Full text of C. S. Lewis’s essay titled ‘The World’s Last Night’
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The World’s Last Night. First published in Religion in Life, Volume 21, Winter 1951-2, under the title Christian Hope: Its Meaning for Today, it was later published under its new title in The World’s Last Night and Other Essays, U.S. 1960. It is now available in Fern Seed and Elephants, 1998.
There are many reasons why the modern Christian, and even the modern theologian, may hesitate to give to the doctrine of Christ’s second coming that emphasis which was usually laid on it by our ancestors. Yet it seems to me impossible to retain in any recognizable form our belief in the divinity of Christ and the truth of the Christian revelation, while abandoning or even persistently neglecting the promised and threatened return.
‘He shall come again to judge the quick and the dead,’ says the Apostles’ Creed. ‘This same Jesus,’ said the angels in Acts, ‘shall so come in like manner as ye have seen Him go into heaven.’ ‘Hereafter,’ said our Lord Himself, by those words inviting crucifixion, ‘shall ye see the Son of Man coming in the clouds of heaven.’
If this is not an integral part of the faith once given to the saints, I do not know what is. In the following pages I shall endeavour to deal with some of the thoughts that may deter modern men from a firm belief in, or a due attention to, the return or second coming of the Saviour.
I have no claim to speak as an expert in any of the studies involved, and merely put forward the reflections which have arisen in my own mind and have seemed to me, perhaps wrongly, to be helpful. They are all submitted to the correction of wiser heads.
The grounds for modern embarrassment about this doctrine fall into two groups, which may be called the theoretical and the practical. I will deal with the theoretical first. Many are shy of this doctrine because they are reacting, in my opinion very properly reacting, against a school of thought which is associated with the great name of Dr. Albert Schweitzer.