For over two thousand years, people have predicted the end of the world. And each time, they were wrong.
Here are some examples from history:
- 2nd century AD: One Christian sect predicted it would happen in their lifetime. Upon Jesus’ return, he would build a New Jerusalem in a city in Asia Minor
- 500 AD: This was the first of many year-with-a-nice-round-number-panic that Armageddon was upon us
- 1284: Pope Innocent III computed the date of the world’s end by adding 666 years onto the date Islam was founded
- 1524: Astrologers predicted the imminent end of the world due to a world wide flood. I guess they hadn’t read Genesis yet
- 1914, 1915, 1918, 1920, 1925, 1941, 1975 and 1994: Jehovah’s Witnesses taught that the “battle of the Great Day of God Almighty”—as predicted in Scripture—would occur in each of those years
All this, and yet we are all still waiting for Jesus’ return.
As misguided as these people were, I understand where they were coming from. Back in the eighties, I believed that the US and Russia would blow each other up in a nuclear war. Today we fear the growing threat of ISIS and Muslim extremism around the world.
As crazy as these apocalyptic predictions might be, believing that this world is beyond redemption is just as crazy.
In our gospel, Jesus tells us what the end of the world will be like. But I don’t think Jesus really wanted us to obsess over the details of Armageddon.
Our faith is not grounded in fear for the future. Our faith is grounded upon an eternal hope.
“There will be signs in the sun, the moon, and the stars, and on the earth distress among nations confused by the roaring of the sea and the waves. People will faint from fear and foreboding of what is coming upon the world, for the powers of the heavens will be shaken.”
As horrible as this sounds, this dire imagery was not the point of his message. It’s the part where people throughout history have gotten wrong, leading them to live and act in fear.
In fact Jesus tells us that these predictions are merely the birth pangs of something greater:
“When you see these things taking place, you know that the kingdom of God is near…Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away”.
In plain terms, Jesus tells us that the world we know now won’t last forever. As sad as it is, you and those you care about will die someday.
But Death is not the end. Reconciliation with God and redemption through Christ is the be-all and end-all.
The end of this world is, thus, not something to be feared, but embraced. It is a future we are called to prepare for every living moment, through prayer and the love of others, including our enemies.
We might never know the exact date and time it will happen. But so long as we pray for God’s strength, love and grace, we will stand with Christ in the end.