Belgic Confession, Article 37: Christ’s One Future Visible Coming
by Rev. Martyn McGeown, Covenant PRC missionary-pastor in Limerick, Ireland
I Thessalonians 4:16 “For the Lord Himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God …”
According to Belgic Confession Article 37 “our Lord Jesus Christ will come from heaven, corporally and visibly, as He ascended, with great glory and majesty.” It is important to remember that the Reformed do not accept the teaching of Premillennial Dispensationalism that the Lord will come twice in the future, once secretly in a “rapture” and then later visibly in a “revelation.” These meditations are not the place to examine Premillennial Dispensationalism in any detail, but we should contrast briefly what our Belgic Confession teaches with this popular doctrine.
Those who believe in the doctrine of the rapture often appeal to I Thessalonians 4. They believe that at any moment the Lord will secretly snatch away all faithful Christians from the earth. This will cause great consternation because suddenly millions of people will disappear without trace! After the rapture, history will continue and God will pour out His wrath upon the world of those left behind—unbelievers and unfaithful Christians. After seven years of awful tribulation (mostly for the nation of Israel) Christ shall return visibly and destroy His enemies to set up an earthly kingdom for one thousand years in Jerusalem. After the period of one thousand years is complete, the Lord will crush one final rebellion of Satan. History will then end with Christ’s judgment of the wicked.
The Belgic Confession contradicts that scheme in several ways. First, when Christ returns the wicked will be oppressing the church—there is no indication that the church will have been removed from the earth. Second, the Belgic Confession teaches that “all the dead” shall be resurrected and “all men will personally appear before this great Judge” on the same day—there is no indication that the resurrection of the wicked and the just (and their judgments) will be separated by a number of years. Third, the Belgic Confession teaches that the one, future, visible coming will be “with great glory and majesty”—there is no indication that He will come secretly.
I Thessalonians teaches the very opposite of a secret, silent, invisible coming of Christ to take away His church. On the contrary, Christ shall ascend “with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God”—an event so loud that it shall summon the dead to judgment! Moreover, when Paul writes that “the dead in Christ shall rise first,” he does not mean they shall rise some 1,007 years before the wicked, but he means that the dead in Christ shall rise before those who are alive at Christ’s coming. Paul’s concern was to comfort the Thessalonians concerning their dead, believing relatives—will they miss out since they have died before the Second Coming? Absolutely not!
The hope of the saints is not that they be snatched away secretly, but that they—whether they are dead or alive at His Coming—partake in His glory which is publicly to be revealed.
Is that your hope?
Rev. Martyn McGeown (Larisa)
Pastorates: Missionary-pastor in Limerick, Ireland for the Covenant Protestant Reformed Church of Northern Ireland - 2010; Providence PRC (Hudsonville, MI), Sept. 2021Website: www.prca.org/current/news/churches/usa-canada/providence-prc-hudsonville-mi
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