1But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. 2People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, 3without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, 4treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God– 5having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with such people….14But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it — 2 Timothy 3: 1-5; 14
Judgment Day: May 21, 2011. The entire world knows by now it did not happen. Ronald Camping, the 89-year old head of Family Radio, a California-based Christian radio network, predicted that on the sunset of May 21st, a catastrophic global earthquake shall take place. It will be immediately followed by the rapture. The rapture, as described in Matthew 24, is the event when all the believers of Christ shall be taken up into the heaven in a flash, in a twinkling of an eye.
Camping came up with his prediction using a complex mathematical formula derived from scriptures, and linked to a date exactly 7,000 years earlier when God destroyed the world during the time of Noah.
Furthemore, he claimed that five months after May 21, 2011 — on Oct. 21, the world will finally come to an end as stated in scriptures.
As reported, there were people who believed. Some left their jobs, sold their properties, and poured it in their entire life savings to support a massive global advertising campaign warning people of an impending doom that never happened.
I do want to go into biblical computations or complex theological arguments on times and dates. After all, Christ himself settled that issue in Matthew 24:36 when he said that “… no one really knows the hour or the day that the end of the world shall happen”. Instead, he just admonished his disciples in verse 44 to be “faithful and be ready”.
Jesus is right. He always is. Whether we die before the end of the world or actually see the end of the world take place before our eyes, one thing is certain: any which way or time, we will all have to say goodbye to our earthly life and meet with the Lord face to face.
Our scripture reading today is lifted from Apostle Paul’s prophetic admonition to Timothy that in the last days, before the Lord comes again, wickedness shall assert its greatest power upon the world, destroying everything along it path — personal and individual lives, relationships and families, institutions, communities, nations, and the entirety of God’s creation.
The Church, men and women who profess to believe in Christ, are not spared. In July 2010, a book titled Almost Christian was published by Kenda Creasy Dean, a minister and female professor at Princeton Theological Seminary.
The book discusses, among others, the disturbing trend in the popularity of “do-good; feel-good spirituality” among the young people in the US today. She argues that many of these young Christians are embracing a “watered-down faith that portrays God as a ‘divine therapist’ whose chief goal is to boost people’s self-esteem”.
Certainly, this is not just a problem of western churches or of the youth. It is a very serious concern that should be looked at by every believer in these last days — and that includes, most importantly, pastors and clergy like myself. After all, as Jesus said, “The blind cannot lead the blind. They will just both fall into the pit.” (Luke 6:39)
Paul has warned his spiritual son, Timothy, that because of the increase of wickedness in human hearts, people will simply be lovers of nothing, and no one but themselves, appearing to have a form of superficial godliness that is empty of genuine sincerity and truth.
This is the very reason why Jesus gave a stern but much- needed word of discipline in Matthew 23:2 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of the bones of the dead and everything unclean.”
How frank and straightforward the words of Christ are. Less we get sidetracked by the computations and debates on times and days of the end of the world, the Holy Spirit is inviting us instead to focus our strengths and energies on the greater battles that we need to be fighting in these days of sin — the battle for authenticity, the battle for truth, the battle to proclaim the true Gospel of the true Christ who is not a “divine therapist” obligated to make us feel good but the Lord, Savior and God.
As Paul admonishes Timothy on the increase of sin in the last days, he also encourages him with one single but very powerful word of advise: Continue. In verse 14, we read, “As for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of…”
“To continue” means to go in a specific course of action without interruption or delay. “To continue” means to persist, to carry on, to prolong, to stay focused, to be determined. “To continue” does not mean that we just keep the status quo, or be on maintenance mode; “to continue” means to grow steadily; to improve and develop; and to increase genuinely in our level of faith and service to God and others.
Apostle Paul knew exactly what he was talking about. The followers of Christ then were but a very small minority. Apostle Paul knew that it was not going to be a walk in the park for them.
Two thousand years later today, we, too, wonder like Paul and Timothy, How can we remain steadfast in Christ in such a time as this when it is easy to just be “almost Christian”? How can we ensure our allegiance to Christ and his Word when it only takes 30 pieces of silver to buy our loyalty?
I do not have the answers to all these. But what I know is that in the long end, the Lord sees our hearts. It is useless to mock and pretend before the Lord. God knows those who are sincere and faithful in living his Word. The Lord knows those who are real — not perfect, not sinless, not better than everyone else — but those whose hearts are surrendered, submitted, and determined to walk in Christ every step of the way despite all their flaws and imperfections.
Unfortunately for him, Camping might actually have to face some big lawsuits, some are saying. His name has been tarnished, his ministry and reputation destroyed. He has “retracted” his prediction, claiming a “miscalculation”. Judgment Day has been “moved” to Oct. 21, 2011.
God have mercy on him and on many others who have yet to understand the complexity and deep accountability of being God’s prophet in these crucial days.
But God have greater mercy on us who have yet to realize there is really nothing to mock or laugh about. The end is inevitable — we don’t know the time or the hour, but it shall surely come.
Continue in Christ. Hold on tightly to him like never before. Be ready. Be real. Be faithful. Be warned.