Scripture: Acts 1:6-11
Sermon: “So Now, Mr. Camping, When is Judgment Day?” by Pastor Todd Buurstra
Sunday before last, a Joyful Noise singer wrote a prayer thankgiving that the world didn’t blow up! That’s his reaction to God’s world continuing beyond 5/21 at 6 PM, what was yours?
I had many emotions. I was angry that Harold Camping follower Robert Fitzpatrick had been swindled out of his $140K life savings for a lie. I was embarrassed that Fitzpatrick was jeered at in Times Square, and that certified atheists offered Pet Care services to Christians in danger of the rapture. And I felt guilty we let Camping do this by not doing our job—more later.
So now, Mr. Camping, when is Judgment Day?! Unfortunately, like my GPS when I ignore its predictions, he is recalculating. It’s now October 21, 2011, the third date this Christian radio mogul has predicted. Not unlike Jesus’ disciples who asked just before liftoff,…
But Jesus replied, in verse 7… In other words, dating the end is not our job. Rather than Fitzpatrick’s billboards I’m more of the mindset of this billboard…That was awkward. No one knows the day or the hour! In Acts 1:7 we see that the Father alone has authority to date the end. Jesus isn’t even given that authority, and certainly not you, me or Harold.
But Harold was an engineer fascinated with numbers, which led to numerology, and before you know it, he was proclaiming over his NPR-sized radio empire the date of doomsday. He determined that Noah’s flood happened in 4990 BCE, and that Genesis implies in code that God will return a week after the flood, and since Peter tells us a day is like a 1000 years to the Lord, that’s 7000 years, which when added to 4990 BCE, somehow comes to 2011. And then there was a complex equation built on the supposed day of Jesus’ crucifixion of April 1, 33 CE adding 722,500 days, though he now says he was 5 months off, and Voila! May 21, 6 PM.
But how Harold dates the end, thereby denying Jesus’ words, is less important than why. I hate to infer a money-making scheme, though I’m cynical, I’ll be kinder and assume his motive is certainty. He disliked mystery and craved certainty, replacing God’s question mark with an !
So while dating the end is not our job, expecting the end is. Verse 11… Jesus will return. The Bible doesn’t say that Jesus may return, or that he’s thinking about returning, or that he’s taking a poll to return. It says, Jesus will return. Time will come to an end. Reincarnation is cyclical time, God’s time is linear. Judgment day will happen when God restores his creation.
But how many of you can honestly claim to think about Jesus’ return, say, at least once a week? Raise your hand. Not very many of us. And this is our part in developing whackos like Harold. Not expecting Christ’s return leaves a vacuum, and since nature abhors a vacuum, the field is wide open for daters. And not only does our lack of expectation leave a vacuum for nuts, it leaves a vacuum at the end of God’s story. Without Christ’s return, the Bible reads like a story without an ending. Like some sermons you’ve heard. And for my 17th point… Argg! God’s story has a happy ending when Jesus returns to bring heaven to earth. It’s the climax of the story!
Expecting the end helps us to do our job. What is our job? Verse 8… To be Jesus’ witnesses. How does expecting the end help us do this job? It gives us power in two ways. First, if you think you’re just an accident of evolution, you are insignificant. But if you believe God’s story, that you are Jesus’ bride for whom he will return, you are significant. And that gives you power. Secondly, his return gives your mission power because it makes it urgent. Your co-workers are thirsty to see honesty in action. Your lockermate is hungry to hear you share your story about Jesus. Your children want to see how much God loves them through you.
So, we don’t know Jesus’ date, but if we still expect it, God’s real job will get done!
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