As far as we can tell, Christians predicting the end of the world have gotten it wrong every time so far, and this trend shows no signs of ending. Wait… signs? Did I say signs? Sorry… what was I thinking!
We could help the cause of the Gospel (which includes our public image) by no longer claiming that everything is a sign of the end. Whether it’s a President we don’t like (I’m looking at both parties here), the return of ugly fashions, or strange patterns on tortillas, we just can’t seem to help ourselves. Everything seems to portend the Antichrist just ahead, waiting at the next truck stop. And a solar eclipse obviously ratchets this sort of thing up to the next level.
One pastor is quoted as saying that today’s “Great American Total Solar Eclipse” could possibly fulfill the prophecy of Joel that the sun will be turned to darkness before the coming of the great and terrible day of the Lord. While I do believe in that prophecy, which I think has already happened once (Acts 2) and will happen again (Matthew 24, Revelation 6), has anyone done a quick Google search to see that there are about two total solar eclipses every three years? Which of these 65 or so eclipses in a century, over 1000 since the time of Christ, is the right one to herald His return?
Just wait till next year: 2018 will be a doozy!
Other folks are fired up about a supposed sign in the stars that’s coming next month. And just wait until next year! In 2018, people will be speculating hard again about the End, because 2018 marks 70 years since Israel’s rebirth as a nation-state. (Trust me, I’ve already heard this one, and you’re definitely going to hear it also.) After all, these people say, it’s been 70 years, and that makes one biblical generation. And don’t forget, Jesus said this generation won’t pass away until all these things come to pass.
Two problems with this thinking leap out at me, and they should leap out at you, too:
- What generation was Jesus talking about? Ask five scholars and you’ll get six answers.
- And how long is a generation anyway? Why pick a 70-year generation? Why not a 120-year generation like it was with Noah, or maybe the evil generation of 40 years under Moses? Of course, we also read in the Psalms that our days are 70 years – however, our lifespan is apparently 80 years if we’re strong! Confused yet? You will be.
Time out! (Please?)
Let’s call “time out” on this kind of speculation. We’ve already had too many of these self-inflicted wounds. You probably remember the Harold Camping debacle of a few years ago. I grant you that date-setting was only one of Mr. Camping’s theological quirks, but modern media and the sheer stubbornness and implacability of today’s Christians guarantee that anything strange we say will be widely disseminated.
It’s worth noting that the eclipse story I quoted above came from the “weird news” section of the newspaper. That’s never where we want to be, if we can help it. Let’s stop terrifying ourselves and stop amusing unbelievers unnecessarily.