THE BAPTIST FAITH AND MESSAGE, Article Thirteen
This is Part 13 of a continuing series of articles examining the Baptist Faith and Message 2000. This statement of faith was adopted by the Southern Baptist Convention, meeting on June 14, 2000 “to set forth certain teachings which we believe.”
God, in His own time and in His own way, will bring the world to its appropriate end.
According to His promise, Jesus Christ will return personally and visibly in glory to the earth; the dead will be raised; and Christ will judge all men in righteousness. The unrighteous will be consigned to Hell, the place of everlasting punishment. The righteous in their resurrected and glorified bodies will receive their reward and will dwell forever in Heaven with the Lord.*
We may think of life as cyclical—one season goes and another begins; one generation dies and another takes it place. A popular secular notion is that matter is eternal—it always has been and always will be. Often we have heard the statement that history repeats itself. The truth is that life is linear—it has a beginning and an ending. Human history had a commencement and will have a consummation. The universe is like a piece of fabric wearing increasingly thin and fraying. The very elements are going to disintegrate. That’s what the Bible says.
3 First, I want to remind you that in the last days there will be scoffers who will laugh at the truth and do every evil thing they desire. 4 This will be their argument: “Jesus promised to come back, did he? Then where is he? Why, as far back as anyone can remember, everything has remained exactly the same since the world was first created.” 5 They deliberately forget that God made the heavens by the word of his command, and he brought the earth up from the water and surrounded it with water. 6 Then he used the water to destroy the world with a mighty flood. 7 And God has also commanded that the heavens and the earth will be consumed by fire on the day of judgment, when ungodly people will perish. 8 But you must not forget, dear friends, that a day is like a thousand years to the Lord, and a thousand years is like a day. 9 The Lord isn’t really being slow about his promise to return, as some people think. No, he is being patient for your sake. He does not want anyone to perish, so he is giving more time for everyone to repent. 10 But the day of the Lord will come as unexpectedly as a thief. Then the heavens will pass away with a terrible noise, and everything in them will disappear in fire, and the earth and everything on it will be exposed to judgment. 11 Since everything around us is going to melt away, what holy, godly lives you should be living! 12 You should look forward to that day and hurry it along—the day when God will set the heavens on fire and the elements will melt away in the flames. 13 But we are looking forward to the new heavens and new earth he has promised, a world where everyone is right with God. 14 And so, dear friends, while you are waiting for these things to happen, make every effort to live a pure and blameless life. And be at peace with God.
(2 Peter 3:3-14 NLT)
The same Jesus who ascended into heaven will one day soon descend to earth. This time He is not coming to save, but to sentence. He will not wear a crown of thorns, but a crown of glory. Before He came to experience suffering, but in that day He will come to exercise sovereignty.
One important dimension of His return is to raise the dead, both saints and sinners, and judge them according to their works. The works of the saints will be judged to determine the degree of their reward in heaven. The works of the sinners will be judged to determine the degree of their retribution in hell.
Time is winding down. All around we see the stage being set for the end of time. We are in the last of the last days. Heed the exhortation of Peter,
11 Since everything around us is going to melt away, what holy, godly lives you should be living! 12 You should look forward to that day and hurry it along—the day when God will set the heavens on fire and the elements will melt away in the flames. 13 But we are looking forward to the new heavens and new earth he has promised, a world where everyone is right with God. 14 And so, dear friends, while you are waiting for these things to happen, make every effort to live a pure and blameless life. And be at peace with God.
* Isaiah 2:4; 11:9; Matthew 16:27; 18:8-9; 19:28; 24:27,30,36,44; 25:31-46; 26:64; Mark 8:38; 9:43-48; Luke 12:40,48; 16:19-26; 17:22-37; 21:27-28; John 14:1-3; Acts 1:11; 17:31; Romans 14:10; 1 Corinthians 4:5; 15:24-28,35-58; 2 Corinthians 5:10; Philippians 3:20-21; Colossians 1:5; 3:4; 1 Thessalonians 4:14-18; 5:1ff.; 2 Thessalonians 1:7ff.; 2; 1 Timothy 6:14; 2 Timothy 4:1,8; Titus 2:13; Hebrews 9:27-28; James 5:8; 2 Peter 3:7ff.; 1 John 2:28; 3:2; Jude 14; Revelation 1:18; 3:11; 20:1-22:13. (Baptist Faith and Message, 2000)