It’s happened again. The end of the world has been postponed, rescheduled, rained out, or miscalculated. I woke up this morning, May 21, and the world still was. I really didn’t expect otherwise.
Predicting the end of the world is not new; it seems to take place at periodic intervals by various religious movements, popular culture and soothsayers of various stripes. Big time-table events like the turning of a millennium, tend to ratchet up the fever. It happened in the year 1000 AD, and people were on the roof tops dressed in white waiting for their ride.
Truth be told the expectation and disappointment is found on the pages of the New Testament. The earliest Christian writings have plenteous references to the immanent throwing of the switch. For them Jesus played a significant role. The one who was raised from the dead would also serve as the emcee of the big event. What happened, though, was that it didn’t come as they thought. Individual Christians had their personal ends through death before the corporate end of the world happened. And then they had to start making sense of either an indefinite postponement or a different scheme altogether.
The later letters in the New Testament have explanations for this delay with encouragement to not lose hope. And others, like John’s Gospel, finally say in one way or another that the judgment has already come when you encounter Jesus – new worlds have been born and the kingdom has already come. The scholars call this “realized eschatology.” It’s the end game that’s already happened and we live as new creatures because of it.
So you see, this isn’t a new phenomenon. Lots of people throughout history have slept through fitful nights of dire predictions only to awaken to a sun rising like always. And they say, “I guess they were wrong.” And they were. Failed predictions tend to damage the credibility of the predictor.
I don’t expect such an ending in my lifetime, or ever, really. We can, of course, destroy the planet all by ourselves. But that’s not the same as a divine mega-event that transforms the whole picture in a flash. I rather live with the hope that God is already here, pulsing through everything that is, and that the future brings the unfolding of the life of God in the universe. For me, everyday is the end and beginning, and every death and birth the same. God has created and is creating and Christ has come and is present in the mystery of God.
That’s really quite enough for me.