Christ’s Return: A Source of Christian Comfort (Ridderbos)

It’s not hard to notice Paul’s emphasis on the return of Christ. In his letters that we have in the NT, Paul often talks about Christ’s return on the last day. It’s one of the main themes of Paul’s theology. Herman Ridderbos noted that two things stand out when Paul was writing about Christ’s return for his people. First, Christ’s second coming is a motive for Christian sanctification. Second, Christ’s return is a source of comfort for God’s people. Here’s what he wrote about the latter of these two:

The coming of the Lord can for this reason not only be a motive for sanctification, but also a source and ground of comfort in the present “affliction,” a word that does not merely refer to an incidental setback or difficulty, but very definitely characterizes the last phase of the present world preceding the coming of Christ. Therefore the revelation of the Lord Jesus from heaven also signifies rest for those who are now in that distress (2 These. 1:6ff). Because of this hope of the glory of God the church may glory in this affliction (Rom. 5:2-5).

Affliction, suffering, and glory frequently occur in one context (Rom. 8:18), indeed in the former live announcement and proof of the latter (Rom. 8:19-23). Hope in the appearing of Christ (Titus 2:13) is accordingly the distinguishing mark of the Christian life (Rom. 8:24; Gal. 5:5). As the one who will appear, Christ is the hope of glory (Col. 1:27), or in the absolute sense “our hope” (1 Tim. 1:1), with whose manifestation the church, too, will be manifested in glory (Col. 3:4). It is this glory which is time and again held out in prospect to the church that now finds itself in distress and suffering (1 Cor. 15:43; 2 For. 3:18; 4:17; Eph. 1:18; Phil. 3:4; 2 Thess 2:14; 2 Tim. 1:10), and on which its hope is set (Col. 1:4, 1 These. 5:8; Titus 1:2; 2:13; 3:7).

And with what intensity this expectation is charged all those passages prove in which the apostle strongly accentuates the “not yet” of the present. There the sparks shoot as it were, to and fro between the two poles (Rom. 8:18ff; 2 Cor. 4:16-18); there it is evident what a living and fervent longing supports and glows through all the preaching of the apostle (cf. Rom 8:24; 25; 8:23, etc.).

Herman Ridderbos, Paul: An Outline of His Theology, p. 488-489.

Shane Lems
Covenant Presbyterian Church (OPC)
Hammond, WI, 54105