Many millions of people over two millennia have thought they were living in the end times of the world. They are all united by one thing – they were all absolutely wrong! The world has not come to an end.
Looking at it from a slightly different perspective though, you could say that they were all absolutely right, because their world, their lives did come to an end, as everyone’s will – they died.
When talking of “the end” we all have a very definite personal end time – our own deaths – so I would say that the best and most relevant way to interpret apocalyptic literature nowadays is not to try and discern any end date for the universe because you will certainly be wrong but concentrate your mind on your own personal end time;
Because to live your life as if this were your last day on earth, is no bad thing. When people have been given a definite time before their death, perhaps when diagnosed with a terminal illness, when they know they are going to die, first of all this can frighten and grieve us to distraction obviously, but what it can also do is concentrate the mind wonderfully, and you gain a wider perspective on life.
For example, that row that has kept you from speaking to your sister for twenty years, because of your and her pride, can look pretty pathetic when pitched against your impending death.
All the things you really worried about, like your image and status, suddenly will seem profoundly unimportant in the greater scheme of things.
The things you used to strive for, like money and possessions suddenly lose their allure. They appear as they are – absolutely useless
Your focus may shift from yourself and be more focussed on others, especially your family, and you may wonder what legacy you leaving behind, in the sense of how loved you are and how much you loved, and whether your family is provided for. You may ask yourself whether your life made a positive difference to the world?
If you have never really thought about the question of God before you may start asking some serious, searching questions for the very first time about the nature of life and death itself. You may indeed start looking for God.
You may realise that all the things you should have done and said, like telling someone that you love them and appreciate them, that you really must do these things before you just can’t do them any more.
In such circumstances most people become much more rounded and gentler and better human beings faced with their own demise, with a focus naturally shifting away from material things to the less tangible but, in the final analyses, far more important things.
I think the biblical imperative here is to say “ Don’t wait until you know you are dying to start thinking and acting in these ways.”
Forgive now. Love now. Be as concerned about others as you are about yourself now. Find God, meaning and purpose now. Be more generous. Be a better person now.
When faced with a gospel passage like this urging us to keep awake, to be alert, I can think of no better interpretation of that , than to start living your life as though every day were your last, because one day, I assure you.........it will be.