This We Believe
IX. Jesus’ return and the judgement
1. We believe that Jesus, true God and true man, who rose from death and ascended to the right hand of the Father, will come again. He will return visibly, in the same way as his disciples saw him go into heaven (Acts 1:11).
2. We believe that no one can know the exact time of Jesus’ return. This knowledge is hidden even from the angels in heaven (Matthew 24:36). Nevertheless, our Lord has given signs to his believers to keep them in constant expectation of his return (Matthew 24:4-14). He has told them to be alert and to watch so that day will not come upon them unexpectedly (Luke 21:34).
3. We believe that at Jesus’ return this present world will come to an end. “In keeping with his promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, the home of righteousness” (2 Peter 3:13).
4. We believe that when Jesus returns and his voice is heard throughout the earth, all the dead will rise, that is, their souls will be reunited with their bodies (John 5:28,29). Together with those still living, the resurrected will appear before his throne of judgment. The unbelievers will be condemned to an eternity in hell. Those who by faith have been cleansed in the blood of Christ will be glorified and will live with Jesus forever in the blessed presence of God in heaven (Philippians 3:21).
5. We reject the teaching that Christ will reign on earth for a thousand years in a physical, earthly kingdom. This teaching (millennialism) has no valid scriptural basis and falsely leads Christians to set their hopes upon an earthly kingdom of Christ (John 18:36). We reject as unscriptural any claim that Christians will be physically removed, or “raptured,” from the earth prior to judgment day. We likewise reject as unscriptural any claim that all the Jews will be converted in the final days.
6. We reject the teaching that Christians should look for one individual to arise in the end times as the great Antichrist. The characteristics of the Antichrist as presented in Scripture have been and are being fulfilled in the institution of the papacy (2 Thessalonians 2:4-10). We reject the opinion that the identification of the papacy with the Antichrist was merely a historical judgment valid only at the time of the Reformation.
7. We reject any denial of a bodily resurrection and of the reality and eternity of hell. We reject the teaching that the souls of people who have died return to earth in other bodies (reincarnation) (Hebrews 9:27).
8. We reject all attempts to interpret the New Testament descriptions of Jesus’ second coming, of the end of the world, and of the judgment as mere figures of speech for events that take place not at the end of time but within the ongoing history of the world.
This is what Scripture teaches about Jesus’ return and the judgment. This we believe, teach and confess.
This We Believe © 1999 Northwestern Publishing House, Milwaukee WI.
The Lutheran church recognizes three ancient creeds as accurate expressions of Bible teaching: the Apostles’ Creed, the Nicene Creed, and the Athanasian Creed.
Luther and others authored the six Lutheran confessions—to which we as WELS Lutherans still subscribe today because we believe they are a correct explanation of biblical truth.