“Therefore keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour.”
Matthew 25:13 (NIV)
Christian preacher and broadcaster Harold Camping, basing his calculations of dates in Bible prophecy, predicted that the world would end on 21 May 2011. If you’re reading this study, he was mistaken. He wasn’t the first to predict a date for the ‘end of the world’ and the return of Christ, and no doubt won’t be the last. The imminence of Christ’s second coming was heralded in the 1990s by the popular Left Behind series. Back in 1970, Hal Lindsey wrote The Late Great Planet Earth identifying apocalyptic symbols, primarily from the book of Daniel, as indications that the end was coming in his day. And way back in 1844 the Millerite movement experienced ‘The Great Disappointment’ after Jesus failed to return to earth in what William Miller called ‘The Advent.
Why do we seem convinced that Christ will come on our watch? It seems that either consciously or unconsciously we read Jesus’ words – “You will hear of wars and rumors of wars…Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places.” (Matthew 24:6–7) – and apply them immediately to our contemporary situation. After all, aren’t these things happening right now and doesn’t that mean then that the end is coming in my lifetime? Not necessarily. Such things have been happening for 2,000 years since Jesus spoke this prophecy, and we shouldn’t miss the other aspects of the prophecy spoken by Jesus, “…but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come…All these are the beginning of birth pains.” (vv. 6, 8).
When Jesus’ disciples asked him about the end of the age he gave them three parables in a row. The first alerted them that the Master could come at any time, “So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him.” (v. 44). The second parable indicated that it could be sooner than we think, “The master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he is not aware of.” (v.50). Whilst the third parable suggests it could be later than we think, “The bridegroom was a long time in coming…” (Matthew 25:5). Jesus seems to have covered every eventuality: it could be sooner, it could be later, and it could be at any time.
We never seem to tire of guessing ‘when’, but perhaps the key thing is to be ready for whenever the end comes. Now that’s something we should never tire of.
Father, give us a renewed passion to serve you, and serve with you, to advance your kingdom as we watch and wait for the return of your Son. Amen.
Study by Barry Robinson
About the writer:
Barry Robinson is an Elder and part of the National Ministry Team of Grace Communion International in the UK and Ireland. He is also the Pastoral Worker for the south of England.
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