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The Rev. Dr. Benjamin Bernier: “Christian Essentials: Christ’s Coming”

November 16, 2016

From the Rev. Dr. Benjamin Bernier of Providence REC in Texas, here is an excellent sermon that speaks about the subject of Christ’s coming. Below you will find the full text of his message.

Christian Essentials: Christ’s Coming
25th Sunday after Trinity, 11/13/2016
Last Sunday we heard about the importance of truth and knowing God for the renewal of our life and our triumph over the powers of darkness by holding to the truth and the light of the Gospel of Christ.  Today we are coming to the conclusion of the Trinity season and with it this series of sermons presenting some principles essential for growth in the Christian life. This year the Season of Trinity is relatively long and therefore our lessons for today, the 25th Sunday after Trinity, are those appointed for the Sixth Sunday after Epiphany.  These lessons, as you heard them, focus our attention on the Lord’s instructions to the disciples in preparation for his Coming and the kind of life we are to live in this world in light of the implications of this blessed hope we have received as an essential truth revealed in the Gospel.

Perplexity fills our lives in this world. No matter how much we learn, or how much we stress ourselves, there is always so much more to know and more difficult things to comprehend. Therefore, is easy to feel overwhelmed by the task of making sense of life and its ultimate purpose.

On top of all these, we also have to struggle with the various level of adversity in this fallen world. We find ourselves in a continual battle against the flesh, the world, and the devil. This situation makes it easy for us to lose sight of the goal set before us and be distracted into committing our time, efforts and talents to endeavors of lesser importance.
Therefore it is not a coincidence that during the last week of the Lord’s earthly ministry, Jesus committed to the disciples the most important elements of his message. It was at this time that the Lord foretold the destruction of Jerusalem and the difficulties the disciples would face in the future, living in this world in his absence and before his coming. Before ascending to heaven, Jesus not only promised his continual presence by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, whom he would pour upon them; but he also promised his final return in glory.

Jesus gave a family of parables all of which have as a central idea the notion of a long time of separation, which requires from us careful and prayerful stewardship over a long time in light of a final day of reckoning, followed by an eternal reward.

The servants in many of these parables must know they will come to judgment before their master to give an account of their stewardship over the small portion of authority and responsibility, to work with before the return of their master and final judgment.

The amount of responsibility varies in degrees. To whom much is given more is demanded. But in every case, the principle of judgment is the same. We shall be held accountable for our administration of God’s gifts.  And will be rewarded accordingly.

If we take to heart the word of God and live procuring the will of the father in every aspect of our lives, we will become more and more like Christ. We will be rewarded accordingly, with such eternal glory and blessings, that no one can even imagine it; if on the other hand, we forget the instructions of Christ, we will become engrossed in the business of this world. We will be overcome by the temptations of the flesh, the world, and the devil and will fail to serve our Master doing the will of the Father. Then we will be excluded from the kingdom and thrown into outer darkness, to share with the Devil and his angels, the awful eternity of exclusion from God’s presence and second death, which are too awful for us to imagine.

These are the only two alternatives for eternity, and within both, there are degrees of punishment as there are degrees of rewards. This situation is the framework of our lives from beginning to end. It never changes. We are reminded of it every time we confess the Creed: “He shall come again with glory, to judge the quick and the dead.” There is no second chance after the time for faithful stewardship is closed. The five foolish virgins were not allowed a second chance, the servant who hid his talent had no second chance, the servant unworthily dressed at the banquet, had no second chance.

There is only one time to make amendments. There is only one time to repent and be prepared. There is only one season while the door of the Ark is still open, before the coming of the flood. After the rain begins there is no more chance of going in or out.

When the Lord returns, it will be the end of history as we know it. Each person will reap as he has sown. Therefore these are his most important exhortations. The Lord gave them to prepare his servants to face this difficult season of testing and separation from the Master.

But a word of caution must be given. These prophecies revealing the future require correct interpretation. They are symbolic. We can fully comprehend them only after their final fulfillment. Therefore, we must be very careful to review our opinions concerning the meaning of these prophecies until their fulfillment is made manifest. Meanwhile, we must pay close attention to the essential principles they teach through these symbols, which apply universally, regardless of the details of the actual fulfillment.

