A few quick notes on this message:
1. Yes, I did what a great many preachers did Sunday—addressed the whole issue with predicting the end of the world and getting it wrong. We fall into different traps at times with preaching: one trap is to completely ignore current events and the other is to be driven at all times by them. I felt this one was worth commenting on.
2. While I did address that issue, I also waited until after the projected date. Why? Because no Biblically honest preacher can preach a sermon setting a date that Jesus won't return. I could not have said last week that May 21 wouldn't be the Rapture. Why not? Because…."no one knows the day or the hour." Matthew 24:36. Not knowing the day means, by extension, not knowing the not-day. I'd have felt pretty stupid to preach that and then gone to heaven that day.
3. In the sermon, I use college finals as the illustration of the end-times. Other times I've used Mom coming to visit the college student as the illustration. The overall force is this idea: we're here with a purpose, much like a college student is there with a purpose. Both purposes involve deadlines and expectations; accountability and evaluations. We know the time is coming---why put off being ready?
4. Date-setting is a waste of your time. Every time someone has done this in western church history, the focus has come off of the message of the Gospel and gone on to the method of picking the date. EVERY TIME. (There are few absolutes in historical studies, but I'll state that one.) If the goal is to glorify God and point people to Christ: do not try to set dates. Even getting on the edge of setting dates by putting the story in a current context, such as the Left Behind series gets a little too close. We don't know the future.
5. We do know the past, and the past is what is, really, most relevant: at a specific time in the past (though the date is debated): the Son of God put on flesh; dwelt sinlessly among sinful humanity; preach, taught, healed, raised the dead, corrected and rebuked; was crucified at the hands of mankind; was dead and buried; and rose up on the third day. He now lives forever and saves those who come to Him. That death paid for our sins---we know not exactly how, whether by ransom or substitution (though I think substitution is the best explanation, sorry Jack), but we know He paid.
What we need about the future is plain: Christ is coming back. That should be the sole focus.