CHRIST IN WINTER: Reflections on Faith & Life for the Years of Winter…
EXPIRATION DATES [Su, 5-7-18]
A woman was explaining to me why she was leaving the church I pastored. We were not “prophetic.” By that she meant that we did not try to predict the end of the world.
That’s the way “prophesy” is used in “evangelical” circles these days. It means foretelling the future, specifically when the world will end. That definition does not come from the Bible but is imposed upon it. Biblically, prophets don’t foretell, they forth tell. They don’t foretell the future but tell forth the word of God.
Which is right in the wheelhouse of Jesus, who shot down the idea of prophecy as predicting the end of the world once and for all.
“But about that day or hour, no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.” Matthew 24:36.
So I quoted those words of Jesus—THE WORDS OF JESUS!—to her. As I said, Jesus had settled the matter once and for all. Not exactly.
She replied, “But he did not say we could not know the month or the year.”
In some ways, I wanted to cut her some slack. In the first place, I liked her. She was a new faculty member at our university and had not been in our church very long, but she was nice. More importantly, her PhD, and thus her teaching field, was food science. Nutrition and such. Expiration dates are important in that field. So I could see why she might be interested in the expiration date of the world.
But the intentional perverseness of what she said left me speechless. Anybody with even an elemental acquaintance with the Gospels knows that Jesus spoke metaphorically, not as a scientist or news reporter. Clearly, by “day or hour,” Jesus meant any time at all—month, year, decade, millennium, whatever.
For someone who claims to be a follower of Christ to dishonor him so completely by twisting his words in order to believe and do the exact opposite of what he was trying to accomplish is mind-boggling.
Yet people keep doing it, especially about predicting the end of the world. We know of about two or three thousand such predictions over the years since Jesus spoke his words. They were all wrong.
Except were they? 99% of those predictors are dead. For them, this world has ended.
I think that is what Jesus was concerned about, the end of the world for each of us. Yes, this world will end for me, and for you. With the help of modern medicine, we might predict fairly accurately when that will happen, as oncologists do when they say “You have six months.” To which we reply, “But Doc, I can’t even pay your bill in six months.” To which they respond, “In that case, you have twelve months.” Predicting the end even for doctors is kind of iffy.
Yes, the world will end for me and for you, and we don’t know when. Why not just get ready and stay that way?