Malankara World Journal - Christian Spirituality from an Orthodox Perspective
Malankara World Journal

Theme: Second Coming of Jesus Christ

Volume 3 No. 176 October 31, 2013

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Second Coming of Christ
Second Coming of Jesus
St. Catherine Monastery, Mt. Sinai, 12th Century

"For as the lightning comes from the east and flashes to the west,
so also will the coming of the Son of Man be.
" (Matthew 24:27

TABLE OF CONTENTS
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Foreword

THIS SUNDAY IN CHURCH

Bible Readings for This Sunday (November 3)

Bible Readings For Koodosh E'atho - Sanctification of Church
http://www.MalankaraWorld.com/Library/Lectionary/Lec_Koodosh-eatho.htm

Sermons for This Sunday (November 3)

Sermons for Koodosh E'atho - Sanctification of Church
http://www.MalankaraWorld.com/Library/Sermons/Sermon-of-the-week_Koodosh-eatho.htm

Featured: Remember the Cross

Peter had his high points, like when they were talking about who Jesus was, and who He wasn't, and Jesus put the question directly to the twelve: Who do YOU say that I am? The silence was deafening until Peter broke it by saying, "You're the Christ, the Son of the living God." And Jesus said, "You're exactly right, and that confession is the kind of rock I'll build my kingdom on, Peter, and the gates of Hell itself won't prevail against it." ....

ARTICLES ON THE THEME: THE SECOND COMING OF CHRIST

The Second Coming of Christ - The Orthodox View

The Orthodox understanding of the Second Coming of Christ is clear: the Lord Jesus Christ truly will return. His second advent is not a myth, nor an empty promise, nor is it a metaphor, In fact, each time the Divine Liturgy is celebrated, the priest makes a proclamation to the Father which reveals how the Church responds not only to the Second Coming of Christ, but to all of His work. ...

On St. Paul and the Second Coming: "Come, Lord! Come Where You Are Not Known" by Pope Benedict XVI

For Paul, the Lord’s return at the end of time will be accompanied by the resurrection of the dead and the consummation of his Kingdom, when all those who believed in him and trusted in his promises "will be with him for ever" in glory (cf. 1 Thess 4:17). Christ’s victorious reign has in fact already begun. Yet we, who have received the Spirit as the first fruits of our redemption, patiently await the fulfillment of that plan in our lives. Our life in this world, marked by trials and tribulations, must be inspired by the hope of heaven and the expectation of our resurrection to glory. Paul’s rich eschatology, linking the "already" of Christ’s resurrection to the "not yet" of our life in this world, is reflected in his statement that "in hope we were saved" (Rom 8:24). ...

On Christ's Second Coming by Pope Francis

In our continuing catechesis on the Creed, we now consider the article which deals with Christ’s second coming: "He will come again in glory, to judge the living and the dead". Just as human history began with the creation of man and woman in the image of God, so it will end with Christ’s return and the final judgment. The parables of Jesus help us to understand our responsibility before God and one another in this present age. The parable of the wise and foolish virgins reminds us that we must be spiritually prepared to meet the Lord when he comes. ...

What Christ Will Do at The Second Coming

There is a parallel between our experience and Christ's. For every decisive experience that you have (like dying and facing God in judgment), the Son of God has a corresponding experience. Only Christ's experiences are not merely alongside ours and like them. His have an impact on ours. His death and our death are not parallel. His utterly transforms ours. Our arrival at the judgment and his arrival at the judgment are not parallel. He rescues us. In other words, the parallel between our life and Christ's life is designed to show how utterly dependent on him we are at every point of our lives, and how great he is. He is the strong saving one and we are the weak and desperate ones. ...

Jesus: The Coming King

In the Book of Revelation, Jesus discloses what He believes we will need to know about Him as we approach the end of time. He views, with His prophetic eye, all the events leading up to the "noises, thunderings, and lightnings," earthquakes, such as humankind has never seen that will certainly be a sign of the end of the world as we know it (Revelation 16:18). And with His superior knowledge, He determines what we need to know about Him and His plan to get us through to the place where "there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying" (Revelation 21:4). Jesus’ emphasis is clear: "I am coming" (Revelation 22:7,12,20). ...

Facts About the Second Coming of Christ

The second coming of Christ (cf. Heb. 9:27) is a prevailing theme of the New Testament. It is referenced eight times more often than the Lord's initial coming. It is alluded to more than 300 times in the New Testament. Because there is considerable error associated with the Lord's return, we must examine this theme - not only positively, but also in addressing several errors that have distorted biblical teaching. ...

GENERAL ARTICLES

Five Ways to Respond to Negative People

Every day, every interaction and every glance provides the opportunity to push others further down or to propel them forward into the possibility of their lives. By owning our response, we'll transform our days, and the days of those lucky enough to encounter us, for the better. ...

Health: What Can You Say to Help Someone with Cancer?

After a diagnosis of cancer, people have a greater need for social support, which has been shown to influence health outcomes, according to a National Institutes of Health report. Of the nine types of social support, the report says emotional support is among the most important. ...

Recipe: Sausage Pumpkin Soup

"Pumpkin has no cholesterol, it's low in fat and sodium and it's rich in nutrients such as beta carotene and vitamin A," according to 'Our Ohio', a magazine published by the Ohio Farm Bureau Federation. But that might not be the only reason you'd try it. This soup recipe is the perfect marriage between sausage, seasoning , and a vegetable of the season. ...

Family Special: Can We Be Happy without Sex?

In his teachings about sex and marriage in 1 Corinthians, the apostle Paul makes clear that we can have deeply fulfilling lives without sexual relationships. And some of the richest relationships in the Scriptures are non-sexual ones. David and Jonathan. Jesus and the disciples. Jesus and Mary Magdalene. ...

Family Bonus Special: God's Plan for Marriage

Judaism's claim that God created sex only for a man and a woman in marriage was so revolutionary - and despised by ancient pagans (and modern pagans, I might add as well). As Genesis said, "Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh. And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed." ...

About Malankara World

Foreword
This Sunday is a Transition time in our church. It is the beginning of the Liturgical Calendar. The next Sunday is called Koodosh E'tho (Sanctification of the Church). This is followed by Hoodosh E'tho Sunday (Dedication of Church). It is time to rededicate the church. Then we will start the advent calendar by remembering all the persons and events that played a key role in the incarnation of Christ.

The Gospel reading this Sunday is from Mark 8:27-33. We are all very familiar with this and the companion passages in the other Synoptic Gospels. Jesus is asking the disciples, "Who do they (people) say I am?" St. Peter, unhesitatingly testified, "You are the Messiah, the son of the Living God." Jesus was pleased with the answer which he attributed to a revelation from His Father in Heaven, the first person of the Trinity, and said he will build his church on this faith.

Interestingly, Jesus then told the disciples about his upcoming passion. Peter was very upset about this. So, in the Gospel of Mark, this event is one of the turning points. Till then Jesus was showing the disciples his power by doing miracles. Now he tells them that it is time to do what he came to do; viz., fulfill the plan for the redemption of the fallen mankind by dieing on the cross. So, while we think of the incarnation, the church reminds us that we should see the whole picture. The incarnation points to the Cross. Without the cross, the incarnation means nothing. The article, 'Remember the Cross' explains the importance of the Cross for Christians in the context of this Sunday's Gospel Reading.

I have indicated before that the period between Shunoyo Feast and Koodosh E'tho is the time we look forward to the Second Coming of Christ. Second Coming is very important for us. We recall it at every Qurbana (Eucharist) showing how Jesus returns with Glory to judge the living and the departed. We also remember it in our Creed. For the believers, it is a joyous time. This issue of Malankara World Journal looks at the Second Coming of Christ from different perspectives. Please read it carefully.

This week also marks the memory of the first Saint from Malankara - Parumala Thirumeni. I also want to congratulate our brothers and sisters in St. George Syriac Orthodox Church, Oak Park, Chicago who dedicated their new church last Sunday.

Dr. Jacob Mathew
Malankara World

This Sunday in Church
Bible Readings for This Sunday (November 3)

Bible Readings For Koodosh E'atho - Sanctification of Church

The Sunday that comes on or after October 30th is called Koodhosh Eetho (Sanctification of Church) Sunday.
It is the beginning of the church calendar.

Evening

Morning

Before Holy Qurbana

Holy Qurbana

Sermons for This Sunday (November 3)
This Week's Features

Featured: Remember the Cross

by Jim Fitzgerald

Gospel: Mark 8:31-38

Introduction

I feel sorry for Simon Peter, sometimes. I have sympathy for him for this reason. Simon Peter had the misfortune of having his dumbest statements, his worst mistakes remembered and recorded for all the world to hear. The question seemed pretty straightforward: of the following two scenarios, which reflects "the things of God" and which reflects "the things of man?"

  1. Scenario number one: Continual, miraculous displays of power.
  2. Scenario number two: Suffering, rejection, and death on a cross.

Quickly, no time for delay. Give an answer!

Jesus says suffering, rejection, and death on a cross are on the horizon of this one who has lived His life in perfect obedience to the will of God. Peter said there's no way suffering, rejection, and death on a cross could remotely reflect "the things of God" for such a man. Peter rebukes Jesus. Jesus rebukes Peter. And then Jesus "ups the ante." "Not only is a cross in my future," He says, "but it's in your future too, if you want to follow after me." Peter had the misfortune of being the one whose most glaring wrong answer was recorded, and remembered through the ages.

