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Saturday, September 03, 2005

Credo - Last Things

11. We believe in the personal and premillenial and imminent coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and that this 'Blessed Hope' has a vital bearing on the personal life and service of the believer.

Jesus Christ is returning soon! I believe that He is going to return personally, visibly, and bodily just as He promised (John 14:3, Acts 1:11, 1 Thessalonians 4:16, Hebrews 9:28). I believe that Christ is patiently delaying His return so that the full number of the elect will be saved (2 Peter 3:3-9). And I am certain that Jesus has told us that He will be returning soon so that we will be watching and waiting expectantly with holy lives (Matthew 24:36-51, 1 John 3:3).

I must, however, express hesitation to make too many definite statements about when Jesus Christ will return. Eschatology is, for me, the most complex and confusing area of doctrine. While at Moody Bible Institute, I was exposed to pre-tribulationalism (the Second Coming of Christ will be after a period of seven years of awful tribulation before which the church will have been taken from the Earth). While this remains an attractive position, I am no longer completely convinced. It seems to me that Jesus and the apostles only foresaw and predicted one return of Christ in power and glory in fire with His angels (2 Thessalonians 1:7-10, Matthew 24-25). This is called post-tribulationalism, and I am currently leaning towards it.

When Christ will return is a secret known only to God the Father (Matthew 24:36, Mark 13:32). His return is imminent which means “ready to take place.” Everything is set in place right now for the events of the end-times to unfold before our eyes. Whether that is “any second” or “any hour” or “in my life time,” I am not certain.

I believe that Christ will return and reign on Earth for a period of one thousand years prior to the eternal state (premillenialism). During this millienial kingdom, God will faithfully fulfill, through Christ’s righteous rule, all of His promises to Israel (Revelation 20:1-6, Romans 9-11).

12. We believe in the bodily resurrection of the dead; of the believer to everlasting blessedness and joy with the Lord, of the unbeliever to judgment and everlasting conscious punishment.

The key to understanding biblical prophecy of future events is that prophecy exists to encourage the believer for holy living and faithful service in the sure hope of eternity (1 Peter 1:4-5, 1:8-9, 1 Thessalonians 4:18, Matthew 25:14-30, Titus 2:3, 1 John 3:3). No event is more hopeful for believers than the resurrection of the body. In the last days, this resurrection will be the reunion of the bodies and souls of people that have been separated by death. The resurrection bodies of believers will be like Christ's (i.e. the very body He died in; changed but not replaced). 1 Corinthians 15 teaches that the resurrection body will be spiritual and signals Christ’s total conquest: “But when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory” (1 Corinthians 15:54). To this the only reply is a joyful, “Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!” (Revelation 22:20).

After the impenitent and unbelieving die, however, they will experience conscious, eternal torment, commonly called “hell.” They will receive the just punishment for their sin for all of eternity (Mark 9:43, 48). This sobering truth should bring a Gospel urgency to all of our relationships with unbelievers during this brief span of life.

Part of an ongoing series about what I believe about basic biblical teachings. “Credo” is Latin for “I Believe.”