal remembrance and proclamation of the Lord’s death until he comes again”

I have found it quite common for my Chicagoan friends or neighbors to speak of spirituality with ease, perhaps even giving brief positive acknowledgment of Jesus. But, as soon as one mentions “church”, faces darken and accusations against “organized religion” are hurled. How then are we to think of the Church? Is it an archaic remnant of a previous time? At Addison Street Community Church we believe that the Church is something which believers should not be ashamed of, for no matter the shortcomings, She remains Christ’s Bride. This article will discuss the nature (that is, “what is it?”) and the duties (that is, “what does it do?”) of Christ’s Church.

“We believe that there is one holy, universal, and apostolic Church.”

These four adjectives were introduced in the 4th century Nicene Creed, and have come to be known as the “Four Marks of the Church”. First, we believe that there is “one… Church”. That seems impossible in a day where there are thousands of different denominations, all with their own quirks and beliefs. However, what the Creed proclaims (and what we echo here at Addison Street Community Church) is that the true Church—those who are Christ’s followers regardless of location or time—are unified in the essentials of the Gospel, though they may differ elsewhere (Ephesians 4:5-6; John 17:20-23).

Additionally, the Church is “holy”. This does not mean that the members of the Church cannot sin, or are devoid of sin, but that they, along with the Church as a whole, have been “set apart” (the literal meaning of ‘holy’). God sees the Church as holy and blameless because of Christ’s work on their behalf. Therefore, all Christians are called “saints”, which means “holy ones” (1 Corinthians 1:2).

As hinted at under “one”, the Church is also “universal”. This means that true believers in Christ are a part of the Church regardless of their location or time. The Church as the Body of Christ is not limited to an era, place, race, or culture (Matthew 28:18-20).

The final mark which the Creed mentions is that the Church is “Apostolic”. This means we believe the Church to be founded on the doctrine and preaching of the Apostles (those who physically saw the risen Lord Jesus and were specifically sent by him). We believe this is evident in Scripture (see, for e.g., Ephesians 2:20; Acts 2:42; Jude 3), and therefore normative for the Church throughout the ages.

“The Church is united spiritually now and will one day be gathered together for the praise and glory of God and Jesus Christ.”

This is the truth we recognized under the statement “we believe there is one… Church.” Currently, that unity is only known spiritually, but we long for the day when the many millions of the redeemed will join together before the Throne of God and proclaim, “salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!” (Revelation 7:9-12).

“The local church is a gathered congregation of baptized believers, united by their faith in the gospel.”

It is at this point in the doctrinal statement that we move from discussing the universal Church (that which all true believers are a part of), to address the local expressions of the Church. The members of these “lower-case c” churches are to be baptized, as a public profession of their commitment to Christ (Acts 2:38-41). These believers gather together because of their faith in the Gospel, and for the sake of encouraging that faith in one another (Hebrews 10:24-25).
 

“[The local church is] led by elders and deacons.”

The clear scriptural instruction for local expressions of the Body of Christ is that they have qualified leaders for their spiritual and physical safeguarding and growth. The elders have the responsibility to minister the Word, to teach and preach biblically (Acts 6; Titus 2:1), while the deacons are to serve the physical needs of the church (also Acts 6). Both offices are to be men of godly conduct, leading not only by teaching and serving but also by being models of Christian character (1 Timothy 3:1-13). The role of both elders and deacons is not to exclude other members of the church from responsibilities, but rather to train them for ministry and toward greater godliness (Ephesians 4-11-16).  
 

“[The church observes] the ordinances of Christ—baptism and the Lord’s Supper.”

An “ordinance” is a practice, instituted by Jesus and commanded for his Church to repeatedly observe, which is associated with visible, physical elements (water, bread, wine) to signify an invisible and spiritual reality (Matthew 28:18-20; Luke 22:14-20). These will both be explained in the following paragraphs.

“Baptism is the immersion of a believer in water, in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. It is a sign of the new covenant and a public display of our faith in Jesus Christ.”

As Jesus states in Matthew 28:18-20, those who are to be baptized are to be disciples, that is, believers who have committed to following and submitting to Christ. In their baptism, they are in essence “going public” with their faith, identifying themselves with the Triune God before the witness of the gathered Church. This is to be done by immersion for it signifies joining Jesus in his death and burial, and, when the baptized individual emerges from the waters, His resurrection as well (Romans 6:3; Galatians 3:27). 

“The Lord’s Supper is a communal remembrance and proclamation of the Lord’s death until he comes again.”

Jesus Christ instituted the Lord’s Supper with his disciples at their last meal, taking the bread to symbolize his body, and the cup of wine to symbolize his poured-out blood (Matthew 26:26-30). In eating and drinking of these elements, a believer does not eat of the physical body or blood of Christ; rather, it is an opportunity to obey Christ’s command, as well as to recall his sacrifice for us, his present care which surrounds us, and the certainty of his return to gather the Church (1 Corinthians 11:24-28).

Further Reading

Nine Marks of a Healthy Church  |  by Mark Dever
What is the Church?  |  by R.C. Sproul

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