St. George
Serbian Orthodox Church
Carmichaels, PA

The Second Coming of the Lord Jesus Christ

by Fr. Rodney Torbic


Each time the Divine Liturgy is held, Orthodox Christians recite the Nicean-Constantinopolitan Creed. As the Creed moves toward the conclusion, the following words are found: "He shall come again to judge the living and the dead; whose Kingdom shall have no end." i

The first time Christians recite the Nicean-Constantinopolitan Creed is at Holy Baptism. ii The recitation of The Creed at Holy Baptism and on each subsequent occasion is a major profession of faith.

Orthodox believers are expected to live in ways reflecting The Creed. Orthodox Christians are expected to be resolute in this faith. Orthodox Christians profess The Creed that was established centuries earlier.

Protopresbyter Stavrofor Dr. Mateja Matejic in his book Orthodoxy: Courage To Be Different-Strength to Remain the Same states The Creed was developed by the First and Second General Councils held in Nicea in 325 and Constantinople in 381. iii

Contemporary Orthodox believers are not to take Baptism lightly. Baptism is a time of serious commitment. The person's identity changes forever. The believer is united with Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ is professed as King and as God. iv

From Holy Baptism until departure from this life, the believer is expected to be faithful to Christ. When straying from ways pleasing to Christ, the believer is expected to repent and return to the way of Christ.

After fasting forty days and forty nights, Jesus Christ began to preach and to say: "Repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand." (Mt. 4:1-17). The kingdom of heaven should always be on the minds of believers. The Second Coming of Jesus Christ should always be on the minds of believers.

We do not know the end of our earthly days. We only have our earthly days while our minds are good to be able to repent and seek the kingdom of God. Jesus Christ said seeking the kingdom of God should be our foremost priority in life. (Mt.6:33)

The Holy Apostle Paul stated we should pray without ceasing. (I Thess. 5:17). Remaining faithful to Christ from Holy Baptism to our departure from this life is fraught with difficulties and is a challenge. Prayer certainly is essential in remaining true to Christ.

Temptations and distractions arise during the course of life. An individual can get bogged down with daily concerns and fail to keep the proper perspective. Family pressures and concerns, economic conditions, health concerns, and world events can complete for the attention of believers.

Stimuli in the life of the believer requires sorting out. The believer needs to keep Christ first. The believer needs to be attentive to his or her family and loved ones. The believer needs to be attentive to his or her responsibilities in gainful employment. The believer needs to tend to his or her health.

The Second Coming of Jesus Christ is going to happen. Each day we draw closer to the Second Coming. We do not know the day nor the hour. We are called upon to watch and be ready.

Our Lord Jesus Christ put believers on notice to be ready when He said: "Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour in which the Son of Man is coming." (Mt. 25:13).

In a lesson about the kingdom of God, The Holy Gospel tells us five virgins were wise and were ready for the bridegroom to come. Five virgins were foolish and procrastinated. The unprepared virgins were denied entry to the wedding. (Mt.25:1-12). If we are not ready for Christ's Second Coming in the way we live, we will be denied entry to the kingdom.

Each year Orthodox believers hear the Gospel of the Last Judgement as Great Lent approaches. The 2006 Calendar prepared by the Clergy Brotherhood of the Serbian Orthodox Church in the United States and Canada shows February 13/26, as the date for Meatfare Sunday, the day the Gospel of St.Matthew was read (Mt. 25:31-46).

Our Lord Jesus Christ is very definitive in describing His Second Coming and the Judgement to occur. He states all nations will be before Him and He will separate them one from another, as sheep from goats. (Mt. 25:32).

The hungry, the thirsty the sick, the stranger, the imprisoned are specifically identified with the Lord Jesus Christ (Mt. 25:34-40).

Believers constantly must be alert in the treatment of people met during life. We are going to be judged by the way we treat others. The Lord's Prayer equates our forgiveness of others with the forgiveness of God. We say "forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us." v

From the time of our Baptism to the time of our departure from this life, we build a record that God knows. God knows the contents of our hearts. (Acts.1:24) St. Bishop NIKOLAI wrote in Prayers by the Lake: "How dreadful is the depth of the soul of man, O Bride of Heaven, when a man dares to plunge into her." vi

How many of us take time to full utilize the opportunity for Holy Confession during Great Lent? How many of us are willing to take full responsibility for our sinfulness?

We each have twenty four hours in a given day. What portion of each day is given to preparation for Jesus Christ's Second Coming? How many days pass without a moment of thought in preparation for Jesus Christs' Second Coming?

