By now you’ve picked up on the buzz that, according to Harold Camping of Family Radio, the rapture will occur this coming Saturday, May 21st. He’s even gone so far as to predict the exact time (6 PM), though there’s some confusion concerning time zones around the world.
So, May 21st, give or take a few hours.
This isn’t the first time that Mr. Camping predicted the Second Coming. He had previously proclaimed Jesus would return in September of 1994. In fact, he wrote an entire book on the topic, but concluded within the book that he could very well be wrong.
If all of this makes you a bit uncomfortable, it’s probably because you’re familiar with Jesus’ own words and warning. Speaking to the matter of predicting His return, Jesus himself replied:
“But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father” (Mark 13:32).
This latest prediction joins a long list of others. Pope Innocent III predicted the end would come in 1284; in the 16th century Mother Shipton declared “…The world to an end shall come; in eighteen hundred and eighty-one.” A 17th Century Baptist preacher named Benjamin Keach predicted it would be in 1689. More recently, Jehovah Witnesses have predicted the end numerous times, most notably in 1914, 1915, 1918, 1920, 1925, 1941, 1975 and 1994.
According to some published estimates, followers and supporters of the May 21st prediction have spent over $4 million on billboard and bus advertisements to warn people. One retired gentleman, convinced to be sure, has reportedly spent his entire life savings ($110,000) to help fund the campaign. After all, what true believer needs money on May 22nd?
Not surprisingly, media channels are having a field day with this story, not to mention late-night comedians and aspiring ones on both Facebook and Twitter. On the upside, the story has given theologians and pastors an opportunity to share publicly that, indeed, Christians believe Jesus will one day return to judge the living and the dead. On the downside, the spectacle probably doesn’t do much to present the agnostic or atheist with a thoughtful representation of Christianity.
Could the May 21st prediction be right? Well, a stopped clock is right twice a day. Still, Jesus tells us in Matthew 24: “Therefore stay awake, for you do not know the day your Lord is coming … the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect” (v. 42, 44).
My friend, Dr. Al Mohler, recently reflected on this latest controversy. Cutting through the hype, I believe he gets right to the heart of the matter:
The Bible does not contain hidden codes that we are to find and decipher. The Bible has been given to us in order that we might know the truth, and the truth is clearly revealed in its pages. We are not to look for hidden patterns of words, numbers, dates, or anything else. The Bible’s message is plain and requires no mathematical computation for its understanding. The claim that one has found a hidden code or system in the Bible is an insult to the Bible as the Word of God.
…We are not to draw a line in history and set a date, but we are to be about the Father’s business, sharing the Gospel and living faithful Christian lives. We are not to sit on rooftops like the Millerites, waiting for Christ’s return. We are to be busy doing what Christ has commanded us to do.
As for me, I embrace the words of Jesus, not the calculations of Harold Camping or other end times forecasters. As I shared in Monday’s post, I believe that our behavior and lifestyle shouldn’t be contingent upon dates and concern surrounding our earthly demise. This campaign has appeared to become an obsession to a number of misguided Christians, who could have been investing their time and finite resources in the lives of people and their immediate needs. To me, that’s a shame.
But I’m curious what you think.