Is the End near? Is Judgment Day approaching? Will it come tomorrow?
Harold Camping of Family Radio answers with an enthusiastic “Yes!” In fact, he is sure that tomorrow, May 21, 2011, will be the Day of Judgment, the day when the kingdom of God begins to come in all fulness. According to Camping, we’ll know that the End has begun because the whole world will be rocked with a giant earthquake. Graves will be thrown open, with some corpses being raised in glory and others being shamed in their rottenness.
As you can imagine, Camping’s prediction has stirred up all sorts of interest in the media. It’s also engendered plenty of confusion. In fact, I was asked to be interviewed on a radio program of Family Life Radio to talk about what we can know (and not know) about the timing of Christ’s return. This radio network, in no way associated with Harold Camping and Family Radio, has been reported in several news stories to be the source of the end times prophecy. I came on the air, in part, to help listeners understand what Family Life Radio actually believes about the End, which is not what Mr. Camping believes.
As you might well imagine, I am not persuaded by Harold Camping’s predictions. If I am wrong, I will know it tomorrow . . . and so will you.
Why do I disagree with Mr. Camping? I have spent enough time on his website to know that I am not persuaded by his biblical interpretation. This is what he claims:
The date May 21, 2011 was derived solely from evidence found in the Bible. Mr. Camping saw God had placed, in Scripture, many important signs and proofs. These proofs alert believers that May 21st of 2011 is the date Christ will return for His people and begin a period of the final destruction of the world.
I’ve looked at Mr. Camping’s evidence and have found it lacking.
But I have an even stronger reason for believing that Mr. Camping’s prediction is wrong. This reason has to do with things Jesus said about the time of his return. For example:
“Keep awake therefore, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming. But understand this: if the owner of the house had known in what part of the night the thief was coming, he would have stayed awake and would not have let his house be broken into. Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour.” (Matthew 24:42-44)
Even the closest followers of Jesus did not know when he was returning. Yet they were not alone. See who else lacks this information, according to Jesus:
“But about that day or hour no one knows, neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.” (Mark 13:32)
Jesus said that nobody knows the time of his return. What’s most surprising is that he included himself among those who lack this knowledge.
So, Jesus said that his second coming would happen when it was not expect and that nobody knows when he’s coming back. As a matter of fact, Jesus himself didn’t know the time of his return during his earthly life. Thus, I’m just not comfortable with anyone, no matter how well-intended or biblically-informed, who claims to know the exact time of Jesus’ return. When it comes to things like this, my rule of thumb is this: It’s better not to try and trump Jesus.
Now, in defense of Mr. Camping and others who have trod on this path, I will note that what Jesus says about the timing of his return is somewhat confusing. In fact, his comments about the coming of the kingdom of God can appear to be contradictory. I’ll get into this in more detail in my next post in my series: What Was the Message of Jesus? This will will appear on Monday, if, of course, human life as we know it still exists on Monday.