The return of Christ—our daily plea (2/2)
A belief that inspires, yet at the same time it presents us with certain challenges. “How should we talk about the return of the Lord?” Chief Apostle Schneider asks, and gives some tips.
“In order to be heard, we must do as Apostle Paul and put ourselves on the level of our audience,” the Chief Apostle explains. The recipe for achieving this can be found in 1 Corinthians 9: 20-23 and applies both to the preacher as well as the believer, who speaks about Jesus’ return in everyday life.
Faith in the promise and not in signs
“We believe in the return of the Lord because Jesus has promised it and because the Spirit proclaims it to us,” the Chief Apostle says. He is sure: “Like the resurrection and ascension of Jesus Christ, His return can only be grasped in faith. The Lord explained that it was not possible to determine the moment of His return.” It is therefore wrong to speak about the “signs of the times” and cite wars, earthquakes, famines, and persecution as the beginning of the end-time. “All of these things have existed throughout all of the centuries that have passed. The fact that they still happen today cannot be considered proof of the imminent return of Christ.”
Not an escape, but an accomplishment
“The salvation that God offers us is much more than an improvement of our material existence. He wants to lead us into His kingdom, where evil and all of its manifestations (suffering, injustice, deceit, hypocrisy, hate, and death) are banished. God desires to grant us eternal life,” Chief Apostle Schneider makes clear. And he also points out: “Our motivation is not to flee this world or escape some future catastrophe. For us, entering into the kingdom of God is not an escape, but an accomplishment.”
Peace and justice thanks to God, not thanks to human beings
“We do not deny that by combining their efforts people of goodwill can (or could) establish peace, justice, and well-being for a certain amount of time and for a certain segment of humanity.” But only God can come to the aid of all mankind of all time periods “by intervening in history Himself. The incarnation of the Son of God was one such direct intervention of God in the history of humanity. The next such interventions will be the return of Jesus Christ, then His coming in power and great glory with His firstfruits, and later on, the Last Judgement.”
Hope in grace, not in works
“At His return, the Lord will only take unto Himself the elect who have reached the necessary state of maturity. The prospect of this judgement makes us aware of the need to prepare ourselves seriously for this event, but it should not worry us. We place our hope fully in the grace that the Lord will grant the believers who are animated by the genuine desire to be in communion with Him,” the Chief Apostle elaborates.
Not an end, but a starting point
“Jesus will return to take His bride unto Himself and celebrate the marriage of the Lamb with her in heaven. The image of the bride is a reference to the notion of a fellowship in love, just as the image of marriage is a reference to the idea of joy and sharing.” But this does not ring in a phase of eternal rest, because it is only one phase in the plan of redemption. “Those who are part of the bride are called to fulfil a special mission, namely to proclaim the gospel to all human beings of all time periods in the thousand-year kingdom of peace.”
Is everything easy?
“Absolutely not,” Chief Apostle Schneider makes clear. We cannot help but note that the promise of the return of Jesus does not inspire nearly the enthusiasm it deserves. There are many reasons for this:
- earlier interpretations heralding the end-time often turned out to be erroneous.
- for many people, living conditions have improved. Many rely more on economic and social development than on God.
- the supernatural character of the events we proclaim (the return of Christ, the resurrection of the dead, the thousand-year kingdom of peace) makes our preaching difficult for a large number of our contemporaries to understand.
- a dwindling acceptance of that fact that Jesus will preside over a judgement at His return, which may mean separation.
“This should not discourage us from fulfilling our mission of proclaiming the imminent return of the Lord,” the Chief Apostle concludes.
Background: “I believe that the Lord Jesus will return as surely as He ascended into heaven and that He will take to Himself the firstfruits of the dead and living who have hoped for and were prepared for His coming; that after the marriage in heaven He will return to earth with them to establish His kingdom of peace, and that they will reign with Him as a royal priesthood. After the conclusion of the kingdom of peace, He will hold the Last Judgement. Then God will create a new heaven and a new earth and dwell with His people.” (The Ninth Article of Faith, Catechism of the New Apostolic Church)
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Chief Apostle, Doctrinal statements