Accepted — not accepted: The return of the Lord
New Apostolic Christians believe that Jesus Christ will return as the bridegroom and take His bridal congregation unto Himself on the day of the Lord. But who will be included in this group? Who will be accepted by Him? What will happen?
Bandunu Ville, a small city with some 100,000 inhabitants, approximately 400 kilometres away from Kinshasa, the capital of the Democratic Republic of Congo. It was to this place that Chief Apostle Jean-Luc Schneider travelled in the middle of the year in order to conduct a divine service on 17 July 2015. In this service he preached about a very vivid parable of the Lord.
The text from Luke runs as follows: "I tell you, in that night there will be two men in one bed: the one will be taken and the other will be left. Two women will be grinding together: the one will be taken and the other left. Two men will be in the field: the one will be taken and the other left" (Luke 17: 34-36).
A completely normal day
A serious verdict. But first the Chief Apostle described how this text is to be understood. Here it talks about the circumstances that will prevail at the return of the Lord, he explained. In other words, Jesus was describing how normal the situation would be at His return—namely business as usual. There will be no extraordinary signs, nothing unusual will occur. Rather, it will be a day like any other. "At times," said the Church leader, "people think that some dreadful, extraordinary things will first have to happen which will cause everyone to run to church out of fear so that the Lord can come."
And yet the reality will be quite different: "Let us prepare for the return of Jesus — in a completely normal setting." That is the motto for believing Christians. "And it is for this reason," explained the Chief Apostle, "that we go to church: we go to church in order to prepare ourselves for the return of Christ. We go to church in order to receive the strength to remain faithful to God despite illness, misfortune, and suffering. That is what the Lord intended to explain by way of this example."
In the divine service he listed several morals one could draw from this parable, for example: as human beings we must rise to the responsibilities of our daily lives. "We must take up our place in society and work for the common good just like everyone else!"Christ tells us that we are part of society because "the one who will be taken along on the day of the Lord is in the same bed, the same field, and the same mill as the other. They live together, they share responsibilities with one another." And the Lord will decide which one He will take and which one He will not take.
The attitude of heart is what counts
It will not suffice to belong to the Church, to be reborn out of water and the Spirit, or to partake regularly in the celebration of Holy Communion. Chief Apostle Schneider went on to explain that there is something deeper at stake: the Lord wants to assess the heart's attitude. "But I am New Apostolic! My grandfather was already New Apostolic. We have been faithful from day one! We bring our offerings, we attend the services, we sing in the choir. And perhaps the Priest will say, 'I have been a Priest for 20 years!'And gradually the thought will arise, "Actually it is quite a matter of course that the Lord should accept me. After all, I am faithful!"The Chief Apostle clearly expressed that traditional faith will not suffice. Rather, it is quite clear that no one can be worthy to enter the kingdom of God on his or her own. No one can earn salvation!
We all need grace
At the end of the divine service, the Chief Apostle concluded, "The Lord will assess our humbleness. He will not accept those who think they can earn salvation. He will accept those who are humble and say, "Lord, be merciful to me!"The Lord will reject those who are not God-fearing enough. He will accept those who truly give God first place in their hearts. The Lord will not accept those who are content to merely remain New Apostolic—He will accept those who have truly changed and performed works of faith. He rejects those who only serve Him because they expect something in return. — He will accept those who do everything out of love for Him. The Lord will accept those who truly love their neighbour and do something for him. That is the teaching of Jesus Christ!
And there is one last moral we can take from this story, said the Chief Apostle: one does not need to wait until the situation changes! "Those who lie in bed do not need to wait until they can stand up again in order to go work in the field or the mill again. The Lord wants us to be ready in the situation in which we find ourselves today. Whether you are young or old, rich or poor, sick or healthy, alone or part of a family: today you must remain faithful, be humble, fear the Lord, become a new creation in Christ, and grow in love for God and your neighbour! Today, in our current situation, we must prepare ourselves for the return of the Lord."