Saturday, May 21, 2011

When Will the World End? Who Cares?

Though they may disagree on particulars, all Christians believe that one day, Jesus will return, bringing an end to this universe and fully establishing the new heaven and the new earth the Bible talks about.

That's why many of us, including we Lutherans, confess in the Nicene Creed, the most widely accepted statement of Christian belief in the world, that Jesus "will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead, and his kingdom will have no end."

But anyone who claims to know the day, month, hour, or year of Jesus' return either is, at worst, a counterfeit Christian or, at best, a misinformed one.

A quick look at words of Jesus cited in three of the New Testament books--Matthew, Mark, and Luke--known as "gospels" will show this. Jesus says:
"Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.

"But about that day or hour no one knows, neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father." (Mark 13:31-32)
For an attentive Christian, these words raise a question which, ultimately, we may find unanswerable: If Jesus is God enfleshed and if He and the Father are one, as He teaches and as we believe, then how is it possible for the Father to know the date of Jesus' return without Jesus knowing it?

I personally can only speculate that as part of God's risk of subjecting Himself to temptation and sin and being human in order to bond with the human race for whom Jesus came to die and rise, it was decided that God the Son would be walled off from any unfair advantage over the rest of us in matters like knowing when this world will end. It may be a topic for discussion in eternity one day, though I suspect that by then, it won't matter much to us.

But the real take-away from Jesus' words is that He claimed to have no knowledge of when He would return to close the curtain on life in this world.

And why would that be? Because it's not important to know.

Following the words of Jesus cited above, He also says:
Beware, keep alert; for you do not know when the time will come. It is like a man going on a journey, when he leaves home and puts his slaves in charge, each with his work, and commands the doorkeeper to be on the watch. Therefore, keep awake—for you do not know when the master of the house will come, in the evening, or at midnight, or at cockcrow, or at dawn, or else he may find you asleep when he comes suddenly. And what I say to you I say to all: Keep awake.”
Jesus' point is clear. Don't waste time speculating. Don't waste money on billboards and ads in major newspapers saying you know the date of Jesus' return. Nobody, no matter how convinced or convincing they may be, knows. Our job is just to be ready for His return.

And who is ready?
  • All who have taken up Jesus' offer on the free gifts of forgiveness of sin and everlasting life by turning from sin (repenting) and entrusting their lives to Him (believing).
  • All those who, out of gratitude for the free gifts of Jesus, seek to live out the great commandment (love God, love others) and the great commission (make disciples, new followers of Jesus, by sharing the true story of what Jesus did through cross and empty tomb for everyone).
I don't know when Jesus is returning. Nobody on earth has a clue about that. But you'll be ready if you let Jesus be the ultimate boss (Lord) of your life. Now, trusting in Him, get busy with living!*

*This is exactly what the members of our congregation, Saint Matthew Lutheran Church in Logan, Ohio, are going to do--get busy--as we conduct our community food drive today. Sharing Jesus in practical ways is one of the things we Christians need to be about, not speculating on when the world will end.

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