Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Why we will still be here on May 22, 2011

Some of you may have heard that Harold Camping, president of Family Radio, has predicted that the rapture will occur today, May 21, 2011. You know, setting dates for the return of Christ has always been a big temptation for students of apocalyptic scripture. It is tempting to study the prophecies, numbers, and symbols in Daniel and Revelation looking for a hidden answer predicting when Jesus will come. But if we are true to the Bible, if we seek the message of Christ’s words in Matthew 24 and 25 with an open heart, we will stop looking to predict the day of his return. Preparing for Jesus’ return has more to do with how we are to live our lives today.

Harold Camping predicts that the end of the world begins with the rapture on May 21, 2011 at exactly 6:00 p.m. Then, five months later, God will destroy the Earth and the universe. Some people laugh at Camping. Others wonder, “Could this be true?” Well, the answer is not found in blogs, posts, or interesting articles. The answer is found in Word of God.

So, what does the Bible say about the timing of Christ’s coming? Here are four passages from Scripture that guide us in understanding whether Camping’s prediction is true.

One: Matthew 24:36 says, “Of that day and hour no one knows, no, not even the angels of heaven, but My Father only.”
…The Bible tells us every effort we make to nail down the time for Christ’s return will fail.

Two: Luke 21:9 says, “Take heed that you not be deceived. For many will come in My name, saying, ‘I am He,’ and, ‘The time has drawn near.’ Therefore do not go after them.”
…The Bible warns us there are false prophets who attempt to predict the timing of Jesus’ coming.

Three: Matthew 24:44 says, “Therefore you also be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.”
…Scriptures tells us to watch and be ready because we do not know exactly when Christ will return (Luke 12:35-40, Matthew 24:50, 1 Thessalonians 5:6).

Four: Acts 1:6, 7 says, “Therefore, when they had come together, they asked Him, saying, ‘Lord, will You at this time restore the kingdom of Israel?’ And He said to them, ‘It is not for you to know times or seasons which the Father has put in His own authority.”
…God has not revealed when Jesus will come again. Our focus should not to be on time-setting, but on the mission God has given us.

Camping also predicts that the saints will be “raptured” while the wicked are left on this earth for five months and then destroyed. But, the Bible tells us that at the second coming of Christ the wicked will be destroyed, not left behind (see Revelation 6:16, 17; 2 Thessalonians 2:8; Revelation 19:20, 21).

Also, the Bible teaches that the wicked and righteous (tares and wheat) grow together until the harvest (Matthew 13:30). Then God’s people are saved and the unrighteous are lost.

The parables of Matthew 24 and 25 teach us that Jesus is coming soon, but at a time we do not exactly know, and that we should always be ready. It is not a test of our Christianity to know the specific time of Christ’s return.

Is Jesus’ coming soon? The Bible is certain that Christ will come again. The Scriptures point to signs in the natural world, in the religious world, and in the increase of wickedness on our planet. Jesus predicted, “And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come” (Matthew 24:14). Has this sign been completely fulfilled?

God calls us to be ready at all times. The best question to ask ourselves is “Am I ready?”

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Evolution and Creation

These days, there seems to be an ongoing debate in the Adventist church over whether the world was created in seven days or whether it took millions of years to occur. Two things concern me about this debate. One, is the volatility and anger I see and hear from those passionately defending their position, and two, is the way the discussion distracts us from focusing on what is most important.

Here is what I hear from many who I talk to. “Why does the debate even matter? Are we trying to prove that God exists, or that scientists are smarter than theologians? Scientists are notoriously wrong, inconsistent and not even of one opinion when given the same set of facts. I think the debate is just a distraction.”

What seems to be true is that those that accept the biblical account of creation do not need any further evidence that God is the Creator, and those that do not believe won’t be convicted by any arrogant “I know it all” argument. We will have all eternity to investigate this issue once Jesus has come. In the meantime, let us behave in a way that honors our God, and remember that God is more concerned about how we treat people than by what we know.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Thoughts on Osama bin Laden’s death

Mark Twain once said, "I have never wished a man dead, but I have read some obituaries with great pleasure."

Since the death of bin Laden (I found it interesting that he was buried out at sea) there has been a lot of rejoicing. I understand it and yet part of me wonders if there is a difference between us and the radicals who rejoiced over the falling of the Twin Towers. Anyway, as I listened to the news and all the talk show hosts and their elation, Ezekiel 33:11 popped into my mind:

As I live! declares the Lord God, I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that the wicked turn from his way and live.

Or, Proverbs 24:17, 18: Do not rejoice when your enemy falls, and do not let your heart be glad when he stumbles; Or the Lord will see it and be displeased, and turn His anger away from him.

As a Christ follower, I feel this tension between the thought that bin Laden deserved death and that justice was done (and that we ought to be happy about it) versus the idea that, as Christians, we should react another way…and that reacting another way is an opportunity to witness of God’s love. As Christians, we should be acknowledging the realities of this world, yet at the same time reacting and living in a way that honors God. This is part of the tension we as Christians are called to live with.

This quote made me think, “When God's people use and rejoice in the methods of this world's kingdoms, they become an obstacle between man and God, obscuring what God wants to make clear. We understand the world - we are from this world - but we want the world to see another way.”

Hmmm. Something to think about and wrestle with…