I’ve said this elsewhere about posting on Leap Year, that if you blog at all, even if you are a horrible, completely negligent and irregular blogger like me, then you can’t let a day like today go by without posting something. Leap Year only comes once every four years, and while there are twelve years every century where you have the month/day/year all the same, like 12.12.12, those twelve years all come right in a row at the beginning of the century, and then they disappear for the next 88 years. So, we won’t be doing this again until 1/1/1 on January 1st, 2101 – and frankly, I don’t expect to be around then, so I had better blog now.
I like patterns and numbers, so patterns in numbers interest me. The house I grew up in had a street address of 3003, and my first phone number was 444-5111. I haven’t lived in that house or had that phone number for almost 30 years, but I still remember those numbers, in part because of the patterns in them. A day like this, then, with 12.12.12 is inherently interesting to a guy like me.
And yet, I often find the fun and fascination of the pattern and the number to be a gateway to a more serious reflection on time. And as I think about patterns and numbers and time, several things come to mind.
One of those things is that looking for patterns in numbers can cause a bit of trouble. I knew someone who was convinced that Jesus was coming back in 1996, and it was all because he saw patterns in numbers that maybe weren’t there. Here’s how he got there.
He started with Bishop Ussher’s date of 4004 BC as the date of creation. Also, he took the verse that says to God a thousand years are like a day to be a code of sorts. Then, he reasoned that the thousand year millenium in the Book of Revelation is the Sabbath Rest promised in Hebrews, and therefore is the ‘7th Day.’ Thus, there are six days between creation and the millenium, and those days are all 1000 years long, so there will be 6000 years between creation and the 2nd Coming, which means Jesus was coming in 1996 – the year that comes 6000 years after 4004 BC.
Only Jesus didn’t come back in 1996.
Which tells us many things, one of them being that we should never overlook the clear, straightforward interpretation of a verse like the several that suggest no one knows the day or the hour when Christ will return (which, by the way, this guy dodged by saying he didn’t claim to know the particular day or hour, something I always felt might be technically true but obviously wasn’t in the spirit of the thing) in favor of a rather far-fetched interpretation like the various steps he took to arrive at his particular conclusion.
Another lesson is that patterns are fun but shouldn’t be pushed too far. 12.12.12 was fun today, and my students wanted to stop and mark 12:12 on 12.12.12. So we did, and that was fine, but, looking for a larger meaning in the pattern of a day like 12.12.12 isn’t anything more than fun. It doesn’t provide the real answers to the questions we have or the truth we seek.
In the end, the mysteries of time are not ours to solve. They are held in the hand of God who alone knows the beginning and the end, and who is of course, Himself, eternal and without either.