The National Catholic Review
Eschatology, the study of the end times, tends to get people fired up. To get a discussion going about eschatology, simply ask the question "What would you do today if you knew that the world would end tomorrow?" and people will talk. Changing the word "tomorrow" to "next week" or "next year," and the conversation can go on for hours. In popular eschatological presentations--street-preaching, for instance--imminent doom tends to take center stage. Most of us have probably seen signs that read "The End is Near," "Turn or Burn" or the like. These serve to impress upon non-Christians that they will face eternal punishment if they do not convert to Christianity. The phenomenal success of the Left Behind series, with its 65 million books sold, demonstrates the enormous fascination that the final judgment provides. The Left Behind series actually derives its title from this week’s gospel passage, Matthew 24:37-44. In verses 41-42, Jesus describes two pairs of people, in which one person is taken and one is left behind. Matthew 24-25 comprise a long eschatological discourse that Jesus delivers just before his crucifixion. He compares the "coming of the Son of Man" (v.39) to the "days of Noah" (v.37), with the implication that his return will prove to be a surprise to all humanity and that many (most?) people will be morally unprepared for it. Clearly this passage, along with the three parables of chapter 25, emphasizes the judgment that will take place at the parousia, the second coming of Christ. In the popular treatment of the parousia, however, the ethical emphasis of Matthew’s gospel often disappears. When Jesus says, "stay awake" (v.42), he addresses Christians, not the unconverted. This passage urges listeners to "be prepared" so that they will be eager to lay bare their actions to Jesus when he returns. While fear can certainly be an important motivator, a desire to please proves even greater. The parable of the talents in chapter 25 displays a frightened servant (the third one) and two eager servants. The ones who work without fear of reprisal enjoy a much more pleasant reunion with their master. Returning to the question I posed at the beginning, I imagine all of us alter our plans if we knew our time was limited. The question that Jesus poses differs slightly, asking, "Would you act more ethically if you knew the world would end tomorrow?" The challenge of his eschatological teaching is to be able to answer "no." Kyle A. Keefer

Comments

Anonymous | 11/28/2007 - 10:34am
Jehovah's Witnesses Millerite/Adventist sect spin-off American war of 1812 army captain William Miller is ground zero for Jehovah's Witnesses. There is nothing that made me gasp in horror of all WT/JW falsehoods more then this finding that it all came from the Millerite movement. Yes,the "great disappointment"of Oct 22 1844 has never died out... it lives on in the Seventh day Adventist (who admit it) and the Jehovah's Witnesses who deny it. The central CORE doctrine of the Watchtower,yes the reason the Watchtower came into existence was to declare Jesus second coming in 1914.When the prophecy (derived from William Miller of 1842) failed they said that he came "invisibly". Ergo,no 1914 then there can be no 1918 inspection and sealing of the 'anointed' so the entire Watchtower Bible and Tract Society doctrinal superstructure comes crashing down like a house of cards WILLIAM MILLER http://www.jehovahs-witness.com/12/132920/1.ashx THE BEGINNING of it ALL
Anonymous | 11/28/2007 - 4:16pm
"Fear" of the second advent has caused all kinds of irrational behavior over the past 175 years, starting with the Millerite Movement of the 1830s-40s: http://jwemployees.bravehost.com/JWInfo/1001.html