So the world didn’t come to an end last night. Jesus didn’t return. Armageddon didn’t begin. (But you already knew that, didn’t you?)
The doomsday prophets were wrong.
Just like they’ve been every single time.
In the last decade alone, we’ve had multiple predictions of the Lord’s return. Jack Van Impe said 2012 would be the year. Harold Camping said 2011 (twice), after his 1994 prediction turned out to be bunk. Ronald Weinstein predicted his return as being in 2011, 2012, and 2013, though I suspect he gave up making predictions after being imprisoned for tax evasion.
Ed Dobson, Jerry Falwell, Timothy Dwight, and Isaac Newton1 were all wrong. Irenaeus got it wrong, too. The Blood Moon crowd—John Hagee and Mark Blitz—are just a couple more names to add to the list. Why?
Because the Bible says so.
If no one knows, no one knows
The Bible is quite explicit about a number of things involving the second coming of Christ. But chief among them is that no one knows when it’s going to happen. Consider what Paul wrote in 2 Thessalonians 2:1-3, before going on to explain some of what to expect at the end:
Now concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered together to him, we ask you, brothers, not to be quickly shaken in mind or alarmed, either by a spirit or a spoken word, or a letter seeming to be from us, to the effect that the day of the Lord has come. Let no one deceive you in any way.
Paul was writing to a group of believers who were losing hope because there were false prophets running about not just saying that they knew exactly when Jesus would return, but that they’d already missed it. The Thessalonians had been… Left Behind.™
So Paul wrote to say, ignore the knuckleheads. Ignore these deceivers. Have nothing to do with them. “Let no one deceive you in any way.” The end had not yet come—and there was no way it could be missed.
Similarly, Jesus said that he would not return until the gospel had been proclaimed among all the nations (Matthew 24:14). When that happens—and as a necessary consequence, all who would believe would be saved have been saved—judgment will come. Then there’s wars, and rumors of wars, and natural disasters… All of which are “the beginning of the birth pains” (Matthew 24:5-8).
But the end is not yet, Jesus said.
Instead, the end comes like a thief in the night, at a time when no one expects it. When no one is, apparently, looking for it or predicting it. For, “concerning that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only”(Matthew 24:36).
No one knows, Jesus said. Not the angels, not even Jesus himself. Only the Father knows.
And if no one knows, no one knows. Thus, everyone who says they know is wrong. So have nothing to do with them.
What do we do with doomsday prophets?
While some doomsday prophets, charitably speaking, may be overzealous fellow believers whose fanciful speculations reach beyond the limits of good sense,2 many are something far worse. They are not prophets, but peddlers of God’s Word, twisting the Bible for their own agendas.3 They are ones who are devoted to “irreverent, silly myths” (1 Timothy 4:7). They ignite “foolish, ignorant controversies” about things which they cannot know (2 Timothy 2:23). They are blaspheming the Lord to think that they know what he has explicitly said they cannot know. And make no mistake, the Lord does not take such things lightly.
So far, every person who has ever predicted when Jesus would return, and lived to see they were wrong, has had to repent, revise or retreat (though some choose to double down and embrace life as a cult leader). Their hoopla is nothing more than a distraction from the mission we have of proclaiming the gospel among all nations. Of seeing people come to know and love the Lord Jesus, to be given new life through his death and resurrection and by his Spirit, so that when the day of the Lord does come, they will be counted among the redeemed who will live with him forevermore.
So don’t give in to distraction. Have nothing to do with foolish and fanciful speculation—and those who propagate it (Titus 3:10). No good will come from giving them an ear. For we know the truth: No one knows when Jesus will return. No one but the Father.
Wait expectantly, for he will come when you least expect it. And while you wait, ignore anyone who says they know when.