Category Archives: The Second Coming

Day of days

All of us at one time or another have raged at the injustice in the world. Indeed, social inequality is one of the most pressing issues of our day. We see power imbalances everywhere, corporate greed ruining the planet, governments suppressing their citizens – and our hearts break.

Into this strife Augustine writes. He takes these challenges head on as he addresses the final judgment of the world in Book 20 of the City of God. The last judgment is the day when life as we know it will stop and the veil that has kept us from perceiving the presence and reality of God will be forever ripped in two. We will face our maker, our master, our martyr – but this time the lamb will become a lion and every single person who has ever lived will give account for their life.

While in this life the relative benefit of those who seek to be godly is obscure:

It will then be made clear that true and complete happiness belongs to all the good, and only to them, while all the wicked, are destined for deserved and supreme unhappiness.

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Unfortunately how this will all work out is not clear to us, or possible for us to discover. Why God sometimes visits judgements on people who deserve it, and sometimes they seem to get away with it. Why those who seek to love God are often buffeted by the winds of adversity, and others who love only themselves are left alone – only God knows the reasons for these things. The important thing is that at the last judgment:

It will become plain that God’s judgements are perfectly just, not only all the judgements that will then be passed, but also all the judgements passed from the beginning, and all which are to be pronounced hereafter until the day of judgment.

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The duty of the believer is not to watch the wind, seeking to discern the whys and wherefores of individual circumstances and connecting them back to individual behaviour. No our duty is to trust in the loving kindness of our Heavenly Father, for:

At that day, it will become evident by what just decision of God it comes about that at this present time so many, in fact almost all, of the just judgements of God are hidden from mortal perception and understanding. However, in this matter one thing is not hidden from the faith of the devout; and that is, that what is hidden is just.

XX.1

Are we waiting patiently? Are we trusting implicitly? We who cannot predict with any certainty the path of a single starling as it swoops in the evening sky, let alone the dizzying murmuration of several hundred can certainly not predict the hidden course of perfect justice in the hand of the loving God in the life of one person.

Our response should be to ensure we are sowing seeds of righteousness that will bear a rich fruit on that final day, building our lives with solid gold and precious gems, plucking up the weeds and cleaning out the barn. The rest we humbly leave to the maker, master, martyr God.

The City of God – Revelation 21

The battle is over, the victory is here, welcome to the celebration party! As we draw near the final scenes in John’s vision the images of battle are replaced by an epic display of the splendour and majesty of the new created order.

  1. How does the scene described in this chapter contrast with the preceding chapters? What encouragements are there here for someone who is suffering persecution for their faith?
  2. If this vision is a true, but symbolic, representation of a future created order, what is it teaching us about God, his people, the world, sin and eternity? 
  3. What do the city’s dimensions and choices of building material signify (v10-23)? How do they compare with the dimensions and choice of building material for the tabernacle in Exodus 26 & 27 and the temple in Ezekiel 40.5 – 41.26? 
  4. How does this chapter echo and amplify chapter 1.6, 22 & 23 in its description of Jesus? What have we learnt about him in the intervening chapters? 
  5. How would ancient Jewish believers have responded to this vision of a glorious Jerusalem, particularly as the temple lay in ruins when they received this letter? What building would be your symbolic restoration vision e.g. a ruined castle, an old church building or something else? 
  6. To whom does the city of God belong and what are the criteria for entrance and exclusion (v7-8, 27)? How does God provide for sinful believers to enter this pure city (2 Corinthians 5.21)?
  7. How would this glorious vision inspire the seven churches of chapters 2-3, to preserve in hard times? How would it challenge them to take the warnings in the letters seriously?

What John saw was the beginning of a new story, described thus by CS Lewis in The Last Battle:

“The term is over, the holidays have begun. The dream is ended: this is the morning….for them it was only the beginning of the real story. All their life in this world…had only been the cover and the title page, now at last they were beginning Chapter One of the Great Story which no one on earth has read, which goes on forever, in which every chapter is better than the one before.”

Millennium – Revelation 20

Well, its back to my old church from this week and I’m also back to producing the bible study notes for the house groups. We have missed a few chapters over the summer, so we are jumping into Revelation chapter 20:

The final scenes of the vision are about to be revealed – the enemies of God are destroyed and the dead are raised. But what does John’s vision have to say for us today – what is the message that we should hear to prepare us for this coming day?

  1. How would you describe this chapter to someone who is not a Christian? What would you tell them if they asked “how you can believe such weird fantasy?” 
  2. Honestly, are we afraid to tell people about the second coming in case they ridicule us? What would you say to a fellow Christian who struggled to have the courage to speak up? 
  3. Why do you think God paints such powerful images as this in chapter 20 – do you think they are symbolic or literal? Explain your answer. Outline the key events that occur in this chapter, the images that are used to describe them, and the significance of the numbers and symbols. 
  4. If you believe the images are symbolic, do you think that makes the reality of the events the images are symbolising any less real? Do we really believe the events described in the chapter will one day happen? If so, what practical impact does this chapter have on your daily life today? How should knowing that the father of evil will be destroyed affect our attitude to sin now? 
  5. Why do you think these verses are so divisive to Christians? What are the main things to keep in mind when discussing our different interpretations? How do we ensure that we do not make a particular interpretation more important than our Christian unity? 
  6. Read verse 15 again – how does this make you feel for those without Christ? How can we allow the reality of this verse to alter our behaviour and attitudes here and now? What should our response be to the plight of the lost (Romans 9.1-3)? 
  7. How does it make you feel to know how the story ends – “Jesus Wins”? How does this help us not to be fearful in front of an unbelieving world (see question 1)? How do bring the message that there is life after death to our secular nation in the light of verses 12-15?

Spend a few moments reading through Matthew 24.36-44 and preparing our own hearts for the final day. Pray also for those who we love that don’t yet know the great rescuer, Jesus.