Over the past few weeks, my wife and I have been catching up on the classic Back to the Future trilogy. We haven’t seen the movies for quite some time, and its been a real treat to see how that DeLorean time machine brings all kind of trouble.
I get a kick out of the second movie in which Marty McFly (Michael J. Fox) goes into the future to the year 2015. It is fun to see how the director and prop artists envisioned our future from the mid-1980s, and how far we have yet to come considering 2015 is only two years away.
I doubt very highly, for instance, that we will have flying cars or hoverboards in the next two years. We are still trying to figure out how to get 100 miles out of an electric car, let alone how to make Fords fly.
Then there is the futuristic soda shop in the movie. In it, robots with screens take orders from patrons. They got the screens correct in some respect with the internet, but I don’t think we will have any “Max Headroom”-like images of Ronald Reagan asking us if we’d like cheese on our burger.
This vision of the future, as fantastic as it is, simply reminds us that for all of the predicting we do, we don’t know what the future holds. We don’t even know what will happen tomorrow.
By the way, wasn’t it just last year that the world was supposed to end? So much for Mayan math.
Now consider that nearly 2000 years ago, someone who was quite close to God–was God in the flesh, in fact–told us that we will never know the “day or hour” of God’s ultimate return to earth (Mark 13:32).
No, Jesus didn’t leave any room for interpreting when the end will come, but he did warn his disciples that they are not to sit around and wonder either.
If you read Mark 13, Jesus gave a long lesson about what things will happen in the future and what his disciples were to do.
One thing on the disciples’ to-do list was not to let anyone lead them astray (Mk. 13:5, 22). Some folks think this means that false prophets will come preaching all kinds of explicitly false gospels. I think it is more subtle and insidious than that; perhaps Jesus was referring to the nearest salesperson who scares you into thinking that you need a new car (instead of that old 3-year old one) that might lead you into deeper debt.
Or maybe its a commercial that distracts you with the next “big thing” instead of inspiring you to use your resources for the mission field.
Another thing on the to-do list was not to worry about what to say when being persecuted (Mk. 13:11). If Jesus’ disciples are living and embodying the Good News of the Gospel, then their lives should speak for themselves.
Disciples only bear witness to their experience in God, not try to focus on some big, long explanation that tries to defend a God who needs no defending.
Lastly, Jesus encourages his disciples to “keep awake” (Mk. 13:37). I had a feeling that Jesus knew that his return would not be as soon as the early church first suspected. He knew that the longer the anticipation, the more people tended to get bored, give up, or simply turn away.
Jesus insisted that they–and we–stay “awake” and to spread the gospel as if every day is the last day before his return.
Back to the Future is fun because it inspires us to predict the future, but we Christians must always keep in mind that God cannot be predicted. We are to simply stay alert and be on guard, for only when the gospel has spread to the whole world will the end come.