Is the world about to end?

It is, if you ask “Christian numerologist” David Meade. Sadly, people in news media apparently don’t have enough else to report on. Two disastrous hurricanes with another coming, a shouting match over nuclear weapons in North Korea, right-wing white supremacists, and left-wing Antifa provocateurs are just not enough to sustain people’s attention, I guess.

Mr. Meade has made headlines with his predictions that the end of the world will occur on September 23. Since you are reading this, it should be pretty obvious that he was wrong. But that should come as no surprise. Crackpots and earnest prophets, popes and psychics, radio evangelists and Hasidic Jews have been announcing the end for centuries. But here we are.

William Miller gathered tens of thousands of followers in the eastern United States in the 1830s with his visions of the end, which he foretold would come in 1843. When nothing happened, he revised his numbers and confidently predicted March of 1844. Nothing. Well, April then. Nothing. His followers’ last stand was October 22, 1844, the absolute certain end of the world. Nothing. What ensued was called by the Millerites “The Great Disappointment.” Indeed. Still, quite a few people believed Miller was right. They found rationalizations for his dates and kept plugging along. One spinoff was the Bahai faith, and another was Ellen White, whose followers are known today as the Seventh Day Adventists. The Jehovah’s Witnesses, too, are big into predictions and have laid their credibility on the line with end-of-world predictions for 1914, 1925, and most recently 1975.

The turn of the millennium in 2000 generated a rash of anxiety and prophecy, but life went on. Radio evangelists Harold Camping and his organization spent millions of dollars advertising 2011 as the end. Nothing. Occult fans were certain that the Mayan calendar foresaw the end in 2012. Nothing. Mr. Meade is just getting some free publicity and is a celebrity for a few days. Hopefully he will disappear after his predictions fail.

Why do people keep trying to guess the end? An even bigger question: Why does anybody pay these “prophets” the slightest bit of attention? I suppose it’s because people are stressed out right now. Constant digital disruptions of technology, business, and jobs; the blowing up of traditional ideas about gender, sexuality, and marriage; a string of natural disasters; and the specter of nuclear conflict with the hermit dictatorship of North Korea has people on edge, which makes them more susceptible to apocalyptic “prophecies.”

Jesus told his disciples that people would not be able to resist trying to forecast his return: “But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come. But understand this: If the owner of the house had known at what time of night the thief was coming, he would have kept watch and would not have let his house be broken into. So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him” (Matthew 24:36, 42-44).

Rather than trying to guess which self-appointed prophet of the Lord may have the right date, I’d suggest choosing to be ready right now. The Lord isn’t telling anybody when he will return, so prepare yourself right now. Repent of your many sins and take responsibility for them. Dump them at the foot of Jesus’ cross and claim the forgiveness he bought at the price of his own life. Work hard and plan for a long life, but live as though this day were your last.

Pastor Mark Jeske has been bringing the Word of God to viewers of Time of Grace since the program began airing in late 2001. A Milwaukee native, Pastor Jeske has served as the senior pastor at St. Marcus, a multicultural congregation on Milwaukee’s near north side since 1980. In addition, he is the author of six books and dozens of devotional booklets on various topics.

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