The world didn’t end on May 21st, and I know it is a surprise to us all. Predictions claiming that the end of the world is forthcoming is not new. Each major religion has an end of the world story, detailing how it will all end. I must admit, I was a “Left Behind” reader, anxiously awaiting the next installment on how the Tribulation Force would thwart the evil plots of the Nicolae Carpathia. The word for the study of the end of the world is “eschatology”, and it is a fascinating subject to study, because we all have a built in desire to see how the story ends. Example: raise your hand if you have every skipped to the end and read the last couple pages of a book (I see that hand, and I see that hand…praise God…Amen!).
The study of eschatology is not a bad thing. I think it is good to read the prophecies found throughout scripture detailing how things are going to end, and talking about things that have yet to come. I’ll admit that I really enjoyed reading the Left Behind books…not so much the movies though, despite me liking Kirk Cameron. However, an obsession on eschatology can prove unhealthy, because you then focus on the end, rather than the present. An unhealthy focus on eschatology results in a focus on trying to parse prophecy, and takes our focus away from the people around us that desperately need Jesus. We focus on whether the current president or other leaders fit our understanding of what the Antichrist should be like. We focus on counting from when the current state of Israel was created and use that as a bench mark to start the doomsday clock, we are desperately searching for patterns that show us that we are living in the last days, and if we stare at it long enough we begin to leap to conclusions that aren’t necessarily there, all the while our witness to our friends evolves from, “come follow Jesus because He loves you so much” to “come follow Jesus, because otherwise, you’re gonna get it!”
Don’t misunderstand me, because I think there is a healthy study of eschatology. It is good to know what scripture teaches about what is to come. The main reason that it is good to know, because it teaches that we don’t know when it will happen, and we can’t really predict it. Scripture teaches that it will come like a “thief in the night.” Having had my house robbed when I was very young, and my car broken into several times, I know that if I knew the day the thief was going to come, I may have stood outside with some sort of blunt object to deter such activity. Of course if I knew when he thief was coming, and I did stand guard, I’m betting that those coming with the intent to steal from me would call an audible.
Eschatology should bring followers of Christ a sense of urgency. We don’t know when its going to happen. It could be as I am typing this senten….(kidding).
The sense of urgency must be present, because not only do when not know when Christ is coming back, we don’t know when we our own personal eschatology will happen. The tornadoes in Joplin and in Oklahoma have been reported on and written about quite a bit. Mick Cornett (Oklahoma City mayor) was interviewed on MSNBC about the latest tornadoes to hit Oklahoma. If you consider the tornado that hit Joplin, the tornados in Oklahoma, the other tornadoes in Alabama, and throughout the country this tornado season, over 480 people have died, and we aren’t quite out of tornado season yet. For perspective, you have to go back to the 1950’s to get death tolls that high. I am almost certain none of these people woke up saying, “Today is the day I see Jesus”.
How do we make sure that we are ready when our personal story is over, or the end of the world? For followers of Christ, it is to not only TALK about Christ’s love, but to SHOW Christ’s love. I think it is no accident that there is a relative balance in Jesus ministry for public professions, sermons, and teachings and acts of service, humility, and healing. Here is the challenge: focus on the people that God has put around you. Pastors, focus on the community around you, and balance your sermons with service and do it on a continual basis. Break out of the holy huddle that has been built and challenge your congregations and fellow laborers of Christ to do the same. Demonstrate the full spectrum of the gospel to the people around you like there is…well…no tomorrow.