“On April 23, the sun, moon, and Jupiter will align in the constellation Virgo to bring on the start of the biblical Rapture, according to the latest claims.” So the UK’s Daily Mail headlines, reporting that Planet X, sometimes called Nibiru, will bring about the end of the world.
We’ve been here before. Last September, I discussed a similar prediction that “the world as we know it is ending.” We had a comparable conversation back in 2012, when we survived the purported Mayan prediction that the world would end.
My interest today is not in discussing such speculative theories, but in considering their effect on our culture–and our souls.
We should prepare for eternity today
Let’s begin with a fact: this day could actually be the last day of history.
Jesus was blunt: “Concerning that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only” (Matthew 24:36). Our Lord could come back to our planet today. Or any of us could go to him. Tomorrow is promised to no one.
We need not fear the fictitious Planet X. But we need to admit the reality that we are one day closer to eternity than ever before. And we have only today to be ready.
When the prophesied end of the world passes yet again, such fakery dulls our cultural consciousness to the real urgency of death and eternity. It seems to me that our spiritual enemy is pleased with this state of affairs.
One of our most powerful weapons against Satan is the fact of our mortality. The tragic shooting yesterday morning at a Waffle House near Nashville reminds us that no place in the world is truly safe. Today’s guilty verdict for the surviving ISIS member behind the 2015 Paris attacks shows that no city is beyond terror.
Nearly a thousand people gathered last night to mourn Jennifer Riordan, who died after her Southwest Airlines plane blew an engine in midair last Tuesday. Her tragic death shows that no mode of transportation is without risk.
Every day’s news brings new evidence that we should prepare for eternity today. But Satan will do whatever he can to distract us from considering our eternal destination. If he can spin the reality of Jesus’ return as fake apocalypticism, he’s delighted to do so.
Is the world “finding its place” in you?
How should we respond?
Obviously, we must avoid speculation about the end of the world. If Jesus does not know the day or the hour of his return, who of us should claim such knowledge? Instead, we should use our influence to help others understand the twin realities that only God knows the future and we have only today to prepare.
But there’s another principle to consider this morning: God wants us to live in such a way that the return of Jesus is a joyous hope for us.
Early Christians could pray, “Come, Lord Jesus!” (Revelation 22:20). They looked forward to the imminent return of their Lord, knowing their fallen world was not their home and their sacrifice for Jesus would be rewarded forever.
By contrast, C. S. Lewis notes that a typical Christian in our affluent culture “feels that he is ‘finding his place in it,’ while really it is finding its place in him.”
When you consider the fact that eternity could begin today, what is your emotional response: excitement that you would see Jesus or fear that you’re not ready? Do you have sin to confess? Relationships to mend? Are you doing what you would be doing if you knew this to be your last day on earth?
If not, why not?
“The happiest hour I ever knew”
R. G. Lee was one of the most eloquent preachers Baptists have ever known. In 1965, he concluded a sermon with these words:
“One day as a young child, I asked my mother, ‘What was the happiest day of your life?’ I thought she might say something about the day one of her children was born, or the day my father asked her to marry him, or perhaps her wedding day. For a long moment she sat there and then looked across the room as if she could see for a great distance. And then she spoke.
“‘It was during the war between the North and South. The men were all away. My mother, your grandmother, had to do the work of a man in the fields. She eked out a living for us from the farm. One day a letter came saying that my father, your grandfather Bennett, had been killed. That letter contained a great many kind words about his bravery and sacrifice. Mother did not cry much that day, but at night we could hear her sob in the dark of our small house.
“‘About four months later, it was summer, we were all sitting on the porch shelling beans. A man came down the road, and mother watched him for a while and then said, “Elizabeth, honey, don’t think me strange, but that man coming yonder walks like your father.” The man kept coming along the road, but we children thought, “It couldn’t be him.” As he came to the break in the fence where the path ran, he turned in. Mother sprang from her chair scattering beans everywhere. She began to run, and she yelled over her shoulders, “Children, it’s your father.” She ran all the way across the field until they met. She kissed him and cried and held him for the longest. And that, Robert Lee, was the happiest hour I ever knew.'”
Dr. Lee concluded, “And that is but a small joy compared with the resurrection morning when we shall see the face of Jesus, when we shall see loved ones long gone.”
What if it were today?