Cumulatively, how much thought has each of us given to the Second Coming of Jesus Christ. The book of Revelation draws to a conclusion with the words: "Come Lord Jesus!" (Rev. 22:20)

How many homes are ready for the Second Coming of Jesus Christ? How many families are ready for the Second Coming of Jesus Christ? How many families ever discuss the Second Coming of Jesus Christ?

What is the attitude we maintain about the Second Coming? In what condition will we be? Do we think the Second Coming is well beyond our earthly life? Do we live as if the Second Coming is beyond our earthly life and not something about which to be concerned?

Our Lord Jesus Christ, speaking about the Second Coming said: "But as the days of Noah were, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be." (Mt. 24:37)

Many years ago Proto Radovan Milkovich gave a sermon entitled "A God Too Small" vii From the time our Holy Baptism until the time of our departure from this life, do we consciously work at knowing more about God?

Has our understanding of God developed and matured as we have grown older chronologically? Has our understanding of God been in a state of "arrested development" meaning that we basically know no more about God as an adult than we did as a child?

Does our understanding of God include the element of "judgement" included in the Creed? What will be the evidence in our behalf? Who will be the supporting witnesses in our favor? At the final judgement, the time for appeals will have been exhausted.

The Holy Scriptures provide written authoritative accounts of God through history. In the Holy Scriptures we can learn more about the Second Coming of the Lord Jesus Christ.

With the finality that is associated with the Second Coming of Jesus Christ, can we in this life afford not to study the Holy Scriptures more?

In the Gospel of St.Matthew, our Lord Jesus Christ speaks of two alternative outcomes at the Second Coming. The description of the desirable outcome is stated in this way: "Then the King will say to those on His right hand, 'Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for from the foundation of the world.'" (Mt. 2534).

The second alternative is more ominous: "'Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me.' And these will go away into everlasting punishment, but the righteous to eternal life." (Mt. 25:45-46)

Our relationship with Jesus Christ is the determinant for the final judgement. We start out at Holy Baptism with the best of intentions. Baptisms are times of great joy.

It would be interesting to do a study during a set period of time on the faithfulness of believers following Holy Baptism. A certain percentage of baptized never return to church after baptism. Some never overtly practice a Christian way of life. A certain percentage practice for a period of time and fall away.Another percentage are faithful and grow as healthy Orthodox Christians.

The parable of the Sower is an important lesson for all believers (MT. 13:1-23). The soil of our hearts affects whether Christ grows in our hearts. The way we deal with the cares, attractions and distractions of this world affects whether we remain true to Christ.

At times we may find great joy in being a Christian. At other times when difficulties, stress and hardship enter life, we may relinquish our faith and give in to despondency.

The Cross of Christ can help in times of trouble. Hardship, stress, and difficulties can be dealt with successfully if we look to the Holy Martyrs. Life does not stand still and remain frozen at Holy Baptism. Time passes. Life decisions are made and have a cumulative effect.

Not everyone will be fortunate like the good thief on the Cross who turned to Jesus at the last hour and said: "Lord, remember me when You come into Your kingdom." (Lk. 23:42).

We do not know when our lives will end. We do not know when an accident will occur, a tragedy will strike, a illness will bring our lives swiftly and unexpectely to an end. Procrastination regarding repentance is risky.The Gospel of St. Matthew states "narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it." (Mt. 7:14).

From Baptism as an infant until departure from this life, a believer can expect to live at least seventy or eighty years according to the Psalmist (Ps. 89/90:10).

Many people depart this life much younger than seventy years. Many people live well beyond eighty years. Regardless of the length of our lives, patient endurance and sound choices in following Christ are necessary to avoid the wide path to destruction. (Mt. 7:13)

Judgement is not simply referred to in the New Testament. Centuries before the Lord Jesus Christ took on human flesh, the Holy Prophet Isaiah said: "The Lord of hosts shall be exalted in judgment, and God who is holy shall be hallowed in righteousness." (Is. 5:16)

Psalm 75 contains words of judgement: "When I choose the proper time, I will judge uprightly." (Ps. 75:2) Blessed Augustine commenting on Psalm 75:2 as related to Jesus Christ wrote centuries ago "According to His nature as Son of God, He hath never received power of judging, because He never lacked power of judging; according to His nature as Son of Man He hath received a time, as of being born, and of suffering, as of dying, and of rising again, and of ascending, so of coming and of judging." viii

Troparia and kontakia express the theology of the Church. Troparia and kontakia are summary statements used in the liturgical life of the Church. The troparia and kontakia teach and function liturgically in expressing and forming a part of the services of the Church.

The kontakion of the Sunday of Last Judgement-Meatfare Sunday brings together in a few sentences a capsule view of what Christians can expect at the Second Coming of Jesus Christ.

