Yes, all those nuts screaming on the corner are right! It really is happening! The end is finally here. The end that John the Baptist and Jesus and that guy with the painted hearse who drives up and down your block have been talking about has finally come, any day, any hour, any week, any second. If I had sackcloth and ashes I’d wear them. If I had a cardboard box I’d tie it to my chest with the word Repent written on the front. If I had clean underwear, I’d put it on. If I had anything left to give away, I’d give it (my kids took everything I got). Domesday has finally arrived. It’s true. It’s all over, for good, for real, you can believe me.
Okay, yes, you’re right, for thousands of years there have been prophets of doom who have spoken of the end, the coming of judgement day, the final countdown (cue the Europe song). But I really mean it. I really know. Move to the desert and pray. It’s all over. Give away everything! Quit your job. Repent, meditate, stretch your back, kiss your kids, tell your boss what you think of him, pet your dog, throw your money in the river. This is the real deal. Your life is going to end very, very soon. I guarantee it. I promise. I swear. You have to believe me. You’ll be dead and buried, meet your maker, all that, in no time. I can even give you a precise date–more precise than carbon dating, more precise than the Mayan calendar It’s about to happen, anytime, for sure, in the next sixty years or so. Yup, at best, sixty odd years in the future, you’ll be toast.
Usually we laugh at street corner prophets yelling at us about the end. One reason we do that is because there’s a long history of them being wrong. End-time prophets have been around since there was a beginning of time, and, obviously, few of them have actually been correct. In Bible expert Bart Ehrman’s great book The Apocalyptic Prophet of the New Millennium, there’s a nice history of doomsday prophets, and he puts Jesus in their camp. You can read more about that here.
The difference is that they were all wrong, and I’m right. Kind of.
With all these doomsday prophets screaming that the sky is falling, how are we supposed to take them, or anyone, or most importantly, me, seriously? Why am I the first one who is right? And what is up with Jesus and John the Baptist, the CEO and VP of doomsday prophets? Why do we still take them so seriously when they have been wrong for 2000 years?
The actual truth is, they have all been right. Yes, every end-time, doomsday prophet who has ever spoken, even the dirty homeless guy with the cardboard sign. They are all right, just misunderstood. The end is near. Maybe not the end of the world, but certainly the end of our world. What would we do differently if we knew that, no matter what we did, the entire universe was going to go poof in less than seventy years? Perhaps a lot. Yet deep down, we all know our own universe, our personal ego’s existence, the world as we (AS I) know(s) it here on Mother Earth, will, for sure, go poof. We will die, inevitably, no later than just a few days or decades from now.
It’s a straight fact.
So the prophets were right. They were the original Give Up and Die blog subscribers (subscribe by hitting this button). Maybe, all this time, that’s what they (all the prophets) have meant. Maybe it’s time to GIVE UP all the stuff that doesn’t matter, AND remember you will DIE (in five minutes or fifty years). So start living. Repent. Wear clean underwear. Give everything away. Be nice to your mother. Cuddle with your kids. Do what you were supposed to do on this earth.
By the way, the word repent, as used in the Old Testament, meant ‘to say sorry.’ In the New Testament it meant ‘to change one’s mind.’ Both are worth doing right now.
For me, repent for the end is near means something like, “Live and grow and do what you were put here for!” Right now, as I write this, my tiny daughter is lying next to me sick with a stomach bug. We have had to cancel our weekend plans. But something in me is saying, “Live, Enjoy, this moment matters.” So I’m enjoying this chance to cuddle with my little girl and write and imagine a world where we all easily say, “I’m sorry,” and, “I’ve changed my mind.” I wish the Senators who are currently blocking the gun-control legislation knew how to say these two things.
Give up and die…you’ll be happy you did.
Below is extra stuff–history, theology–from this post (the director’s cut).
More on Jesus as a prophet of the end::
The debate among most current scholars regarding Jesus, as summed up on PBS’s Frontline’s great documentary, From Jesus to Christ, and covered in-depth in Bart Ehrman’s book, is whether Jesus was an apocalyptic prophet (repent, the end is near, you sinners!) or a modern reformer (feed the poor, rights to the underclass!, love your neighbor, Socialism!). Of course, as with all great debates, nobody knows the answer, and there’s good arguments for both sides.
It’s telling to compare accounts of an often forgotten (at least by me) part in the Gospel when Jesus sends his disciples out on their own missions for a little while. They’re told to take nothing with them, go from town to town, heal the sick, cast out demons, and tell the people that…well this is the interesting part, because what Jesus tells them to say changes as the Gospels get older. In Bible school, kids are told that Jesus tells the disciples, and us, to spread “The Good News.” Well, I’ve wondered for years about this Good News. Of course, today this Good News is regarding salvation through Christ’s dying and rising. Well, that would be strange news to tell people while Jesus is still alive. So what was the (good) news? In early accounts, the news is for people to repent, “for the end is near”–the same stuff John the Baptist (and that crazy guy on the corner) was saying. Later accounts shift. Why? Probably because the end had not yet come, so writers of later Gospel stories, some one hundred years after Jesus death, had to reinterpret his words. In later accounts, he said less apocalyptic things, like, “the kingdom is at hand.” He sounded a little more like a reformer and less like a doomsday prophet.
I like to think of it all as an opportunity to change and see things new. Repent, the end is near!