It’s happened yet again.
I had just finished teaching a course last month on the book of Revelation. When I teach on eschatology (events of the end times), I always make a point of mentioning how many times the return of Christ has been mistakenly predicted or “prophesied” by people.
Even if the predicted event does not occur, which it never does, two things can be predicted with absolutely certainty. First, no one will ever apologize for getting it wrong. Second, the name of the Lord will once again be brought into disrepute.
No sooner had I finished the course, almost on cue the internet lit up with yet another predicted date. Jesus would return on September 22 (at least, I think that was the date).
I decided I had better go ahead with planning my preaching responsibilities for the end of September - just in case the Lord tarried.
Needless to say, I was glad I did.
I know what motivates people to make these predictions. They want to make a name for themselves, they want people to feel they have special knowledge not entrusted to others, or they even want to make money out of it. Sorry, but the latter is often true.
What puzzles me is what motivates people to listen to them. As they watch, unbelievers must really think Christians are the most gullible people on the face of the earth. And people who have no time for anything but thinking about the end of the world.
All of which makes unbelievers think anything Christians may say on any topic is to be taken with a big pinch of salt.
If we get it wrong on the return of Christ so many times, why would we get it right on abortion, same-sex relationships or the sanctity of marriage, let alone the necessity of knowing Jesus to be saved?
And I’m afraid they have a point.
Jesus was crystal clear on this subject. No one knows the day or the hour, not even the Son, only the Father. If you think I’m making this up, read your Bible.
Anyone who predicts a date or even an approximate date for the Lord’s return is in direct disobedience to the Lord himself. I’ll just be as blunt as that. Don’t waste your time listening to such
Unfortunately, this kind of pseudo-spiritual clairvoyance has another sad consequence. People are so taken up with when the Lord may return they don’t listen to what he said about how we should really prepare for his return.
In fact, Jesus taught us that we were always to be ready in case he returned. Not knowing the hour means he could come at any time he chooses, and it may well not be the hour we think.
Truly spiritual godly people will never predict when the Lord may return, but they will live every day as if he is going to return that day. They do that by living godly lives, by the grace he alone can provide, so that they are always ready to give an account should he require it.
Martin Luther had that attitude on October 31, 1517. He knew his act of obedience that day was to nail his beliefs on the church door in the town he lived in, and be ready to suffer the consequences. If the Lord returned that day, he would have found Martin Luther prepared to meet him.
The Lord didn’t return, but Luther’s act of obedience had such great consequences historians recently recognized him as the single most influential person in modern history.
Luther said if the Lord was to return tomorrow, he would plant an oak tree today. He would be found obedient and furthering the cause of the kingdom, focussing on what was in front of him and leaving to Jesus the time of his return.
Five hundred years later, we give thanks for what he did that day, for as Bible-believing Christians, we all live in the good of it.
Like him, let’s await Jesus’ return with obedience, not predictions.