By Rev. Ben Black
The “end of the world” is coming soon. I am not talking about the election which will be held Tuesday, Nov. 6, but rather the demise of the Mayan Calendar which expires Friday, Dec. 21, 2012.
There has been a lot of buzz over the past year about how when the Mayan Calendar hits 12/21/12 the entire world will come to a screeching halt! Nobody is precisely certain what or how, but something really BIG will happen. It could be a gigantic earthquake—or maybe it will be a meteor that causes the chaos.
But at the end of the day, the premise of the Mayan Calendar Doomsday is this: Because the Mayans made a calendar that ends, the world must end on the same day, too. Essentially, 12/21/12 is the Mayan version of Y2k—with some important distinctions.
The Mayans are no longer around as an independent nation to witness the turning of the calendar (although there are descendants across North America who still celebrate their Mayan heritage). Essentially, the Mayans didn’t do a great job of predicting their own cultural decline or how the arrival of the Spanish Conquistadores would turn their world upside down. For a people who failed to see their own fate, why should we take their prediction regarding the fate of the world seriously?
Instead of predicting banks and electronic grids shutting down as a result of the calendar ending, the only Mayan Prediction we have is essentially a desperate Mayan king's wishful thinking. This king lost a major battle, and in his retreat, had some hieroglyphics scribbled out stating that his true reign would begin when the Mayan Calendar reached the next period of “13.” Seems to me more like a tragic attempt from a failed king to jot down his best Terminator impersonation: “I’ll be back.”
Other than ushering in the Winter Solstice, the only thing the calendar ending really means is that their old calendar is filled up and it’s time for the Mayans to buy a new one. There was never a doomsday connotation to the Mayan calendar ending. It only became a “predictor” of the end of the world when it became linked to a failed Sumerian Apocalypse hoax from May 2003 rescheduled for December 2012.
Just like every "end of the world prediction" we have encountered before (and there have been thousands and thousands of them), this is just another attempt for people to grab attention and stir up fear. When Dec. 21, 2012 fails, there will be several more predictions waiting in line to take its place.
What do we do with these predictions that generate so much anxiety and fear? We can seek answers from men, but these rarely satisfy. The only true way to peace and understanding is through God’s word. There is comfort in the Bible. I believe that there is no higher authority than God, so why not dig into God’s word which He provided to His followers? It truly is an amazing book that has a lot to say on just about any issue you can dream up—including the end of the world.
The Bible does acknowledge the fact that one day the world will end (2 Peter 3:10, 1 Thessalonians 5, Matthew 24, Revelation 3:3, etc.), however the fact that the world will end should not really be a shock to us. We know from first-hand experience that nothing lasts forever. Why should the world itself be any different? That being said, how is the saying “the world will one day end” any different than saying “one day I will die.” Both are realities and we have no control over either one.
One day I will breathe my last and one day this world will cease to be. The problem with doomsday predictions is we cannot predict when the world will end any more than we can predict the day we die. The Bible is very clear that we are clueless about tomorrow, we can make plans but there is never a guarantee that they will ever come about (Proverbs 27:1, James 4:14, Luke 12:40, Revelation 16:15, Matthew 24:35-36, etc.).
For example, last year I made plans to spend a week canoeing in Canada. Got myself in shape, bought all my gear, got my passport and a week before I was to leave I broke my elbow. Or the time my car was totaled on the way to a funeral. We simply do not know what tomorrow will bring in our own lives—much less for the rest of the world.
Why does all of this matter?
The answer is—Peace.
I don’t know about you but I certainly have peace when I am reminded of Jesus’ words. I find peace in knowing that regarding the last day and hour that ONLY GOD has the plan and not even the angels or Jesus know when the end is coming (Matthew 24:36). If only God knows, than I am fully confident that the media, misguided preachers, conspiracy theorists and anyone else who feels to compelled to predict the "end of the world" is wrong.
In fact, I sometimes joke that when I hear someone predict a day that they think will be “the end,” I mark it on my calendar as a day that I know I can sleep a little deeper because I’m pretty sure that God wouldn’t have let that guy have the inside scoop on when it’s all going down.
But even more than the peace from knowing and believing that only God knows when it will happen is the peace that comes from not having to worry about it. The biggest joy of being a Christian is that my life is no longer my own. Everything I have belongs to God. My clothes, my skills, the opportunities I have been blessed with are all gifts from God. Because of this, I know that from now until the end of my life I will want for nothing.
Sure, I will have some difficult days ahead. I will experience grief, pain, and have seasons of uncertainty and doubt—but in my bleakest day and darkest hour I know that ultimately the plans God has laid for me are bigger than this world. If God takes away everything I know including this world and my body—I know I am secure. I don’t worry about when I will die or when this world will fade away because this isn’t my home. There is nothing that can be taken from me that will diminish the hope I have in what is to come.
So, don’t worry about the Mayan Calendar, it is ending but we are not. Don’t pay attention to the crackpot conspiracy theorists trying to stir up your fear about “the END.” They’re wrong. However, do think carefully about what you are living for.
Is your faith and hope in this world or the eternal? Only One offers peace and promises to stand the test of time.
"The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God will stand forever." ~ Isaiah 40:8
The Rev. Ben Black is pastor of Forest Hills Presbyterian Church.