(and what if this present were the world’s last night?)

The second coming of Jesus. Boom. It’s all over. Everything stops where it is. Game play is over. No more scoring, no time outs. Banks closed. Accounts closed. all eyes closed. Last call. It’s over. The curtain is closed and the theater seats are all empty. All traffic stops. Waves stop. Wind stops. Water stops. It is over.

Naw, we don’t believe in that anymore. He said he was coming back, that was over 2 millennia ago, just in case I said that wrong, over 2000 years ago. It isn’t going to happen. Evolution will take its course, mankind will probably end itself, God won’t have anything to do with it.

Maybe.

This year in the last two weeks so many friends and family had people dying in their families that I almost resorted to copying and pasting my condolences. Most of them were older folks which somehow don’t shock or surprise me as much when they pass. Two of these people were my contemporaries, one, 5 years older, and another 5 years younger. These deaths chomped down on my life like cemetery gates, one behind me and one before me, making me feel very vulnerable and frail and sad.

Maybe the apocalypse Jesus spoke of won’t come. Or if it is coming, maybe it’s in another 2000 years. There is an end that is coming to each of us. We really don’t know when. I am writing this on new year’s day, many folks will be a little mentally foggy due to the celebration excellerent, fluid or otherwise, that was consumed last night so this may sound like doom and gloom, I don’t want it to. I do want it to sober me up.

In C.S. Lewis’ book “The World’s Last Night”, the title article is placed last in the book. Lewis discusses the subject of the apocalyptic teaching of Jesus.

On the last two pages of the last chapter, the last 4 paragraphs sobered me up and I wasn’t hung over.

Every man has an end. God’s word says at that end there is judgement.

“Our ancestors had a habit of using the “Judgement” in the this context as if it meant simply “punishment”: hence the popular expression, “It’s judgement on him.” I believe we can sometimes render the thing more vivid to ourselves by taking judgement in a stricter sense: not as the sentence or award but as the verdict. Some day (and “What if this present were the World’s last night?”) an absolutely correct verdict – if you like, a perfect critique – will be passed on what each of us is.

We have all encountered judgments or verdicts on ourselves in this life. Every now and then we discover what our fellow creatures really think of us. I don’t of course mean what they tell us to our faces: that we usually have to discount. I am thinking of what we sometimes overhear by accident or of the opinions about  us which our neighbors or employees or subordinates unknowingly reveal in their actions: and of the terrible, or lovely, judgements artlessly betrayed by children or or even animals. Such discoveries can be the bitterest or sweetest experiences we have. But of course both the bitter and the sweet are limited by our doubt as to the wisdom of those who judge. We always hope that those who so clearly think us cowards or bullies are ignorant and malicious; we always fear that those who trust us or admire us are misled by partiality. I suppose the experience of the Final Judgement (which may break in upon us at any moment) will be like these little experiences, but magnified to the Nth.

For it will be infallible judgement. If it is favorable we shall have no fear, if unfavorable, no hope, that it is wrong. We shall not only believe, we shall know, know beyond doubt in every fiber of our appalled or delighted being, that as the Judge has said, so we are: neither more nor less nor other. WE shall perhaps even realize that in some dim fashion we could have known it all along. We shall know and all creation will know too: our ancestors, our parents, our wives or husbands, our children. The unanswerable and (by then) self-evident truth about each will be known to all.

I do not find that pictures of physical catastrophe – that sign in the clouds, those heavens rolled up like a scroll – help one so much as the naked idea of Judgement. We cannot always be excited. We can, perhaps, train ourselves to ask more and more often how the thing which we are saying or doing (or failing to do) at each moment will look when the irresistible light streams in upon it; that light which is so different from the light of this – and yet, even now, we know just enough of it to take it into account. Women sometimes have the problem of trying to judge by artificial light how a dress will look by daylight. That is very like the problem of all of us: to dress our souls not for the electric lights of the present world but for the daylight of the next. The good dress is the one that will face that light. For that light will last longer.”

How much of what I do or not do, what I say,  will be suitable to the “light that will last longer”? My end may not come at the apocalyptic end of all things, it may be much sooner.

What Lewis says here of judgement, “a perfect critique – will be passed on what each of us is.”, it is not what we have done, but who we are, what we are.

I guess that is why I used the word sobered instead of scared when describing how it feels to look at death and dying. I am a child of God. He has adopted me into his family, not because I have done anything to earn it, but because Jesus his son purchased my adoption by dying on the cross. He then made a way for me to live forever by rising from the dead and proving his power over death. My judgement will be as one who is already part of the family. My victories and failures can’t alter my place in God’s family.

Jesus talks about this and it is recorded in Matthew chapter 25.

31 “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. 32 All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33 He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.

34 “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

37 “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’

40 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’

41 “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42 For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’

44 “They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’

45 “He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’

46 “Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”

The very first thing the King will do is separate the sheep and the goats. I am sheepishly a follower of Jesus, and a child of the King. You can be too.

Doing the right thing doesn’t make a sheep a goat. A sheep will do sheep things, a goat will do goat things and not do sheep things. We as a race are all born goats. A sheep is born a sheep, not by natural birth but by a spiritual birth through belief in Jesus.

In Paul’s letter to the believers in Rome he said this: ” If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved.”

The end is coming, it may be a collective end, or it may be an individual end. I believe the end will also bring a day or judgement or as Lewis says, a verdict, not of what we have done but what we are, I am a sheep. What are you?

 

 

Author: Peterloeffelbein

I am a man. I am an older man. I am a husband and a dad and a grandpa. I am a disciple of Jesus. Because I am a disciple of Jesus much of what I write is about him, and I usually end what I write with a question, do you the reader know that Jesus loves you? He does. He loves us all but he loves you specifically. He loves me specifically. What will you do with that information today?

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