Katechismus

10 The doctrine of future things

God's actions are aimed at making salvation accessible to mankind. His will to save applies to all people in the past, the present, and the future. The history of salvation progresses according to the wise plan of God (see 4.4). The knowledge that God is faithful enables us to confidently wait for the fulfilment of further divine promises (Hebrews 10: 23).

The doctrine of future things (eschatology) is based on Holy Scripture. Many references to events in the future of salvation history are contained in the gospels and the letters of the Apostles.

Some key statements are recorded in the Revelation of Jesus Christ, which speaks of future things in figurative terms. In this important source of hope for the future, the Lord repeatedly reinforces the promise of His return, reveals the progress of the history of salvation, and thereby grants insights into His future actions.

10.1 The return of Jesus Christ Back to top

In close similarity to the Apostolicum, the Second Article of Faith professes: "I believe in Jesus Christ, the only begotten Son of God, our Lord, who ... ascended into heaven. He is seated at the right hand of God, the Father Almighty, from where He will return."

This profession is further expanded in the Ninth Article of Faith: "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."

Jesus Christ will returnthis is a core statement of the gospel. Ever since His ascension into heaven, the Apostles of the early and latter time have proclaimed the return of the Lord. To be accepted by Him at this event is the goal of faith of New Apostolic Christians.

10.1.1 The promise of the return of Jesus Christ Back to top

In His farewell discourses, Jesus Christ gave His Apostles the promise of His return: "And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also" (John 14: 3). This promise of the Lord was reinforced by angels at His ascension into heaven: "This same Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will so come in like manner as you saw Him go into heaven" (Acts 1: 11).

No man or angel, but only God alone, knows the day or the hour of Jesus Christ's return. The Son of God repeatedly admonishes watchfulness: "Watch therefore, for you do not know what hour your Lord is coming" (Matthew 24: 42; cf. Luke 21: 36).

Through parables, the Son of God made it clear that one should at all times be vigilant in faith and await His coming (Matthew 24: 43-51; 25: 1-30).

Accordingly, the early Apostles already encouraged the faithful to prepare themselves for the return of the Lord. For example, Apostle Paul addressed the congregation of Corinth with the early Christian call: "Maranatha!"–which means: "Our Lord is coming!" or: "O Lord, come!" (1 Corinthians 16: 22).

The call to watchfulness also comes to expression in the book of Revelation. There Jesus Christ says: "Behold, I am coming quickly!" (Revelation 3: 11; 22: 7, 12, 20). Thereby all believers are called upon to align their lives conscientiously with the return of Christ.

The expectation that the Lord's promises will be fulfilled, together with the hope of personally experiencing Christ's return and being caught up to Him, also remain at the core of the New Apostolic faith today. In 1 John 3: 2 we read as follows concerning this: "Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is."

10.1.2 Events associated with the return of Jesus Christ Back to top

The events at the return of Christ are described in various letters of Apostle Paul:

1 Thessalonians 4: 15-17

"For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord will by no means precede those who are asleep. For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord."

1 Corinthians 15: 51-52

"Behold, I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changedin a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet shall sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed."

Philippians 3: 20-21:

"For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body that it may be conformed to His glorious body, according to the working by which He is able even to subdue all things to Himself."

These Bible passages are of central significance for belief in the return of Christ. An overview results in the following sequence of events:

At the return of the Lord, the dead in Christ will first resurrect incorruptible, and the living who have allowed themselves to be prepared for His coming will experience the transformation without suffering physical death. Thus both the dead and the living will receive a body that is like the glorious body of Christ. They will then be caught up together to the Lord, who will not descend upon the earth. In this manner they will be led into eternal fellowship with the triune God. These events are part of the first resurrection mentioned in Revelation 20: 5-6 (see 10.5).

The statements in Matthew 24: 40-41 and Luke 17: 34 demonstrate that at the return of Christ, the Lordhappening upon mankind in their daily liveswill usher in a separation, a parting, and in this sense also execute a judgement. The words in 2 Corinthians 5: 10 also address this: "For we must all appear before the judgement seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad" (cf. Romans 14: 10). This knowledge does not lead believers to fear, but rather encourages them to strive diligently for the goal of their faith (1 Thessalonians 5: 9).

