Thursday, 26 May 2011

Failed prediction of the end of the world: How should I feel as a Christian?

89 year old tele-evangelist Harold Camping had made the prediction that the rapture was going to occur on may 21st 2011. Those who were followers of Camping took this prediction seriously and many of them took to the streets preaching this message of doom. Harold Camping is not a stranger in making pronouncements about the specific date and time of when the world will end because in 1994 he made the same predictions which also were incorrect. The world continued to roll on and may 21st was no different. His predictions had failed but in a press conference after the failed rapture* he re-interpreted the failed physical judgement as being a spiritual judgement that is that Jesus has truly come in the sense that he now has the world under judgement. He then proposes a new date for the end of the world which is October 21st 2011.

As a Christian I don’t know how you may feel about the idea of the world coming into judgement or more importantly how Harold camping as perhaps made the faith and the bible come into ridicule. Perhaps your reaction may be that of embarrassment and you feel ashamed of the Gospel and of Christ returning to earth. Whatever your reaction may be, this is an opportunity for us Christians to speak the truth about the Judgement of the world and the love and justice of God as demonstrated in the Gospel. This is not a time to shrink back or to feel ashamed but it is a time to suffer shame and ridicule for Christ Jesus because the gospel is the power of God that brings salvation to every one that believes.

The world viewing the gospel and the return of Christ as a foolish message is not something which is new to our post-modern world but the apostles and early Christians faced the same challenges. Paul writes confidently in 1Corinthians 1:18 ‘for the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God’. So, when you engage in discussions with your friends and housemate, do not feel ashamed if they view the message of the cross and Christ coming as foolish but rather declare it boldly with all gentleness and be willing to suffer reproach for the sake of Christ.

Harold Camping received international media attention in his attempt to put a date on the return of Christ and his endeavour was utterly foolish because Jesus warns us several times in the bible not to claim such knowledge. ‘It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority (Acts 1:7) and also in Matthew 24:36 Jesus says ‘But concerning that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son but the Father only’. And here I may add Harold Camping as well. No one knows the time of the Lord’s return for he will come as a thief in the night. 

False preachers have come in the past who have made predictions about the end of the world and preached error but yet the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ continues to spread throughout the world. As God tells Jeremiah 'Let the Prophet who has a dream recount the dream, but let the one who has my word speak it faithfully. For what has straw to do with grain? Is not my word (gospel) like fire, and like a hammer that breaks a rock in pieces'? (Jeremiah 23:28-19)

But as Christians, how are we to feel about the coming judgement about the end of the world? St Peter gives us sound advice of how we ought to conduct ourselves and I leave you reader to ponder upon his words and to be ready to preach the gospel and not to be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord Jesus Christ. I hope and pray that true Christians all over the world will rise and preach the truth and whatever scorn or reproach may come let us remember who it is who first preached the gospel.

St Peter writes:  (2 Peter 3:3-18)
Above all, you must understand that in the last days scoffers will come, scoffing and following their own evil desires. 4 They will say, “Where is this ‘coming’ he promised? Ever since our ancestors died, everything goes on as it has since the beginning of creation.” 5 But they deliberately forget that long ago by God’s word the heavens came into being and the earth was formed out of water and by water. 6 By these waters also the world of that time was deluged and destroyed. 7 By the same word the present heavens and earth are reserved for fire, being kept for the day of judgment and destruction of the ungodly.
 8 But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. 9 The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.
 10 But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything done in it will be laid bare.
 11 Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives 12 as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming. That day will bring about the destruction of the heavens by fire, and the elements will melt in the heat. 13 But in keeping with his promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, where righteousness dwells.
 14 So then, dear friends, since you are looking forward to this, make every effort to be found spotless, blameless and at peace with him. 15 Bear in mind that our Lord’s patience means salvation, just as our dear brother Paul also wrote you with the wisdom that God gave him. 16 He writes the same way in all his letters, speaking in them of these matters. His letters contain some things that are hard to understand, which ignorant and unstable people distort, as they do the other Scriptures, to their own destruction.
 17 Therefore, dear friends, since you have been forewarned, be on your guard so that you may not be carried away by the error of the lawless and fall from your secure position. 18 But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and forever! Amen.


* Harold Camping holds to a pre-tribulation rapture which holds that when Jesus first returns, the church (or the elect) will be "raptured", or snatched up, into heaven to be with Jesus while God pours out his wrath on those who remain on earth.

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