The Core: Christian Living, Christ's Return, and Eternal Destiny
We believe that God’s justifying grace must not be separated from His sanctifying power and purpose. God commands us to love Him supremely and others sacrificially, and to live out our faith with care for one another, compassion toward the poor and justice for the oppressed. With God’s Word, the Spirit’s power, and fervent prayer in Christ’s name, we are to combat the spiritual forces of evil. In obedience to Christ’s commission, we are to make disciples among all people, always bearing witness to the gospel in word and deed.
Be holy and perfect, because God is holy and perfect (Lv 11:44-45; 19:2; 20:7, 26, Mt 5:48; 1 Pe 1:15-16). Anything less means a person falls short of God’s glory (Rm 3:23) and has no excuse to avert God’s devastating wrath (Rm 1:18-20; 2:1). However, every person finds themself exposed (Rm 3:10-20). Therefore, we need to be made complete (Mt 5:17-20, 48; Php 1:6), which results only from God’s ongoing work of God setting us apart for Himself (sanctification, Rm 15:16; 1 Cor 1:2; Heb 2:11) through our faith in Him (Acts 26:18; 2 Th 2:13). Before sanctification can begin, though, we must be declared righteous (justification, Rm 5:16; 1 Cor 6:11). This declaration of our position in Christ is an act of grace by God for those who believe in Jesus as the crucified and resurrected Son of God (Acts 13:39; Rm 3:24, 26, 30; 4:5). Justification insulates us from accusation (Rm 8:33). God will be faithful to make complete all those who are in Christ (Rm 8:28-30; Php 1:6), using even trials to that end (Jms 1:2-4). Therefore, one of the primary goals of ministry is collaborate with God’s work to present each person complete in Christ (Col 1:28). With justification, the guilty are declared righteous by God; with sanctification, the guilty are made righteous by God.
Therefore, to live out one’s faith, a person participates with God's work (Php 2:12-13) to be a doer of the Word, not merely a hearer (Jms 1:22-25), in order to do as Jesus did (Jn 13:15-17), especially by dying to self in order to live for Christ and for His purposes (Lk 9:23; 14:27). This life also includes obedience to the Word of Christ (Jn 8:31; 14:15, 21-24; 15:10-15). Scripture declares religion “worthless” if it doesn’t result in, for example, showing tangible care for the vulnerable (Jms 1:27). Faith without good works is a dead faith (Jms 2:14, 17, 26).
We cannot separate living out our faith from our divine obligation to the exploitable and disenfranchised (Mic 6:8). Such concern is encoded as Law in the shadow of the Decalogue (Exo 22:21—23:9), centered on full devotion to God (Exo 22:28-31). The Church must be concerned with the vulnerable because God is concerned about them (Psa 68:5; 146:9). One example in the Law is God’s command to farmers to leave some harvest for the poor to reap because of who He is (Lv 23:22). Isaiah’s indictment of Israel prominently included their failure to care for the vulnerable (Isa 1:17, 23; 3:14). How Christians treat the disenfranchised reflects how they treat Jesus (Mt 25:31-46). Indeed, the disenfranchised are Jesus’ honored guests (Lk 14:15-24), and His loving concern for a woman disenfranchised by gender, ethnicity, and lifestyle befuddled even His disciples (Jn 4:1-26). Jesus' concern for the marginalized demonstrates the full reach of the Good News we proclaim (Lk 4:18-19).
There is an enemy committed to derail our journey toward completion (1 Pe 5:8), namely Satan, a spiritual being who, along with all demons, engages us in a spiritual fight (Eph 6:12; 2 Cor 10:3-5). His work is to interfere with Christ’s work of completing us (Jn 8:44; 2 Cor 2:11). However, God has equipped us with spiritual weaponry (Eph 6:10-20). One key weapon is the Word of Truth, which exposes our inner thoughts and motives (Eph 6:17; Heb 4:12-13). Another key weapon is God’s indwelling Spirit, who is greater than our enemy (1 Jn 4:4) and who persistently advocates to the Father on our behalf (Rom 8:26). A third key weapon is prayer, which Scripture expects to embolden us (Eph 6:18-20) and propel ministry success (Rm 15:31-32; Col 2:2-4; 2 Thess 3:1-2; Php 1:19). Therefore, we pray in Christ’s name because He is the one who gives us access to the Father (Eph 3:12; Heb 4:14-16). Praying in His name also means that we pray in the manner that He would and according to His will (Mt 6:9; Jn 14:13-14; 1 Jn 5:14). If God is for us, who can be against us (Psa 118:6; Rm 8:31; Heb 13:6)?
