Not that many of you are avidly listening to Rev. Harold Camping, who has predicted the end of the world for May 21, 2011, but the secular media has jumped all over this story. I felt that as your pastor I should weigh in on all such matters and rumors related to any biblically-calculated end of the world scenarios.
While it is possible that God has given Rev. Camping some unique insight or revelation, I will confess to being quite skeptical. Ever since the Second Great Awakening in the late 1800's, pastors and laypeople have written to express their belief that God has revealed to them the exact timing of the end. Whole movements and denominations have sprung up declaring that the end of the world was near, and many have even got specific about stating an end date. Those dates all passed, as I suspect this one will too.
Jesus made it very clear to his disciples that “no one will know the day or time” when the world will end and Christ will descend upon the clouds. He said to them, “But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.” (Matthew 24:36) So this passage causes me to be pretty skeptical about all this end-time talk.
I think one of the purposes of Rev. Camping, and all those who would foment a fear of an impending end of the world, is to get people to consider the state of their spiritual lives and of their relationship with God. If this end date causes some people to re-examine their faith, their behavior, or their relationship with God, then it may have some positive value. If on the other hand, this date comes and goes, and nothing happens, then Rev. Camping makes a mockery of the roles and influence of pastors and church leaders, showing that we cannot be trusted to speak the truth, and that we will do anything to get our 15 minutes of fame. Remember that Koran-burning pastor in Florida, Rev. Terry Jones.
Here is the most important thing: I will share with you exactly what I say at many funerals and whenever someone asks me about the end of the world. There is a greater likelihood of your dying from sudden heart-attack or stroke, or being involved in an accident, then the end of the world coming. Ecclesiastes 9:12 makes this clear: “Moreover, no one knows when their hour will come: As fish are caught in a cruel net, or birds are taken in a snare, so people are trapped by evil times that fall unexpectedly upon them.” As we well know, we cannot know the date of our death or the means, and we cannot be assured that we will have a long life, or a long illness in which to prepare ourselves spiritually for our meeting our maker. We must live everyday ready to give an account for our life, our lifestyle, our choices and most importantly the current state of our relationship with God. How is it with your soul?
I am very likely to see everyone in church on Sunday morning. But just in case I don’t see you because something happened to you overnight, “are you up to date on all your shots?” What I mean is, are you sufficiently connected to God? Do you live in such a way that you are certain you will be received in heaven with the greeting, “Well done, you good and faithful servant”?
I don’t worry about the end time. If it comes, I am ready. If it doesn’t come, I am ready to keep on serving. If I die tonight, I am ready. If I don’t, I will continue to live and serve the best I can. I hope you have the same confidence.
Don’t fear tomorrow, or any predicted end time. And do not fear your death. Jesus said, “I tell you, my friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body and after that can do no more. But I will show you whom you should fear: Fear him who, after your body has been killed, has authority to throw you into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him. Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? Yet not one of them is forgotten by God. Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.” (Luke 12:4-7)