Monday, May 16, 2011

The end is coming May 21!!! ... and the danger of making such predictions

Mark 13:32: But as for that day or hour no one knows it—neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son—except the Father. (NET Bible)

A friend reminded me this week that yes, the world is going to come to an end this coming Saturday (with this friend's eyes firmly rolled to the back of the head). A faction of Christians are going around the country proclaiming this "truth," which they said was only "recently" revealed by God in the Bible (you can read about them here). I’m sure they’ll get their share of "Good morning, we’re still here" messages on Sunday, and plenty of believers are correctly pointing to verses such as this one, to show them their error.

So what to make of this prediction in light of the above verse? For one, it’s made by a man (founder of a radio network) who does not identify himself with any church. Yet another person, who has chosen to cut himself off from all those "religious" people in the Body of Christ, claims that God has given him "direct revelation"—and that we should ignore any other teachings on the scriptures and the voices of past believers, to get the "real truth" from him. Of course, this leads to all sorts of dangerous directions; some cults have been formed this way.

And it illustrates the error of this "prophet" in disobeying Hebrews 10:24-26: “And let us take thought of how to spur one another on to love and good works, not abandoning our own meetings, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging each other, and even more so because you see the day drawing near. For if we deliberately keep on sinning after receiving the knowledge of the truth, no further sacrifice for sins is left for us …” (NET Bible) The latter part of this passage is jarring to me: that to deliberately avoid Christian fellowship is not just a "bad choice," but willful disobedience of God--a sin. John Calvin rightly observed that for God to be your Father, the church must be your mother, and to cut oneself off from the church was "always fatal." In Christian fellowship there is accountability and safety in the "multitude of counselors" (Proverbs 11:14) as the Word of God is handled correctly by pastors and teachers, and those being taught (2 Timothy 2:15; Ephesians 4:11-16).

This also shows the danger of missing the essence of Jesus’ statement in Mark 13:32. Jesus plainly states that He, the Son, does not know the hour of His return. Some commentators say that Jesus, in His humanity, did not know, while He did know in His divine nature as God. However this aspect of the verse is interpreted, William Barclay correctly points out, "There can be no greater warning and rebuke to those who work out dates and timetables as to when he will come again. Surely it is nothing less than blasphemy for us to enquire into that of which our Lord consented to be ignorant."

So when we see and hear such "predictions," we should be moved to pray for those making them, that God would open their eyes. If they are prone to be "lone prophets" separating themselves from the church, we need to pray they would see their need for Christian fellowship. And we should earnestly pray that they would heed Jesus’ words here and in Acts 1:7: "You are not permitted to know the times or periods that the Father has set by his own authority …" (NET Bible) Only when they hear Jesus’ voice through His Word, will they get their focus back on Him (Hebrews 12:1-2).

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