Can you hear the chatter? A number of people, particularly the kinds of spiritual leaders that can be seen on Christian television and heard on Christian radio every day of the week, are suggesting that the end may be upon us.
They predict that September is going experience a significant time of shaking of the earth. They say that this shaking may come in terms of a shaking of the political, military, economic and the natural order, particularly for America.
A number of friends of mine, including a few people in my church, have asked what I think about this. To simplify it, I’d like to put a few thoughts down here.
- America is going to be judged. America’s sins are great and deserve a significant response from God. A shaking of America is sure to come. I fully agree with this. America will, if Jesus does not return, eventually cease to exist in its present state, as most empires (Rome, Greece, French, Dutch, British, etc.) have also fallen apart.
- America is not Israel. Many of those who are pointing to this September as a time for a fall of America are using numerous rhythms and concepts from the Old Testament and apply them to America and to the world. While I don’t doubt that God is going to mete out judgment on the whole world, I don’t believe that America and Israel are the same thing. People in Tanzania or Kenya or Brazil or Germany are also going to experience judgment from God, but I’m not sure that it’s particularly helpful to use the Jewish calendar or holidays to predict a judgment on America. That’s not to say we’re not due to suffer for our national sins, but I am suggesting that to make much of the Jewish calendar as it relates to America’s fortunes is perhaps not the clearest path to predicting things about America’s future. In fact, I would suggest that it confuses most people about the other claims of the Bible that are absolutely clear and need no extrapolation of other concepts to understand. Jesus said, for example, “And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.” (Matthew 24:14). That’s a clear standard for predicting the end.
- America’s fortunes, while significant, do not indicate the state of the rest of the world. Wall Street may crash. The president may declare a state of martial law. America may descend into a state of chaos and civil war. A destructive tsunami may wipe out the eastern seaboard of the United States. None of these things would indicate the world is coming to an end. Rome fell in 476 AD. It was the greatest power the world had known, but its fall was just another fall. Jesus said that there would be wars and rumors of war, but these would not be the end (see Matthew 24:6). America’s rise or decline do not necessarily indicate that the world is coming to an end. The America-centric nature of much of this teaching about September 2015 is one of the reasons I am not inclined to believe it.
- The believer is not to fear the end, but to prepare for it. Jesus taught that whether your house is built on the sand or on the rock, you’re going to face a storm that will test your life. No doubt, a shaking is coming, but that shaking of the earth, in all its systems (political, natural, military, economic, spiritual, etc.), should not lead to anxiety on the part of the believer. Instead, it should help us to point others to the truth of the gospel.
- Sometimes, televised and radio broadcast Christianity has different aims than the local church. Those who can be seen on TV and radio are often in need of keeping a significant audience tuned in and giving to keep their message going. I’m not suggesting that everything on TV and radio is false, but that if nothing happens, those who have sold books on these issues and spent much of the last few years ramping up concern about the end starting in September 2015, will find a way to say, “It hasn’t happened yet, but it may over the next year or three years.” In fact, as I have listened to and read a number of these people, they are suggesting that the end may come sometime between now and the end of 2017. That gives them another three years to build on this narrative, even if nothing substantial happens. In the end, if nothing does happen, it will disillusion some believers and harden some skeptics even further to the gospel.
Ultimately, the teaching of Jesus did not include predicting when the end was starting. Instead, we might summarize his teaching with three simple points: 1) He didn’t know when it would happen. 2) It would certainly happen when no one is expecting it. 3) Prepare for his coming by embracing him as Savior and Lord.
I’m not worried about strange meteorological events happening this coming month or the confluence of Jewish holidays in September. I want instead to be ready by receiving Christ in my heart and building my life on the foundation of his word.
I want to end this post with the words of Jesus that give us an indication that the end is more than an economic crisis or the moon turning red a few times in conjunction with Jewish feasts. Instead, the end of all things will be marked by cosmic distress which will fill people with such fear they will die! Then, he says, look up–your redemption is coming. I just don’t think we are there quite yet.