The Oscars are over, and Daniel Day Lewis won the best actor award for his portrayal of our 16th President in “Lincoln.” Somewhere over the Atlantic, I treated myself to the movie, thoroughly impressed at how it captured a period that has always fired my imagination. (Bill O’Reilly’s Killing Lincoln was one of my favorite reads from last year, a book my dad and mom enjoyed and that kept me up until 2 a.m. one morning when visiting them).
Most of us know at least part of the famous “Gettysburg Address.” Far fewer are familiar with the majestic cadences of Abraham Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address. Delivered on March 4, 1865, the speech is now engraved on the right wall of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C. After climbing the long stairs leading up to the shrine, I snapped this shot of the speech:
Dr. Eugénio R. Duarte (pronounced DEW ART) is one of six General Superintendents in the Church of the Nazarene. His meditation (below) is part of the “We Believe” series on Nazarene beliefs, widely distributed via e-mail by the Board of General Superintendents.
We believe … that our Lord will return,
the dead will be raised,
and the final judgment will take place.
Growing up in a community greatly affected by emigration, I observed early on the struggle some experienced between wanting to stay home with loved ones and their need to leave. In fact those who were able to depart in search of a better life were considered brave; emigration became a mark of prestige. My older brother left the day before he would have been recruited to serve in the army. Many ran away out of fear of dying in battle.
My brother promised that he would return home. We waited for many years. Then one day we learned that he had passed away, and our hope of seeing him again vanished. We could never be certain about his real desire to return or even his ability to fulfill his promise. This is an oft-repeated human tragedy.
Unlike humans, Jesus is always able and willing to fulfill His promises. The promise of His return was made with unswerving confidence. “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am” (John 14:1–3, NIV).
Theologians do not agree on details surrounding the second coming of Jesus; they have differing views about the order of eschatological events. But there is unequivocal agreement that Jesus is coming again because in His own words and in other parts of the Scriptures it is clear that He will return. In fact the Bible ends with Jesus’ words, “I am coming soon,” followed by the Church’s “Amen. Come, Lord Jesus” (Revelation 22:20, NIV).
Our belief in the second coming of Jesus is also firmly supported by God’s promise of His victory over all sin, death, pain, afflictions, and injustice. To see the Lord Jesus when He comes—whether we are raised from the dead or found alive in Him—will be cause for great celebration.
The spirit of hope and celebration with which 1 Thessalonians 4:15–17 proclaims His return must be accompanied by the declaration in Romans 2:1–16 that Jesus will judge the world. Those who refuse to know and confess Him as Lord will miss not only this moment of celebration at His coming, but also the eternal joy of being with the Lord forever. The reality of unbelievers having to face the unbiased Judge should prompt the Church to share the good news with everyone and to disciple all who come to know and love Jesus.
Let the Church say AMEN to the announced return of the Lord!
“On the third day he rose again from the dead; he ascended into heaven, and is seated at the right hand of God the Father Almighty; from there he will come to judge the living and the dead.” (The Apostles’ Creed)