Theological Primer for Counselors: The Return of Christ

Today, we finish our brief series covering the ten basic categories of theology and relating them to our walk with the Lord and to our personal ministry of the Word of God to one another. Today, let’s think about the doctrine of end times (eschatology), specifically the return of Christ as a proper motivation toward godliness.

The Return of Jesus Christ

Relative to counseling, the future return of Christ is a motivation toward godliness. The Apostle Peter includes the hope of Christ’s return as an essential part of the believer’s thinking, which must be disciplined in order to be sanctified. We are called to fix our “hope completely” on the fullness of “the grace to be brought” to us (1 Peter 1:13). This is a perfect hope that focuses our attention on Jesus and the promise of His full revelation at His coming. The phrase “grace to be brought” is originally in the present tense, which means it is a grace that is being brought to us, that is, grace that is coming and is now within our grasp. According to Titus 2:11–13, this empowering grace compels us to live godly while we look for His coming: “For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men, instructing us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus.” Notice the past, present, and future grace mentioned in these verses. The past grace of God has already appeared and has brought salvation to mankind. Future grace will be fully revealed when the Lord Jesus returns. However, sandwiched between the past and the future, God also supplies present grace. This present grace is constantly “instructing us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age.” In other words, biblical grace does not lead us toward licentiousness. Instead, it sanctifies. It leads us away from sin and toward righteousness. This present grace is a foretaste of the consummation of our salvation, which will take place when Jesus returns. To be holy, we must renew our minds with this “blessed hope.”

Merrill Unger defines hope as the “expectation of good … a joyful and contented expectation of eternal salvation.” It is a confident expectation that is based on the truth of the gospel and the promises of God in Christ Jesus. He Himself “is our hope” (1 Timothy 1:1) and God the Father “has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead” (1 Peter 1:3). He raised Jesus “from the dead and gave Him glory, so that [our] faith and hope are in God” (1 Peter 1:21). And since we are “heirs according to the hope of eternal life” (Titus 3:7), we must, necessarily, gird our minds for action; “everyone who has this hope fixed on Him purifies himself, just as He is pure” (1 John 3:3). As followers of Christ who continue to pursue holiness, we can be confident of the final completion of our sanctification that will take place when we see Jesus face to face. “Beloved, now we are children of God, and it has not appeared as yet what we will be. We know that when He appears, we will be like Him, because we will see Him just as He is” (1 John 3:2).

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