Tuesday, June 7, 2011

The Return of Christ?

Tuesday after Easter 7
June 7, 2011

The Lord be with you

Well, as everybody knows by now, the world is still here, Jesus didn’t recently return to “rapture” away Christians and leave the earth to the non-Christians, or anything like that, back on May 21. The false prophet, Harold Camping, was wrong. Calling him a “Bible scholar,” as some newspapers have, is simply how the devil and the world seek to discredit God and his inspired word. Of course, we have been given a new date, but it too will turn out to be bogus. The words of Jesus remain firm in the face of all date setters:

“But concerning that day or that hour, no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. Be on guard, keep awake. For you do not know when the time will come.” (Mark 13:32-33)

Even a casual review of Church history reveals that it is quite common for Christians to believe that they are living in the very end of time, that Christ’s return is imamate. Quite often this feeling is under-girded by pointing to current events. I remember back in the late 60’s or early 70’s the appearance of a comet was enough to spark the date-setters off on a frenzy of predictions about the return of Jesus, sighting passages like Mark 13:24-27. In 1988 another scare was thrown into people because that marked the 40th anniversary of the founding of the modern state of Israel. The passage used to support the false prophecy was Mark 13:30. It seems every generation produces date-setters, but some produce more than others.

I am currently reading From Judgment to Passion: Devotion to Christ & The Virgin Mary, 800-1200 by Rachel Fulton. As you can tell from the title, it is a history book focused on the Church of the Middle Ages. This was also a time of great expectations concerning the Second Coming of Jesus. Clearly all of those date-setters were also wrong. Rachel, in seeking to explain why this happens, wrote:

    In the majority of these narratives (or myths) [put forth by both non-Christians and Christians to make sense of the world and their lives], the pattern of completion takes one of two shapes, either cyclical or linear, in the latter of which completion involves not repletion but cessation, an absolute End to the mundane experience of human consciousness. It is, of course, this latter pattern, resolutely and relentlessly linear, that is dominate in the narrative of Christian history, from the cosmogonic rupture of Genesis to the eschatological relief of Revelation, the dissolution of creation conceived in its beginnings. In plotting their own lives according to such grand linear narratives (and grand narratives are always more appealing than modest ones), human beings almost invariably cast themselves as arriving not at the beginning or even in the middle, but toward the end, if not in the last days of the narrative, then within a generation or so. Even if they do not imagine that the narrative itself will be brought to completion within their own lifetimes, they are frequently convinced, despite all evidence to the contrary, that it will in fact end soon thereafter, it being somehow congnitively intolerable to imagine that one will die without knowing the ending, that things will carry on much as they did before one arrived in medias res, or worse, that they will change in ways that one has not anticipated. Thus the appeal of prophecy in promising what Frank Kermode has called “the sense of an ending”: it allows those who accept the prophecy as authoritative to situate their own lives within the structure of an established whole, to console themselves with a story of their lives that takes its meaning not only from the finitude of their own mortality but also from the finitude of history as a predetermined—or, even better, divinely predetermined—totality. (73-74)
If Rachel Fulton is right, and I think she makes a good point even if her sentences run on forever, then people will continue to be deceived by the false prophets who set dates for the end. They are willing dupes because it helps them find meaning in their lives. For those who let the Bible guide their thinking on this subject, we find our meaning in Jesus. Having been redeemed by him and receiving that redemption through faith, we are now sons and daughters of the Father. We serve in his kingdom, which is already established, in faith towards God and in love towards our fellow man. We do look forward to the Second Coming of Christ but we confidently leave the date in his hands.

Now, I’m going to make a prediction about the date-setters. (I do not do this by direct Divine inspiration, nor do I do this by crunching numbers out of the Bible. It just makes sense to me.)

The Date-Setters will go crazy with dates for the return of Jesus beginning 2027 and extending through 2033. Why? Because these dates will mark the 2,000 anniversary of the public ministry of Jesus. (Some date his ministry as beginning 27 AD, others in 30 AD. There are other options out there as well, and to the extent that the date-setters are aware of them, you can expect those dates to be somehow creatively entered into the date-setters calculations.) You can expect special attention given to Christmas Holy Week (Palm Sunday, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, Easter), the Ascension, and Pentecost. I say this because it was that way at the turn of the first millennium. By the way, they will be wrong.

Well, you heard it hear first.

Blessings in Christ,
Pastor Rickert

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