Today, too many fear the promised return of our Lord Jesus. In movies and other works of fiction, many can only imagine a terrible time of horror, suffering and judgment. Indeed, we are told in scripture that the end of time promises some form of Judgment Day will occur, but all is not a future full of darkness alone. With the symbolic language and prophetic texts used to speak of such a time, people tend to actively speculate about what such a time could be like. Many let their imaginations run wild for profit, the intimidation of others, or perhaps just out of ignorance. Yet in truth, to try to discern the mechanisms and mechanics of Judgment Day puts us at risk of being unbiblical. Such an exercise always proves futile for we lack God’s vision and understanding.
Instead of speculating about suffering or damnation, perhaps we should hold fast to Christ’s promise that he returns out of love for us. For rather than inspiring fear or proving a map to a terror-filled future, texts such as Revelation were written as much for (if not more for) Christians suffering in the present time to find hope and encouragement amidst persecution. In it, we are assured Jesus will most certainly come to complete what his life, death, and resurrection started. Jesus will come for us and our sake, to set the world right and bring new life. Thus rather than fearing the End of Time, the earliest Christians prayed that Jesus would come soon. The Second Coming is Christ’s answer to all that terrorizes our present lives, and we modern folk should rightfully celebrate along with those Christians who came before us.
Much after the first Christians, during a time when nationalism and secularism was taking a toll on the world through wars, greed, and political dysfunction, the feast of Christ the King was first introduced by Pope Pius XI in 1926. By 1969, the date was changed from the last Sunday in October to the last Sunday of the liturgical calendar year. Today, it is celebrated by the Roman Catholic Church along with many Anglicans, Lutherans, other Mainline Protestants, as well as parts of the of the Orthodox Church.
This ecumenical feast day is a celebration of hope while the universal church awaits Christ’s return. It serves to remind us that we should seek to live as one under our one Lord, Jesus Christ, loving God and our neighbor as ourself. Like the Christians before us, we remember and trust that Christ will come again – praying with hope that he comes soon. For only then will we experience the fullness of our promised life with him where “he will wipe every tear from their eyes. death will be no more; mourning and crying and pain will be no more, for the first things have passed away” (Revelation 21:4).
In the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Sweden, this feast day has been referred to as the Sunday of Doom. This name is somewhat ironic. There is doom in a sense, but we should never be overcome with doubts and sorrow as Christians. There is much more in store. The old world will pass away, and a new heaven and earth will be shared with us. Those who believe will be fully saved and judged as if righteous; not based upon what they have done, but solely by grace through faith – trusting in what Jesus has already done for us through the power of his cross and resurrection. This Christ proclaimed, and it will be fulfilled.
Our true King will indeed return, but whatever trouble must come in the meantime, we should worship him, rejoice and be glad while we wait. We should set our hands and hearts to the work of making ourselves and our world ready for his return. For as much as we expect Christ, he asks and expects this of his faithful church.
Yes, the best is yet to come, and as Christians, we are promised that End of Time will mean a new beginning with our loving Savior and King. Our future (in the end) is nothing but bright.
Happy Christ the King Sunday!
Unless otherwise indicated, all scripture quotations for this article are from the New Revised Standard Version (NRSV) translation.
© 2012 The Rev. Louis Florio. All content not held under another’s copyright may not be used without permission of the author.