The Grande Finale 1 Corinthians 15

So – just a month to wait now! The whole world are on the edge of our seats. History is about to be made. We saw him ever so briefly on Christmas Day and have been waiting almost 9 months for the answer.What will Peter Capaldi turn out like as the Twelfth Doctor!

One of the things which can turn a good film or television series into a great series is a good cliffhanger ending!
A cliffhanger or cliffhanger ending is a plot device in fiction which features a main character in a precarious or difficult dilemma, or confronted with a shocking revelation. A cliffhanger is hoped to ensure the audience will return to see how the characters resolve the dilemma.
The term ‘cliffhanger’ is considered to have originated with Thomas Hardy’s serial novel A Pair of Blue Eyes in 1873. At the time newspapers published novels in a serial format with one chapter appearing every month. In order to ensure continued interest in the story many authors employed different techniques; Hardy chose to leave one of his protagonists, Knight, literally hanging off a cliff. This became the archetypal cliff-hanger of Victorian prose.
Cliffhangers became popular from the end-of-episode situations in adventure silent films of the early 1900s, with the protagonist literally left hanging from the edge of a cliff. Some serials end with the enticing strapline … “To be continued”. The best known of those cliff-hangers was the series The Perils of Pauline (1914), shown in weekly instalments and featuring Pearl White as the title character, a perpetual damsel in distress who was menaced by assorted villains, with each installment ending with her placed in a situation that looked sure to result in her imminent death – to escape at the beginning of the next instalment only to get into fresh danger at its end. One episode ended with her literally left hanging over a cliff and seeming about to fall.
The Italian Job (1969) Possibly the most famous film cliffhanger for being a literal example of the term, as it ends with the main character’s escape vehicle hanging halfway off a cliff in the Swiss Alps.
Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back (1980). Luke Skywalker narrowly escapes death and discovers who his father is but Han Solo is frozen in carbonite and is shipped to the gangster Jabba the Hutt. Can anybody rescue him?
Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest (2006) Captain Jack Sparrow is eaten by the Kraken. How can he possibly survive to make a third film? But of course he does.
Dallas – who shot JR?
Eastenders – who shot Phil Mitchell?
The West Wing
Season 1 ends with the President and his staff being shot. Season 4 ends when the President’s daughter Zoe has been kidnapped. Season 5 ends with an attack on the Presidential envoys sent to promote peace in the Middle East.

Doctor Who
In its original run (1963-1989), most stories comprised four to six episodes. All but the last episode of a story would end on a cliffhanger. One episode ended with the Doctor literally hanging from a cliff by his umbrella. The new series (2005-current) has also used cliffhangers, especially in two-part stories. There have also been cliffhangers at the end of all the current series. Now we are all eagerly awaiting the outcome of the latest cliffhanger – Peter Capaldi as the Twelfth Doctor.

The History of Salvation had its cliff-hanger moments! The people of Israel on the run from slavery – trapped between the Red Sea and the pursuing Egyptian armies. How would they get out of that one?
Or the Israelites a year later, standing on the edge of the promised land but turning away to wander in the wilderness. Would they ever take possession of the Land? Wait 40 years for the happy ending to that cliffhanger. And then the Israelites taken into exile by the Babylonians – 70 years before they would find out what happens next!

The Christmas story was a bit of a cliffhanger – miracle baby born, angels, shepherds, wise men and then nothing for 30 years!
And what about the Easter story. Jesus crucified dead and buried on Good Friday. But we only needed to wait three days for the happy ending on Easter Sunday!

And now we find ourselves in the middle of a cliffhanger even today!

Acts 1:9 After he said this, he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight.
10 They were looking intently up into the sky as he was going, when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them. 11 “Men of Galilee,” they said, “why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven.”

Jesus has ascended into heaven. When will he come back? Will He ever come back??

Things aren’t looking good!

Worldwide financial crisis – having an impact on very many people, whether in terms of house prices and availability of mortgages, or erosion of the value of pensions or investments or savings, and even many people’s jobs on the line. Just last week the experts announced that we are out of the woods and that by the measure of Gross Domestic Product five years of depression are finally over. But most ordinary people feel much poorer than they were five years ago.