I. It's not hard to understand why Peter got the answer so wrong. After all, if you've been listening to Mark's Gospel from the beginning up to this point, Mark has emphasized power. Mark has dazzled us with a narrative that highlights the power of Jesus. Christ has gone head to head, toe to toe with Satan, and emerged victorious. We've heard of a Christ who:

Overcomes Satan's wilderness temptations
Casts out demons
Heals a leper
Heals a paralytic
Calms a storm
Heals a man who has been tormented by demons for years
Raises a girl from the dead
Heals a woman who has been sick for twelve years
Feeds 5,000 people
Walks on the water
Heals a man who is deaf and mute
Feeds 4,000 more people
Heals the blind man at the pool at Bethsaida

For eight chapters, the refrain is: power, power, power. Power over Satan, power over sickness, power over death. Power!

If folks know that when they're hungry they'll be fed, that if they get sick they'll be healed, and that if they die they'll come back to life - if you can show folks all of that - you'll get quite a following. And Jesus did have quite a following. The power was real. The healings were real. This was no smoke and mirrors show.

But all of a sudden, the focus changes. How was Peter to know? How was anyone to know that the forecast was not going to be power today, increasing power tomorrow, with an extended period of power over the weekend?

Just as the emphasis on life and power reaches a crescendo, there is a dramatic shift. The end of the eighth chapter of Mark is the hinge of the Gospel. This is the place where the Cross begins to come into focus. For eight chapters we see Jesus doing His ministry: casting out demons, healing lepers, feeding the hungry. In short, we see Jesus bringing new life.

Proclaiming life, delivering life, celebrating life! But then comes Jesus' announcement of His suffering, rejection, and death. And from that moment on, life is lived in the shadow of the Cross.

I think Jesus understood what a difficult transition this would be for the disciples: from a focus on life and power to a focus on death and the Cross. So not just once, but three times in fairly quick succession, Jesus predicts His death [8:31, 9:31, 10:33]. And suddenly, Jesus' life-giving ministry begins to speak of death and dying and bearing crosses. The contrast is incredibly vivid for those who in His presence, vivid and jarring.

And, in case words were not enough, to these three predictions of His death were added some vivid life experiences that couldn't help but sear the image on the minds of those who lived through them. As I hear the Gospel accounts, I am struck by the way the reminders of the Cross were woven into the natural fabric of their lives. The Gospel writers give us incident after incident of lives touched by the Cross, and touched in such a way that they could never forget its impact. I draw your attention to three scenes from the Gospels.

II. There is the story of the religious authorities. They were fixin' to celebrate the Passover. Do you remember the story of the feast of the Passover? The great annual feast where they celebrate God delivering them from Egypt. Every Jewish family gathers in the spring to thank God for sparing their firstborn sons when the angel of death took the lives of all the firstborn sons of the Egyptians.

It was kind of inconvenient for the religious authorities, trying to arrange an execution during the feast of the Passover. For to enter Pilate's palace - the palace of a Gentile - would make them ceremonially unclean. If they went in, they couldn't celebrate the Passover. So John says [18:28-29] the religious authorities stayed outside Pilate's palace and Pilate came out to take care of business.

Can you see the awful irony of that? Religious leaders trying to arrange an execution without spoiling their holiday plans and their worship time! It is so distasteful to hear the story of them plotting the death of God's firstborn son - His only begotten Son - in a way that wouldn't interfere with their celebration of the Passover, when God spared the lives of their firstborn sons.

That seems so distant from us, except for places where Christians busy themselves with keeping their own rules while they go about destroying the spirit of God's law.

A while back I heard a story from a church in the deep South. Every Sunday morning they gathered to give God thanks for the grace that accomplished their salvation. Every Sunday morning they prayed that God would help them be a witness of holiness in their community. But when one of their board members got word that the pastor had witnessed to an African-American couple, and invited them to worship the next Sunday . . . Well, the board member pulled the pastor aside and said:

Don't expect me to be back if you invite them. If they show up in this church you might just as well write ICHABOD above the door - God's Spirit has departed from this place.

I heard that story and thought, "Oh no, you don't need to worry about writing 'Ichabod' above the door. It has already been written."

None of the folks in that church were planning an execution on their way to church the next Sunday. It wasn't that direct. But when you assassinate the purposes of God one day, and show up to hand out bulletins and help take the offering the next day, you might just as well crucify Christ again. Week after week Christ is crucified all over again by sincere religious folks who assassinate the purposes of God and still manage to make it to worship on time without a drop of blood on them.

III. Well, the second scene is from the lives of James and John. Both Matthew's and Mark's Gospels follow the story of Christ predicting His death with the story of James and John jockeying for position in the Kingdom. Matthew says their mom comes to ask Jesus the question. Mark says James and John ask for themselves. Either way, the point is the same. Christ has just told His disciples He will be betrayed and crucified, and in what should be a solemn moment, these two have the audacity to pull Jesus aside and say, "Can we ask you just one tiny favor? Could you save us a special spot in your kingdom, so one of us could have a place at your right hand, and the other could have a place at your left hand?"

Imagine their surprise when they witness Christ's execution. Standing at the foot of Calvary, they see not two or four or five crosses. There are exactly three. And Christ's place in the line is not at either end, but precisely in the middle. And these two ambitious, upwardly mobile disciples see with their own eyes that the place at the right hand of Christ is occupied by a cross. And the place at the left hand of Christ is occupied by a cross.

How often do you think they thought about the Cross? Maybe not too often, unless someone asks for directions: Well, when you come into Jerusalem, on your right hand side you'll see a couple of houses together, and just a little further, on the left hand side, you'll find the market. And they remembered.

Oh, they didn't think about it much until dinnertime came, and their kids hollered, "Dad, does the fork or the spoon go on the right?"

"The spoon goes on the right-hand side, and the fork goes on the left-hand side."

And I wonder if a day went by the rest of their lives that they didn't think of the Cross?

IV. The third scene is from the life of Simon Peter himself. His story is much more familiar to us. Christ had given him the nickname of Rock, and the name seemed to stick. Now, "a rock isn't the prettiest thing in creation or the fanciest or the smartest, and if it gets rolling in the wrong direction, watch out, but there's no nonsense about a rock, and once it settles down, it's pretty much there to stay."

And Peter had his high points, like when they were talking about who Jesus was, and who He wasn't, and Jesus put the question directly to the twelve: Who do YOU say that I am? The silence was deafening until Peter broke it by saying, "You're the Christ, the Son of the living God." And Jesus said, "You're exactly right, and that confession is the kind of rock I'll build my kingdom on, Peter, and the gates of Hell itself won't prevail against it."

Then there was the day the disciples saw Jesus walking on the water, and Peter decided to try to walk on it himself and meet Jesus. Well, he took a few steps before he started to sink like . . . well, like a rock . . . until Jesus rescued him.

But I wonder if there is any scene in Peter's life he would ever remember more than the scene in the courtyard. Over and over he had declared, "Jesus, I'll never leave you. I'll die for you if I have to." (He had it all backwards, and didn't understand that Christ would die for him.) And when Christ predicted Peter's three denials, Peter protested, "Never me, Lord." But in the courtyard after he had just uttered his third denial, he heard the rooster crow and "the tears began to run down his face like rain down a rock."

How often do you think Peter remembered those denials, and thought of the Cross? How often? Maybe not too often, except for those mornings when he was awakened by the crowing of a rooster. Which was just about every morning for the rest of his life. Peter had no trouble remembering the Cross.

The religious authorities: Could they ever worship again, could they ever celebrate the Passover again without remembering the Cross?

James and John: Could they ever think about the "right-hand side" and the "left-hand side" again without remembering the Cross?

Peter: Could he ever hear a rooster crow again without remembering the Cross?

For these folks, their encounter with the Cross was woven into the very fabric of their everyday lives. Their intersection with the Cross came in the midst of activities so ordinary, so frequently repeated that they had no trouble remembering the encounter where their mindset of "power" was challenged by the mindset of the Cross. They would forever remember the Cross.

V. So how have we done in moving from a focus on power to a focus on the Cross? I read a Christian writer recently who was lamenting the failure of Christians to "turn the corner" the way Mark's Gospel turns the corner:

"Jesus today has many who love his heavenly kingdom," he wrote, "but few who carry his cross; many who yearn for comfort, few who long for distress. Plenty of people he finds to share his banquet, few to share his fast. Everyone desires to take part in his rejoicing, but few are willing to suffer anything for his sake. There are many that follow Jesus as far as the breaking of bread, few as far as drinking the cup of suffering; many that revere his miracles, few that follow him in the indignity of the cross."

That's a sad indictment of Christianity. But I found some comfort in knowing those words were written more than 500 years ago, by Thomas à Kempis. Surely the Church has gotten better over the years. Surely we're better at living out the words of Jesus. Surely we've learned that following Jesus means bearing a cross.

So I flipped through another book by a recent Christian author. His book is on the New York Times' best seller list. I opened it and discovered these three opening examples:

1) A man was vacationing with his wife in Hawaii. On a tour of the island, he was impressed by a beautiful beachfront home. His first thought was that he could never imagine owning such a beautiful home. Then he chided himself. Of course he would never own such a home if he couldn't imagine it! He needed to straighten out his thinking. In his own words, he realized "his own thoughts and attitudes were condemning him to mediocrity."

2) A young woman who struggled with being unable to place any higher than first runner-up in two consecutive Miss Florida pageants. Discouraged, but not defeated, she moved to Kansas the following year, and spent countless hours watching video tapes of previous pageant winners. She went on to win Miss Kansas, and was ultimately crowned Miss America. She attributes her victory to her faith in God, and the fact that every time she watched a video of a pageant, "she pictured herself receiving the crown."

3) The author himself was walking in his neighborhood where he had just purchased his first home. He and his wife stepped inside a home still under construction, the nicest home in the neighborhood. The thought of owning a home that nice didn't even enter his mind, until his wife cheerfully announced, "One day we're going to live in a beautiful home just like that."

