I keep reading media reports claiming “Christians believe” the world will end on September 23. This is kind of odd considering the world already ended 46 times in the past decade, according to various predictions. But as for this prediction, I have not personally met a single Christian who believes it. I suspect “Christians believe” in this month’s doomsday prophecy in the same way that “Christians” believe a Starbucks cup is offensive. Which is to say, they don’t.
This latest fake apocalypse proclamation seems to have been cooked up by a “Christian numerologist” named David Meade, who has discerned the end of the world — or at least the beginning of the end, or the endish, or something — through certain signs in the Heavens, like the solar eclipse, and through his reading of the Book of Revelation. Perhaps a small collection of Christians have bought into this false prophet’s nonsense, but I think it is very small indeed.
Of course, a big problem here is that solar eclipses happen multiple times a year across the globe. There was nothing special about this year’s eclipse, other than the fact that you could see it in Bowling Green, Kentucky. Also, “Christian numerology” doesn’t exist. Numerology is a pagan superstition. You may as well tell me about Christian Tarot cards or Christian crystal balls. If a person does access any supernatural power through these methods, it isn’t God supplying it. You need to look further south for the source.
As far as Revelation goes, any Christian who claims to have definitively cracked the code and determined exactly what it means has either been deceived by the Devil or is a liar, or both. Revelation is a beautiful and important book, but I cannot give you a precise interpretation of its content, and I certainly cannot tell you with confidence when the world is going to end based on its mysterious verses. Nobody can. I know that nobody can because, rather than providing us with a formula to ascertain the date of the Second Coming, Christ does the opposite. He tells us specifically in Matthew 24 that no one will know the day or hour, not even the angels or the Son. The Apostles reiterate this instruction in Acts. So, that should be it.
But that’s not it because we are not willing to accept our own ignorance. Even if most of us haven’t bought into the September 23 “prophecy,” there still remains a great number of Christians who think they will be able to detect when the end is coming. Many of us think we can detect it now. The fact that Christians have been sure that the end is right around the corner for 2,000 years doesn’t dissuade us. Now is different, we say. Now is the time. Or almost time.
Well, maybe it is time. I don’t know. Neither do you. I mean, yes, it certainly feels like we’re at the end of something. But who can say that “something” is the world? Maybe we’ve just reached the end of our country or our civilization? Many civilizations have passed from the Earth, and they all thought the world was going with them. They were all wrong. We probably are, too. But who knows? I don’t. Nobody does.
Here’s what I do know: your world is coming to an end pretty soon. So is mine. I can’t say what will happen to planet Earth, but I can say that you probably have less than 50 years left, and you may be gone much earlier. You may be gone next week. Maybe tomorrow. Maybe tonight. You could suffer a massive heart attack in November. You could get hit by a bus this weekend. You could be diagnosed with cancer and be dead before Easter. The chances are very, very high that you will die long before the world. Concern yourself with that. Focus on your own mortality. Scripture says to work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, not to work out the Apocalypse with mathematics and astrology.
I think this — our fear of our mortality — is why we concentrate so much on predicting the Apocalypse. Ironically, the more a person is afraid of death, the more he wants to believe that the End of the World is around the corner. Life is tenuous and uncertain, death is sudden and intrusive, and we cannot accept this fact. We cannot look our own mortality in the face. We cannot bear to contemplate the extremely high possibility that we will die, individually, while the world lives on. So we cling to this dark hope that Armageddon will spare us an individual death. And we tell ourselves that we’ll see it coming. We’ll have time to prepare. We will ease into it.
But that’s not how it has worked for billions of people, and that’s probably not how it will work for me or you. We aren’t special. You think things are so bad that the destruction of the world must be upon us? Well, 200 million people were wiped out by the Black Plague in the 14th century. We had four people get Ebola in this country a few years ago and we panicked like mankind was on the brink of extinction. Imagine how they felt as half of Europe’s population perished from the Earth. Yet the world lived on. And you think this rash of natural disasters portends something ominous? Well, 800 thousand people were killed in an earthquake in 1556. 92,000 were killed by a volcano in 1816. 22,000 were killed by a hurricane in 1780. Yet the world lived on. You think our wars and international conflict must be apocalyptic? Please. The deadliest war in US history happened 150 years ago. The entire planet was in a near constant state of warfare for thousands of years. Civilizations clashed. Cities were destroyed. Death and starvation and bloodshed occurred on a scale we cannot fathom and will never experience. Yet the world lived on. A lot of people didn’t, but the world did. I bet they even had eclipses back then, too.
But who knows? Maybe the Heavens will open up right after I publish this post and I’ll be pretty embarrassed (and my web traffic will really take a hit). That probably won’t happen, though. More likely, the world will continue existing and you’ll just die eventually, sooner than later, by yourself, while most everyone else keeps living for a while. That’s how it has always worked and that’s how it will continue working until God decides otherwise. Will he decide otherwise soon? I have no clue, but it doesn’t really matter. Our job is the same regardless.
My father-in-law had a neighbor who passed away recently. He was young man with a wife and three kids. He opened the door to his second floor patio and forgot that the patio hadn’t been built yet. He was dead within moments. Sudden. Tragic. Out of nowhere. That was it. Like a thief in the night it came. Just as it will come for us. Not with fire in the sky and the Lord descending upon the Earth, but with a shock. A cry. A 911 call. Or maybe it will come later, in a bed at the nursing home. Our kids will stop by for a visit with their kids, who will be very young and anxious to leave. And one of those visits will be the last. We’ll die quietly while the world buzzes on, too busy to notice. There will be a funeral and a eulogy, and that will be it.
That’s death. Face it. Accept it. Have faith. Have courage. Have humility. Admit what you do not know and prepare for what you do. The End is near, that is certain. But just your end. And mine. Pray that you are ready when the summons arrives.