Our 2-year-old has been counting to 10 for a few weeks now. It’s been fun watching him grow from “1-2-3!” into being able to say all of the numbers between 1 and 10. Sometimes, though he gets a little impatient. Many times he will count “1-2-3-4-10!” or some variation thereof. He’s just so excited to get to yell “10!” that I don’t think he can wait for all of the numbers in between.
I can identify with the level of impatience and excitement that my child has. As I listen for vaccine progress or have communications about when the church can “reopen” (which, by the way, the church was never “closed”), there’s a great deal of excited impatience rooted in our longings. We long to get to that sense of completion and fulfillment with the number 10, with gathering, and with feeling completely safe-or at least a significantly increased feeling of safety.
In Christianity, when we think of the “end,” two events in the Bible tend to come to mind. The first, for some, is the end of the world or the end times. It’s when the world as we know it “ends” and either it is completely renewed or replaced (there is quite a debate on this) and God says near the end of Revelation “It is done. I am the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end.” The word for “end” here in Greek is telos. The other “ending” event is at the cross, when Jesus says in the gospel of John, “It is finished.” For some, these words represent how our sins no longer have a hold over us. For others, it is the finishing point for Jesus’ earthly existence. Still for others, the words are rather cryptic. Behind Jesus’ word for “finished” is, once again, the word telos in Greek.
Telos is a significant work in Greek thought and philosophy. It can mean to end, finish or complete. It does not, however, have an implication of the end as a crossing over from existing into non-existence. As if one were to cross the finish line and suddenly end an event. Telos is most often used to imply a purpose or ongoing result. I can telos building a car because it is fulfilling to my passion, can be used by others, or admired. The car isn’t going to be telos’ed for the sake of itself. There’s something broader than its conclusion.
It’s great that our 2-year-old can count to 10, but it’s not just for the sake of the existence of his ability to count. Part of the reason is how it will be very useful for him later on as he exchanges in currency and learns more about this world in which we live. The Bible reveals a God who isn’t out to end things or get crucified to suddenly just be done with things. There is something more to God, the world, and to us, all wrapped up in how God goes about God’s completing work in us.
Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying,
“See, the home of God is among mortals.
He will dwell with them;
they will be his peoples,
and God himself will be with them;
he will wipe every tear from their eyes.
Death will be no more;
mourning and crying and pain will be no more,
for the first things have passed away.”
And the one who was seated on the throne said, “See, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this, for these words are trustworthy and true.” Then he said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give water as a gift from the spring of the water of life.
Count…to 10 (in your own way, if you wish!)
What endings have you faced? When has there been something more to an ending for you? How did you feel then? What endings are present in this reading? How do you feel about them? Why?