Top 5 faith & culture stories: Is the apocalypse coming?

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Top 5 faith & culture stories: Is the apocalypse coming?

December 30, 2011 - Jim Denison, PhD

Truck with announcement of the of “End of the World” on May 2011, 2011 per the prediction of Harold Camping (Credit: Bart Everson via Flickr)

December 21, 2012 will mark “the ending of time as we know it,” according to The Mayan Factor.  This 1987 book sparked a frenzy that will only grow in the coming year.  When the ancient Mayan Long Count calendar ends on that date, some say Planet X will collide with us or otherwise wreak havoc.  Others predict a geomagnetic reversal of the north and south poles, with dire consequences.  Still others warn that the star Betelgeuse will explode and cause catastrophes on our planet.

Experts dismiss each of these predictions.  If a planet were going to strike us next year, it would already be so close that we could see it today.  Geomagnetic reversals take 7,000 years, not a single day.  Betelgeuse is 600 light years away; it would have to be 25 light years from us to affect our planet.  And the ending of the Mayan calendar doesn’t mean that time ends.  It’s like changing the calendar on your kitchen wall–on January 1 another “long count” period begins.

But I predict that these facts will not stop those who predict the end of the world in 2012.  Harold Camping made Time‘s “top 10” religious stories of the year with his announcement that Jesus would return on May 21. When our Lord didn’t arrive as predicted, Camping revised his forecast to October 21.  Once again he was proved wrong.

I don’t know how Jesus could have been more clear: “No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, but only the Father” (Matthew 24:36).  Every person who has claimed to know more than Jesus has been wrong.

Here’s what we do know with certainty: You and I are one day closer to the Second Coming of Jesus Christ than ever before.  If you believe in our Lord’s ascension, you should believe in his return.  As the apostles watched Jesus rise into the heavens, two angels said to them, “This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven” (Acts 1:11).

Jonathan Edwards, America’s greatest theologian, resolved “never to do any thing, which I should be afraid to do, if I expected it would not be above an hour, before I should hear the last trump.”  G. Campbell Morgan, one of the greatest preachers of his generation, agreed: “Every morning when I awaken I remind myself that I must be ready to meet God today.”

What should we do about the coming apocalypse?  Here’s Jesus’ answer: “Keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come” (Matthew 24:42).  Will he return in 2012?  I cannot say that he will, but I cannot say that he will not.  John could pray, “Come, Lord Jesus” (Revelation 22:20).  Can you?

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