Last March, I visited the shrine of the “Anti-Christ.” Let me explain. Back in the 1980s, our President was active in negotiating treaties with the Soviet Union. By some weird twist of logic, this made him a candidate for the dreaded apocalyptic title, “Anti-Christ.” To bolster their case, the doomsayers added up the number of letters in each of his names:
R-o-n-a-l-d (6) W-i-l-s-o-n (6) R-e-a-g-a-n (6)
As you’ve guessed, the “shrine” was actually former President Reagan’s Presidential Library in Simi Valley, California. He’s now resting peacefully, awaiting the resurrection like countless other world leaders who played their parts on the world-stage. Last I heard, he didn’t turn out to be the dreaded Anti-Christ.
While President Reagan is gone, that kind of speculation is still with us. As I type these words, a radio preacher – whose theories don’t deserve to be dignified by the mention of his name – has predicted that Jesus will return on May 21. His kind belong to what theologian Ray Dunning has called “speculative eschatology.” Suffice it to say that cotton candy is twice as nourishing to the stomach as speculative eschatology is to the mind and spirit.
In Mark 13:24-37, Jesus talks about the return of the “Son of Man.” Christians do believe that Jesus is coming back. Since this is our firm hope, we should heed two important things Jesus tells us in this passage:
1. No one knows precisely when – Verse 32 is clear: “But about that day or hour no one knows, neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.” The creative ways prognosticators dance around this verse’s clear meaning are legion. “Maybe we don’t know the day or hour,” they’ll say, “but we might know the minute and second!” Seriously?
2. Keep awake – The reason why God didn’t give us the exact timing of Jesus’ return is obvious. Having made us, God knows our human tendency to procrastinate. Rather than living the kind of righteous life we should at all times, if we knew when Jesus was scheduled to return, we’d live any old way right until he returns. So Jesus warns us:
Therefore keep awake – for you do not know when the master of the house will come, in the evening, or at the midnight, or at cockcrow, or at dawn, or else he may find you asleep when he comes suddenly. And what I say to you I say to all: Keep awake” (Mark 13:35-37, NRSV).
Are you ready for Christ’s return, whenever that might be?
Reflections based on Scripture reading for Day 41, Cambridge Daily Reading Bible, 1995