That Jesus Christ will take His bridal congregation unto Himself is one of the fundamental certainties of the New Apostolic faith. From this knowledge, believers also derive the hope that they will not need to suffer physical death, but will rather be transformed: "For in this we groan, earnestly desiring to be clothed with our habitation which is from heaven. ... For we who are in this tent groan, being burdened, not because we want to be unclothed, but further clothed, that mortality may be swallowed up by life. Now He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who also has given us the Spirit as a guarantee" (2 Corinthians 5: 2, 4-5). The rapture at the return of Christ is first of all promised to those who have been granted the rebirth out of water and the Spirit, who believe in Christ, and who follow Him. Whether God will also grant other human beings the grace of the rapture is beyond human judgement and is subject to the decision of God.

10.1.3 The bridal congregation Back to top

The commission of the Apostles is to prepare the church of Christ for the reunion with Jesus Christ at His return, in accordance with the words of Apostle Paul: "For I am jealous for you with godly jealousy. For I have betrothed you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ" (2 Corinthians 11: 2). The "chaste virgin" is a reference to the "bride", an image for the eschatological community of the saints (Revelation 19: 7).

Those who are numbered to the bride of the Lord will only be revealed at the return of Christ. One of the identifying characteristics of those who will belong to the bride is that they wait daily for the return of Christ and consistently cry out: "Come, Lord Jesus!" (Revelation 22: 17, 20).

Representing this community of the saints, we also find the images of the "hundred forty-four thousand" (Revelation 14: 1-5) and the "male child" (Revelation 12: 5). These images also indicate important characteristics and conditions.

We read as follows concerning the hundred forty-four thousand: "Then I looked, and behold, a Lamb standing on Mount Zion, and with Him one hundred and forty-four thousand, having His Father's name written on their foreheads. ... These are the ones who follow the Lamb wherever He goes. These were redeemed from among men, being firstfruits to God and to the Lamb. And in their mouth was found no deceit, for they are without fault before the throne of God." The number 144,000 is of symbolic character. It is derived from the twelve tribes of Israel, and represents divine perfection.

The identifying mark bearing the name of the Lamb and of the Father signifies that the hundred forty-four thousand are the property of God. By following Christ they lead a life in accordance with the gospel in both word and deed ("in their mouth was found no deceit", "without fault"). They are also described as firstlings (in the Greek text: "firstfruits"), a reference to the Old Testament's laws of offering. The "firstfruits" are all those whom the Lord takes unto Himself at His return, in figurative terms, those whom He "harvests" (Revelation 14: 15).

Revelation 12 speaks of a woman clothed with the sunan image for the church of Christ (see 6.4.5)–who is about to give birth to a male child. The latter is menaced by a dragon, but he is caught up to God (Revelation 12: 5). The male child symbolises the host of those who will be caught up to God at the return of Christ. The dragon is an image for Satan (Genesis 3: 1; Revelation 12: 9). He can prevent neither the perfection nor the rapture of the bridal congregation.

SUMMARY Back to top

The doctrine of future things (eschatology) has its basis in Holy Scripture. (10)

The return of Jesus Christ is a core statement of the gospel. To be accepted by Him on this occasion is the goal of faith of New Apostolic Christians. (10.1)

Jesus Christ promised his return to the Apostles. This was reinforced by angels. No human being or angelbut only God aloneknows when Jesus Christ will return. Every believer is called upon to conduct his life in view of the return of Christ. (10.1.1)

At the return of Christ, the dead who have died in Him will be the first to resurrect. The living who have allowed themselves to be prepared for His coming will receive a body that is like the glorious body of Christ. Together, all of these souls will be caught up and led into eternal fellowship with God. (10.1.2)

The Apostles have the commission to prepare the bridal congregation for the return of Jesus Christ. (10.1.3)

Those who are numbered to the bride of the Lordthe group of those who will be caught up to Godwill only be revealed at Jesus' return. They are also known as "firstlings". Another image for the bridal congregation is the "male child", and a numerical symbol for them is the "hundred forty-four thousand." (10.1.3)

10.2 The marriage of the Lamb Back to top

The marriage of the Lamb follows directly after the bride has been caught up to heaven. The image of the eschatological marriage feast is found in Revelation 19: 6-9. It refers to the everlasting fellowship of the firstlings with their Lord and their partaking in His glory (Colossians 3: 4; 1 John 3: 2).

