Inscribed on a clock-case in Chester Cathedral, England, is a poem, Time’s Paces, attributed to Henry Twells. It reads:

  ‘When as a child I laughed and wept, Time CREPT;

   When as a youth I waxed more bold, Time STROLLED.

   When I became a full-grown man, Time RAN.

   When older still I daily grew, Time FLEW.

   Soon I shall find, in passing on, Time GONE.

We do everything we can to deny the passing of time. We pay attention to the skillful marketing of products that can supposedly ‘delay’ the ravages of the passing years. The subject of time is rarely a hot topic of conversation.

Come with me to Jesus’ sobering words in Mark 13:24-27: “In those days, after that suffering, the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will be falling from heaven, and the powers in the heavens will be shaken. Then they will see the Son of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory.”

There are times when significant events occur that can impact the course of history. We saw this with the fall of the Berlin Wall back in November 1989, and with the destruction of the twin towers in New York on September 11, 2001. The fall of the Berlin Wall was greeted with joy. The attack on the twin towers led to fear and anger.

In Mark 13 Jesus doesn’t beat about the bush concerning the realities of our troubled world. He speaks of suffering and, using metaphors, he predicts global, catastrophic events, including pandemics. In this context he forewarns us of a day of his coming.

His expression, the Son of Man, takes up the prophecy of Daniel some five or six hundred years before. For Daniel 7 speaks of the Son of Man coming in dominion and glory and that all peoples, nations and languages will be brought under his rule.

Consider for a moment the splendor and pageantry of royal occasions on earth such as a coronation – and then multiply the scene a million times, and then a million times more. We might then begin to imagine the dazzling glory and the awesome power of the return of God’s king.

The idea of an end of time is totally dismissed these days. The idea is laughable. Catastrophic events impacting the world is a theme that books and films play with. But such events never mean an end of time. Movies such as 2012 and The Road portray humanity coming to the rescue in the aftermath of any global catastrophe. Opinion-makers today tell us that there will always be survivors to carry on and chart the human destiny.

The picture that Jesus portrays of a world catastrophically consumed by fire and his appearing across the skies for all to see, is simply derided. Yet he is clear. He points to an end-time and the beginning of a totally new age – one where there will be no crying or mourning, where death itself will have passed away (Revelation 21:4).

What we forget these days is the Person who speaks so clearly and firmly about these matters. If the prophecies made by people such as Isaiah and Ezekiel centuries before Jesus was born came true, if Jesus’ very specific predictions about his death and resurrection also came true, is it not conceivable that his further prediction about his return, will also be fulfilled?

In Mark 13, verses 28 through 30, he uses the analogy of the fig tree. Just as the sprouting leaves on the fig tree indicate that summer is near, so do catastrophic events indicate the coming of God’s new age.

When will this happen? Star-watchers can’t help us with an answer. And Jesus tells us that not even he knew (Mark13:32). However, he is sure of this. There will be an end time when he will return.

Indeed, he tells us that despite calamitous cosmic events, his words will not pass away. Why is it that we so easily put aside our Bibles? Is it that we are too busy? Is it our lack of faith? Jesus was right in his predictions about the destruction of the temple and fall of Jerusalem. We can be sure he is correct about the future. We would be foolish not to pay careful attention to him.

Perhaps, above all, we forget that it is a fearful thing, to come near the living God. The giving of the law to Moses caused people to tremble with fear as they stood at the foot of Mt Sinai (Exodus 19:16). Isaiah’s vision of the Lord in the temple caused him to cry out, “Woe is me …” (Isaiah 6:5). Significantly in 2 Corinthians 5:11, Paul the Apostle writes: Knowing the fear of the Lord, we persuade others…

So, how should we now live? Watch, pray and work. Watch. Be aware that this world is passing. Be prepared for the coming of the King. Pray. Pray that God, in his compassion, will open blind eyes and soften hard hearts. Work. God calls us to partner with him in rescuing the lost and bringing them home.

Oh! I didn’t tell you that there is a last line to that poem in Chester Cathedral:

‘Soon I shall find while travelling on, Time GONE. “Will Christ have saved my soul by then?” I asked.’