On Fear of the World Ending

Hey, remember when people talked about the world ending in 2012?

A lot of disasters seem to have happened recently.  Shootings.  North Korea testing nuclear missiles.  Earthquakes.  Hurricanes.  Celebrity marriages breaking up.  Sports teams losing.  Economies crashing.  Twinkies dropping off the face of the earth.

We’ve seen a lot of reactions to them in the media, of people explaining why these things happened, if something can be done to stop them and what that is, and what they mean.  We tend to get afraid of these things and wonder what will happen next.  We wonder what we should do, what we should prepare for.

I think of when Christ’s followers asked him when the temple would be destroyed, and since they were on the topic, when the age would end and his second coming would happen.

Notice the first thing he tells them: Let no one deceive you.

If we’re asking God about what great and terrible events mean and what they are signs of, we should hasten to take to heart that people will deceive us about these things.  Historically, innumerable people have predicted the end of the world, and so far, every single one of them has been proven either wrong or inconclusive (inconclusive only because we  haven’t arrived at the date they predicted yet—let’s be fair).

But Jesus gave them an answer.  He told them of the things that would occur.  Notice the specifics here:
Wars.
Rumors about wars.
Bad things.
Nations rising up against one another.
Hunger
Natural Disasters

Firstly, notice that these things have happened since mankind knew “civilization”.
Secondly, notice that each of the things in this list are merely the beginning.  In other words, they aren’t signs of the end at all, but signs that the end isn’t really here yet.  You see, Jesus was being truthful, but also facetious.

“How do I know the world is coming to an end and you’re coming back?”
“Bad stuff will happen.”
As if to say, “the world is always ending, so always be ready.”

And he says this: “Do not be alarmed.”  Some translations are more accurate: “Do not wail”, or “Do not cry aloud”

Do not be an end-of-the-world alarmist.  Do not scream out in fear because a bunch of bad stuff seems to have happened in the world all at once.  Do not scream out in fear and think that the whole world is coming to an end because your particular corner of “civilization” has experienced upheaval.

In case you didn’t get what Jesus was saying, “Of that day and hour no man knows.”  Nobody gets a free peek at the “doomsday clock”.

And if you can’t see it coming, and there’s a way you can come out of it on the other side ok, why fear it?  Fear causes us to stock up supplies for some apocalypse.  Fear causes us to be paranoid.  Fear causes us to watch the news with fear and trembling.  Fear causes us to blame a particular group different from us for the world’s woes.

God didn’t ask us to stock up.  God asked us to persevere, to endure.  Paul understood this so well he assured Timothy that no matter what, we’re called to “persevere in the word”, and if we do “this Good News of the Kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.”  If the good news is spread and then the end comes, what is the worst that can happen to the kingdom heirs?

Mark Ashton once said “fear in the unknown is conquered by faith in the unseen.”  There is no Noah’s flood without Noah’s rainbow.  And the rainbow was a sign that God would never again flood his whole creation.  Noah’s rainbow should be for us a sign of hope after great cataclysmic changes.  No matter what happens, we’re still here, the planet is still here, and there’s still hope.  “As long as the earth endures, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night will never cease.”  The seasons still go, so the earth is not ceasing.  Why are people panicking?

The Book of Revelation ends with Jesus telling the readers he is coming soon.  Two thousand years later, he is still coming soon.  Because “soon” isn’t about a specific time.  Soon is about our mortality on this earth, and the transitory nature of the creation as we know it.  Live every day as if it could be your last.

Of course, there’s a tendency for us to use that passage as an affirmation of our desire to go to Heaven on our own timetable, to go when we think we’re ready.  “Jesus, just hurry up and come today, because this world’s so bad I’m tired of putting up with it.  Jesus, I’ve been saved so I’ll just sit here and pray to you until you come.”  Meanwhile the world burns.  We’ve been called to go into the world and make disciples, not sit on our justified butts and wait idly for the King.

There is a story of a man who made it out of one of the towers on 9/11, and when an interviewer asked him what he would do next, he said, “I’m gonna figure out what to do with the rest of my life.”  Do we wait for tragedies and cataclysmic events to shake us into thinking about changing our life around?  But you see, when these cataclysmic events occur, it means the beginning just as much as it means the ending.

Imaging feeling what Jeremiah felt: “Disaster follows disaster; the whole land lies in ruins. In an instant my tents are destroyed, my shelter in a moment” (4:19,20).  He felt like his whole world was falling apart.  He looks around, whether in a vision or in an observation of actual destruction, and saw nothing remaining.  But he is told by the Lord, “The whole land may be desolate, but I will not execute complete destruction.”  Until Christ comes to meet us, not a single cataclysm will mean the end of the world, the end of “civilization”.  Maybe the end of an empire, as that always happens.  But that is only civilization as some of us know it, not mankind.  Let’s not let our empire go to our heads.  If and when America falls, people will move on.

I don’t know a single person who was convinced the earth was going to end in December because the Mayan calendar seemed to have said so.  I don’t even think the Mayans believed that.  But I do know some people who tend to look at events that happen from time to time and worry this means the end is coming.  Of course the end is coming.  The end is always coming.

But that’s no reason to change the game plan.  God doesn’t want you to build a bunker and purchase an armory and move to the desert and drink cool-aid.  He wants you to spread his Good News.  Always.

The earth may be falling all around you.  Spread his good news.

Your world may be crippling before you.  Spread his good news.

The universe may look like it’s collapsing.  Spread his good news.

There is no plan B.

Happy 2013.  But also a sad 2013.  I know this because the days are evil, but the time can be redeemed.  Yesterday, today, tomorrow, until the Lord come.  And he is always coming quickly.

 
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