CultureWatch

Bill Muehlenberg's commentary on issues of the day...

2012 and the End of the World

Nov 17, 2009

If you knew the world was going to end in one week, would you do anything different? I recently posted a question quite similar to that on a social networking website. I received only two responses: one person said ‘yes’ while the other one said ‘no’.

It seems this question should be of relevance for everyone, but it would hold special significance for those who are Christians. A basic doctrine of Christianity is the second coming of Jesus Christ. Just as Christ has come once to earth, he will come again, and when he does, he will bring about the final elements of the divine calendar.

Known as “the blessed hope” (Titus 2:13), this key teaching should be embraced by all believers, even though there are plenty of disagreements over the fine details of the matter. Indeed, there has been plenty of debate about how exactly the end of all things is to be understood.

But however we envisage these events to occur, it still remains a powerful biblical truth which should be seen as more than a mere item of curiosity and speculation about the future. It should be a motivating factor in our lives. Indeed, in one lengthy discussion of the topic, the apostle Peter uses it to encourage us in holy living. In 2 Peter 3 he uses the truth of the Day of the Lord as a spur to godly and holy living.

Instead of sitting around arguing about theories of the millennium, or whether we await a secret rapture of believers, we need to be living lives worthy of his return. And while each generation of Christians has been tempted to set dates, and has expected their age to be the last, we need to get on with the business of God’s business.

Jesus said “Occupy till I come” (Luke 19:13, KJV). That is, we are to keep busy with the work of the kingdom until he does return. This is not the time to pack our bags, put up our feet, and await his return. There is much work to do, and we have no sure word of when his exact coming will be.

I suppose I have been thinking about this a bit more lately, since I just recently saw another whiz-bang end-of-the-world action movie. Complete with massive special effects and heaps of cataclysmic destruction and mayhem, it is yet another in a long line of doomsday and Armageddon films.

I refer to the latest Hollywood blockbuster, 2012. As you might know, it involves the destruction of the world in December 21, 2012. This is not just a date picked out of the hat by an overzealous Hollywood filmmaker. It is unfortunately becoming our next Y2K. Simply Google that date and see the 17 million hits which come up.

Evidently the Mayan calendar puts it as the end of the world, and all sorts of apocalyptic types are gearing up for this next best thing in doomsday scenarios.  As we get closer to this date, expect the madness and mayhem to increase.

But of course for the Christian we should have no such fears and concerns. We know that God is in charge of history, and the universe is fully and safely in his hands until the appointed time when Jesus does return and a new heaven and a new earth are created.

But this movie does raise some points which are worth reflecting on, as do all such films in this genre. One thing that comes to mind is that fortunately this film does not suggest the end of all things is due to human activity. It is increased solar activity which in fact triggers the chaos and carnage.

Thus those true believers in AGW (anthropogenic global warming – that is, manmade causes to climate change) will be disappointed with this film. The matter is entirely outside of the hands of men, and is caused solely by natural forces, in this case, a rather agitated sun.

Another issue raised in the film (and I need to be careful not to give too much away here, in case you plan on seeing the film) involves the creation of massive arks which will save a lucky remnant of mankind. A number of these super arks are developed to ensure that mankind survives, and can start over again in creating human civilisation.

But whenever a select few are chosen to perpetuate the species, one has to ask some hard questions: Who gets selected? And why? And who does the selecting? How do we know who is worth preserving and who is not?

In the film all the usual suspects are chosen: political leaders, scientists, artisans, and experts in various fields. And it seems that those who are wealthy enough to buy themselves a place on the arks are also included. A semester-long course in ethics would be needed to fully explore some of these issues.

Another issue raised by the movie goes back to my opening paragraph. Suppose you knew the world as we know it was coming to an end in, say, two months. Would that make any difference to the way you live? Christians as well as non-Christians would both presumably make quite a few serious adjustments to their lives, if they knew the gig was up in just a few short weeks.