We believe in the personal, bodily and glorious return of our Lord Jesus Christ. The coming of Christ, at a time known only to God, demands constant expectancy and, as our blessed hope, motivates the believer to godly living, sacrificial service and energetic mission.
Jesus came to humanity once, and He certainly will do so again (Mt 24:32-35; Acts 1:9-11; Titus 2:13). When He returns, He will fulfill the salvation of those who are in Him (Php 3:20-21; Titus 2:13-14; Heb 9:28), He will complete their transformation into His likeness (1 Jn 3:2), and He will bring them permanently into His presence (Jn 14:3). Also within these events is the “Millennial Kingdom,” a long period of time in human history (perhaps roughly 1000 years) in which believers will come to life and reign with Christ on earth (1 Th 4:13-18; Rv 20:4-6). Eventually, all will be resurrected and judged – those in Christ will enjoy eternal life with Christ, but all others will suffer eternal punishment for their sin (Dan 12:1-3; Mt 25:31-46; 2 Th 1:6-8; Rv 19:11-21; 20:11-15), and then Christ will reign forever in His Kingdom (Lk 1:31-33). But how is the return of Christ related to the resurrection(s) and this Millennial Kingdom?
The postmillennial view states that the gospel mission of the Church will gradually overcome the world (Mt 13:31-32; 28:18-20) and then Jesus will return and establish the eternal state. The “millennium” is a glorious period of the Church’s influence, and believers are “reigning with Christ” in that He reigns from heaven while they reign on earth. The amillennial view states that the Millennial Kingdom is not a physical kingdom on earth but that believers who have died are currently “reigning” with Christ during the Church Age. Jesus will return to judge humanity and bring the eternal state. The premillennial view states that Jesus will return to collect believers living and dead, reign on earth with them for the Millennial Kingdom, then resurrect the rest for judgment and then usher in the eternal state. This author holds the last view, believing that, consistent with biblical apocalyptic literature, the events in Revelation refer to actual events.
Within the premillennial view, there are three main views as to the timing of Jesus collecting His church (the “rapture”; 1 Th 4:13-18), especially with respect to the prophesied seven-year tribulation (Mt 24:21-22, 29; Mk 13.19-25). The pretribulation view says He will rapture the Church before the tribulation (cf. 1 Th 1:10; 5:9), the posttribulation views says the Church will endure the full tribulation and then be raptured, and the midtribuation view says the Church will endure half of the tribulation before it is raptured. This author holds the last view primarily because of the passages that indicate the Church will endure some tribulation (Mt 24:22; Mk 13:20; Lk 21:12-28) and the manifold references to a 3 ½ year period prior to a significant eschatological event (Dan 7:25; 9:24-27; 12:7-12; Rv 11:2-3; 12:6, 14; 13:5).
Christ will come at a time yet unknown (Mt 24:36-44; 25:13; Mk 13:32-33; Lk 12:40; 1 Th 5:2; 1 Tim 6:14-15), but will be preceded by some signs to alert us (Dan 7:25; 9:24-27; 12:7-12; Mt 24:1-17; 29-35; Mk 13:1-23, 21-27; Lk 21:5-28; 1 Jn 2:18; 2 Th 2:1-10; Rv 11:2-3; 12:6; 12:14; 13:5). His return will be personal and bodily (Mt 24:30; 26:64; Acts 1:11; Php 3:20-21; 1 Th 4:15-17; 1 Pe 1:7, 13; 4:13; 5:4; Rv 1:7) and therefore highly visible, unmistakable, and glorious (Mt 24:27, 30-31; Mk 13:24-26; Rv 1:7).
Jesus directs His followers to be constantly expecting His return (Mt 24:42-51; Lk 12:40; Rm 13:11-14; 1 Th 5:1-11; 2 Th 2:3; Jas 5:8-9; 2 Pe 3:10-14; Rv 3:3; 22:7, 12), alertly postured for Him to return at any moment (Rm 13:11-14). This watchful disposition includes an indefatigable hope for His full reign (Php 3:20; Titus 2:13; Mt 24:35-42; Mk 8:35-38; Jn 14:1-3; Acts 1:6-11; 1 Jn 3:2) and trust that it will come regardless of all indications otherwise (Eph 1:14; 2 Pe 1:4). This period calls for patience (Jas 5:7-8), endurance (2 Thess 1:6-8; 1 Jn 2:28), eagerness (Php 3:20; 1 Cor 16:22; 2 Tim 4:8; Heb 9:28), clearheaded thinking (Mt 24:5; 1 Pet 4:7), faithfulness (Mt 24:45-51; 25:14-30; Lk 18:8; 1 Th 5:6), godly living (Titus 2:14; 1 Jn 3:1-3; 2 Pe 3:8-13), and urgent witness (Mt 24:14; 28:19). Even our perpetual celebration of the Lord’s Supper declares His death until He returns (1 Cor 11:26). Come, Lord Jesus! (Rv 22:20).