The author rounds out the opening chapter with the insight that, "With God on your side, you cannot possibly lose."

I read that and I wondered, "Did Jesus really come so His disciples could 'win' the best vacation homes, beauty pageants, and the parade of homes prize?" Is that the "best life" that Jesus came to give us? Is that what He suffered, was rejected, and died for? That Christian author answers a resounding, "YES." But before I closed the book, I thought I heard a voice saying, "Get behind me, Satan. You do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of man."

I guess that's why I'm a little sympathetic to Peter. Well-meaning disciples today keep believing, like Peter did, that God's plan must be power and glory for all His children. Surely He wouldn't want His children to endure suffering, rejection, and death on a cross. Would He?

Jesus said, "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me and for the gospel will save it" (Mark 8:34b-35).

Conclusion

The season of Lent reminds us every year of those words. The message of this season is: Remember the Cross.

Now, just by counting the number of crosses we see, you'd think we could never forget Christ's death and His call for us to take up our cross. We've got crosses on our pulpits, on the walls of our churches, on our steeples, on church signs. Crosses on our stationery, imprinted on our checks, hanging from our ears, strung around our necks, embossed on our bibles. But you know what happens over time. The Cross becomes so familiar to us that we hardly notice it's there. We kind of take it for granted. But we are called to remember the Cross. That, in part, is what the season of Lent helps us to do. So the next time you see a cross, remember the Cross!

Source: Preacher's Magazine

ARTICLES ON THE THEME: THE SECOND COMING OF CHRIST

The Second Coming of Christ - The Orthodox View
The Orthodox understanding of the Second Coming of Christ is clear: the Lord Jesus Christ truly will return. His second advent is not a myth, nor an empty promise, nor is it a metaphor, In fact, each time the Divine Liturgy is celebrated, the priest makes a proclamation to the Father which reveals how the Church responds not only to the Second Coming of Christ, but to all of His work.

Remembering this saving commandment (Jesus' command to eat His flesh and drink His blood) and all that has been done for us-the Cross, the Tomb, the Resurrection on the third day, the Ascension into Heaven, the sitting at the right hand and the Second and glorious Coming-we offer You Your own, from what is Your own, on behalf of all and for all.

Orthodox Christians also believe the New Testament revelation of the Second coming of Christ is meant to stimulate our preparation for it, not our speculation about it. This explains the relative simplicity with which the Nicene Creed, the most universal confession of faith in all of Christendom, addresses Christ's return: "He...will come again, with glory, to judge the living and the dead whose Kingdom shall have no end." The emphasis of historic Orthodoxy is that Jesus will come again, not when He will come again.

Thus, St. Paul writes, "denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself His own special people, zealous for good works" (Titus 2:12-14)

There are signs of Christ's coming, to be sure. Jesus prophesied many events that would take place in the world prior to His return (Matt. 24; Luke 21:7-36). But even here the teachings of Jesus in these gospels close with His exhortation to virtue, righteousness, and preparation for the Judgment. Christ and His apostles issue severe warnings, implicit and explicit, against second-guessing the time of His coming (Matt. 24:3-8, 36,43,44, 50; Luke 21:7-9, 34; Acts 1:7; 1 Thess. 5:1-3; 2 Pet. 3:8-10).

Much of modem Christendom has succumbed to divisive speculation regarding Christ's return. We are divided into pre-millennial, post-millennial, and a-millennial camps. Breaking it down even further, there are pre-tribulation, mid-tribulation, and post-tribulation adherents. Christians part ways and new denominations spring up around interpretations of events which have not yet even come to pass!

Throughout history the Orthodox Church has steadfastly insisted on the reality of the Second Coming of Christ as a settled belief but granted liberty on the question of when it will occur. In the last chapter of Revelation, Jesus speaks the words, "I am coming quickly" three different times (Rev. 2:21:7, 12, 20). His coming will occur on a day, at an hour when it is not expected, The Apostle John, the author of Revelation, concludes his book with a warning: "For I testify to everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book If anyone adds to these thins, God will add to him the plagues that are written in this book; and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part from the Book of Life, form the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book:" (Rev. 22:18, 19).

To confess the return of Christ is to stand squarely within the apostolic tradition. To add "when" to the promise of His coming is warned against in the Scriptures. As members of the Bride of Christ, let us attend instead to being ready.

Source: St. Luke's Orthodox Mission

On St. Paul and the Second Coming:
"Come, Lord! Come Where You Are Not Known"

by Pope Benedict XVI

Dear brothers and sisters,

The theme of the Resurrection, opens a new perspective -- that of awaiting the return of the Lord. And therefore it brings us to reflect on the relationship between the present time, the time of the Church and the Kingdom of Christ, and the future (éschaton) that awaits us, when Christ will hand over the Kingdom to the Father (cf. 1 Corinthians 15:24). Every Christian discourse on the last things, called eschatology, always starts from the event of the Resurrection: In this event the last things have already begun, and in a certain sense, are already present.

St. Paul probably wrote his first letter in the year 52, the First Letter to the Thessalonians, where he speaks of this return of Jesus, called the parousía, the advent, the new and definitive and manifest presence (cf. 4:13-18). To the Thessalonians, who have their doubts and problems, the Apostle writes thus: "If we believe that Jesus died and rose, so too will God, through Jesus, bring with him those who have fallen asleep" (4:14).

And he continues: "The dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air" (4:16-17). Paul describes the parousía of Christ with very living tones and symbolic images, but transmitting a simple and profound message: At the end, we will be always with the Lord. That is, beyond the images, the essential message: Our future is "to be with the Lord." As believers, in our lives we already are with the Lord -- our future, eternal life, has already begun.

In the Second Letter to the Thessalonians, Paul changes the perspective: He speaks of negative events that must precede that conclusive end. Do not let yourselves be deceived, he says, as if the day of the Lord were truly imminent, according to a chronological calculation. "We ask you, brothers, with regard to the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our assembling with him, not to be shaken out of your minds suddenly, or to be alarmed either by a 'spirit,' or by an oral statement, or by a letter allegedly from us to the effect that the day of the Lord is at hand. Let no one deceive you in any way" (2:1-3).

The rest of this text announces that before the arrival of the Lord, there will be the apostasy and the revelation of the no better defined "wicked one," the "son of perdition" (2:3), which tradition will later call the Antichrist. But the intention of this letter of St. Paul is above all practical. He writes: "In fact, when we were with you, we instructed you that if anyone was unwilling to work, neither should that one eat. We hear that some are conducting themselves among you in a disorderly way, by not keeping busy but minding the business of others. Such people we instruct and urge in the Lord Jesus Christ to work quietly and to eat their own food" (3:10-12).

In other words, the awaiting of the parousía of Jesus does not dispense with the work of this world, but on the contrary, brings responsibilities before the divine Judge regarding our way of acting in this world. Precisely thus, our responsibility to work in and for this world arises. We will see the same thing next Sunday in the Gospel of the talents, where the Lord tells us that he has entrusted talents to everyone and the Judge will ask us to account for them, saying: Have you given fruits? Therefore, the awaiting of his coming implies a responsibility toward this world.

The same thing and the same nexus between parousía -- the return of the Judge-Savior -- and our commitment in life appears in another context and with new aspects in the Letter to the Philippians. Paul is in jail and awaiting his sentence, which might be death. In this situation, he thinks of his future being with the Lord, but he also thinks of the community of Philippi, which needs its father, Paul, and he writes: "For to me life is Christ, and death is gain. If I go on living in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me. And I do not know which I shall choose. I am caught between the two. I long to depart this life and be with Christ, (for) that is far better. Yet that I remain (in) the flesh is more necessary for your benefit. And this I know with confidence, that I shall remain and continue in the service of all of you for your progress and joy in the faith, so that your boasting in Christ Jesus may abound on account of me when I come to you again" (1:21-26).

Paul is not afraid of death, on the contrary, it means in fact the complete being with Christ. But Paul also participates in the sentiments of Christ, who has not lived for himself, but for us. Living for others becomes the program of his life and because of that, he shows his perfect readiness to do the will of God, [readiness] for what God decides. He is ready above all, also in the future, to live on earth for the others, to live for Christ, to live for his living presence and thus for the renewal of the world. We see that this being yours with Christ creates a great interior freedom: freedom before the threat of death, but freedom also before all the tasks and sufferings of life. He was simply available to God and truly free.

And we turn now, after having examined the various aspects of the waiting for the parousía of Christ, to ask ourselves: What are the fundamental attitudes of a Christian toward the last things -- death and the end of the world? The first attitude is the certainty that Jesus has risen, is with the Father, and because of that, is with us forever. And no one is stronger that Christ, because he is with the Father, is with us. Because of this, we are secure and free of fear. This was an essential effect of Christian preaching. Fear of spirits and gods was spread throughout the entire ancient world. And today as well, missionaries find -- together with so many good elements in natural religions -- the fear of spirits and the ill-fated powers that threaten us. Christ is alive; he has overcome death and has overcome all these powers. With this certainty, with this freedom, with this joy, we live. This is the first element of our living directed to the future.

In second place, the certainty that Christ is with me. And that in Christ the future world has already begun -- this also gives the certainty of hope. The future is not a darkness in which no one gets one's bearings. It is not like that. Without Christ, also for the world today, the future is dark; there is fear of the future -- a lot of fear of the future. The Christian knows that the light of Christ is stronger and because of this, lives in a hope that is not vague, in a hope that gives certainty and courage to face the future.

