Like sugar is to red ants, so are end time predictions to some Christians.
Whether it was the failed visions of Montanus in the second century, or Robert Glaber’s attempt to stir millennial madness in the year 999, or “The Great Disappointment” of 1844, or Harold Camping’s most recent failed prediction in 2011, all have one thing in common: they ignored Jesus’ statement that no one could know the day nor the hour of His coming.
God has carefully concealed the date. He has done so with such determination, you can just about know when Christ won’t return: on any day or hour men have predicted.
Though I don’t know all the reasons for God’s secrecy about it, there might be few practical ones we can discern.
Lk. 12:39 …if the master of the house had known at what hour the thief was coming, he would not have left his house to be broken into.
Let’s say the owner of a house knew that at 2:12 a.m., on a certain day, a thief would try to break into his home. He knows this for certain, and also knows the thief won’t come earlier or later. But that date is eight years away. The man, equipped with this knowledge, will continue his life as normal, after all, the event is almost a decade into the future. He has plenty of time. His daily life and schedule, his entertainment, work, and relationships, all remain completely unaffected.
In the meantime, there’s a big red ‘x’ on the calendar, marking the day before the thief comes. That’s the homeowner’s reminder to get serious the night before, when he’ll drink a lot of coffee, light all the lamps in the house, and arm himself with a pine club.
This is what you do when you know the hour.
But Jesus tells us,
40 You also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.”
Like the fellow who knew, we also need to make sure our house is guarded. But unlike the man who knew, we don’t have insider information about the exact date. We aren’t able to count on a cushion, and schedule lead-time ahead of the event. I’ve heard Christians try, though. Once they’ve got a date for the second coming, they start planning. A week out from the big day, they’ve penciled in repentance, when they stop the partying, drinking, and porn. Two days out, call around and apologize to everyone they’ve offended. The night before, no Netflix binging; instead, read the Bible by candlelight, and sing hymns with the kids.
God won’t let us live in such an artificial way. Instead, we are to remain in an anticipatory state all the time, learning to live unto Him for real. Our lack of knowledge about “when” sharpens life, hones it, trims the fat from it.
Back in the day, I babysat my siblings when my parents went out for the evening. I was fourteen, but an immature fourteen. We literally watched through the front window, as the taillights of our parent’s car disappeared around the bend. That meant we had from that moment until 9:30 p.m., to party like it was 1999. We knew the hour of their return. Plus, I knew I’d get an advanced call from them when they were heading home. Until then, though, we felt free to act like Huns, as we ravaged snacks, broke things, and fought one another. When the hour got close, we would start behaving the way we should have been the entire time. Out came the glue for busted ceramic figures, band-aids for wounds, and air freshener to mask the scent of burned paper.
If knowing the hour had bred hypocrisy, not knowing it and acting up would have been sheer foolishness.
Believers are supposed to live wisely, understanding the Master will come at an unexpected hour.
As you walk across a dewy park in the early morning, you might pray, Okay, Lord, this could be it. This could be the day when we stop talking to one another through a filter, in a mirror darkly, and do it face to face in brilliant hi-definition reality.
Or it might not be. It might be one more day of watchfulness. Either way, I’ll walk in Spirit, keep the Word, and love the believers.
It’ll still be a good day.