Putting an end to the end of the world

A Christian Science perspective: Some of Jesus' own statements shed light on the well-publicized prediction of the end of the world May 21.

“Judgment day is almost here.” That is the message some people are sending out, warning that the end of the world will be coming on May 21.

Those who expect the trumpets to sound on that day say the calculation is based on their careful reading of Scripture. And their hope is that it’s not too late for people to heed the warning and be among those who go to heaven, saved, when Christ comes a second time to judge humanity.

This is not the first time people have rallied to the Rapture cry. It has been a theme throughout history. In the first half of the 19th century, the Baptist preacher William Miller led thousands of followers, who were drawn to his predictions that the Second Coming would occur in the year 1844. When the predicted date came and went without incident, many of his adherents fell away, while Miller himself never gave up his belief that the prophetic day of judgment was at hand.

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In some ways, the proposition of a final day of reckoning may speak to people’s yearning to feel hope and comfort. The world can appear very dark and cruel. Each generation seems to feel that the rolling years have added new layers of complexity and trouble that make their time the hardest, the most violent, the least hopeful. For those facing such thoughts, a fixed point in time, in which everything is set right in clear-cut, black-and-white fashion, may understandably offer attractive structure to a chaotic, uncertain existence. As one end-time follower put it, “Right now, there’s a lot of insecurity, and this is a promise that says it’s not all random, it’s part of God’s plan.”

But does such a plan offer people any true comfort, resting as it does on the assumption that an apparently omnipotent God saves some and condemns others, and that His good power is counterbalanced by an opposite force for evil? Those are not propositions that figure either into the teachings of Jesus, or of Christian Science, which explains those teachings.

When he was once asked when God’s kingdom would come on earth, Jesus himself replied, “The kingdom of God cometh not with observation: neither shall they say, Lo here! or, lo there! for, behold, the kingdom of God is within you” (Luke 17:20, 21). And before his crucifixion, he told his followers that he would pray that God would send a Comforter to be with them – not at some point down the road, but forever. Mary Baker Eddy understood this Comforter to be the divine Science of healing that she discovered in 1866.

How are we to calculate the advent of spiritual truth and salvation to humanity? This truth is God’s alone, and being of God it is eternal, spiritual, and can’t be bounded by the measurement of days and years. “Life is without beginning and without end,” wrote Mrs. Eddy. “Eternity, not time, expresses the thought of Life, and time is no part of eternity. One ceases in proportion as the other is recognized” (“Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures,” p. 468). In the same period when William Miller was predicting the world’s end, she was on a divergent path, coming to conclude that this earth is a “preparatory school” that “must be improved to the utmost” (p. 486).

Christian Science explains that instead of looking ahead to a fabulous point in time when we will be deemed worthy or unworthy, saved or condemned, we can begin to learn the facts of our perfect spiritual identity, independent of deadlines, moment by moment. As we understand more of the promised Comforter, we find it is our salvation at hand, moving us away from mortality and into immortality. And this progress in communing with a God of love is inevitably marked by the healing that so many long for – the freedom from sickness, the redemption from faults and wrongdoings, the attainment of peace and prosperity. The fruits of an enlightened consciousness, they characterize the truth of how our God judges His creation.

The answers to the problems we face here on earth will never come by searching the Bible for numerical calculations. God does not speak to His sons and daughters cryptically or mathematically. His Christ is His eternal message of salvation. It is crystal clear, and spoken directly to each one of His precious children in spiritual terms alone. It says, “Fear not.” It is the message that we are each made in His image – sinless, perfect, noble, healthy, whole, joyful, free.

People can indeed expect to find the fulfillment of Biblical prophecy. But it is here before us, not in a cataclysmic event yet to come, on May 21 or any other day. “No final judgment awaits mortals,” promises Science and Health, “for the judgment-day of wisdom comes hourly and continually, even the judgment by which mortal man is divested of all material error. As for spiritual error there is none” (p. 291).

Adapted from an editorial in the Christian Science Sentinel.

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