The World Ends Next Tuesday

It feels that no day goes by without someone announcing that they can predict the end of the world. It’s next Tuesday at 5 pm. Those predictions come with a deluge of bible verses that allegedly prove the point. And then doomsday comes, and the sun sets on another failed doomsday prophet. The predictions would almost be funny if these questionable bible interpretations were not believed by so many people.

The most used phrase in the bible is: “Do NOT be afraid. If you only take one verse of the bible seriously, let it be this one. “Do NOT be afraid.” God will never cast you aside or leave you behind.

People always struggled to reconcile God’s plan with what they think God’s plan should be. In Jesus’ time, the Messiah was expected to be a military leader who defeated the Romans, restored Israel’s national independence and reinstated God as proper sovereign. Jesus obviously failed to deliver on human expectations. Instead of defeating the Romans, he died on a Roman cross. That forced the early followers of Jesus to question everything they believed. Working through the questions of who Jesus is was the beginning of the church.

That Jesus would soon return was one of the core ideas the first Christians struggled with. The earliest writings of the New Testament are the letters of St. Paul. We read that the Christian community expected Jesus’ imminent return and the end of history. The early Christians were mostly slaves or dwelled at the bottom of the social order. Very few of them were people of means. They hoped that Jesus’ return and his judgment of the world would bring long overdue justice. Christ would right all wrongs and deal with the immense amount of injustice that was their daily reality. They were convinced that they would not see death before those end times would come to pass.

Since that time doomsday prophets roam the land and predict the end times. They see signs of doom everywhere. The collapse of the Roman empire and the invasion of Germanic tribes were interpreted as clear indications that the end was near. And so were the conquest of the Huns, the black death, droughts, wars, dynastic squabbles, and each and every comet. That’s no different today. Uncomfortable with modernity, equality, and an increasingly diverse society some people see signs of doom. However, Christian history makes one thing abundantly clear. Doomsday prophets were always wrong. Those who walk in their footsteps today will also be disappointed.

Do NOT be afraid! God is a God of life and not a God of doom. God’s judgment is the inbreaking of justice that will lift up those that the world and many Christians despise and reject. God is a creative force that always guides humanity on the way to create a world that is more loving, more inclusive and more just. God wants to be approached with awe; and not with fear to be cast aside or left behind. The kingdom of God is a place where there is room for everybody. It is not a place where some gloat and others are tortured, because that is the world we already have. It took St. Paul decades to refine his theology. In the end he was convinced that “neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:38

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Olaf Baumann

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