It's the End of the World as We Know it - So Go Make a Disciple

I jokingly wrote on Twitter earlier that if I were a lying opportunist with no conscience, this would be a good week to write an end-times e-book for $50 a pop. In the last week we've seen a huge earthquake in New Zealand, continued protests, unrest, and revolution in the Middle East, one of the weirdest political stories of my lifetime unfolding in Wisconsin, and oil prices shooting up 9% in one day. I'd almost bet Tim LaHaye was busy working on a new bestseller as I write.

Someone loaned me some of the end-times novels that were popular in the late 90's when I was in college and seminary. It didn't take me long to grow in my disdain for both the quality of writing and the theology behind the book series. One of the first questions I had was a practical one: "Could I look in the eyes of a brother in Christ from a persecuted part of the world and tell him, 'It's okay. Before persecution comes, Jesus will vacuum you up and let everyone else suffer.'"? This kind of thinking could only appeal to comfortable, middle-class white people who can't tell the difference between persecution and having their feelings hurt.

For some reason, our little bubble of Christendom is caught up in second-coming fever - when is Jesus coming back? I get asked this a lot. How do I answer? Easy. It's in the Bible. Jesus says in Acts 1:7 "It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority." I know this isn't a satisfactory answer for folks who turn on the television and see the events I've already mentioned. "Surely the time is near!" they say. Back in the Bible, however, I make it a point to look at Matthew 24:3-14
As he sat on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to him privately, saying, “Tell us, when will these things be, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the close of the age?” And Jesus answered them, “See that no one leads you astray. For many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and they will lead many astray. And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not alarmed, for this must take place, but the end is not yet. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and there will be famines and earthquakes in various places. All these are but the beginning of the birth pains. “Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and put you to death, and you will be hated by all nations for my name’s sake. And then many will fall away and betray one another and hate one another. And many false prophets will arise and lead many astray. And because lawlessness will be increased, the love of many will grow cold. But the one who endures to the end will be saved. And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.

Here are some of the questions I ask folks who are so ready to turn the events in the news into Jesus' coming:

  • Has there ever been a time in which there wasn't a war of some sort, or at least the possibility that one was coming?

  • Has there ever been a time in which one nation or kingdom didn't rise against another?

  • Has there ever been a time in which there were no famines?

  • Has there ever been a time devoid of earthquakes in various places?

Since, as best as I can tell, the answer to those questions is "no", I like to point to the end of that passage. If you are so intent on knowing when Jesus might come back, then do something to address the fact that there are 2,000 people groups in this world that do not have a witness of Jesus Christ among them. Since the risen Jesus gave a command to make disciples, maybe we should do what he said and make sure we spend ourselves in that and leave his return to the appointed time of which we do not know.