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.