Another Day, Another Doomsday Prediction

Harold Camping Billboard
Photo via the <a href="http://www.csmonitor.com/Science/2011/1019/Harold-Camping-predicts-the-end-of-the-world.-Again.">Christian Science Monitor</a>

2 Peter 3:8-15a

Friends, don’t ignore the fact that for Jesus, one day is like a thousand years and a thousand years is only a day. Jesus isn’t putting off making good on his promise as some say. On the contrary, he’s patiently waiting for you to get your act together and change your lives rather than have you die. But the day of Jesus’ return will come like a thief. The sky will fall with a terrible bang, and the very elements will dissolve back into pure energy, and the earth and everything that’s happened on it will be laid bare.

So given that everything will be dissolved this way, what sort of people are you going to be? Shouldn’t you be religious and godly? Shouldn’t you wait for it, and meanwhile do everything you can to make it come sooner? Because that day the sky will burn down and everything solid will melt in flame. Even so, according to Jesus’ promise, we wait for a new heaven and earth where justice is the norm.

So, friends, while you are waiting for all this to happen, make an effort so that when he comes he’ll find you at peace, without any bad spots or rot. And think of Jesus’ delay as your opportunity to be saved.

This passage was written only a couple generations after Jesus to explain why the end of the world had not yet come, and to reassure the faithful that it would. By now according to this reckoning, we’re just into day 3. Still, it’s a long time and we haven’t yet got our act together. Between this early attempt to warn people of the imminent return of Jesus and this advent season, there have been hundreds of predictions and warnings. Two of them made the news in the past year alone. And we still have to get through another next month (December 21).

Sure, nothing lasts forever. But more often than not, and even in this early example, the threat of the end comes off as a desperate manipulation of desperate people’s fear. Even the promise of a new creation in which “justice is the norm” begs the question, “Whose justice?” And the coming of that “justice” with violence, and the encouragement that believers ought to do what they can to hasten it easily leads to a “kill ’em all and let God sort it out” attitude. A far cry from Jesus’ teaching.

2000 years later, it’s not too late to change your life. But please, do it because its the right thing to do. Not because you’re afraid of getting caught with your pants down when the divine SWAT team shows up at 3 am.