Augsburg Confession – Article 17 – Christ’s Return to Judgment

Articles 17 & 18 of the Augsburg Confession in the Book of Concord of 1580

(To read Article 16, click here.)

We also teach that our Lord Jesus Christ will come to judge on the Last Day. He will awaken all the dead, giving eternal life and eternal joy to the believers and elect, but condemning the godless1 and the devil to hell and eternal punishment.

We therefore reject the Anabaptists, who teach that the devil and those who are condemned will not experience eternal pain and torment.2

Likewise, we also reject here certain Jewish teachings that are also surfacing at the present time, which claim that before the resurrection of the dead, just the saints and pious will have a worldly kingdom and will annihilate all the godless.3

(To continue to Article 18, click here.)

Notes

1 Note that Melanchthon provides the synonym elect for believers, but no corresponding synonym such as non-elect for the unbelievers or godless, since the Bible only uses the concept of the elect to describe those who will inherit eternal life (Psalm 106:4,5; Matthew 22:14; Romans 8:33; Ephesians 1:4-6,11,12; 1 Peter 2:9). Two passages often cited in support of the damned also being elect – that is, elect or predestined for damnation – are Romans 9:22-24 and 1 Peter 2:8. But in Romans 9, two different Greek verbs are used to describe the saved and the damned, and only the verb describing the saved has a προ- prefix on it (that is, the choosing was done “in advance” or from eternity only for them). That an eternal election is not the case with the damned is even clearer in 1 Peter 2:8, since Peter immediately goes on to say in the next verse, “But you [believers] are an elect kind [i.e. class of creatures]…” – namely, as opposed to the condemned unbelievers he was just talking about. In both verses, the destining (not predestination) of unbelievers to hell is spoken of in the sense of consequence, in view of their wrongdoing and unbelief. It would certainly seem logical and reasonable to say that if God did not choose certain people to inherit salvation, then ipso facto he has chosen them for damnation. However, God’s word contradicts that logic. The saved are such only by the eternal, gracious selection of God in view of his own plan of salvation through the person and work of his Son, a selection which is then put into effect through his own gift of faith in Christ worked by the Holy Spirit using Word and sacrament, while the damned are such only by their own choice, unbelief, and wickedness. So we simply keep silent before the mystery and let God’s logic take precedence over our own.

2 For more on the Anabaptists, see esp. Article 9, and also Articles 5, 12 & 16. In addition to the Anabaptists mentioned there, Melchior Rink and his followers also held this view, known today as universalism or universal salvation. The view is still current, being the express position of such church bodies like the Unitarian Universalist Church and the unofficial position of many within mainline Protestant church bodies. The particular position described here is not an outright rejection of hell, but a rejection of the everlasting nature of its punishment; hell becomes more like a purgatory or reformatory for everyone who goes there. Cp. Isaiah 66:24; Mark 9:47,48; Luke 16:26; 2 Thessalonians 1:7-9.

3 The Latin version of this paragraph reads: “They [our teachers] also condemn the others who are now spreading Jewish opinions, namely that before the resurrection of the dead the pious are going to occupy the kingdom of the world, with the impious being suppressed everywhere.”

Today such teachings are usually referred to as millennialistic or chiliastic (not to be confused with millennial as a generational classification), from the Latin words mille, “a thousand,” and annum, “year,” and the Greek word χιλιάς (chilias), “a thousand.” Melanchthon labeled them “Jewish teachings” and “Jewish opinions” due to the tendency of the Jews in Jesus’ day – including, at times, Jesus’ own disciples – to view the Messiah as an earthly king (see e.g. John 6:15,26,27; Acts 1:6; cp. John 18:36), the view also at the heart of millennialism. (This false view of the Messiah also prevails in orthodox Judaism today.) Millennialism is the teaching that there will be a literal 1000-year period of peace, prosperity, and blessedness on earth immediately before Judgment Day, though there are many variations of it. (There are some millennialists who do not understand it to be a literal 1000-year period, but still believe that things will get better on earth immediately before Judgment Day; cp. Matthew 24:4-31.) Premillennialism, the teaching that Christ will return at the start of this 1000-year period to set up a kingdom on earth, could well be the predominant teaching among Protestants (non-Roman Catholic Christians), statistically speaking. There is also postmillennialism and dispensationalism, and within dispensationalism there is the teaching of a seven-year tribulation or period of great difficulty on earth before the millennium, which includes the rapture, or sudden snatching up of believers to heaven, either before, during, or after that seven-year period, with the adherents of each position calling themselves pre-trib, mid-trib, or post-trib, respectively. All of this confusion and clutter can be easily dispelled by:

  1. a recognition that the concept of a millennium, in the sense that the millennialists use it, only explicitly appears in one place in the entire Bible – Revelation 20:1-6, and
  2. a careful reading of that section, without any presuppositions, paying close attention both to its immediate context (including the fact that Revelation is an apocalyptic book with a lot of symbolism, including a lot of symbolic use of numbers) and its wider, biblical context, which always mentions the second coming of Christ in connection with Judgment Day and eternal life or death (see Matthew 25:31-33,46; 1 Thessalonians 4:13-17; Hebrews 9:27,28).

