Augsburg Confession, Article 17

Jesus' Return (610x350)AC XVII: The Return of Christ as Judge

Our churches also teach that at the end of the world Christ will appear for judgment and will raise up all the dead [1 Thessalonians 4:13-5:2]. He will give the godly and elect eternal life and endless joy, but He will condemn the ungodly and devils to endless torment [Matthew 25:31-46].

Our churches condemn the Anabaptists, who think that there will be an end to the punishments of the condemned and devils.

Our churches also condemn others who are now spreading Jewish opinions, that before the resurrection of the dead the godly will take possession of the kingdom of the world, while the ungodly are suppressed everywhere.


Rome’s Response:

We receive the confession of the 17th article. From the Apostles’ Creed and the Holy Scripture, the entire Catholic Church knows that Christ will come on the Last Day to judge the living and the dead. Therefore, they correctly condemn the Anabaptists, who think there will be an end of punishments to the condemned and devils, and imagine certain Jewish kingdoms of the godly, before the resurrection of the dead, in this present world, where the wicked will be everywhere suppressed.



This Article contains nothing about which we disagreed with the Roman-Catholic Church. We included it for completeness. Since Articles I-XVII of the Augsburg Confession presented the order of salvation as laid out in the Christian Creed, such a presentation would be incomplete without referring to eternal life. That’s the content of Article XVII.


The Last Day

This is what Scripture and the Lutheran Church teaches about the Last Day and final judgment.

  1. Christ will on the Last Day (and not 1000 years before the Last Day!), return visibly, and in glory to judge the living and the dead in righteousness (Acts 1:11; 10:42).
  2. He will raise all the dead (John 5:28-29; Acts 24:15; 1 Cor. 15:12-58; Luke 20:37-38; 1 Thessalonians 4:14).
  3. He will give the godly and elect eternal life and everlasting joy (John 5:29; 6:40; 10:28; 1 John 2:25; 1 Peter 1:3-5; Psalm 16:11; John 17:24).
  4. He will condemn the ungodly and the devils to everlasting torment (Matthew 10:28; 25:46; Mark 9:43-48; John 5:29; Jude 6; Revelation 20:10; 21:8; Isaiah 66:24; Matthew 8:12).
  5. At Christ’s return on the Last Day, this present universe will end (Matthew 24:3, 14; 13:39; 1 Corinthians 15:24; 2 Peter 3:10; Matthew 5:18; Luke 21:33; 2 Peter 3:7-13; Matthew 25:31-46; 2 Thessalonians 1:9).



The false teaching of Millennialism (Chiliasm, Millenarianism) originated in or before the 1st century with the Jews who thought the Messiah would have an earthly rule. It also has existed, off and on, in the Christian Church as a little-held, false teaching.

Some Christians in the 1st century (probably Jewish converts) upheld a hope that Jesus would soon return and set up an 1,000-year earthly rule. Millennialism had almost all but died out until a few of the Anabaptists began teaching it again during the Reformation. In the last 150 years in North America, Millennialism has become a strong movement (Left Behind, etc.)

John 18:36: Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to keep me from being handed over to the Jewish authorities. As it is, my kingdom is from another place.”

  • In what way does Jesus topple the idea that He will or would set up an earthly kingdom?


Luke 23:42-43: Then he [the believing thief on the cross] said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” Jesus said to him, “I assure you: Today you will be with me in paradise.”

Matthew 4:17: From that time, Jesus began to preach “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.”

  •  When did Jesus’ Kingdom begin?


Millennialism and Revelation 20

Our Confessors condemn and reject “millennialism” as a false teaching. Today, proponents of this teaching start with Revelation 20, in particular, verse 4, and then use that verse as the interpretational lens to understand other parts of Scripture.

Read Revelation 20:1-3


  • The “angel” means messenger, which may or may not be the heavenly being we usually think of when we hear the word angel. Who is the angel described in these verses?


  • The Greek word for “nations” in verse 3 is ethnee, the same for “Gentiles.” What is verses 2-3 saying if we understand the meaning to be “Gentiles”?


  • Then when was Satan defeated?


  • How did this usher in the New Covenant, which intentionally brought in Gentiles?


 1,000 Year Reign of Christ


  • Read Revelation 20:4-6


  • Where are those who “had been beheaded” and “had not worshiped the beast”?


  • Therefore, where are they reigning with Christ for 1,000 years?


  • How are they reigning (in other words, all who have faith in Christ are part of His _________)?


  • “The rest of the dead” refer to another group, those who did not have faith in Christ. Why is that they “did not come to life until the 1,000 years were ended”? What then happens?


Death and Resurrection


  • For those who have had have the first death of baptism (and have remained in it), what then is the second death? (vs. 6)


Victory of Christ over Satan

Ezekiel chapters 38 and 39 describe the vision Ezekiel had of the defeat of Gog and its leader, Magog. Gog and Magog were names connected with an invasion of Israel, which was so devastating that it became synonymous with evil. Yet, in Ezekiel, the power of this invading force was suddenly halted by the overwhelming might of God. Jerusalem was not destroyed. That’s the background we are to have as we read John’s description in Revelation 20:7-10.

Read Revelation 20:7-10

  • If Satan being bound had earlier led to many Gentiles believing in Christ, what happens when Satan is released?


  • Yet, who is still defeated?


The Resurrection of the Body and the Last Judgment

Read Revelation 20:11-15

  • Who is the One on the “great white throne”?


  • What does He do?


  • What does someone’s name being in the book of life symbolize?


 Revelation 20 Timeline


  1. Christ Binds Satan
    • Revelation 20:1-2, John 12:31-33, Ephesians 3:10, and Colossians 2:15
  2. Christ Reigns through His Church
    • Revelation 20:2-6, 1:5-6, and 5:9-10; Matthew 28:18-20; Colossians 1:13-14
  3. Satan is Released
    • Revelation 20:3, 7-8; Matthew 24:4-12; 1 Timothy 4:1; 2 Timothy 3:1-5
  4. The Resurrection and Judgment Day
    • Revelation 20:10-21:5, 11:15-18; Matthew 25:31-46
  5. Eternity of Heaven or Hell
    1. Revelation 21:6-8, Matthew 13:40-43, and 1 Corinthians 6:9-11


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