The kontakion for Meatfare Sunday states:
When Thou, O God, shalt come to earth with glory, all things
shall tremble and the river of fire shall flow before Thy Judgment
Seat; the Books shall be opened and the hidden things disclosed.
Then deliver me from the unquenchable fire and make me worthy
to stand at They right hand, O Righteous Judge. ix

The Holy Orthodox Church puts this kontakion before believers at the Holy Divine Liturgy as Great Lent approaches. Believers are expected to make good use of the time remaining in life.

In the Matins service in The Lenten Triodion for the Sunday of the Last Judgement, believers are reminded that sins are not hidden from God, that eloquence will not fool God.

For those believers choosing to attend the Matins service, they will hear the definitive words: "Thy judgement is without respect of person; no cunning argument or skill in eloquence can deceive Thy jugdgement-seat; false witnesses cannot pervert Thy sentence. For in Thy sight, O God, every secret stands revealed." x

Based on the content of the Matins service, believers need to be cognizant that all sins come before God as part of the final judgement. Degree of wealth or poverty, social standing, ethnic or racial background will have no bearing on the final outcome.

People familiar with the contemporary criminal justice system know that sentences are not always rendered evenly. St. John Chrysostom in discussing Jesus' description of the Last Judgement speaks about the equality and justice in sentences rendered. xi

There is consolation in knowing that God is a Just Judge...The Fair and Impartial Judge. Given our own degree of sinfulness, it is good to know of the fairness of sentencing we each face.

Even with knowing the fairness of sentencing, there is reason for trepidation.We take on great responsibility at Baptism. The more we know about God, the more we are exposed to the teachings of the Church, the more we are to be held accountable.

The Gospel of St. Luke contains words of Jesus Christ indicative of the way justice will be rendered. Our Lord said: "For everyone to whom much is given, from him much will be required; and to whom much has been committed, of him they will ask the more." (Lk. 12:48)

Individuals given many talents from God will be held more accountable for what they do with those multiple talents than those with less talents. Our Lord looks to what we do with the talents and resources we have.

Our Lord praised the widow for putting in two mites into the treasury because she put in all that she had. Others gave more out of their abundance. The widow gave her whole livelihood and her contribution was held up as the example by the Lord Jesus Christ. (Mk. 12:41-44)

When assessing our course through life from Baptism to departure from this life, we do well to consider the words of Father Justin Popovich describing Christ, the God-man, as "the most valuable being and the measure of all things." xii If we honestly measure all that we do, have done and plan to do by the Life and Teachings of Jesus Christ, we will come to the conclusion of what remains to be done.

Holy Confession and Holy Communion give us the opportunity to redirect the course of our lives. Holy Confession and Holy Communion give us the opportunity to come to Christ while time remains to put our lives in order.

The joy over a returning believer who has fallen away is well-documented in the Gospel of St. Luke. The Lord Jesus Christ said: "There will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine just persons who need no repentance." (Lk. 15:7).

The Last Judgement is the focal point by which to guide and govern our lives. We need to look beyond the possible terror and fear associated with this judgement to the presence of love in Christian teaching.

While there is reason to be fearful because of sinfulness, there is reason to be joyful in knowing of the love of God and when a person has a love for God. In the Gospel of St. Matthew, Christ invites those who are tired and heaven laden to come to Him. Christ said: "Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls." (Mt. 11:27-28)

An inviting God is not a God only to be feared but to be loved. Centuries ago the Holy Prophet Isaiah spoke of the invitation of God in these terms: "Listen carefully to Me, and eat what is good. And let your soul delight itself in abundance. Incline your ear, and come to Me. Hear and your soul shall live." (Is. 55:2-3) xiii

The love of God is manifested in Jesus' ascendancy to the Cross (Jn. 3:15) Jesus Christ's unparallelled and unequalled expression of love is sufficient to have endured through the centuries.

Jesus Christ's unparallelled and unequalled expression of love has never been exhausted. Jesus Christ's unparallelled and unequalled expression of love transforms all persons willing to accept and receive it.

In the Gospel of St. John we find these enduring and instructive words: "For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved. He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. (Jn. 3:17-18)

At Holy Chrismation the priest prays the newly baptized will become an heir of the heavenly Kingdom. Clearly, this is the goal established at the outset of Christian life.

