You may have heard that there are certain groups and individuals who are proclaiming for all to hear that the final judgment of humanity is going to happen on May 21, and that the end of the world will take place on October 21…of this year.
There are many people within and outside the church who are making fun of those who believe they have these dates figured out, and while that can provide a few moments of joviality, this proclamation does cause us to stop and think, doesn’t it?
There have been doomsday prophets lurking around this corner and that for at least the last 1900-plus years, and quite possibly longer. Occasionally, cult groups will predict the end of the world, as the Jehovah’s Witnesses have done several times. (One time, back in the 1970s, when the JWs had a fixed date for the End, my mother-in-law invited a bunch of them for tea…for the day after. She’s a bit cheeky, you know.) Countless books have been written, each attempting in its own way to tell us how the world is going to end, and when the world is going to end.
Even mainstream Christians have sometimes tried to figure these things out from Scripture. But here’s my take on it: those who seek to divine these bits of information, as important as they may seem, betray a profound lack of trust in God. We want to try to figure everything out, to leave no stone unturned as we seek to have all matters of faith laid bare for us.
Yet, it seems to me that it is hardly a matter of faith when we seek to make everything logically explainable. As I heard the great Pastor and Bible Translator, Eugene Peterson, say this week, “Our gospel is 80 percent mystery.” And our society does not like mystery. It may like mystery novels or mystery TV shows or mystery movies, but the reason our society likes those is that, within a matter of hours, they will have the mystery solved. But the mystery of faith is not something that we can solve in hours, or days, or years. In fact, we can’t solve it at all. That’s God’s job. God will solve the mystery of faith, but only in his own time – not necessarily according to our not-always-flexible timetables.
Followers of Jesus know that the world as we know it will not last infinitely; we know that there will be a judgment, and there will be a consummation of the world as we understand it. But one thing that isn’t a mystery to us is that we don’t know when that will take place. Jesus himself said, “no one knows the day or hour when these things will happen, not even the angels in heaven or the Son himself. Only the Father knows” (Matthew 24.36, NLT).
We don’t know when the judgment will happen, or when the world as we know it will end. But we do know the One who knows. And that’s all that matters. All we have to do is be ready for it.
This week, I will be beginning a study of the book of the Revelation in one of our LifeConnect Groups at St. Paul’s, Nobleton. People are often fascinated – or even scared – by Revelation, because of the cryptic material it contains. But I generally begin a study in Revelation by saying this: if you believe that Jesus is going to return, and you are ready for that to happen anytime in the next five minutes, there is nothing for you to fear in Revelation.
So don’t let the fear-mongers get to you. And don’t be convinced by those who think they have the mysteries of the universe solved. Trust the Lord. Be ready. Let God set the timetable.