“The end is near!” We usually see that statement written on a sandwich board being worn by a crazy looking guy who looks like he hasn’t showered in a month. You know…in the movies. As Hollywood’s obligatory smirk at the Christian idea that there really is going to be an “end”. I doubt there’s going to be enough time for an “I told you so” when the end that was near becomes the end that is here, but something in me thinks it would feel really good.
The 24th chapter of Matthew has Jesus Himself wearing the sandwich board. As I read it I imagine the looks on the faces of His disciples as He told them the story of “the end”, a story they, and all those that come after them would take part in. You and I are those that come after them. We are living in the story of “the end”, and it is nearer now than it was then. So I’m listening.
~ “Watch out that no one deceives you. For many will come in My name, claiming ‘I am the Christ’, and will deceive many.” (24:4-5)
Deception is rampant, and will only increase. I don’t want to be one of ‘many’. I want to be numbered with those who have followed Him closely enough to know His truth and His presence. I want to be with those who know that when He returns, He will not need to “claim” to be the Christ. It will be unmistakable.
~ “You will hear of wars and rumors of war, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come.” (24:6)
Are we not just easily alarmed? That’s more of a statement than a question, actually, so don’t try to answer it. Every new twist in the story alarms us. Every election, every law that’s passed, every talk of war, every sign that things are getting darker, causes us, the Church, to cry out with alarm. We become more and more indignant that things are getting so much worse, so out of control, so unchristianly. We start passing around petitions and staging protests, as though man has any power to stop the page from turning. We live as though we are “in the beginning”. But we aren’t. We are living in “the end”. It is no place for alarm.
~ “Then you will be handed over to be persecuted and put to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of Me.” (24:9)
Yes, we will be persecuted and hated. Many will die for their faith. There will be great deception and wickedness will increase. The love of many will grow cold. The end holds great, unequaled distress. The sun will darken and there will be no light from the moon. Stars will fall from the sky. It is the story of “the end”. But then…
~ “At that time the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky, and all the nations of the earth will mourn. They will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky, with power and great glory. And he will send his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of the heavens to the other.” (24:30-31)
And the end will be over. And we, His Church, will enter into the beginning of something beautiful, something beyond our comprehension. A beginning with no end.
May every new twist and turn, every event, every evidence of the increase of darkness, cause us to look heavenward, unalarmed and undeceived. And may we determine to draw our hearts ever closer to Him until at last we see Him face to face.
The end is near. Don’t be alarmed. It’s a good thing.