At Holy Chrismation the priest prays:
Keep him(her) in Thy sanctification; confirm him(her) in the
Orthodox Faith; deliver him(her) from the evil one and all
his devices; and preserve his(her) soul in purity and righteous-
ness, through the saving fear of Thee, that, in every deed and
word, being acceptable unto Thee, he(she) may become a
son(daughter) and heir of the heavenly Kingdom. xiv

In the Funeral Service which comes at the end of the earthly life of the Orthodox believer, prayers continue that the newly reposed will meet the Lord with brightness at the time of judgement. xv The Gospel according to St. John (5:24-30) during the Funeral Service speaks clearly about the just judgment that all will face. xvi

Orthodox believers attending the Divine Liturgy on Holy Saturday, Paschal Matins, the Paschal Divine Liturgy and any of the services held until the Feast of the Ascension experience the joy of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Christ's Resurrection gives hope to all believers. Christ's Resurrection summons the downtrodden, the downcast, the "down and out" to turn to Christ in hope and anticipation of joy. No circumstance is so dire that it cannot be overcome. No circumstance is so dismal that Christ cannot bring change.

We know that "with God all things are possible." (Mt. 19:26). We know that all things become new in Christ (II Cor. 5:17).

To the extent we are capable with our finite minds and in our own sinfulness, we struggle with keeping the Second Coming of Christ in perspective. The joy of being a believer should not be overshadowed by the certainty of the Second Coming.

It is helpful to remember Jesus told the disciples to "Come and see." (Jn. 1:38-39) Jesus did not invite them to a path of everlasting punishment. Jesus does not invite believers to everlasting punishment. The invitation is to life eternal (Jn. 10:27-28)

The Epistle to the Thessalonians read during the Funeral Service ends with a positive statement for believers in the graves and those living ever being with the Lord. (I Thess. 4:13-17)


Draft document prepared for the Adult Class at the St. George Serbian Orthodox Church, Carmichaels, Pennsylvania, March 3/16, 2006.

I Thessalonians 4:15-18

For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord will by no means precede those who are asleep. For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord. Therefore comfort one another with these words. xvii


i The Divine Liturgy According to St. John Chrysostom. Protopresbyter Svetozar Veselinovich, Editor. Masontown, Pennsylvania, 1994, p. 94.

ii The Great Book of Needs. Vol.I. The Holy Mysteries Translated from Church Slavonic. St.Tikhon's Seminary Press, South Canaan, Pennsylvania, 1998, p. 27 27

iii Protopresbyter Stavrofor Dr. Mateja Matejic. Orthodoxy: Courage To Be Different-Strength to Remain the Same. Columbus, Ohio, 1994, p. 58.

iv The Great Book of Needs p. 26.

v The Divine Liturgy Protopresbyter Stravrofor Milan and Protonica Constance Savich-Editors. Schererville, Indiana, 1990

vi St. Bishop NIKOLAI (Velimirovic). Prayers by the Lake. Translated by Rt. Rev.Archimandrite Todor Mika and Very Rev. Dr. Stevan Scott. Free Serbian Orthodox Diocese of the United States and Canada, Grayslake, Illinois, p. 81

vii Protopresbyter Stavrofor Radovan Milkovich Sermon and Speeches Prepared for publication by Zivota Stevovich. Raska Skola, Belgrade,1999, p. 4.

viii Saint Augustin. A Select Library of the Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church. Vol VIII Edited by Philp Schaff, D.D., LL.D. Vol. VIII. Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, Grand Rapids, Michigan, Reprinted 1996, p. 351.

ix Prayer Book for Orthodox Christians, Compiled by Protopresbyter Stavrofor Dr. Mateja Matejic. Kosovo Publishing Company, Columbus, Ohio 1990, p. 259.

x The Lenten Triodion. Translated from the Original Greek by Mother Mary and Archimandrite Kallistos Ware. Faber and Faber, London, 1978, p. 156

xi Saint Chrysostom: Homilies on the Gospel of Saint Matthew. A Select Library of the Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church Vol. X. Edited by Philp Schaff, D.D., LL.D. Wm. B. Eerdmans, Grand Rapids, Michigan, Reprinted 1998, pp. 475-476.

xii Father Justin Popovich. Orthodox Faith and Life in Christ. Translation Preface, and Introduction by Asterios Gerostergios, et. al. Institute of Byzantine and Modern Greek Studies, Belmont, Massachusetts, 1994, p. 93.

xiii The Great Book of Needs, Vol.1, p.39

xiv The Great Book of Needs. Vol. III. The Occasional Services. Translated from Church Slavonic. St.Tikhon's Seminary Press, South Canaan, Pennsylvania, 1999, p. 197.

xv Ibid., p. 207.

xvi All Biblical quotes are from The Holy Bible New King James Version Thomas Nelson Bibles, Nashville, Tennessee, 1982.

xvii


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