Finally, the third attitude: The Judge who returns -- who is Judge and Savior at the same time -- has left us the task of living in this world according to his way of living. He has given us his talents. Because of this, our third attitude is responsibility toward the world, toward our brothers before Christ, and at the same time, also certainty of his mercy. Both things are important. We don't live as if good and evil were the same, because God only can be merciful. This would be a deceit. In truth, we live with a great responsibility. We have talents, we have to work so this world opens itself to Christ, so that it is renewed. But even working and knowing in our responsibility that God is a true judge, we are also sure that he is a good judge. We know his face -- the face of the risen Christ, of Christ crucified for us. Therefore we can we sure of his goodness and continue forward with great courage.

Following the Pauline teaching on eschatology is the fact of the universality of the call to faith, which unites Jews and Gentiles, that is, the pagans, as a sign and anticipation of the future reality, by which we can say that we are already seated in heaven with Christ, but to show to future centuries the richness of grace (cf. Ephesians 2:6ff): The "after" becomes a "before" to make evident the state of incipient fulfillment in which we live. This makes tolerable the sufferings of the present moment, which are not comparable to future glory (cf. Romans 8:18). We walk by faith and not by sight, and though it would be preferable to leave the body and live with the Lord, what matters definitively, whether dwelling in the body or leaving it, is being pleasing to God (cf. 2 Corinthians 5:7-9).

Finally, a last point that perhaps seems a little difficult for us. St. Paul in the conclusion of his Second Letter to the Corinthians repeats and also puts on the lips of the Corinthians, a prayer originating in the first Christian communities of the area of Palestine: Maranà, thà!, which literally means, "Our Lord, come!" (16:22). It was the prayer of the first Christian community and the last book of the New Testament, Revelation, also closes with this prayer: "Come Lord!"

Can we also pray like this? It seems to me that for us today, in our lives, in our world, it is difficult to sincerely pray so that this world perishes, so that the new Jerusalem comes, so that the final judgment and Christ the judge come. I think that if we don't dare to sincerely pray like this for many reasons, nevertheless in a just and correct way we can also say with the first Christians: "Come, Lord Jesus."

Certainly, we don't want the end of the world to come now. But, on the other hand, we want this unjust world to end. We also want the world to be deeply changed, the civilization of love to begin, [we want] a world of justice and peace, without violence, without hunger, to arrive. We all want this -- and how can it happen without the presence of Christ? Without the presence of Christ, a just and renewed world will never really arrive. And though in another way, totally and deeply, we too can and should say, with great urgency and in the circumstances of our time, Come, Lord! Come to your world, in the way that you know. Come where there is injustice and violence. Come to the refugee camps, in Darfur and in North Kivu, in so many places in the world. Come where drugs dominate. Come, too, among those rich people who have forgotten you and who live only for themselves. Come where you are not known. Come to your world and renew the world of today. Come also to our hearts. Come and renew our lives. Come to our hearts so that we ourselves can be light of God, your presence.

In this sense, we pray with St. Paul:

Maranà, thà! Come, Lord Jesus!

And we pray so that Christ is really present today in our world, and that he renews it.

[Translation by ZENIT]

Summary in English


Dear brothers and sisters,

We now turn our attention from St. Paul's proclamation of Christ’s death and resurrection to his teaching on the Lord’s second coming. For Paul, the Lord’s return at the end of time will be accompanied by the resurrection of the dead and the consummation of his Kingdom, when all those who believed in him and trusted in his promises "will be with him for ever" in glory (cf. 1 Thess 4:17). Christ’s victorious reign has in fact already begun. Yet we, who have received the Spirit as the first fruits of our redemption, patiently await the fulfillment of that plan in our lives. Our life in this world, marked by trials and tribulations, must be inspired by the hope of heaven and the expectation of our resurrection to glory. Paul’s rich eschatology, linking the "already" of Christ’s resurrection to the "not yet" of our life in this world, is reflected in his statement that "in hope we were saved" (Rom 8:24). This same joyful expectation of the Lord’s return and the fulfillment of the Father’s saving plan is seen in the ancient Christian prayer with which he concludes his first Letter to the Corinthians: Maranà, thà! Come, Lord Jesus!

Source: Pope's General Audience in St. Peter's Square on November 12, 2008

© Copyright 2008 -- Libreria Editrice Vaticana

On Christ's Second Coming by Pope Francis
In the Creed we profess that Jesus "will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead." Human history begins with the creation of man and woman in the image and likeness of God and ends with the final judgment of Christ. Often these two poles of history are forgotten, and, above all, faith in the return of Christ and the last judgment sometimes is not so clear and steadfast in the hearts of Christians. Jesus, during his public life, often focused on the reality of his last coming. Today I would like to reflect on three Evangelical texts that help us enter this mystery: that of the ten virgins, the talents and the final judgment. All three are part of the Jesus' discourse on the end of times, in the Gospel of St. Matthew.

First of all remember that, with the Ascension, the son of God brought to the Father our humanity that he took on and he wants to draw all men to himself, to call the whole world to be welcomed into the open arms of God, so that, at the end of history, all of reality will be handed over to the Father. There is, though, this "intermediate time" between the first coming of Christ and the last, which is precisely the time that we are living. The parable of the ten virgins is placed within this context (cf. Mt 25:1-13). It involves ten girls who are waiting for the arrival of the bridegroom, but he delays and they fall asleep. At the sudden announcement that the bridegroom is coming, all prepare to welcome him, but while five of them, who were wise, have oil to trim their lamps, the others, who are foolish, are left with unlit lamps because they have no oil; and while they go out to find some, the groom arrives and the foolish virgins find the door closed that leads to the bridal feast. They knocking persistently, but it is too late, the groom replies: I do not know you.

The groom is the Lord, and the waiting time of arrival is the time He gives us, all of us with mercy and patience, before his final coming, it is a time to be vigilant; a time in which we need to keep lit the lamps of the faith, hope and charity, a time in which to keep the heart open to the good, to beauty and to the truth; a time to live according to God, because we know neither the day nor the hour of Christ's return. What is asked of us is to be prepared for this encounter – prepared for an encounter, for a beautiful encounter, the encounter with Jesus - which means being able to see the signs of his presence, to keep alive our faith through prayer, with the sacraments, to be vigilant in order not to sleep, not to forget God. The Christian life asleep is a sad life, it isn’t a happy life. The Christian must be happy, have the joy of Jesus. Let’s not fall asleep!

The second parable, that of the talents, makes us reflect on the relationship between how we use the gifts received from God and his return, when he will ask how we used them (cf. Mt 25:14-30). We know the parable: before departure, the master gives each servant some talents, to use well during his absence. To the first he gives five, to the second, two, and to the third, one. During the period of his absence, the first two servants multiply their talents - ancient coins -, while the third prefers to bury his and deliver it intact to the master. Upon his return, the master judges their work: he commends the first two, while the third is kicked out into the darkness, because he kept his talent hidden out of fear, closing in on himself. A Christian who closes in on himself, who hides everything that the Lord has given him as a Christian that is…he isn’t a Christian! He is a Christian that does not thank God for all that he has given him!

This tells us that the time of waiting for the Lord's return is the time of action, - we are in the time of action - the time in which to put to use the gifts of God not for ourselves, but for Him, for the Church, for others, the time during which always to try to increase the good in the world. And especially now, in this time of crisis, it is important not to close in upon oneself, burying one's talent, one’s own spiritual, intellectual, material riches, everything that the Lord has given us, but to open oneself, to be in solidarity, to be attentive to the other. In the square, I saw today there are many young people. Is it so? Are there very many young people? Where are they? To you, who are at the beginning of the journey of life, I ask: have you thought about the talents that God has given you? Have you thought about how you can put them at the service of others? Don't bury your talents! Bet on big ideals, those ideals that enlarge the heart, those ideals that will make your talents fruitful. Life is not given to us so that we can keep it jealously for ourselves, but is given to us so that we may donate it. Dear young people, have a great soul! Don't be afraid to dream great things!

Finally, a word on the passage of the final judgement, that describes the second coming of the Lord, when He will judge all humans, living and dead (cf. Mt 25:31-46). The image used by the Evangelist is that of the Shepherd separating sheep from goats. On the right are those who acted according to the will of God, helping their neighbor who was hungry, thirsty, stranger, naked, sick, imprisoned, thus following the Lord himself; while on the left are those who haven't come to the aid of their neighbour. This tells us that we will be judged by God on charity, on how we loved him in our brothers, especially the weakest and neediest. Of course, we must always keep in mind that we are justified, we are saved by grace, by an act of God's gratuitous love which always precedes us; we alone can do nothing. Faith is first of all a gift that we have received. But to bear fruit, God's grace always requires our openness, our free and concrete response. Christ comes to bring us the mercy of God who saves. We are asked to trust him, to match the gift of his love with a good life, with actions animated by faith and love.

Dear brothers and sisters, may we never be afraid to look to the final judgment; may it push us rather to live better lives. God gives us with mercy and patience this time so that we may learn every day to recognize him in the poor and in the little ones, may we strive for good and we are vigilant in prayer and love. May the Lord, at the end of our existence and history, may recognize us as good and faithful servants. Thank you!

Summary:

Dear Brothers and Sisters: In our continuing catechesis on the Creed, we now consider the article which deals with Christ’s second coming: "He will come again in glory, to judge the living and the dead". Just as human history began with the creation of man and woman in the image of God, so it will end with Christ’s return and the final judgment. The parables of Jesus help us to understand our responsibility before God and one another in this present age. The parable of the wise and foolish virgins reminds us that we must be spiritually prepared to meet the Lord when he comes. The parable of the talents emphasizes our responsibility to use wisely God’s gifts, making them bear abundant fruit. Here I would ask the many young people present to be generous with their God-given talents for the good of others, the Church and our world. Finally, the parable of the final judgement reminds us that, in the end, we will be judged on our love for others and especially for those in need. Through these parables, our Lord teaches us to await his coming with fear but confident trust, ever watchful for the signs of his presence and faithful in prayer and works of charity, so that when he comes he will find us his good and faithful servants.

