I have just one more brief part to add to my series on what is determinative for the Christian life, before drawing my conclusions. I have looked at John the Baptist, at the life and teaching, the death on the Cross, and the Resurrection and Ascension of Jesus, and at Pentecost. Finally I want to look at the expected Second Coming of Jesus, and at those Christians who seem to centre their faith on looking ahead to that coming – to the Rapture, to the Millennium, or to the final Day of Judgment.
This year’s most notorious preacher of the End Times has of course been Harold Camping, whose prophecies of the Rapture on 21st May and Judgment Day on 21st October attracted widespread ridicule, especially when nothing unusual happened on either day. Camping’s clearest error was to ignore the clear biblical teaching that the exact dates of the end have not been revealed to human beings, as Jesus taught:
But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.
Mark 13:32 (NIV)
It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority.
Acts 1:7 (NIV)
But Camping’s error was deeper than that, and its depths are shared by many more Christians, especially those of a more Fundamentalist persuasion. Their fundamental mistake is to focus more on what is coming than on what needs to be done in the present. Yes, Jesus warned us to be ready for his coming, but also that we need to be working faithfully until he does. Paul had no time for those who gave up work to wait for Jesus to come.
We mustn’t forget that Jesus is coming. But we can’t expect to know when. As Jesus told us, wars and earthquakes are not signs that the Day is imminent (Mark 13:7-8). So we shouldn’t make this the centre of our Christian life.
Concluded in Cross or Resurrection 8: Finding the Balance.