Thursday, February 10, 2011

End Times Predictions

My article from this week's Algona Upper Des Moines about End Times Predictions:

Q: I have heard many predictions lately about the “end of the world,” some of which are coming very soon. How can I know if these are trustworthy, and how should I prepare?

This is a question which has been in the minds of Christians since the earliest years of the Church. In fact, every generation in the history of Christianity has had people who are convinced they were the generation in which Jesus would return.

There are two predictions that are currently in popular circulation. The first of these is from non-Christian sources, based on the Mayan calendar. The idea behind this prediction is that, since an ancient Mayan Calendar ends on December 21, 2012, that date will be the last day. Many outside of Christianity have been fascinated by this idea, and envision some sort of apocalyptic event on that date. Even though this prediction does not come from a Christian source, some have since suggested a connection between this prediction and the Second Coming of Jesus.

The other prediction being popularly circulated is one by Harold camping that Jesus will initiate the final events of history on May 21, 2011, leading up to His Second Coming. While the events suggested by camping do prediction action that will be taken by Jesus, many Bible Scholars would seriously question whether Camping is, in fact, a Christian, because he holds many teachings which diverge sharply from those historically held by Christians.

Both of these predictions share a fatal flaw. In Matthew 24:36, Jesus makes it clear that no person can predict when He will return by saying, “Concerning that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven.” In fact, I can assure you with the highest degree of confidence that Jesus will not return on either of the days mentioned above. This is because Jesus says in Matthew 24:44, “Therefore you must also be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at a time you do not expect.” Since May 21 is a Saturday, I have even heard of some churches conducting evangelistic campaigns which promote their service for Sunday, May 22 under the theme “We’re Still Here.”

Jesus does give some warning signs in the same chapter of Matthew to remind His followers that He is coming. These signs include wars, natural disasters, lawlessness, and false teachers. These things have been happening ever since Jesus ascended into heaven and will continue until He returns.

When we do hear those who are predicting specific days or years for the return of Jesus, we ought to remember Jesus’ warnings about false saviors and false teachers, when He says, ”Many false prophets will arise and lead many astray.”

History is riddled with hundreds of these false predictions. They have repeatedly been proven false when they do not come to completion, and these most recent ones will suffer the same fate.

Instead, the Bible teaches that the return of Jesus will be an unexpected, instantaneous event (Matthew 24:27) about which no person had been given the time. On that day, all the dead will be raised from their graves, and Jesus will judge the living and the dead. Those who trust in Him will be judged according to His deeds and receive eternal life, and those who trust in any other thing in place of or alongside of Him will be judged according to their own deeds and receive eternal punishment.

The only preparation a person can make for these events is to trust Jesus to forgive his sins, and allow Jesus to continually strengthen and preserve his faith through God’s Word and the Lord’s Supper as they await the Last Day.

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