I’m writing these words on Wednesday, October 7, 2015—the day that some “Christian” online group that I had never heard of before they got a little publicity this week—says will be the day the world ends. You’re reading these words on or after Tuesday, October 13, 2015, which means that they got it wrong. That’s no big surprise, given that all of the other—and there have been a lot of them—individuals and groups who made such predictions before them, also got it wrong.
So hug somebody and tell them you’re glad we’re still here.
OK, I do confess to thinking that if the end could come before we have to live through this entire 2016 presidential election cycle, it would be a relief. I mean, if the good Lord is open to suggestions, I’d suggest the day before the Iowa caucuses.
Still, I have to tell you that I just don’t get it. I don’t get why people keep making such predictions. I don’t get why folks keep listening to them.
I mean, Jesus himself said that no one knows the day or the hour except the Father (Mark 13:32). Jesus said that he didn’t even know. Frankly, I don’t want to be standing anywhere near someone who claims to know more than Jesus knows. That’s why I’ve always advised the congregations who have had to listen to my preaching to get as far away as possible from anyone who says they know when Jesus is coming back. I’d give you the same advice. Don’t buy their books. Don’t watch their television programs. Don’t visit their websites. Don’t send them any money.
Just say no to cranks.
I said earlier that I don’t get why people listen to these predictors of the date of the end, but maybe I do understand a little. It seems to me that people are eaten up with fear and with the anger that is often a leading symptom of fear. I hear lots of people saying that things are worse than they’ve ever been and that they’re just going to keep on deteriorating. I don’t know. I’m reminded of what my father, the late great Champ Ruffin, used to tell me when I was a teenager: “Son, your generation is no worse than mine. You just have better weapons to work with.”
He may have been right, but I wouldn’t know; Mama wouldn’t let me have any of the weapons.
Seriously, though, people are afraid. The main thing they’re afraid of is change. So the more things change, the more afraid they become. And one of the ways that they deal with fear is by becoming angry. They then direct that anger at whomever or whatever they think is responsible for all of the change that is occurring. Or they direct it at anyone or anything that happens to be in their line of sight. They can get to the point that they are so afraid and so angry that they just want something done. And one remedy would be for Jesus to come back and fix everything or take us out of this mess.
Now, the Bible certainly teaches that the Lord is going to return. But the Bible also makes it very clear that we can’t know when that’s going to be. It’s a waste of your time to try to figure it out. It’s a waste of your life to listen to people who say they have it figured it out. Two main points can be derived from what the Bible says about the return of the Lord: (1) it will happen and (2) in the meantime, we are supposed to live our lives following Jesus and serving people. 1 Thessalonians has one of the most well-known passages about the Second Coming:
But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers and sisters, about those who have died, so that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have died. For this we declare to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will by no means precede those who have died. For the Lord himself, with a cry of command, with the archangel’s call and with the sound of God’s trumpet, will descend from heaven, and the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up in the clouds together with them to meet the Lord in the air; and so we will be with the Lord forever. Therefore encourage one another with these words (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 NRSV).
But then Paul goes on to say that in the meantime, we should live our lives doing what Christians should be doing. And just a few verses later, he repeats his encouragement that we encourage each other: “Therefore encourage one another and build up each other, as indeed you are doing” (5:11).
I encourage you not to waste your time on “preachers” and “teachers” who tell you when the end is coming. Just like the rest of us, they won’t know until it gets here . . .
(First appeared in Ruffin's Renderings in the Barnesville (GA) Herald Gazette on October 13, 2015)