Apologetic Ruminations About Judgment Day

Today is May 21, 2011.

Or, it will be when this post goes live. If you’re reading this, one of three things is true: (a) judgment day has started at 6 pm on the other side of the world, you’re scared spitless, and are looking for guidance; (b) judgment day has happened and you’ve been left behind, out of step with what I consider to be good biblical theology about the End (God didn’t listen to me?!); or (c) what I anticipate, which is that this judgment day thing did not arrive at the date broadcast by some.

I confess, I haven’t been very Christian in my assessments of the prophesied gloom and doom. In addition to snarkily wondering about issues such as timezones, I created a hash tag on twitter: #ItllSurviveSaturday where I was encouraging folks to reflect on things that are so great that they would survive any judgment and comprise part of the world to come.

With all of this outstanding fun to be had, what need could there possibly be for apologic ruminations?

First, of course, there was the humbling experience of someone on my FB wall commenting that he was praying about how to love the people who are going to be so bitterly disappointed when it doesn’t materialize. Many people are giving everything in faith that this is the day. Many will be spiritually, financially, socially, and otherwise crushed if Jesus does not return.

More than that, however, I have been humbled by the fact that the crazy hermeneutics entailed in calculating this random date in 2011 for the end of the world might have a strong claim to being much more in step with biblical precedent for fulfilling scripture than my willful refusal to heed the numerology.

Remember when Jeremiah predicted a 70 year stint in exile followed by glorious restoration? Not so, says Daniel, a few hundred years later, make that 70 weeks of years!

We might think of Matthew’s fulfillment citations, his creative employment of OT texts as finding “fulfillment” in Jesus even when they are not prophecies of the future or of a coming Messiah.

We might think of the need we have to apply new readings to Revelation because this return did not, in fact, come quickly as John anticipated. We might think of the mockery endured by the 2d generation of Christians who had to answer for the fact that Jesus did not come back so quickly–and they began to reinterpret their own hopes: “The Lord is not slow as some consider slowness… remember: with the Lord a year is as a thousand days and a thousand days as a year!” (2 Peter 3).

I am convinced that after the fact we will all look back on the climactic moment of God’s restoration of the cosmos in Christ and revise much of how we read what came before. This was the effect of the first coming, and it will be the effect of the second.

And so I must concede that my grounds for judging this reading hermeneutically inadequate (it relies on passages and numbers and ideas that could never mean what Camping claims)–will themselves be undone when the event actually transpires.

I apologize for my academic snobbery that will, in fact, be put to shame when we no longer see dimly.

But even this realization reinforces my conviction that no one will be able to guess ahead of time, either. And so I approach this day with expectation that the prediction of the return will amount to nothing more than much ado about not so much at all.

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