“The End”Categories: Iron sharpens iron
“The end of all things is at hand; therefore be self-controlled and sober-minded” (1Pe 4.7). As this crazy year winds down and we anticipate a new beginning in just a few days, it’s even more appropriate than normal to reflect on what a year it has been, and remember what really matters.
Obviously, the pandemic steals the show. It had already been an interesting couple of months before the virus reached us, and from there it just got weirder. We spent months with a locked down economy and remote work, worship, shopping, and relationships. This was followed by fights in practically every arena of life, and while most of those have since simmered down, there remains a deep division in society, and even in the church, over The Science. Sadly, this division has contributed to broken relationships, including between Christians who really should know better how to bear with and forgive each other (Co 3.13).
That’s not to mention the death toll. Currently, there have been roughly 1.7 million deaths globally from this virus. About 320,000 of those were in the United States, about 7,200 in the state of Indiana, and about 270 have been local. We’re nowhere near the point of saying, “there was not a house where someone was not dead” (Ex 12.30), but all of us at least know someone who lost a loved one to covid, and all of us know several who have survived the disease. For comparison, note that the total number of people who died in World War 1 was about 20 million, at a time when the world’s population was less than a third what it is today. The world has seen far worse, and it’s worth noting as well that this country alone kills nearly a million babies in the womb each year. Nevertheless, for most people this has been an awful year.
This serves as a strong reminder that the world is far from perfect. “Sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned” (Ro 5.12), and as much as we hate the suffering and death of this world, it’s clear that these problems are really our own fault. It’s not that we inherit guilt from Adam and Eve, but we do inherit their curse, and incur our own guilt by making the same choice to rebel against God. Death, in the big picture, is a consequence of sin.
While this year often felt like the end of the world was approaching, it can’t compare to the real end of all things. We don’t really know that much about what to expect there. The main thing we know for sure, is that no one knows when it will come: “the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect” (Lk 12.40). There are other tidbits shared with us, however, for example that
the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed. (2 Peter 3.10)
That only affects the physical world, but while the physical is temporary, the spirit is eternal. This world will be destroyed, but we “will give account to him who is ready to judge the living and the dead” (1Pe 4.5). In that world, everything changes. God
“will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” (Revelation 21.4)
How wonderful, to do away with all of the things that made this year so miserable, and instead live in the city where
No longer will there be anything accursed, but the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and his servants will worship him. They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. And night will be no more. They will need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they will reign forever and ever. (Revelation 22.3-5)
But that’s not the only option, of course. As noted a moment ago, the Son of Man is appointed to judge, and judging involves distinguishing between different categories. “And he will place the sheep on his right, but the goats on the left” (Mt 25.33). If the sheep get to enter the kingdom, what happens to the goats? “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels’” (v41).
What a contrast! One option involves eternal relief from all the things that have plagued us this year. The other involves far worse suffering, with no chance of relief, “where their worm does not die and the fire is not quenched” (Mk 9.48). Are you prepared to face the end?
Every year, we look forward to a fresh start as December rolls around into January, but the reality is usually disappointing. Just consider how optimistic we were as 2020 began! This world will never live up to our hopes, and it’s our own fault. We keep getting new chances to start the year off right, and we keep ruining it. A time will come when you no longer have the opportunity to write another chapter. How do you want the book to end? How do you get to that point?
There is only one path to life. It’s through Jesus, “the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh” (He 10.20). Make sure that, even as we put this long year out of its misery, you’re prepared for a much more consequential ending, that will determine the state of your soul forever.