Since the time of Jesus’ walk on earth, well over 200 dates have been proposed for the end of the world. This is about one year in every ten. In the 20th century alone, Jehovah’s Witnesses confidently predicted the end of the world on ten separate occasions – and had to endure public ridicule when nothing happened. Sometimes, the predictions are made by obscure fringe groups, but, in recent years, several well-known TV evangelists have fallen into the same trap. I can remember hearing a youth leader, almost 40 years ago, predict confidently that we would never see another Christmas. Many of us have probably heard unwise predictions made from the pulpit of a local church.
The same phenomenon surrounds symbols and future world leaders mentioned in the Bible. Some vocal Christians accuse certain organizations or politicians of being the embodiment of evil because they can somehow associate them with the infamous symbol ’666′. The current US president, some of his staff, and many popes through the ages have been accused of being the Antichrist. Godwin’s Law states that, “as an online discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches one.” Unfortunately, we’ve invented a Christian equivalent to this tendency: “The more strongly an individual disagrees with a leader’s political manifesto or religious denomination, the more likely that leader will be accused of being the Antichrist.”
It’s certainly true that Jesus predicted wars, rumors of wars, earthquakes, and famine. He warns us to be on our guard in difficult times lest we be deceived. He urges us to stand firm, even when everyone hates us for loving him, because we will be saved. Similarly, the Revelation from Jesus Christ, made known to John, is for our encouragement and perseverance. When we see the signs and begin to fear for our own safety, we can rest in the knowledge that the ultimate victory will be our Lord’s. There is no reason to be afraid. Can we know in advance the calendar dates of these times? Jesus gave a very clear answer: “About that day or hour, no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father…You do not know when that time will come.”
A couple of days ago, a powerful tsunami struck the coast of Japan, and the extent of the tragedy is still unfolding. If my own experience is typical, church congregations around the world are being reminded of Jesus’ words about the end times – and such a reminder is always timely. Unfortunately, though, some Christians have gone further and pronounced publicly that the event reveals God’s imminent judgment on the world and how those outside the church will soon suffer other tragedies. Such statements, particularly when accompanied by inaction, can come across as gloating, insensitive, and uncaring.
In times of crisis, surely our energies are better spent seeking out church leaders and Christian organizations in the region and offering our prayers and practical help. Every Christian is part of the body of Christ, and if one part suffers, every part suffers with it. Are we willing to sacrifice our own comforts to help relieve the pain and suffering of fellow believers in Christ? No one knows the time of Christ’s return, and it’s foolish to predict the unknown, but we have the opportunity right now to demonstrate to those outside our faith that Christ and his people mean more to us than anything else in the world. This is something about which everyone can know!
To help the hundreds of thousands of people already suffering in Japan, please consider donating to this Christian relief organization already working in the area.