From reading the headlines, you'd think church people occasionally get together, ask what they'd have to do to make Christianity look foolish, and then set about to implement their strategy! So ministers have affairs. Leaders of Christian ministries steal or squander money — or say incredibly silly things in God's name.
Today's prize goes to a group headquartered near Philadelphia that calls itself "The eBible Fellowship." The group went public with its prediction that the world would end Wednesday, October 7, 2015.
"According to what the Bible is presenting, it does appear that 7 October will be the day God has spoken of, in which the world will pass away," said its leader and founder. "It'll be gone forever. Annihilated."
Need I say the obvious? I am writing this on October 9, and you are reading it sometime after that. So another ridiculous attempt at setting a time for the end of the world has come and gone. People looking on are laughing. That wouldn't be so bad if they were simply laughing at Chris McCann and his little online bunch. But those who are disinclined toward Christ and hear about such silliness take their prediction to have been something from the Bible. They proceed to mock not just a little group of misguided souls, but Christianity and faith as a whole.
No, it doesn't help a lot to say you never took it seriously. It isn't a very satisfying answer to the skeptic for us to say nutty things happen in religion, just as in every other arena of life — think politics, for example! The person who is looking to slam and discredit Christianity has just been given some more ammunition.
This particular round of nonsense started with a California guy who had a radio program. He used his platform in 2011 to predict the end of the world on May 21, 2011. When that failed, he moved his date forward to October of the same year. When that one flopped, he did the honorable thing. He retired.
Then McCann picked it up. He did some more deep, scholarly research into the mysteries of God. Then, aha, he figured it out! The correct date for the end of the world would be October 7, 2015. "There's a strong likelihood that this will happen," he said. Then, for the sake of wiggle-room, he added: "Which means there's an unlikely possibility that it will not."
I haven't heard from this would-be oracle in the aftermath of his failure. We can only hope he follows in the tradition of his mentor and retires.
Yes, I believe the world will come to a sudden, screeching halt someday when Jesus returns to keep his promise about a new Heaven and a new Earth. I also believe his words about that event:
But about that day or hour no one knows, neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. Beware, keep alert; for you do not know when the time will come (Mark 13:32-33).
You'd think that Jesus' words would be enough to settle it. Unfortunately, the people who can't be satisfied with Jesus' words are both discrediting and dishonoring him. Let's be ready for Jesus' sudden coming. Let's also help others come to know Jesus before his return. But let's also be careful not to overclaim and end up dishonoring the Lord whom we await while pushing doubters further from his grace.