12/22/2012 8:01:00 PM
Pastor Mike Nitz
The Perils of Predicting the Last Day
Some people in Annapolis, MD thought that the world was coming to an end a few hours earlier than predicted.
Since Friday, December 21st was the end of the Mayan calendar, some claimed that the Mayans had predicted Friday would be the end of the world. So when two power lines servicing Annapolis went down, showering the night sky with a light show, some people feared it was the beginning of the end.
Obviously, planet earth is still here the day after the Mayan calendar ended. For sure, the task of predicting the end of the world is filled with perils. Anyone familiar with Christ's teachings should know this.
The end of the Mayan calendar was the latest phenomenon to spark predictions about the end of the world. But it wasn't the first, and it won't be the last. The next prediction I'm aware of calls for August 23, 2013 to be the Last Day. And then another prediction claims it will come sometime in 2014.
So let's dig a little deeper into this business of predicting the world's end, by looking at some recent, past history.
Don’t Sell Your Belongings ~ May 20, 2011
Have you heard that tomorrow is being heralded as Doomsday? The end of the world is supposed to happen Saturday. The person behind this prediction is 89-year-old Harold Camping, the co-founder of the Family Radio Network. He’s described as a Christian Fundamentalist, but he’s missing a fundamental teaching of Jesus who stated: “No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father…” (Matthew 24:36). Jesus was referring to some pretty high authorities when he spoke of those heavenly creatures who serve God, and when he spoke of himself according to his human nature in his state of humiliation. Camping is just plain wrong to make such a prediction when Jesus clearly teaches otherwise. Worse, he needlessly offers fodder to the unbelieving world that looks on in mockery.
Prior to October 2009 Camping was predicting that the end of the world would be October 21, 2011. But after publishing that date, he then revised it to tomorrow’s date of May 21, 2011. (Check out my earlier devotion, reprinted below.) And did you know that in 1992 he predicted the world would end in 1994? His track record is not so good. So don’t sell your belongings, as it’s being reported that some of his followers are doing. Instead of nervously awaiting the Last Day as a follower of Camping, let’s be followers of Christ by taking a few extra moments to ponder what Christ’s word teaches us about facing Judgment Day.
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It’s Coming, When? (Originally published October 1, 2009)
I don’t mean to shock you too much, but I’ve been told that I only have about a year’s worth of time left on earth. The results of recent medical tests came back. Since everything was within normal ranges, let me emphasize that this news did not come from my doctor. Rather, I was given this news in a tract left in my front door. The tract states in bold print: “Are you ready to meet God? October 21, 2011 is Judgment Day.”
Judgment Day is when Jesus Christ, the one and only Son of God, visibly returns from his throne in heaven to publicly judge the people of this world. Those who truly trusted in Jesus as the promised “Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29) will be taken, body and soul together, to “dwell in the house of the Lord forever” (Psalm 23: 6).
According to the tract left in my door, I will be leaving earth in October 2011, on Friday the 21st to be exact. That the Judgment Day is coming doesn’t shock me. Christians throughout the centuries have confessed this coming reality in the Apostles’ Creed: “Jesus will come again to judge the living and the dead.” But to claim this will happen 10-21-2011 shocks me. Because how does 10-21-2011 match with Jesus who said: “No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father” (Matthew 24:36)?
When we remember that Jesus is the “one and only” (John 1:18) who has both a divine and human nature, we begin to see the full meaning of Jesus’ words. If Jesus, the Savior of the world -- who’s going to be the judge!!-- doesn’t know when Judgment Day will happen according to his human nature … how in the heavens can sinful humans dare to think they’ve figured it out?*
Faulty interpretations of the Bible happen every time we impose presuppositions on the Bible instead of letting the Bible speak freely. In the tract, not only does a presupposition suppress the Bible’s truth that human discernment of Judgment Day is impossible, there’s another presupposition at work. The tract states: “No matter how awfully you have lived or how terribly you have sinned, it is entirely possible that by God’s mercy, you too, may have been chosen by God to become saved.” The words “may have been chosen” disfigure God’s mercy, conditioning it and contorting it into a dreadful maybe. And the words “it is entirely possible” make God’s mercy only a wretched possibility.
It’s both dreadful and wretched to turn what God makes certain into a possibility! The good news of God’s mercy in Christ is unconditional! Show me where there are any conditions attached to God’s mercy, or any “maybe’s” or any “possibilities” in these passages…
- Jesus Christ is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world. (1 John 2:2)
- God our Savior wants all men to be saved and to come to knowledge of the truth. (1 Timothy 2:4)
- For God has bound all men over to disobedience so that he may have mercy on them all. (Romans 11:32).
For every person troubled by his or her sins, or for every soul crushed under guilt and shame, there is the good news of Jesus Christ’s unconditional mercy that’s already been declared as the verdict for the whole world in God’s justice system: “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and allll are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus” (Romans 3:23-24).
To each heart broken in sin there is a verdict already decreed: freely justified! And each broken heart that’s moved by God to believe receives what has been secured for the whole world: free justification. So even though we can’t know when Jesus will return, we who look to Christ for mercy also look forward to the coming Judgment Day, using Paul’s words to remind ourselves: “Our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed. The night is nearly over; the day is almost here” (Romans 13:11-12).
Chew on that passage for a while, and tell me if Christ’s apostle doesn’t want us all to live life in certainty of God’s mercy, and as if Jesus is coming tonight. Who knows, he just might.
*Just now as I was writing this, I went to the tract’s website and see that Judgment Day is nearer than first believed. The home page states that it’s been advanced to May 21, 2011.