It’s September 24th and the World Didn’t Come to an End. Now What?
How can we make long-term plans that will last for generations if we have an escapist mentality?
Now that the latest date for the Second Coming and/or end of the world has come and gone, we need to ask ourselves some serious questions.
Why do we give any credence to these dates? Are we mistaking sensationalism for spirituality? And how can we make long-term plans that will last for generations if we have an escapist, “we’re out of here any minute” mentality?
If our Founding Fathers thought like this, we wouldn’t have a Constitution. If our early educators thought like this, we wouldn’t have many of our greatest universities. If the opponents of slavery thought like this, that insidious evil might still be with us.
Yes, I want to see Jesus come in my lifetime. But one thing I know: Every generation that set dates for His imminent return has been wrong so far. Perhaps we can learn something from this?
“Did I Miss Jesus?”
When I came to faith in late 1971 at the age of 16, there was a lot of talk about end-time prophecy. We were told that everything was falling into place and that Jesus would be returning soon … very soon … possibly any second. And when He returned, He would rapture out His faithful people — we would suddenly disappear — leaving the rest of the world to suffer seven years of hellish tribulation.
If my memory is correct, in the fall of 1972 or 1973 on the weekend when we set our clocks back an hour before going to sleep on Saturday night, I forgot to make the adjustment. Consequently, I showed up for Sunday school one hour early, and there was no one at our church building when I arrived. Oh no!
For a moment I thought to myself, “Jesus came back and I missed Him!”
What a dreadful thought this was, but it illustrates the way we lived back then: At any moment, sooner rather than later, Jesus would return and we would be gone.
When The 1970s Were The End
The most famous Christian book at that time was Hal Lindsey’s The Late Great Planet Earth, published in 1970. Based on Lindsey’s teachings, it seemed that everything that was happening in the world — from Israel to Europe to America — fit neatly into a prophesied end-time scheme. Surely the end was at hand! And that book, which sold tens of millions of copies, colored the thinking of many Christians during those years, especially evangelical Christians.
In fairness, Lindsey’s book did cause many people to realize that the Bible remained relevant to this day. And he was certainly right in stressing the importance of the reestablishment of the modern State of Israel. It’s also true that many people came to faith in Jesus as a result of reading The Late Great Planet Earth.
But Lindsey was 41 years old when the book was published. He turned 87 last year. I seriously doubt that he thought he would ever see his 60th birthday, let alone his 87th. Surely Jesus would return before then.
Left Behind or Leaving Behind?
More recently, Jerry Jenkins and Tim LaHaye teamed up to write the blockbuster Left Behind series, 16 novels which sold a total of more than 65 million copies. Unlike The Late Great Planet Earth, which attempted to interpret contemporary events in the light of Scriptures, these books were works of fiction.
But they espoused the same theology, thereby influencing another generation of readers. They were even made into films, with at least four movies based on Left Behind released to date. “We’re out of here any moment! The signs are all around us! Surely the end is near!”
Yet Dietrich Bonhoeffer said, “The ultimate test of a moral society is the kind of world that it leaves to its children.” Is this something that we consider? Or are we convinced that our generation will be the last?
“The ultimate test of a moral society is the kind of world that it leaves to its children.” — Dietrich Bonhoeffer
This short-term, short-sighted mentality stands in stark contrast with the biblical mentality: “[God] established a rule in Jacob; he set up a law in Israel. He commanded our ancestors to make his deeds known to their descendants, so that the next generation, children yet to be born, might know about them. They will grow up and tell their descendants about them. Then they will place their confidence in God. They will not forget the works of God, and they will obey his commands” (Ps. 78:5-7, NET).
I believe in living in readiness for the return of the Lord, with gives a sense of urgency and focus to all we do. But I also believe in pouring into the generations that will follow us if He doesn’t return soon. We can and should do both.
What, then, does it look like when we think in terms of multiple generations? What does it mean in our everyday lives?
It means that we invest in the next generation at least as much as we invest in the current generation.
It means that we work towards the success and wellbeing of our children and their children at least as much as we work towards our own success and wellbeing — and I mean “success and wellbeing” in the most positive, God-glorifying way.
It means that we consider the impact that our actions will have on those living today and those who will live tomorrow.
Contrast this with one of the saddest verses in the Bible: “Now Absalom in his lifetime had taken and set up for himself the pillar that is in the King’s Valley, for he said, ‘I have no son to keep my name in remembrance.’ He called the pillar after his own name, and it is called Absalom’s monument to this day” (2 Sam. 18:18; elsewhere, we read that Absalom had three sons, so we can assume they all died before he did).
His legacy ended with him. May ours not end with us.
(Excerpted and adapted from Saving a Sick America: A Prescription for Moral and Cultural Reformation.)