So this week the wife and I are on vacation for the first time in several years, and it is absolutely wonderful. The only question we really have is, will the world still be here when we're done?
As you may have heard, a punk named Harold Camping is shooting his big mouth off about how the Bible supposedly guarantees that judgment day will be May 21. Right about the time we're going to be watching a play starring Jack Bauer, Jim Gaffigan, and one of the original cops from Law & Order, Jesus is guaranteed to return, because it's some certain time after the flood, and based on some numerology and awful theology, Camping has cracked the Bible code. And between the omnipresent billboards and the interviews with every media type willing to slander the church (by claiming he's part of us and speaks for us), his message is getting out. May 21 is judgment day.
So what is the Christian response to this?
First, understand that Harold Camping is a vile blasphemer. Jesus could not have been more clear that we cannot, will not, and have no business trying to figure out the date. Whenever he was asked about this, his response was always direct and unambiguous - it's none of our business, and we cannot know. Harold Camping claims that not only does he know, it is the duty of every Christian to know. In other words, he's calling Jesus Christ a liar. This is utter blasphemy. (For more on Camping's devolution, see this excellent five-part series: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5).
Second, we can't say for sure that May 21 is not the day (at least the day that everything starts, or the day of the rapture, or whatever your eschatology holds) any more than this guy can say that it is. Look - I understand the temptation to say that if some crackpot is predicting Christ's return on a certain date, we can be sure it won't be that date. But that simply doesn't follow. We won't know either way - we can never predict when it will be, nor can we say with certainty that it won't.
While we don't want to endorse Camping's sinful bluster in any way, we also don't want to go too far the other way, and pretend that Christ's return is not imminent. In denouncing Camping, it's far too easy to sound like the mockers and scoffers of 2 Peter 3. Jesus may not come back on May 21 - it may be May 17, or May 22, or some other day. We don't know - and it is a tragedy when our lack of knowledge here causes us to give comfort to the lost, or get complacent and act like it couldn't happen any moment. Jesus very explicitly warned against this, and Peter was clear about how we should live in light of Christ's imminent return.
Jesus could come back at any time - be ready! Behold, now is the favorable time; behold, now is the day of salvation!
(Postscript: as usual, Al Mohler is right. Had I seen that before I wrote this, I might not have. Such is life.)
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