Offer Them Christ
The Weblog Of J.F. Howard

What if The World Really Does End In 2012?

Luke 21:25-36

25 “There will be signs in the sun, the moon, and the stars, and on the earth distress among nations confused by the roaring of the sea and the waves. 26 People will faint from fear and foreboding of what is coming upon the world, for the powers of the heavens will be shaken. 27 Then they will see “the Son of Man coming in a cloud’ with power and great glory. 28 Now when these things begin to take place, stand up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.”

            A couple of months ago our family decided spontaneously to go see a movie one night. Everyone was home together for the first time in several weeks and we wanted to do something as a family. So off to the movie we went.

            Before our feature film started, we were treated as usual, to a number of previews of upcoming movies. One preview in particular, caught my attention. It was for a movie I had not heard of before, called “2012.” In just a few moments of the preview I got the basic idea behind the film’s plot.

            In a nutshell the plot is something like this: the Mayans, an ancient people now extinct, were well known for their astronomy and calendar making. Though they lived long ago, they formulated accurate calendars for periods long after their people became extinct. But the Mayan calendars abruptly end on December 21, 2012. According to Mayan belief, the world will enter some type of planetary chaos on that day that will bring the world as we know it to an end.

            Then the movie preview showed a few action scenes of buildings and monuments across the planet falling apart, and mixed in the usual drama of the hero trying to save his family, and…well, you get the idea.

            It looked like quite an action packed film!

            Then, just a few days later I was channel surfing one evening and I came across a show on the History Channel about Nostradamus, the 16th-century French apothecary who, some claim foresaw everything from the rise of Napoleon to the terrorist attack on September 11, 2001. Can you guess what is coming next?

            Yes, that’s right, the show on the History Channel said that Nostradamus predicted that the world will come to a cataclysmic end in the year 2012.

            So I started asking myself, “Do you think anyone is buying all this 2012 doomsday talk?”

            Do you know if you Google “December 21, 2012” you will get nearly 7 million hits? If you do the same search on Amazon.com you will find more than 400 books on the subject.

            It seems like there is a lot of interest in this date, and a growing sense of anxiety about it as well.

            All of this got me thinking about some questions…

Could the world really end on December 21, 2012?

What does the Bible say about the end of the world?

How do you prepare for the end?

            So what are believers in Jesus Christ to think about all of this?

            And what did Jesus teach about this subject?

            Does our faith have anything to offer that gives hope in times of uncertainty?

            Jesus talked a lot about His coming again. In fact, each year we celebrate “Advent” a season of 4 Sundays leading up to Christmas. “Advent” is a word that means “coming.” Advent is a time for us to think about, and prepare for, the coming of Jesus Christ.

            This seems like a great time for a series ripped right out of a Hollywood movie script: “Will the world end in 2012? What the Bible says.”

            That’s what I want us to think about in this teaching.

            So what does Jesus say about the end?

            In Luke 21, Jesus tells us two important truths. The first is this: one day, there will be an end.”

            Just as creation has a beginning, so it will one day come to an end.

            Jesus describes this end in terms of a cosmic cataclysm:

            The sun, moon, and stars will be affected: the sun will stop shining, the moon will no longer be seen, the planets will be shaken. On earth the nations will be in distress. All of creation will be in chaos and confusion.

            Jesus teaches us that the end will cause people to have one of two responses.

The first way is this:

1) I can respond with fear, foreboding, and fainting.

Luke 21:26

26 “People will faint from fear and foreboding of what is coming upon the world, for the powers of the heavens will be shaken.”

            Some people will see the end approaching and will be afraid.

            The reason people fear the end is because they are unprepared.

            Jesus taught His followers to live ready for His return, and not be caught off guard.

            Jesus told His followers His return would bring redemption and justice. They were to look forward to His coming again.

            Those who were not prepared for Jesus’ return would greet His arrival with fear, foreboding, and fainting in terror.

            Jesus used a word for “fainting” that means hyperventilating and passing out due to anxiety.

            Jesus said when He returns, some folks will see Him, have a panic attack, and faint dead away.

            Some will respond to the chaos of the end with fear. Have you ever noticed how quickly people respond in times of uncertainty and chaos, with fear?

            When I was in school, from time to time the teachers would say, “Clean off your desk, put your books away, and get out a clean sheet of paper. We are going to have a pop quiz.”

            I learned over time that I greeted this news in two very distinct ways.

            If I had not been studying regularly like I should have, I would feel a sense of dread come over me. I’d get a little queasy feeling in the pit of my stomach. I knew that the teacher was about to discover I was unprepared for a test. But if I heard the teacher announce a pop quiz and I had been keeping up with the reading and reviewing my notes, then I looked forward to the test. The teacher was about to discover that I was ready for an exam.

            Whether or not we look forward to the test depends on how ready we are for it!

            So, let’s be honest: Is there anything to this Mayan calendar theory of the end of the world?

            The truth is, the Mayan “long count calendar” does end in December 2012. This is the time that the ancient Mayans believed would be the end of the present day cycle of creation.     

            The Mayans were in fact very accurate in their calendar making and their skills in astronomy. They charted planetary movements with skill that was unmatched until the invention of the telescope, and to some degree, not until the 20th century.

