By Ed Rybarczyk
On September 8, Queen Elizabeth died. Thereafter followed twelve days of public mourning, media coverage, historical reflection, and a final grand display of royal pageantry. Me? I didn’t watch it all. But I have been playing the funerary classical music from the Queen’s ceremonies and I did watch most of the two hour, twenty-one mile parade whereby her casket and royal hearse were driven from Westminster Hall to Windsor Palace, her final resting place. I was struck by the beauty of it all. The soldiers, the colors, formality, corporate silence, the solemnity. It was gripping.
But there was more. Life in Great Britain slowed and even halted for days on end. There was the British public response: genuine grief, heartfelt respect, genuine patriotism peacefully expressed by millions and millions. Huge crowds stopped. Stopped and stood still. Bowed. Wept as the Queen’s casket and entourage passed by. And it was all respectfully played out. Visually stunning, the corporate response was visceral, palpable.
And I sat there watching and listening: the big tolling iron bells, flowers being thrown toward, and on, the passing black limousine, the cannons being fired, Scottish bagpipes, soldiers marching, the long stretch of drumming, regal horses clip-clopping beside the long black hearse, the bands playing, the church organ, the choir. All beautiful royal pageantry. Only a beloved queen’s death could prompt such luxurious and heart-felt solemnity.
Overcome by the ritual I began to pray, “Come quickly, Lord Jesus! Bring your kingdom!” If we think the Queen’s exit was exquisite, we ain’t seen nothing yet! If we think the trumpets playing at her departure were professional, we ain’t heard nothin’ yet. One unstoppable day? There’s going to be a grand entrance the likes of which the Cosmos has never witnessed! When the King of the Universe returns, there will be a brass antiphon playing that will cause trees to split, oceans to flood, and mountains to quake.
When He makes his royal Parousia (Mt. 24:3, 1 Cor. 1:8, 2 Thess. 2:8) all of creation will stop. Parousia: our English Bibles interpret it as second coming, but the older definition is royal appearance, disclosure, bodily ascendence to the throne by a King; a personal appearance.
The Queen? To honor her, a big chunk of Great Britain stopped. Some people waited in line over 20 hours to stroll past her casket and pay their respects. When Jesus returns to Jerusalem (Zech.14:4) the whole Cosmos – earth, heaven, and all beneath the earth – will witness his Parousia; not just those who confess him, but the entire Cosmos. The angels will peal back the curtains that separate this dimension of reality from the reality outside time and the King will bodily ascend His earthly throne.
Here’s Rev. 1:7, “Look! He is coming with the clouds; every eye will see him, even those who pierced him; and on his account all of the tribes of the earth will wail. So it is to be. Amen.” The Revelation there was itself echoing Jesus’ own words in Mark 13:26 and Luke 21:27, “Then they will see the Son of man coming in a cloud with power and great glory.” Words of vindication. Just as Queen Elizabeth was honored in space and time, Jesus the Christ will be vindicated in space and time.
Every fiber of creation will stop. Every idea being thought, by billions of separate beings, in that moment, will be seized by the reality that the King has returned to ascend His throne, just as He warned. Harvesting will seize in its tracks. Industry will cease. History will freeze. And in one moment, looking into His face, being pierced down into one’s liver by His own brown eyes, every person and every moment in history will find its dénouement enveloped in His perfection. It will all be confronted by His consuming holiness. The naked soul will be exposed by His glorious holiness. Whatever had been accruing toward meaning and relationship and purpose? It. Will. Stop. The Omega will have stormed in. Astonishing!
Analogous to how millions of Brits halted their lives for a few days of grieving for Queen Elizabeth, Jesus’ final in-time-and-space appearance will stop everything cold. Conversations. Betrayals. The abuse of the poor. Sexual slavery. Political propaganda. All stopped cold. Christ will become King. The Nazarene will rule the planet. Astonishing!
The Queen’s death? Sober. Solemn. Majestic. Moving. But Jesus’ return will be both horrifying in its depth and the final joyous vindication of God’s ownership of the Cosmos.
My friends, the totality of history is moving toward that Parousia, that bodily presence. History is not headed No-where. History does not repeat itself. History is not autonomous, not self-directed. History is not the sock-puppet of the oligarchy, no matter how they drool to control history. History is not that which totalizes. No. History is not the singularity. Jesus Christ is. “I tell you that before Abraham was, I am,” John 8:58.
Me? I’m not a fan of the British Royals. No, I don’t have a decided antipathy to the Royal Family. It’s just that I’m an American. Was taught, from as long as I can remember, that we’re all equal. And I was taught in Church that in the body of Christ status is no longer relevant; that God is no respecter of persons. And yet, for my part? I am sorry the Queen died. She believed that what God wants most from us is our hearts. Elizabeth was a beautiful Christian. During a Christmas speech she gave in 2000 she said, “For me the teachings of Christ and my own personal accountability before God provide a framework in which I try to lead my life.”
In the age to come I hope to meet Elizabeth. She loved her Anglican faith. She believed the prayers of the faithful British Christians sustained her life. She meant to do right by her nation. The queen variously confessed Christ as her Lord and Savior, taught her children and grandchildren about the Christian faith, and in every way she wanted to convey a holy lifestyle. Her funerary festivities, ceremonies that she herself helped to write, were replete with Christian hymnody. Even at the very end she wanted people to know she had lived – and died – for Christ.
God save the Queen! I know He did. And – one holy day – when He walks into Jerusalem, may King Jesus save us all!
Ed Rybarczyk, Ph.D., is both an ordained minister and a retired History of Theology professor. He now produces and hosts the Uncensored Unprofessor podcast @uncensoredunprofessor.com. He can be reached at [email protected].