Here at the End of All Things

How to Deal with Change

“Well, this is the end, Sam Gamgee,” said Frodo to his dear companion. The Ring was melting in the fires of Mount Doom. Mordor was collapsing in ruin around them. For all they knew, the whole world was disintegrating. Lava rushed down the slopes. The quest was, beyond hope, achieved. The hobbits had done what they came to do, but they did not count on getting home. Frodo had given every drop of strength and will. He sat down and waited to die. This seemed to be the world’s, and his, last hour.

In those apparently final moments, Frodo’s only comfort was the sweetness of companionship. “I am glad you are here with me,” he said. “Here at the end of all things, Sam.” These words pierce me every time. I can see Sam gently holding Frodo’s wounded hand. “Yes, I am with you, Master . . . and you’re here with me. And the journey’s finished” (The Lord of the Rings, 950).

The great burden lifted, we can feel the relief. We may even tear up over the tenderness, our hearts breaking over Frodo’s resignation. He celebrates this utter triumph for Middle-earth only in terms of having his Sam with him in the brief moments before the end.

Brushes with the End

We may well experience events that make us feel the end of all things has arrived. Once, I was young and foolish enough to keep driving on the interstate in a snowstorm. Suddenly, my car flew off the road. Airborne off a hill, time slowed down. The very heart of me spoke, “I love Jesus. I love my family.” Surprisingly, I felt companioned in those milliseconds. This was the end, and weirdly I felt peace along with the adrenalin. Then the car landed in the snow, miraculously undamaged. Completely fine, I just drove back onto the highway like nothing had happened. Yet I would never be the same. I knew I could die anytime. I knew I was never alone.

That was not the last time I braced for death. In Louisiana, we know hurricanes. A few years before Hurricane Ida in 2021, we’d lived through major damage and repairs from uprooted trees crashing on our house. So this time, as Ida roared toward us, we waited for the worst. The power had already gone out. We moved to the family room, lest the neighbor’s fifty-foot tree should crush us in the night. We settled into our sleeping bags with the dogs, turned off the transistor radio, and tried to sleep. The end of all things — that is, life as we know it — might well be coming. It was good not to be alone.

“Jesus himself is the end, the purpose, the goal, the completion of everything.”

Or take last winter. My wife put tiredness aside and drove through the night when word came that her ailing father had suffered a stroke. She made it in time to spend a day with him at hospice. Her prayerful, loving presence brought peace to her family. But more, she felt the sweet companionship with her father, even though he was not awake. “It’s good to be here with you, Dad, here at the end of all the things we’ve known together in this world. Nothing will be the same, but these moments are ours.”

Life as we know it always stands on the brink of endings, both small and momentous. The curtain closes on the final performance, and the troupe will never be so close again. Graduation means now you can never quite go home. The divorce decree arrives, stamped and notarized; the book closes on all that life you once shared. The family business shutters after generations. It was on your watch. The song ends, the plates are cleared, and each day — the best and the worst — fades to night.

The world rotates and revolves relentlessly so that change, endings, always draw nigh. We look around and see who remains when nothing will be as it has been. Maybe a friend, a son, a daughter, a spouse. “It’s good to be with you, dear one, here at the end of all things.”

The World Is Passing Away

These personal tastes of the end remind us that the whole world, even the cosmos, will not remain in present form. Indeed, the conclusion of this age has already been set in motion. Peter writes, “The end of all things is at hand” (1 Peter 4:7). The completion of everything has drawn near. With the incarnation of the Son of God and his journey through death, resurrection, and ascension, this world has entered the last days. Of course, “with the Lord one day is as a thousand years” (2 Peter 3:8). The world may endure for centuries more, but the last day, as we know it, is now inevitable. Jesus will return.

This awareness changes how we view the world. We may be despairing of the future. The earthly powers bluster and threaten, posturing that they know the score and call the shots. The world insists that now is all. We’re prodded to accept that the way things are is the way things always will be. We can rush into our days filled with the dull but persistent anxiety that comes from hopelessness. We try not to think about the end. But when we gather around the word in worship with other believers, we see more clearly. The new age of the reign of Christ has begun. The old world in all its rebellion is fading away (1 John 2:17). The true purpose of every created thing will be made clear very soon.

Jesus declares, “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end” (Revelation 22:13). Jesus himself is the end, the purpose, the goal, the completion of everything. Apart from him, we find only the emptiness and abyss of being outside his purpose. Joined to him, we will find that everything gets resolved.

What Matters in the End

This higher view of where the world is going gives us hope. But it also presses on us the urgency of accountability. Every moment may be our last. So, Jesus told the parable of the complacent man who believed he had secured enough goods for a comfortable future. The man told himself, “Relax, eat, drink, be merry.” But then God said, “Fool! This night your soul is required of you” (Luke 12:19–20). Our personal endings can come at any hour. And then an accounting of our lives must be given.

That’s why Peter expands on the implications of his statement, “the end of all things is at hand.” He writes, “Therefore be self-controlled and sober-minded for the sake of your prayers. Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins” (1 Peter 4:7–8). This life counts. This life could end in an instant. So, live with the end, the goal, the purpose in mind. Live for what lasts.

“This life counts. This life could end in an instant. So, live with the end, the goal, the purpose in mind.”

In his great love chapter, Paul concludes, “Now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love” (1 Corinthians 13:13). Only what partakes of faithful trust in Christ and lovingkindness toward others will survive through the end into the new creation. Jesus both evokes fear and inspires hope when he says, “As you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me” (Matthew 25:40). Because we know what the end of all things will be, we also know what matters. Every present moment is charged with the future end of all things. And our personal ending could arrive any second.

So, we live with the end in mind.

With Us to the End

We cannot stop the ever-arriving endings in the world, or even in our personal lives. Endings come because change continues. But when we trust that the world’s true end is the day of Christ Jesus, we live in hope. We live for his mission. And he promises that we are companioned. “Go . . . and make disciples of all nations. . . . And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:19–20).

We are not alone. We face these endings, even the endings of life as we know it, with one who has endured the end of all things, the plunge into the utter darkness of God-forsakenness on the cross, so that we do not face any ending, any nightfall, alone. And usually, in his mercy, he sends us a fellow believer, a Sam, to keep us company along the way.

So, Scottish pastor Alistair Maclean prayed, “Thou hast destined us for change, us and all things Thy hands have made. Yet we fear not. Nay, rather, we are jubilant. Hast Thou not loved us before the world began? What can change bring us but some better thing?” (Hebridean Altars, 89).