The National Geographic Channel’s Doomsday Preppers program is going to feature a gentleman tomorrow evening (January 15th) who lives near my hometown and who is preparing for what he believes will be the seven last trumpets of the Book of Revelation and the end of the world. Lucas Cameron believes that it is his duty to prepare for the apocalypse that he believes is coming, and apparently he thinks it his duty to get this message out to anyone who might listen to him, and so he’s going on television to share his story. I’m sure Cameron believes that “the end” could come at any day.
However, if we are to believe Christ’s words about the end of all things, that day shouldn’t be a day that we either obsess over or panic about. Indeed, Christ says “now when these things begin to take place, look up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.” (cf. Luke 21:28) In Sacred Scripture, the expression “raise your heads” or “lift up your heads” can be taken to mean not simply to look toward the sky, but to change your countenance. If you are feeling sad or downcast about the state of the world or even your own personal state of affairs-and we’ve all been there from time to time-Jesus says “lift up your heads.” He is reminding us that in his love for us he not only came to save us in the first place but that at the end he will come to save us from all of the fashion of this passing world (cf. I Corinthians 7:31), when all wrongs will be made right and all things will be made new (cf. Revelation 21:3-4). However, Jesus is also clear about the reality that no man knows the day or the hour of his return or of the final consummation of this age. Indeed, he goes so far as to say that things in the day of his return will be “as it was in the days of Noah,” in other words, people will be going about their business as usual, not expecting anything to happen at all (cf. Matthew 26:36-39). The Second Letter of Peter tells us that the “day of the Lord will come as a thief (cf. 2 Peter 3:10).” Some translations render that passage as “thief in the night.”
People have sought scriptural justification for apocalyptic beliefs that predicted the end of the world or the “beginning of the end” at a certain date or time for centuries. Unlike Harold Camping, for example, some of these people or groups could point to the Bible and see a much clearer justification for their ideas without predicting a specific date. During the Thirty Years’ War, many people believed that Christ’s return would surely be imminent as the world as they knew it crumbled around them. A similar phenomenon occurred during World War I and World War II, as people pointed to the devastation of war, economic uncertainty, and the deteriorating political situation as evidence that Christ would soon return to set everything aright.
What all of these people seem to have forgotten throughout history is the reality that God does not exist within human time or space, but within eternity where there is no time. That is why we can say that God sees the end from the beginning, all is present to God. Someday, Christ will return and the world as we know it will be completed-this is the faith of the Church. Until that day comes, rather than live anticipating the apocalypse, we should live and love others as though every day might be our last day, and cherish the world God has, in his goodness, entrusted to us.