The image of the Lamb is already used in Isaiah 53: 4-7. It demonstrates that the coming Messiah will bring His sacrifice, in submissiveness to the will of God, for the redemption of mankind. John the Baptist refers to the Son of God with the words: "Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!" (John 1: 29).

The book of Revelation makes frequent reference to Christ as the Lamb. Revelation 5: 12 expresses that the slain Lamb has gained the victory. This means that the abased and crucified Son of God is both the Triumphant and Victorious One. The crucified Christ is the returning Lord, the bridegroom (see 10.1.3).

During the marriage of the Lamb the people remaining on the earth will have to endure the rule of Satan, the great tribulation.

10.3 The great tribulation Back to top

For as long as the Lord's work of salvation is on this earth, the earthly creation remains under the special protection of God (Revelation 7: 3). After the return of Christ, a time will begin in which both mankind and the creation will be exposed to the power of Satan. Everything will suffer under the circumstances associated with this.

This period of time can be associated with the "hour of trial which shall come upon the whole world to test those who dwell on the earth", as referenced in Revelation 3: 10. Holy Scripture also refers to this event as the "great tribulation" (Revelation 7: 14).

Satan's extensive display of power in the great tribulation far surpasses the trials and the severity of hardships which the church had to endure before the return of the Lord. The bridal congregation will be caught up to God before the start of the great tribulation (Revelation 3: 10; 12: 5, 12).

The image of the woman clothed with the sunafter she has given birth to the male childrepresents those who are numbered to the church of Christ, but who were not caught up to God. They will continue to feel God's support and spiritual care in the "wilderness", that is a condition of hardship and deprivation (Revelation 12: 6).

Even during this time, in which Satan and his forces will rule, there will be human beings who firmly profess Christ, who refuse to worship the Antichrist, and who will be killed as a consequence of their profession (Revelation 13: 10, 15; cf. Revelation 14: 12-13). These steadfast witnesses for Christ will become martyrs.

10.4 The coming of the Lord with power and great glory Back to top

After the marriage in heaven, the Son of God will return to the earth with the firstlings (Revelation 19: 11-16). The Lord foretold this event by referring to His coming "with power and great glory" (Matthew 24: 29-30). Jesus Christ will then reveal His divine power on earth for all to see (Revelation 1: 7). He, the King of kings and Lord of lords, will take away all power from Satan and his followers, and thus put an end to the time of the great tribulation. Satan's followers will be judged (Revelation 19: 20). Satan himself will be bound for "a thousand years", so that "he should deceive the nations no more" (Revelation 20: 1-3). After Satan has been bound and cast into the bottomless pit, the resurrection of the martyrs from the great tribulation will take place (Revelation 20: 4).

10.5 The first resurrection Back to top

The only place in Holy Scripture where the expression "first resurrection" can be found is in Revelation 20: 5-6, where it is mentioned in conjunction with a significant beatitude: "Blessed and holy is he who has part in the first resurrection. Over such the second death has no power ..." Those who are praised here as blessed and holythat is those who will be caught up to God at the return of Christ, and the martyrs from the great tribulationare exempted from the Last Judgement.

In 1 Corinthians 15: 20, 22-24 Apostle Paul makes reference to the "order" in the resurrection of the dead: "But now Christ is risen from the dead, and has become the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. ... For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive. But each one in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, afterward those who are Christ's at His coming. Then comes the end, when He delivers the kingdom to God the Father, when He puts an end to all rule and all authority and power."

Apostle Paul thus highlights three important aspects:

  • Christ was the first to resurrect. He is the firstfruits of those who will resurrect. All hope for the resurrection of the dead is founded upon the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

  • The resurrection "afterward" is promised to those who belong to Christ when He comes: at His return the dead in Christ will resurrect, and will then be caught up to God along with the transformed living souls (see 10.1.2). In connection with Christ's coming with power and great glory, the martyrs from the great tribulation are promised resurrection. These two events frame the first resurrection. The following applies to all those who partake in it: "... they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with Him a thousand years" (Revelation 20: 6).

