When Doomsday Fails

Unless you were in a total media blackout, you heard the predictions of Harold Camping. He predicted the rapture to occur on Saturday, May 21, 2011 at around 6 p.m. His followers sold possessions (after all they weren’t going to need them for long) in order to get the message out. I admire their boldness but lament the message wasn’t true to the Bible.

Camping believed that Noah’s flood was in 4990 B.C. He took the words from Genesis 7:4 (“Seven days from now I will send rain on the earth”) to be a prediction of the end of the world. He argued that a day equaled a thousand years because of 2 Peter 3:8 (“With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day…”). By the way, Peter is quoting from a Psalm 90, and the psalm says that a 1000 years to the Lord is also like a watch in the night. Camping takes the 17th day of the second month in Genesis to equal May 21. So 7000 years after the flood, Camping was predicting the rapture. He is now recalculating and arguing that the Judgment Day was spiritual and the new date for the rapture is October 21, 2011.

In case you didn’t notice, Camping’s argument contains many assumptions. But the biggest problem is the argument contradicts Jesus’ own clear statement:

But concerning that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only. Matthew 24:36, ESV

Jesus had all the same biblical data that Camping has, but Jesus said he didn’t know and taught that his coming would be like the thief in the night — that is unexpected (Matthew 24:43 and 1 Thessalonians 5:2). After his resurrection, the apostles were inquiring about the times, and Jesus instructed it wasn’t for them to know (Acts 1:6-7).

Camping is not the first predictor of doomsday. Many predictions have been made since the 19th century. The new millennia brought about the feverish activity of many speculations as it did in A.D. 1000. My concern is when the prediction of doomsday fails. It may discourage faith and seeking after the truth of Jesus Christ by some, and it may encourage the skeptics to scoff even more.

The Bible does not teach us to predict dates for the coming of Jesus. But it does teach that Jesus is coming again, and a Day of Judgment lies ahead for each of us. Instead of encouraging speculation, it warns us to be prepared.

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