Jesus said to his disciples, “I came to bring fire to the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled! I have a baptism with which to be baptized, and what stress I am under until it is completed!
Do you think that I have come to bring peace to the earth?
No, I tell you, but rather division! From now on five in one household will be divided, three against two and two against three; they will be divided: father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law.”
He also said to the crowds, “When you see a cloud rising in the west, you immediately say, ‘It is going to rain’; and so it happens. And when you see the south wind blowing, you say, ‘There will be scorching heat’; and it happens.
"You hypocrites! You know how to interpret the appearance of earth and sky, but why do you not know how to interpret the present time?"
( Luke 12:49-56 )
The end is nigh.
The end is always nigh.
I expect that ever since human beings became intellectually aware of their own mortality they have lived with the gnawing dread that the end of the world is just around the corner. This is not magical thinking. It is not delusion. It is a logical conclusion to come to when faced with first hand experience of the fragility of our planet and the lives of those creatures who inhabit it.
In both the Gospels of Luke and Matthew, Jesus is reported as claiming that just before the end of the age, there will be famines and earthquakes in various places. I always think that is the most pathetic of prophesies, firstly because of its complete lack of specific locations and secondly because there are obviously going to be famines and earthquakes in various places because there always are famines and earthquakes in various places. There were in Christ's time and they are today. If we, living in the scientifically advanced twenty first century cannot come up with the will to stop famine and cannot stop earthquakes whether we want to or not, I think it's a pretty certain bet that at all times, somewhere in the world, there will be famine and that the crust of the earth will regularly tear itself apart as the continents drift around on the magma that is largely responsible for their being advanced life on our planet. As long as there is life there will be death. As long as there are beginnings there will be endings.
The man standing in the street holding a placard claiming that the end is nigh may well be a madman. But he is a madman who has his finger on the pulse of the universe's entropic existence. In the end, and there is always an end, he will be proved right.
There can also be found within the doctrines of the Christian religion a metaphysical logic to the suggestion that the world is always just about to end. We have been promised that after the end of this world God will bring into being a new world, that which we refer to as the Kingdom of God. This will be a good place to be and it will be where the resurrection of our bodies will take place. But, and this is where it gets complicated, we also believe that the Kingdom of God has already broken into the universe of the world we live in now. It came into our existence when the divine, otherworldly Word, became flesh and worldly. It continues to exist in our world because that which has been done, namely the resurrection of Christ, cannot be undone and, furthermore, because we are in Christ and Christ is in us, we are in the Kingdom of God and the Kingdom of God is in us.
Therefore, if the Kingdom of God is both in the future and in the present then the end of the present time is in the future and also in the present.
That we live at all times within the end times is both good news and worrying news for those whose faith is Christ centred. It is good news because the forever Kingdom of God is imminent and it's a done deal. It is worrying news because its imminency means that we should really be living our lives on the basis that there isn't much time left.
Jesus and the early Christians believed that the Kingdom of God was not going to become a complete reality in an instance without any warning. They did warn that there would be pain involved in the birth of the new Kingdom. But, more importantly, they made it clear that the bringing in of the Kingdom would not be just something that God did to the people of God, it would be something that the people of God were deliberately included in. What is more and what is in keeping with the ways of God is that people will not be coerced into being part of the transition, everyone will have a choice, everyone has a choice, and must choose, now.
We are talking about choosing between good and evil, between the status quo and the new, between earth and heaven, between the treasures of earth and the treasures of heaven.
Unfortunately, although we would prefer everything in our religion to be all amicable and inclusive, the truth is that according to Jesus Christ the coming in of the Kingdom of God will be divisive and there will be no way to avoid this fact. That is what Jesus is talking about when he warns that households will be divided against themselves. He is saying that some people will choose the Kingdom and some people will cling to the present earth.
We know much about the ways of the Kingdom of God because Jesus told us of the ways. We know that these ways should be part of our lives now as we live as people of the Kingdom that is already here with us now. And we know that how we live now will effect our lives, not only in this present life but also in the life to come. And what is more, the way we live our lives now will effect the very nature of the Kingdom of God. That is why it is so important that we make a definite choice to be bringers in of the Kingdom and that we make that choice now before it is too late.
The end is nigh.
The end is always nigh.