Jesus provides an interesting prophecy of the future for those who are willing to hear: the end of the world is coming, and that ending will be ushered in by the hand of God.
That’s not the way we expect the world to end. We all expect the world to end at some point, but most of us assume it will end because of some type of damage caused by humanity. The last few weeks have been filled with scientific reports of climate change and global warming. Deadlines and emission levels set through the Paris agreement and ratified by almost every country in the world, are not being met. Dooms day scenarios appear to no longer be just possibilities, but probabilities. Another option is that the apocalypse may be started by a nuclear war. Whether started by a world power or just some rogue dictator, weapons of mass destruction seem inevitable.
These possibilities are all started by humanity, but Jesus declares that the world will end not by human transgressions, but through the hand of God. God is moving the creation to an ending point. God will unleash the powers of destruction. The time is coming, and we must be ready.
But this is nothing to fear. The end of the world is not an event to worry about, or a moment to try to avoid. Jesus is not sharing a warning of an event that needs diverted; instead he is sharing good news.
God has not abandoned humanity. Evil will not reign forever. Wrongs and hurts will be avenged. God is going to end the world. That is a moment of hope.
If the only meaning and purpose for our lives is right here, than the destruction of the world is horrible. All of our dreams will be crushed. But, if our hope is in the new creation, and if we long for a world in which righteousness reigns, Jesus offers good news.
How is the end of this present world good news?
It’s a realization that what is wrong with the world, and our lives, is temporary. The pain that we are currently feeling will not last forever. The struggles that weigh us down everyday will have an end. The discrimination that we suffer will be avenged and redeemed. The loss and grief that make us feel alone, will not continue to control our lives. Because at some point, all will be made right. At some time, God promises to punish the guilty. At some future moment, God will avenge all the evil in the world. In the future, God promises that the resurrection which was first realized in Jesus will be available for all who call on the name of the Lord. At that time, the dwelling of God will be with humanity. God will wipe away our tears, and smile over us.
The end of the world then is not a time to fear. “When these things begin to take place, straighten up and raise your heads, for your redemption is drawing near.” We don’t fear the end of the world, we long for it to come. We hope for that day; knowing the future is brighter than the present. God will usher in the end of the world, but not in an effort to end all things, but to create something new. God will destroy so that God can renew.
We have this hope. It’s a hope found in the birth of a child. The world had been struggling. There had been no prophetic voice for a few hundred years. Into this brokenness came hope. Hope came at Christmas when God took on flesh and moved into the neighborhood. Hope broke into the world, and the world has never been the same.
Just as hope came at Christmas in the birth of Jesus, hope will come again when Jesus returns. God will destroy the world; and God will bring about the New Creation.
We celebrate hope during this season. We wait in eager anticipation for the birth of a child. We wait in eager anticipation to celebrate good news and peace on Earth. And we realize that just as Christ came 2000 years ago, Christ will come again. We wait in eager anticipation for death, sickness, and pain to be undone, and the new creation to come.
We wait for the day of our redemption is near.
How are we to wait? Not in laziness, drunkenness, or without focus. If we do, the day will come quickly at a time we don’t expect, and we will be lost. Instead we must be vigilant, staying awake at all times. We live into hope. We love our neighbors. We share our resources. We care for those in need. We offer hospitality to all. We have compassion on those who grieve. We give our lives as image bearers of God.
Because the day of our redemption is near.