Knowing how instead of guessing when

When is Christ going to return? No one knows. And we cannot infer it from the prevailing conditions on this earth either. But: we can still prepare for it—and there are two characteristics that are decisive for this.

“Things have never been as bad as they are today! The Lord simply has to come!” People have often said these words over the course of the centuries. Yet these words were never a warning sign of His return—nor could they ever be! After all, Jesus Christ Himself announced that He “is coming at an hour you do not expect”.

But what is more important than knowing when the Lord is returning is to be prepared for the moment when He does return. And Chief Apostle Jean-Luc Schneider explained just how this works in a divine service in Kápolnásnyék, Hungary on 19 September 2021. The basis of his sermon was Matthew 24: 40–41: “Then two men will be in the field: one will be taken and the other left. Two women will be grinding at the mill: one will be taken and the other left.”

The circumstances are not important

“When the Lord returns, two will be lying on a bed, two will be at the mill, and two will be in the field,” explained the Chief Apostle. “In each case, one of them is taken, and the other is not.” He went on to say that he saw this as an image of the church: in some places the congregations are in the sowing stage, in others they are in the harvesting process, and in still others congregational life is dormant.

On the one hand, this means: “One cannot even determine whether the Lord is about to return or not based on the level of activity in a congregation, or on the number of its members, or even on the situation of the church. He will come when He decides to come.” And on the other hand, “Whether the congregation is large, whether it is still growing, or whether it is very small and in decline, there are still souls being prepared for the return of the Lord. You can attain salvation in any congregation!”

We are prepared by faith and love

“At the coming of the Lord, there will be a judgement. The Lord Jesus will sort everyone out and make a selection in each congregation, in every situation,” explained the Chief Apostle. “Naturally, it is important to know the deciding factors in this judgement! We already know the answer to this: it comes down to our heart’s attitude, it boils down to our faith.”

Faith is more than a tradition, a religion, or a culture. It is a matter of agreeing fully with the following essential truths:

  • God exists. He is love. He has revealed Himself in Jesus Christ. He reveals Himself today through the Holy Spirit.
  • He desires to lead mankind into eternal life—into the glory of the kingdom of God.
  • the gospel is the only way to eternal life.
  • it is in the church, through His Apostles, that God today prepares human beings for the return of Christ.
  • God has personally elected individual human beings to be His children, and accompanies them on their way to eternal life.

The fundamental attitude of love expected by Christ far transcends mere affection or emotions. Those who truly love the Lord

  • long for eternal life;
  • feel the need to remain in constant contact with God in thought, in prayer, and in divine service;
  • renounce anything that could hamper their relationship with God;
  • are prepared to serve Him and thereby do their part;
  • want to become like Him and love others in accordance with His example.

Neither exclude nor condemn anyone

Those who love God will also want to “build their relationship with their neighbour on a divine foundation. Because they love God, they love their neighbour,” the Chief Apostle went on to say. “Let us see our neighbour as Jesus sees him.” Above all, this means: “I think of him or her as a person,” as a soul who is to be saved, not merely as a member of one or the other group or extraction.

Beyond that, the gospel teaches us that we are not entitled to judge others. People can only see the actions of others, but never the heart’s attitude behind those actions. “It is not our task to correct the sinner to make him or her good! Our task is simply to say, ‘The Lord loves you! Come to Him!’ God will take care of all the rest.”

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Andreas Rother
Chief Apostle, Divine service, Hungary