Q.52. How does Christ’s return “to judge the living and the dead” comfort you?
A. In all my distress and persecution I turn my eyes to the heavens and confidently await as judge the very One who has already stood trial in my place before God and so has removed the whole curse from me. All his enemies and mine he will condemn to everlasting punishment: but me and all his chosen ones he will take along with him into the joy and the glory of heaven.
The opening words in the catechism’s response, “I turn my eyes to the heavens,” echo many similar thoughts expressed in the Old Testament. The psalms particularly are full of declarations that ultimate relief from the enemies of the world lies with God alone. Read Psalm 121. In this psalm of ascent the Israelites would have sung these words on their way to the temple. As they walked to worship, the hills around them would have been covered in shrines and littered with the influences of pagan idolatry. “Can these save?” they ask. No, for the psalmist reminds them that true help lies at the throne of God, the maker of heaven and earth. This God protects and watches over his people. The same is true today; in our distress and persecution our only hope for eternal security and rescue continues to lie at the throne of God. Let us turn our eyes to the one who alone fills the heavens. Read Jeremiah 23:24.
The Old Testament prophets and men of faith only knew in part. They understood God alone could save them from the troubles of this world, but they never fathomed how God would save. They envisioned the majesty and glory of God descending upon the earth and ending human history as they knew it, but they never imagined the Messiah would descend, suffer on the earth and bear the very wrath of God for all humanity’s sinfulness. They longed for something better, but never saw it come. Read Hebrews 11:39-40 and Matthew 13:17. But we know that Jesus Christ, the long awaited Messiah bore our sins and died in our stead so that the curse of sin might be forever removed. Thank God that we live on this side of the cross, resurrection and ascension. Read Galatians 3:13-14.
Because Jesus sits at the right hand of God and all authority has been given to him, and because he promised to go and prepare a place for us so that we may be with him, we can say, “The world is not our home.” In fact, the earth, as we know it, full of evil, idolatry and the denial of God, is not the final resting place of the believer. Our home is in another realm. We belong in heaven. Read Philippians 3:20-21. As citizens of another realm, we eagerly await the coming of our Lord who will transform this earth into the new creation, a creation completely submissive to his rule. Our new earth will be devoid of sin and all that accompanies it and be filled with the knowledge and glory of the Lord. As believers in Jesus Christ we can be assured of entrance into this wonderful city because God has promised that those who love him and serve him are truly citizens and those who don’t will never enter into our final resting place. Read Matthew 25:31-46.
Who are God’s enemies? Read Psalm 68:1-3. David believed there were 2 types of people: the righteous and the enemies of God. In the Old Testament the righteous were those who lived up to the demands of the Mosaic Law and the unrighteous were those who sinned freely. This same idea is carried into the New Testament in Hebrews 10:26-31. Read it. But we know that Jesus Christ died for sinners and like Paul we can say, “We are the greatest of sinners.” But thanks be to God for his gift of grace, salvation for the sons and daughters of Adam, in Christ Jesus. Now the things God hates, sin and those who commit it, become the very things we hate. As Christians we despise those who deny Christ and we seek to turn them from the error of their ways, but ultimately if they refuse to repent, then our only choice is to agree with God, they are enemies of the Cross.
When will God’s people enjoy their reprieve and see the punishment of the wicked? While many Christians disagree on the exact timetable of the end of time, there is one thing we all agree upon: At the end of the world when the Lord Jesus returns to earth, then judgment will be rendered and salvation will be complete. Then the people of God will glorify their Savior and the enemies of the gospel of salvation will be silenced. We all look forward to that day, not because people will be judged, but because all that is evil will be judged and completely removed from the presence of God and his people forevermore. Read 2 Thessalonians 1:6-10.
Knowing that Christ will return, how should Christians respond today? Read Matthew 6:9-13. What did Jesus teach us to pray? At the very beginning of the prayer is a request that his kingdom come and his will be done. This phrase in the prayer not only requests the present reign of God to break into the world, but it is also a prayer for Christ’s return and the final judgment to occur. Christians pray this because they earnestly desire to see Christ exalted, sin eradicated and relief completely given to those covered by the blood of the Lamb. Let us pray but let us also live into all the fullness of the new life Jesus has made available to his disciples. Read Matthew 24:30 and Zechariah 12:10.