Believe it or not, 2012 mania has struck Christianity. One would think that Christians would avoid all association with a Hollywood-inspired interpretation of an obscure reference in a Mayan calendar. One would be wrong. The human fascination with end-time predictions seems to be able to overcome all rational considerations as well as all biblical advice to avoid such speculations.
We received the letter below from a concerned believer proposing that we Christians ought to be prepared for the upcoming return of Jesus. I will use this as a stepping stone to discussing such beliefs in general.
I would never claim to know the day when Christ was going to return to this earth,
We are told that no one can know the exact day nor hour that Christ will return.
(Mathew 25:13) "Watch therefore, for ye know neither the day nor the hour wherein the Son of man cometh" But it also says, (Mathew 24:33),"So likewise ye, when ye shall see all these things, know that it is near, even at the doors". The last one of "all these things" was Israel’s gaining control of Jerusalem. So at this point, it was the start of the end time generation… our generation… This generation started in 1967.5…
Doors is plural. Maybe this represents His two comings, once in the rapture,
(I Thes 4:17) "we which are alive shall be caught up to meet the Lord in the air…"
And once in all His glory, when He sets His feet on the earth again (Rev 19:11-16.) "I saw heaven opened… His eyes were as a flame… on His head were many crowns.
KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS These doors might represent "deadlines",
or a "happen by" date. Then, calculating the duration of a generation, by taking Christ’s linage of 14, 14+14 generations-(Mathew 1:17). This gives us a "generation" equal to 51.6 years. The reason that I happen to feel very confident about using this duration of time for the life span for the final "generation" is that it was the same duration used to accurately predicted the date; May 14, 1948, which was the rebirth of Israel
( taken from a book by a well known Canadian author)
Is 2012 the end?…. YES… for all those who are born again. Christ promises to return before 2013, but definitely before 2020. This is why I call this my "2020 Vision." I do not wish to start any panics. What I wish to start is this End Time Revival that I have heard so much about.
Is 2012 the end? Is this a reasonable interpretation? Notice that the questioner starts by pointing out that Jesus said, "No one knows exact day and hour." Actually looking closer, the word "exact" has been inserted here as a justification, as the one asking this question goes on to predict the timing of the return of Jesus, in violation of the saying of Jesus he just quoted.
So, let us start with the passage in Matthew 25:13. About his return at the end of the ages, Jesus said, "Therefore be alert, because no one knows the day or the hour." Jesus said that, in his human self, even He did not know the day or hour (Matthew 23:36). Why did God not tell us the hour? Because he wants all believers to be ready at all times. It is human nature to procrastinate-to pull an all-nighter before an exam. This is what the parable of the ten virgins is all about. God wants us to behave as if every day might be the day Jesus will come back, yet he wants us to keep our lamps full. We need to be prepared for the long haul, and yet ready for the next moment to be the last. Why, then, is it that we have a so many Christians disobeying God by trying to predict the day and the hour? I suppose such people will have to answer for themselves. It is very titillating to spend time trying to discover secret knowledge. Surely Satan wants followers of Jesus to get distracted from doing the work of Jesus.
It would be helpful for end-time enthusiasts to look at the history of their compatriots who have calculated the second coming to happen in their own generation. Probably every generation has felt theirs was the special one. Evidence is that the early church did not predict exact dates for the return of Jesus, but they definitely lived in anticipation of the immanent return of Jesus. That is what Jesus wanted. One gets the sense from Paul that he thought it very likely Jesus would return soon. This is exactly what God wants today. He wants us to speed the day of the coming of Jesus-to eagerly anticipate the coming of Jesus (for example 2 Thessalonians), but he also wants us to build the church here carefully, building for the long term (1 Corinthians 3:1-15), using quality building materials. We know that there was great enthusiasm at the turn of the first millennium (AD 1000) about the Jesus coming at that time. The Millerite movement in the US had tens of thousands quitting their jobs and gathering for the coming of Jesus in 1844. This was the genesis of groups such as the Seventh Day Adventists. Well, 1844 has come and gone. Then the followers of Charles Russel, founder of the Jehovah’s Witness group were told confidently that Jesus was going to come in 1918. Instructively, after nothing happened, both groups claimed that there are two comings of Jesus. Again, we are still waiting. In "The Late, Great Planet Earth, Hal Lindsey, using the establishment of the state of Israel in 1948, confidently predicted that Jesus would come back on or before 1978. In later books, he changed his tune. This scenario has been played out in an uncountable number of iterations, all without success.
