Are You Ready...Today?

Our reading for today begins with Matthew 24:36, “No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.” Jesus plainly says that humans don't know (even he didn't know as long as he was human) the time of the second coming. It will be like the flood (v. 38). It will be like a thief in the night (v. 43). It will come unexpectedly and without any warning or sign. We can’t know when Jesus will come, so if we are going to be ready when he comes, we must be ready for Him at all times. We must always and continually “keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come” (v. 42).

So then why have people continued to make predictions about the tie of the second coming? Almost from the very beginning of the church, there have been “experts” who thought they had inside information on when Jesus was coming back. I gave the following summary of some of the “soothsayers of the second advent” a couple of years ago in a blog--

  • In the mid-second century, Montanus set the date for the return of Christ and the end of the world in the late second century. His followers gave their goods away and waited for the return. When it didn't happen, the Montanists were reduced to beggars and the movement ended.

  • In 1524, a German theologian predicted the coming end of the world in a cataclysmic flood. He attracted a wide following, and his disciples built boats and rafts and waited for the great world-ending flood. When it didn't happen, they were so annoyed that they threw him in a lake!

  • William Miller predicted that the world would end in 1843, a date he later had to revise to be October 22, 1844. The Millerites were so shocked when it didn't happen that they referred to October 23, 1844 as “The Great Disappointment.” While Miller faded from the scene, some of his followers led by Ellen G. White founded the Seventh Day Adventists.

  • Some of the other ex-disciples of Miller led by Charles Taze Russell formed the "Millennial Dawn" movement. They set many dates for the end time, beginning in 1874 and then reset to be 1914, 1925, 1929, 1941, 1975, and their most recent prediction was for 1991. This movement is now called the Jehovah's Witnesses; they no longer set dates.

  • In 1970, Hal Lindsey published The Late Great Planet Earth in which he predicted the second coming sometime in the mid-seventies based on the Egypt-Israeli war. The book as been revised many times because the world has changed a little since he wrote.

  • And Y2K sparked renewed interest of end time predictions as the third millennium began. Not only did the world not end, but most of the lesser catastrophes that was supposed to come with the changing of the calendar did not take place.
The predictions of the "soothsayers of the second advent" always have two things in common. First, their predictions are always that Jesus is about to come some time in the near future; no one every says that they've figured out all the signs and the end is come in 1.2 million years! Second, they have all been wrong... and they will always be wrong.

Matthew 24 is not an easy passage to parse. Jesus predicts the destruction of the Temple (24:2) and then answers two (or three) questions raised by the disciples – “When will this happen, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?" OK, maybe that is just two questions, but Jesus is going to answer all three. In section one (verses 4-34), Jesus is answering the first questions about the fall of the Temple. He ends with the promise “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.” (v. 35). And then he moves on to discuss “that day and hour” when heaven and earth would pass away. There would be signs that Jerusalem was about to fall-- “the abomination of desolation” (or “when you see Jerusalem being surrounded by armies”, Luke 21:20). But there will be no signs to read or warning to head when the world is about to end. Some of the people present when Jesus spoke would be there for the fall of the temple (v. 34). But obviously they aren’t still around waiting for the end of the world. We are still waiting, but we can’t know when that might be.

Here’s my prediction—we are nearer to the end of the world and the judgment mankind today than we were yesterday. And Jesus has given us one more day to get ready. Use it.