[Translation by Peter Waymel]

© Copyright 2012 - Libreria Editrice Vaticana
Source: Pope's General Audience address at St. Peter’s Square, Vatican City on April 24, 2013

What Christ Will Do at The Second Coming

by John Pipe

Scripture: Hebrews 9:27–28

27 Just as people are destined to die once, and after that to face judgment, 28 so Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many; and he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him. Hebrews 9:27–28 (NIV)

And inasmuch as it is appointed for men to die once and after this comes judgment, so Christ also, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, shall appear a second time for salvation without reference to sin, to those who eagerly await Him. Hebrews 9:27–28

So Christ Also

Notice the structure of this sentence. "Inasmuch as it is appointed unto men . . . (28) So Christ also . . ." The comparison is made between something we do, die and later come into judgment, and something Christ does, die and later come to save from judgment. There is a parallel between our experience and Christ's. For every decisive experience that you have (like dying and facing God in judgment), the Son of God has a corresponding experience. Only Christ's experiences are not merely alongside ours and like them. His have an impact on ours. His death and our death are not parallel. His utterly transforms ours. Our arrival at the judgment and his arrival at the judgment are not parallel. He rescues us. In other words, the parallel between our life and Christ's life is designed to show how utterly dependent on him we are at every point of our lives, and how great he is. He is the strong saving one and we are the weak and desperate ones.

So it's not accurate to say merely that we run the race and he runs the race . . . just as we will cross the river, so he will cross the river; just as we will face the dragon, he will face the dragon. No, it's not like that. It's like this. We have to cross the river, yes. And he did too. But he died crossing the river to build a bridge for us to cross the river. And we have to face the dragon at the end, yes. And he will face it too. Only he will save us from the fiery breath of the dragon and bring us into the joy of eternal life.

So the point of these two verses is to get us to think of the big issues of our lives, like death and judgment, and then to help us see that Christ has gone before us in these experiences. And that his experience of them is so powerful that when we have to walk through death and judgment, those experiences will be radically different because of Christ. The point here is to magnify Christ, and by that magnificence to unleash confident and courageous Christians in the world for his glory.

Christ's Experience Prepares the Way

So let's look at these things one at a time as they come in these verses of Scripture. Verse 27, "And inasmuch as it is appointed for men to die once . . ." Now this is a rich sentence. God has been very merciful to say this to us. Listen to two things God means for us to hear in this word.

1. One is that all of us have an appointment with death. "It is appointed for men to die." Who made this appointment with death? I surely didn't. I make some appointments that I don't like to make, like with the dentist or with the car mechanic. But I would never make this appointment if it were up to me. Who made it for me?

The answer is, God made it. When Adam and Eve sinned, human death entered the world. And God appointed the curse of death for everyone of their ancestors. Romans 5:12 gives us the background. It says, "Through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned." God had warned this is what would happen. And he brought it to pass.

So death is not an appointment that comes to us only by natural processes. That would be far from the Biblical view. As if the world just runs on its own laws without God's daily oversight and guidance. No, our appointment with death comes not merely by natural processes but at the divinely appointed moment. God plans our birthday and our death day. Psalm 139:16 puts it like this: "And in Thy book [O God] they were all written, the days that were ordained for me, when as yet there was not one of them." A certain number of days are ordained for me by God. God sets this appointment, not Satan and not my enemy and not cancer and not me.

But not only that, God sees to it that we keep the appointment. He plans it and he brings it to pass. You recall how Job said, when his children were killed by the collapse of their home, "The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away. Blessed be the name of the LORD" (Job 1:21). So the Lord makes the appointment. And the Lord sees to it that death and we keep the appointment. There is no absurd, meaningless fatalism here. All is governed by an all-wise, all-powerful, all-loving God, no matter what it looks like to us. God makes our appointment with death in his sovereign planning of all things. You recall how Jesus spoke to the apostle Peter in John 21:19 that the day was coming (the appointment was made) when he would be crucified like Jesus.

And a few minutes later Jesus spoke to Peter about the apostle John and said, "If I want him to remain [alive] until I come, what is that to you? You follow Me!" (John 21:22). In other words Christ himself decides when and how his servants will die. "If I want him to remain, he will remain. If I want to take him, I will take him. You are all in my hands" (See Revelation 6:11). So Henry Martyn, the young missionary to Persia, was right to say, "If [Christ] has work for me to do, I cannot die." (Journal and Letters, New York: Protestant Episcopal Society for the promotion of Evangelical Knowledge, 1851, p. 460).

So it is appointed to us all to die. And we may rest assured, it is not man or Satan or fate or disease that makes that final, ultimate choice. It is Christ himself, our creator and king.

2. "It is appointed for men to die once." But there is another key word here besides the word "appointed," namely the word "once." This means that you can stop dreaming right now about reincarnation. We are not coming back to die again. We are not coming back in any form at all. The point of the word "once" here is to stress the finality of death. We die once. And that is the end of our experience of earthly dying.

Now all of this should have a profound effect on us. Samuel Johnson said, in 1777, "Depend upon it, sir, when a man knows he is to be hanged in a fortnight, it concentrates his mind wonderfully" (Boswell's Life of Johnson, Sept. 19, 1777). Moses put it like this in Psalm 90:12, "So teach us to number our days, that we may get a heart of wisdom."

Surely the writer of Hebrews wants us to hear this word of the Lord in verse 27 and be wakened from the usual numbness and sleepiness of our lives. Most people think very little about what matters most and think very much about what matters little. The Bible is God's gift to us to keep us from that foolishness and to make us wise. Wise people are people who have proportion in their lives. What matters most they are most concerned with, and what matters least they are least concerned with. Death is huge and death is sure. And so God is calling us here to think about it and get serious about it in a way that fits with how momentous death is.

And After This Comes Judgment

The next phrase is what gives death its greatest seriousness. Hebrews 9:27 says, "It is appointed for men to die once and after this comes judgment." Death is not the end of our existence. That is what is so awesome about it. We are not mere material beings that simply go out of consciousness and decompose in the ground. This word from God stands over against the common evolutionary idea expressed, for example, by William Provine, the historian of science at Cornell. He says that evolution finds no intelligent design operating in nature and "no such thing as immortality or life after death."

According to him "we're produced by a process that gives not one damn about us" (First Things, February, 1997, p. 32). Well the word "damn" is a very important word in this connection, but not the way Provine thinks. When Hebrews 9:27 says, "After death comes judgement," that is exactly what it means. God does give damnation after death. And it is the most terrifying prospect in the universe, that we might be met after death with a holy and angry and omnipotent God holding us accountable for whether we trusted him and worshipped him and followed his ways in this life. That is a fearful prospect.

Hebrews does not leave us in the dark about what this means. In Hebrews 10:27 it says, "A certain terrifying expectation of judgment, and the fury of a fire which will consume the adversaries" awaits us. And three verses later it says, "We know him who said, 'Vengeance is mine, I will repay.' And again, 'The Lord will judge his people'" (verse 30). So when our text says that we have an appointment with death and after death with judgment, it means that it will be terrifying and a furious fire and a great act of divine vengeance even on those who claim to be part of God's people, but are only external Christians.

These are sobering realities. O, may God use them to wake us up and make us alive to what really matters in this world! Now in verse 28 the writer makes the comparison between our experience and Christ's. "It is appointed to us to die once and after that comes judgment."

What about Christ? "So Christ also, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, shall appear a second time for salvation without reference to sin, to those who eagerly await Him.

Christ Joins Us in Death and Judgment

Notice for your great encouragement here how Christ joins us in death and judgment. There is a parallel, he dies and he comes to the judgment. But the difference is infinite. Let's see how.

Verse 28 says that his death is "an offering once to bear the sins of many." We will see who the "many" are at the end of the verse. But the main thing to see is that the death of Jesus bears sins. This is the very heart of Christianity and the heart of the Gospel and the heart of God's great work of redemption in the world. When Christ died he bore sins. He took sins not his own. He suffered for sins that others had done, so that they could be free from sins. Look back at verse 26 (from last week). The last line says, "He has been manifested at the end of the ages to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself." So verse 28 says that "he bore the sins of many," and verse 26 says that the effect of this is that "he put away sin."

This is the answer to the greatest problem in your life, whether you feel it as the main problem or not. There is an answer to how we can get right with God in spite of being sinners. And the answer is that Christ's death is "an offering to bear the sins of many." He lifted our sins and carried them to the cross and died there the death that I deserved to die. Now what does this mean for my dying? "It is appointed [to me] once to die." It means that my death is no longer punitive. My death is no longer a punishment for sin. My sin has been borne away. My sin is "put away" by the death of Christ. Christ took the punishment.

Why Is There Death?

Why then do I die at all? Because God wills that death remain in the world, even among his own children, as an abiding testimony to the extreme horror of sin. In our dying we still manifest the external effects of sin in the world. But the inner relation of sin to God has been radically changed. The death of God's children is not wrath against them. Paul cries out in 1 Corinthians 15:55-57, "O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting? The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law; but thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ." In other words, the sting is removed because the death of Christ satisfied the law's demand and set us free from condemnation. Death becomes an entrance into salvation not condemnation.

That is what the next phrase means. "Christ also, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, shall appear a second time for salvation without reference to sin." There are two great truths here. One is that the first coming of Christ and his offering himself to bear the sins of many was completely sufficient. He does not have to do any more to pay the price for sin or to remove the guilt of sin. This is why it says here "without reference to sin." He came the first time to deal with sin. He put away sin. It is finished. This is the wonder of the gospel. Your guilt is already removed. That much of the end-time salvation is past and done. "Once for all at the end of the ages" this great salvation happened. It cannot be improved on.

