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For those of us left behind
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If you’re reading this, you didn’t make the cut. 

Like myself and the editors of this newspaper, you weren’t found worthy.

But how strange. Everything is business as usual.  “On Judgment Day, May 21st, 2011,” the website had warned, a “5-month period of horrible torment will begin for all the inhabitants of the earth.”  For this reason, it was “by God’s grace and tremendous mercy,” the message began, that “He is giving us advanced warning as to what He is about to do.  It will be on May 21st that God will raise up all the dead that have ever died from their graves.”

“Earthquakes will ravage the whole world,” the prophecy had continued, “as the earth will no longer conceal its dead (Isaiah 26:21).  People who died as saved individuals will experience the resurrection of their bodies and immediately leave this world to forever be with the Lord. Those who died unsaved will be raised up as well, but only to have their lifeless bodies scattered about the face of all the earth.  Death will be everywhere.”

But that, dear un-raptured reader, was to be only the beginning of torments:

“On October 21st, 2011, God will completely destroy this creation and all of the people who never experienced the salvation of Jesus Christ along with it.  The awful payment for their sinful rebellion against God will be completed by the loss of everlasting life.  On October 21st, 2011, all of these poor people will cease to exist from that point forward.  How sad that noble man, made in God’s image, will die like a beast and perish forever.”

No doubt we all benefitted somewhat by being reminded that we’re long overdue for chastisement.  Christians ought to take seriously the fact that we live in an age of mercy and grace.  There will certainly come a time of justice and judgment.  We can’t deny that without denying the scriptures.

I just thought Jesus wasn’t big on us trying to predict the day or the hour.

Last night at 6:00 p.m., I was preaching to around 300 at a Filipino fiesta about the perilous journey of life.  Jesus had said, in our gospel reading, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life.  No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6).   We paused to give a few seconds of slack (by calculating the margin of error in our clocks and in prophecy), just in case the earthquake delayed a bit in arriving from New Zealand, or whatever.

Then we went on talking about how Jesus calls us to persevere faithfully in walking with him, not just to get ourselves and our circle of believers into heaven, but first and foremost to carry out his mission here on earth.  Our South-Pacific islanders can testify to this, as they’ve taken considerable risks to share their faith wherever they go, which is, in fact, everywhere.

I appreciate the fact that God has seen fit to leave the vast majority of us here on earth.  There is still so much life to live, and so much work to do.

And, if we’re honest with ourselves, we still need repenting and atonement.

After all, just in case the May 21st prophecies were misunderstood, we still have much to fear in the second upcoming deadline, October 21st, 2011.

“Please, dear soul,” the prophetic website had concluded, “be warned that the time for salvation is drawing to a rapid close!  God has given the world 7000 years from the flood, and now only a few days remain...  Before we know it, time will have run completely out.  The few grains of sand remaining in our hourglass will have elapsed and be gone forever.”  Ouch.

Standing alongside a north-Stockton arterial at 8 p.m. Saturday night, together with nearly 200 young mourners, I confronted the fact again that the end will come like a thief in the night.  Two popular teenagers had come to the end of their journey on earth late Friday, in a speeding vehicle spun out of control.  They didn’t have the privilege of watching the 6 p.m. hour tick by Saturday.  They were dead.  I thanked God he’d left us around to stand by the scene of that tragedy, lifting them and their families in prayer.

My understanding of Christ’s teaching is that we focus simply on doing his will.  If we want our names written in the book of life, we do well to forget all this madness about end-times and escaping the wrath of God to come.

Let the people with the timeline formulae prepare for the next Rapture.

I’ll be grateful just to be doing something useful in a faithful way for Jesus.

If I should end up missing all the raptures, it’ll be because God wants me here.  Me and Wall-E picking up the pieces.  With a cockroach for company.

Fr. Dean McFalls, St. Mary’s Church, Stockton.  Written  May 21, 2011.