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Confession of Faith - Article 24: The Reign of God
We place our hope in the reign of God and in its fulfillment in the day when Christ our ascended Lord will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead. He will gather his church, already living under the reign of God according to the pattern of God's future. We believe in God's final victory, in the end of this present age of struggle between good and evil, in the resurrection of the dead, and in the appearance of a new heaven and a new earth. There the people of God will reign with Christ in justice, righteousness, and peace.
We believe that God, who created the universe, continues to rule over it in wisdom, patience, and justice, though sinful creation has not yet recognized God's rule. Faithful Israel acclaimed God as king and looked forward to the fullness of God's kingdom.1 We affirm that, in Jesus' ministry, death, and resurrection, the time of fulfillment has begun.2 Jesus proclaimed both the nearness of God's reign and its future realization, its healing and its judgment. In his life and teaching, he showed that God's reign included the poor, outcasts, the persecuted, those who were like children, and those with faith like a mustard seed.3 For this kingdom, God has appointed Jesus Christ as king and Lord.4
We believe that the church is called to live now according to the model of the future reign of God. Thus, we are given a foretaste of the kingdom that God will one day establish in full. The church is to be a spiritual, social, and economic reality,5 demonstrating now the justice, righteousness, love, and peace of the age to come. The church does this in obedience to its Lord and in anticipation that the kingdom of this world will become the kingdom of our Lord.6
We believe that, just as God raised Jesus from the dead, we also will be raised from the dead.7 At Christ's glorious coming again for judgment, the dead will come out of their graves"--those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of condemnation."8 The righteous will rise to eternal life with God, and the unrighteous to hell and separation from God. Thus, God will bring justice to the persecuted and will confirm the victory over sin, evil, and death itself.
We look forward to the coming of a new heaven and a new earth, and a new Jerusalem, where the people of God will no longer hunger, thirst, or cry,9 but will sing praises: "To the One seated on the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever! Amen!"10
The church is called to live now under the rule of God as a witness to the reign of God. Our life together now is to be patterned after our life together in the age to come. This means that the reign of God is relevant to this world, and the ethics of God's rule should not be postponed to some future time. Yet the church is not identical with the kingdom, or reign, of God. Nor must the church harbor illusions that it can bring about the kingdom fully in the present age, either all at once or by gradually improving conditions in this world.
For some, the idea of God's final judgment is problematic, because it seems to emphasize God's wrath at the expense of God's love and mercy. God's loving patience is so great that God will not coerce anyone into covenant relationship, but will allow those who reject it to remain separated from God. Moreover, God's justice means that unrepentant evildoers will not go unpunished. Those who are suffering for righteousness' sake can look forward to the coming reign of God as a time of vindication and rescue from evil (Psalms 37; Revelation 6:9-11). In the age to come, there will be surprising reversals as the powerful are brought down and the lowly lifted up (Luke 1:52-53; see also Luke 3:5).
This justice for God's people involves the resurrection of the dead and eternal life for those who believe in Christ (John 6:40; 11:25-26). Just as God raised Jesus from the dead, so those who belong to Christ will be raised from death to life (1 Corinthians 15:15-21). Now we follow Christ in our mortal bodies; we look forward to life in Christ with new, resurrected bodies (1 Corinthians 15:35-57).
The New Testament says much about the resurrection. It speaks much less frequently and clearly about the state of persons between the time of their deaths and the resurrection. Yet, we who are in Christ are assured that not even death can separate us from the love of God (Romans 8:38-39).
Both in the present age and in the age to come, the city of God has a political and social aspect. It is a corporate body, ruled by God through Christ its Lord. Even in the age to come, the city of God is not a disembodied spiritual entity, but participates in the new earth as well as the new heaven. See "The Church's Relation to Government and Society" (Article 23).
Jesus counseled his followers against trying to set dates for the coming age (Matthew 24:36). We should also be cautious about too narrowly identifying persons, places, or events of the end times with particular people, places, and happenings of the present. Instead, God's people should always live in righteousness, praising God, following Christ, led by the Spirit, awaiting in hope the coming of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
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- Exodus 15:8; Judges 8:23; Zechariah 14:9.
- Mark 1:15.
- Matthew 5:10; 8:10-12; 17:20; 21:31; Luke 6:20.
- Psalms 2:7; Mark 1:11; Phillipians 2:9.
- Acts 2:41-47.
- Revelation 11:15; 15:3-4.
- 1 Corinthians 15:12-58.
- John 5:28-29.
- Revelation 21:1-4; 7:9-17.
- Revelation 5:13-14.