The Mayan Calendar reckons we’ve got a month until something really big happens. Either the world ends with some sort of cataclysmic bang or whimper, or the beginning of a new world order.
Image Credit: Sevenstreets.com: The radio cast of the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy performing at the Restaurant at the End of the Universe
I think, frankly, that’s a load of bollocks. I don’t think the world is going to end in a month. I’m not planning to run out of food, or money, and I’m still thinking about the good things I want to do next year, and in the future.
But I also think, frankly, that there are no guarantees that the world won’t end next month, next week, or tomorrow. It’s pretty clear, if you listen to the Greens, some scientists, or the weird guy at the train station, that our ability to live on this planet is finite, and things are going to come to an end sooner or later – some say sooner, some say later.
It’s also pretty clear, if you are a Christian, that we should be living like the end is near. Because it might be. And because that shapes our priorities in a really helpful way. Knowing that tomorrow could be it, means you spend today on what’s important.
So what if we had a month to go? How would you spend your last 30 days on earth? How would you spend the last 30 minutes?
For some people, getting ready means fleeing to a mountain in France. Sadly, the French government is getting in the way. But how do you get ready if you know the earth is a fleeting mist?
What Jesus says
In Matthew 24 Jesus talks a bit about the end of the world as we know it… and what that means for people who think he’s the promised Messiah, from the Old Testament, God’s chosen king (that’s what messiah means), and what it means for the world – if he is the king, he’s king of the world.
He says, just to make it clear that there’s a bit of urgency in deciding who he is:
36 “But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.
It could be tomorrow.
42 “Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come.43 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. 44 So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him.
He’s speaking mostly to his followers – he says you better make sure you’re not just off partying until your master suddenly returns. Because he’ll smash you, just like he’ll smash his enemies.
A little earlier in Matthew 24, Jesus makes it pretty clear what’s involved in waiting for the end, if you believe he’s who he said he is…
13 but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved. 14 And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.
Interestingly, he also somewhat figuratively, talks about fleeing to the mountains as legitimate. So there you go. French government… take heed…
“16 then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains”
But it’s the other two bits – the standing firm to the end, and the gospel being preached to all nations, that are the important part of the response to knowing the world could end.
This preaching, in particular, becomes the mission of his followers a couple of pages in the Bible later, in Matthew 28, after Jesus has been killed, and, to prove he is who he says he is, been raised. That’s the evidence he offers for his claim – it’s the truth that Christianity is built on. And Jesus says now that you’ve seen who I am, that I am the king… this is a little passage called the “Great Commission”…
18 Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
So, I hope the answer, if you’re a Christian, is that you’d do lots of this in those last 30 days – excited by the prospect that Jesus is king, and wanting people to know that so they avoid the pain of not being one of his people.
What Paul says (for those who don’t believe Jesus is king)
But what about if you don’t believe Jesus is king, or that aliens are going to blast off from a mountain in France? What do you do in those last days? Paul has one answer, when it comes to whether or not you think the resurrection happened – which is what Jesus’ claim to be king hangs on, he says if you don’t believe – and that’s up to you – then this is what you should do, in 1 Corinthians 15:
“Let us eat and drink,
for tomorrow we die.”
I love how Paul sums up what Christians are hoping for, at the end of the world here – the future for all people, dead and alive, who follow Jesus.
51 Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed— 52 in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. 53 For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality. 54 When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: “Death has been swallowed up in victory.”
55 “Where, O death, is your victory?
Where, O death, is your sting?”
56 The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. 57 But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
What I think is incredibly cool is that his advice for how to live in the light of this is exactly the same as Jesus’ advice – so much for the idea that “Paul invented Christianity”…
58 Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.
What’s the work of the Lord – that’d be the stuff Jesus said in the “Great Commission” – the job he, the Lord, gave those who believe he was raised.
I like that we’re meant to live like the world’s going to end next month every month.