10. The doctrine of future things
The doctrine of those things that will come to pass in the future (eschatology) has its basis in Holy Scripture. Many references to the future of salvation history are contained in the gospels and in the letters of the Apostles. Some pivotal statements can also be found in the Revelation of John, which speaks of these future events in figurative language.
Jesus Christ is coming again—that is a central statement of the gospel. Since His ascension into heaven the Apostles have proclaimed the return of the Lord. It is the goal of faith of New Apostolic Christians to be accepted by Him on this occasion.
Jesus Christ Himself promised His Apostles: “And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also” (John 14: 3).
This promise of Jesus was reinforced by angels at His ascension into heaven: “This same Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will so come in like manner as you saw Him go into heaven” (Acts 1: 11).
Neither angels nor men know the day or the hour of Jesus Christ’s return. Only the triune God knows this.
Since no man knows the moment in time of Christ’s return, the believer is called upon to remain prepared for this event every day. The Son of God summarises this into the admonition: “Watch therefore, for you do not know what hour your Lord is coming” (Matthew 24: 42). Jesus also made it clear in parables that believers are to be watchful in faith and expect His return at any hour.
“Then the kingdom of heaven shall be likened to ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. Now five of them were wise, and five were foolish. [...] But while the bridegroom was delayed, they all slumbered and slept. And at midnight a cry was heard: ‘Behold, the bridegroom is coming; go out to meet him!’ Then all those virgins arose and trimmed their lamps. And the foolish said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.’ [...] And while they went to buy, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went in with him to the wedding; and the door was shut. Afterward the other virgins came also [...] Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour in which the Son of Man is coming.”
Mathew 25: 1-13
cf. also Matthew 24: 43-51; 25: 14-30
The promise of Christ’s return played a great role in the preaching of the early Apostles. Next to the sacrificial death and resurrection of Jesus, it was among the most important contents of their faith. They were convinced that Jesus would return in their lifetimes: “Behold, I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed” (1 Corinthians 15: 51).
Apostle Paul addressed the congregation in Corinth with the early Christian call of prayer: “Maranatha”, which means “O Lord, come!” (cf. 1 Corinthians 16: 22).
The call to be ready for the return of Christ at all times also comes to expression in the Revelation of Jesus Christ in the words of the Lord: “Behold, I am coming quickly!” (Revelation 3: 11; 22: 7, 12, 20).
It is one of the fundamental certainties of the gospel that Jesus Christ will return and take His bride unto Himself. He Himself has promised His return (cf. John 14: 3).
The fact that the Apostle ministry is once again occupied is a sign that the return of Christ is imminent. The expectation that this promise of the Lord will be fulfilled is as much the focal point of the New Apostolic faith today as it is the hope of each individual to personally experience the return of Christ and the rapture.
The Apostles prepare the believers for the return of Christ through word and sacrament. The believers conscientiously align their lives by this.
In 1 Thessalonians 4: 15-17 it says: “For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord will by no means precede those who are asleep. For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord.”
In 1 Corinthians 15: 51-52 we read: “Behold, I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed—in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.”
In Philippians 3: 20-21 we find the statement: “For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body that it may be conformed to His glorious body, according to the working by which He is able even to subdue all things to Himself."
In summary, the following results from the statements of Apostle Paul:
At the return of Christ, the dead who have died in Christ, will be the first to resurrect incorruptible. The living who have allowed themselves to be prepared for the return of Christ will experience the transformation without having to suffer physical death.
Both the dead and the living will receive a glorious body. This body will be like the resurrection body of Christ. Together, they will be caught up to Jesus Christ and will thus enter into eternal fellowship with the triune God.
These events are part of the first resurrection mentioned in Revelation 20: 5-6.
‘Incorruptible’ means immortal, unperishable. Unlike our present body, the resurrection body will not be subject to decay.
The hope of the believers that they will not have to suffer physical death is based on the statement of Apostle Paul: “For in this we groan, earnestly desiring to be clothed with our habitation which is from heaven. [...] For we who are in this tent groan, being burdened, not because we want to be unclothed, but further clothed, that mortality may be swallowed up by life. Now He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who also has given us the Spirit as a guarantee” (2 Corinthians 5: 2, 4-5).
With the word “habitation” the Apostle is referring to the glorious body which will not only be received by those who resurrect from the dead, but also by those who are to be transformed at the return of Christ: The expression “further clothed” means to receive a new body without having to die beforehand. Here “unclothed” is an expression for dying.
The rapture at the return of Christ is first of all promised to those who have been granted the rebirth out of water and the Spirit, who believe in Jesus Christ, and who follow Him. This group is also called the “bridal congregation” or the “male child” (Revelation 12: 5).
Whether God will also grant the grace of the rapture to others is beyond human judgement and is subject to the decision of God.
The ‘rapture’ (or the event of being “caught up to God”) means that human beings will enter into direct fellowship with God at the return of Christ.
Jesus Christ gave His Apostles the commission to prepare the church of Christ to be united with Him at His return. Apostle Paul writes as follows concerning this: “For I am jealous for you with godly jealousy. For I have betrothed you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ” (2 Corinthians 11: 2). The image of the “chaste virgin” is a reference to the “bride” in Revelation 19: 7. Those who will be included in this group and be united with Jesus will only be revealed at the return of Christ.
Yes—one such outstanding characteristic is that they wait daily for the return of Christ and are steadfast in praying: “Come, Lord Jesus!”(Revelation 22: 17, 20).
