Seven lessons to take to heart
Another prediction of the end of the world has itself come to an end. Harold Camping (the 89-year-old founder of Family Radio who made the prediction) will probably go back to his drawing board to see where he went wrong and perhaps offer another date. Camping, along with a small group of faithful followers, warned the world that Saturday, May 21, 2011 6 PM (EST) would be the beginning of judgment day. With internet and media focus, their prediction gained more worldwide attention than all previous predictions. More than 5000 billboards predicting this end will linger as stinging reminders of the foolishness of the distraction.
Perhaps Camping will offer the same story of miscalculation that he attached to his 1994 prediction Was he just seeking his 15 minutes of fame? Is he delusional, manipulative, sincerely misguided? Only God knows his heart and he will answer to God for his words and actions. (note: Camping is now saying he was five months off and the end will be October 21st).
As for the rest of us, I see at least seven considerations now that the world didn’t end:
- Don’t fall for precise predictions. The Bible is neither a mythical text nor a mathematical book awaiting someone to unlock its codes. The promise of Christ’s return is based on his own words (John 14:1-6). Let’s not become distracted by date setting. But remember the words of the apostle Peter, “For we did not follow cleverly devised stories when we told you about the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ in power, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty. We also have the prophetic message as something completely reliable, and you will do well to pay attention to it, as to a light shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts. Above all, you must understand that no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet’s own interpretation of things. For prophecy never had its origin in the human will, but prophets, though human, spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit” (II Peter 1:16, 19-21).
- Pray for the disillusioned and cynical. Those who devoted time, resources and faith to Camping’s predictions will feel embarrassed and could slip into doubt and despair. As is often the case, well-intentioned people got caught up in the sensationalistism. Let’s pray for them instead of mocking them.
- Speak the truth of the gospel to all people. Like some political visions, prophetic visions can be distractions from the call to spread the message that, “God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8; cf. Matthew 28:18-20). Every human being must ultimately answer to God as Judge (Romans 14:10-11; Hebrews 9:27). Our calling is to tell the world that “God made Christ, who never sinned, to be the offering for our sin, so that we could be made right with God through Christ” (II Corinthians 5:21, NLT; cf. Romans 3:19-26; Galatians 3:13, 16, 21; Colossians 1:19-23).
- Don’t lose focus on the true hope of Christ’s return but remind yourself that, “It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority” (Acts 1:7). Jesus said, “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). Yet belief in the return of Jesus Christ is a test of Christian orthodoxy and the blessed hope of the Church (John 14:1-6; I Thessalonians 4:13-18; Titus 2:11-14). We should desire Christ’s return not merely because being with the Lord gets us out of a troubled world but out of a desire for universal honor to be given to Christ (Romans 8:18-24; Philippians 2:9-11).
- Rest in God’s faithfulness as you “eagerly wait for our Lord Jesus Christ to be revealed. He will also keep you firm to the end, so that you will be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is faithful, who has called you into fellowship with his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord” (I Corinthians 1:7-9; cf. Jude 24-25).
- Renew your commitment to an eager expectation for Christ’s return. After all the drama over Camping’s prediction, it may feel like a time to draw attention away from the return of Jesus. This would be a mistake. According to Hebrews 9:28, Christ will come a second time “to save those who are eagerly waiting for him.” And since “our citizenship is in heaven.” “…. we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body” (Philippians 3:20-21).
- The world (as we know it) will not continue forever and this truth should change my life. “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. Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives 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. But in keeping with his promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, where righteousness dwells. So then, dear friends, since you are looking forward to this, make every effort to be found spotless, blameless and at peace with him” (II Peter 3:10-14; cf. II Thessalonians 1:6-10).
- Donald Barnhouse: “The Folly of Setting Dates“
- James White resources on Camping