Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Preparing for the end

I found out a little late that there were not one but two failed predictions of the end of the world in the closing days of 2012. Most everyone knows that a certain interpretation of an ancient calendar of the Mayan culture indicated that the world would end on December 21, 2012. Lesser known is the prediction of Warren Jeffs, the jailed leader of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (FLDS), who apparently declared from prison  that the world would end before the dawning of 2013. 

It is no surprise that predictions like these turn out to be wrong because Jesus told his followers that they would not know the timing of his return and that he would come at an unexpected hour (Matt. 24:42; 44). Nonetheless, it seems that predictions of the end make the news with some regularity. I suggest ignoring them. In another place Jesus taught his followers that it is not for us know the timing of the culmination of things (Acts 1:6-7).      

While we should discourage predicting the timing of the end and buying into such predictions, Warren Jeffs sort of had it right about one thing. If the news accounts are correct, he told his followers to be ready for the end. If this is true, then he has something in common with Jesus who also commanded his followers to be watchful and ready for his return (Matt. 24:42; 44). One big difference between the command of Jeffs and the command of Jesus is that Jeffs told his followers to be ready because the end was coming by a certain near date while Jesus told his followers to be ever ready because they would not know the date. But both commanded watchfulness and readiness.

While we may rightfully shake our heads at predictions of the date of the end of the world, we should not forget the Lord's command to be ready at all times. One of my seminary professors said that every New Testament mention of the return of Christ falls in the context of an ethical injunction to Christians. In other words, the New Testament writers, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, did not use the impending return of Christ to scare unbelievers into believing. Rather, they used it to encourage Christ-followers to get to work in doing what the Lord has called us to do. 

That's the way to be watchful and ready: steadfast obedience to the teachings and the example of Jesus.    

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