Scripture Reading: Luke 21:1-38, Luke 22:1-2, Daniel 7:13-14
I love the television comedy Parks and Recreation for a hundred reasons. I love it for its heart, humor, absurdity, characters—I could go on and on about it, but I’ll save my fangirl essay for another day. Instead, I want to talk about one episode in particular from season four: “The End of the War.” In this episode, a group of “zorpies” (the nickname given to a group of cult-like doomsdayers) reserve a park for what they believe will be the last night of the world when their lizard-god Zorp returns to destroy Earth. Of course, the world doesn’t end, and so they reserve the park again for when they think Zorp will really come back.
The episode is a parody of any number of real doomsday groups, who gain popularity in the news when they think the world is going to end based on a complex calculation of prophecy, astronomy, and who knows what else. We have a tendency to laugh off these groups—especially the ones who claim Christianity—as harmless and wacky, which most of them are. But when I read this passage in Luke 21, I have to wrestle with my own “end of the world” questions.
Jesus is speaking in what is known today as the Olivet Discourse, a series of teachings He gave while on the Mount of Olives. It is also recorded in Matthew and Mark, the other synoptic Gospels. And it happens to be one of the most controversial and debated teachings of Jesus.
In this passage, Jesus foretells destruction and challenge, wars and natural disasters. But His refrain is clear: “do not be terrified” (v. 9); “not a hair of your head will perish” (v. 18); “your redemption is drawing near” (v. 28); “my words will not pass away” (v. 33).
Even if, as many scholars believe, these specific prophecies were fulfilled when the Romans destroyed the temple in AD 70, we can still relate to the feelings of fear as we wait for Jesus to return. We can also feel the anxious heartbeat of the ancient Israelites who dealt with destruction and war as they waited for their Messiah. And yet through the ages, one truth remains that all God’s people cling to: Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again.
Revelation 21 promises us a new heaven and new earth, and it assures us that those words are trustworthy and true. We do not know if and how the world will end or when and how Christ will return, but we know that He will. And today, that is enough.
His dominion is an everlasting dominion
that will not pass away,
and his kingdom is one
that will not be destroyed.
Melanie Rainer is a bookworm from birth who makes her days writing, editing, and reading in Nashville, Tennessee. She has an M.A. in Theological Studies from Covenant Seminary, spends as much time as she can in the kitchen, and can’t wait until her two daughters are old enough to read Anne of Green Gables. She writes online at www.melanie-rainer.com.