Being prepared when the Lord returns

“Extraordinary times call for extraordinary answers,” says the Chief Apostle. And one of these is: “Get ready for the return of the Lord!” This will bring certainty in uncertain times!

“It is indeed a special time, and the question has already been put to me on several occasions: ‘Did God want this? Why is He doing this?’” What is meant here are all the restrictions resulting from the battle against the coronavirus pandemic. “I cannot believe that God would want this,” said Chief Apostle Jean-Luc Schneider in response to this question. After all, God does not want people to suffer, that so many people should die, or that so many should find themselves in such great need. However, this pandemic will not be able to prevent God’s plan of salvation from unfolding either. “He will see to it that each one of us can continue to pursue the way into the kingdom of heaven, despite all need and suffering. God is faithful. We can depend on Him.”

Examining our relationship with God

In the divine service in Schwedt an der Oder, Germany on 12 July 2020, the Chief Apostle’s sermon focused on the relationship between man and God. “How is my relationship with God? How is my relationship to the congregation? The more I occupied myself with these questions, the more I was reminded of the words: “Therefore you also be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect” (Matthew 24: 44). Naturally, the return of the Lord has nothing to do with the current situation per se. “The pandemic is definitely not a sign of the time announcing the return of the Lord,” said the Chief Apostle. On the other hand, the Lord could also come precisely during this time! Therefore it is important to also be prepared for the return of the Lord in this time. “Therefore let us examine ourselves to see whether we would indeed be ready if the Lord were to come today, in this extraordinary time.” This was the starting point for the Chief Apostle’s interpretation of the Bible text.

First of all, the necessary sanctification is required, because one will never enter into the holy kingdom of God without being sanctified. “Only God can sanctify—namely through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, through His grace, and through the forgiveness of our sins,” stressed the Church leader. “He sanctifies us through His Holy Spirit. He sanctifies us through His word, and through His truth.” However, we human beings must also want Him to sanctify us. Jesus Christ said that the only way to be justified is through faith in Jesus Christ. To believe in Jesus Christ means to trust Him unconditionally. “Through faith, God can justify those who trust, those who believe in Jesus Christ.”

Love for God and our neighbour

“How can we measure whether we are ready for the return of the Lord?” asked the Chief Apostle. Jesus mentioned some concrete examples, for example, the parable of the bride and the bridegroom. In Revelation, the Lord spoke of the first love and of those who had grown lukewarm. “We must therefore ask ourselves the question: ‘How important to me is my encounter with the Lord Jesus? How important to me is my encounter with God in prayer, in divine service, in fellowship? How important to me is my relationship with my bridegroom? How important to me is my relationship with my bridegroom?”

The Chief Apostle also addressed the matter of sin, which separates from God, after all: “Do we suffer on account of our sins, because they impair my fellowship with the Lord Jesus? Do I still suffer as a result of my guilt, as a result of my sinfulness, or have I become indifferent to this? Those who love the Lord will suffer when they sin.”

“Our love for God is naturally also reflected in our love for our neighbour.” Jesus prayed for oneness. “Oneness does not mean that we must all have the same opinion. We will always have differing opinions to the very end. We will have differences. We will be different from one another. It is not a question of abolishing all differences. It is a question of overcoming our differences, in order to appreciate, help, and love one another.”

Waiting for the coming of the Lord

Then the Chief Apostle moved on to the next point: in the parable of the persistent widow, Jesus spoke about those who wait. “Being prepared also means waiting for the return of Jesus Christ. This is still the focal point of our lives. After all, I cannot say that I am hoping for the return of the Lord if it is nothing more to me than some vague possibility in a distant future.” Being prepared means feeling the longing and the desire to be with the Lord eternally.

As humble as a child

And the Chief Apostle also brought up another example from Holy Scripture: “Jesus said that those who do not accept the kingdom of God like a child will not be able to enter into His kingdom.” Thus it is not a question of any sort of merit received in exchange for decades of work. Our deliverance by Jesus Christ is pure grace.

“These are three elements by which we can measure whether we are prepared to enter into the kingdom of God, namely by our love for God and our neighbour, our longing for the coming of the Lord, and our humbleness.”

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Peter Johanning
Germany, Chief Apostle, Divine service