It's [not] the end of the world.
According to several so-called Christian preachers the end of the world is just around the corner. In fact, it's scheduled to happen later this week--May 21st 2011. That's right, the beginning of the end of the world is scheduled for a Saturday. And you thought the worst part of your upcoming weekend was having to mow your lawn and sit through your kid's soccer game. Think again. Some are laughing at the prediction. A very small few are selling their stuff, readying for Heaven and buying into the prediction. But, as is typically the case whenever someone attempts to pinpoint the end of the world, most are just confused by this and other predictions. What about you? Let me give you three reasons why you shouldn't put any stock in such craziness. And here's a hint: they all have to do with Jesus.
First, such predictions contradict Jesus.
Jesus Himself remarked that not even He knows the day or the hour when the end of all things will come. Therefore any claim on an actual date is to either call Jesus a liar or to assume that you have greater knowledge or revelation from the Father than the Son Himself. Yes, Jesus did speak prophetically that there would be an end and he told his disciples--i.e. us--to be watchful and aware. But such teachings were in reference first to the destruction of the Jewish Temple that would eventually happen in 70 AD and secondarily to the end of all things at a later date. And sure, Jesus tells his disciples to be aware and ready for such days, but there is a difference between being ready and being obsessed,making predictions and putting yourself in a place of greater privilege than Christ.
Second, such predictions take the focus off of Jesus.
One of the big mistakes made by those who attempt to predict "the end" is that they end up jacking with the Bible in such a way so as to interpret it as being fulfilled solely in our day and age. It's believed that our sins are the most grave, our leaders are the most evil, our headlines are the most horrific and the Bible's been pointing to today all along. Sure it has--just like it was for every other dude who predicted the end. The problem with this is that it makes us the center of Scripture, the lynchpin of God's plan. However, any reading of the Bible that puts us at the center and not Jesus is a misreading of the Bible. Jesus Himself said that all of the Old Testament points to Him. Paul said that all of the promises of God find their "yes" in Christ. Even the book of Revelation was written not to help us predict the end, but to find comfort in Christ who will be victorious in the end--no matter when it happens. Those who insist on seeing Scriptures as mostly a roadmap of current events to stir up worry miss the point completely. The Scriptures exist to point us to Christ and grant us peace regardless of current events.
Third, such predictions misunderstand the work of Jesus.
Predictions like this and the preachers who spew them are the unfortunate outgrowth of something called dispensationalist theology. It's an errant take on how God is working in this world that flows from a misunderstanding of Scripture. The two-second, sloppy overview is that there are several different dispensations or eras in history in which God works to accomplish His will in very different ways. Only one of them being the era where God saved Christians through the cross. In the end, they will be "taken from the earth" or raptured (apparently this Friday) while those left will struggle and be reconciled to God through other means, just as in their view the Jewish people will, in the end, be saved apart from Christ. The only problem with this view is that historic Christianity and the scriptures disagree.
The work of the cross was not just for one era, but for all eras, all time and all people. The work of the cross is the lynch-pin of history and salvation. Christ was crushed for our sins in His death and conquered the grave in His resurrection. All saving faith prior to this was pointing to this and all saving faith after this must flow from this. Since then, the coming Kingdom has been breaking through in a Word preached that points to Jesus and creates faith in Jesus, baptism that connects otherwise dead lives to the work of Jesus, the Lord's Supper that feeds us the body and blood and forgiveness of Jesus, and the work of His people the church who are the hands and feet and presence of Jesus. Likewise, the only thing we know for sure about "the end" is that this same Christ who defeated sin and death in a decisive battle on Good Friday and Easter, and who is experienced in glorious glimpses today will return, in Glory and fullness to finish it off on the last day. It's not a day to be feared. It's not a horrible day that Christians will escape and others will endure, only to be "saved" by other means. It's a day when Christ will show up, those who are connected to Him through belief and baptism will celebrate with Him and all those who are not, including all that's dark and nasty in this world, will be finally and fully cast out of this world. In the end, it's all about Jesus. It's always been about Jesus and the last day is not something at all to fear but something to find great hope and great peace in for those who are connected to the cross and empty tomb of Jesus. Period. For a much fuller overview of why dispensationalist theology is jacked and Kirk Cameron and his "Left Behind" books have missed the boat, check this out and especially this and if you're a total nerd, this.
God is good to keep us out of the loop.
God the Father purposely refuses to let us in on the exact day and time of the "the end." Why? Because the moment we think we "know" we go nuts. We become like kids who know we're headed to DisneyWorld. We can't focus on anything else. We lose sight of the peace He's given us in the completed work of Christ and we take our eyes off of the vocations He's given us to live out our faith on a daily basis--and through which He's doing important, tangible work in this world. Jesus says that a crazy day will come. But you're going to be okay--the cross and the empty tomb guarantee it. You are free to do the most important work in this life, which is not worrying about the return of Christ to this world, but being the presence of Christ to your neighbor.
So this Saturday night while a few will be freaking out about the end, I'll be studying my sermon for Sunday and spending time with my family, which is exactly what Christ put me on this planet to do, even if the end of it is just around the corner.