A Christian computer scientist has predicted the end of the world by analysing "God's clocks of sevens" in the book of Daniel.
Nora Roth, who says on her blog 'The Mark of the Beast Explained' that she believes Daniel and Revelation "describe in detail the events that are soon to take place", has calculated the date of Jesus' return by looking at intricate patterns of 'sevens' in the Old Testament. She concludes that Jesus will come again in 2016.
That's only about three weeks away.
It's not long, for sure. But it puts Christmas into context. Here you are rushing around trying to buy cards and presents before it's too late, and it all seems a bit pointless.
Yes! I don't need to buy Christmas cards after all!
That is a way of looking at it, certainly. But I wouldn't worry too much about it.
No, the Rapture. Christmas cards are a nightmare. But Ms Roth's prediction that "In the fall of 2016 the 6,000 years of sin on earth will come to an end, everlasting righteousness will be brought in, and Jesus will come again to take His people to heaven" seems increasingly improbable as 2016 fades.
I've just looked at that website. It seems very clever.
It is, but that doesn't mean it's right.
Haven't we been here before?
Many, many times. Remember Harold Camping? He was the prophet who predicted the end of the world repeatedly from 1994, most notably in 2011 when hundreds of followers turned out to watch the apocalypse. And there are lots of others who claim to be able to calculate it from mathematical or astronomical clues in the Bible.
And it hasn't happened yet?
I don't really need to answer that question, do I?
Ah, right, no. But why do people keep on predicting it, then?
This way of reading the Bible is called "millenarianism", and it tends to be a function of extreme biblical literalism and a lot of social stress – war, poverty, social change etc. There's a lot of that going on at the moment.
Is there any reason to believe someone will get it right one day?
Possibly, but it would be sheer coincidence. Jesus specifically warned people against such speculations, after all (Matthew 24:36). We would quite like to know the future, in many ways, but it's a closed book to us.
So all those prophecies in Daniel and Revelation...?
They are difficult books, and we should be very cautious about how we interpret them. As a general rule, it's safe to say they haven't got much to say about the future, but they have a lot to say about the present. And while Ms Roth is almost certainly wrong about the Rapture coming by December 31, Jesus also tells his disciples to watch and be ready for his coming at any time. So when she says: " Now is the time to seek God, while He may be found. Now is the time to repent. Today is the day to choose to receive Jesus Christ fully and to abide in Him," we can all say Amen to that.
And the Christmas cards?
Just get on with it.
Follow Mark Woods on Twitter: @RevMarkWoods