Just how fine is the line between solid Christian doctrine and a crazy doomsday predictor living in a camper? Doesn’t the Bible tell us to be ready, and doesn’t it give us some signs to look for? Shouldn't all good Christians study this with zeal?
Predictions of the end of the world have been coming fast and furious over the past several years. Needless to say, you are reading this because they’ve all been wrong. Oddly enough, each seems to get more attention, more press, and more followers than the last. Usually mixing in some misconstrued scripture, a little wishful thinking, and a pinch of doomsday fear, the would-be prophets stir up a following and usually manage sell some books. Humans are naturally eager to know what the future holds, and we love to latch onto anything that gives us a glimpse of things to come.
This passage in Matthew 24, from which Nate has been teaching, is often cited as a sort of “road map” for spotting the milestones of the second coming of Jesus. It includes things like false messiahs, natural disasters, and war. Anyone who watches the news or reads a newspaper would not be off the mark in thinking that sounds a lot like the world we live in today. Indeed, it does. With our 24/7 news culture, at least one of those things makes headlines almost every day. Surely, we're living in the "last days," right?
The only problem is that none of these phenomena are new. Even a brief overview of the last two thousand years shows a world history punctuated with the rise of false prophets (leading to many world religions and cults), natural disasters (global cooling, plagues, volcano eruptions), and wars (The Mongol Conquests, the Crusades, World Wars I and II). Every generation since Christ could have read Matthew 24, looked around at the world, and been justified in thinking the return of Christ was imminent.
So if Jesus isn't speaking specifically (and cryptically) to Christians of 2013, what do we do with this teaching? Jesus lays out some pretty specific guidelines. Stay alert, watch out for false teachers, don’t be lead astray, stay strong and don’t live in fear. These seem like pretty good guidelines for living, period. Even if we’re not focusing on the second coming.
I must admit, if it's not obvious, that this is one of my least favorite topics of discussion. The primary reason I don’t like to focus on the “end times” is that people often seem so eager to lose the forest for the trees. In other words, this topic, more than most, seems to capture the imagination and draw our focus away from the primary objective of reaching people, feeding the poor, caring for the helpless and hopeless, and sharing the love of Jesus with the world.
I know and agree, “the end is near,” but instead of a myopic focus on a specific prophesy, this truth should spur us into action. The end is, indeed, near. Whether it’s the end of the world, or just the end of our time on it, we need to remain focused on doing what we’ve been called to do. Let’s stop wasting time and resources on counting vowels in Genesis to calculate the date of the rapture, and use our energy on something that will yield fruit; that’s a line of doctrine I can follow.
Blog entry by: Jeff Hyson