By Chuck Missler
A billboard popped up near Interstate 40 in Greensboro, North Carolina on Sunday, May 22. “That was awkward” it said, and it included the verse from Matthew 24:36 that said, “No one knows the day or the hour…” The poignant billboard has started its voyage through Facebook and around the web, offering a lighthearted response to the fact that Jesus did not return on Saturday.
To those afraid they missed the rapture when it took place on Saturday, May 21, take comfort in knowing that the rest of us were left behind as well. We have no desire to disparage Harold Camping, the engineer who honestly believed he had mathematically worked out Judgment Day. His confidence was certainly misguided, but at least he wasn’t right. The world still has more time.
Camping made headlines this spring with his prediction that Jesus would return and rapture the Church on May 21, 2011, an event which would be followed by worldwide doom and destruction. Camping took Genesis 7:4 (“For yet seven days, and I will cause it to rain upon the earth…”) and 2 Peter 3:8 (“…one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. “) and through some calculations decided the 17th of the Hebrew month of Iyyar, exactly 7,000 years after the Great Flood, would be May 21, 2011.
To the bewilderment of Camping’s followers, May 21 ended like any other day. Those who had quit their jobs or left their homes or, God forbid, stopped paying their bills, faced disillusionment. Camping himself changed course and declared that the rapture would take place on October 21 instead, the day he’d already slotted for the earth’s ultimate Judgment.
To err is very human, and 89-year-old Camping and his followers are human. They’ve fallen into a trap that we all fall into, one from which few of us can claim immunity; they took an interpretation they pulled from the Scriptures and they took a dogmatic position on it. Unlike most of us, though, their misinterpretation had a Judgment Day right away. They didn’t have to wait until the real Day had come to find out they were wrong.
There are certain matters about which the Bible is very clear. Those are doctrines we can all hold on to and should defend with all our hearts. Jesus died on the cross to pay for our sins, and he rose again from the dead the third day (1Cor 15:3,4; 1John 2:2; Acts 10:39-40). There will be a judgment day (Rev 11:18; 20:12-13). Jesus is coming back (Act 1:11; Matt 26:64; Rev 1:7) and only God the Father knows when!
“But of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only.” – Matt 24:36
There are other matters, however, which aren’t so clear at all. In those areas, we need to be careful. We should definitely avoid “doubtful disputations” as Paul says in Romans 14:1. Certain things just are not worth causing division over. Whether we eat meat or eat vegetables, whether we worship on one day or another, whether we drink wine or not, these types of things are not worth making one another stumble. Paul spends chapter 14 of Romans hammering on this principle. Yet, so often the Church is divided because we humans like to take one or two verses out of context, hang huge doctrines on them, and then fight anybody who disagrees with our interpretation.
“Who art thou that judgest another man’s servant? to his own master he standeth or falleth. Yea, he shall be holden up: for God is able to make him stand.” -Rom 14:4
Regarding the end times, the most important thing to grab hold of is that Jesus is coming back, and that we need to steadily keep at the work he’s given us until then. In Matthew 24:45-47, Jesus says:
“Who then is a faithful and wise servant, whom his lord hath made ruler over his household, to give them meat in due season? Blessed is that servant, whom his lord when he cometh shall find so doing. Verily I say unto you, That he shall make him ruler over all his goods.”
The alternative, unfortunately, ends in weeping and gnashing of teeth.
Matthew 24:42 tells us, “Watch therefore: for ye know not what hour your Lord doth come.”
According to Matthew 25:6, it may be “midnight” before he comes, and according to Luke 12:36-39, it may not be til the third watch of the night. The world may get much darker before the return of our Lord.
In the meanwhile, the followers of Harold Camping have had to deal with the fact that they were wrong.
“Of course there’s disappointment. There’s no getting around that,” said Tom Evans, who spent the weekend with family and friends. “When you as a person believe that God is coming back, and you believe the evidence is very clear that he’s coming back, that is something every child of God longs for. In a moment, we’d be changed and spend eternity with God. I’m not ashamed of that at all. I’m not ashamed of wanting and hoping for it.”
At the same time, Evans recognized they’d made a mistake. “For us to say it was absolute, I think that’s where we went wrong. That’s where we strayed, and that I would gladly apologize for,” he said. “Whether I personally have done something dishonorable, I’m still mulling it over. I was trying to be faithful.”