Regarding Eclipses, Hurricanes, and the End of the World

A month ago we had an eclipse. Last week, a terrible hurricane hit Texas. Now, an even bigger one is headed for Florida. And there are more to come.

If you read the Bible, you know what all of this means.

It means that theological con-men will be coming out from under every rock to tell us that Jesus will be coming back on September 23, 2017.

My fellow Christians, please stop listening to these people. They aren’t cute. They aren’t interesting. They aren’t harmless. They are liars and false prophets who stand directly opposed to God.

In speaking of his own second coming, Jesus said in Matthew 24:36, “But concerning that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only” (English Standard Version). I think a lot of Christians have a different translation of that verse. It says, “But concerning that day and hour no one knows except the guy on the Internet who produces scary videos and makes wild speculations about constellations, hurricanes, and Israel. Go ahead and listen to him” (Gullible American Version).

I don’t know if a man could possibly reach a higher level of arrogance than to postulate that of all the people who have ever lived, he’s the one who knows what only God knows. Yes, with the help of his trusty star chart and sketchy mathematical equations, he has figured out what the Apostles Paul and John could not. Such a level of hubris makes Kim Kardashian-West look like Elisabeth Elliot. And yet, for some reason, Christians keep on listening to these hucksters.

Last month, some one who had been doing tons of research told me that the return of Christ would be on the day of the eclipse. When I reminded this person of how Jesus said that no man knows the day or the hour, the basic response I got back was, “Well, he didn’t say we couldn’t know the day before.” So there you have it. Jesus is coming back during the eclipse.

Spoiler alert: He didn’t.

Now, every time Kim Jong-un wakes up in a bad mood, or we hear about a new weather catastrophe, another preacher comes out to give us a date for the return of Christ. And his theory always involves talk of blood moons, constellations, beasts, and other scary stuff that sounds like it could perhaps maybe be in the Bible but actually is not. At least not in the way that he presents it.

What people forget is that we have always had eclipses and hurricanes and earthquakes and crazy world leaders. But we have not always had Facebook and YouTube, the new black lagoons from which Creatures of False Prophecy seem to crawl on a weekly basis. And the only reason they keep crawling out is because Christians keep listening to them.

Jesus really is coming back. I don’t know when, neither do you and neither does your Facebook friend who is constantly posting about blood moons and North Korea. But Jesus is coming back.

Until he does, his will for us is clear and it doesn’t involve trying to figure out who the Antichrist is or what day in September of 2017 the world will come to an end. Rather, we are to be busy loving God and loving our neighbor. We are to defend the cause of those who suffer from injustice. We are to train up disciples.

And we are to watch out for con-men who attempt to deceive the body of Christ with their latest theory on who the Antichrist is and what exact day Jesus will return. In the irony of all ironies, it is these endless speculators who themselves are the spirit of the antichrist.

Watch out for them.

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Missing The Point About The Return Of Christ

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People talked about it quite a bit in the church that I grew up in.

In college and seminary, the conversation carried on, usually with louder and more intense voices.

Christians love to talk about the return of Christ. And that’s a good thing. But sometimes we talk about it so much that we miss the point. We make scary movies about what it will be like for those who might be left behind. We print out charts to prove how right we are concerning the exact details of Christ’s return. Churches have even split over those exact details.

I’ve seen scary movies about the return of Christ. I’ve walked on haunted Halloween trails devoted to reminding me of how terrible the tribulation is going to be. I’ve gotten caught in the middle of conversations that nearly turned into WrestleMania because people just couldn’t come to an agreement on the finer points of the tribulation. I’ve even heard of churches splitting up over those finer points.

But there are places where I have never heard those conversations. Hospitals. Nursing homes. Death beds. I’ve never had a guy who just found out that he’s got two weeks to live want to argue with me about the thousand year reign of Christ.

Here’s what we do talk about.

We talk about hope. We talk about Jesus’ victory over the grave. We talk about the day when Christ returns and all things, including our aging and decaying bodies, will be made new. It’s not that the details of Christ’s return can’t or shouldn’t be discussed. They should be. But hospitals, hospices and death beds remind us that all of those details come together to point to something greater.

Hope.

Because of Christ’s resurrection from the grave and his promised return, all believers have hope beyond the grave. We may disagree on the order that these things will play out but what we can agree on is greater than what could potentially divide us.

We all hurt. We know what it’s like to not feel quite the same way we did 20 years ago. When we get down on the floor to play with kids or grandkids, we make noises on the way back up that we didn’t make two decades ago. Some are all too familiar with the pain of a serious disease or injury. Others need the help of one of those pill containers that has a slot for every day of the week just to keep track of the medicine that keeps their body functioning properly. Even the healthiest among us have seen how cancer can damage the body of a loved one. Every person’s body may not know the pain of a deadly disease but every person’s hearts does.

We ache.

But for believers, the pain of an aching body is overshadowed by the hope of a returning Savior.

That’s where we find the real heart and soul of the second coming of Christ. Not in proving ourselves right in some lunchroom conversation in seminary. Not in arguing in the church parking lot. But in the hope that comes with knowing that Jesus died, rose again and is coming again to make all things right.

All things.

Even bodies ravaged by ALS.

All things.

In Christ, we are not promised to have all of the answers or all of the details. But we are promised that he will return to redeem this broken world and our broken bodies. And that hope is enough.

When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written: “Death is swallowed up in victory.” “O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. 1 Corinthians 15:54-57 (ESV)

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