I took this picture on Monday in Minneapolis. You can check out the website. Because of the "save the date" notice and the absolute certainty concernging the date of Christ's return, I thought it might be an early April Fools joke. I went to their website and it doesn't seem to be a joke. On the other hand, maybe they put it up last April 1st and haven't gotten around to taking it down.
Anyway, I'm writing about it because this week's passage for my message hits on this topic, but I don't plan to talk about it at length. It's just one statement that, on first glance, seems out of place in the context: "The end of the world is coming soon" (1 Peter 4:7a; NLT). Peter said that almost 2000 years ago!
All indications were that Christ's return was around the corner as persecution of Christians was ratcheting up in a big way. After all, Peter was martryed in Nero's persecution within about two years of writing this epistle.
I'm hearing a lot of that same kind of talk lately as people point to events in the Middle East and to what seems to be an increase in tsunamis, earthquakes and floods. The financial woes of most of the developed world due to excessive debt loads is no small factor.
In a sense, it all does point to the coming of Christ. The New Testament clearly identifies this age between the first and second coming of Christ as "the last days" (Acts 2:17; 1 Timothy 3:1). Then it also says that in the last days there is going to be an increase in a lot of bad stuff. What is too often missed is that we've been living in "the last days" for nearly 2000 years. Peter was not wrong and anyone who believes the end is near is right, even if the return of Christ is delayed another 2000 years.
As for setting the date at May 21, 2011...... Well, if it happens, not one person on earth is going to say, "Wow, they were right." No one will care. In the meantime, nearly everyone thinks they're kooks. And if they're wrong, everyone will feel confirmed in their assessment.
Personally, I see that as a lose/lose/lose proposition with no upside, so I don't get it. And it does seem to directly contradict the simpliest understanding of Jesus' words in Matthew 24:36. I suppose there's some kind of loophole I'm missing, like, "We didn't try to predict the hour of his arrival."
"But concerning that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only. (Matthew 24:36; ESV)
In the Gospels, Jesus' teaching on this topic seems to make a different point: "Since I am coming back, keep busy doing what I've called you to do." Peter connects the end of the age with being diligent in prayer and immediately makes the point that they should love each other deeply, practice hospitality and use their spiritual gifts (1 Peter 4:7-11).
In any case, I've marked my calendar to look at their website on May 22, 2011...if they're wrong.
And if they're right, in spite of all the excitement and commotion at Christ's coming, I'm going to try to remember to look them up and tell them how impressed I am with their calculations.