When will the end of the age take place? The question is as old as the world… From the Mayans till now, even at the time of the Apostles, it endures. Jesus entrusted the Apostles with positive and negative signs with regard to the end of time. He also showed what attitude should one have with regard to such a perspective.
Civilizations have imagined the end of the age as the destruction of our world, and the completion – sometimes apocalyptic – of our Earth. Let’s recall the regularly reiterated predictions of the end of the age, as per the Mayan calendar for example. Even the Apostles expressed their concern and asked Jesus, “Tell us, when will this happen, and what sign will there be of your coming, and of the end of the age?” (Mt 24,3)
The negative signs of the end of the age
Jesus’ answer provides an array of negative and positive signs. To start with, false prophets, pseudo-predictions, and deceptive messianisms: “False messiahs and false prophets will arise, and they will perform signs and wonders so great as to deceive, if that were possible, even the elect.” (Mt 24,24)
Then wars, famines, natural disasters will break out (Mt 24, 6-8); there will be persecutions, denunciations, hatred between brothers, ” Then they will hand you over to persecution, and they will kill you. You will be hated by all nations because of my name.” (Mt 24,9)
Finally, and this is by far the most serious, because of the expanding evil, charity will decrease: “and because of the increase of evildoing, the love of many will grow cold.” (Mt 24,12)
To these negative signs that give rise to fear and anxiety, Jesus moreover states signs that convey hope and renewal.
The positive signs of the end of the age
First of all, the Gospel will be proclaimed to all creation by means of missionaries and martyrs (cf. Mt 24:14), and salvation will be offered to all who will have persevered to the end (cf. Mt 24:13). Then the Son of Man’s sign will appear in the sky, and will arouse the spirit of repentance and conversion in mankind (cf. Mt 24:30), both necessary to accept salvation.
Finally, Christ will return in glory to gather together in unity all the elect (cf. Mt 24:30-31). However, the precise moment of his return in glory, which will mark the end of the age – merely the end of one age: that of the presence and spreading of evil -, remains a divine secret (cf. Mt 24:36).
What attitude should one have with regard to such a perspective?
The words of Jesus call for alertness: “So too, you also must be prepared, for at an hour you do not expect, the Son of Man will come. ” (cf. Mt 24, 44) so as not to be led astray or carried away by false prophets’ appealing doctrine, nor to give in to fear in the face of the world’s trials, “You will hear of wars and reports of wars; see that you are not alarmed, for these things must happen, but it will not yet be the end.” (Mt 24,6)
In fact, these events are only the beginning of a great tribulation out of which a new creation will emerge: “All these are the beginning of the labor pains. ” (Mt 24,8)
We are assisting, or rather, we are participating, each according to his or her own measure, in the dawn of a renewed world. The end of the age will be the beginning of another time, that of the Kingdom of heaven, the aim of our hope and of our ardent desire.
Rev. Fr. Don Thomas Lepenne, chaplain of the shrine of Montligeon, C.E. Magazine N° 301.