First part of a sermon

“In preparing for Christ’s coming at Christmas, today we turn our minds to his great coming at the end of the world. Now we know that there is no point in trying to figure out, as Christ says, “the day and the hour” of the coming. We cannot hope to lay out some schedule for Christ’s return as though we could account for the days from here to eternity, even in some general way. What Scripture provides us with is not a “reverse history”, as it were, one that gives us the passage of dates from here to now. Rather, what it gives us is a description of the sort of world into which Christ will return, which of course includes an account of the events that will make it the sort of world it will be.”

“Now, though we must always watch and pray, in a certain sense we don’t need to fear the coming of Christ, for we know that there are a number of characteristics of the world to which he will return that are not present in the world as we find it  now. We know that the faith must be at least heard by all in the whole world, though this does not necessarily mean it will be accepted.  Paul adds to this, saying that before the end there must also be a great falling away of the Gentiles from the faith, though – and this is perhaps more significant and telling – there must also be a great conversion of the Jews to faith in Christ. This does not require the conversion of every last one, but the conversion must be widespread enough to constitute a veritable conversion of the Jews.

“St. Peter describes the what immediately precedes the end – he speaks of a great fire that consumes the elements of the world, and from which will arise a new heaven and a new earth. Here again, the references to Christ coming as lightning dovetail with this sort of language. This sort of remaking of all things is the prediminant and overarching theme, but his coming is also the setting right of a peculiar historical and even political catastrophe: here we meet the figure of the Antichrist.

“Antichrist is known through his number. This number originally was applied to the Emperor Nero, who was a prefigurement of the Antichrist that is to come. This number of the Antichrist speaks of his falling just short of perfection, and I take this to mean that he will be seen to have the greatest virtue by those who look upon him. As Revelation speaks of him, he is a lamb speaking with the voice of a dragon – and he seems to speak to a world that has gone through the gravest and severest of all catastrophes. The whole world has, it appears, just suffered through seeing the “stars fall from the heavens”, in such a way that the fish of the sea have been choked off, and those on land are afflicted with severe sores and pestilence. We do no know what this Antichrist will say to this world, but I suspect he will blame this catastrophe on religion, and speak of the need to remake the world in such a way as to allow for peace and avoid repeating the catastrophe we have all suffered through. Religion must be driven out for the good of the world, and if anyone is so backward and hateful as to not see the obvious necessity that this should occur… well then…

“And so there will be a great persecution before the end. The Jews, of course, will have accepted the faith – but who ever much minded a persecution of the Jews? We can flatter ourselves with out thoughts of “never again” (which is the cliche that is always thrown around about the Holocaust) but if we have any sort of historical perspective we see that thinking that the Jews will never be persecuted again rings as hollow as the woman making excuses for the boyfriend who hasn’t beat her in over two months. “We’ve worked it all out! Never again!”But indeed, if we attend to the matter carefully we see that Christ must make his last and definitive confrontation with the world through the Jews. The world must always contest and set itself against God as he has revealed himself to the world, but to set yourself against this is absurd unless one can set themselves against and eliminate the Jews. What makes a greater mockery of the claims of the world than the existence of a single tribe, united by nothing but the claim that they were chosen by God, which cannot be destroyed even after all the forces of the world have been brought against them for millennia after millennia?  The Jews contradict the world, since their very existence testifies that being chosen and loved by God gives eternal life. The world knows that it can never completely refute the idea that God’s love is eternal life until it kills every last Jew down to a man. The world knows it cannot prove that God is unfaithful and that we are fools to trust in him until we can point to the corpse of the last Jew. The world will always be drawn by the logic of its belief – namely that the covenant of God is simply a fiction which does not set up any real bond between us and the eternal – to the attempt to prove that the Jews are just one more group of persons that have walked across the stage of history and will be swallowed by oblivion. Obviously, to the extent that the followers of Jesus have remained though time, the logic of the world will move them to destroy these believers too, but this persecution will be to some extent a participation on the central persecution of the Jews. This is why Jesus confronted the world as a Jew, and why he must confront it though those Jews that have been fully integrated into his Body…

 

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