Saturday, 15 May 2010

The moment of glory

Being made in the image of God, one thing that is deeply embedded in all human culture is the idea of the final moment of achievement: the final victory. Pop songs drone about how you and I are going to "make it together", as if that was it. Football fans dream about their team slamming in the winning goal in the last minute, and lifting the cup to a tremendous shout. Athletics is all about striving to break through the ribbon first. Politicians promise us that they, at last, are the ones destined to will lift us up to the higher level and usher in the quasi-millennial kingdom where all else before have failed.

This is really inexplicable on non-Christian terms. After all, life here down below is pretty cyclical. One team wins the FA cup today, but it'll be back on the line to compete for again in a few months' time. Our political saviours will soon enough be our political villains, and a new Messiah will be sought for. After capturing the girl of my dreams, we had kids and it won't be long before all being well it'll be their turn whilst we grow old and fade into the background - and then it'll be our kids' turn to do that too. And ultimately, so the atheists tell us, the universe will just peter out into empty, cold nothingness - if it doesn't get consumed in heat death first. "Under the sun", there is no final victory: only endless repetition followed by final nothingness.

So why do we (unless too much TV lobotomised our brains) continually long for this final moment, this great arrival? The simple answer is the true one. It's because it's real; because it's how things actually are. God has, as the Psalmist says, put eternity in the hearts of man. The memory of the great promise of a great Redeemer cannot be forgotten any more than the need and longing for the completeness which fallen man cannot himself attain can be legislated or entertained away. We long for it, because we were made for it, and because it is what history is about.

Before Christianity swept the globe, the idea of a final goal for history was generally denied. Paganism and its various manifestations believed only in the endless birth-death-rebirth cycle. Following Christianity's (outward) triumph in much of the world, no competitor could be enter the arena without a competing eschatology. Hence communism's final revolution resulting in egalitarian utopia; hence our secular politicians' promises of the final realisation of free and fair societies - and even atheism's hollow promises of a world without conflict once science and rational thought do their stuff.

But enough of the counterfeits, and back to the real thing. One day the sky will be rolled back like a scroll, and Jesus Christ will be revealed in all his glory. The last trumpet will sound. Death will be dealt the final blow and will itself die. We who love him will see him and be like him, sharing in those true riches. Sin and sorrow will be no more, and Jesus will lead us all into the new heavens and earth on the ultimate, real victory parade of which all the tastes in this life are but the palest - though real - shadows. The shout that goes up then will be like nothing ever heard. That's more than worth setting aside the quest for earthly glory for. That's worth losing everything in order to gain. Are you doing that?

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