2022-11-13 Pentecost 23
Grace, mercy and peace be to you from God our Father and our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen!
Way back in my yonder Seminary days, we had all kinds of fancy book learning about the Bible and theology. But one class sticks out in my mind as particularly noteworthy. It was about the book of Revelation. We’d worked our way through the Gospels and the New Testament Letters and finally, we arrived at the very last book in the Bible. Eschatology. There is your free, $5 word of the day. It’s the study of the end times. And Revelation is ripe with all kinds of evidence of the end of days. But it can be kind of funny going over people’s predictions about the end times. Let’s pick on the Millennium as a random example. The famous ‘1000 years’ from Revelation 20. There are Christian groups that say Jesus will return to earth and setup a 1000 year reign on earth and all the Christians who follow Him will get to help rule the earth before the final judgment. Other groups say that the world will end first, then there will be a 1000 year period of rule and Satan will be bound. Then others, like the Lutherans, believe that Revelation is a highly prophetic book, written with lots of picture language and symbolism and there won’t be a physical 1000 years. No matter how you slice it, people have always tried to predict the end o’ the world, even to the point of obsession.
But back to my main point from Seminary. We had to read this book by a guy named Edgar Whisenant called “88 reasons why the rapture could be in 1988!” 300,000 copies of this book were mailed out - free of charge - and another 4.5 million copies were sold! It was the magic date between September 11-13, 1988. But then. . . Oops! Bzzzzz! Wrong! September of 1988 came and went and still no end of the world! So Whisenant had to scramble back over his calculations and found a mistake! So he penned “The Final Shout–Rapture Report 1989” And then 90, 91, 92 … You get the idea!
For over 2000 years people have been trying to predict the “when” of the end times. And, said people, thinking they have it all figured out, run around ranting and railing from soap boxes on the street to social media. And said people have been doing this in the town square for many years. So much so that most people within earshot now just automatically shut off. It’s like the boy who cried wolf. At first, everyone believed him. Then, as time went by, no one believed him anymore. The same thing happens to the end times preachers too. “The end is near!” they proclaim with fervour! … But so is the Riders winning the Grey Cup!
But yet, the words of our Lord Jesus in the Bible are clear. “Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom”(LK 21:10) He says. I can’t help but think that our veterans who were in World War II and WWII felt that they were without doubt living in the end times as they fought battle after battle. And our Lord continues: “There will be great earthquakes, and in various places famines and pestilences. And there will be terrors and great signs from heaven.” (LK 21:11) But this was 2000 years ago. How do we understand these words from our Lord?
Well we have to do it faithfully and not fearfully. All of these end times scriptures and prophecies don’t instruct us to figure it all out and calculate dates and write stupid books that turn out to be wrong year after year. It’s quite the opposite in the scriptures actually: “Now concerning the times and the seasons, brothers, you have no need to have anything written to you. 2 For you yourselves are fully aware that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night” (1Thess 5:1-2) and “concerning that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only. 37 For as were the days of Noah, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. 38 For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day when Noah entered the ark, 39 and they were unaware until the flood came and swept them all away, so will be the coming of the Son of Man” (MT 24:36). Jesus tells us straight up that nobody will know the “when” of the end times. But rather that you “must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect” (MT 24:44).
These are warnings to be faithful, not fearful. The words of our Lord remind us that life on Earth is not all there is. This whole place is transitory. Ever since death and sin entered our world, creation is faced with an end. And this, though it’s hard to believe, is merciful. Nobody wants to live forever if it means arthritis and sciatica. Nobody wants to live without their loved ones. Nobody wants to continue down a road of pain and suffering and loss. Instead we want a body free from aches and pains, with energy levels of 3 year olds! We want reunion with our husband and wives and moms and dads and children! We want a land flowing with milk and honey and streets made of gold. This is what we really want. And this is what God promises is coming for us. A new Heaven, a new earth, with all of it’s unimaginable wonder and awesomeness is coming.
But what has to happen first? What has to happen to this world that is marred with sin and suffering, death and the devil, catastrophe and calamity?? Well, we know the answer. It must be done away with. It is marred beyond fixing. It must be scrapped and replaced with a fresh start. Just like Elon Musk to Twitter, the old ways, they are a comin’ to the end! Jesus said “And when you hear of wars and tumults, do not be terrified, for these things must first take place, but the end will not be at once” (LK 21:9) All the calamity we see that gets worse and worse every day is just the beginning. It has only just begun. “And there will be signs in sun and moon and stars, and on the earth distress of nations in perplexity because of the roaring of the sea and the waves, people fainting with fear and with foreboding of what is coming on the world. For the powers of the heavens will be shaken” (LK 21:25-26).
So we know from the Scriptures that God has begun to start the end game. He is beginning to bring this world to a close and usher in His eternal Kingdom of paradise that will never end. Ultimately this began with Jesus and His birth, life and death on the cross and resurrection from the dead. But it will find its completion when this world with all of it’s heartache and difficulty will pass away. So what is our attitude to be then? Just accept that all tragedy and disaster and calamity are just part of God’s plan? Sit back and relax and watch this place burn? No. Of course not. Rather we heed the words of Christ Jesus our Lord who said “But not a hair of your head will perish. By your endurance you will gain your lives” (LK 21:18-19). God gives us a promise here. We will live, even though we die.
This promise is encapsulated with endurance. We must hang in there and stay faithful to our Lord. For He will always be with us, helping us endure any trial or calamity that comes our way. Our Lord tells us “But watch yourselves lest your hearts be weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and cares of this life, and that day come upon you suddenly like a trap. For it will come upon all who dwell on the face of the whole earth. But stay awake at all times, praying that you may have strength to escape all these things that are going to take place, and to stand before the Son of Man” (LK 21:34-36). We have to keep our edge in the faith. We can’t get rusty. For our Lord is coming and we pray for this at every meal when we say “Come Lord Jesus, be our guest.” This world is coming to an end, the world yet to come is on its way. But we must prepare and be ready. We must repent of our sins and trust in the Lord. For He alone can open the gate of heaven for us. And in the face of calamity and disaster, we must endure and help others to do the same. Stay alert. Be ever watchful. For the Lord is coming and His Kingdom with Him. Thanks and praise be to God now and forever more. Amen!