What does the UMC teach about the second coming?

Detail of the Baptistery of St. John, Florence, Italy, showing vaults and mosaics, including "Christ in Majesty" above the hand altar, 13th and 14th centuries. Photo by Jebulon, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.​
Detail of the Baptistery of St. John, Florence, Italy, showing vaults and mosaics, including "Christ in Majesty" above the hand altar, 13th and 14th centuries. Photo by Jebulon, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.​

The doctrinal standards of The United Methodist Church, and in particular the Confession of Faith, explicitly affirm that Christ will come again to judge the living and the dead as prelude to the revealing of the new creation.

"He was buried, rose from the dead and ascended into heaven to be with the Father, from whence he shall return. He is eternal Savior and Mediator, who intercedes for us, and by him all men will be judged." (Article II)

"We believe all men stand under the righteous judgment of Jesus Christ, both now and in the last day." (Article XII)

Article III of the Articles of Religion likewise affirms this: "Christ ... ascended into heaven, and there sitteth until he return to judge all men at the last day."

Talk of a "rapture" or a "Great Tribulation" visited upon those not "raptured" is not found in our doctrinal standards. These are the products of speculations of later generations in other Protestant denominations, not part of our teaching as United Methodists.

Our focus is less on the second coming of Christ, and more on living out the teachings of his first coming. Generally speaking, United Methodists are focused on welcoming his saving grace to work fully in our lives, here and now--prevenient grace that moves us to turn to Christ for salvation, justifying grace that works righteousness in us and trust for salvation, and sanctifying grace that perfects us in lives of love of God and neighbor. Often attention to the second coming can get pretty speculative. We tend not to be a speculative people. As the spiritual descendants of John Wesley, we are practical people attending to Christ primarily as he is present in worship and in the daily life and needs of others around us.

If you want to see Wesley's sermons related to the last things, read "The Great Assize" and "The New Creation." "The Great Assize" is part of our doctrinal standards.

Rev. Dan Benedict and Rev. Taylor Burton-Edwards
Dan and Taylor served as directors of worship resources with Discipleship Ministries from 1992-2018. 

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