We have popular preachers and churches all over telling us that the events happening in the Middle East are the fulfillment of prophecies in Daniel or Ezekiel. This is fun, it is exciting, but it is thoroughly unbiblical. Jesus said that no one knows the day or the hour, but many think differently. The words of Isaac Newton (yes, that Isaac Newton!) in his commentary on Daniel are still very much appropriate: "The folly of Interpreters has been, to foretell times and things, by this Prophecy, as if God designed to make them Prophets. By this rashness they have not only exposed themselves, but brought the Prophecy also into contempt. The design of God was much otherwise. He gave this and the Prophecies of the Old Testaments, not to gratify men’s curiosities by enabling them to foreknow things, but that after they were fulfilled they might be interpreted by the event; and his own Providence, not the Interpreters, be then manifested thereby to the world. For the event of things predicted many ages before, will then be a convincing argument that the world is governed by providence."
Are any of these end-time prophets right? The answer is no. None of them are. All are false prophets. God did not want us to know the time. He had a good reason for this, and we ignore his will to our peril. When Daniel asked God for more specifics than he was prepared to give, God rebuked him (Daniel 12:8-9). Daniel asked, "What will be the outcome of these things?" God did not answer this question.
Let us return to the question above. What about the proposed interpretation that 2012 will be the time of the second coming of Jesus? There are many problems here. First of all, this person wants to find room in Mathew 24:33 for two returns. He states that the two doors might represent two "deadlines." Where did the number two come from? If doors are plural, why not five doors? By the way, it is true that the original Greek is plural. These things are "at the doors." Does this mean there will be two comings? The phrase "at the doors" is an idiom meaning it is very near. It is a great speculative stretch to put two different comings, separated by years, into this coming of Jesus. Are the virgins supposed to keep oil in their lamps for the first or the second coming?
Having set the stage for two comings, including an unbiblical "rapture" we are asked to swallow the claim that the end-time generation started July 1, 1967 (ie in 1967.5). Where did this calculation come from? This is pretty exact! All this starts in 1948. We are confidently told that the last of "all these things" (Matthew 24:33) is the establishment of the political state of Israel. What is the scriptural basis for this? Many claim that the establishment of the political state of Israel in 1948 begins some sort of prophetic clock. The problem with this is that this political event is not prophesied anywhere in scripture. How do we get from 1948 to 1967.5? We are not told. This entire calculation is based on a series of one speculative assumption after another. Next, we are told that a generation is 51.6 years old (1967.5 + 51.6 = 2012?). Of course, this is well established by scripture! Nowhere. Why would God want to re-establish a kingdom which he said was old and had lost its relevance and was soon to pass away (Hebrews 8:13)? The reason we can be confident of the 51.6 years, we are told, is that this number can be used to accurately predict the year 1948 for the establishment of Israel. Now, this is circular reasoning. What is going on here is really very clear. Someone is sitting around looking for some sort of speculative numerological way to calculate a year they have already pre-decided. If you look at the Bible with the intention to find something predetermined, you will find it. We know this to be true from our experience with Miller, Charles Russel and Hal Lindsey. A better idea is to read the Bible to see what it says. It says that no one, not even Jesus while he was in the body, knows the hour of his coming.
Will Jesus come back in 2012? I do not know. Based on mathematical probability, I would argue that this particular year is not likely to be the one, but it may be. Either way Jesus wants his disciples to be ready at all times. Let us stop unhealthy, unbiblical speculation about the date of the return of Jesus. Instead, let us honor him by treating every moment as if it might be our last, and at the same time build his church for the long run, because we do not know the day or the hour.
 By the way, the whole 2012 end of the world thing is a misapplication of the Mayan calendar. The Mayan cosmology, like Hindu cosmology, was cyclical. Even if we were to take this calendar seriously (those doing so ought to work on their skills at rational skepticism), and even if we can accept that the calendar is in fact a reference to the year 2012, this is not an end of time but a turning of a cosmic wheel to a new age. We cannot expect Hollywood to be bothered by such a distinction, but when Christians propose the Mayan date as a real end, they ought to do more careful scholarship.