The return of Christ—our firm belief (1/2)
God is omnipotent, eternal, and triune. For centuries this belief has been described in detail in the various creeds. Faith in the return of Christ can even unite today’s Christians.
The community magazine that has just been published and will be distributed over the next few days contains a doctrinal essay by Chief Apostle Jean-Luc Schneider on the return of Christ. Initially, the Chief Apostle presented these thoughts in the circle of the District Apostles, later they were made available to the 260,000 ministers worldwide in the form of a special issue of the Divine Service Guide.
The Holy Spirit is active in the church
“Christians believe that the Holy Spirit is present and active in the church (Catechism in Questions and Answers [CNAC-QA] 712),” the Chief Apostle writes and mentions three points that attest to the activity of the Holy Spirit in the church:
- the promise of Christ’s return is kept alive by Him (CNAC-QA 203).
- the Apostles, filled with the Holy Spirit, are working to prepare the believers for the return of Christ (CNAC-QA 433).
- the preaching inspired by the Spirit always has the objective of preparing the congregation for the return of Jesus Christ (CNAC-QA 626).
Apostles are active in the congregations
How can God’s promise to send His Son one more time be kept alive among believers in the twenty-first century? Chief Apostle Schneider sees two substantial means for the Apostle ministry: For “the Apostles have been given the commission to dispense Holy Sealing, by way of which the believer becomes an heir of God, and to prepare the latter for the return of Christ”. The Apostles are to develop and multiply this love in the hearts of the believers, the Chief Apostle writes, and to make the church a prefiguration of the kingdom to come.
1. Task: developing the love of the believers
This is quite a challenge, but “through Holy Sealing God allows believers to share in His nature by granting them the gift of His love (Romans 5: 5), the Chief Apostle says. “Out of this love, believers develop the desire to answer this love (1 John 4: 19),” he adds. And the Apostles can develop this love in the hearts of the believers by
- showing them the magnitude of the sacrifice of Jesus.
- allowing them to share in the fullness of Christ’s merit.
- telling them about the inheritance God has in store for them.
- allowing them to taste the love of Christ through our care and understanding.
Believers who truly know the love of Christ are rooted in this love and ardently desire to be with Jesus, the Chief Apostle states. This desire comes to expression in their daily prayer: “Come, Lord Jesus.” As a preliminary conclusion the Chief Apostle notes: through the teaching of the Apostles and the worthy receiving of Holy Communion, the believers can grow in Christ. The love of Christ enables them to overcome egoism and indifference in order to open up to others. This can be seen in the fact that believers take an interest in the lot of their neighbour and show him their concern and care; endeavour to help him discover Christ through their testimony in both word and deed; pray for the redemption of all; and prepare themselves for the kingdom of peace, in which salvation will be proclaimed to all mankind.
2. Task: shaping the church
“Our objective,” Chief Apostle Schneider writes, “is to allow everyone to attest that Jesus Christ rules His church.” The presence of Jesus can be identified by the following signs.
- With Jesus’ help we can create a Christian relationship with our neighbour.
- Accusers are silenced, and we no longer talk about the mistakes that Jesus has forgiven.
- All disputes about who is the greatest cease, and each one places himself at the service of others.
- Human differences fade away for the sake of unity in Christ.
- Material things no longer pollute spiritual concerns.
In addition to this, the Chief Apostle mentions another task for the ministers: “Sanctifying ourselves through prayer, reading the Bible, and meditation such that—for the believers—the services we conduct are true encounters with Jesus, a foretaste of the kingdom of heaven.”
Chief Apostle Schneider sums up his thoughts as follows: “The return of Christ is the culmination of our whole existence. The grace of God will allow us to become what He has created us to be. The return of Christ is a divine intervention motivated by the love of God for all mankind.”
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