(In going through some old files, I stumbled upon some old blog posts and newsletter articles from my previous positions as a pastor and seminary student. While some make me groan with embarrassment, I will occasionally post a "throwback" article from the archive. Here's one I wrote back in 2011.)
A couple weeks ago, while driving through Sussex, I saw a yard sign that said the world was ending on May 21. Since this was obviously a professionally printed sign, I was curious who was behind this revelation.
Googling the information later, I discovered that a Christian preacher and radio host in Oakland, CA named Harold Camping had “discovered” the rapture is going to happen at 6pm on Saturday, May 21 by carefully working through Biblical math equations and checking them against historical events. His conclusions have led thousands of people to quit their jobs, sell their possessions, and/or drive around the country trying to save as many souls as possible before this Saturday.
Given that Christians do hope and pray for the return of Jesus and that we’ve seen hundreds of such predictions come and go in the past (Anyone remember Y2K? 9/9/99?), what is a proper Christian response to news like this? My response is “nothing.”
When I say “nothing,” though, I don’t mean that we should do nothing at all. Instead, I mean to say that we should do nothing different. Martin Luther, when asked once what he would do if he knew the world would end tomorrow, replied, “I would plant a tree today.” His response suggests that we should always live in hope of tomorrow, always work to create life, always trust that “whether we live or we die, we are the Lord’s” (Romans 14:8).
As Christians, we live lives of hope, love, generosity toward others, and freedom from death and fear because of the actions of Jesus Christ. Why should any of that change, even if we knew for certain that the world were ending this Saturday?
One of the trademarks of the American Evangelical movement has been a fascination with the Apocalypse and obsession with interpreting the “signs” of Revelation, Daniel, and Ezekial. Aside from the fact that Jesus himself says that “only the Father” knows when these things will happen (Matthew 24:36), my criticism of this scholarship is that it puts our energies into the wrong pursuits. Instead of looking for meaning in the “signs” of the Bible, we should be living according to the meaning in plain words: Love God and your neighbor as yourself. Over and over, the Bible tells us that serving others is true worship to God, not figuring out a secret date.
So whether you think the world will end this Saturday, or you think this is just another bogus doomsayer, do nothing different. Live with hope, joy, and self-giving love toward others. We are the Lord’s. Those words are all the certainty that we need. Now, if you’ll excuse me, the world is ending and I need to plant a tree...
From the Gray,
“Take these chances, place them in a box until a quieter time. Lights down, you up and die.” -Dave Matthews Band, “Ants Marching”