There are some subjects Christians tend to skirt around, usually because views differ significantly, and discussion can easily become heated. One of the most divisive issues is the return of Christ. There are, however, certain fundamentals on which Christians should be able to agree. We will consider Christ Exalted: 4. Return.
1. Full acquittal
Sometimes Christians are anxious about Christ’s return, recalling 2 Corinthians 5:10 ‘For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ’. Knowing our sins and failures, is this not a fearful prospect? How do we reconcile this with the call to holiness in 2 Peter 3:12 ‘as you look forward to the day of God’? We need to understand who the Judge is and what he has done for his people. This is ‘the Son of God who loved me and gave himself for me’ (Galatians 2:20). We need to grasp that the Judge is also our Saviour. By his atoning death he has dealt with all our sin (1 Peter 2:24). The price has been paid in full – all our sins are covered by his blood. That is why we do not need to fear his return. He will proclaim our full acquittal – there is ‘no condemnation’ (Romans 8:1). Insofar as our sins are recalled, they will be seen as forgiven sins.
2. Public vindication
As Colossians 3:3 tells us, ‘your life is now hidden with Christ in God’ – there is a hiddenness about our salvation and our identity, even in a sense from us (1 John 3:2). Christians are a mystery to the world that does not know or love our Saviour (John 17:14). Thus believers face hostility, opposition, even persecution as the Saviour often warned – ‘I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you’ (John 15:19). Often it seems that we are on the losing side. The return of Christ will reveal the true situation. He will be seen by all to be ‘King of kings and Lord of lords’ (Revelation 19:16) and there will be a public vindication of his people. All will see that what they said was true and that they are the children of God that they claimed to be. Nobody will be able to harm or abuse them any more. The Judge will condemn all his enemies – ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire’ (Matthew 25:41) and in total contrast, ‘Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father’ (Matthew 13:43). That is a day to look forward to with joy and thanksgiving.
3. Eternal blessedness
We read of the consummation of salvation in Matthew 25:34 ‘Come, you who are blessed of my father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you from the creation of the world’. This is the goal towards which the grace of God has been leading his people. At the return of Christ believers will receive resurrection bodies (Philippians 3:21). Salvation, body and soul, will be complete, the work of remaking us in the Lord’s likeness will be done (1 John 3:2). The Lord is going to provide a suitable dwelling for his people – the renewed creation – ‘a new heaven and a new earth, the home of righteousness’ (2 Peter 3:13). The Lord’s people will delight in him and will serve him in love eternally.