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And He Will Come Again in Glory

October 27, 2013

second-coming-icon-detail01smIn the Creed, we confess that our Savior will come again in glory. And through this confession, we proclaim with joyful voices that all the wondrous and extraordinary truths we believe concerning our compassionate God will one day, the proverbial day of the Lord, be as manifest as the sun, making daylight pale into darkness by comparison. Many Christians today become fearful with an unsettling foreboding when they think about the end times, because they focus on the anti-Christ with all his futile machinations, instead of on Christ totally victorious with utter ease on that last, great day. The creed, however, teaches us not to focus on the Anti-Christ, wars, tribulations, and chaos by not explicitly mentioning any of these future calamities. On the contrary, the creed keeps our eyes focused on Christ alone, our source of strength, peace, and everlasting life, yesterday, today, and forever.

In the early Church, Christians understood the creed, lived by the creed, and interpreted things present and things to come by means of the truths contained therein. For them, the end times were not a source of worry about survival, speculations about when the anti-Christ will appear, or prophecy hunting to make sense of current events. No, the end times and the book of Revelation were about Christ being revealed at the end of time to everyone as the God of all. And at the thought of this, early Christian hearts were filled with joy and peace of mind, not distress and insecurity. Metropolitan Hilarion Alfeyev has commented on this hopeful attitude in his catechism, “By contrast, New Testament and patristic eschatology is one of hope and assurance: it was Christ-centered rather than Antichrist-centered. When the apostles speak in their epistles of the nearness of Christ’s Second Coming, they do it with great enthusiasm and hopefulness. They were not very much interested in the chronological nearness of the Second Coming; more importantly, they lived with a constant feeling of Christ’s presence (the Greek word for ‘coming’, parousia, also means ‘presence’). The early Church lived not by fear at the coming of the Antichrist, but by the joyous expectation of the encounter with Christ when the history of the world would end. The eschatological ‘last times’ begin at the very moment of the Incarnation of the Son of God and will continue right up until His Second Coming. The ‘mystery of lawlessness’, of which St Paul speaks, is already ‘at work’ (2 Thessalonians 2:7); it will be more and more clearly revealed in history. Together with the uncovering of evil, however, there will also be the activity of humanity’s inner preparation to encounter its Saviour. The battle between Christ and the Antichrist will end with the former’s glorious victory. The sight of Christians is directed to this victory, not to the time of turmoil that will precede it, a time which has, in fact, already begun and may continue for a long time to come.”

Christians proclaiming this article of the Creed hear in it their Savior’s holy words, “the Son of man shall come in His glory, and all the holy angels with Him, then shall He sit upon the throne of his glory” (Matthew 25: 31) and are assured that everything Christ promised us will come to pass: “the kingdom of heaven, light without evening, heavenly adoption as sons, celestial dwellings, and a divine and eternal way of life, and even more than this: for we shall be ‘heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ’ (Romans 8:17), and ‘I am come’, says the Lord, ‘that ye might have life, and that ye might have it more abundantly (cf. John 10:10). These are not resounding but empty phrases, nor just a litany of vain words, but an account of the changing things actually stored up as prizes for those who believe and live according to Christ” (Saint Gregory Palamas, Homily 54). This is why this article of the creed fills the heart of the Christian with ineffable joy.

In reflecting upon this article of the Creed, we should ask ourselves an important question: do we ourselves share the joy and the anticipation of the early Christians and the fathers concerning the return of Christ? If the answer is no, it means that we have adopted another set of core beliefs about ourselves and our world that make us dread this glorious coming of our Lord and Savior. I would suspect the issue is related to our attachments to earthly things, our human relationships, our way of life, our possessions, and a lack of appreciation that we are mere pilgrims on this earth. Perhaps our core beliefs remain darkened by the alluring passions to the extent that we are unable to see, to feel, and to live from the abundance of God’s ineffable love and care for us.

The second coming of Christ, when understood properly, enlivens us with hope, joy, and anticipation, for it will be an encounter with Love that has overcome every trial, every obstacle, and every weakness. For Christian believers, “And He will come again in glory” means that the “The Lamb which is in the midst of the throne shall feed them, and shall lead them unto living fountains of waters: and God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes” (Revelation 7:17). That “He will come in glory” assures us of the truth “That the trial of our faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ: Whom having not seen, we love; in whom, though now we see Him not, yet believing, we rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory (1 Peter 1:7-8). And so, His coming in glory means that we are ultimately optimistic and hopeful as we follow the path of Christ. That second coming on the great day of the Lord becomes a prayer for our transformation beginning today. In the words of Saint Gregory Palamas, “May it be that we, too, who follow Him, now by leading lives pleasing to God, and in the future age by beholding the promised, ineffable and eternal good things, shall be united with Him and become coeternal with Him, together with holy angels and men, glorifying Him with the Father and Spirit now and ever unto endless ages. Amen.”

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