Suffering today ->
Starvation and droughts and floods and wars. Plagues like malaria and cholera and HIV AIDS and children dying in their thousands every day because of a lack of safe drinking water. Lightning striking homes in Chelmsford, floods in Canvey Island and Stock and Wickford.

Persecution of the church
Christians being martyred in Iraq and Nigeria and Palestine

Evil today ->
A civilian airliner shot down by terrorists over the Ukraine. The conflict in Gaza. A dictator still oppressing his own people, destroying his own nation by his greed for power. Terrorists singling out US and UK citizens to be slaughtered

We are in the middle of a cliffhanger! But Jesus told us to expect that! And Jesus warned us that things are going to get worse before they get better.

Matt 24:6 You will hear of wars and rumours of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. 7 Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places. 8 All these are the beginning of birth-pains.
9 “Then you will be handed over to be persecuted and put to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of me. 10 At that time many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other, 11 and many false prophets will appear and deceive many people. 12 Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold, 13 but he who stands firm to the end will be saved. 14 And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.

We are in the middle of a cliffhanger. But we are not in despair . We do not give up hope. Because we are confident that the Author is not going to leave creation hanging over a cliff forever. He has promised that there will be a happy ending. All the twists in the plot will be straightened out. All the wrongs will be put right. Everything will work out for the best in the Grande Finale.

This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven.”

22 For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive. 23 But each in his own turn: Christ, the firstfruits; then, when he comes, those who belong to him. 24 Then the end will come, when he hands over the kingdom to God the Father after he has destroyed all dominion, authority and power. ,,,, 28 When he has done this, then the Son himself will be made subject to him who put everything under him, so that God may be all in all

There is a grand finale on the way! There will be a happy ending!

We all love happy endings! All the loose ends tidied up. Everybody lives happily ever after. A poll of BBC viewers identified some of the most popular series finales.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer , Cold Feet , Dallas, Mash, Cheers, Ally McBeal

God has promised the whole of creation a happy ending, a grand finale, more spectacular and wonderful than anything we can imagine.

1 Corinthians 2:9-10a …“No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him”— [10a] but God has revealed it to us by his Spirit.

We see Suffering today but it will not always be that way!
In the grand finale, all the suffering will be ended, all the pain and tears will cease.

Rev 21:3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. 4 He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”

We see Persecution of the church and Evil at work today. We see death and destruction. But it will not always be like that. In the Grand Finale, truth and justice will triumph and all evil will be destroyed.
Revelation 20: 7 When the thousand years are over, Satan will be released from his prison 8 and will go out to deceive the nations in the four corners of the earth—Gog and Magog—to gather them for battle. In number they are like the sand on the seashore. 9 They marched across the breadth of the earth and surrounded the camp of God’s people, the city he loves. But fire came down from heaven and devoured them. 10 And the devil, who deceived them, was thrown into the lake of burning sulphur, where the beast and the false prophet had been thrown.

Living in the middle of a cliffhanger makes us uncomfortable. But things will not be this way into eternity. There is a happy ending on the way. We are still waiting for the Grand Finale.
As they say in America, “It ain’t over ‘til the fat lady sings”. There’s another interesting phrase.

It ain’t over ’til the fat lady sings is a proverb, essentially meaning that one shouldn’t make assumptions about the outcome of some activity until it has actually finished.
This phrase in turn refers to Wagner’s opera, the Ring cycle. It is a rather lengthy opera, or a set of four separate operas lasting around 15 hours in total. It ends in an aria sung by a larger lady dressed like a valkyrie with a horned helmet, a spear and a a shield. You know the opera is over when the fat lady sings.
Phrase often used by sports commentators especially in USA – it doesn’t matter how the match or the season is going right now – what matters is the score at the final whistle or the end of the season.
Well there ain’t going to be a fat lady singing when God brings this universe to a close. But there is going to be an angel and there is going to be a trumpet!

1 Corinthians 15:50 I declare to you, brothers, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. 51 Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed— 52 in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. 53 For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality.

1 thessalonians 4:16 For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord for ever.

No fat lady singing – but we can say this. It ain’t over til the angel blows the trumpet! But then the cliffhanger will be over. Then there will be the happy ending, the grand finale – more wonderful than anything we can possibly imagine.

(Film and Television facts gleaned from Wikipedia)

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