There is a story of pioneers who were heading west across the prairie lands. One morning they woke up to discover that far in the distance was an approaching prairie fire. They had just crossed a river and would not have time to turn back. As everyone cried and prayed, one leader proposed the only solution. He ordered a controlled burn of the prairie behind them. After enough space was decimated, they backed up onto the blackened ground and waited. As the greater fire approached, a little girl fearfully cried to the leader. “Don’t worry,” He assured her. “We are safe.” “How?” She groaned. “Because we are standing where the fire has been.” Sure enough, as we have seen by utilizing controlled burns today, the fire had nothing to burn when it arrived.
So it is as we look to judgement day, the end, Christ coming again. These can seem like frightening events to consider and they should be. The end should be on any sane man’s calendar, let alone the day we face God. Christianity did not invent the idea of an end, it should be evident to the dullest of human beings!
Even Jim Morrison in a drunken stupor is well aware:
This is the end, beautiful friend
This is the end, my only friend
The end of our elaborate plans
The end of ev’rything that stands
No safety or surprise
I’ll never look into your eyes again
Can you picture what will be?
So limitless and free
Desperately in need of
some strangers hand
In a desperate land
(The End, from the album Feel the Blues, by the Doors)
We witness it every day. Is it any surprise all things will come to an end? God tells us not only will there be an end of this age, but a judgement day. All will be brought to account. Nothing will be hidden. Every knee will bow. Did you think you could get away with that?
Yet, out of love for all sinners, God provides a refuge, a space, which has already been burned, that the fires cannot touch. He actively finds those foolish sheep wandering in danger and brings them to it. As Saint Paul says:
“Or do you not know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? We were therefore buried with Him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.” -Romans 6:3-4
In baptism our God drowns our sins with His Son. It is a heavenly, fire-quenching water and Word, where we die and cannot die again! So, we stand where the fire has already been. We are safe. For Christ offered Himself to receive the fire when He drank the cup we deserve and cried out in a dark scorched place, “My God, My God why have you forsaken me?” And later, “It is finished!”
Therefore, we do not fear the end because we are safe and secure. We not only do not fear it but welcome it because a fresh root sprouted from the blackened earth. A tombstone opened from the inside. A resurrected man stepped out. And He promises to bring us out across the river with Him to the promised land where there will be no more fears, tears, shame or fires.
So, you can wake up today and face the fires all around, not just Judgment Day, but the little fires of your sins, worries, and fears. Remember how you have been quenched in the blood of Christ, baptized in His holy name. You are standing where the fire has already been. Do not fear but go forward. Ride onward pioneers, the Lord is with you.