(Last Judgement- Fresco by Michelangelo)
Devotional using scripture, quote from John Calvin and thoughts for the day each day- on the 500th anniversary of Calvin's birth. This week: Calvin on Eschatology.
12/14- The Second Coming
31 "When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. 32 All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33 He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left. 34 "Then the King will say to those on his right, 'Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world.
Calvin Abridged (from Commentary on the Harmony of the Gospels): Believers, in order to encourage themselves to a holy and upright conduct, ought to contemplate with the eyes of faith the heavenly life, which, though it is now concealed, will be revealed at the last coming of Christ. Christ will immediately set up his throne without delay (“and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne”). He writes this to encourage the disciples so that they would not grow weary at the delay of his coming. Though Christ reigns in heaven at the right hand of the Father, yet he has not erected his throne in the eyes of the people of earth. What we experience by faith now as a taste will have its full effect. Now Christ reigns to restrain his enemies and protect the Church, but then he will appear openly, to establish a perfect order in heaven and earth, to crush his enemies under his feet, to assemble his believing people to partake of an everlasting and blessed life, to ascend to the judgment seat. It will be made clear why the kingdom was given to him by the Father. “Come in glory” contrasts with when he walked this earth as a mortal and a despised servant, concealing his glory. 32- “All nations will be assembled before him”- The disciples would have been satisfied that their nation alone was delivered from oppression. But Christ’s kingdom is much larger, and He will judge the whole world. To encourage them in holiness, he assures them that the good and bad will not share alike, but there will be a separation [as sheep from goats]. His kingdom is fully established when the righteous receive a crown of glory and the wicked are punished with the reward they deserve. Today the sheep and the goats, the righteous and the wicked are mixed together in the same flock of God (cf. Ezek. 34:18). Believers 1) ought not to think their lives to hard even if it is mixed with the wicked who annoy or attack them; 2) should watch out that they are not infected with the vices of the wicked; 3) need to know their holiness and work is not wasted. 34- “Come, you blessed by my Father”- Christ has a purpose here; he wants his disciples to rest satisfied now with hope, that they have peace as they look for the heavenly kingdom. He also encourages them to work earnestly and not become wearied. Salvation comes from a higher course- from the blessing of the Father. “Come you who are blessed” is taken from natural life (eg. Laban to Abraham’s servant- Gen. 24:31). The salvation of the godly begins with the undeserved love of God which had been preparing the kingdom from the beginning of the world, and now invites us (and predestines us) into that kingdom of life. Christ doesn’t give the kingdom to them as if they earned it, but as an inheritance is given to heirs. This preparation makes our salvation certain and encourages us to persevere with hope.
Thoughts: I can remember sitting in seminary (my last and seventh year- getting my doctorate) and being shocked that one of my professors actually believed in the second coming of Christ. Even though it is a part of the ancient creeds (Apostles and Nicene) and it is throughout the teachings of the Old and New Testaments and on the lips of Christ himself. There are just so many who believe God doesn’t really do anything supernatural, why would they believe in the ultimate supernatural thing- His coming into history one more time but in glory and power. There is an illusion in the western world that we want this life to go on forever. We disguise aging (makeup, contacts, false teeth, Botox, coloring for our hair). We disguise death by embalming, makeup, and we do not have the all night wakes (not that I really want that). But this life, if we look closely, has a lot of problems. There is no family that is immune from craziness or sin (so evident in the holidays). There is an illusion that God does not care or is powerless to help us. But there will come a time when God sets everything straight. The political maneuvering to get ahead in this world, and its subjectivism, will be brought low. How I have longed for referees to be really fair and see the call really clearly. How I long for the Heisman votes to be done correctly. Our judgments are clouded, the best person often does not win, and the wicked are sometimes lifted up. But we reap what we sow. We see glimpses of this now (a la Tiger Woods- the greatest golfer giving up golf for past sins; and a potential presidential candidate- Sanford- being rebuked). Yet sometimes the wicked appear to get away with things, and the righteous are oppressed. But God is not dead nor doth He sleep. Heaven is our hope, He comes one day to set it all straight.
Prayer: Your presence, Lord, corrects wrongs and strengthens us to do what is right. Help us to be away of your presence with us now, and to long for your full presence praying, “Come Lord Jesus!”