I have a thick book buried somewhere on the History of the End of the World. It’s a fascinating read, but I haven’t read it in a long time and don’t have it readily accessible at the moment.
But we learn from that book that predictions of the end of the world are not knew, and not unique to Christianity and in fact, they go back thousands of years. But within Christianity there has often been a “sense” that the end is now. And that “sense” often escalates as a result of current global events. Whether we are speaking of the era of the Bubonic Plague, the Reformation (if you recall the Munich disaster where extreme Anabaptist’s took over the German city and began walking around naked and proclaiming that Munich was the new Eden) or the age of Dispensationalism in light of Israel’s revival as a nation in 1948.
But I must confess a certain grievance within my heart about this. I wish Christians would stop making end of the world predictions for several reasons. First, every prediction ever made has always been absolutely incorrection. Second, it makes Christians look like a bunch of doofuses in the eyes of the world; and while I’m not overly concerned about how Christians “look” in the eyes of the world (Paul says that the Gospel is foolishness to those who are perishing – 1 Corinthians 1:18), I am concerned when our testimony as Christians is put in jeopardy when we promote ridiculous non-biblical ideas that have broad cultural repercussions. Finally, I don’t think these predictions – or even entertaining them – reflects the message of Jesus.
We have instead given the satanic enemy, and those who have yielded to his kingdom, an opportunity to proclaim Christianity a “falsehood” based on something tangible: a false “rapture” prediction!
The Christian message of “end times” is one of vigilance. Keep awake! Keep working! Keep watch! Be prepared! In light of the ever-impending return of Christ, Peter writes: “what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives” (2 Peter 3:11). Notice the words “live” and “lives”, this is how you are to be, keep being. Keep working. Don’t be packing in can goods, camping on roof tops, putting up billboards. Rather continue on with the mission we have been given.
When Ed Stetzer was asked what he would do if he knew exactly when Jesus would return he said,
“Well, I would do the same thing I am doing right now.”
Jesus asked, “When the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?” (Luke 18:8). That is the question, that is the mission. End Time predictors have the scriptures backwards. They scour the scriptures in conspiracy-style foolishness and intoxicate weaker Christians, many of whom, when the end doesn’t come, may look toward another billboard for truth, one put up by atheists.org.
To this I feel the urge to sing along with that old Wayne Watson song, “The skeptics wage their tongues and say, “there goes that Jesus again”… all that’s left for me to do is help the world to see; that’s not Jesus, he doesn’t carry on that way, it’s just some flesh and blood like you and me, somehow gone astray; that’s not Jesus no, no matter what they say“.
Whether it is predicting the end of the world, bombing abortion clinics or holding up signs at funerals that say “God Hates Gays!”, these people make our jobs as Christians much more difficult. We have to remind the world, the skeptics and the weaker brethren, “that’s not Jesus, no!” And then show them Jesus:
“In this way, love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment, because in this world we are like him.” (1 John 4:17)