In the Gospel of St. Luke, Jesus speaks of the coming of the Son of Man and the cosmic disasters that will precede that coming (21:8-28). He specifies the signs in Luke 21:8-11.
I think that we may be witnessing some of the sights and signs from heaven.
People throughout history and ancient cultures have seen signs that they interpreted as prophecies of the “end of time.” The Mayans supposedly predicted this Dec. 21 as the end.
Jesus said, “The end is not so soon.” He is saying that no human being can know when “the end” will be; therefore no human being can predict “the end.”
Jesus is compassionate, and he knows that we are governed by the human condition. Our faith is not always consistent with Christian discipleship.
He said, therefore, that there is a simple formula for us to follow if we are really worried about the end of time. (Reread Luke 21:28).
I love this statement in Luke “... to stand with confidence before the Son of Man.” This is not to stand before him like cowards fearing to make an account of our lives. But, knowing that we have tried to live a life of Christian discipleship and dedication, we approach him “with boldness, that we may dare to call upon you, the heavenly God, as Father...,” as is said in the Orthodox Divine Liturgy.
In this age of “end time” theology, I believe no real Christian fears the end.
Though our bodies may die, we know that our souls will live in Christ forever.
In the Orthodox baptism we are buried with him, and when we are lifted out of that burial of water we are raised in his Resurrection.
Living in the Resurrection, we have confidence that we can stand before his judgment seat, and that by his grace, we may withstand all temptations and trials.
I don’t worry much about the end of time. I think that I can withstand all of those trials. What bothers me, and I think what Jesus is warning us against, are the more subtle destructive forces that surround us and by which we can be corrupted.
The temptation to immorality, the desire for unnecessary material goods, the ease with which we can forget about those who are less fortunate than we, these are the subtleties that can literally destroy us and separate us from the presence of God.
The so-called “end-time theologians” are fond of quoting from the sixth and seventh chapters of the Book of Revelations. Can you imagine that, since the creation of the world with all of the hundreds of millions of people that have been born, that only 144,000 will be saved?
Does that impress you as being the judgment of a merciful God? I think not.
But what these “theologians” refuse to tell us is what follows immediately in Revelations (7:9, 13-17).
Who can succumb to “end of time” preaching, when we read clear promises in Scripture for those who remain faithful and steadfast?
The people of whom the Book of Revelations speaks are those who endure the persecution, and that persecution is now.
It grows swiftly in the media, in the hands of special interest groups who would deny Christians their human and religious rights for the sake of “political correctness,” in the hands of those who would tempt us to fall away from worshiping our God, in the hands of those who say that “formal religion” no longer has a place in our society, and with those who try to convince our young people that the church holds no meaning or necessity for them.
The persecution is in the hands of those who tempt us with drugs, to drop out of society and to live a life of irresponsibility. These are elements to which we either succumb or remain steadfast to the truth. There is no middle ground.
We stand upright knowing that, in the end, we will look our Lord Jesus Christ in the eye and say “Lord, I am your servant. Have mercy on me!” We have confidence that his mercy is with us.
The Rev. Daniel Rohan is pastor of St. Mark Orthodox Church in Liberty.