Here we go again. Yet another well-known religious figure made another attention-grabbing “prediction” about the so-called rapture and the end of the world. And once again, he was wrong. The amazing thing about Harold Camping is that this is the second time he was wrong. In 1992, he predicted the world would end in 1994 (although he did make room for error and suggested 2011 could be the year).
CNN posted an article about the financial status of Camping’s Family Radio. The donations have poured in to the tune of $80 million between 2005 and 2009. Not bad for an old retired civil engineer who has struck out twice on predicting the apocalypse.
Unfortunately, this isn’t the first time someone has grabbed at fifteen minutes of fame with a bold (but wrong) prediction about the end of times. History is filled with movements large and small who thought they had the inside track to Jesus’ return. Untold thousands have sold all their possessions and quit their jobs because of the phony predictions.
Here in America alone, we experience the Great Disappointment of 1844 (from which the Seventh Day Adventists emerged). The Jehovah’s Witnesses predicted Jesus would return in 1914. When he didn’t, they simply changed their stance and said he really did return… but invisibly. Apparently, he’s hanging out in Pittsburgh.
Saturday’s colossal eschatological goof isn’t the first. It won’t be the last.
A Black Eye
As a Christian, I honestly get a little angry when someone makes one of these thick-skulled predictions. Why?
- They make Christianity look stupid. When guys with a pulpit use that pulpit to make stupid predictions, it gives people who don’t follow Jesus yet another reason to keep Him at arm’s length.
- They ignore Jesus’ own words. Jesus himself said that no one knows when He’ll return. And yet, a nut case with an audience will pop up every now and again saying he’s figured it out when Jesus himself said no one would.
- They cost naive believers everything. Every time some religious prognosticator comes out with a new chart predicting Jesus’ return, he gathers a following of people who ignorantly give up everything because they believe so blindly in the prediction. And who gets it? The religious prognosticator. And do you think they give refunds?
If a guy states he knows when Jesus is coming back and has a chart to prove it, run away. Run far away.
Too Heavenly Minded as to be No Earthly Good
As a Christian, I do believe in the return of Jesus. I also, however, believe that people who get so focused on the hereafter often make themselves irrelevant here and now. The Bible reminds Christians to live out our faith in practical, tangible ways now. Why? Because the kingdom of God is not just coming, it’s also here. And Christians are to be change agents for the kingdom.
So instead of making charts and quoting Revelation, Christians should be looking forward to Christ’s return by living out their faith now by serving others in His name. I happen to have the greatest job in the world – as a hospice chaplain, I get to be Jesus to people who are staring eternity in the face. My family is looking at how we can do more in our city and world. Simple acts of kindness in Jesus’ name do more to help people experience the love of God more than any end-time chart or Kirk Cameron movie. By living out my faith in Jesus now, I’ll be ready for his return, no matter when it is.
If all this end-times brouhaha interests you…
Richard Kyle’s book The Last Days are Here Again is an excellent overview of apocalyptic thinking over the last two thousand years. It’s a little dated, but gives a great survey of end-times movements since the time of Jesus. Unfortunately, it’s out of print, but Amazon has sellers who are peddling used copies.
The comments have been turned off for this post. Don’t worry. You’ll get to join the conversation tomorrow.