Yes. Further characteristics of the bridal congregation are mentioned in Revelation 14: 1-5. Here the image of a group of “one hundred and forty-four thousand” is used are a reference to the bridal congregation. The number “144,000” is not to be understood literally, but is of symbolic nature. It is derived from the twelve tribes of Israel and is described with the following images: “Behold, a Lamb standing on Mount Zion, and with Him one hundred and forty-four thousand, having His Father’s name written on their foreheads. [...] These are the ones who follow the Lamb wherever He goes. These were redeemed from among men, being firstfruits to God and to the Lamb. And in their mouth was found no deceit, for they are without fault before the throne of God.”
The mark (“seal”) with the name of the “Lamb” and of the Father indicates that the hundred and forty-four thousand are the property of God.
Being “without fault”, having “no deceit” in their mouths, and “following the Lamb”, indicate that they have led their lives in accordance with the gospel in word and deed.
The term “firstfruits” describes those whom Christ will take to Himself at His return: these will be the first to receive complete salvation.
The “Lamb” refers to Jesus Christ: “Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1: 29). Revelation 5: 12 relates that the Lamb who was slain has gained the victory. This means that the abased and crucified Son of God also triumphs and conquers.
“Worthy is the Lamb who was slain to receive power and riches and wisdom and strength and honour and glory and blessing!”
Revelation 5: 12
The “marriage of the Lamb”—in other words, the union of the bridal congregation with the bridegroom, Jesus Christ—will take place after He returns and after His bridal congregation has been transformed and caught up to God.
The bridal congregation will be permitted to share in Christ’s glory and will be in direct and indissoluble fellowship with God.
“Alleluia! For the Lord God Omnipotent reigns! Let us be glad and rejoice and give Him glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and His wife has made herself ready.” And to her it was granted to be arrayed in fine linen, clean and bright, for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints. Then he said to me, ‘Write: “Blessed are those who are called to the marriage supper of the Lamb”’.”
Revelation 19: 6-9
After the return of Christ, a time will begin in which both man and the creation will suffer because they are exposed to the power of Satan. This period of time is called the “great tribulation”.
Yes. In the time of the “great tribulation”, there will be a place of spiritual protection for those who belong to the church of Jesus Christ and who have not been caught up to Jesus Christ. They will continue to experience divine help and spiritual care so that their faith may be preserved.
In the book of Revelation, they are represented by the image of the woman clothed with the sun, who has given birth to a male child. They continue to receive divine support and spiritual care such that their faith may be preserved (cf. Revelation 12: 6).
In the time of the “great tribulation” there will be people who are killed for professing Christ. These steadfast witnesses will thus become martyrs.
Those Christians who are killed for their witness of Christ in the time of the “great tribulation” will share in the first resurrection, like the bridal congregation before them.
After the “marriage of the Lamb” Jesus Christ will return to the earth with the bridal congregation and put an end to the time of the “great tribulation”.
According to Revelation 20: 1-3, Satan and his followers—the powers opposed to God—will be “chained” and cast into the “bottomless pit”. All power is thus taken from them, and no one will be tempted by Satan for a long time.
When Satan is bound and when the powers opposed to God are deprived of all their power, the resurrection of the martyrs from the “great tribulation” will take place. Thus the martyrs will also share in the first resurrection.
During the first resurrection, the “dead in Christ” will resurrect and, together with the living who belong to the bridal congregation, will be caught up to God. After the “marriage in heaven”, the martyrs from the “great tribulation” will resurrect and be numbered among the royal priesthood.
These two events are described as the “first resurrection”: “Blessed and holy is he who has part in the first resurrection. Over such the second death has no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with Him a thousand years” (Revelation 20: 6).
After the conclusion of the first resurrection, Jesus Christ will establish His kingdom of peace and exercise His royal reign for “a thousand years”. These thousand years symbolise a long, but limited, period of time.
Yes. Even though Satan has been deprived of his power and can no longer tempt anyone to sin, human beings will remain sinners and continue to be mortal, since the inclination to sin has not been lifted. The exceptions to this are those who took part in the first resurrection.
During the time of Christ’s kingdom of peace, Jesus Christ and the royal priesthood will preach the gospel unhindered. The gospel will be brought to all human beings living on earth as well as all souls in the realms of the departed. By the end of the kingdom of peace, all human beings of all time periods will have become acquainted with the gospel of Jesus Christ.
At the end of the kingdom of peace, Satan is released. He will thus have one last opportunity to tempt human beings. After Christ’s victory over him, he will be “cast into the lake of fire and brimstone” (cf. Revelation 20: 7-10). From then on, evil will be rendered powerless forever.
After evil is deprived of its power forever, the resurrection of the dead for judgement will take place. Then Jesus Christ will judge all human beings who have ever lived. The only ones exempted from this Last Judgement are those who took part in the first resurrection.
The “Last Judgement” is the final judgement over all human beings who did not take part in the first resurrection. This judgement is described in
Revelation 20: 11-15.
“And the dead were judged according to their works, by the things which were written in the books.”
Revelation 20: 12
Those who find grace in the Last Judgement will—together with those who partook in the first resurrection—become citizens of God’s new creation. They will then all have eternal fellowship with God. The others will remain in the misery of remoteness from God.
After the Last Judgement, God will replace the old creation with a new creation: “He [God] will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God” (Revelation 21: 3). Thereby the expectation expressed in 2 Peter 3: 13 will be fulfilled: “Nevertheless we, according to His promise, look for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.” This kingdom of God will be eternal, and then God will be all in all (1 Corinthians 15: 28).