For a thorough treatment of Revelation 20:1-6 on the basis of the Greek text, see Siegbert W. Becker, Revelation: The Distant Triumph Song (Milwaukee: Northwestern Publishing House, 1985), pp. 296-315. For a thorough treatment of millennialism at a much easier reading level, see Thomas P. Nass, End Times: Jesus Is Coming Soon (Milwaukee: Northwestern Publishing House, 2011), pp. 239-344.

Notable millennialists in Melanchthon’s day included Augustin Bader (c. 1495-1530) and the already-mentioned Melchior Rink.

Also note how simply the Nicene Creed dismissed the millennialism already cropping up in its own day: “and his [Jesus’] kingdom will have no end” (see Luke 1:33). This statement would not be true if Jesus first enjoyed a 1000-year rule on earth before taking up his rule over his heavenly kingdom.

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Quote of the Week – Predestination Made Certain in Christ

In the Scriptures, the doctrine of election is taught as a comfort for souls troubled by their sins and oppressed by the cross. However, we often end up doing precisely that – troubling our souls – whenever we attempt to find the answer to the question, “How do I know I’m one of the elect?” anywhere but in the Scriptures themselves. The following excerpt answers this question from the Scriptures. It is taken from the Formula of Concord, Solid Declaration, Article XI (The Eternal Predestination and Election of God), verses 65 and 66. It should also be stated that the doctrine of election was never intended to be a security blanket thrown over a sinful lifestyle, and those who use it that way are misusing it and are on the path to forfeiting its comfort.

Accordingly this eternal election by God should be considered in Christ, and not outside of or apart from Christ. For it is in Christ that God has elected us, the holy apostle Paul testifies, before the foundation of the world was laid [cf. Ephesians 1:4], and it is written that the Lord has loved us “in the Beloved One” [Ephesians 1:6]. But this election is revealed to us from heaven through the proclaimed Word, when the heavenly Father says, “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. Listen to him” [Matthew 17:5]. And Christ says, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will refresh you.” And about the Holy Spirit Christ says, “He will glorify me, for he will take from what is mine and will proclaim it to you” [John 16:14], and he “will remind you of everything I have said to you” [John 14:26]. And so the entire Holy Trinity—God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—directs all people to Christ as the Book of Life in whom they should seek out and learn the Father’s eternal election. For already from eternity the Father has decreed that the one he is going to save, he is going to save through Christ, as Christ himself says, “No one comes to the Father except through me” [John 14:6], and in another place, “I am the gate; if anyone enters through me, he will be saved” [John 10:9].

Source
Die Bekenntnisschriften der evangelisch-lutherischen Kirche, 2nd ed. (Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1955), p. 1082.

Strieter Autobiography: Civil War Draft

[Continued from Part 31. If you have not yet read Part 1, click here. If you are interested in subscribing for a hard copy of the book, read the next part here.]

Hardships and Happenings (conclusion)

Stephen A. Douglas, by Vannerson, 1859.

Stephen A. Douglas, by Vannerson, 1859.

I voted for the first time in my life for Stephen A. Douglas,68 and was thus registered in the roll of citizens. That resulted in me getting drafted [gedräfted].69 I presented myself in Berlin. The captain told me that I probably wouldn’t come up because a number of men had been drafted and only six70 were needed. I had a high number; they would probably have their number six man before they got to me. But he told me when I should report back.

The time came. Nobody knew how it would turn out. My dear Ferdinand Röske, my teacher, got the horse ready and was going to come along. Now came the terrible moment of parting. My wife fell around my neck and cried, “O Papa! O Papa!” The children grabbed me around the body at my legs and arms and cried, “O Papa! O Papa!”

I had to leave. Having arrived in Berlin, I went to the office. There I was told, “You have to go; almost everyone before you was ineligible.” He would give me two hours to find a substitute. He actually didn’t have any right to do that, but since I was a minister, he would show me the courtesy.

I go out. There stands a man who is waiting for such an opportunity. I take him inside, but the gentleman said, “He is better than you, but he has a bald head and therefore I am not allowed to take him, for I am only allowed to enlist first class men as substitutes.”

Outside I was told, “Down there are half-breed Indians who will go for cheap.”

I said, “I am not taking an Indian. I want the kind of man who knows what he’s doing.”

Then a young, impressive guy comes and offers to go for me, but says right away that he demands 725 dollars. I lead him inside. He is good.

I run to my Fischer, in whose house I held church, and ask if he would act as surety for me at the bank so that I could have 725 greenbacks for 24 hours. “Oh sure!” he says.

