The world was supposed to end today. Again.
Since it's still before noon Eastern Time, I suppose the apocalypse could always make a mid-afternoon appearance, though I'd imagine there would be more preliminary earthquakes, drastic temperature spikes, and maybe horns blasting in the heavens before that penultimate moment of final judgment. Or, if you're an atheist, nothingness.
We all have an idea of how the end will go down. Right now, Hollywood is infatuated with a zombie-related apocalypse. A few years ago, it was an apocalypse related to climate change and careless mistreatment of Mother Earth (The Day After Tomorrow, anyone?). Other runners-up remain post-nuclear war and vampires, but Planet X crashing into the earth is as good an option as any.
Jabs aside, pausing to actually consider the end -- realistically, death, as opposed to cataclysm or apocalypse -- should be a sobering practice. Not morbid, but focusing. When we consider the end of our lives, we reach for the things that are important to us. Nothing quite reveals our treasures like the threat of losing them, or the knowledge that we will soon leave them behind.
In that regard, for the Christian, predicting the end is less important than living with the end in mind. In other words, I don't want to set arbitrary (or hypothetically "informed") dates on the end of the world so much as I want to live like that date could be tomorrow. There's a difference. On one hand, I have a deadline, but on the other, I have a priority.
How many of us in younger years were given responsibilities by our parents before they left for the day or the evening, and we spent the hours doing what we wanted, only to scramble to accomplish the chore in the last fifteen minutes before Mom and Dad returned? Knowing the time of their return fostered laziness and irresponsibility, because we knew exactly how much time we had to get done what they wanted and yet still prioritize what we wanted. That's not truly living a life of obedience.
Better yet, remember cramming for a final because you didn't spend any time preparing in the weeks since receiving the syllabus? That isn't really learning the material -- it's merely memorizing for a deadline, and then regurgitating information that we will promptly forget, leaving no real or lasting impact. That's not truly being studious.
In the same regard, if we are to pursue the priorities of Christ and live as He did, we can't presume upon time to come any more than we can assume a final date. Rather, we should take Paul's advice to the Ephesians, which is to "make the best use" of the time we have, or to "redeem" it -- that is, to purchase it back and make it profitable (Eph 5.16). In other words, in the same way that our lives were spiritually dead, cold, and ultimately fruitless before the Spirit called us out of that darkness and made us alive and fruitful, we should give the time that God has supplied the same treatment: not using it wastefully, spending it on ourselves, but using it productively for His Kingdom.
If, in His earthly ministry, the Son of Man Himself didn't know the hour of the final judgment, then how am I to possibly hang my hat on a calendar date of my own choosing? Furthermore, Jesus' advice regarding the end of all things isn't to become a mathematician and scientifically wager on the details of when. To the contrary, He speaks fervently of the priority of readiness, which isn't based on a knowledge of when the end will come, but on a wholehearted commitment to worship.
In other words, be a Christian. It's who you are. You can't just mechanically do the stuff a Christian is supposed to do on your own timeframe and assume that you're in the clear because you're making the deadline.
When the Master does finally come, may He find each of His children faithfully laboring on behalf of the orphan and widow, loving Him with all their heart, soul, mind, and strength. Living that way, with an eternal perspective, is an expression of a changed heart that truly knows the Savior and delights to live for Him.