Straighten Up Your Heads

We will always have those who claim the world is about to end, although perhaps not in the same way or the same time frame. There are those who regularly predict an end which comes with cosmic destruction by a natural disaster, or an errant asteroid hurling toward the earth, or a super volcano that will alter the atmosphere needed for life. Then there are those who see the end of the world in the hands of fallen humanity, the fears of climate change and the destruction of our earth by our own carelessness and greed will being about our own destruction. Of course, there are those who see that however the world will end, it will end because of the work of the divine. God will bring about the destruction of the earth. Furthermore, all the doomsday predictors, or at least most of them, have come to some conclusions regarding the timeframe for such destruction. Just as there are those who predict the destruction of the earth based on models of climate change, there are those who will search the pages of scripture to find the year, month, and even day of God’s wrath to rain down from Heaven.

Over time we can grow complacent or willingly ignorant about the end of the earth. Perhaps we get so saturated in the doom and gloom, we begin to tune it out. So, we can easily move throughout our days as if these days will go on forever. We begin to feel as if time is cyclical. Things come and go. There are good times and bad, but it just rolls on and on without any end in sight. But the truth is, the truth proclaimed throughout the pages of Scripture, there will be an end. Time is linear. There was a definite beginning and there will be an end. And the One who holds all time, the One who stands outside of it, the One who marks its beginning and end is our God. And knowing the Word of the Lord concerning the end is crucial for us here and now. For while it may sound like a message of doom and gloom, it is, in the end (pun intended), a message of great hope and strength for the people of God.

Jesus is walking with His disciples. They are looking at the beauty and imposing strength of the Temple in Jerusalem. There is something awe inspiring when we see the mighty works of mankind. If you have ever been inside a massive gothic cathedral, you know the feeling where your eyes are drawn heavenward, and you are dumbfounded before the majesty of it all. This is how I imagine the disciples feel when they walk around the elevated façade of the Temple. It all looked so permanent, so eternal. But then Jesus says, “As for these things that you see, the days will come when there will not be left here one stone upon another that will not be thrown down.” The days are coming when this magnificent building will be utterly destroyed. All these things will have an end. In response to such a startling assertion, the disciples ask two questions. They want to know when these things will happen, and what will be the signs when they are about to take place.

Our Lord focuses on the second question, on the signs that the end is near and what they must do when these things happen. His first caution is that they are not led astray by false teachers and prophets who are sure to come. He says, “Many will come in My name, saying, ‘I am he!’ and, ‘The time is at hand!’ Do not go after them. And when you hear of wars and tumults, do not be terrified, for these things must first take place, but the end will not be at once.” These things are going to happen. There will be those false teachers who seek to lead the faithful astray. Throughout the pages of Scripture, we are called to hold fast to the Word of God, hold fast to what He has commanded and promised, hold fast to the faith He has given.

But it will not be easy to hold fast. It will not be a simple thing to stand firm in the promises of God when our eyes are filled with the nightly news feed of war and rumors of war. We can easily get caught-up in the drama and fear of it all. Jesus goes on to say, “Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be great earthquakes, and in various places famines and pestilences. And there will be terrors and great signs from heaven.” So, if these are the signs that the end is coming, think about what it means, for these are the signs we currently see almost every day. This means you are daily reminded of the certain end of days, how time does not just roll on forever. In a way then, our daily diet of news can drive us back to the Word of God, back to the source of our strength and endurance so we will hold fast through it all.

Yet, it will get worse. If wars, human negligence, and natural disasters are not enough, the coming of the end will be marked by persecution as well. It is persecution which will be found not only in the marketplace, not only in the courts and the public spheres of life, but in our most intimate relationships. Persecution will come among family members. Jesus tells His disciples how some of them will be put to death, and they as a whole will be hated because of His name. They will be hated because they are Christians and nothing more. In our country, we do not know this level of persecution, not yet. But persecution is certainly a mark of the faith around the world. Martyrdom is still a reality for the faithful and our Lord want us to be ready for it to come after us as well.

Jesus has cautioned us about wars and rumors of wars. He has warned us about the false teacher who would lead us astray. But then He turns back to the stones of the buildings of Jerusalem and paints for us a picture of massive destruction. Beginning with Jerusalem, He describes the destruction of everything. What He describes actually happened in 70 AD when Jerusalem was destroyed. Rome laid siege to the city. The Temple was burned, and the Jewish state collapsed. So, Jesus warns them when they see the place surrounded by armies, they should flee to the hills for the walls of the city will not save them. Death and destruction will rain down all around them and the nursing mothers and pregnant women will be most to be pitied. But the destruction of the city of Jerusalem is used here by our Lord to remind us all of the end of everything, the end of the cosmos themselves.

He says, “And there will be 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. For the powers of the heavens will be shaken.” It is all coming to an end. Time in this age has an end point. It does not stretch on for all eternity. The history of the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem, which has never been rebuilt, the history of destruction, death, war, famine, and pestilence, the history of the false teachers who would lead the faithful astray, all of it continues to this day. All of these saturate our life here and now and all of it points us to anticipate the coming our Lord. For Jesus says, “Then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory.”

The end is near. The end is coming. These are the last days. This is what our Lord would have us know. So, He warns us, cautions us, and reminds us to stand upon His Word and to hold fast to what we have been given. His promises to you are what will carry you through the tribulation. They will sustain you when you are weak. So, when it all ends, when the Son of Man comes with power and glory, you are called to straighten up your heads, to not cower in fear and trembling, to not shrink from the coming of God. No, you are to straighten up your heads, for this is the coming of your redemption. Come Lord Jesus come.