More on the prediction of Christ’s return on September 23rd

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Sep 21, 2017

Glen Taylor is Professor of Scripture and Global Christianity at Wycliffe. Part of his training included attending a seminary where the correlation of current events with biblical prophecy was widely practised.   

I read Dr. Irwin’s blog with interest and appreciation. I agree with his take on Revelation 12:1-2. It’s funny how easily Christians, like others, can fall into the trap of regarding science—in this case, astronomy—to be the final arbiter of truth. Perhaps it feels better just knowing that Revelation 12:1-2 bears the stamp of scientific truth, complete with an astronomical imprint. We should know better; after all, it only makes sense not to invoke astronomy to read, let alone judge the truth of a text that was written for an audience that had little or no interest or regard for the sort of science we know today.

But I find the current hype in some ways healthy, refreshing and appropriate.  Here is why.

1. It is drawing attention to a foundational claim of Christ and the New Testament, namely that, although we don’t know when Jesus will return, we do know that Jesus will return unexpectedly. The Bible teaches us his return will be preceded by strange and troubling phenomena—many being of the sort that we have seen in great abundance of late (e.g. famines, rumours of war, bizarre natural disasters).

2. In one sense, current-day cases of truly unusual happenings that reflect those mentioned as signs in the Bible can be regarded as “biblical” signs of the end. Most New Testament scholars would agree that, as George Ladd put it, “in the crises of history, the eschatological is foreshadowed. The divine judgments in history are, so to speak, rehearsals of the last judgment.” (NT Theology, 199; Italics mine.) A good example of such a rehearsal occurred when Jesus saw the then future destruction of the Temple as a sign of the final judgment. It follows, that ominous and extraordinary events today might well be regarded as a sort of “wake-up call” concerning realities that lie ahead, such as the final and decisive judgment of humanity by God.

Much of this issue boils down to a single remaining problem: how do we know whether an ominous current event distantly foreshadows the end or whether it constitutes the real thing? This is why predictions are risky, and why humility, caution, and, most importantly, readiness are so important.  

So it will very likely be business as normal on September 24th. 

As for the hype, it serves to remind us that the time to get right with God is both urgent and limited. What I hope and pray for this Saturday is for a whole new group of people to turn from sinful, selfish preoccupations to a vital, living faith in Jesus Christ as Redeemer and Lord. 

Despite my reasoned scepticism, the odd events of late have given me pause to consider. I hope they do the same for you. When the end will come we don't know, but it will come. 

If you aren’t exactly sure how to be ready and want more details, feel free to contact me.