It’s the end of the world as we know it…

“But concerning that day and hour no one knows,
not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only.

(Matthew 24:36 ESV)

“If the world were to come to an end tomorrow, what would you do today?” 

It’s a game we all like to play: “How would you live your life if you knew this was your last day?”  We talk about seeing great sights, making peace with all those whom we have offended or have hurt us; usually your answer indicates that which is of greatest importance to you.

You may or may not be aware, but there is a small but vocal movement that believes that the rapture of the church will take place this weekend, May 21, 2011, and that that God will completely destroy the world five months later on October 21, 2011 (there’s even an ad in the local paper).  This is the teaching of Harold Camping, a former elder in the Christian Reformed Church, and the president of Family Radio, a Christian broadcasting network out of California.  Using a complicated mathematical system, Camping believes that this Saturday God will take the true followers of Christ out of the world, and that utter chaos and turmoil will unfold until the world comes to an end on October 21.

Now I am not going to offer here a full rebuttal of Camping’s teachings and warning of the end times.  There is an excellent series of articles by Robert Godfrey who thoroughly traces Camping’s intellectual and spiritual descent, as well as the errors of his teachings.  Still, I think it is important to remember a couple of things.

First, we cannot know the day and hour.  As we are reminded in the verse above, we cannot know the date and hour of Christ’s return, not even the angels nor Jesus had that information.  While God has revealed Himself to His people, we have not been given to know the details of when the day of the Lord will be.  Throughout the centuries, people have thought they knew the day and time, Camping’s first prediction was that the world would end in 1994.  Remember Jesus said, “Many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am he!’ and they will lead many astray.  And when you hear of wars and rumors of wars, do not be alarmed. This must take place, but the end is not yet.  For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be earthquakes in various places; there will be famines. These are but the beginning of the birth pains” (Mark 13:6-8).

I will be the first to agree that the end is near, but I am also writing my sermon for Sunday.

Second, there are no secret codes for us to interpret the Bible.  Ephesians 1:9 teaches us that  God has made “known the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time…”  Everything that we need to know about God has been revealed to us through Scripture, especially as the Bible leads us to the revelation of Christ Jesus our Lord.  There is no greater mystery for us to uncover than that which has been clearly revealed, thy mystery of God’s grace and love lavished upon us in Jesus.  There’s no abacus or calculator needed to understand this mystery, and there’s no algorithm sophisticated enough to measure the great love that God has for us.

Finally, we should be mindful that Christ is coming, and live accordingly.  If Christ is coming this Saturday to take His followers home, what a blessed day that will be, but I’m not going to sit and wait, I’ll keep working.  My heart grieves now for those who do not know of God’s great love for us in Christ, and I pray that by my faithful preaching and teaching from God’s Word, the Spirit will draw men and women to God in repentance and faith.  I don’t know if Christ is coming on the 21st, but I do know that I want Him to find me faithfully serving and making His glory known.  Hebrews 9:28, teaches that Jesus will come “to save those who are eagerly waiting for him.” I found the following line in a Puritan Prayer that I think helps keep this all in perspective,  

“May I speak each word as if my last word,
and walk each step as my final one. 
If my life should end today,
let this be my best day.”

The important thing to remember is (whether the day be this Saturday or the next, this year or 100 years from now) God is the Almighty One, the Maker of Heaven and Earth.  All time is in His hand, even the end, and nothing can separate us from God’s love for us in Jesus Christ.

Do not be afraid, be confident, be faithful, and may you be found ready when He comes. 

“He who testifies to these things says, ‘Surly I am coming soon.’ 
Amen.  Come, Lord Jesus!” (Rev. 22:20)

SDG

Prepare ye the way of the Lord…

“He said, ‘I am the voice of one crying out in the wilderness,
“Make straight the way of the Lord…’”
(John 1:23 ESV)

Advent is upon us once again, for better or worse.  This is, I admit, my favorite time of year; but it seems to get harder and harder to enjoy.

Have you noticed the advertising on TV lately: “Now is the time to buy this new car…”  “The perfect gift for the guy who has everything…”  “Don’t miss our holiday sale…”  “Doors open at 4 a.m. …”  One would think that Advent is nothing more than a marketing season, one last ditch effort to boost the profits for retailers.  I’m all for a strong and robust economy, but is this really what Advent is all about – a reminder that we only have so many shopping days left until Christmas?

Here in the Church Advent is our countdown to Christmas.  We light candles each week signifying the coming of the light of Christ.  We decorate the church with greens and purples, with nativities and chrismons; we sing the classic carols that draw us into the “Christmas Spirit.”  Advent is our time to prepare for the celebration of the birth of Christ, the mystery of His incarnation, and God’s gracious gift of our Savior.  But, I ask again, is this really what Advent is all about?

Advent means “coming”, and as such it is appropriate that we use this time to celebrate the coming of the Christ child; but there is more to Advent, there is more to our faith than the birth of a child.  Our Lord promised His disciples, promised us, that He would come again to take us to be with Him.  Many Christians don’t talk about this promise openly because it has been the source of so much speculation and fantasy that we really don’t know what we believe. 

The Bible teaches that Jesus will come again, in a very personal and powerful way.  His coming will not be missed, as He will be joined by clouds of glory and a heavenly fanfare (1 Thess 4:13-5:11).  At His coming, the faithful in Christ will experience a rapture – we will be taken up in the air to meet Christ as He comes.  We will not be whisked away in secret, but will meet Christ in the air as He returns and take part in His triumphal return.

Advent is our time to focus on the return of Christ.  As Christians, we should always be vigilant in our watching and waiting for Christ’s coming.  Though we do not know when this will be, we are to be prepared.  May your Advent prepare you for the celebration of the birth of our Savior, and may you also be filled with anticipation and expectation of His return.

SDG