In the delightful production "Green Pastures," Gabriel just can't wait to blow his horn. He keeps saying, "Is it time now, Lord?" "Can I blow my horn now, Lord?" And one of these times, I suppose the Lord is going to say: "Blow, Gabriel, blow!"
Of course, none of us knows under just what circumstances this might take place. There is a day of judgment, and we are accountable. Someone once said that we have a choice of ending the world in three different ways: "If the bomb doesn't get us, pollution will. And if pollution doesn't do it fast enough, the population explosion will." Suddenly the global squeeze is upon us.
In the days of Jesus, there were only 250 million people on the entire globe. It took 1,850 years to get the first billion people. It took 100 years more to get to 2 1/2 billion. In 40 years more (1990), we reached 5 billion. All of this in spite of wars and plagues and famine. Scientists now predict that in another 40 years, we will double it again to 10 billion.
One authority says that 8 billion people is the absolute maximum the world can possibly support with food, water, air and the means of life. Are we then talking about the "end of the world" for mankind in about 20-25 years?
The biblical idea of the "end of the world" is probably one of the most misunderstood doctrines of the church. Someone once asked me if I was post-millenialist or pre-millenialist or a-millenialist, and I said, "None of the above. I was just a humble Christian, trying to do my job. And if the Lord came for me in death tomorrow, I planned to be 'ready.'"
Years ago, I cut my spiritual eye-teeth on the book of Revelation and Daniel, and learned the vocabulary of the "mark of the beast" and the "rapture," and all those other strange and seemingly indecipherable calculations found in apocalyptic literature. As a child, I was fearful of the strange predictions of those who seemed so sure of the future.
The scientists' "end of the world" and the biblical "end of the world" have one great thing in common -- someone is going to be held responsible for our sins and grievous failures with this old world, and this short life. Since it could be me, I'm going to try hard to be part of the answer, rather than part of the problem.
Francis Guither, a pastor for 46 years, is the author of seven books. His most recent church was Carthage United Methodist.