But there is more. This is the second great truth. We had to face the issue of death, and so Christ faced death and bore the guilt and punishment of it for us. Now, we must face judgment, so Christ comes a second time for us, this time not to deal with sin, but to save us from judgment. That's what it means in verse 28 when it says, "He shall appear a second time for salvation." This is not an addition to the salvation that the death of Christ purchased; it is an application of the salvation that Christ purchased. This is what Christ bought in his death. In other words Christ died to bear our sin and to free us from condemnation, and the application of this is the asbestos shield he gives us in the "fury of fire which will consume the adversaries" (Hebrews 10:27; see 2 Thessalonians 1:7 and 1 Thessalonians 1:10).

This is exactly what Paul said in Romans 5:9-10, Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him. For if while we were enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life. It's the past death of God's Son for us that guarantees his future salvation of us from the wrath of God at the judgment.

Now finally, the utterly crucial personal question: who are the "many" in verse 28a? "Having been offered once to bear the sins of many . . ." And for whom is he bringing salvation at his second coming? The answer is given at the end of verse 28. He is coming for those "who eagerly await him."

Faith That is Eager for Him to Come

If you ask right now, and you should, What must I do so that I may know that my sins are taken away by the blood of Christ, and that, when he comes, he will shield me from the wrath of God and bring me into eternal life . . . if you ask that right now, the answer is this: trust Christ in a way that makes you eager for him to come. He is coming to save those who are "eagerly waiting for him." So how do you get ready? How do you experience the forgiveness of God in Christ and prepare to meet him? By trusting him in a way that makes you eager for him to come.

This eager expectation for Christ is simply a sign that we love him and believe in him authentically. There is a phony faith that wants only escape from hell, but has no desire for Christ. That does not save. And it does not produces an eager expectation for Christ to come. It would rather that Christ not come for as long as possible so that it can have as much of this world as possible. But the faith that really holds on to Christ as treasure and hope and joy is the faith that makes us long for Christ to come, and that is the faith that saves.

So I urge you, turn from the world and from sin and to Christ. Take him not just as your fire insurance policy, but as your eagerly awaited bridegroom and friend and Lord.

©2013 Desiring God Foundation. Used by Permission.

Jesus: The Coming King

by Gary A. Denbow

Text: Revelation 22:7,12,20

INTRODUCTION

The Book of Revelation is a mystery to many. This last book of the Bible leaves many in a prophetic quandary. I believe this is because they miss the point. The point is explained in the title given the book in most Bibles: The Revelation of Jesus Christ.

Note the "I am" statements in chapter 1.

• Verse 8: "I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End … who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty."
• Verse 11: "I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last."
• Verse 17: "I am the First and the Last."
• Verse 18: "I am He who lives, and was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore."

In each of the messages to the seven churches in chapters 2–3, Jesus identifies himself.

• As the One "who holds the seven stars in His right hand, who walks in the midst of the seven golden lamp stands" (Revelation 2:1).
• As the One who is "the First and the Last, who was dead, and came to life" (verse 8).
• As the One "who has the sharp two-edged sword" (verse 12).
• As the "Son of God, who has eyes like a flame of fire, and His feet like fine brass" (verse 18).
• As "He who has the seven Spirit of God and the seven stars" (Revelation 3:1).
• As "He who is holy, He who is true, He who has the key of David, He who opens and no one shuts, and shuts and no one opens" (verse 7).
• As the "Amen, the Faithful and True Witness, the Beginning of the creation of God" (verse 14).

The point is this. In the Book of Revelation, Jesus discloses what He believes we will need to know about Him as we approach the end of time. He views, with His prophetic eye, all the events leading up to the "noises, thunderings, and lightnings," earthquakes, such as humankind has never seen that will certainly be a sign of the end of the world as we know it (Revelation 16:18). And with His superior knowledge, He determines what we need to know about Him and His plan to get us through to the place where "there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying" (Revelation 21:4). Jesus’ emphasis is clear: "I am coming" (Revelation 22:7,12,20).

MESSAGE

1. He is coming with a blessing (Revelation 22:7).

a. He will bless those who pay attention to His prophecies and those who proclaim them (Revelation 1:3).

b. He will bless those who go to their death while contending for the faith (Revelation 14:13).

c. He will bless those who are accounted as "overcomers" when they stand before Him (Revelation 20:6).

• To the overcomer He will give the tree of life (Revelation 2:7).
• To the overcomer He will give hidden manna and a new name (Revelation 2:17).
• To the overcomer He will give power over the nations (Revelation 2:26).
• To the overcomer He will give a new set of white clothing signifying his purity (Revelation 3:5).
• To the overcomer He will give enduring power.
   He will make the overcomer like a pillar in the temple.
   The overcomer will have a new name showing God’s ownership (Revelation 3:12).
• To the overcomer He will give the privilege of sitting with Christ on His throne (Revelation 3:21).

d. He will bless those who are obedient to do His commandments by restoring to them all of the privileges lost in the fall of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden (Revelation 22:14).

2. He is coming with judgment (Revelation 22:12).

a. The Book of Life will be open (Revelation 20:12). Everyone will be judged as to whether his name is found in the Book of Life.

b. Every believer will give an account of the works done after coming to faith in Christ (1 Corinthians 3:13; 2 Corinthians 5:10).

• The trial of believers’ works will be by fire.
• The key question in the judgment of believers’ works will be for whose glory the works were done (1 Corinthians 1:29–31).

c. Every person who has rejected faith in Christ will be judged "according to his works" (Revelation 20:12,13).

3. He is certainly coming - soon (Revelation 22:20).

This promise of His sure and soon return can be understood in four ways.

a. It is a promise to believers.

• Death soon shall pass.
• The enemy of our souls shall soon be eternally defeated.
• Our victory is sure - confirmed by the risen Lord and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit.

b. It is a warning to unbelievers.

• Judgment is sure.
• Eternity is long.

c. It is an alert to the lukewarm believer.

• Stop playing games with God’s truth.
• Set your spiritual house in order.

d. It is a prayer for the church to continually pray.

• It brings from us a rousing amen.
• It causes us to pray, Now is the time, Lord Jesus.

Footnote:

1. All Scriptures are taken from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by
permission. All rights reserved.

© Gary A. Denbow. Reprinted from Enrichment journal, used with permission.

Facts About the Second Coming of Christ

By Wayne Jackson

The second coming of Christ (cf. Heb. 9:27) is a prevailing theme of the New Testament. It is referenced eight times more often than the Lord's initial coming (Pardington, 354). It is alluded to more than 300 times in the New Testament (Thiessen, 442).

Because there is considerable error associated with the Lord's return, we must examine this theme - not only positively, but also in addressing several errors that have distorted biblical teaching.

Prophesied in Old Testament

Since "immortality," which is associated with the second coming, is illuminated most fully by the gospel of Christ (2 Tim. 1:10), one would not expect there to be an abundance of explicit information in the Old Testament related to this terminal event. There are, however, hints of the Lord's return nestled within the OT literature.

Job felt there would be a time of vindication for him by his "Redeemer" at some point after his flesh had disintegrated (19:25-27), though he had no precise understanding of that Redeemer from his ancient vantage point.

In a messianic discourse, David foretold of an ultimate retribution upon Jehovah's enemies (Psa. 2:9; 110:1).

Isaiah spoke of the time when every knee would bow and every tongue would swear allegiance to God (45:23; cf. Rom. 14:11).

Daniel prophesied of a future bodily resurrection (Dan. 12:2-3). These events are associated with the Savior's second coming.

New Testament Affirmation

As indicated above, the New Testament abounds with information regarding the second coming of Christ. Jesus himself affirmed it on numerous occasions (cf. Mt. 24:37, 39, 42, 44).

Shortly before his crucifixion, the Savior promised that after his death he would "come again" (cf. Lk. 19:15; Jn. 14:3). When the Lord ascended into heaven the angels proclaimed that he would "so come in like manner" as they watched him depart into heaven (Acts 1:11).

The entire fifteenth chapter of First Corinthians deals with the resurrection of the body, to occur at the time of Jesus' return (v. 23). The books of First and Second Thessalonians both deal significantly with the Christ's return (1 Thes. 4:13ff; 5:1ff; 2 Thes. 1:7ff; 2:1ff).

There is a special Greek term commonly used for the return of Christ. Parousia (24 times in the New Testament), signifying an "arrival" or "presence," is employed sixteen times for the second coming (cf. Mt. 24:37, 39; 1 Thes. 3:13; 1 Cor. 15:23; Jas. 5:7, etc.).

One scholar suggests that the arrival "motifs" treated in many of these texts "are derived from OT and Jewish salvation expectations, which anticipate an earthly personality such as the messianic king" (Radl, 3.44).

Let us now consider the issue of the second coming from both positive and negative vantage points.

Features of the Second Coming

There are explicit features of the second coming that identify the nature of this grand event. At the same time, these qualities eliminate various false ideas that have arisen within the community of "Christendom" over the past two millennia. Consider the following points.

Certainty of the Second Coming

The second coming is certain to occur. The very integrity of Christ is at stake in this matter. He declared: "I come again," undergirding that with, "if it were not so I would have told you" (Jn. 14:2).

Further, it is identified as a definite "day," e.g., "the day of our Lord Jesus Christ" (1 Cor. 1:8; 5:5; 2 Cor. 1:14; 1 Thes. 5:2).

Time of Second Coming Not Revealed

The specific time of that event is not revealed. He will come at an unexpected time (Mt. 24:37ff), similar to the manner in which a thief stalks his victim (1 Thes. 5:2).

