I imagine that people have been fascinated with the idea of the end of time for as long as there have been people. It has been a hot topic at least as long as the scriptures have been around. Much of what is written about it in scripture is filled with symbolism and this weekend’s readings are excellent examples of this. While this is not nearly everything that is known about the end of time, here are four things about it that can be taken from our readings.
Many of the First Testament scriptures that we Christians hold dear are images of the end of time.
In today’s first reading God tells us through the prophet Isaiah about a time when Jerusalem will be rescued and restored. It will be a time when there will be prosperity and security and everyone’s needs will be fulfilled. Jerusalem is symbolic of all of God’s people and God’s promise is for all his people. In other parts of scripture we hear that the fulfillment of this promise will also be a magnet of sorts for all the people of the world (see Isaiah 25:6). They will see the good that God is doing for his Chosen People and they will be attracted and will come to join in this good fortune¡ turning toward God and coming to believe in him alongside Jerusalem.
It’s not only about the future.
We must wonder: why this is so important? If this goodness is in the future, what does it mean to me now? Imagine that a loving parent tells their child that one day the family business will be theirs. While this is a promise for the future, it is also an expression of love and care at this moment. It is as if to say, “I love you so much that one day I will entrust you with everything and all I have will be yours.” As God makes promises about the future, he is expressing his current love for us.
Jesus is the fulfillment of God’s promises.
Given God’s promises to his people, and given that the Messiah would be God’s servant who would fulfill those promises, there were certain hopes that people had of the Messiah. Jesus fulfills them all - though not the way that people expected. One example of this is that the people expected the Messiah to gather the people into a new Kingdom of God¡ to bring back together the twelve tribes of Israel. How did Jesus do this? The very first message he preached, the very first Good News he shared, is that “the Kingdom of God is at hand.” In fact, this is also the Good News that he sends his disciples to share, “Tell them that the Kingdom of God is at hand for you.” (see Luke 10:1-20) The way he did this was most unexpected. He did this with table fellowship. He ate with sinners, prostitutes and tax collectors. He sought out the lepers and the marginalized. He ignored the powerful and lifted up the weak. This is how he gathered the people.
The future is now.
Jesus is not only the future fulfillment of God’s promises, he is also the present expression of God’s love. God’s goodness and mercy are for all his people. While the Kingdom of God will be completely fulfilled at the end when Jesus comes again, Jesus is making it real in the here and now. Our eternal life with God is not only in the future, it has already begun. Whenever we receive the Eucharist, God fulfills his love for us. Every time we love one another as Jesus loved us, the people are restored. With every effort to express the grace of God, others are attracted and come closer to a relationship with God.
The end of time is here. Not because time is finished, but because Jesus continually comes again into our lives and into our world and fulfills God’s promises in the world. The love and mercy of God are realized whenever we love and show mercy in what we say and do.
We are the disciples being sent ahead by Jesus to stir up expectation and spread joy and to announce that the Kingdom of God is at hand.