[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!”