What I Believe . . . Last Things

I believe that Jesus will return at the end of the age and that his return will be unexpected, visible, and bodily. The time and date of Jesus return is unknown (Matt 24:36; Acts 1:7); yet it should not catch believers unaware (1 Thess 5:4-6). Jesus’ return will be highly visible to all the world; every eye will see him (Matt 24:30). And Jesus’ return will be personal and physical rather than a spiritual return. I also believe that Jesus’ return will be a singular event, not two events separated by a tribulation.

I do believe that there will be times of tribulation and great distress prior to Jesus’ return (Matt 24:4-13); there may even be a great tribulation preceding his return (Matt 24:21-22). But I do not believe that the church will escape any period of tribulation. The church will be in the world up until Christ’s visible and bodily return (1 Thess 4:16-17).

I do not believe that there will be a physical reign of Christ on this earth; whether for one thousand years or for a different period. I believe that Christ’s return will signal the end of creation as we know it (1 Cor 15:23-24). Once Christ has taken those who are his, there is no longer any purpose for a millennium reign, or for this physical realm.

I do believe that physical death is a natural part of our existence; but it is not the end. I believe that at death those who belong to Christ will immediately be in his presence (2 Cor 5:6-8); because of this it is more appropriate to rejoice for believers who have died than to mourn for them (1 Thess 4:13). And I believe that those who are not Christ’s will experience a time of punishment consistent with what they have done in their life (Luke 12:47-48).

I believe that at Christ’s return the bodies of those who have died in Christ will be raised and given a new heavenly body (1 Cor 15:51-53). God’s realm is timeless, at least as we know time, while the physical realm is bound by time. So the one who has died prior to Christ’s return has no time to wait until their resurrection and reunion with a body. Those who are alive at Christ’s return will also be transformed, receiving their heavenly bodies (1 Thess 4:17).

I believe that everyone who has ever lived will face God’s judgement. While this judgement was known prior to creation, it is executed at the time of a person’s death. We will first be judged based on whether or not we have accepted Jesus as Lord (Matt 13:24-30; Rev 20:12) and, secondly, based on what we have done in this life (2 Tim 4:1; 1 Pet 1:17). This judgement is pictured as occurring at Jesus return (1 Cor 4:5), but, like our resurrection, this judgement essentially happens at our death.

I believe that the final state of believers is an eternity in the presence of God (John 14:1-3). I do not anticipate this to be a time of reward. Rather I expect that it will be a time of service (Matt 25:21). God created the universe in order to produce the church, and I expect that the church will have some role to play going forward into eternity.

I believe that those who have not responded in faith to God’s offer of salvation “will be  punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might” (2 Thess. 1:9). This punishment will be eternal with no possibility of redemption.

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