“…teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
Matthew 28:20 ESV
Five times in Matthew’s Gospel Jesus uses a particular word. In every case Jesus and his disciples are looking forwards to the end. Four times the word is translated as ‘the close of the age’, in the last instance it is translated as ‘the end of the age’.
In English we tend to think of the word ‘end’ in terms of something coming to a close, a finishing of something – it is a negative concept along the lines of ‘the movie has ended’ or ‘my job has ended’. It’s got a sense of finality and lacks hope. It looks back, not forwards.
The word Jesus uses is quite the opposite. It comes from the the Greek word ‘telios’ which is the normal word for end, but this word has more the sense of a goal achieved than the close of something. It is this word that Jesus uses on the cross in the perfect tense when he says ‘it is finished’. Again, we often think of this as an exclamation that it’s over when in fact a better translation would be a single word: ‘Accomplished!’. Jesus wasn’t indicating that his life was over, but rather that he had accomplished his goal: redemption!
So, when we consider the word for the end of the age it has this positive connotation, but it has more. The word for end, ‘telios’ is prefixed with ‘syn’ – this is in common use in English, indicating a bringing together, for example in synthesis, or synagogue (the Jews coming together). So, the word for the close or end of the age is talking about a bringing together of all things to a final accomplishment: a consummation!
If you think of the picture of Christ and the Church as a marriage, then the consummation day is the day of the wedding. It’s a bringing together of all the plans and hopes of the two parties towards that one day when hopes and plans are fully realised! It’s a day when love is fulfilled and a new, complete relationship dawns. It’s what the Groom has been working towards since he promised to prepare a place, it’s what the Bride has been living in expectation of since the promise was made.
The story is told of an evangelist who was being interviewed on radio – the interviewer thought he had the killer question for the evangelist: “Surely, he asked, once you’ve got them to become Christians that’s the end of it?” The evangelist thought for a moment and then replied: “Your right, it is the end: it’s the front end!” The end of the age is the front end of a hope that goes on for all eternity! The end of the age is the consummation of our hopes and of God’s plans for his Bride: the Church.
As you read Jesus’ last words to his disciples on that mountain in Galilee, be comforted; not that he’s here until it’s all over, but that he’s with us until that final consummation, the wedding supper of the Lamb, when all things will be brought together for God’s glory and our full marriage to Christ. It is a full and final and complete consummation of all things: this is why Jesus encourages his disciples with these words.
As Christians we’re not just fighting it out until it’s all over, we’re pursuing God, seeking Christ, living in him here and now, hoping in the Consummation: that great and glorious Day when God in Christ brings all the strands of history, both seen and unseen together in his new creation. Our hope is that, as his Church, his people, on that day we will fully and completely know him as our God, forever!