The end of the world

November 15, 2019

The Pastor's Page

As the liturgical year draws to an end, the Church asks us to pause and reflect for a moment on the end of the world. Generation after generation has had doomsday prophets who have cried out, “Watch out! The end of the world is upon us!” Are these predictions believable? Frankly, no!

Jesus said, “But of that day and hour no one knows, neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone” (Mt 24:36). Anyone who claims to know when the end of the world is coming claims to know more than Jesus and the angels. Assertions of this nature are blasphemous, and anyone who makes such a prediction is a fraud and should not be trusted.

Jesus warns us: “See that you not be deceived, for many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am he,’ and ‘The time has come.’ Do not follow them!” (Lk 21:8). There will be wars and insurrections, earthquakes, famines, and plagues, but no matter how awful these tragic events may be, Jesus advises us to be wary of gloom and doom fortunetellers: “It will not immediately be the end” (Lk 21:9). Speculation is useless. If we listen to the prophets of doom that surface periodically, we are going contrary to Jesus’ teaching.

Some suggest that the terrorist attacks of September 11 and the subsequent war in Afghanistan is a sure sign of the end. Not true. The world did not vanish during the Iraq War, the Gulf War, the Vietnam War, the Korean War, or the two World Wars, nor did it stop during any of the other terrible conflicts down through the ages. Judging from the past, it is highly unlikely that the conclusion is looming around the corner.

Others point to anthrax or regional famines in Africa or Asia as sure signs that the end is imminent. Still others mention hurricanes, tornadoes, typhoons, tsunamis, earthquakes, volcanoes, AIDS, Bubonic Plague, and the other terrible epidemics that have occurred in the past. None spelled, “T-H-E E-N-D.”

Be warned! In the year 999 people were frantic that the world would undergo catastrophic destruction. It did not. In 1999 there was great consternation over Y2K. Again, nothing happened.

If the world has survived for almost two thousand years since Jesus issued his warning, it is doubtful that the Second Coming will arrive any time soon. Jesus does not want us to be worried (Lk 21:9), yet he wants us to stay vigilant and pray (Lk 21:36). “The day of the Lord will come like a thief” (2 Pt 3:10).

Jesus and the Church are asking us to put “The End” in a healthy, balanced perspective. We are dealing with two “ends,” not one: the end of our lives at natural death and the end of the world at the Second Coming, the Parousia, or the Final Judgment. Based upon the last two thousand years, it is far more likely that our individual deaths will come before the Second Coming, and “The End” that we should be most concerned about is the end of our lives, not the end of the world.

We need to be ready at all times because our death may come “like a thief in the night.” God may call us home suddenly, unexpectantly, due to a heart attack or a stroke, an accident, or while we are asleep. As we see others die, God is serving us warning: all perish, every one of us included, no exceptions! But there is no need to fret! Jesus is preparing a room for each of us in the heavenly mansion (Jn 14:2). Instead of worrying about the end of the world, Jesus would have us be more concerned with the end of our own lives, to always be in a state of spiritual readiness, so we are ready for our true end, eternal life.

,

About Father Michael Van Sloun

Father Michael A. Van Sloun is the pastor of Saint Bartholomew of Wayzata, MN. Ministerial interests include weekly Bible study, articles on theological topics, religious photography, retreats on Cross spirituality, and pilgrimages to the Holy Land, Italy, Greece and Turkey.

View all posts by Father Michael Van Sloun