This is of course teased out in the film in various ways. For example, in one scene there is a father desperately trying to call his estranged son who he has not spoken to for some years. Just when the son is contacted, he dies in the conflagration. The father had waited too long. He should never have put off such an important thing as reconciliation with his own son.

A bit of pending apocalyptic is always good to focus the mind and sort out our priorities. Indeed, when it comes to human relationships, we always should live as if the next day might be our last. We should never put off taking those difficult but necessary steps in getting right with those we have wronged, or have wronged us.

We should never put off till tomorrow those things which ought to be said today, including simple and basic things like “I love you” to family members and loved ones. The Bible of course speaks much about making sure we are reconciled with our brothers, and keeping close accounts with one another.

So films like this raise all sorts of issues. If you are a believer in Jesus Christ you will of course reject much in these doomsday scenarios. We need not fear, and we need not get carried away with wild end-times speculation. We have a sovereign God who is fully in charge of the course of history, and this world will last as long as it is intended to.

The wise way to live as a Christian is to concentrate on doing the will of the Father, whatever that might be. It may mean devoting the next eight to twelve years to obtain higher degrees, so that you might more effectively serve our Lord in coming decades.

It might mean taking the long and arduous steps of training to be an effective cross-culture missionary. Find out what God wants you to do, and then do it with all your heart, even if it means many years of preparation and training.

However, when it comes to our relationship with our Lord, and with others, it may be wise to live as if Christ were coming back next week. If he were, how much would you change in your relationship with God? How much would you change in your relationship with others?

Such questions are worth thinking about now, and should not be put off into the hazy future. We should be living with eternity in our hearts. We should live as if Christ could return at any moment, but we should also be prepared to dig in for the long haul should the Lord tarry.

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23 Responses to 2012 and the End of the World

  • Whenever someone says to me; “Don’t worry it’s not the end of the world”, I always get a pang of disappointment.
    Stuart Mackay, UK

  • I for one, need to believe in the potential immediacy of the return of Christ, for much needed motivation and drive.

    So many folks today, claim that this or that, must happen first, which creates an apathetic environment in my opinion.

    I’m always somewhat confused between the passages of Scripture that seem to indicate, that upon His coming it will be visible to all, and the tribes of the earth will mourn, and yet other Scriptures indicate a ‘sudden appearing’ when no-one expects.

    However, this is the most pertinent Scripture nowadays:-

    “They will say, “Where is this ‘coming’ he promised? Ever since our fathers died, everything goes on as it has since the beginning of creation.””

    Stuart Mackay, UK

  • Well said Bill. We certainly do need to live our moral lives as though today, this moment may be the last.
    I for one do not entertain predictions of end times, and believe we need to live our lives to the fullest of our abilities at all times.
    As an aside, it is interesting to note end times predictions by those on the AGW band wagon…..not a religion?
    Gerry Van Hees

  • Unfortunately most people don’t look for positive signs in movies today. Rather many would see it in relation to climate change and the dire predictions of those pushing this agenda.
    Sadly we will see people who will be taken in by the predictions of Google and the Mayan calendar and believe that it is gospel.
    I am happy to leave the decision of when the ‘Last Day’ will be to God our Father. We know not the time nor the hour when Jesus will ‘come again’ and it is not revealed anywhere in the Bible.
    Having just finished a Bible study course on Revelations, it does not give any clues as to when it will happen even though many interpret Revelations as revealing the end time. Revelations is about the ‘here and now’ and how we must live out our faith both by word and deed. Then on the last day we pray that we will be chosen amongst the sheep, not the goats. It is the sheep who will inherit the kingdom prepared for us since the creation of the world. (Matt.25:32-34)
    Madge Fahy

