Q: Someone on a cable TV channel recently made a prediction that the world would end on May 29, 2011. He was very sure and adamant about this and is announcing it daily. What do you think about this? Please let me know before May 29. — K., Lindenhurst, N.Y., via snail mail
A: The temptation to know the date the world will end has occupied people with nothing better to do for centuries, particularly in the time between the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament. Various movements and sects whipped themselves into a frenzy after the death of Jesus, passionately believing Christ's second coming was imminent. As time passed without a second coming, some of these millenarian and chiliastic movements lost their appeal.
The Gospels are full of wise advice to avoid such inflammatory speculation. In Matthew 24:36 we read, "But of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only." (See also Mark 13:32; Matthew 24:42)