I heard recently that the world is about to end. I bet you did, too.
Our culture today is obsessed with the end of the world. Whether religious or secular, we know all about being Left Behind™ or being the last humans standing surrounded by The Walking Dead™. Many Christians chant, “Come, Lord Jesus!” And when they say this, what they mean is, “Put those sinners in their place, wash the world in your fiery wrath, and take us all to Heaven at once.” It is an obsession for some. They say, “I can’t see how it could get much worse before Jesus is forced to come back.” Or, “The sin of this nation is so vile that I can’t imagine God will allow it to last much longer.” Some even go so far as to give a date.
Now, to be fair, this isn’t a new idea. Large segments of every generation since Jesus died and rose again have been pretty sure they were the last. After all, the Bible does say that “this generation will not pass away until all has taken place.”(1)
If you’re new to the blog, you might not know that I’m a big fan of playing with live grenades. They make such a pretty firework when they finally go off. But I think I’m going to sidestep this one. You can let me know at the end if I succeed.
My wife, Sarah, gave me a new perspective tonight as we were talking about the end of the world. She said of many who want the world to end, “They’re getting fed up with life, but they’re afraid of death. They don’t want to leave everyone behind.” Then, later on, she said, “I would far prefer to get to heaven with you standing there beside me. I don’t want you to leave me alone.”
And that’s when it hit me. We are all left behind. And, in the end, we ourselves will leave all the rest.
There are many emotions whirling around when it comes to the end times. Judgment. Anger. Superiority. A bevy of different fears. But I believe that, when you dig to the very center of it, you will find the fear of loneliness.
You notice the stories are never about the people who move on ahead. They’re always about those. . . Left. . . Behind. They’re all about, “What would it be like to be the last one left?”
It’s true: the world will end. Yours will end. Mine will end. And, while the worlds of those who are closest to us will still remain, they will be changed. Emptied. Shaken. Perhaps even shattered.
Hell, then, is not for those who die in this scenario. It is for those who remain.
My daughter, Aurora, recently said, “Mommy, I don’t want you to ever die. I’m going to keep you for 1,000 years.” Then she said, “I don’t want Daddy to die either. Did he almost die? Was it our prayers that kept him here?”
Can these fears ever be completely conquered? I don’t know. I think so. The thing is, I’m still in process myself.
But I do know there is hope. All we have to do is shift our perspective.
What is the meaning of life? I believe, in its broadest sense, that it is to love, and to die. But the thing our Western culture forgets is that death is a graduation. And the story after death is so much greater than the story we’re writing and living now. This is the prologue. That is the book.
Paul said that “to live is Christ, and to die is gain.”(2) He knew there was something better on the other side. Something greater and grander. He knew that on the other side was his Father, his Brother, his Lord. He said that we should not grieve over those where were “asleep,” like those who have no hope.(3) Because there is hope. And for all of those who have left us behind, they are even now writing their best story. And some day, we will rejoin them to write ours.
Eternity isn’t just our reward. Eternity is our grand adventure.
So while we can sing about how we “wish we’d all been ready,”(4) we need to realize that the end we sing about could come much quicker – and will be much more personal – than we possibly realized. And when it comes, we will bid farewell to our late, great home, the planet earth, and venture on into the grand, epic landscape that is our Eternal Home.
I’m not sure I dodged the grenade. But feel free to let me know. I’d love to hear your thoughts on all of this. Share it if you like it, and God bless you!
1. Luke 21:32
2. Philippians 1:21
3. 1 Thessalonians 4:13
Larry Norman, “I Wish We’d All Been Ready”. (“Upon This Rock”, Solid Rock. 1969.)