The end is near

Preaching this weekend on Luke 21, where Jesus talks about ‘the last days’. It’s a loaded topic: memories of watching A Thief in the Night in high school (and getting scared, but also singing many renditions of “I Wish We’d All Been Ready” at youth group meetings with new fervency), ‘prophecy’ conferences (which were even more common for the previous generation), various predictions that consistently miss. My tribe had a well-developed timetable and a fairly high level of certainty about the unfolding of events that would usher in and then occur during the last days; the big question we wanted eschatology to answer was, When?

But reading Luke 21 these days, I’m hearing different questions. There’s Why? , as in why is the sort of cataclysmic end Jesus describes necessary. How? , too, because the Lord wants to talk about how His followers should navigate during the journey through these last days. The first of these gets answered in part by ‘judgment’, since God will judge all in the end. Judgment is another loaded word, one which I’m thinking means far more than punishment. The second is addressed more completely in the Luke chapter, where Jesus says things like don’t worry, expect trouble (and aid!), stand firm as you live between now and then. Words like these suggest steady engagement with present reality and don’t give much room to a notion of longing for escape.

The OT prophets–especially the Minors–got me thinking about ‘the day of the Lord’, and when I come to the NT, it looks like this ‘day’ begins with Jesus’ incarnation and winds up with a final judgment. It also seems like focusing too much on that final moment/event steers us more toward when than why or how, and in these days, I’m thinking those latter two are the better questions.

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