Lesson 15: The Last Days

This is a topic that continually comes up, primarily because it is always in the headlines. It is about some nut case gaining news coverage by insisting he has figured out a date, a strange sect committing mass suicide, the Y2K scare at 2000, advertising for a movie, a televangelist charting earthquakes as signs, another Christian celebrity reading Revelation as a prediction, or a presidential candidate confessing she believes we are in the end times. Any of these lead the young people to suggest we look at the subject. I’m sure it will come up again this fall, because many wonder what it means for our nation when so presidential hopefuls speak for groups that threaten the end of our world. The following paper was used when people were discussing a popular movie. You can check on the typical discussions the youth have in the comments below.

The Last Days

What’s going on with the movie 1012? Is the world really going to end on December 21, 2012? Do we only have three more years? Will only 400,000 be saved on gigantic arks to build a new civilization? Is the movie really based on the ancient Mayan calendar? Did this ancient culture which flourished in Guatemala between 300 and 900 AD really know more than we do 1100 years later? Is this related to and maybe supported by the biblical book Revelation?

Well, the Indians who still live as Mayans and the scholars who have studied it answer “No!” to every one of these questions. They say the ancient calendar like most ancient ones thought events went through repeated cycles. The Year 2012 was simply the end of one of these cycles, which would be followed by another Year 1. In fact, the idea was not that this would be a catastrophic ending but a joyous rebirth offering all kinds of hope. Obviously Hollywood decided they could make a lot of money with sensational scenes that play on people’s anxiety about the future.

But is that all? Even though there may be nothing to the 2012 prediction, should Christians be afraid of the world ending soon? Will God bring great destruction that will cause people to suffer terrible things? Does the book of Revelation predict what will happen? Why do so many Christians think Revelation predicts events that will happen very soon?

Well, first this is nothing new. There have always been some people who have predicted the end of the world coming soon. They get people to follow them in troubled times, such as our current financial crisis. Over and over they have predicted specific dates, and guess what- every time they have been wrong. All such efforts have been failures 100% of the time.

So why does it happen over again? People who do this are just like Hollywood. They can get people to listen to them and make money. There is a televangelist who says God has told him to prepare people for bad times ahead by selling survival kits. Sounds like a money maker to me. There are others who describe terrible catastrophes ahead which people can avoid only by becoming Christians, preferably by joining their church. Obviously, this is using fear to make disciples. Jesus used love, not fear. In John 3: 16 he proclaimed God loves the world so he sent Jesus to save us.

The book of Revelation is not about the end of the world at all. It is about God bringing the fall of the Roman Empire which was persecuting the Christians. When the author gives a date, he says it will take place in 3 and half years. He is talking about what God is doing right then and there to make a better world.

There are other biblical passages where God promised to make all right in the future. Like the Mayan idea this was not to frighten people but to give them hope. They were to remain strong, even standing up to persecution until God established his peaceable kingdom. .

And never is a date predicted. Jesus himself said in Mark 13 “About that day or hour no one knows, neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. Beware, keep alert; for you do not know when the time will come.” Until then we are not to fear but to love one another. I’m going to stick with Jesus rather than Hollywood or fear- mongering preachers.

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  1. Fritz Foltz says:

    The discussion is always about the same. The young people remark how stupid this is. We then take a look at Bible passages, emphasizing they should be read as straight forward messages rather than that secret codes. If God speaks in order to save us, why would he talk in riddles? I usually remind them of a confirmation teacher who always reminded them that this kind of teaching has a 100% failure rate. Someone always observes it uses fear rather than love to proclaim the Gospel.

    The sessions emphasize an important function of our reading groups. They reinforce the sensible positions most of the young people have adopted after their catechism instruction. That is pretty critical when they have to contend with so many mean-spirited crazies claiming to speak for Jesus.

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