Even in Jesus’ day, his followers were obsessed with knowing when his promised return would be. While sitting on the Mount of Olives, his disciples approached him and asked when the end of the age would be (Matt 24:3). Right before ascending up to heaven in the beginning of Acts, his disciples ask if it was the end of time when he would restore the kingdom completely. In both instances, Jesus responded with the most challenging answer human ears can hear: “You will never know!” Jesus tells them that there will be certain indications that it is near, but we will never know the exact time of his return. Jesus describes his Second Coming as a thief who breaks into a house in the middle of the night. No one will expect it. This is what the Bible guarantees.
Jesus’ promise of our ignorance has not stopped people from predicting it. The Seventh Day Adventist were formed when William Miller predicted the end of the world would be in 1843. Harold Camping originally predicted the end of the world would be in September of 1994. When September of 1994 came and went without any sign of apocalypse, Harold re-predicted the end of the world as May 21, 2011. If you have been driving down a major highway in America, you have probably seen the billboards guaranteeing it.
I am baffled that despite the incredible clarity in the Bible that we will not know when Jesus is coming back, people still predict it and are believed. What is it that drives so many people to buy into these predictions? What is the motivation behind the billboards seen all over America?
Here are 5 Reasons why people predict the end of the world:
1. We Can’t Stand Not Knowing – From the oracle at Delphi saying, “Know thyself,” to Nietszche’s famous quote, “Knowledge is Power,” knowing has been one of the most significant driving forces for progress and sin in human history. It’s what got Adam and Eve in trouble. They wanted the power behind behind the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. People just can’t stand not knowing. So instead of accepting Jesus’ promise that we will never know, we turn to all kinds of kooky numerology and other strange methods to predict it.
2. We Want to Control Our Fate – It brings chills down the spine of most Americans to hear the last two lines of the famous poem, “Invictus.” “I am the master of my fate: I am the captain of my soul.” Unfortunately, this line just isn’t true. There are certain things in life we can control. Our ultimate fate is not one of them. By predicting the end of times we take what was meant to be hoped for in faith into something we control. If we know when the world will end, we can plan accordingly. We can control things.
3. We Want to Make Money – I know this might seem strange to you, but there is a lot of money in end of the world predictions. Harold Camping is currently worth 25 million dollars with his company, Family Radio, netting over 177 million dollars. Once you predict the end of the world, you ask people to give all their money to the cause of getting the word out, which doesn’t cost nearly as much as is earned through people’s donations. Thus, profits. People predict the end of the world in order to prey on the above mentioned impulses of other people. It may seem sleazy, but it works.
4. We Don’t Read the Bible – At least, we don’t read the Bible in its entirety. If you already have an idea of what you want the Bible to say, you can make it say just about anything. However, anybody who reads the Bible in its entirety and without a severely debilitating preconceived notions would predict the Second Coming of Christ. Jesus himself tells us we can’t. However, if we don’t read the Bible, it is not difficult to claim that it supports our whack job theories.
5. We Want the Publicity – Nobody in America should know who Harold Camping is. But we do. Enough said.
Jesus doesn’t want us knowing because the Christian life is supposed to be lived by faith. If his return is immanent but unknown, it should cause us to be constantly living in expectation and sharing the good news of salvation through Christ. I look forward to seeing you all on May 22, 2011.
On a related note, the zombie apocalypse is totally legit. Watch out!