“The end is near” is a phrase that’s been around for a long, long time.
We heard it most recently from Harold Camping, the 89-year-old civil engineer, self-taught bible sage and owner of the Family Radio Network. Camping’s numerological calculations and extensive study of Scripture led him to predict that the Day of Judgment (also known as the Rapture) was supposed to happen Saturday, May 21, 2011 at 6 pm Eastern daylight time. Earthquakes and other terrible natural events would begin at that time, culminating in the end of the world five months later on October 21, 2011.
Yet we also know from Scripture that when referring to his return, Jesus told his disciples, “… of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone.” (Matthew 24:36).
In the first century A.D., many Thessalonians believed that Paul’s words “the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night” in his first letter meant that he was foretelling the imminent return of Our Lord and the end of the world. People quit working and started debating who would go to heaven and who would not.
Paul clarified his meaning in his second letter by describing some of the conditions that would happen before the Lord returned. He also reaffirmed the need to ignore false signs and the lies of Satan.
There have also been recent books and TV shows about the ancient Mayan civilization that move some to believe that the Mayans forecasted the world’s end in 2012. This civilization, which reached its highest state of development between 250 and 900 AD, created a “long count” calendar that spans a period of 5,126 years, ending on the winter solstice December 21, 2012.
But according to scholars, the Mayan calendar was designed to document one cycle of life. When the last day on the calendar is reached, the calendar begins again with a new cycle.
The Mayan calendar is a popular topic because of an astrological coincidence. On December 21, 2012, our sun will be aligned with the center of the Milky Way for the first time in 26,000 years. It’s a cosmic fact that the Mayans couldn’t have known, given their limited technology. It’s just another “false sign” hyped by authors and the media.
I recently watched the 2009 film titled “2012,” an overdone, special-effects laden film whose only connection to the Mayan calendar is the title of the film.
In this film, the alignment of the planets in our solar system causes extra-powerful solar flares that send extreme amounts of neutrinos to the earth. These particles cause the earth’s core to overheat and the earth’s crust to shift a thousand miles. These shifts produce earthquakes that topple monuments and entire cities, deep chasms that swallow up Las Vegas and tsunamis that flood most of the world.
Before these natural disasters occur, the author of a little-read book on the topic (John Cusack) takes his children on a camping trip to Yellowstone National Park, which happens to be the epicenter for the upcoming eruptions. He learns of the impending doom and spends the rest of the film trying to get his family to safety. The film’s special effects are entertaining but the storylines are predictable and rather hollow.
A much better film about the end of life is “My Life” starring Michael Keaton and Nicole Kidman. In this 1993 film, Keaton is a terminally-ill man with a new baby boy. He spends his last few months videotaping life lessons for his son so that his knowledge and love for his son will live on past his days. The journey also leads to self-discovery and reconciliation of his personal relationships.
What would you do if you knew the exact day that the world would end or the exact day of your death?
Would you max out your credit cards with a trip to Walt Disney World? Would you thumb your nose at your boss or give a final curse to those people with whom you don’t get along?
Instead, think along these lines: Whom should you approach and say “I love you” or “I’m sorry” or “I forgive you” or “Please tell me what’s going on with you today?”
We don’t need the end of the world to motivate us to say these phrases to the people we love. Seize the day, say them today.
In his second letter, Paul did not chastise the Thessalonians for their beliefs. He addresses them with love, gives thanks for the church there, and ends the epistle by wishing them peace and grace.
So when we read about people who believe the end of the world is near, let’s respond like Paul, giving thanks for their faith and wishing them peace and grace to the end of their days.
We want nothing less for ourselves.