We head to the bank. Fischer says, “Give the gentleman 725 greenbacks in my name.” He counts them out for me.

I go over and give the person his greenbacks. He is delighted. “700 dollars I will send to my wife – I have a wife and a child – and 25 I will keep as spending money.”

I send my Ferdinand home to bring the good news and arrange for him to come back in the morning, and with my companion I take the railroad to Milwaukee, go to my friend F. E.71 and share my need with him. He goes with me to Mr. So-and-so, but he won’t help. He goes with me to Pritzlaff, whose name I will gladly share. The gentleman is in his hardware store bright and early and is in the middle of sweeping his office.72 My escort remains standing outside by the door. I go inside and bid good morning and say my situation, that I would very much like 725 greenbacks to be able to pay my banker by tonight, and he would get his money back little by little.

He said he had given Pastor N. Beyer money for a substitute, but he had been released from duty. I could go and get that money for myself.

I say, “Beyer is up on the Wolf River. That is impossible for me, to retrieve that money in time.”

P[ritzlaff] continues sweeping in silence. After a pause I say, “Mr. P[ritzlaff], if you are unable or if you are unwilling to help, please say so.”

He looks up at the ceiling. “Yeah? And what would you do then?”

“Whatever God wills,” I say.

He throws his broom into the corner, goes to his desk and writes, and hands me the slip of paper. I express my thanks and go out to my F. E. and hand him my paper. He says, “Now you’ve got help.” Off he goes with me to the bank and presents his slip, and the gentleman counts up 725 greenbacks, which I tuck away and now board the train for Berlin, give the banker the money and ask how much I owe.

“Nothing,” he says, and full of joy, I go home to my family, who laugh and rejoice with me a thousand times over.

But now we did even more saving – for we had to be frugal enough as it was in those terribly expensive times – so that the debts would be paid. All the money was supposed to be sent to Lochner.73 Everybody helped. Money was coming in from all sides. Pastor Hügli of Detroit, Michigan, sent money to Pastor F[riedrich] Lochner along with a note that, in return, Strieter had to pluck a tuft of hair from his beard and send it to him.

After I moved to Aurora I sent one more payment. Lochner sent a portion of it back to me along with a note that it was all paid up. God has surely given and will give the dear Pritzlaff his reward of grace for what he did [Luke 6:38], so too to the others who helped.

Endnotes

68 In the 1860 election

69 Cf. endnote 73. It appears that Strieter was not drafted until 1864.

70 Both here and in the next line, Strieter originally had “four,” but the correction appears to be his own and not Leutner’s.

71 Strieter originally had “N. N.” – an abbreviation meaning “[Mr.] So-and-so.” Leutner must have known the identity of Strieter’s friend.

72 Pritzlaff’s store was eventually incorporated as the John Pritzlaff Hardware Company, which has gained some fame in Milwaukee’s history. At the time of this story, Pritzlaff was at his original store on the corner of what is today N Old World 3rd Street and W State Street. Eventually he would build a new store at what is today 311 N Plankinton Avenue, where his company would become, as it has been called, “somewhat like the Amazon.com of the late 19th and early 20th centuries.” Pritzlaff died on March 18, 1900, a fact of which Strieter appears to have been unaware, judging from what he says at the end of the story.

73 The following “Urgent Request” appeared in the December 15, 1864, issue of Der Lutheraner (p. 62): “Of the five pastors in Wisconsin from our synodical organization who were selected by lot for military service in the most recent draft, one has been declared fit for duty and has thus been forced to buy a replacement at a high price. This is Mr. Pastor J[ohannes] Strieter. Now since Mr. Pastor Schwankovsky has been absolved of military service due to physical inadequacy and therefore no longer requires the payoff amount pledged for him by pastors, teachers, and delegates during the synod convention, the undersigned thought he could safely assume with Mr. Pastor Strieter that the respective underwriters would transfer their contribution to the latter, and so the amount of $740.00 was raised by congregation members here in a short time. In the certain hope that this request is not being made in vain, the undersigned accordingly requests that the pastors, teachers, and delegates in question would send their contribution his way immediately upon receipt of this information. It will also be noted that from the congregation of Mr. Pastor Strieter only limited assistance can be expected, perhaps even none at all. Therefore, should others who have not made any pledge also feel compelled to make a contribution, it will be accepted with that much greater thanks, and any potential surplus will be reserved for assistance of the same nature in the future and conscientiously used at the proper time. Milwaukee, November 20, 1864. F[riedrich] Lochner.”

Note that there is a $15 discrepancy in the amount – owing perhaps to Strieter’s faulty memory or to a gratuity added to the loan amount as a token of gratitude to Mr. Pritzlaff. It also remains unanswered whether the reference to “congregation members here” is an attempt to conceal Mr. Pritzlaff’s identity, or is an indication that Pastor Lochner’s congregation (Trinity, Milwaukee) paid back Mr. Pritzlaff and assumed the debt as a whole.