(I continue my examination of the end time)
Do we live in the “end time?”
Well, true to my training, I have to answer that by saying, “Yes, and No.” And, true to my stage in life, I have to answer that by saying, “My end time may not (indeed, will not) be the same as your end time.”
Allow me to explain. Frank Kermode many years ago wrote a seminal work in literary criticism called “The Sense of An Ending.” In it he postulated that the ‘ending’ of any literary work is what gave that work its deep meaning. That he argued it was the early gospel(s) that introduced this narrative drive to the literary world is neither here nor there. Nor, for the purposes of my analysis, is it necessary to limit his argument to the world of literature—that is, fiction or biography.
From the very beginning I have always thought that Kermode’s analysis explained to me what I sought in reading any book—whether philosophy, science, history, political science, theology, and so forth: I was captivated in good writing by the “narrative drive” of the argument; I wanted to follow the” story” as it unfolded; I wanted to be led from one point to another, until “in the end” I saw how it all fit together, how it all made sense.
So, we live in the end time in the sense that whenever we talk about things coming to a head, what we are doing is sensing that all that has gone before is culminating in this moment, and that this moment, what is happening now ,“explains” what has happened before.
This is what is so terrifying about the end time: it is always and only looking backward. But this is also what is so transforming about the end time: it is what frees us from the burden of the past and delivers us to the promise of the(completely unknown) future. Of course we honor this more often in the breech than in the observance. We don’t want the present to end, we don’t want anything to “happen” that would reveal what is really going and has been going on all along.
Having just recently celebrated my 70th birthday, I am well aware that my end time has more and more a personal element to it. But that is exactly what I want to celebrate in all what follows: I want the revelation; I want my old world to pass away, violently if needs be; and I want the new heavens and the new earth to surpass anything I have ever dreamed about.