The twittersphere has been all abuzz about Mr. Camping’s prediction that the rapture is happening on May 21rst. One response was — Weather Forecast for Saturday—- ‘Doomy with a Chance of Rapture’. Unfortunately, Mr. Camping is about to be proved a false prophet twice over (yes, he already went down this road once in 1994 or so, but we have such short attention spans that we’ve forgotten that).
Here are my top ten reasons why you should pay exactly no attention to Mr. Camping and his false predictions:
No. 10— Every such prediction since the time of Christ has had an 100% failure rate! That should have put a stop to theological weather forecasting, but alas, pious curiosity knows no bounds
No. 9— There is no basis for such a prediction. Even if you believe in the modern notion of a pre-trib or mid-trib rapture (and I definitely don’t), the New Testament tells us nothing at all about when exactly it might happen. Camping’s computations are based on his own flawed assumptions not only about the Bible but about the 21rst century.
No. 8– You shouldn’t trust any such predictions that come from someone who can’t even read the Bible in its original Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek, but instead bases his predictions on some English translation. As I like to say, there are no infallible English translations, and every translation is already an interpretation of the original.
No. 7 There have been earthquakes, wars, famines, screwy weather, and distressing political and economic events in every age of Christian history. There is nothing special or unique about 2011 when it comes to those things.
No. 6 Biblical prophecy in any case doesn’t work like Mr. Camping thinks it does! The Bible does not give specific details about events transpiring 2000 years after the writing of the Bible. As I like to put it— God reveals enough about the future to give us hope, but not so much that we don’t have to live by faith every day. Imagine for a moment what would happen if we all actually knew what Mr. Camping says he knows— the specific date of the eschatological come to Jesus meeting— well then we wouldn’t have to be particular good or pious day after day, only at the very end of the process right before May 21rst. ‘Sin in haste, repent at leisure’ would be the motto of a world that knows in advance the day of its demise. Fortunately, God has not revealed any such date.
No. 5— Prognostications and calculations are a human activity based on human reasoning about the Bible and current events. They are an attempt to get hold of or control over the future, so we can plan ahead. God doesn’t allow us to control our futures. He reveals enough to give us reason for great expectations, but not so much that we have a basis for precise calculations.
No. 4— Jesus quite specifically said he was coming back like a thief in the night, a metaphor applied also by Paul and in Revelation to this event. The whole premise of the metaphor is that Jesus would show up at an unexpected and surprising time, a time when know one would be looking for him or knew he was coming.
No. 3— The Bible specifically warns against people like Mr. Camping. They shouldn’t be listened to, they shouldn’t be given a following, they shouldn’t be give media attention (but sadly all of this has happened). Even when the 12 asked Jesus for more specific information about the timing when God would do the rest of the eschatological things, like restore the kingdom to Israel Jesus warned “It is not for you to know the times and the period set by his own authority” (Acts 1.7). Jesus is not just talking about the future of Israel, he is talking about the whole future eschatological scenario including his own return which as Rom. 11.25-27 makes clear is linked to the future of Israel. We should have listened to Jesus!
No. 2— It’s just bad theology to listen to folk like Mr. Camping— there is plenty of zeal, but it’s not according to knowledge. You shouldn’t listen to any preacher who says he knows more than Jesus. Here is what Jesus said about his own return—- “Of that day or hour, no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, not even the Son, only the Father” (Mk. 13.32). If God only knows, then why should we think any of us know? If Jesus says during his earthly ministry even he didn’t know the day, why should we combine arrogance with ignorance and insist we do?
No.1– If you’re determined to listen to bad rapture theology and false predictions then at least apply some critical thinking to what is being said. Why would God, who wants us to live by faith and not by sight every day of our Christian lives (see Hebrew 11– now faith is assurance of things hoped for, and a conviction about things not seen!!! Not in evidence, not predictable), take away our reason to continue to trust God EVERY DAY, by giving us a due date for the end of all things? This doesn’t even make common sense, never mind Biblical sense. So my word to one and all is the words of my granny—- When it comes to Mr. Camping and his ilk— don’t be so open minded that your brains fall out. You shouldn’t go Camping on May 21
P.S. We need to pray for all those poor gullible souls who have managed to ruin their lives, and will discover they have done so, on May 22, by following Camping’s advice. Many apparently have sold their property etc. This reminds me of a post I did in 2008 about one of my favorite old books— Colin Morris’ Epistle to the Apostle. Here is what I said then….
Sometime ago, my fellow Methodist Colin Morris from the U.K. wrote a wonderful little humorous book entitled Epistles to the Apostle, now long out of print, imagining what the letters written to Paul would have looked like, The following is a sample that could have prompted 1 Thessalonians.
My dear Paul,
The followers of Jesus in this city are in receipt of your letter, which was read out in church a month ago and which appears to confirm a widely held view here that our Lord will be returning in glory at any moment to take believers such as my humble self back with him to heaven. Being a hard-headed businessman I took your words with utmost seriousness. To prepare myself and my family for the Day of the Lord, I sold my business at a knock-down price and gave the proceeds to the poor—and that, let me add, was a tidy sum, but I assume I won’t need cash in heaven! So here I am with my bags packed, my property disposed of and myself, my wife, and my children taking it in shifts to scan the skies for something unusual to appear. In fact, every time I hear a trumpet, I nearly jump out of my skin! And what has happened? Nothing.
I can’t help feeling that I’ve been made to look an utter fool in the eyes of my friends and business acquaintances. They all think I’ve gone stark, raving mad. Meanwhile, the man who bought my business, far from suffering the catastrophe reserved for the wicked, is making a handsome profit and living in my house, which is one of the finest in the city . . . .
Would you kindly tell me what I do next? The tax people are pestering me for last year’s assessment, and I haven’t a lead shekel to pay them with. Being a man of God you are probably unaware that disposing of one’s assets in the interests of a religion which is not recognized by the state does not qualify one for retrospective tax exemption. So, I’m in a pretty pickle, let me tell you! I feel most strongly that the financial implications of the Second Coming should have been given more serious consideration by the apostles . . .
I am in a most embarrassing situation, what with a nagging wife and three children who have gotten completely out of hand because they prefer earthly pranks to what they imagine will be heavenly boredom . . . it is one thing to suffer for the faith; quite another to be made to look ridiculous. However I do not intend to move from this spot until Jesus comes to collect me. Meanwhile it would be quite dishonest of me not to express grave concern at the most unbusinesslike way in which this whole matter is being dealt with. I await an eager reply, other wise I shall be forced to turn the whole matter over to my lawyers.
[There followed a letter from Paphlos’ lawyer telling Paul he had exactly thirty days to make good on his promise of heaven or the second coming or face litigation in Thessalonike!] Thanks to Omar for the following.