Throughout Christian history, we have been told so many times that the End Times are here, we no longer take such talk seriously. It has almost become as believable as the children’s story of Chicken Little, who thought the sky was falling, because an acorn landed on his head. Chicken Little on his way to tell the lion that the End had come gathered with him several believers that joined him on his journey. Unfortunately, the last one he told was a fox who offered to guide this band of believers to the lion’s den. Instead, the fox led them to his own lair. Chicken Little and his band of believers were never seen again. Thus the moral of this story is to teach us to not get swept up in fear, which only leads to destruction.
When we read today’s scriptures, it is easy to become fearful of the future. After all, we are told of the heavens being torn asunder, mountains quaking, widespread fires that are so hot they cause water to boil. All of these signs of destruction are signs of God’s wrath and the end of the world as we know it. As much as we have been told to look forward to the return of Christ, it is difficult to be hopeful when we are told of the destruction that will happen on the Day of the Lord. Fear seems to be a normal reaction to such foreboding prophecies and these are only from the Old Testament reading for today from the Book of Isaiah!
In today’s gospel reading from Mark, Jesus tells His disciples, ‘But in those days, after that suffering, the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will be falling from heaven, and the powers in the heavens will be shaken. Then they will see “the Son of Man coming in clouds” with great power and glory. Then he will send out the angels, and gather his elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of heaven.” Such fearful words of horror give no hope to humanity, unless one is counted among the Son of Man’s elect, who are gathered up by the angels from all over the world.
As terrible as the end times will be, the believers in Christ that remain faithful to Him will be saved. This is our hope. Our hope is in Christ alone. Nothing will save us from the horrors of the End Times. There will be great persecution and falling away from the true faith. Many will turn against Christ as a means of preservation. For the coming New Order will demand complete abandonment of faith in Jesus the Christ and the traditional teachings of the Church.
Some would say that we are already living in the End Times as many in the Church seek to follow the ways of the world in place of the ways of God. The Anglican Church of North America was formed as a refuge for Anglicans in the Episcopal Church who refused to deny the traditional teachings of the Church universal. In its short length of time, the ACNA has grown to become not only a place for the spiritually disenfranchised, but also as a spiritual leader in reaching the unchurched for Christ. The mission work that the Episcopal Church failed in committing to do back in the 1990’s is now being accomplished by the new Anglican presence in North America. We are reaching the unchurched for Christ. Yet, even this new work in Christ is not the one sign that the disciples were warned by Jesus would happen.
The one sign that Jesus foretold would happen was the rebirth of Israel as a nation. Mark writes, “‘From the fig tree learn its lesson: as soon as its branch becomes tender and puts forth its leaves, you know that summer is near. So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that he is near, at the very gates. Truly I tell you, this generation will not pass away until all these things have taken place. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.”
To the disciples’ understanding at the time, this could easily have been interpreted as the overthrow of the Romans and the rebirth of Israel as a sovereign nation. The disciples were familiar with the words of Isaiah, “Who has heard of such a thing? Who has seen such things? Shall a land be born in one day? Shall a nation be delivered in one moment? Yet as soon as Zion was in labor she delivered her children.” As we know from history that is not what happened. Instead, the nation of Israel, known at the time as Judea, was completely oppressed by the Romans in 70 AD when Jerusalem was demolished, leaving only one wall of the Temple standing as a reminder.
The prophecy of Jesus and Isaiah concerning the rebirth of Israel did not happen until May 15, 1948, when the United Nations established the sovereign nation of Israel as a Jewish refuge after the Nazi Holocaust had killed six million Jews. (actually United Nations General Assembly Resolution 181 passed on 29 November 1947 created two states, one Jewish and one Arab. The Jews accepted the offer while the Arabs rejected it and initialed a war against new state of Israel on May 15, 1948) Until that day, the creation of a new country to protect a particular group of people had never happened in all the history of the world. To top it off for that new nation to be created by the nations of the world was in short ‘a miracle’. For almost two thousand years, this prophecy was believed to be an impossibility. Yet, it happened. The Jews, who for nearly two thousand years, had comforted each other at the conclusion of the Yom Kippur service and the Passover Seder with the words, “Next year in Jerusalem” could now return to their beloved homeland.
Today the nation of Israel has become a modern nation with much to offer. The leaves of the fig tree have now appeared. Israel is leading in the research against cancer, having recently developed a cancer vaccine that is now being used in trials before being released. With the success of this vaccine, it is believed that 90 percent of all cancers can be cured and prevented. Israel will be known as the healer of the nations. Yet, the nation of Israel is under grave danger for her very existence.
While the nation of Israel seeks to do good for all of humanity, she is surrounded by nations whose common intent is to see Israel wiped off of the map. Yet, her very success shines out as a testimony to the good intentions of God’s chosen people. Her very existence is a fulfillment of prophecy for the End Times.
While I do not want to be known as a Chicken Little, it is wise to take heed to the words of Christ and remain alert to the fulfillment of End Time prophecies. Not to live in fear, but to look with hopeful anticipation for the prophetic fulfillment of Christ’s return to earth. For if a nation can be created in one day and become strong enough to flourish, how can we not believe our Savior’s words that the Son of Man will return in great glory?
As Christians, we need to know that from an eternal perspective, the return of Christ is near. Concerning the return of the Lord, we are reminded of the words of the Apostle Paul in his letter to the Romans, “The hour has come for you to wake up from your slumber, because our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed.” With the flourishing of Israel, the fig tree has put forth her leaves and fulfilled the prophecy. Today the time of Christ’s return is even nearer than when St. Paul warned the Christians of his day to be on alert. Now more than ever, we the Church need to be proclaiming the gospel of Christ to the nations beginning with our own families and our next door neighbors. In closing, let us heed the words of St. Paul to the Corinthians and share these words of urgency, “See, now is the acceptable time; see, now is the day of salvation!”