I don’t like ripping fellow Christians on points of faith. I avoid it as often as possible, to the point where I will let minor things slide past me. However, something’s come up recently that I as a Christian and a church teacher simply can not ignore.
There is a man named Harold Camping who says, essentially, that the world will end in just a few days, on May 21, 2011. What makes Camping’s prediction different from the other nutjobs who found some mathemagical formula in some old texts of the Bible that he has a platform that reaches hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of people every day. Camping founded Family Radio, which broadcasts from stations across the United States and, to the best of my knowledge, around the world. As well, he has access to enough money to buy quite a few billboards to spread his apocalyptic message.
Let me say this as clearly as possible: Harold Camping is wrong. The rapture will not happen on Saturday, May 21, 2011. It could happen Friday. It could happen Sunday. It could happen in a hundred years (and yes, that means I do believe there will be a Rapture). It will not happen on Saturday.
I can say that because I’m capable of reading a Bible. Now, I didn’t spend long years poring over obscure texts in distant libraries to learn that. I simply remembered the answer Jesus gave his disciples to answer a very similar question.
In the book of Matthew, the disciples asked Jesus about the end of the world. They were curious because he had mentioned that the Temple in Jerusalem would be utterly destroyed. They were understandably upset — the Temple was a center not only of their national pride but also of their daily civic life. I imagine any of us would have wanted to know when the center of our known world would come crashing down about our ears. So they asked Jesus to tell them when the Temple would fall and what they could expect to happen before the disastrous event.
And as he sat upon the mount of Olives, the disciples came unto him privately, saying, Tell us, when shall these things be? and what shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world?
Here is the conclusion of his answer (Matthew 24:36-44). I don’t imagine it gave the disciples much solace, but it was the only answer Jesus could give them.
But of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only. But as the days of Noe [Noah] were, so shall also the coming of the Son of man be. For as in the days that were before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noe entered into the ark, And knew not until the flood came, and took them all away; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be. Then shall two be in the field; the one shall be taken, and the other left. Two women shall be grinding at the mill; the one shall be taken, and the other left.
Watch therefore: for ye know not what hour your Lord doth come. But know this, that if the goodman of the house had known in what watch the thief would come, he would have watched, and would not have suffered his house to be broken up. Therefore be ye also ready: for in such an hour as ye think not the Son of man cometh.
He said the same thing again just a few verses later:
Watch therefore, for ye know neither the day nor the hour wherein the Son of man cometh. [Matthew 25:13]
Now, I’ve never met Harold Camping, but I’m pretty sure he’s a man, which would disqualify him from knowing when Jesus will return, according to Jesus’ own words. But heck, don’t take just Jesus’ word for it (after all, Harold Camping didn’t). Let me add the words of Paul the Apostle, Christianity’s first and perhaps foremost theologian.
But of the times and the seasons, brethren, ye have no need that I write unto you. For yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night. [I Thess. 5:1-2]
Peter said almost exactly the same thing, though he added a little more post-second coming commentary.
But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up. [II Peter 3:10]
I don’t imagine a “thief in the night” will show up clanging pots and banging drums, nor is that thief likely to leave us a cleverly-coded note that will reveal the exact day of his arrival. The thing about thieves is that they show up unannounced, when no one’s looking for them.
Camping has simply gotten to smart for his own good. He’s managed to convince himself that the plain language of the Bible doesn’t actually apply to him, that his learning and devotion has made him different from the rest of the Bible-believing world. This makes him dangerous. See, there are going to be otherwise good Christians who hear Camping and look at his decades of experience and will take him at his word. Then, when May 21 passes without incident, they’ll get mad or discouraged, except they won’t be discouraged with Camping but with the Bible and with God. After all, he said this was all in the Bible and that God Himself had helped him come up with this prophecy. They won’t know that Camping tried the whole end of the world prediction before and was miserably wrong. All they will know is that a respected Christian teacher steered them wrong and they will have reason to doubt their faith. That’s wrong and Harold Camping ought to be ashamed of himself.
Category: Gimme that Old Time Religion