Summary: Details the Nazarene stance on End-times issues. Stresses the importance of what we do not say and that this is a factual statement rather than an interpretational one.
This morning, we will look at our 15th and our 16th Articles of Faith. This will conclude our series on the Articles of Faith for the Church of the Nazarene. We will start with the 15th article, which is:
XV. The Second Coming of Christ
A minister waited in line to have his car filled with gas just before a long holiday weekend. The attendant worked quickly, but there were many cars ahead of him in front of the service station. Finally, the attendant motioned him toward a vacant pump. "Reverend," said the young man, "sorry about the delay. It seems as if everyone waits until the last minute to get ready for a long trip." The minister chuckled, "I know what you mean. It’s the same in my business."
Here is the description of this 15th tenet of our faith:
We believe that the Lord Jesus Christ will come again; that we who are alive at His coming shall not precede them that are asleep in Christ Jesus; but that, if we are abiding in Him, we shall be caught up with the risen saints to meet the Lord in the air, so that we shall ever be with the Lord.
These last two articles are easily the most popular subjects in the Bible. There is a natural worldwide fascination with ‘the future.’ People want to know what happens next. It is also one of the singular most important questions that mankind consistently asks themselves. What happens at the end? Many people are asking what happens when we die or when the world ends. Is there life after death? There are hundreds of books on the subject. These articles attempt answer those questions for the people of the Church of the Nazarene.
The study of end-times theology is called eschatology and these two articles answer the basic factual beliefs that the Nazarene Church can state.
While it is important to understand what it says, it is just as important to notice what the statements do not say. What these statements do not say is when each of these things is going to happen. They don’t give explicits as to timing or order. Essentially, the writers of this statement were trying to make sure that people understood that we are in no way attempting to prophesy or predict. Many people have looked bad in the past, trying to identify exactly what happens in what order or even to predict when these things would take place.
Theologians like Charles Wesley and Harold Camping have all made statements that the world was going to end, only to have to eat their words later. The Jehovah’s Witness have missed it on at least six separate occasions. The Seventh Day Adventists missed it twice. The Church of the Nazarene stated its beliefs in a way that they would not have to adapt them when things didn’t work out as planned. The statement includes only biblical facts, not interpretation of those facts.
What we know for sure is that Jesus Christ is coming again. He tells us Himself in John 14:1-3
“Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, so that where I am, there you may be also.”
Jesus was quite plain as He spoke with His disciples. He is coming again, and when He does we will go with Him. He wouldn’t have prepared a place for us if we weren’t going to join Him. Immediately following Jesus’ ascension into heaven, as the disciples were still gazing heavenward, two ‘men’ appeared to them (Acts 1:11):
They said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking up toward heaven? This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.”
Jesus rose into the clouds and He will return in the same way. How about the part where we will not precede those that are asleep in Christ? The ones that are asleep in Christ are all those that have died prior to His return that have accepted Him as their Savior. Now, I want you to understand that we are not talking about their spirits. Their spirits are already with Christ. The Bible is specifically talking about the bodies of those that have died prior to His return. 1 Thessalonians 4:13-17 is a great passage. Next week, we will look at hope, and I will use this verse again:
But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers and sisters, about those who have died, so that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have died. For this we declare to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will by no means precede those who have died. For the Lord himself, with a cry of command, with the archangel’s call and with the sound of God’s trumpet, will descend from heaven, and the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up in the clouds together with them to meet the Lord in the air; and so we will be with the Lord forever.