It is really baffling that Christians - and I use that word loosely here - constantly want to predict the coming of the end. In recent years, these predictions have been coming in rapid fire. There was a movement by Ronald Weinland who predicted that New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles would be destroyed in April 2008 in his book 2008 – God’s Final Witness. His website is now predicting that the world will end on May 27, 2012. Hal Lindsay, in his Late Great Planet Earth, predicted that the end was to come in 1988. The revised edition, after missing the mark, predicted 2007. Now, he is predicting in 2040. One would think that the punishment for predicting wrongly would be that the predictor would have to shut up, but it seems that the actual punishment for predicting wrongly is that you must make another prediction and go through the whole process again.
Around the turn of the millennium, nearly every crazed prophecy fanatic was predicting the end. It was a crazy, paranoid time, yet most of us got along just fine, ignoring most of the paranoia while continuing on with our lives. Then a tragedy happens like the earthquake/tsunami in Japan and some begin to wonder if this is the prelude of the end. Others read a story about Israel or Iran and begin to wonder if that is a sign of the end.
Jesus taught that the end times would be marked by wars, rumors of wars, famines, and earthquakes. One of my favorite preachers had this to say on the subject. It’s a little lengthy, but I thought it’s appropriate to share during this time.
“I do not wish to force any one to believe as I do; neither will I permit anyone to deny me the right to believe that the last day is near at hand. These words and signs of Christ compel me to believe that such is the case. For the history of the centuries that have passed since the birth of Christ nowhere reveals conditions like those of the present. There has never been such building and planting in the world. There has never been such gluttonous and varied eating and drinking as now. Wearing apparel has reached its limit in costliness. Who has ever heard of such commerce as now encircles the earth? There have arisen all kinds of art and sculpture, embroidery and engraving, the like of which has not been seen during the whole Christian era.”
“In addition men are so delving into the mysteries of things that today a boy of twenty knows more than twenty doctors formerly knew. There is such a knowledge of languages and all manner of wisdom that it must be confessed, the world has reached such great heights in the things that pertain to the body, or as Christ calls them, ‘cares of life.’ Eating, drinking, building, planting, buying, selling, marrying and giving in marriage. Everyone must see and say either ruin or a change must come. It is hard to see how a change can come. Day after day dawns and the same conditions remain. There was never such keenness, understanding, and judgment among Christians in bodily and temporal things as now-I forbear to speak of the new inventions, printing, firearms, and other implements of war.”
He goes on to talk about the spiritual depravity of the world he lived in. If it wasn’t for the “new inventions” of the printing press and firearms, I would think that Martin Luther, who preached that message in 1522, was talking about modern times.
Jesus taught, “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away. But concerning that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only” (Matt 24:35-36 [ESV]). Despite these teachings, people continue to become distracted with end times predictions. Jesus didn’t even know the day or the hour, but we trust the man on the television or the radio who is asking for our donations that he knows what Jesus, Himself, could not even know. People are missing the point.
Approximately 6,700 Americans die every day. That means that Saturday, May 21, 2011 was the end time for over 6,000 people. Some met their end suddenly in an accident or a heart attack. Others concluded their long struggle with cancer. It was the end for many on May 21. Yet each one of those people who died needed to be prepared to meet God.
Too often, we get hung up on the end times rather than focus on God during events that appear like those that Jesus taught would be signs of the coming end times. Those signs have filled the ages since Christ, and in every age people thought their age to be the last. That doesn’t mean that ours won’t be, but it does seem to point out that we need to not focus on the end times but upon the God who brings about the signs. The signs are just that – signs. They are pointing to God, not the end. God is always at work in us, trying to mold us into who he intends us to be. The earthquakes, the wars, all of the great catastrophes of mankind should be seen as opportunities, albeit devastating and saddening, for us to focus more on Him.