  • Dear Bill,
    I have studied Revelations several times and I am still no where near even having an opinion as to when Jesus will return and the new heaven and earth will be the living reality. One thing I do know is that no-one knows – not even Jesus according to what he told his disciples. He did however gives us some signs that we were to look out for, and my feelings are that we are living in unprecedented times as to what we are to expect. So, I live in expectation, but day to day I just let the Good Shepherd take me to where His home is, and then join in the party that is already going strong-has been for about 2000 years!
    Blessings,
    Lou d’Alpuget

  • All good comments, everyone. I agree that an attitude of faithful expectation is the way to go, rather than getting caught up in unhelpful speculation about dates. We don’t know when and exactly how God will consummate His creation; only that He will. Would you agree that in the eyes of an unbelieving and sometimes mocking world, it doesn’t look very good when the end times predictions of certain Christian figures haven’t come to pass?
    Ross McPhee

  • A quirky comment if I may re who chooses who goes into the arks and how they make the selections.

    I thought Douglas Adams “Hitch Hikers Guide to the Galaxy” had sorted that out with the Goldafrinchams? 🙂

    John Angelico

  • There have been times in European History when society became so bad that people, with some justification, thought that the end times had come. But the reality must surely be that for each of us that main event is not Christ’s return but the moment all of us will be raised from our first death to face either judgement or eternal salvation. So in earthly terms, the time from now to our death, to being finally brought before the throne of judgement, might appear to be only a matter of seconds, five minutes, months or the longest period we can possibly survive in this life – a hundred plus years.

    When Christ spoke to the thief on the cross he said “I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise.”

    If I really believe this, why am I so indifferent to the fate of my neighbours, let alone my nearest and dearest? Surely we ought always to have before us that, though Christ healed a lot of people and brought them back from the dead, all had to eventually die and face the throne of judgement. The day of the lord is at hand for all of us.

    http://209.85.229.132/search?q=cache:sZ-6XIemAIQJ:www.tektonics.org/esch/dayofl.html+the+day+of+the+lord+is+at+hand&cd=1&hl=en&ct=clnk&gl=uk

    David Skinner, UK

  • I once heard an excellent story about the novice monk and the elderly monk. The elderly monk asks the novice “What would you do if you knew Jesus was about to return?” “Why, pray, of course! What should I do?” “Whatever you’re doing now. If what you’re doing now is appropriate, right and proper, it will be the right thing to be doing if Jesus returns now … if not, though …”
    John Thomas, UK

  • Society is eager to listen to and follow after occult human sacrifice god worship societies like the Mayans or false prophets like Nostradamus or coming future false apostate devil prophets like Maitreya. Yet they will not listen to the word of God which is full of accurate prophesy clearly prophesing the coming of Jesus Christ and it lays out very clearly that the Lord Jesus will return, but the Antichrist must return first.
    Donna Opie

  • John Thomas’s comment is similar to what I believe John Wesley is supposed to have said when asked what he would do if he knew the Lord would return tomorrow. Put briefly it was exactly what he was doing. However I would probably try to do some last minute evangelism which proves my conscience is not as clear as his was.
    Katherine Fishley

  • Donna don’t fall into the error that Stuart warns about.
    “So many folks today, claim that this or that, must happen first, which creates an apathetic environment in my opinion.”
    As long as you are waiting for some expected event to take place before Jesus returns be it the Antichrist, the building of the Temple, the salvation of the Jews or whatever else people claim must happen, the less you will be griped by the immediacy of the return of Christ. He will come as a thief in the night and take us all by surprise.
    Des Morris

  • Des the Lord has clearly placed prerequisites like the Antichrist, rebuilding of the temple, mark of the beast and salvation of the Jews in his word, so that you wont be deceived when some false prophet declares “I am the Christ, I come in peace to save you”.
    Donna Opie

  • Bill, thanks for reminding us of the centrality, “Christ will come again”.
    Stan Fishley

