Judgement is coming on May 21st, 2011. The Bible guarantees it!
That was the cry of one Californian evangelist, 89 year old Harold Camping, who by means of his followers across the United States, invested millions of dollars in billboards declaring that the Rapture of all Christian believers will take place at 6.00pm Pacific Time on Saturday May 21st. This announcement did not remain an isolated incident restrained within a few streets of a city, but rather spread right across the USA and even crossed the Atlantic to reach us here in the UK. As the radio broadcast was boldly made while I was at the gym, I would not be surprised that it was also broadcast across the Pacific Ocean to reach Australia and New Zealand too. After all, the Rapture is an event of such geographic magnitude, it had to be broadcast worldwide.
So how did this evangelist arrive at the conclusion that May 21st, 2011 was to be the day? By doing some math by deciphering certain "hidden codes" found in the Bible. This has reminded me of the time, not that long ago, when some Jewish scholars have found the name of Adolf Hitler by deciphering the codes, they say, were found in the Hebrew text of the Old Testament, which forecasted the end of the world then.
Yet all this despite what Jesus Christ himself had plainly said just before he was crucified:-
No-one knows the day nor the hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father...Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come. Matthew 24:36,42.
But what is exactly the Rapture? It has become quite a common word used these days. Even Richard Dawkins used it in his book, The God Delusion.
There are two passages in the New Testament which seem to teach it, both of these texts were part of Paul's letters, one to the church in Corinth and the other to the church in Thessaloniki. They describe the sudden disappearance of Christian believes to heaven, first the dead in Christ rising followed by the living, "in the twinkling of an eye" which indicates suddenness. Here are the two passages.:-
Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed - in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead shall be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. For the perishable must be clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality. When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable and, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: "Death has been swallowed up in victory."
"Where, O death, is your victory?
"Where, O death, is your sting?!
1 Corinthians 15:51-55.
Brothers, we do not want you to be ignorant about those who fall asleep, or to grieve like the rest of men, who have no hope. We believe that Jesus died and rose again and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him. According to the Lord's own word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left till the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede them who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself shall come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord for ever. Therefore encourage each other with these words.
I Thessalonians 4:13-18.
There are those, like myself, who believe that this event, known as the Rapture or the Translation, will occur sometime in the future, but nobody knows when. They believe that the Lord has deliberately withheld the date, to make the event always imminent, so believers should expect it to occur even in their lifetimes. This encourages the believer to "keep watch", just as Jesus himself exhorted.
There are other Christians who do not believe in the coming Rapture. Among those there are some who say that the Rapture was coined up by Jesuits Ribera and Bellarmine in 1591, after the Council of Trent. Their aim was to protect the Pope from the Protestant accusation of being the Antichrist, predicted is yet to come, in the Bible.
But which ever the case may be, now that it is at present Sunday morning of the 22nd, and not as much as a sneeze had taken place, it is of my opinion that Harold Camping has done a serious disservice to both the Bible and the Christian faith.
We are living in the days where the historicity and truthfulness of the Bible is constantly being attacked by both evolutionary scientists and atheists, and by general secularism, particularly here in the U.K.- where it has one of the lowest church attendance in population density in Europe. In other words, Christians are being made to look foolish.
This plays right into the hands of atheists. In the USA, I read online, that they were already planning parties to revel in such foolishness.
I can imagine right now Richard Dawkins smirking at the non-event, knowing full well that his scientific theories will triumph after all. And he will draw more and more disciples, eventually turning the majority in this nation into an anti-God and with a strong unbelief attitude.
Dating prophecy is not new but it is dangerous in a way that first, it weakens the testimony of the Christian faith and makes it all the more unappealing to the unbelieving population. Secondly there is a serious loss of creditability to the one who made it, if his prediction did not come to pass by the date he had set.
Californian Bible scholar Hal Lindsey was a case in point. One of his books was The Late Great Planet Earth in which he believed that the future Antichrist was alive and feeding his soul with quests for power and knowledge as he wrote and published his book in 1970. He also believed that Armageddon would take place around 1990. Later he released another book, The 1980s Countdown To Armageddon, in which he documents on the rise of the Soviet Union's nuclear arsenal, overtaking that of the United States, making the USSR a dangerous and threatening world power, with its sole aim of turning the whole planet Communist, especially the United States. That was before the collapse of Communism in the 1980s itself. So far, in 2011 we are still here. And it is my opinion that Lindsey had lost a lot of creditability, especially among the U.S. Senate, where I once read that The Late Great Planet Earth was taken notice of by them.
Then again, back in the 19th Century, a small organisation which was to call itself Zion's Watchtower Society formed in New York in between 1870 and 1875 under the tutelage of Pastor Charles Taze Russell. It began to expand across America very rapidly, and their members, Jehovah's Witnesses, won converts across the Atlantic. In fact, according to William Schnell, in his book 30 Years A Watch-tower Slave, the world was meant to end in 1914. When the Great War broke out that year, fulfilling Jesus' prediction of "Nation rising against nation" the Watchtower Society gained enough creditability to win over the population of Germany to the extent of becoming the State religion, which was only thwarted by the outbreak of World War II.
According to Schnell, the end of the world was postponed until 1924, the year the Kingdom of Christ was meant to begin. When nothing supernatural occurred, the Society re-interpreted Scripture to predict that 1924 was the beginning of "The Last Generation", mentioned by Jesus Christ in Matthew 24:34. Calculating that a generation was to last 40 years, the Battle of Armageddon should have taken place in 1964. It was after this that the "movable prophecy" teachings of the Watch-tower were put on the back shelf in order for the organisation not to crumble.
Dating prophecy in regard of when the world will end is forbidden in the Bible. Such attempts makes the Bible and the Christian faith appear ridiculous. It does not give God any glory, rather it turns agnostics in to atheists, it causes atheists themselves to smirk with satisfaction, and most seriously, it keeps many from trusting the Lord Jesus Christ to save them and receiving eternal life God gives to all who believe in him.
We as Christians need to watch and wait for his coming, which remains an ongoing process generation after generation. The formation of the state of Israel in 1948 gives a clue that the End Times is soon, according to many Bible scholars. But dating prophecy is wrong and no one, Christian, secular or of another religion should attempt at it.