Question:

What do you think about people saying that Christ is going to come back on May 21, 2011?


Answer:

I had to laugh because there was an article on the front page of the paper about this very thing. This is just another prediction in a long list of failed predictions of when Jesus will return. Steve Rudd gives a list of 220 of them, including this one, in "220 Dates for the End of the World."

The source of this latest claim is Harold Camping. He published a book in 1992 titled, "1994?" in which he claimed that Jesus would return in September, 1994. Clearly he was wrong and that ought to have settled matters. "But the prophet who presumes to speak a word in My name, which I have not commanded him to speak, or who speaks in the name of other gods, that prophet shall die.' And if you say in your heart, 'How shall we know the word which the LORD has not spoken?' - when a prophet speaks in the name of the LORD, if the thing does not happen or come to pass, that is the thing which the LORD has not spoken; the prophet has spoken it presumptuously; you shall not be afraid of him" (Deuteronomy 18:20-22). Harold Camping proved himself to be a false prophet and should be ignored as a fraud.

But taking a play from the Jehovah's Witnesses, who predicted Christ's return a number of times only to be proven wrong, Mr. Camping reinterpreted his results. September 7, 1994, became the start of the saving of people outside the church; May 21, 2011, becomes the rapture and the day of Judgment; and October 21, 2011 becomes the end of the world. By the way, in case you missed it, 1988 was the end of the church age and the beginning of the 23 years of great tribulation.

As another aside, Mr. Camping owns Family Radio and all the hoopla over this prediction features ads for his broadcasting company.

One of Camping's slogans is "Noah knew, so we can know." What is skipped is that Noah knew when the flood would come because God told him: "My Spirit shall not strive with man forever, for he is indeed flesh; yet his days shall be one hundred and twenty years" (Genesis 6:3). In contrast, Jesus told us that regarding the end of the world, "But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone" (Matthew 24:36). For Mr. Camping to be correct, you would have to conclude that Jesus didn't know what he was talking about. Of the two, Mr. Camping doesn't even register on a scale of credibility.

Trying to follow Mr. Camping's reasons for concluding that Judgment Day is May 21, 2011, is difficult. He plays numerous games with both dates and numbers. For example, he stretches the Old Testament time line from about four to five thousand years to thirteen thousand years. But the core of his claims is to take God's warning to Noah that the flood would begin in one week: "For after seven more days I will cause it to rain on the earth forty days and forty nights, and I will destroy from the face of the earth all living things that I have made" (Genesis 7:4), and claim that God was actually talking about seven thousand years. How does he get that? By the old conversion trick, "But do not let this one fact escape your notice, beloved, that with the Lord one day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years like one day" (II Peter 3:8). The fact that this verse does not say one day equals a thousand years doesn't matter. Peter's point was that time doesn't have the same meaning to God as it does to men. God is eternal so a short period of time (a day) and a long period of time (a thousand years) are much the same to the God who lives in eternity. It was not given as a conversion factor.

But how does Mr. Camping get 2011 from 7,000 years? By claiming that the flood actually happened 4990 years before Christ. That is why he stretched the Old Testament time line because the best estimates for the time of the flood as about 2,500 years before Christ.

Mr. Camping then takes the verse that states when the flood began to say that Judgment will be on the same day of the year. "And it came to pass after seven days that the waters of the flood were on the earth. In the six hundredth year of Noah's life, in the second month, the seventeenth day of the month, on that day all the fountains of the great deep were broken up, and the windows of heaven were opened" (Genesis 7:10-11). The Hebrew calendar started roughly in our mid-March, so he gets May 21 by going two months and 17 days into the Hebrew calendar. Hence, we have a made-up time period being applied to a fudged calendar to come up with a "certain" date for the Judgment.

The problem is that the verses cited are not prophecy. They are historical accounts of what happened in the past. Mr. Camping claims they are connected because several comparisons are made to the times before Judgment to the times before the flood. He ignores that the topics were the attitudes of people, not predicted time frames.

Like other end of world date setters, Mr. Camping will be proven wrong. But he doesn't stop there. He even tells us how many will be saved: "We learn from the Bible that Holy God plans to rescue about 200 million people (that is about 3% of todayís population). On the first day of the Day of Judgment (May 21, 2011) they will be caught up (raptured) into Heaven because God had great mercy for them." Where did these numbers come from? He didn't say and I couldn't figure out which passages he twisted to come up with them.

Then there is the problem that Mr. Camping claims that the righteous will be taken up six months before the dead. "For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord will by no means precede those who are asleep. For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord" (I Thessalonians 4:15-17).

So what do I think?

"As I urged you when I went into Macedonia -- remain in Ephesus that you may charge some that they teach no other doctrine, nor give heed to fables and endless genealogies, which cause disputes rather than godly edification which is in faith" (I Timothy 1:3-4).

Thank you for clearing that up -- not that I believed it anyway. Stuff like that just scares me because I'm afraid that even if everything else they said is wrong, I'm afraid that it may end up being right out of coincidence. But I guess it wouldn't happen out of coincidence because people wouldn't think it a coincidence, they would think that the false prophet wasn't false. I guess, though, that my fear means that I'm not ready to stand before the LORD, so I'm going to straighten myself out as if the world really were ending that soon. I mean, it could end today. Nobody knows, right? We're supposed to always be on guard and be ready.

Thanks again. You have really helped me a lot, and not just about this, but about everything I've come to you for.

I do believe you now understand why God hasn't told us when Jesus will return. I teach classes in college and I've notice that when you give people a due date for an assignment most will wait until the last moment to start working on it. The end of Matthew 24 and the beginning of Matthew 25 have a series of parables which give similar warnings: "Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour in which the Son of Man is coming" (Matthew 25:13). Since you can't make last minute preparations, you have to work to be always ready.

"Therefore you also be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect. Who then is a faithful and wise servant, whom his master made ruler over his household, to give them food in due season? Blessed is that servant whom his master, when he comes, will find so doing. Assuredly, I say to you that he will make him ruler over all his goods. But if that evil servant says in his heart, 'My master is delaying his coming,' and begins to beat his fellow servants, and to eat and drink with the drunkards, the master of that servant will come on a day when he is not looking for him and at an hour that he is not aware of, and will cut him in two and appoint him his portion with the hypocrites. There shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth" (Matthew 24:44-51).