By REV. LUNA DINGAYAN
“The Lord is not slow to do what he has promised, as some think. Instead, he is patient with you, because he does not want anyone to be destroyed, but wants all to turn from their sins.” — II Peter 3:9
When the supposed doomsday did not happen last Saturday, May 21, 2011, as expected, Harold Camping, the self-proclaimed “prophet of doom” who scheduled the end of the world for the second time, was quick to quote II Peter 3:9 and explained to disappointed followers and unbelievers that God did not bring the world to an end simply because He is still giving chances to others to be ready for the real end on October 21, 2011. People, therefore, should not relax, but be ready for the coming of the real end few months from now.
Unlike Harold Camping, Apostle Peter did not schedule the Second Coming of our Lord. Rather he was simply responding to the sentiments of those who were growing weary and tired waiting for the Lord’s return. Thus, he wrote, “The Lord is not slow to do what he has promised, as some think. Instead, he is patient with you, because he does not want anyone to be destroyed, but wants all to turn away from their sins” (II Peter 3:9).
The doctrine of the last things called eschatology tells us that there are several things that would happen in the end times, namely: the tribulation, rupture, resurrection of the dead, judgment, reward and punishment, millennium, and the establishment of the Kingdom of God. All these things would constitute what we call the Christian hope. While it is true that all these things are supposed to happen in the future, no one except God alone knows exactly when these things would really happen (cf. Mt. 24:36). Hence, all those in history who attempted to play God and scheduled the end times, like Harold Camping, had miserably failed.
Function of Eschatology
While it is true that eschatology is emphasized by small Christian sects more than the mainline Christian churches, it is not without a significant function especially in critical times. Actually, eschatological doctrines developed in times of persecutions, sufferings and hopelessness, wherein people feel that history is controlled by evil forces, and that salvation and hope comes only by God’s intervention.
In the Old Testament, Prophet Isaiah envisioned a “new heavens and a new earth” (cf. Isaiah 65: 17-25) after the Israelites had gone through a difficult time under the Empires of Assyria and of Babylon. The Assyrian Empire destroyed the Northern Kingdom of Israel in 721 BCE, while the Babylonian Empire devastated the Southern Kingdom of Judah in 586 BCE. The Holy City of Jerusalem was in ruins, while the people were exiled to a foreign land. The future was dark and gloomy, and the people were living in hopelessness and despair.
And so, Prophet Isaiah’s proclamation was a message of hope in the midst of hopelessness.
Similarly, the vision of a “new heavens and a new earth” in the Book of Revelation (cf. Rev. 21:1-8) in the New Testament also emerged out of the context of state persecution of Christians under Emperor Domitian of the Roman Empire. The Early Christians were persecuted for refusing to worship the Emperor which was tantamount to rebellion. While the Empire declared the Emperor as Lord, the Christians firmly believed that Jesus Christ alone is Lord.
“The sea will be no more” says John the writer of the Book of Revelation (21:1), which means that the forces of evil will be overcome in the end with God’s intervention. The “sea” was believed to be the seat of evil powers. People believed at that time that the forces of evil were living in the depths of the sea. This was shown by the storms and big waves coming out of the sea which were believed to have been caused by evil forces living there. Of course, we have to understand that this is not a scientific explanation, but rather a mythological explanation of the world in the Biblical times.
Significance for our time
It is unfortunate that Harold Camping’s failed prediction had made the serious eschatological doctrines into a laughing stock of both believers and non-believers. The events of the end times should not be taken literally, but rather they should serve as our overriding vision in our efforts to make our world a better place to live in. They should motivate and challenge us to do more than what we are doing in overcoming the evil forces of graft and corruption, of judicial and extra-judicial killings, of injustices, poverty, and environmental degradation.
If we would like to hasten the coming of a new world and put an end to this evil world in which we live, then we have to take our mission work seriously. It is God who will bring the new world into a reality. But we are called upon to participate in this mission of God. God’s mission should be our mission.
We have to learn our lessons from the experiences of the Thessalonians. They thought that waiting for the Lord coming means lying idle and doing nothing. In fact, this was what Harold Camping and his followers did. They stopped working and sold their properties. And so, Apostle Paul had to correct these misimpressions and wrote to the Thessalonians saying, “Whoever refuses to work is not allowed to eat” (cf. 2 Thessalonians 3:6-15). # nordis.net