1401 Charlestown Road
Phoenixville, PA 19460
800.432.8322 | 610.935.0450
1401 Charlestown Road | Phoenixville, PA 19460 | 610.935.0450
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"A thing is not necessarily true because a man dies for it."
On March 23, 2002 I wrote my first "Think About It" column for our local paper, The Phoenix. Over the years my musings have covered everything from leadership to butterflies and from India to Argentina. At no time have I tried to be adversarial or even overtly theological. But for many reasons, I cannot avoid the topic of this column.
For months before May 21, 2011 we listened to Harold Camping and his disciples guarantee the end (or at least the beginning of the end) of the world at 6:00 PM on that day. The media picked up the story. Comedians and cartoonists mined every detail for fresh fodder. I even saw one of their trucks with doomsday signs all over it right here in Phoenixville. Sincere people cashed in their retirement savings to join their forces with this man who was sincerely wrong.
Sadly, the history of Christianity is littered with the debris of charlatans who have similarly claimed to have inside information to make such predictions. Even Harold Camping tried it before - twice.
What are we to do with such predictors and such predictions when the Bible clearly says "No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father" (Matthew 24:36).
People seem to respond in one of three ways to these kinds of predictions. Some accept these predictions as true and factual. I almost did, years ago. I had just finished high school and I was considering going to college. Some of these sincere but sincerely wrong advisors said, "Don't waste your time going to college; the end of the world is imminent."
As a young person I didn't know fact from fiction. So I worked on the farm for a year pondering what I should do. During that year a wise relative encouraged me with these simple words, "The time you take to sharpen your tools is never wasted." That sentence empowered me to attend college and subsequently changed my whole life.
Others mock these predictors and their predictions. Here I would caution against this kind of tone, even though these predictions are always error-filled. If we are mean spirited or if we mock such behavior we forfeit our ability to guide the misguided into the truth.
Yes, my life was almost ruined by such advice but I needed help, not mockery. I could have been laughed at and even insulted, but I was gently walked into the truth and I will be forever grateful.
Finally, there are those who ignore any prediction assuming the end will never come. But the Bible clearly teaches that life as we know it will indeed someday come to an end. The theological term referring to these end time events is called eschatology.
The New Testament clearly teaches three concepts to help us understand Divine timing. The first is how soon the end will come. But since God's use of time is not our use of time we must be careful how "soon" we anticipate the end.
The second is delay. We do now know how soon the end will occur, nor how long the delay will be. God does not run by a Timex watch.
The third concept, however, is clearly known, i.e. suddenness. When the end does occur it will be so sudden it will take everyone (and it does mean everyone) by surprise.
A friend of mine recently sent me a picture of a billboard shortly following May 21, 2011 and it simply said: "That was awkward. 'No one knows the day nor the hour.' Matthew 24:36." It certainly was awkward because Mr. Camping and his friends portrayed one third of the truth. He said the end must come soon, but he ignored the possibility of a delay which obviously compromised the suddenness which will take everyone by surprise when it does happen.
The end will come but only God knows when.
Think about it.
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Valley Forge Christian College is a private Christian College located in Chester County, Pennsylvania, 35 miles northwest of downtown Philadelphia. VFCC offers on its sprawling park-like campus, as well as online, 67 undergraduate and seven graduate degrees in the Arts, the Sciences and the Professions. The college's mission is to prepare individuals for a life of service and leadership in the church and in the world.