When I was just a young man in my early twenties, working as an apprentice in furniture making in Edmonton, Alberta and still living in the New Age commune that drew me to Canada, I met a lonely young man at work. When I say lonely, I mean he was a loner. He had no friends, and he was quite private and untalkative.
Even back then, I was no different than I am now. Though I wasn’t a Christian yet, I was still always interested in other people, especially when they seemed to be spiritually minded. That’s what I suspected of this boy, and so I befriended him. He was a skinny boy with a very serious look on his face at all times, and fiery red hair. As we got to know each other, and he learned that I was also ‘on the spiritual path’ and involved in a group that believed that ‘the end is near,’ he opened up to me his great secret.
Through his study of the Bible and working through its numerology, he had determined that not only were we in the Last Days, but that the Lord Jesus Christ was about to return, and it would not be too far ahead. In fact, it was going to be the very next year. This was in 1972.
I didn’t criticize him in any way, but let him talk about it more and more to gain his confidence, and finally one day, he invited me to his room. He rented a single room in a house—that was what young people did in those days in Canada, that is if they didn’t pool their resources and get an apartment to share—and he had a hotplate in there, was able to use a shared washroom, but other than a small bed and a tiny dresser and writing table with lamp and a chair, he had nothing else in the room. I felt sorry for him, as my commune was in a large house on the edge of the University of Alberta campus. It had five or six bedrooms, four (gas) fireplaces, a great room, a fully finished one room attic with dormers, and several bathrooms and all the other rooms one expects in a very large house. Our rent was $285 a month. This young man was certainly poor as well as lonely. I wish I could remember his name, but I can’t, so I will call him Colin.
When Colin invited me to come over, so he could show me the fruits of his labors, I was excited, because he really interested me. There was something about him, so solemn even at that young age, and so confident of his beliefs. On the other hand, I was still being tossed to and fro by every wind of doctrine, and almost drowning in the New Age sea. I hadn’t made it to the ark in time. Would the flood finally drown me? I wondered.
Finally, the day came and after work I drove him home (he didn’t have a car either; I had a brand new Ford Pinto), and we ascended the stairs to his room. When the door opened, his one lamp was already burning. It was dark outside already, being the beginning of winter. There was nowhere for me to sit but on his bed, and he took the chair and pulled out of somewhere a pile of oversized, thick paper with what looked like geometry diagrams and tiny writing all over the pages. He pulled one out of the pile and laid it out on the bed where I could see it, though the lamp didn’t give much light.
The page had what looked like intersecting circles and lines, and lots of tiny writing and dates and bible verses. He began explaining to me all kinds of things about what the Bible said, that I had never heard of in my life. He had figured out from all the prophecies in the bible exactly when everything was going to happen, events that I had never even heard of before. I had been brought up as a Catholic, and so there wasn’t any concept of prophecy being fulfilled before our very eyes. I was impressed but overwhelmed. There was suddenly something emanating from his eyes, voice and face that I hadn’t seen in him before. It scared me a little bit. It was almost as if he were possessed.
Yes, possessed. Possessed by ideas, for sure. Possessed by certainty, but what was the source? Things that I thought about fuzzily and not even in biblical terms, only in the New Age way—you know, Age of Aquarius—this Colin seemed to know with rock hard certainty. The complexity of his drawings and timelines, as he showed me the other papers, astounded me. To this day, I have never seen anything so rigorously organized and complex on a piece of paper. As he told me about his revelations, he spoke almost as if I weren’t there, almost as though he didn’t care whether I believed him or not. When he was done, he looked at me point blank and said, “In just a couple of months, I will disappear. Do you want to come with me?”
That was too much for my New Age head to wrap around, and after an embarrassing moment and a stutter, I told him, I needed time to think about it. Disappear where? I was afraid to ask him. I had a sickening feeling that he might kill himself. I knew in my gut, something was not right here.
Colin only worked with us for maybe another week and a few days more, and then he really did disappear. I didn’t retrace my way to his doorstep to look him up either, even though I wanted to very badly. There was just a strange emotion of attraction and fear in me going on, and the fear won. I never forgot him, though, and I wonder to this day what happened to him. He is not the only person in my life who has just disappeared, but certainly one of the most enigmatic.
What brought this all to mind was thinking about the apocalyptic groups that are currently terrorizing the world. Here it is, the same spirit, still claiming to know what only God knows, only on a much larger scale. If only it were that easy. If only we could expect God to unfold His plans like clockwork and give some of His servants the privilege to know His timeline.
History has shown every one of these claimants to hidden prophetic knowledge to be imposters and deceived, and yet that doesn’t stop them appearing with predictable regularity. In fact, that’s the only predictable thing about their whole enterprise. We know that Christ will return, but not when. He tells us this is how it must be. And we also know that these false prophets and deluded brethren will appear with dependable regularity. Lucky will be the last, who come proclaiming and prophesying the day before He really does return. But how will He regard them?