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Since the Covid epidemic the world seems a much darker and more troubled place. The epidemic, the war in Ukraine, and global warming are having repercussions that affect us all. But actually this is only a return to what throughout history has been the norm. I have recently read The Story of Russia, a history book by Orlando Figes. It is a terrible tale of wars and massacres, poverty and starvation, disease and death. Putin is only a continuation of the story of tsars and ambition, rebellions and suffering. Here in Britain we have enjoyed 70 years of relative peace and prosperity, but we now seem beset by all sorts of insoluble conflicts and troubles. Perhaps it is time to remember that this is essentially a broken and divided world. Part of it is God’s wonderful creation and part of it our human sinfulness and corruption. It is not God’s plan that it should go on like this for ever.

The resurrection and ascension of Jesus is not the end of the story. As the angel said to the apostles, “This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way as you have seen him go.” (Acts 1.11.) There are many places in the gospels and the epistles where Jesus and the Apostles return to this subject. Jesus’s second coming will involve a great and final separation of good and evil. There will be no more suffering. “He will wipe away every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” (Revelation 21.4.) Many people long for such a new world, but we differ over how it can come about. There are those who look to human endeavour and skill, to science and politics. But the basic fault lies in ourselves, and all our efforts will be flawed until human nature itself is redeemed, our pride and selfishness, our lusts and greed cured. We can never put the world right until we are put right by God.

All this depends on the person and work of Jesus, the Saviour and Redeemer of the world, dying and rising to redeem us from sin and death. Only at his coming again will we see a new world emerging from the ruins of this old one. That is why we must fix our eyes on Jesus, love him and serve him until that great day comes. Advent then is a special time to lift up our eyes in anticipation and hope of Jesus’s Second Coming.

What that will look like and when it will happen are mysteries that are not revealed. Too many times Christians have been tempted to calculate the time and date of Jesus’ return and been disappointed and disillusioned when he did not come. But the parables of Jesus warn us in several places not to go to sleep on the job when the master does not return as expected, but to stay awake and so be ready whenever he comes. It is always a challenge, but without such perseverance and hope it is only too easy to despair about the state of the world and its future. Whatever spectacular advances the human race makes in science and technology, the world will go on suffering ‘wars and rumours of wars, earthquakes and famines’, increasing rather than decreasing as time goes on. So, let’s lift up our eyes -

“Look, he is coming with the clouds and every eye will see him.” (Revelation 1.7)


Next week: Judgement

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