The end of every session, occasion or event is highly anticipated by those involved. Students look forward to the end of the academic year, trainees look forward to the end of their training session, sports men and women look forward to the final whistle or the end of the competition. A question could be asked at this point: “Why do people look forward to the end of various events or undertakings?” To answer this question we could say that at the end of any event or undertaking people anticipate relief and / or results (negative or positive); hence people look forward to the end to be relieved from the on-going preoccupation and also to obtain respective results.
If all our temporal activities in this world will eventually come to an end, there is a ponderable logic that the world itself will eventually come to an end. While many people look forward to the end of various things, the end of the world does not elicit so much joyful anticipation but rather dreadful thoughts in many people. The incontestable truth however is that just as there is a beginning of everything, there must necessarily be an end to all things including the world itself (Daniel 12:1-13; Matt.24:15-29; 1Thess.5:1-11).
If we cross check through history, we will discover a lot of reflections and speculations about the end of the world. In fact from the time our Lord Jesus Christ spoke about a cataclysmic revolution of the cosmic order at the vacating point of the world to this day and age, end of time speculations are still rife; in fact there are more than 200 failed predictions of the end of time. The following are instructive:
- Montanus’ end of time prediction: Montanus was an early heretic who emerged about the 2nd half of the 2nd century in Phrygia Asia Minor with the idea that he received a special revelation from the Holy Spirit announcing the imminent end of the world. People were asked to forfeit their material belongings and wait for the New Jerusalem coming to what is known today as Turkey. Many people believed and followed Montanism which also had an erroneous doctrine about the Holy Spirit. As to the end of time, it never came with the predictions of Montanus.
- Jehovah Witnesses Religion. The founder of the sect Charles Taze Russell reckoning with the prophecy of Daniel maintained that the world would end by 1914. He had mentioned earlier that the last days would begin in 1799, and in 1874 Jesus Christ will come again, while in 1878 he will begin to reign in heaven. When Russell’s 1914 prediction did not come to pass, the sect he founded (The Jehovah’s Witnesses) began to choose successive dates like 1915, 1918, 1920, 1925, 1941, 1975, and 1994. But the world is still on course.
- The Millerites’ Prediction: The founder of the movement, a New England farmer, William Miller claimed that he received a message that the world would end between 21st March 1843 and 21st March 1844.With this prediction which became widespread, adherent loomed large with more than 50,000 people dropping their properties and heading to the mountain to wait for the Lord. Those dates passed smoothly and peacefully. Miller’s failed prediction was for a long time the most famous false prophecy about the end time.
- The Mormon’s Prediction: The founder of the Church of Latter- Day Saint (Mormons) Joseph Smith claimed that God told him that the world would end in 1891. But the world did not end.
- Seventh Day Adventist: The founder of the SDA Church, Ellen G. White, on June 27th 1850 said that the world would end after a few months. When this did not happen she shifted it to 1856 or later.
- Pat Robertson: In May 1980, the televangelist using the platform of 700 club TV Show startled and alarmed the world that the end would come by the end of 1982; but here we are, 2013!
- Nostradamus’ year 1999: This age long Pharmacist is known all over the world for his numerous successful predictions. Translators of his quatrains believed that the world would end in 1999 because he wrote: “The year 1999, Seventh month from the sky will come the great king of terror. 1999 did not mark the end of the world!
- The Y2K JANUARY 1, 2000: Y2K is a numeronym representing the year 2000. The growth and spread of computer not only thrilled the world but also brought about the fear that computers will be attacked by a bug because of the turning in of “00” from the preceding “99”; hence the movement from two digits to four digits (2000). It was believed that this would in turn bring about the cataclysmic destruction of the world and the end of time on account of the revolt of computers all over the world. There was so much apprehension around the world as the new millennium approached. Suddenly 1st January, 2000 emerged (though some countries saw the New Year before others) without any sign of neither a bug nor an end of the world.
- The Three Days of Darkness: Within the anticipation of the new millennium and within the new millennium some people believed that the THREE DAYS DARKNESS which had been predicted long ago starting with the messages of St. Hildegard of Bingen, St. Padre Pio and few others pointing to three days of darkness which the whole world would experience before the end of time. Survival would be by means of blessed candles, hence people advanced to buying and having cartons of candles blessed. Some people were even moving about with candles hoping that they would see the match box or lighter to light them.