Not even Christ, during his personal ministry, knew when that day would occur (cf. Mk. 13:32). This was due to his self-limitation of certain knowledge while on earth.

Strange indeed are the claims of certain modern religionists who imagine they can calculate that which the Lord could not! Date setters have been notoriously wrong. When the skeptic Bertrand Russell charged Jesus with error, claiming Christ believed his "coming" would occur during the first century, he exposed his pathetic ignorance of biblical data (1967, 16).

Second Coming Will Be Literal

The Lord's coming will be literal. There are passages which mention "comings" of Christ that are representative (i.e., not literal), e.g., his "coming" on Pentecost with the arrival of his kingdom (Mt. 16:28), or via the dispatch of the Spirit to his apostles (Jn. 14:18), in the destruction of Jerusalem (Mt. 24:30), or in a disciplinary fashion (Rev. 2:5).

But Christ's second coming will be personal. Note the expression, "the Lord himself" (1 Thes. 4:16).

They teach falsely who claim that "no visible return of Christ to the earth is to be expected" (Clarke, 444), or that the "second coming" was merely the punitive action of Christ in the A.D. 70 destruction of Jerusalem, as alleged by Max King and his preterist disciples (see Jackson, 31-56).

Christ's Return Will Be Visible

The Lord will come visibly, not as the theory of the invisible "rapture" maintains. This example of "freak exegesis" was popularized by Hal Lindsey in the book, The Late Great Planet Earth (124-125).

The Lord's return will be a "revelation" (2 Thes. 1:7), indeed a "manifestation" (1 Jn. 2:28), involving an "appearance" (1 Tim. 6:14; 2 Tim. 4:1, 8; Tit. 2:13; Heb. 9:29).

Too, he will come as the "Son of man" (Mt. 16:27), in his glorified body (Phil. 3:21).

Jesus' Return Will Be Final

The second coming will be terminal. Paul depicts the "coming" of Christ as being "the end." Death will have been destroyed, and the Lord's enemies will have been abolished (1 Cor. 15:23-24).

Clearly then, since the dead have not yet been raised, the second coming obviously did not occur in A.D. 70, as the radical preterists allege.

Additionally, when false teachers attempted to undermine the Christian cause by challenging the Lord's "promise of his coming," Peter refuted their charge by contending that Christ's coming would be accompanied by the demolition of the entire universe (2 Pet. 3:4, 10). Thus, that coming has not occurred, and there will be no place for a 1,000 year earthly reign of Christ following that coming, as alleged by premillennialists.

Events Associated With the Second Coming

Though we touched slightly upon the following issues in points discussed previously, we now will consider them more systematically.

The Resurrection

The general resurrection of the dead is connected with the return of Christ.

The ancient Sadducees denied the resurrection (Mt. 22:23; Acts 23:6-8), as do modern skeptics. But the doctrine of the bodily resurrection is affirmed abundantly in the New Testament (see Jn. 5:28-29; 6:39-40; Mk. 12:18-27; Acts 17:32; 24:15; 26:8; Rom. 8:23; 1 Thes. 4:16; 1 Cor. 15; 2 Cor. 5:1-2; Phil. 3:21).

The faithful who are living at the time of Christ's coming will be transformed into his likeness (1 Cor. 15:51; Phil. 3:21).

Judgment

The day of judgment is likewise connected with the second coming (Mt. 16:27; 25:31-46). Note:

• Christ will be the judge (Jn. 5:22, 27; 2 Cor. 5:10).

• All human beings who ever have lived will be judged (Rom. 14:10; Acts 17:31).

• Each person will be judged by the law of God under which he lived. The ancient Gentiles will be judged by the law of the conscience (Rom. 2:12-15). The Jews will be judged upon the basis of Moses' law (Rom. 2:12). Those of the Christian age will be judged according to the law of Christ (1 Cor. 9:21; Rom. 2:16).

• Human culpability will be measured by one's ability, together with his pattern of obedience or disobedience (Mt. 7:21-33; Heb. 5:9).

• The judgment will be irrevocable. Christ declared there are but two destinies - eternal punishment, or eternal life ("life" = communion with God). There is no post-judgment redemption, nor is there an eventual annihilation for the wicked.

• The purpose of Christ's judgment will not be to determine one's destiny; that is fixed at the moment of one's death (Lk. 16:22-23). The objective will be to both reveal and vindicate "the righteous judgment of God" (Rom. 2:5), which will be acknowledged universally (Rom. 14:11).

Conclusion

The Second Coming of the Lord will be the terminal event of earth's history. Every rational individual should prepare of this phenomenal occasion - one of either thrilling reward, or indescribable terror, depending upon one's spiritual status.

Sources/Footnotes

Clarke, William N. n.d. An Outline of Christian Theology.
Jackson, Wayne. 2005. The A.D. 70 Theory – A Review of the Max King Doctrine. Stockton, CA: Christian Courier.
Lindsey, Hal. 1970. The Late Great Planet Earth. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.
Pardington, George. 1926. Outline Studies in Christian Doctrine. New York, NY: Christian Alliance. 1926.
Radl, W. 1993. Exegetical Dictionary of the New Testament. H. Balz & G. Schneider, eds. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans.
Russell, Bertrand. 1967. Why I Am Not A Christian. New York, NY: Simon & Schuster.
Thiessen, Henry C. 1949. Lectures in Systematic Theology. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans.

About the Author

Wayne Jackson has written for and edited the Christian Courier since its inception in 1965. He has also written several books on a variety of biblical topics including The Bible and Science, Creation, Evolution, and the Age of the Earth, The Bible on Trial, and a number of commentaries. He lives in Stockton, California with his dear wife, and life-long partner, Betty.

Copyright © 2013 Christian Courier. All rights reserved.

GENERAL ARTICLES

Five Ways to Respond to Negative People

By John O'Leary, RisingAbove.com

"Sometimes one creates a dynamic impression by saying something and sometimes one creates as significant an impression by remaining silent." - Dalai Lama

Whether you plan on racing to the office by 6:00 a.m. and a million places thereafter or spending your entire day at home, you are likely to encounter someone who will "give you the opportunity" to say something rude.

Maybe they will say something snide; treat you disrespectfully; turn the project in late; be unwilling to help when you need a hand, or offer a negative critique to your work, outfit, or beliefs. No matter what the negativity is, you'll likely feel validated in responding with equal negativity, right?

But, my friends, what if instead of fighting fire with fire you try using water?

They come with hate; respond in love. Their remarks aim to bring you down; use your words to lift them up. I challenge you to consider taking these four steps to transform the negative experiences you have today into positive ones (for them and for you).

1. Decide how you'll respond now. Plan now to respond to every person you encounter today with love. It's simple. As you encounter someone in speech, proximity or thought: in silence and in your heart say "I love you." No, this is NOT a pick-up line! Instead, it's spoken internally and will transform the way you treat all whom you encounter. When you decide to meet others with those words—regardless of how they treat you—you will slow your thoughtless reactions and give yourself time to remember that you choose your actions.

2. Take a deep breath. Okay, so you tried the "I love you" thing, but their negativity continues. We are trained to have answers ready and respond quickly; but I challenge you to respond instead with silence. Take a breath. Let the first thought that comes to your mind pass. (Now might be a good time to remember that rule #1 isn't just meant for the first time you see someone!) "I love you!" Say it again while taking this deep breath. You may need it!

3. Realize what you choose not to say is sometimes more important than what you choose to say. Some of the most impactful rebuttals I've witnessed occurred when someone responded to negativity by saying absolutely nothing. Sarcasm or getting even may feel like the way to respond, but you've likely discovered that this is very rarely beneficial. Remember you can choose to say nothing.

4. Create space for dialogue. Fine. You've exhausted your right to stay silent and you feel you have to say something. Try this, "I never thought about it like that. Thank you." This is a beautiful way to disarm any confrontational person. It doesn't mean you agree; it doesn't mean they're right; it doesn't mean you're giving in; but it does creates space for dialogue. Let them feel heard without allowing yourself to be drowned-out.

5. You never know what other folks are going through. This is so important. Everyone has a story. Everyone is experiencing some challenges. Though it's unfair and selfish, people often take frustrations out on one another. But in the negativity of others, you have an amazing opportunity to be a beacon of light in their life. [Tweet that.] Your actions and words can break through their fog of negativity and may even inspire them to release the fog and embrace their ability to be light for others too.

Every day, every interaction and every glance provides the opportunity to push others further down or to propel them forward into the possibility of their lives. By owning our response, we'll transform our days, and the days of those lucky enough to encounter us, for the better.

How do you think these tips might improve your day and your relationships today? Please share in the comments below. If you have another tip – please share so we can all benefit!

About The Author:

John O'Leary was expected to die from burns on 100% of his body from a house fire at age nine. Today, at 36, he travels the world to teach others how to truly live. As an international speaker, John presents at more than 150 events each year. John is the CEO of Rising Above with John O'Leary, a lifestyle organization built to empower you to take back your life, ignite your possibility and change your world. John created the Spark! 21 Day Challenge so that you could ignite your possibility today. Take the challenge here.

Health Tip: What Can You Say to Help Someone with Cancer?

Psychotherapist Shares Her Patients' 4 Favorite Boosts

This year alone, 238,000 men will be diagnosed with new cases of prostate cancer, the most common incidence of the disease. More than 234,580 men and women will learn they have breast cancer, the second most common today, according to the National Cancer Institute.

All told, about 13.7 million Americans are living with cancer or a history of cancer.*

Chances are, you know one or more of them.

"Friends, family, co-workers – they can all play an important role in helping a cancer patient's recovery simply by providing emotional support," says pioneering cancer psychotherapist Dr. Niki Barr, author of "Emotional Wellness, The Other Half of Treating Cancer," (canceremotionalwellbeing.com).

