And then shall the end come, St Matthew tells us. Everytime we recite the Creed we confess our belief in that second coming, when he will return in glory to raise the quick and the dead. Perhaps because of the excesses of those who claim to have found in Revelation, or in the measurements of the Great Pyramid, or the signs of the times, infallible portents that the end is near, this is something many Christian say little about. If that is our motive – not to appear foolish and to be talking about something which only the Father knows – then fair enough. But if it is to be ‘fashionable’ and out of fear of seeming to be ‘old fashioned’, then we might remind ourselves that it is in the Creed and we believe it to be so; but what is it we believe to be so?
Although far from averse to the notion, Christianity does not preach the gradual improvement of society and the creation of a more just social order where something called ‘social justice’ will prevail; it was not to achieve this He hung and suffered there. Neither does our faith provide any mechanisms or plans by which such an earthly paradise might be constructed. If anything, we are taught that the things of this world are passing away, and that before they do, conditions in this world will get worse for followers of Christ. Moreover, the end, when it comes, will be sudden – apocalyptic.
This was a radical Christian revisioning of the Jewish revelation, which had a Messiah coming to establish a theocracy in which swords would be beaten into ploughshares and all the kings of the world would come bringing their tribute to the holy mountain if Zion. Christians do not see this as the end time. Our nature is marred by sin, we cannot redeem ourselves, neither can we create a paradise, even under a great new king like David. It is good that we help the widow and the orphan – that is ‘true religion’ – but there is, in our faith, no mandate for creating some perfect political system where ‘social justice’ will prevail. You cannot believe that the creation of a particular system will save mankind – Christ, and Christ alone does that.
It is fashionable to suppose that as Christians we have a duty to favour this or that political system, but this is wrong. The Gospel has naught to say about what rate of VAT or tax is ‘just’, any more than it does about the merits of one electoral system over another – or, dare one say it, about whether carbon taxes are sensible. It is human nature to call God into aid for our political preferences – but then human nature is fallen, and that is the sort of thing it does; it does not make it correct.
I glory in naught save the Cross of Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I to the world. The end of the world will come when the Father has willed it. My own ending could be at any time, and if I am sensible, I will be trimming my wick now and laying aisde enough oil for my lamp.