But all this begins to break down when we realize that even though the Mayan calendar ends in December of 2012, they never said this was the sign of the end of the world, or the beginning of any cataclysmic disasters.

            Maybe it is. Maybe it isn’t. The Mayans didn’t say either way.

            When people get caught up in the latest predictions of “the end of time” it is usually the result of a society experiencing anxiety and uncertainty. When people become uneasy about their lives—their world—their future, they often begin to panic and start to think “the end is near.”

            In 2004 there was a massive and destructive tsunami in Indonesia. It caused a temporary, world-wide sense of uneasiness. People began to ask, “What is the possibility of a tsunami hitting my nation? Could this be the end of the world?” The recent economic downturn has brought reports of the end of the world as we know it. And all we have to do is think back to how we felt on September 11, 2001 when we saw planes flying into the World Trade Center, and you know right away that anxious feeling of vulnerability that swept our nation.

            Today fear seems to be the controlling factor in our society. But the time was, when people faced fear with faith.

            Listen again to these words from Psalm 46 that has brought comfort and hope to people for generations:

1 God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. 2 Therefore we will not fear, though the earth should change, though the mountains shake in the heart of the sea; 3 though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble with its tumult. {Psalm 46:1-3}

 

            To make sure we clearly hear what Jesus is saying, it is important to remember Jesus said two things about the end.

            The first is that as creation has a beginning, so creation will have an end. The second truth Jesus has for us is this: After the end, comes a new beginning!

            God’s good news in Jesus Christ is this: There is beginning, ending, followed by new beginning.

            Jesus said in Luke 21:28 when we see signs of the end, “Stand up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.”

            Redemption. A new beginning. A fresh start. The old is taken and transformed into something totally new.

            There is another way to face an uncertain future, even the end of the world as we know it—without fear.

            Jesus teaches us a second possible response to the end:

2) I can respond with faith.

Luke 21:28

28 “Now when these things begin to take place, stand up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.”

            Jesus says that at the time when it looks like everything in all of creation is shaking and coming apart, that is when we swill see the Son of Man coming with power and great glory” (Luke 21:27).

            So how would you respond if you knew that when it gets as bad as it can get, that’s when you’ll find Jesus there?

            Jesus challenges us to look to the end not through the eyes of foreboding and fear, but through the eyes of expectant faith.

            Fear looks at the end as doom and gloom.

            Faith looks at the end as the beginning of redemption.

            Redemption is a word that pictures restraints breaking, chains unlocking, doors opening, and bondage ending.

            Some will see the end as a time of collapse; others will see in the same event a time of release and renewal.

            A few weeks ago was the start of basketball season in our house. The coach of the opposing team on opening night was a pastor that I know. For weeks before the beginning of the season he had told me how big his team was, and how good they were going to be. He even sent an intimidating email to the other coach describing how much more superior his team was to any others around.

            So I was looking forward with great interest for the season to begin so I could see with my own eyes this outstanding basketball team of giant all-stars.

            When the game ended, the giant all-stars had lost, and lost significantly. They were clearly unprepared for the game.

            When the final buzzer sounded, I noticed two very different reactions by the two different teams.

            The team that won raised their arms in excitement, clapped their hands in joy, and held their heads up high.

            The losing team lowered their heads and slumped their shoulders in defeat.

            The buzzer sounding the game’s end brought two completely opposite reactions.

            That that had been prepared was victorious. They were glad at the final buzzer.

            Those who were unprepared were defeated. They were upset at the final buzzer.

            Jesus tells us that one day the final buzzer will sound, and the game will be over.

            For some, the end of the game will be a time of terror, where hearts will faint in defeat. For others, the end of the game will be a time of great joy and celebration.

            So will you face the end in fear, or faith?

            Will the end find you unprepared or ready?

            Will it be a time to bow your head in shame, or raise your head in hope?

            Do you remember watching the TV show “The Price Is Right?” From 1972 until 2007 (September 1972 to June 2007; his last new episode aired on June 15, 2007) Bob Barker hosted this show where contestants try to guess the price of various types of products.

            Do you remember how the show gets the contestants they need? The announcer calls their names and says, “Come on down.” What happens next? The folks whose names are called, stand up, look up, and start jumping up and down because they have been chosen to play the game.

            Jesus says some will view the end with fainting, foreboding, and fear, but others will see it as a time when Jesus is about to do something great. For those, who look forward to the future in faith, Jesus’ return will be like hearing their name called on “The Price Is Right!” It will be a time to jump up, look up, and come running forward toward our redemption!

            Will the world end on December 21, 2012?

            I don’t know. No one, not even the Mayans know.

            This I do know: One day for each of us, the world will end. One day, Jesus will come for each of us.

            The most important question I can think of it: Are you ready today, for the end, no matter when it comes?

            Are you prepared for Jesus’ return?

            On that day, will you face it with fear or faith?

            I think the way you settle this notion of whether the world ends in 2012 and Jesus returns, or not, is simple. You get ready now, and you live ready. Then it does not matter when the end comes.

            How do you get ready, and live ready? You decide that you are going to look to Jesus. He is going to be your Source, your Strength, your Savior, and your Security!

            You decide to live by faith in Jesus, instead of fear of the future.

            You determine that when Jesus comes, you will raise up your head in victory, rather than hang your head in despair.

 

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