In January I saw an article in the Wichita Eagle about a woman who was thoroughly convinced that the rapture and the end of the world would be on May 21, 2011. At 6pm to be exact. Well, this Saturday is the fateful day and, as one would expect, the story has been picked up by various news outlets.
Now forgive me if I sound a little cynical, but I know my history. From the very first moments that Jesus walked the earth people have been predicting his return, and thus the end of the world with it. So far, no one has been right.
What’s more, I know what happened at Münster. To recap, a group of Anabaptists violently took over the town of Münster and swiftly began killing people, running around naked and doing a whole bunch of other things all because they were certain that Jesus was coming back right then and there.
That was 477 years ago.
What disturbs me most is how people who believe the end of the world is at hand have actually begun to act in the mean time. When people believe the end of the world in nigh, their true selves seem to come out and they begin to live out what they really believe.
The people in Münster quickly turned into wild, violent and disturbing versions of themselves.
Many people awaiting May 21st have also sold their cars and homes, refused get married, gone on spending sprees, and a host of other things that seem to be essentially selfish in nature.
All of this misses the point of what Jesus was trying to say. In Matthew 24 Jesus paints a very vivid vision of the destruction of the Temple and the end of the world. While many have spent time trying to analyze this description to see the signs in our world today, they have completely missed the main point of what Jesus was trying to say.
In verse 36 and then 42-44 Jesus says,
36 But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son,[f] but only the Father…. 42 “Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come. 43 But understand this: If the owner of the house had known at what time of night the thief was coming, he would have kept watch and would not have let his house be broken into. 44 So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him.
Whenever someone in the Bible says “Therefore” it means that what they are about to say is going to be their main point. The main point that Jesus was trying to get across is that you don’t know when the end of the world is coming so you should live every day as if it was the end of the world. We are supposed to live in a constant state of readiness and holiness, and always be following the will of God. The main point of Jesus’ talking about the apocalypse is not to give you a set of clues to figure out the date of the end of the world, but rather to inspire holy behavior. In fact, I would say that to predict the end is actually blasphemy because you are attempting to figure something out that is reserved for God alone.
So, am I worried about Saturday? Not really. Although it would really mess up the wedding that I’m performing for my friends.