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A report on the radio told of odds makers taking bets on what might happen in the year 2000.

One can place a wager, for example, on whether the stock market will crash, a world war will flare up, or scientists will finally make contact with space aliens.

But the most interesting wager is the million-to-one shot that the world will end on January 1, 2000. Interesting–because if you won that bet, how would you ever collect?

With a new millennium about to dawn, end-of-the-world predictions are multiplying like rabbits. Apart from the gambling crowds, many religious people are “wagering” that planet earth will see its last day in the very near future. Some of these prognosticators even believe they can tell us the exact day the world will end.

As Christians we may well wonder if the end is very far away. For doesn’t Scripture tell us that in the last days “people will be . . . lovers of money . . . disobedient to parents . . . lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God . . . ” (cf. 2 Tim. 3:2-4)? Doesn’t Jesus speak of earthquakes, wars and rumors of wars as signs of the end (cf. Mt. 24:6-7)? Doesn’t He also indicate that near the end people’s love for the Gospel and for their fellow man will turn cold (cf. Mt. 24:12)? And when we look around, don’t we see all of these things happening today?

But before making predictions on when the end will come, listen to what the Spirit says through St. Paul: “Now, brothers, about times and dates we do not need to write you, for you know very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night” (1 Thess. 5:1-2).

The “times and dates” regarding the world’s end are not things we are to try to calculate. We can’t predict when the last day will arrive, for God has chosen to keep that information to Himself. The end will come like a thief. Suddenly, when the world least expects it, Christ will appear!

In fact, the one who tries to pin-point the day (or even just the year) of Christ’s coming, must be regarded as a false prophet. Jesus warns: “At that time if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Christ!’ or ‘There he is!’ do not believe it” (Mt. 24:23).

But what of all these signs we spoke of earlier? What of the earthquakes and wars? What of the waning love for the Gospel? What of the declining respect for parental authority? What of the other things St. Paul speaks of in Second Timothy chapter three? How are we to read these signs?

For starters, let’s remember that these signs–disasters in nature, wars, rampant immorality, etc.–have all been present in most every generation. Therefore, these signs aren’t there to tell us when the last day will arrive.

Jesus teaches us how to read the signs of the end when He says that earthquakes, wars, and other calamities are the beginning of this world’s birth pains (cf. Mt. 24:8). In other words, they don’t tell us when the world is going to end, but simply that it will end some day. More importantly they remind us that the suffering of this world will give way to the birth of a joyful new life for all of God’s blood-bought children.

Is the end near? Maybe! And yet “When will Christ come again?” is not really the most important question. The most important question is “Am I ready for His return?”

As we ponder that question, let us cling to God’s promise–the promise that says: “The blood of Jesus Christ, His Son, cleanses us from all sin” (1 Jn. 1:7).

–Pastor Michael Wilke