Is the world as we know it going to end sometime? Yes. When? Who knows. For millennia Christians have sought to set dates and predict when the end of the world would occur. Indeed, many believers have tended to become overly and unhealthily preoccupied with end-times scenarios and date-setting.
My advice, as always, is simply to remind us of what Jesus said in Luke 19:13: “Occupy till I come” (KJV). Let’s just keep busy with the work of the Kingdom and not get so hung up on identifying the Antichrist or trying to pin down every current event as another piece of a ticking-down prophetic clock.
Of course Christians are not alone in worrying about the end of the world. Non-Christians too can get quite fixated on all this. Indeed, plenty of folk are getting all bent out of shape by the Mayan calendar prediction of the end of the world occurring in December 21, 2012. I have written this up elsewhere:
But with threats of terrorism, especially after 9/11, many people are quite concerned about the end of the world. While one can understand why non-Christians can be in panic mode about all this, Christians of all people should not be overly concerned. We know that our God is in control of human history, and that the end will arrive according to his will, not ours.
Yet plenty of believers are not only alarmed about end-time scenarios, many are looking for ways to opt out. Many are urging us to quite literally head for the hills. Many are urging believers to sell their properties and move out to remote parts of the country, and begin stockpiling and so on, to prepare for these apocalyptic times ahead.
This became even more pronounced when last month was designated National Preparedness Month by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. In line with this, a number of Christian groups jumped on the bandwagon, and milked this for all it’s worth. Some of course simply did it to make some handsome profits by pretending to be end-time prophets. I received a number of emails from Christian news services to this effect.
One of them said this: “‘SurvivorMall.com was started following 9/11 to provide a single-source platform where people, businesses and agencies could find the numerous products they need for disaster readiness,’ says CEO Tom Horn. ‘We are in the business of reducing fear and building confidence through helping people and organizations prepare for the unknown. As Proverbs 22:3 says, “A prudent man foresees the difficulties ahead and prepares for them, while the simpleton goes blindly on and suffers the consequences”’.”
And another said: “Even when we envision a worse case scenario – such as a terrorist nuke or ICBM exchange – low-cost shelters, that can be built at home and combined with a minimal amount of Potassium Iodide, would help keep as much as 99 percent of the population alive according to one synopsis by the Department of Homeland Security. Free designs for building such family shelters as well as hundreds of pages from reports and booklets on how to perform first aid, defend against terrorism and chemical contamination, survive earthquakes, storms, floods, and dozens of other emergency situations are available FREE this month.”
It continued, “For National Preparedness Month, Spiritual leaders can download these booklets and reports, print them out and place them on a table in a church foyer, hand them to neighbors, give them out during classes, or better yet teach a class on preparedness and tie it in with Scripture.”
Scaring people into buying fall-out shelters, stockpiling food and rations, and even firearms, is certainly one way to make lots of money. And many groups are profiting from this big time. Consider one secular business which is hoping to rake in the dough with luxury underground survival shelters.
This is how one article describes this: “Surviving the end of the world for just $5,000 down; an underground, survive-the-end-of-the-world community consists of bunker built to withstand a 50-megaton nuclear blast ten miles away, 450mph winds, a magnitude-10 earthquake, 10 days of 1,250 F surface fires, and three weeks beneath any flood; a soon-to-be-installed air-filtration system will also neutralize any biological, chemical, or nuclear attacks; The community will stock enough food and clothing to sustain 135 people for at least a year in a lifestyle described as compact but luxurious.”
The California-based company has as its motto: “You can’t predict, but you can prepare”. Cashing in on people’s fears is not new. Think of all the hysteria just before the turn of the millennium with the Y2K scare. Plenty of groups made heaps of money, and plenty of Christian groups jumped on the bandwagon.
Of course now all the gloom-and-doom merchants have egg on their face, with yet another false prediction of end-time calamity. But countless false prophecies in the past have not stopped gullible folk – both Christian and non-Christian – from still making a mountain out of the molehill of eschatological predictions.
So, what should Christians do? Should we be moving out of the cities, buying up underground fall-out shelters in the countryside, and sit out the end of the world? I find little biblical warrant for any of this. Indeed, I am not aware of any clear passage in either the Old or New Testament telling believers to run and hide, awaiting the end of all things.
The closest we seem to come to all this would be scenarios like Genesis 19 in which Lot and his family were told to flee Sodom and Gomorrah as God was about to rain down his judgment on the cities of the plain. Or 1 Kings 18 where we read of the prophet Obadiah who was hiding 100 prophets in two caves, to protect them from the wrath of Jezebel.
Whether we can take these passages – and any others like them – and use them as a biblical principle that we should be selling up and moving out is a moot point. For the most part, God calls his people to stay and fight, not run and hide.
It is of course possible that God can give specific words to specific people, warning them of judgment to come, encouraging them to head for the hills. But like so many things claiming to be a word from the Lord today, we need to carefully and prayerfully discern what is being said, and test everything.
If and when we get a clear word to flee, fine. But it is generally the case that God calls us to be salt and light in a needy world, and not run for the hills or hide in the caves. The world is certainly in a mess, but that is all the more reason why we should be there in the thick of things, making a difference.