by Robert Brow   January 1999    (web site - www.brow.on.ca)

God has put us in a world where life is precarious. As individuals we could get killed or drop dead at a moment's notice. That would be the end of our world. But unless we happen to be someone very important the end of our world is of no interest to the media. We will not make the headlines or the television news.

The media do make a fuss of the event when a group of people die in an air crash, or a mudslide, or avalanche. People say "Have you heard the terrible news?" and there are special prayers for the victims and their families.

In a war the death of one soldier is unimportant but if there are hundreds of casualties reporters and camera crews arrive from every direction. When an atom bomb kills and maims hundreds of thousands, the event is viewed as horrendous, though many more are killed on the roads of our world every year. But for each individual who dies, the end of his or her world happens regardless of how many others die at the same time.

Preachers who want to terrify us about the last days have their own axe to grind. Some hope that the prospect of the end of the world might jolt us into faith. They beg for donations so they can spread the good news to others. There are writers who make millions selling books on the topic the end times for the gullible. Some even manage to predict the date, and when it doesn't happen, they have the gall to come predicting another equally certain end twenty years down the road.

Genuine faith is a direction of looking. We look to the Creator who placed us in this very temporary world with all its uncertainties. But faith in the Creator does not help much if God does not love and care for us as individuals. If his main interest is in threatening us with the end the world, and millions burning in hell, better steer clear of such a monster.

The Bible does suggest that our space time world will eventually be terminated (Revelation 21:1). One passage says our universe will come to a fiery end (2 Peter 3:7, 12-13), which does not surprise the scientists.

But Paul tells us that much more needs to happen before God has finished his purposes for our world. "Then comes the end, when he hands over the kingdom to God the Father, after he has destroyed every ruler and every authority and power. For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death" (1 Corinthians 15:24-26).

That is not a text that peddlers of the imminent end of the world want us to hear about. Medical science has made a lot of progress in delaying death, but the destruction of death seems unlikely by the year 2,000. Our focus should be on the continuing reign of the eternal Son of God.

It is easy to see that the Son of God was already reigning among the nations throughout the Old Testament period. Again and again the Lord is described as a King coming to intervene in his world. His coming is often called a Day of the Lord (see for example Isaiah 16:6, 9, which refers to the destruction of Babylon).

That same reigning Lord of the Old Testament came to take birth in our world by the power of the Holy Spirit. Mary was told "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be holy; he will be called Son of God" (Luke 1:35).

That means that Jesus' thirty years among us was only a brief interlude in his Kingdom. And his reign among the nations then continued after his resurrection and ascension. He predicted that the first sign of his continuing reign would be the destruction of the temple and the city of Jerusalem (Matthew 24:1-3, 30). That coming would take place in the lifetime of his hearers (Matthew 23:36, 24:34).

It is significant that Jesus chose to use exactly the same metaphorical language of the sun being darkened, the moon not giving its light, and the powers of heaven being shaken, as in his previous destruction of Babylon (Isaiah 13:1, 6-13. For a fuller treatment of this see Advent: Comings of the Lord in History, 1998, on this web site).

It is also important to note the word 'coming' which comes again and again in this passage (Matthew 24:3, 30, 37, 39, 42, 44, 46, 50) is used exactly as in his Old Testament comings. That suggests that life in each nation continues according to the wisdom of its leaders until the Son of God decides to intervene in a day of the Lord. Just recently the sudden and totally unexpected toppling of the iron curtain in half a dozen nations in November 1989 was such an intervention.

Apart from Matthew 24 (and the parallel Mark 13 and Luke 21:5-33), there is no other mention of an imminent end of the world anywhere in the Gospels.

And preachers of the imminent end of the world have only these chapters to draw upon. The world that ended as Jesus predicted was not the end of life on our globe, but the end of the religious establishment of Pharisees and Sadducees in Jerusalem in the generation of his hearers.

We still have to face a personal end of the world in our death, either as individuals or in large numbers. And this space-time universe is only a temporary habitation for the purposes of the reign of the Son of God. But in his parables, preaching, healing, and example he made it sufficiently clear that he loves us as individuals, and whatever happens in his hands our eternal destiny is totally safe.

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