Redeeming the Time With Discernment

Keith Crosby 

"Have nothing to do with irreverent, silly myths. Rather train yourself for godliness; for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come.  The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance.  For to this end we toil and strive, because we have our hope set on the living God, who is the Savior of all people, especially of those who believe." 1 Timothy 4:7-10 

A friend of mine was approached at church in 2013 by a brother in Christ who informed him that the world was going to end in 2014. My friend expressed some surprise, to which the man replied: “Don’t you read your Bible?” Now my friend was a pastor. Perhaps he’d read as I, and others had that men will not know when the end comes (Mark 13:32). What the Bible does say is that we are to be sensitive to the times so that we can fulfill the Great Commission to the glory of God and the good of others, as well as our own growth: "Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear, and who keep what is written in it, for the time is near."  Revelation 1:3.  God’s sense of time is different from our own. The “time is near" phrase was written between 95 AD and 100 AD. That’s over 1,900 years ago. God wants us to know prophecy so that we can prepare ourselves to lead others to Christ as opposed to amazing our friends or seeking to terrify people into the kingdom of heaven.

Sad to say, some people spend time trying to do the impossible: predicting the end of the world. We can be assured of this, if no one knows the hour or the day---even the angels or Jesus when He was here on earth---then when a man predicts the end of the world we know whatever date, or era, that man sets is not correct or remotely in the ballpark (Mark 13:32; Matthew 24:36). You may remember Harold Camping, constantly predicting and re-predicting the end of the world (May 21, 2011 and then October 11, 2011---after earlier predictions in 1994). Prophetic author, Hal Lindsey’s predictions ranged from 1979 to several key dates in the 1980’s. His predictions were tied to Jewish feasts, certain natural phenomena, and loosely interpreted prophecies about Russia and Israel tied to the Book of Daniel, and some of the Twelve Minor prophets, plus the Book of Revelation.

Y2K was a big event in 2000 and then in 2001. Somehow, somewhere, people linked this to biblical prophecy and more than a few ‘famous’ pastors stocked up on food and ammunition. Next came “2012” and the Mayan Calendar, which some loosely tied to Old Testament Prophecy. The idea was there would be no 2013. When asked if he believed in “2012,” a pastor I am familiar with commented, “I do: it falls between 2011 and 2013 and comes before 2014 and 2015. If there’s no 2012, it would be hard to count to 2015.” His humor aside, his point was that Christians should read their Bibles to grow in grace and leave predictions, conspiracy theory, and the end of the world to others. This is one reason that Paul wrote to Timothy to avoid silly myths (v. 7). This is one reason that Paul emphasized the need to do the hard (and often unexciting) work of training oneself for godliness (v. 8). The word “train” here is the word from which we get the word gymnasium. It requires effort and sweat. In verses 9-10, Paul reminds us to concentrate on these eternal things rather than merely temporal things (like physical exercise) because we have set our hope on Christ and we live our lives with eternity stamped on our foreheads.

If we followed God’s advice (command), we’d be less concerned with urban legends, which although temporarily exciting, do not advance the kingdom of God. Admittedly, become familiar, even adept or skilled, with the deeper things of Scripture, namely spiritual growth and sanctification, takes more work and can be less exciting than surfing the web for the next prophecy hysteria. However, reading and applying God’s word, training ourselves for godliness (v. 7), are the most important things we can do.

The Reformer Martin Luther was asked what he would do if he found out the world was going to end the following day. His reply was to the effect of ‘plant an apple tree.’ His meaning was simple. Martin Luther wanted to spread the gospel. He lived each day as it was his last. He equipped himself to equip others. So should we. Leave the catastrophic predictions to the (false?) prophets. Live for God today. Better acquaint yourself with God’s word and God’s ways so that you don’t fall prey to the latest prophetic fad; instead, fulfill the Great Commission. Go tell people about Christ without trying to scare them to death. If, when, they are saved, encourage them to pursue baptism and discipleship. This is what every Christian is called to do.

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