There’s a lot of confusion about endtimes in our world. It isn’t helped by the fact that there are false prophets springing up all around us, trying to tell us that which is to come. The recent controversy over Harold Camping’s prediction that the world would end on May 21st has me thinking about the study of end times (eschatology).
It’s an area I admit I haven’t studied much. The subject is confusing. There is a staggering array of views about what will happen in the end. The book of Revelation, from which we draw much of our knowledge over what will happen in the end times, can be greatly confusing to both the uninitiated and the scholar.
There are two major themes upon which I’d like to focus: knowledge of the end and our behavior at the end.
1) Knowledge of the end
Thinking about the apocalypse–the end of the world–is a tough issue. Like I said, there is a lot of diversity on the subject. As such, it is important for Christians to look to the Bible to see what we can know about the end. The key is to remember that must always go back to the Bible to see what it says about a subject before we believe what someone tells us it may say.
We are warned by Jesus in Matthew that there will arise false prophets (Matthew 24:24). Harold Camping is one such false prophet. He has distorted the truth of Scripture to gain followers.
Perhaps the most telling verse in the Bible which speaks against us being able to know when the end will come is Matthew 24:36, in which Jesus Himself says “But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.” If that’s true, then how would any other human know? Not even Christ, in his state of humiliation, could tell us when the last day would come!
The bottom line is that we can’t know and we won’t know when the last days have arrived–not until Jesus Himself is here.
2) Behavior at the end
Suppose for a moment we are at the last days; what should our attitude be? The resounding chorus in Scripture is that we should be diligent and ready, but we should continue to spread God’s Kingdom. Looking back at the Matthew 24 passage, Jesus tells us, ““Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come… Who then is the faithful and wise servant, whom the master has put in charge of the servants in his household to give them their food at the proper time? It will be good for that servant whose master finds him doing so when he returns” (24:42, 45-46).
So our attitude should be one of the watchful servant: ready for Christ to come, but not letting that distract us from the work He has given us. Rather than put up billboards and go around telling everyone the end is nigh, our task is to continue what should be our “business as usual”–spreading the Word, taking care of the needy, and living our lives as Christians.
It is easy to get caught up in the “end times” controversies. I admit that often when I hear of such predictions, I am more diligent than usual in remembering to repent of my sins. But what does that tell me? It tells me that I need to be more diligent about that at all times. For we need to be ready when Christ does come. A life of readiness for Christ means a life of spreading the Good News about Him to all people. It means living a life of repentance and reconciliation to God. We may not know when the end will come, but it is coming–and we will experience it either in this life or the next.
Check out this blog post by Austin which discusses the Camping controversy: here.
News article discussing Camping’s befuddlement about his failure: here.
Image: “Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse” by Viktor Vasnetsov, 1887.
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