Response and Eternal Destiny
We believe that God commands everyone everywhere to believe the gospel by turning to Him in repentance and receiving the Lord Jesus Christ. We believe that God will raise the dead bodily and judge the world, assigning the unbeliever to condemnation and eternal conscious punishment and the believer to eternal blessedness and joy with the Lord in the new heaven and the new earth, to the praise of His glorious grace. Amen.
The Good News (“gospel”) of Jesus Christ is that He died for our sins, was buried, and was raised on the third day to appear to many witnesses, all according to Scripture (1 Cor 15:3-5). When Jesus died for our sins, the Father diverted His wrath for our sin onto Him, His own son (Jn 3:36; Rm 5:9; 1 Thess 5:9). His resurrection proved His claims to have power over sin and death (Act 2:23-27; 13:32-35; Rm 4:25; 1 Cor 15:54-55; 1 Tim 3:16; 1 Pe 3:18-22). One can personally appropriate this victory (i.e., “receive” Jesus, Jn 1:12) by believing that Jesus is the Son of God (1 Jn 5:10) and in His efficacious work on the Cross (Jn 6:29; 8:24; Act 16:31; Rm 10:14-15; 1 Cor 15:3-4, 11; 1 Jn 5:9-12), a trust that includes confessing one’s sin and repenting (i.e., turning away from it, and turning one’s life toward Christ; Mk 1:15; Lk 24:47; Act 2:37-38; 3:19). There are no other means to attain blessed, eternal life in the Kingdom of God (Jn 14:1-4, 6; 20:31; Eph 1:3-14; Act 4:12).
Between a believer’s physical death and the eternal state with a new, glorified body (1 Cor 15:35-58) is an anomalous disembodied state of conscious awareness. Those in Christ will be with Him (Lk 23:43; Php 1:23) and will be able to worship, communicate, and even anticipate the future (Rv 6:10). When Jesus returns, they will be resurrected to their eternal state in the “new heaven and new earth” that He will bring (Isa 65:17; 66:22; 2 Pe 3:13; Rv 21:1-3), centered on worshiping Him in holiness (Rv 21; 22:3-4), with the complete absence of any curse (Rv 22:3) or suffering (Rv 21:4), plus abundance (Rv 21:6, 21; 22:2), beauty (Rv 21:11, 18-21), blessedness (Jn 5:25-29), relational harmony (Isa 11:6; 65:25), and fruitful labor (Isa 65:21; Rv 22:5) -- all of this for eternity (Hb 12:26-27). This existence will be earthbound (Rv 21:1-2) and corporeal (Lk 22:18; 1 Cor 15:35-58; Rv 19:9). For the new heaven and new earth to arrive, some claim that the current earth will be completely destroyed and replaced (2 Pe 3:10; Hb 1:11-12; Rv 20:11; 21:1), while others claim the current earth will successfully and completely be renewed (Rv 21:5; Col 1:20), as by a cleansing fire (2 Pe 3:10). This author is undecided between the two but leans toward something analogous to the resurrection (2 Cor 5:17), with both continuity and discontinuity between the temporal and eternal bodies (Rm 8:19-21; 1 Cor 15:35-58).
Non-believers, whose names are not in the book of Life (Rv 20:15), spend the intermediate period in Hades (which itself is later thrown into the lake of fire for eternity, Rv 20:12-15). They will be conscious (Lk 16:19-31), as are those in Christ in their intermediate state. Then they will one day be raised from the dead (Dan 12:2) and their lifetime of deeds judged (Rv 20:12). They will suffer conscious, eternal punishment for their sin (Mt 25:46; Lk 16:26; Jn 5:25-29; 2 Th 1:9; Rv 14:11; 21:8; 22:15) in Hell, which is pictured as an eternal lake of fire (Rv 20:14-15), where they will suffer a kind of dying that never ends. They will be completely without the presence of Christ, but their punishment is more than just passive. All who will be thrown into Hell will deserve to be (Rm 3:23; 6:23).
What of those who never hear the name of Jesus? God sovereignly chose our times and places (Act 17:22-34). Therefore, He is responsible for the revelation each person receives, and He holds people accountable for whatever revelation He gives them (Rm 1:18-23; Act 17:30-31). Abraham, who never heard the name of Jesus, serves as an example of faith even in the New Testament because he believed what God revealed to him (Rm 4; Jas 2:23-24). People like Abraham, Moses, Elijah, and David will be in the eternal city, but by the same means as for Christians (Jn 14:6) – by the blood of Jesus that paid for their sins, with God imputing the righteousness of Christ on them by means of their faith.