First, note that the Lord warned his disciples to be prepared to face times of trouble, the intensity of which would be worse than anything they experienced before. The disciples lived through these trials as they experienced the awful difficulties leading to the destruction of Jerusalem, which was a type of the tribulation which shall precede the end of this age. In fulfillment of this prophecy, the faithful servants of Christ have experienced seasons of great affliction ever since the apostolic age to the present and will continue to do so until the time of Christ’s appearing. But, this prophecy also appears to reveal a short period of extreme persecution immediately before the Lord’s return.

So, it is in this context that the Lord warns against false Christs. There were many false Messiahs before the destruction of Jerusalem, who led the people to rebellion ending with the destruction of the city.

This precedent is one of those historical “parables” illustrating the danger of fleeing for safety into the hands of “saviors” who will lead us into worse conditions than those we were trying to avoid.

The image of Christ represents the figure of a Savior and a Ruler. But there is only one Savior. He warned us to beware of false saviors, claiming to be him, false teachers claiming to serve him and providing alternative ways to meet and follow him, different to the one way He taught.

Jesus warned us that these false Christs and false prophets would be able to perform deceptive signs and wonders; so convincing that if it were possible, they would even deceive the elect. In other words, Jesus foretold that these false prophets would convince multitudes.

This prophecy has been fulfilled again and again. It is verified as countless multitudes follow teachings contrary to the Gospel; convinced that these are pleasing to God and that there are many alternative paths to heaven as if all religions taught the same. Wherever you hear anything like this, remember the Lord’s warning about false Messiahs and prophets. There is only one Gospel, There is only one way. There is only one truth, and one life. No one goes to the Father except through Christ.

Jesus foretold these things so that we could identify them and would be ready to face them without falling victims of the strong delusion. Such delusion is strong because it lays upon those who fell prey to it a bondage with the strength of moral conviction. People become convinced that they are right when they are completely wrong; for the simple reason that they were willing to receive the teaching of false prophets instead of embracing the teaching of Christ without addition or subtraction.

If Christ is the Truth, there is nothing more important than seeking, receiving and following his teaching as the only foundation for our lives and discerning everything else in light of his word; never the other way around.

Christ said, do not look for me in the desert, do not look for me in the secret chambers. The coming of Christ will be like lightning from the East shining all the way to the West. It will be manifest from a distance. As birds of prey circling around a dead carcass, it will be visible from far away. These images represent visible, public and  undeniable signs.

Christ’s coming will not be in secret. Do not expect a secret rapture. It will not happen. The secret rapture is a new doctrine invented during the xix century, misinterpreting scriptures which were intended to direct the disciples to flee Jerusalem before its destruction.

They have an application to the church of all time in our duty to flee quickly from the snare of false prophets who would lead us to place our hope for the future in the protection of false Messiahs which will not be able to help us, nor save us. Beware of false Christs is one of the most urgent exhortations the Lord gave to the church in preparation for his coming.

Christ is our only refuge. We can only trust teachers who teach us faithfully the gospel of Christ and nothing else. In times of peace, we are to seek to be faithful to Christ alone, in times of trouble we are to find shelter in Christ alone. He is the only ark able to save us from the flood.

The time of tribulation culminates with dreadful signs: the darkening of the Sun, the darkening of the Moon, the falling of the Stars, and the powers of heaven shaken. These signs are symbolic of times of great distress, the Sun and Moon and the stars in prophetic language represent powers and authorities; the truth of the gospel, the church, and its teachers. It would seem that these symbols could indicate we are to expect times of global apostasy and persecution preceding the Lord’s final return; although we must be careful not to jump to conclusions, as I said in the beginning, the full meaning of these word will only be clear in light of their final fulfillment. Anyway, the principle revealed in this discourse is clear we must prepare and expect great troubles, persecution, deception and adversity before the coming of the Lord and must be ready to endure in all circumstances, even if the details as applied to every particular situation throughout redemptive history may vary.

Christ warned us about times of troubles and false Christs offering alternatives to the gospel before his coming. He told us before time so that we would arm ourselves against every form of deception by embracing and remaining faithful to his teaching.

As we read St. 1 John 3, in his epistle:

2 Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it does not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is. 3 And every man that has this hope in him purifies himself, even as he is pure.

Let us, therefore, prepare ourselves and live in the world in light of this glorious hope, given to the sons of God, knowing that it is true, we shall be like him for ever; so holding this hope, we are to purify ourselves from all defilement of error, living as faithful stewards looking forward to the day of the return of our Master, to whom be all honor and glory, now and forever. Amen.

 

by the Rev. Dr. Benjamin E. Bernier

 

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