Human beings have always been interested in what we call “End Time” prophecies. People have for centuries checked their horoscopes – have consulted clairvoyants and tinkered in other ways of reaching the afterlife such as Ouija Boards and Tarot cards or even Fortune Cookies. In the Old Testament times people would consult those who claimed to be able to conjure up Spirits to try and find out what the future holds especially when going out to war. In the Old Testament priests used something that was called a Urim and Thummim which I’m not really sure what they were but it was a way of consulting divine spirits to perhaps determine guilt or innocence or other judgments. And there is the infamous account of King Saul who wanting to consult God but couldn’t when being attacked by the Philistines. So he went and sought out the Witch of Endor who then dragged up from the dead the spirit of the prophet Samuel.
For many Christians and even non-Christians the Book of Revelation has been a mysterious book which many believe holds a timeline of events that lead up to the final days of life. So many people are looking at what we are going through in these days and trying to match it up against the Book of Revelation timeline which even talks of things like pestilence which is basically a fatal epidemic or pandemic. It talks of wars and other catastrophes leading up to the great holy land battle of Armageddon. It speaks about dragons and beasts and some are even attributing the vaccine to the Mark of the Beast in Revelation 13 which says you cannot buy or sell without the Mark of the Beast and linking it to the vaccine mandates regarding who can buy and sell and go to work. And when we had the earthquake a couple months ago people were scrambling for their bibles looking up passages such as our Gospel reading today where Jesus says – Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom; there will be earthquakes in various places; there will be famines. This is but the beginning of the birth pains.
The fascination with end times and knowing the future is a way that brings us comfort because if we know what’s happening then perhaps we can prepare for it or even control it maybe even prevent it. That’s how people often find comfort in life and death situations. We like to be prepared for the future. We like to be in control. Have our house paid off – have a good retirement nest egg to allow us to live comfortably – start looking after our bodies with exercise and better eating habits. We are in control of our future – or are we – because no matter how much control we take, death is still inevitable.
You know as well as I do that even the most prepared can face that unexpected event that turns their life around. This is what Jesus is trying to teach us and his disciples today when he prepares them for the coming cataclysmic events. Jesus disciples were still trying to find their security in their human achievements;
As Jesus came out of the temple, one of his disciples said to him, “Look, Teacher, what large stones and what large buildings!” To this, Jesus points out reality: “Do you see these great buildings? Not one stone will be left here upon another; all will be thrown down. And as the Jews will soon experience, their hopes and dreams were destroyed when their Temple -the symbol of God’s presence with them, was destroyed in 70AD.
So Jesus is pointing them away from seeking comfort in their physical surrounds and belongings to faith in God. Jesus says this because there will always be threats to destroy our physical securities including earthquakes, wars or anything else that can destroy our physical comforts.
To build up true security we look not for physical but spiritual strength which come to us when we keep up our faith life which would include prayer, worship, reading the bible, and the sacraments – our Baptism and Holy Communion. Why are these important? Because we will always be tempted to more physical and material assurances when we look away from God It’s human nature that goes right back to the Garden of Eden with Adam and Even tempted to more physical and material assurances rather than trusting God.
We need to be able to discern false teachings that lure us away from security in Jesus, or as Jesus puts it – Many will come in my name and say, ‘I am he!’ and they will lead many astray. Anything that takes our hopes away from Jesus. And that’s why our reading from Hebrews also encourages us in our faith life when it says:
Let us consider how to provoke one another to love and good deeds, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day approaching. The Day being referred to is Judgment Day when Christ returns to bring an end to our life here on earth.
As we commemorate All Saints Day today this Day has come for many of our loved ones who now wait for the Day when Jesus brings us all home. It is our Christian faith that now comforts all who mourn because we know what happens for those whom God has called home. That’s why St Paul in Thessalonians says – let us grieve but not as those who have no hope – we have hope. God promised that all who believed in his Son shall receive eternal life in Heaven and in Heaven the Book of Revelation says there will be no more mourning because there will be no more death. And our Hebrews reading reminds us that God will never let us down in what he has promised. It states: Let us hold fast to the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who has promised is faithful. Whatever God has promised will be fulfilled – God cannot go back on his promises.
In Baptism God makes a very special promise to all of us. In Mark 16:16 he says – whoever believes and is baptized WILL be saved. WILL be saved – there is no ambiguity or uncertainty there. As Baptised believers we are protected from the coming of Judgment Day mentioned in Hebrews. As were the Israelites when the destroying angel as Passover protected them when he saw the blood of the lamb. We too are protected on Judgment Day by the blood of our Lamb – Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world – our sin.
Daniel also speaks about that Day when he says – Many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt. But he also assures God’s children of protection: At that time Michael, the great prince, the protector of your people, shall arise. There shall be a time of anguish, such as has never occurred since nations first came into existence. But at that time your people shall be delivered, everyone who is found written in the book. The Book of Life. On that day we will receive our new birth. But prior to birth there are birth pains as Jesus points out. And those birth pains are what we are experiencing now in two ways.
There is the birth pain of living in this fallen world with its suffering and pain. There is the physical pain of suffering. But there is also the birth pain as we grieve for our loved ones who have passed from this life to their new life. And after the birth pains have ended and our new life begins the pains of this life shall be remembered no more as we live in the presence of God who wipes away all our tears. Where our sins are remembered no more either by God or ourselves. Our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. Water that began in our Baptism.
Most of us, if not all of us, have a loved one who has passed from this life. But we grieve, not as those without hope but with hope in Jesus Christ our Lord And because of our faith in Jesus Christ, we have confidence to enter the sanctuary by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain – the curtain that once kept the people from the presence of God until it was torn in 2 at Jesus death.
And since we have a great priest over the house of God, we can approach with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. So as the Day of Judgment approaches, let us encourage one another, and all the more as you see the Day approaching.