After a diagnosis of cancer, people have a greater need for social support, which has been shown to influence health outcomes, according to a National Institutes of Health report. Of the nine types of social support, the report says emotional support is among the most important.

"Even if you're not among the person's closest friends or family, you can help far more than you imagine simply by being encouraging and supportive," says Barr, who works exclusively with cancer patients and their loved ones.

"I understand people don't always know what to say to someone who's just been diagnosed or is in the midst of treatments and yes, sometimes they do say the wrong thing," Barr says. "I remind my patients often to refuse to listen to cancer 'horror stories,' so please, don't tell those!"

While everyone is different, Barr says that she's found a few things her patients consistently say benefit them:

• Sometimes saying nothing at all says everything.

If your friend or loved one wants to talk about her treatments, complain about his situation, or not talk at all, being a good listener or simply a quiet presence speaks volumes. When a person complains, many of us jump to "help" by suggesting solutions. That's likely not what your friend or loved one is looking for. As my patients have said time and time again, sometimes they just want to get it all off their chest. An empathetic listener is all the help they need.

• Make your offer of help specific.

"Call me if you need anything at all," puts the burden on your loved one – who already carries a tremendous burden! Instead, you might offer to make dinner for her family on Wednesday night and ask what meal everyone enjoys. Or volunteer to drive him to his doctor appointment on Monday afternoon. This makes it easy for your friend to politely accept or decline your offer, and it ensures you provide the assistance you feel comfortable providing.

• Not sure what to talk about?

Follow his lead. Some days, my patients want to talk only about their illness, the treatment they're undergoing, and how they feel. Other days, they want to talk about anything BUT cancer. We all have days when we're immersed in our own lives and other days when we want to be distracted – or to just feel normal.

• If you're not sure what to say, err on the side of being positive.

Don't say what you don't know – for instance, you don't know that everything is going to be just fine. But if you admire your loved one's strength or sense of humor, if your friend's attitude inspires you, tell them so. We all benefit from hearing a sincere compliment.

When a person who's going through what may be the most difficult, stressful event of their lives knows that you care, it makes a difference, Barr says.

"If you're truly at a loss for words, it never hurts to simply say, 'I'm thinking about you."

*as of Jan. 1, 2012; National Cancer Institute

About Niki Barr, Ph.D.

Niki Barr, Ph.D. founded a pioneering psychotherapy practice dedicated to working with cancer patients in all stages of the disease, along with their family members, caregivers and friends. In her book, she describes an "emotional wellness toolbox" patients can put together with effective and simple strategies, ready to use at any time, for helping them move forward through cancer. Dr. Barr is a dynamic and popular speaker, sharing her insights with cancer patients and clinicians across the nation.

Recipe: Sausage Pumpkin Soup

by Dr. Shila Mathew, MD., Food and Living Editor, Malankara World

In North America, today is Halloween. Pumpkins are plenty on the lawns. It is also an ingredient that is very good for health.

"Pumpkin has no cholesterol, it's low in fat and sodium and it's rich in nutrients such as beta carotene and vitamin A," according to 'Our Ohio', a magazine published by the Ohio Farm Bureau Federation. But that might not be the only reason you'd try it. This soup recipe is the perfect marriage between sausage, seasoning , and a vegetable of the season.

Serve it with your favorite bread and a good cheese for dinner. Instead of canned pumpkin, you could use freshly cooked from one of those little pie or sugar pumpkins. The big ones have too much water and too many tough fibers.

You can use squash instead of pumpkin for this hearty soup. Our Indian pumpkin is perfect.

Sausage Pumpkin Soup

by Nancy Daugherty, Cortland, Ohio

Ingredients:

½ pound Italian seasoned sausage

1 medium onion, finely chopped

2 ½ cups chicken broth

2 15-ounce cans solid packed pumpkin (not pie filling)

2 cups milk, hot

1 teaspoon lemon juice

Dash of cinnamon

Dash of nutmeg

Salt and pepper, to taste

Parsley for garnish

Directions:

Cook sausage:

Crumble and cook sausage and onion in a large saucepan over medium heat until sausage is brown. Drain off any grease.

Heat liquids:

Add chicken broth and bring to a boil. In a separate saucepan, heat milk to steaming; do not boil. Set aside.

Simmer:

Stir pumpkin into the sausage and broth. Cover and simmer over low heat for 15- 20 minutes.

Finish:

Add milk, lemon juice, nutmeg, cinnamon, salt and pepper. Simmer uncovered 5 minutes stirring often. Garnish with parsley before serving.

Yield: Makes 6-8 servings

Source: 'Our Ohio' Magazine. 

Family Special: Can We Be Happy without Sex?

by Mark Earley

Professor Dale Kuehne is a professor of politics at Saint Anselm College in New Hampshire. At least once a semester, Kuehne can count on a certain question always being asked when he teaches a class called "The Politics of Diversity."

"Professor Kuehne," a student will say, "are you seriously going to try to persuade us that if we forgo [sex] outside of marriage we can have a fulfilling life, even if that means we never have a sexual relationship?"

Well, that's a pretty tough sell these days.

Kuehne is the author of a new book, Sex and the iWorld. He says that the traditional world, or tWorld, as he calls it, has been largely supplanted by the iWorld, in which "the immediate desires of the individual have been deemed paramount." In the iWorld, complete sexual freedom is a given, as long as all parties consent. Sexuality is considered essential to human happiness.

This is why iWorlders are scornful of the biblical view that sex should be reserved for marriage between one man and one woman. What about single people? What about gays in a committed relationship? they ask. Are they to be condemned to lifelong misery?

Even churches have bought into the iWorld belief that sex is essential to happiness. The idea that one cannot have relational fulfillment without sex "has been a largely unquestioned assumption of evangelical psychology, if not theology, for decades," Kuehne writes.

That's why many Christians now accept the iWorld teaching that anything that stands in the way of sexual fulfillment must be wrong. God wants us to be fulfilled, they reason; sex is an essential component of relational fulfillment, thus the Bible can't really mean what it says about restricting sex to marriage.

Well, Christians who accept this idea need to open their eyes--and dig a little deeper in the Word. Scripture teaches that humans are made for relationships, and that we crave intimacy and love more than anything else, Kuehne writes.

For instance, in his teachings about sex and marriage in 1 Corinthians, the apostle Paul makes clear that we can have deeply fulfilling lives without sexual relationships. And some of the richest relationships in the Scriptures are non-sexual ones. David and Jonathan. Jesus and the disciples. Jesus and Mary Magdalene.

Moreover, where biblical writers viewed sexual relations within marriage as a wonderful good, they considered sex itself to be an appetite--something that was potentially enslaving. Tragically, many iWorlders have become enslaved by their appetites.

True intimacy and happiness are found in loving God with all our hearts, souls, and minds, and loving our neighbor as ourselves. The greater our intimacy with God, Kuehne writes, the greater our ability to share that love with others.

For those who think that sex is essential to their happiness, Kuehne has a question: Does the iWorld view of sex and relationship make them happy? The sad truth is that promiscuity inhibits our ability to cultivate the love and intimacy God designed us to enjoy.

Read Sex and the iWorld to learn how to make the case that the happiest people are those who make relationships--not sex--their highest goal.

Source: Live It Devotional

Family Bonus Special: God's Plan for Marriage

by Chuck Colson

So often we hear that allowing two men or two women to marry will not hurt anyone, and certainly not "straight" people. Well, the truth is, we already know what happens when a society promotes sexual license and devalues marriage. We just have to look at history.

Way back before anyone was talking about so-called "gay marriage," radio talk show host and Jewish theologian Dennis Prager wrote a fascinating article called — get ready for this — "Judaism's Sexual Revolution: Why Judaism Rejected Homosexuality."

Before the Jews were placed in the ancient Near East, the pagan world was already a sexual free-for-all that debased women, boys, and religion itself in the service of male lust. Every aspect of life was sexualized. The pagan gods engaged in no-holds-barred sex, and so did the people. Homosexuality had almost unquestioned acceptance in the ancient world.

But the key issue wasn't gender, it was power. Prager quotes Brown University philosopher Martha Nussbaum, who wrote, "The central distinction in [ancient] sexual morality was … between active and passive roles." Because boys and women were on the receiving end of sexual activity, they were "very often treated interchangeably as [simple] objects of [male] desire."

Not surprisingly, then, women were relegated to the sidelines, important for giving birth and running the home, but not important as real and equal partners to men, who had other sexual options — with boys and other men.

That's why Judaism's claim that God created sex only for a man and a woman in marriage was so revolutionary — and despised by ancient pagans (and modern pagans, I might add as well). As Genesis said, "Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh. And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed."

Prager writes, "This revolution forced the sexual genie into the marital bottle. It ensured that sex no longer dominated society, heightened male-female love and sexuality (and thereby almost alone created the possibility of love and eroticism within marriage), and began the arduous task of elevating the status of women." No wonder, Prager notes, that the "improvement of the condition of women has only occurred in Western civilization," which historically has been the "least tolerant of homosexuality."

Of course, I should note, that it was the Apostle Paul who further carried this Jewish sexual revolution throughout the ancient world. As Sarah Ruden wrote about in her recent book Paul Among the Peoples, predatory homosexuality was common in Rome and Greece; women and children were just property.

Through Paul, however, Christianity ensured that Western civilization promoted sex within the confines of marriage between one man and one woman, and placed off limits the sexual abuse of boys and slaves.

The point is simply this: God instituted marriage for the good of man (restraining and channeling his sexuality), for the protection and dignity of woman, and the flourishing of human society.

Western civilization, the greatest ever, took this to heart, but forgets it now at its own peril.

Source: Breakpoint Commentary

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