How do you know you are finally growing up as a Christian?
In his letter to the Ephesians, the apostle Paul gives us a crucial bench mark of spiritual maturity.
And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ,
till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ;
that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting (Ephesians 4:11-14)
Paul’s measurement of maturity?
That is, that we aren’t blown away by “every wind of doctrine” that comes down the pike.
One of the more predictable heretical hurricanes I have seen stir things up among believers is when someone makes the breathless prediction – “I know when Jesus is coming back!”
It’s not a new phenomenon, and hang on to your hats, the same ill wind is getting ready to blow again.
10 Failed Doomsday Predictions
With the upcoming disaster film “2012” and the current hype about Mayan calendars and doomsday predictions, it seems like a good time to put such notions in context.
Most prophets of doom come from a religious perspective, though the secular crowd has caused its share of scares as well. One thing the doomsday scenarios tend to share in common: They don’t come to pass.
Among the top 10 the article describes were:
The Prophet Hen of Leeds, 1806
History has countless examples of people who have proclaimed that the return of Jesus Christ is imminent, but perhaps there has never been a stranger messenger than a hen in the English town of Leeds in 1806. It seems that a hen began laying eggs on which the phrase “Christ is coming” was written. As news of this miracle spread, many people became convinced that doomsday was at hand – until a curious local actually watched the hen laying one of the prophetic eggs and discovered someone had hatched a hoax.
Mormon Armageddon, 1891 or earlier
Joseph Smith, founder of the Mormon church, called a meeting of his church leaders in February 1835 to tell them that he had spoken to God recently, and during their conversation he learned that Jesus would return within the next 56 years, after which the End Times would begin promptly.
This end of the world fascination isn’t the sole property of the spiritually minded. For the more high-tech among us:
Y2K, Jan. 1, 2000
As the last century drew to a close, many people grew concerned that computers might bring about doomsday. The problem, first noted in the early 1970s, was that many computers would not be able to tell the difference between 2000 and 1900 dates. No one was really sure what that would do, but many suggested catastrophic problems ranging from vast blackouts to nuclear holocaust. Gun sales jumped and survivalists prepared to live in bunkers, but the new millennium began with only a few glitches.
And, of course, for the supermarket tabloid/insomniacs among us:
Heaven’s Gate, 1997
When comet Hale-Bopp appeared in 1997, rumors surfaced that an alien spacecraft was following the comet – covered up, of course, by NASA and the astronomical community. Though the claim was refuted by astronomers (and could be refuted by anyone with a good telescope), the rumors were publicized on Art Bell’s paranormal radio talk show “Coast to Coast AM.” These claims inspired a San Diego UFO cult named Heaven’s Gate to conclude that the world would end soon. The world did indeed end for 39 of the cult members, who committed suicide on March 26, 1997.
There is a reason why these kinds of predictions have a way of showing up with the same delightful regularity as flu season or tax day – people fall for them.
They pack pews.
They sell books.
They fill theaters.
And like any other false doctrine it takes two essential components to spread like wild fire.
A deceive-er and a deceiv-ee.
How can we make sure we aren’t on the losing end of this time-tested recipe for spiritual disaster?
Three quick suggestions.
Don’t Ignore the Obvious
Jesus did promise to return. But also said that no one would be able to predict the day and hour.
Watch therefore, for you do not know what hour your Lord is coming. But know this, that if the master of the house had known what hour the thief would come, he would have watched and not allowed his house to be broken into. Therefore you also be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect. (Matthew 24:42-44)
If you hear a supposed Bible teacher try to do a song and dance around this clear statement (“Yes! But He didn’t say we couldn’t know the minute or the second!”) run, don’t walk out of there – or change the channel.
Put Your Faith in the Right Place
Make sure you are getting your perspective on prophecy from a consistently credible source.
Now, brethren, concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our gathering together to Him, we ask you, not to be soon shaken in mind or troubled, either by spirit or by word or by letter, as if from us, as though the day of Christ had come. (II Thessalonians 2:1-2)
Even during the time of Paul there were people putting out predictions that were at odds with Scripture. The same is true today.
I have seen more than one so-called prophet with a national television ministry lay as big an egg as that chicken from Leeds.
It’s not wrong to get input on prophecy from Christian media. But just because someone makes a statement on the air doesn’t make it true.
Don’t Throw the Baby Out With the Bath Water
False prophets and publicity loving teachers of dubious integrity have caused some to become cynical about the whole notion that Jesus will return for His people.
Coming to the conclusion that Jesus’ Second Coming is something for the Christian Chicken Little set is something the Bible says we need to guard against.
Watch therefore, for you do not know when the master of the house is coming—in the evening, at midnight, at the crowing of the rooster, or in the morning— lest, coming suddenly, he find you sleeping. And what I say to you, I say to all: Watch!” (Mark 13:35-37)
Living each day with the solidly Biblical perspective that Jesus reserves the right to catch us up into His presence at any moment is a powerful motivation for consistency and excitement in our walk with the Lord.
I have yet to meet a person who truly believed that Jesus could come at any moment who was bored or on cruise control in their Christian life.
Yes, there will continue to be outlandish predictions of “Doomsday” from both secular and spiritual sources.
And yes, there will be those charlatans and hucksters who will try to use these predictions to build their own spiritual empires.
But those who know the Lord and love Him will continue to look for His return like well-loved children anticipating the arrival of their parent at the end of the day.
And the rewards for living out that kind of balanced perspective will be great.
For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing. (II Timothy 4:6-8)
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