Let’s start with a little known fact: doomsday actually is Old English. ‘Doom’ means judgment, either of innocence or of guilt, so doomsday is the day of judgment, not meant to be only a negative image like we paint it today. One of the most famous teachings about doomsday in the Bible was written by St. Paul:
But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. 14 For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep. 15 For this we declare to you by a word from the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. 16 For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord. 18 Therefore encourage one another with these words. – 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18
This quote is a well-known description of the end of the age. A lot of American Christians associate this with an odd interpretation of Scripture called the Rapture, which is the idea that God snatches away all of the Christians out of the world to be with him in heaven. In actuality, Paul is describing much the opposite sort of event: this is about the return of Christ. On that final second advent of Christ, those who have already “fallen asleep” will rise from death and we also will be “caught up” to meet Jesus. That is, to greet him, to welcome him back to earth. This is not a stealing away of God’s people into safety, this is a triumphal procession of a conquering King!
A similar event took place during Jesus’ earthly ministry when he went to Jerusalem for the last time.
The large crowd that had come to the feast heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem. 13 So they took branches of palm trees and went out to meet him, crying out, “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel!” 14 And Jesus found a young donkey and sat on it, just as it is written, “Fear not, daughter of Zion; behold, your king is coming, sitting on a donkey’s colt!” – John 12:12-15
Notice that the people come out of Jerusalem to meet Jesus, just like Paul describes in 1 Thessalonians. This is a common trope in ancient literature and practice: a king arrives at a city that he has newly conquered or laid claim to, and his loyal subjects come out to greet him and join the procession as he enters the city.
Also, another fun-fact is that this (well, the Gospel of Matthew’s version) is the traditional Gospel reading for the beginning of Advent. Advent, as you may know, is a season focused on the second coming of Christ, using his first as an example. As we look forward to Christmas and the celebration of his arrival as a baby, we are spurred on to look forward to Doomsday and his second arrival as the King.
The application of all this that I want you to ponder is the part where the people were spreading palm branches and cloaks and garments on the ground as Jesus rode up to Jerusalem. When Christ returns, what will you have to offer him?
There could be any number of possibilities. Your offering might be people you’ve discipled, children you’ve raised in the faith, ministries you supported, or good deeds done to the “least of these.” Whatever they might be, these are the things that we should be prioritizing in order to prepare for doomsday.
It’s worth pointing out here that our salvation doesn’t depend on it – there must’ve been poor people in Jerusalem welcoming Jesus with nothing but shouts of “hosanna!” Nevertheless, there will be a great parade and party, and we’ll want to participate as heartily and extravagantly as we can! After all, the day of doom for an honestly professing Christian will be over quickly and have a happy ending. “Well done, good and faithful servant,” is the judgment we are looking forward to. It’s just all the sweeter to hear if we actually have worked toward that day in anticipation. How are you preparing for that day?