When will these things that Jesus says to His disciples take place? These things are signs in sun and moon and stars, and on the earth distress of nations in perplexity because of the roaring of the sea and the waves, people fainting with fear and with foreboding of what is coming on the world.
When will the end happen? That’s what is on many of our minds when we consider the end times. A date would be nice. We could plan for it. We could get all our ducks in a row. Cancel the cable and internet. Visit all our family and friends one last time. We could even tell those who do not believe in Jesus as Lord that it’s time to repent and believe the Gospel.
That last one is one big reason why Jesus doesn’t give us an exact date of the end. As Christians we live as if Jesus will return at any moment. There are those who are ready and those who aren’t ready. That’s the way it is. When these things begin to take place, straighten up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.
The events of the last year or so make us wonder if we are sitting straight with heads raised. There are so many unanswered questions concerning violence. It seems like our nation hasn’t been this divided on political issues since the Watergate affair or even since the days of the Vietnam conflict. Many of you remember those days. Perhaps you hoped you would never have to live through something like that again. Yet here we are, living through uneasy times once again.
Uneasy times never really left us. That’s why Jesus says watch yourselves lest your hearts be weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and cares of this life, and that day come upon you suddenly like a trap. For it will come upon all who dwell on the face of the whole earth. We get so caught up in cares of this life that we forget the big picture. Everything as we know it has a definite end. Jesus will return to judge the living and the dead. Our Lord’s kingdom has no end. This world has an end. It is pre-determined by our heavenly Father…and He isn’t telling.
Now that knowing the date of the big event is out of your control, you get to focus on what’s given you to do. Stay awake at all times, praying that you may have strength to escape all these things that are going to take place, and to stand before the Son of Man. Remember that the original language of the New Testament has a couple of different words for “time”. One word is more familiar to us: chronos. You hear the fancy word for a watch in that word: chronograph. Chronos time is clock time. How long will the preacher preach? How many more days until Christmas?
The other word for “time” is kairos. Kairos time is not so much about boundaries as it is about the fullness of something or, to use our Lord’s example, something becoming ripe, like a fig tree. Jesus uses the fig tree, and all trees, to explain kairos time. As soon as they come out in leaf, you see for yourselves and know that the summer is already near. So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that the kingdom of God is near. The budding of trees is kairos time. When the weather turns warm and the ground thaws, everything builds toward a tree starting to bud. When the leaves appear, you know it’s time for warm weather. The tree has its kairos.
The heavens and the earth have its kairos. The time is coming, and is becoming full, when everything old becomes new in God. All the signs are there for your observation. The problem is when we don’t want to notice the signs. God fearfully and wonderfully makes everything, especially human beings. Yet we don’t want to see it because we’d rather focus on what we know rather than what we don’t know. We don’t know when Jesus is returning in the flesh. So let’s instead live as if there’s nothing after the end to everything. Someone is going to drop the big bomb or we’re going to find a way to destroy Earth sometime soon. After that, turn out the lights, the party’s over.
For those of us in Christ, however, the party has only started when the powers of the heavens will be shaken. The party will never end. The Son of Man comes in a cloud with power and great glory. For many there will be joy. For others, well, let’s say they will be sorry they didn’t pay attention when it mattered. That is why Jesus tells us to stay awake at all times. The time of which He speaks is kairos time. Pay attention! Look up and lift up your heads! Notice the signs! They have been around you all your life!
Jesus also says to pray that you may have strength to escape all these things that are going to take place, and to stand before the Son of Man. Take the Collect for today for instance. We ask our heavenly Father to stir up our hearts “to make ready the way of Your only-begotten Son”. How are our hearts stirred up to make ready our Lord’s appearing? They are stirred up not only by the testimony of the heavens and the earth, but chiefly by the testimony of Holy Scripture. Malachi prophecies the day of the Lord is coming. He also prophecies the coming of Elijah, John the Baptist, who prepares the way of Messiah.
Your strength is in the Word made flesh, Jesus Christ. He prepares you for His coming in the proclamation of His promise to give you everlasting life. He prepares you for His coming by uniting your life with His in your Baptism. He prepares you for His coming by feeding you His true Body and Blood to forgive your sins and keep you steadfast in the true faith to life everlasting.
The Lord has His way with you in these gifts. He prepares you for His ultimate coming, when the dead in Christ shall rise and receive the crown of life that never fades away. Those of us who are alive then will be changed and also receive that crown of life. Thus we shall always be with the Lord, even when fire and smoke destroys this world. These things will take place. You will be safe in Christ when it all goes down. He is your salvation. Believe it for His sake.