- God’s Church Ministry: The founder, Ronald Weinland, (now in federal prison) prophesied with awe striking conviction that the world would end on the Pentecost day of 2012 (May 27th) with the second coming of Jesus Christ. But the world could not end that day of the year 2012. Thereafter he was arrested, convicted and imprisoned on multiple counts which included tax evasion. While in prison, he went further to declare with utmost assurance that the world would pack up on the Pentecost day of 2013 (May 19th) and this turned out to be another blatant false prediction.
11. Harold Camping: Using the medium of the family radio Oakland California, Camping announced that the rapture would take place on May 21, 2011 with God taking 3% of the world population as those to be saved. Consequently he predicted that by October 21, 2011 the world would end finally. Later on he said that on that May 21, 2011 what happened was spiritual rapture and that God is giving us time (which is not a new message anyway).
- December 21, 2012: The last prediction suggested that the rapture and end of the world would be on the 21st of December 2012. This according to some “experts” was based on the Mayan calendar (the oldest calendar) which expired on the 21st of December 2012. We are obviously far ahead of that date and the end is yet to come.
We could spend the entire space recounting prophecies of the end of the world, their proponents and the accompanying failures; the list is long. In any case all the predictions overlooked the statement of our Lord Jesus Christ in Matthew (24:36):“No one knows, however, when that day and hour will come- neither the angels in heaven nor the Son, the Father alone knows”. (See also Mk.13:32). On the other hand, those who had been gullible with the predictions of the doomsday prophets seem to forget that our Lord Jesus Christ said: “Take heed that you are not led astray; for many will come in my name, saying ‘I am he!’ and, ‘The time is at hand!’ Do not go after them.” (Luke 21:8). In another place (Matthew 24:23-25) he says:
If anyone says to you Look here is the Messiah! Or there he is do not believe him. For false messiahs and false prophets will appear; and they will perform great miracles and wonders in order to deceive even God’s elect if possible. Listen I have told you this before it happens.
The end is sure to come but should it be productive of fear or faith? In the first reading today from the prophecy of Malachi (Mal.4:1-2a) we are told that the day will come burning like an oven. This is indeed scary but the burning will be received differently according to the modes of the receivers. For the arrogant and evil doers they will be decimated by the fire leaving neither root nor branch. But for those in right standing with God the fire will become a healing sun of righteousness.
St. Paul’s insight into today’s reflection from the platform of the second reading today (2 Thess. 3:7-12) is quite interesting and has a contemporary relevance. Obviously the anticipation of the end of time and the second coming of our Lord Jesus Christ was widespread during the time of St. Paul. There was such an enormous anticipation to the extent that most people resolved to sit and wait for the day without engaging in anything meaningful for sustaining physical existence.
Attentive to the above, St. Paul advocated for NO WORK NO FOOD; an ideology that is at the service of social justice and fairness. In our contemporary human society we still have a lot of busybodies harvesting from where they never sowed. There are many people who are generating personal wealth in the name of religion. A situation wherein people are tasked to pay before they are prayed for. Even doomsday predictions at some points became tools for acquiring wealth whereby people are asked to relinquish their properties in view of the end of the world. The word of God tells us to work out our salvation in fear and trembling (Philippian 2:12).
Instead of being overly anxious about when the end of time will be, it will be more rewarding for us to be more anxious about living productive lives. It will be better for us to use the time we have to prepare to be truly and fully connected with God so that when the time comes (unexpectedly as we are told) we will not be found unprepared. It is most unfortunate that many of us would prefer to have the exact date and time of the second coming in order to make last-minute-act-of-contrition and then run into heaven. In our computer language that could called a shortcut and it is most regrettable that there is no shortcut to heaven; there is only one narrow gate (Matt. 7:13-14). Our journey to heaven should not be based on the fear of hell but on our love for God. We should not be sacred about the end of time but about eternity without God.
As the liturgical and calendar year draw to an end we are reminded about the facticity of the end to which we are heading. We however should not be scared if we are living aright with God. In this journey towards the end we are sure of oppositions, persecutions, and various kinds of trials. Our faith will be tried and examined on account of the name of Jesus Christ and it is through that name that we shall be saved (Rom.10:13). There is an end in view. Actually when anyone of us dies his or her time comes to an end. Evidently none of us has the gift of forever. In any case we should be more concerned about eternity than the fear of the end of the world which is sure to come but at a divinely appointed time not by human predictions. The question that could be more productive is: “How ready am I if the Lord should come today will I be saved or severed?” More so, we are called upon to announce the end of sin and disobedience than the end of the world. Whenever it comes, we should be ever ready!
Have a glorious Sunday and a happy week ahead!