Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Christ Is Surely Coming - Bible Study

Christ Is Surely Coming
Revelation 3:11; 22:7, 12, 20; 2 Corinthians 5:10; Ephesians 5:25–27
(Lutheran Service Book 509)
Text: Christopher M. Idle (1938 - )

Christ is surely coming
Bringing His reward,
Alpha and Omega,
First and Last and Lord:
Root and Stem of David,
Brilliant Morning Star;
Meet your judge and Savior,
Nations near and far!
Christopher M. Idle

See the holy city!
There they enter in,
All by Christ made holy,
Washed from ev’ry sin:
Thirsty ones, desiring
All He loves to give,
Come for living waters,
Freely drink, and live!

Grace be with God’s people!
Praise His holy name!
Father, Son, and Spirit,
Evermore the same;
Hear the certain promise
From the eternal home:
“Surely I come quickly!
Come, Lord Jesus , come!”

“Christ Is Surely Coming” was written by Christopher Idle, a minister of the Church of England. Its copy write is 1975 so you can tell it is Contemporary Christian Music, even if it isn’t pop music. Born in 1938, Idle is still alive, though retired. He was a prolific writer of hymns, composing at least 379 of them. Five of them are in Lutheran Service Worship: “In Silent Pain the Eternal Son” (LSB 432); “If Christ Had Not Been Raised from Death” (LSB 486); “Since Our Great High Priest, Christ Jesus” (LSB 529); “The Saints in Christ Are One in Every Place” (LSB 838); and of course “Christ Is Surely Coming.” This particular hymn was selected as one worth learning by our hymnal review committee and we did learn it a while back.

The opening line reminds us that “Christ is surely coming.” While we don’t know the date of this end of the world event, we do know it is “soon,” as God reckons it.

I am coming soon. Hold fast what you have, so that no one may seize your crown. (Revelation 3:11)

“And behold, I am coming soon. Blessed is the one who keeps the words of the prophecy of this book.” (Revelation 22:7)

“Behold, I am coming soon, bringing my recompense with me, to repay each one for what he has done. (Revelation 22:12)

He who testifies to these things says, “Surely I am coming soon.” Amen. Come, Lord Jesus! (Revelation 22:20 )

He can actually come at any time, at any moment. But God’s “soon” is not the same as our “soon.” Matthew 25:19 even lets us know that, from our point of view, it will be a long time.

In the Revelation 3:11 and 22:7 passages quoted above we are given the same basic instruction about what we are to do while we look forward to the Second Coming. We are to cling to the prophecies in Scripture, believe them, and live as faithful Christians. In Revelation 22:10 we are promised that those who believe receive “the crown of life” as their reward. So the second line of the hymn reminds us that, when Christ returns, he will bring with him his reward.

In Revelation 3:11 (above) the phrase “Hold fast” is an imperative. That is to say, it isn’t a suggestion but a command. What is it that we “have” that insures that we receive the “crown of life”? It is, of course, the Gospel. Jesus said:

“My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of My hand” (John 10:27–28)

When we flesh out “the Gospel” we have to say more than “the Bible.” The Bible contains both Law and Gospel. The Law is vital, but it doesn’t save us. The Gospel is about all God has done, is doing, and continues to do to grant us faith and keep us in the one true faith. That includes our Baptism, the Lord’s Supper, the message of his love and grace in the Bible, even something like the Nicene Creed. We don’t reject the Law for it prepares us for the Gospel and guides us in our life but, in the end, the Law without the Gospel only condemns us. When we cling to the Gospel no one can seize our crown.

Because the Law condemns us we are left with something of a paradox. The Law informs us that we are sinners, unworthy of anything good from God. The Gospel, on the other hand, teaches that we are saints by grace through faith. Therefore Christians are, at the same time, both sinners and saints. We still sin by thought, word and deed. In deed John can write, “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us” (1 John 1:8). In fact John says that if we claim we have no sin it is the same thing as calling God a liar (1 John 1:10). However the Gospel makes us saints, holy, without sin. So 1 John 1:9 says, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” Through repentance, faith in Christ, the Lord’s Supper, Confession of our sins and Absolution, we are totally forgiven and are saints. We are justified, declared righteous. So, on the Last Day, we will not have any sin clinging to us.

Paul writes, “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil” (2 Corinthians 5:10). Such words might be terrifying, except for the gift of forgiveness. There will be no “evil” in us to be condemned on the Last Day because of Christ. He took that judgment when he died on the cross. Because he has declared us righteous, because he has continually lavished his forgiveness on us through word and sacrament, we receive the crown of righteousness.

In Ephesians 5:25-27 Paul is writing about the marriage relationship. He uses the analogy of Christ’s relationship to Christians to expound on how husbands are to love their wives. Here we are interested in that relationship between Christ and his church.

25    Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, 26that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, 27so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.

Here we see that Christ is presenting his church at the end of the world “in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing … holy and without blemish.” The “washing of water with the word” is baptism. This makes baptism a gift from God to us, it is Gospel. We sing in the last verse “Grace be with God’s people.” That grace washes away of sins and enables us to enter the “holy city” as saints. I might also add, that is why our worship services are so focused on God giving us this great gift of grace, forgiveness.

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