Since the world did not end last Saturday (September 23), David Meade has designated a new date (October 15). But since Jesus said, “No man knows the day or the hour” (Matthew 24:36), I am convinced that this prediction is equally absurd. Absurd, and yet a snare to be addressed.
Just two weeks ago, we had to ask a man to leave our church property because he was spreading this propaganda. And for the next month and, really, until Christ does return—at an hour that we cannot predict—we will again be forced to contend with the errant predictions of self-appointed prophets.
To help give a biblical answer to the question about Christ’s return, our pastor of student ministries Ben Purves wrote a helpful blog outlining our biblical convictions about the future, the return of Christ, and the Christian hope. Unlike the recent doomsday predictions, these reflections (shared below) are steeped in the Bible and edifying for saints awaiting the day when Christ will return and establish his kingdom on the earth.
Is Christ returning today or tomorrow?
Many people are talking about it thanks to yet another group announcing their conjectures based on mathematical gymnastics and astronomical mysticism. As of now, the deadline for Christ’s return has been announced as scheduled for sometime between now and sundown on Saturday, September 23 in Israel. If not by then, it is expected by the end of the day at the international dateline.
So, as with Harold Camping’s failed prediction that Christ would return on May 21, 2011 and hundreds of other predictions throughout church history, this kind of doomsday forecasting has been a staple of religious belief, even though it is explicitly forbidden by Jesus: “But concerning that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only” (Matthew 24:36). In fact, when it comes to discerning the signs, we need to look to what Scripture says and not what signs might be appearing in the cosmos.
For starters, we know that all of creation is experiencing birth pains and anticipating the return of our Lord (Rom 8:22). We also know that we have been in the last days since the giving of the Spirit at Pentecost (Acts 2:14-18). Yet when we see news stories of hurricanes, floods, and wildfires, like clockwork, religious leaders from the mainline to the fringe invite their followers to join them in hysteria.
Scripture vs Formulas
Rather than looking to the news, weather, stars, and formula preachers with an elastic Bible, we must set that aside and ground ourselves in the absolute authority and inspiration of Scripture. We must not give credence to imaginations that utilize the Bible as a formula puzzle piece to be manipulated in their calculations.
Rather, let us look to the the faithful Word of God. Consider the words of Jesus from Matthew 24:36, and Mark 13:31–32: “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away. No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.”
Again in Acts 1:6–7, as the disciples sought answers from Jesus about the arrival of His earthly kingdom, He replied, “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority.”
Again in 1 Thessalonians 5:1–2, the apostle Paul speaks to the timing of the Lord’s return, and asserts the impossibility of one being able to mark it out on a timeline: “Now, brothers, about times and dates we do not need to write to you, for you know very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night.”
This repeated teaching is explicitly clear and leaves no wiggle room. The Bible has emphatically announced that no one will know the time or the hour, but that the Lord’s return will come unannounced as a “thief in the night.” While we firmly believe in our Lord’s return, we also firmly believe the testimony of Scripture that it will be impossible for one to predict the day or the hour.
Because of this, we can have certainty that any prediction or date-setting for Christ’s return is wrong. It is wrong, not only because of the bizarre nature of the interpretive gymnastics required to arrive at such conclusions, but because such predictions disregard the clear and repeated teaching of the Word of God.
It’s unfortunate to hear about people being misled and deceived by these predictions, and the subsequent resignations of careers and giving away of possessions. One can only imagine the crisis of faith experienced when such predictions are discovered to be false.
A Right Expectation of Christ’s Return
By contrast, there is one thing these announcers do get right, and it is that our Lord Jesus Christ will return one day. This is a crucial doctrine for the church. Christ’s return is a joyous event for all who have placed their faith in Him, but for those who have not, it will bring His righteous judgment. If Jesus were to return this week, we should be ready.
In light of the unknown moment of Christ’s return, Scripture instructs us to keep living in righteousness as we anticipate our King’s return. As 1 Thessalonians 5:4–11 puts it:
But you are not in darkness, brothers, for that day to surprise you like a thief. 5 For you are all children of light, children of the day. We are not of the night or of the darkness. 6 So then let us not sleep, as others do, but let us keep awake and be sober. 7 For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk, are drunk at night. 8 But since we belong to the day, let us be sober, having put on the breastplate of faith and love, and for a helmet the hope of salvation. 9 For God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, 10 who died for us so that whether we are awake or asleep we might live with him. 11 Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.
So while some wait for the Lord to return at a predicted date in the near future, the Bible teaches us to be ready at all times because we do not know the date or the hour. Such unknowing however does not produce lethargy, rather, with great hope, we continue to worship and wait for our king. And thus as we gather this Sunday, our teachers will continue to spend hours proclaiming the gospel, teaching the truths of God, and encouraging the saints. The music team will prepare songs for our congregational singing, and the office will prepare church announcements and our weekly bulletin.
The best way for us to live in expectation of Christ’s return is to not to keep standing on the mountain looking into the sky, but to busy ourselves with the Great Commission work our Lord has entrusted to us. Think of the many parables Jesus taught about the master and his servants working as they waited.
In the same way, let us keep serving our Lord together, be it in the workplace or our homes. Let us be faithful to share the light of Christ with those around us, be it our co-workers, neighbors, or families. May the Lord be glorified in us today, tomorrow, this week, this year, and this lifetime. His timing is perfect, and all His ways are good.