  • Des,
    Haven’t you read a passage like this:
    “Let no-one in any way deceive you, for (that Day – of His return) will not come unless the apostasy comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed…” (2 Thess 2:3)?
    So for Paul these two events – the apostasy and the man of lawlessness – must precede the great event of Christ’s Second coming, contrary to your view that we must eschew all such notions. And indeed, there are other events too.
    This is not to say that apathy must result, because we ultimately do no know whether these things have happened already, or whether they are still to come.
    Your “immediacy” talk would appear to be based on ‘Rapture’ teaching, which lacks Scripture support, 1 Thess.4:16-17 notwithstanding, since that passage, “the noisiest verse in the Bible”, teaches the very opposite of a secret or silent rapture.
    Murray Adamthwaite

  • Thanks guys

    But it is not my intention that we here thrash out our eschatological beliefs, and turn this into a major debate on the pros and cons of the various issues. Perhaps one day I will write a piece presenting the various options, and a proper debate can then take place. But here, for the time being, let us just agree that we look forward to “the blessed hope”.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • I think everyone’s gone on the wrong track here: Bill wanted to know how we would behave if we somehow knew the world would end in a week’s time. (See the first sentence of his post.)

    There can be no more useful activity than to save others. Presuming that we ourselves are saved.

    Most of our activities of life presume that we have years of time in which to work out in practice various strategies we have formulated in the past, as to how we can best contribute our part to the Great Commission. But if we had only one week before the world ended, surely our strategies would change.

    Certainly in such an event I would forget about all other concerns and try to save as many people in one week as is possible with my individual limitations. And without doubt that process would force me to confront the question of whether or not I was really a fit enough disciple of Christ to effectively bring a realistic message to my fellow man.

    I suspect Bill was hinting at the notion that perhaps we spend too much time strategising about our godly works of the future, while ignoring current opportunities that are blaringly obvious round about us. Could others make some contributions on that theme?

    The sense of urgency and immediacy about an impending “end” that someone mentioned in the above comments is perhaps something that has been lost, and needs to be regained, so that we don’t use the “long term strategies” as a mask for our inadequacy for the immediate!

    Harvey Brice

  • Well said Harvey!
    God Bless!
    Jane Byrne

  • Thanks Bill,

    I have heard a quote attributed to Luther when faced with the question of if you knew Christ would return tomorrow what would you do today.

    Luther’s response: “Plant an Apple tree”

    Brilliant in many ways!

    Jeremy Peet

  • Jesus returning tomorrow?
    To be honest I would be scared.
    Hoping and praying i’ve got it right…
    Daniel Kempton

  • Yes, well said Harvey.
    I’ve want to reach a state where I live with the same urgency & purpose of those who have stared death in the face.

    Plan for the future, yet live for today, like there’s no tomorrow.

    Garth Penglase

  • Thanks guys

    And see this new article which claims the dates are in fact off by thousands of years!

    http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2012/05/120510-maya-2012-doomsday-calendar-end-of-world-science/

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • May I commend books by David Chilton and Kenneth L Gentry on an alternative view on Revelation (not Revelations, as often misnamed).

    May I also ask your readers to slowly, carefully and prayerfully consider Psalm 110:1, which says, “The Lord said to my Lord, Sit at My right hand,’ Till I make Your enemies Your footstool.” This verse is, I believe, quoted 5 times in the New Testament. Consider the little word ‘Till’. The implication seems clearly to be that Christ remains seated and enthroned at the right side of the Father until and only until the Father places all of Christ’s enemies under His control–that is the signal for Christ’s final return, not endless continuation of the downward spiral into sin and chaos. The sooner that the Church rids itself of the dispensational, Hal Lindsey, Frank Peretti, et al-fueled rapture-hungry hangover, the better. Our mandate is the Gospel of the Kingdom of God, not the mandate of the beam me up, Scotty. If it takes a thousand generations, as God promised to bless Abraham and his descendants, so be it! We need to be down on our knees and rolling up our sleeves!

    Steve Swartz

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