“Watch out that no one deceives you….No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father” (Matthew 24:4,36)
May 21, 2011, has come and gone: Christ did not return, the rapture did not begin, and the world did not end. The warning of the senescent preacher’s catastrophic prediction did not happen. Sensible people had not taken seriously his dire forecast of the world’s end. Yet it is fascinating to realize how many did indeed prepare for all life to end – those like the predictor awaited the rapture that is the core message of many evangelicals, and those who greeted, welcomed or feared the end of all life on our planet still believing it was certain to happen may not be convinced of their naivete.
We Orthodox Christians can take lessons from this non-event:
A. The message to the gullible travels through the media swiftly and ubiquitously, influencing multitudes who can be fooled over and over again. We are living on a flat earth of instantaneous communication.
B. The willingness of so many who gladly bid farewell to their normal lives. The Revelation closing the New Testament is characteristic of most apocalypses in that they are written to give an alternative to those enduring extreme persecution and oppression. One would assume that America, despite its economic flaws, turns the satire of Voltaire into a reality. This indeed might be the best of all possible worlds, yet so many are so willing to leave it for a myth of the unknown.
C. Does it speak to the frontier attitude so prevalent in our nation, the spirit of adventure, even in search of the new and unexplored? The conquest of the West followed by the quest to reach the moon, and with that accomplished, onward to Mars? Even the average American family moves about in search of whatever is “out there,” offering a will-o’-the-wisp fantasy of a better life beyond.
D. Sects that understand that yearning for elsewhere and cater to its longing. Here once again, after spending several hundred thousand dollars in advertising through newspapers, magazines, billboards, radio and television an event that never transpired, the elderly prognosticator is not abashed, ashamed or repentant – quite the contrary, he claims that May 21 was a forewarning; the “real” date will be October 21. He will be taken seriously by some, perhaps many, because the heresy thrives for the above reasons.
Imagine the idea: The Lord will select from over six billion of His children only 122,000. Those chosen ones will be wafted above the earth to watch the specter of all the rest of us tormented by Satan, who is given free rein to work his wickedness for a time. What criteria set the chosen ones apart? Faith alone, measured by God alone.
The first Orthodox Christian reaction is that Jesus Christ charges us to go forth into the world as it is, and preach, teach and baptize until it becomes what the Father expected it to be. It is not for us to escape, certainly not to judge and separate ourselves from humanity, but to give an account of the hope that is in us so that we set examples of grace-filled people who demonstrate the ways that the image of God in which we are created brings forth the likeness of the Lord in all that we say and do. Indeed, we look for the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come; however, we live in the meanwhile situation: Time to bring the gospel message alive in all ways possible. Study the icon of Christ’s entry into hades and you will see the truth in the love of God for mankind. The whole purpose of His incarnation, ministry, crucifixion and resurrection is to gather our original parents and all their children and release them from their separation from divinity. Salvation is God’s plan for humanity, evidence of His compassion, and the hope of all mankind.