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End of the Age

Luke 21 : 5 – 19

“Christ has died; Christ is risen; Christ will come again”. The traditional; acclamation we use in the Eucharistic Prayer. Past, present, and future. Two have been fulfilled, and we are waiting patiently in faith and trust for the third; the coming of Christ in glory, to judge the living and the dead. The reading from Luke’s Gospel chapter 21, contains the words of our Lord Jesus concerning the signs of the end of the age. For the disciples then, this was the immediate future about the destruction of the Temple, and the fall of Jerusalem. But for us now, it is the future about the return of Christ in power and great glory, ominously referred to in the Bible as “that day”. Jesus says that He will come at a time we do not expect, like a thief in the night; so we must be prepared at all times, and to look for the signs of His impending arrival, which He describes later in the chapter. Many religious sects and cults have predicted a date for the end of the world as we know it, and have all been proved false. Why they go on doing this in spite of persistent failure is a great mystery. For Christians the end of the age is coincidental with the return of Christ, and to attempt to predict a date is completely futile, because Jesus said that no one knows the day nor the hour; only the Father. I suppose that Christians throughout history have looked at world events and seen evidence of some signs of the end of the age, and perhaps none more so than now with the prospect of global terrorism, when even the strongest nation on earth is vulnerable to devastating attack on its citizens. As they say, everything has changed since 11th September 2001.

It is a natural desire for us to want to know what the future holds for us, so that we can be best prepared to meet it. Many people look for this in the form of fortune telling, ouija boards, tarot cards, and the like, with consequential danger of falling under the influence of unhealthy spirits. But it is in the mercies of God that we don’t know the future, otherwise we could not live by faith, and without faith it is impossible to please Him. Our proper position is to trust in Him at all times, looking to Him to provide all that we need. Sometimes we are allowed to suffer, in order that all self reliance is removed, and to discover that our God is more than able to support and sustain us through the most testing times. Recent research on contemporary attitudes to death, suggests that the belief that death is the end of us was only slightly lower on average in Christian groups than in other groups, and was much higher among men than women. Reincarnation appeared to be more popular than resurrection, and in Christian groups opinion on

these was about equally divided on average. Is it not disturbing, to say the least, that one of the main themes of Christian belief, the doctrine of the resurrection, appears to have such a low expectation even among Christians. As to reincarnation, the Scripture is quite clear on this point – “man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment”. Even two thousand years ago the Apostle Peter was writing that – “the end of all things is near”, and how much nearer must it be today.

The fact is that whatever our thoughts about the end of the age, the return of Jesus as King and Judge, all of us live on the edge of eternity. Whether He comes today, tomorrow, one hundred or a thousand years from now, for us individually, the end of the age is when we die, when we pass from the limits of time into eternity. We don’t know when that day will be when we stand before the judgment seat of Christ, both Christian and non-Christian, to give an account of ourselves to God. As Christians we have no cause to fear, because the Judge before whom we shall stand, is also the one who intercedes for us, and who Himself paid the penalty for our sins on the cross. He will bear the marks of the crown of thorns on His head, the nails in His hands and feet, and the spear in His side. These will be for us the emblems of our forgiveness and acceptance before God the Father. As the Apostle Paul puts it – “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus”. To stand before God on any other ground than the blood of Christ is to stand condemned according to the Law. The task of the Church is to be the servant of God in the world in proclaiming the gospel in word and deed, so that everyone will believe in Jesus, and to have nothing to fear when He returns as King and Judge. For us, the immediate responsibility is for the people of our parish, our neighbours and friends. As we think about the signs of the end of the age and the work of the Church, the words of the Apostle John in his first letter, appear across the centuries for our encouragement and comfort – “And now, dear children, continue in Him, so that when He appears we may be confident and unashamed before Him at His coming”.

“Christ has died; Christ is risen; Christ will come again”

Thanks be to God!

Derek Burton


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