So what do baseball and Judgment Day have in common? No, it's not a joke. Come on the journey with me.
First a little background. Baseball, while entertaining, is far from my favorite sport to watch. Sure, I'll go to games, but it's just as much for the snacks and fresh air and wacky antics between innings. I recently heard a radio commercial for the local MLB team that went a little something like this: "There's no game clock, no shot clock, no two minute warning in baseball. It's not over until the last out is called." I'd never thought about it like that before, but baseball is a purely event driven team sport. All of the other major sports are time driven, from quarters and hurry up offenses to power plays and time in the paint fouls. Not baseball. Sure, you get 9 innings, 6 outs per inning. But it could take 5 minutes or it could take an hour to finish an inning. The team with the most runs scored wins when the task is completed, not matter how long it takes. It's not over until the last out is called.
Ok, so what does that have to do with Judgment Day? It started nearly 2 years ago when we moved to a new neighborhood and were greeted with this little gem on our new route to church:
Nice. For some reason I found this very offensive. Actually, I can tell you this exact reason why I found this offensive: I thought it made the rest of us normal, non-gloom and doom Christians look bad. While these folks have every right to spread their message, I just wished they hadn't decided to broadcast it on the broad side of a truck that I have to pass several times a week.
But the more I saw it, the more I began to think about the end of the world. Clearly there are signs of the end times all around us: wars and rumors of war, famines, earthquakes, etc. Matthew 24 refers to these signs as the beginnings of birth pains (vs. 4-8). Having given birth to two 8-10 lb. boys, I can totally relate (more on that in a later post, bet you can't wait!). But just as nobody knows how long a woman's labor will last, nobody really knows when the end will come. So doesn't it make sense to live each day as if it were your last? It actually changed my mindset dramatically and freed me to make what I hope turn out to be good decisions (perhaps more on that in a future post if we make it through today).
A little research showed that this was the brain child of Harold Camping. Who is Harold Camping? It doesn't matter. How did he come to decide that Judgment Day is May 21, 2011? Also not important. Why? Because he is wrong. How do I know? Harold and the Happy Campers are trying to answer a New Testament question by looking to the Old Testament. Mr. Camping spent 5 years studying Genesis ch. 5 and 11 trying to read the scoreboard of life and figure out how time was left in the game. Fascinating, but misguided. The answer Mr. Camping seeks is spelled out clearly in Matthew 24:35, "But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father." These are the words of Jesus! Jesus is admitting that HE doesn't even know when the world will end! If the Father wouldn't reveal this information to His only Son or the angels at His right hand in heaven, why would He reveal it to Harold Camping?
Back to baseball. At a normal game, you can follow along on the progress of the game by watching the strike count and the innings tick by on the scoreboard. But I think Matthew 24:36-51 does a pretty good job of explaining that there is no such cosmic scoreboard. So imagine you went to a baseball game that didn't have a scoreboard. You would pay closer attention to the progress of the game so that the end didn't sneak up on you, right? Now imagine that it is solely up to the umpire how many strikes, balls, outs, and innings make up the game. How much more would you be riveted by every play of the game? Imagine as a player how much more determined you would be to make the most of every play not knowing how many times you will go through the batting order, or if this time when the umpire called you out you went back to dugout for good! I can tell you that no amount of beer, nachos, or free bobbleheads would be able to tear my eyes from the field!
This is where I think Harold and the Happy Campers fell off the wagon. They are screaming at the top of their lungs that we are in the bottom of the 9th with 2 outs and a full strike count, and the next pitch will end the game. How do they know? Because time is running out based on Mr. Camping's prediction. They are trying to convince people to pay closer attention to the game, but I think it has the opposite effect. If the next pitch will end the game regardless, what does it matter if the batter swings, bunts, or just stands there? *yawn ... Let's head for the parking lot now and see if we can beat the traffic out of the stadium. I agree that we could very well be in the bottom of the 9th with 2 outs and a full strike count, but that doesn't automatically mean that the next pitch will end the game. It could be a base hit, a home run, a foul ball. Remember, time is irrelevant in baseball.
I believe that time is also irrelevant to the Father in His determination as to when Judgment will come. Jesus gives us a clue to this effect again in Matthew 24:14, "And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come." A-ha!!! Jesus is saying that the end will not come until all people on earth have been given the opportunity to hear the gospel and accept salvation. That is the final out! And I have it on pretty good authority that there are people in this world who have never had the opportunity to here the gospel (so many future posts to look forward too!). Until that happens, the game keeps going.
Still want to head for the parking lot? I certainly hope not. Jesus talks at the end of Matthew 24 about what will happen to those who are found "wandering in the parking lot" when He returns, and it ain't pretty (no good can come of anything that ends in "weeping and gnashing of teeth"). What should you do instead? WATCH THE GAME. Help keep those around you in the stands focused on what really matters: the Umpire, and the amazing grand slam His Son hit all those innings ago that changed the game forever. Ok, that was cheesy. Stick with me.
Do I really think there is some cosmic baseball game going on somewhere in heavens that ultimately decides the timing of Judgment Day? Not likely, although it would make a great Douglas Adams-esque novel. It's an imperfect analogy. But I'm sure of one thing. When the game does end, the score will always come out in my favor due to the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
The only question is how many Jesus fans will be in the stands because of me?