  • The "end" of which Apostle Paul speaks in 1 Corinthians 15: 24 is a reference to the Last Judgement. Before this, the general resurrection of the dead will take place.

10.6 The continuation of the plan of salvation Back to top

After the conclusion of the first resurrection, Christ will establish His kingdom of peace on earth. Then the rule of Jesus Christ as King will be manifested without restriction. He is the Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9: 6). Satan will be bound and will no longer be able to tempt anyone to sin. Nevertheless, human beings will continue to be sinners, since the inclination to sin will not have been lifted. People will continue to be born and to die. Death will not yet have been suspended (Revelation 20: 14; cf. Isaiah 65: 20-21).

Exempted from this are the priests of God and Christ, who will have a spiritual body similar to that of the Lord (1 Corinthians 15: 44).

Christ's kingly rule, in which He includes His own as a royal priesthood, will last "a thousand years"–which symbolises a long, but limited time (Revelation 20: 6). It will then be possible to proclaim the gospel without impediment, and salvation will thus be offered during this time: the glad tidings will be brought to those living on earth and to the souls who dwell in the realms of the departed. In this way, all of mankind from all time periods will, by the end of the kingdom of peace, have become acquainted with the gospel of Christ.

The kingdom of peace will come to an end when Satan is released and given one last opportunity to tempt mankind. After his ultimate defeat, he will be condemned and "cast into the lake of fire and brimstone" (Revelation 20: 7-10). Evil in all its manifestations will then have been rendered powerless forever.

Then follows the resurrection of the dead for judgement (Revelation 20: 11-15). Christ will then judge all human beings who did not take part in the first resurrection.

The deciding factor in the verdict pronounced on each human being will be the attitude that he ultimately adopts toward Christ. Those who reject Him and whose names are not "written in the book of life" will remain in the misery of remoteness from God.

Those who find grace in the Last Judgement will become inhabitants of God's new creation and will be permitted to have eternal fellowship with Him.

For those who already reigned with Christ in the kingdom of peace as a royal priesthood, the following promise will be fulfilled in the new creation: "... and His servants shall serve Him. They shall see His face, and His name shall be on their foreheads. There shall be no night there: They need no lamp nor light of the sun, for the Lord God gives them light. And they shall reign forever and ever" (Revelation 22: 3-5).

The expectation recorded in 2 Peter 3: 13 will then become reality: "Nevertheless we, according to His promise, look for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells" (Isaiah 65: 17). God will replace the old creation with a new one, and the words will be fulfilled: "He [God] will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God" (Revelation 21: 3). This kingdom of God will be eternal, and then God will be all in all (1 Corinthians 15: 28).

SUMMARY Back to top

The rapture of the bridal congregation is followed by the marriage of the Lamb. This image for the eschatological marriage feast is a reference to the everlasting fellowship of the firstlings with the Lord. (10.2)

Jesus Christ as the Lamb signifies that the abased and crucified Son of God is, at the same time, the Triumphant and Victorious One. He is the bridegroom. (10.2)

After the return of Christ, a time in which both human beings and the creation will be exposed to the power of Satan will begin: the great tribulation. The image of the woman clothed with the sunafter she has given birth to the male childrefers to those Christians who were not caught up to Jesus Christ. They continue to experience divine support and spiritual nourishment. (10.3)

After the marriage in heaven the Son of God will return to the earth with the firstlings and put an end to the time of the great tribulation. Satan's followers will then be judged. (10.4)

After Satan's power has been taken away, the resurrection of the martyrs from the great tribulation will take place. (10.4)

All those who were caught up in the rapture at the return of Christ, as well as the martyrs from the great tribulation, will share in the first resurrection. They will not have to partake in the Last Judgement. (10.5)

After the conclusion of the first resurrection, Christ will establish His kingdom of peace on earth. At the end of the kingdom of peace all human beings of all time periods will have received the gospel of Christ. After Satan has been given one last opportunity to tempt mankind, he will be permanently defeated and judged. Evil in all forms will from then on be rendered powerless forever. (10.6)

This is followed by the resurrection of the dead for judgement. Those who find grace in the Last Judgement will become inhabitants of God's new creation and have eternal fellowship with Him. (10.6)