The End Is Near; This Changes Everything

Text: 1 Peter 4:7-14

In the name of Jesus. Amen. 

Whether we are aware of it or not, everybody in society lives in one of two ways.  

On the one hand, many people live life as if they will never die. The reality of mortality is not even on their radar. For them, death is often not thought of, or they believe the lie that they will remain forever young. In their mind, they never will get old. For them, 40 is the new 30, 50 is the new 40, and 60 is the new 50. Apparently, when you get older, you actually become younger. 

On the other hand, other people live this life knowing that they are going to die. They don’t deny death but simply embrace it and then choose to eat, drink and be merry. For them, life is about squeezing out as much fun, adventure, and pleasure before one finds themselves in a wheelchair in a nursing home. 

And so, which group do you find yourself in?  I don’t know about you, but I often bounce back and forth between both extremes. Perhaps both of these extremes might also depend on your stage of life. When you are young, deep down, you know death is out there; however, you don’t quite feel it in your bones and don’t see death immediately at your doorstep. Therefore, you may choose to live it up at the moment. Then, later on in life, you feel death in your bones, and you begin to see death around you, with friends dying, joints needing to be replaced, and wrinkles setting in. Thus, at that point, it is easier to not think about death and pretend that you are young.  

So, what is the point that is being made? Unfortunately, both of these options go the way of false security. They are two different ways in which we try to give ourselves assurance and comfort in this life of sin and death. They are two ways in which we try and convince ourselves that the end is far off.  

But dear friends, in our reading from the Epistle of 1 Peter, the Apostle Peter tells you and me that the end of all things is near. It is not far off. It will soon occur.  

Now, undoubtedly, this should cause you to squirm. Hearing that the end is near for you should make you uncomfortable.   For example, since the average age of death in the United States is 73.8 years old, if you are in your late 60s, the end could be right around the corner. If you are over 73.8 years old, well… you are on borrowed time. And for those of you that are younger, be careful to give yourself into cockiness. Death can happen in the blink of an eye. Ask those older than you; they will tell you countless stories of loved ones who left this life with a quick snap of the fingers – here one day and gone the next. Besides, time has a way of getting faster the older you get. Young people, the end is near, and it will draw closer to you with greater speed.  

So, if the end is near, what do we do, besides running to false security?  

Dear friends, listen up! Consider the Gospel. Yes, you and I must consider the Gospel. You see, without the Gospel, hearing that the end is near will result in a great deal of fear and anxiety. Perhaps the reason why so many of us Christians act just like pagans is that we fail to consider just how good the message of the Gospel is for us. Baptized Saints, consider this a moment. On the great last day, all things will come to an end, and there will be a final judgment. The living and the dead will be judged at the end of all things. But for you, Baptized Saints, a judgment has already been made. On Jesus’ cross, all your sin was judged, and so, on the great last day, you will not fall short of God’s holiness and justice.   And so, hearing that the end is near should not lead you to panic or be foolish like the rest of the world, denying your mortality and pretending that there is no end to this life. Only fools live in the make-believe world that they will live forever.  

Baptized Saints, the end is near. Either you will die very soon, or Jesus will come back, but this shall not cause you to fear. The end of all things for you as a Christian not only leads you to say,  “Come Lord Jesus Come,” but it leads you and me to stay wide-awake, diligent, sober-minded, thoughtful, and considerate.  Think of it this way: if the end is far off – or if it never occurs - then it would make sense to look out for ourselves. If there is no end to life, then it would make sense to hold on to grudges, and it would make sense to give into greed to save for the future. If there is no end to this life under the sun, then it would make sense to numb ourselves into an emotional stupor so that we can endure the long road ahead. But dear friends, there is an end, and that end is near. And so, this leads us to stay wide-awake, diligent, sober-

I am reminded of a parishioner who almost died in the hospital. The end was right before him as he lay in that hospital bed. Long story short, he didn’t die. He walked out of that hospital several days later. And from that day forward, everything changed for him. His encounters with his friends took on greater importance. He held to his finances a bit losser, knowing that he couldn’t take his money with him. His generosity increased; he enjoyed the small things in life and didn’t sweat the small stuff. Knowing that he had almost experienced the end and knowing that the end was still at hand gave him a proper understanding that everything he had was a gift. Furthermore, he was freed from the terrible curse of thinking that he had to live for himself for the years to come. He was freed to know that the end was near and that Jesus was giving him time to love his family, friends, and neighbors. He was freed to be generous. He was freed to love others, not keeping a huge record of wrong and not being easily offended by every little thing. He was free – knowing that the end was near and that for whatever time he had left in this world, this time was a gift for him to bless and love those around him in need.  

Baptized Saint, the end is near for you, me, and those around us. This changes things, doesn’t it? If the end is near and if we are held in Jesus as the end approaches, we need not get wrapped up in all of life’s tiny and insignificant problems. For example, you need not be given to road rage when someone cuts you off in traffic. You and the other driver will soon die or immediately stand before Christ on the last day.   And so, does it really matter? It does not. 

When you get in a fight with your spouse, children, or family over a silly issue, does it really matter? Why would you want to spend precious time working so hard to harbor a grudge and conjure up anger when the end is near?  

If the end is near, does it make sense to numb yourself and go through the motions of life? It does not. Sober up; open your eyes; the end is near. The time you have with your family, friends, and neighbors is precious – it is precious time to bless your neighbor and love them in the name of Christ. 

If the end is near, is it wise to become spiritually drowsy, overly dramatic, lethargic, stingy, grudgeful, and greedy? No, it is not wise. Only fools become spiritually drowsy, overly dramatic, lethargic, stingy, grudgeful, and greedy – they do this because they do not understand that the end is near. They function as if there is no end and there is no god. All they want is easy street. They live to make their bellies their gods. All they can think of is their own appetite and false comfort. 

But this is not who you are, Baptized Saints. You have the Gospel; you are forgiven and know that the end is near. And so, as Christians, you take nothing for granted. You are wide awake, quick to love, and a recipient of God’s abounding gifts. 

The end is near; Jesus has you now and to the end of the age. Abide and remain with steadfast faith and sober trust.      

In the name of Jesus. Amen.

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