Laughing about the second coming of Christ is no laughing matter. If I were the god of this world (Satan) I would chalk the whole matter up as a complete victory. Getting the world to laugh about something as serious as the end times is exactly what he would want, but why?
Jokes about a doting 89 year old preacher and pictures of peoples clothing lying on the ground after the owners have been raptured may make it seem like a big joke but then come the long histories and diatribes of those who have consistently made similar mistakes in the past. If they can prove that a few quacks were wrong, doesn’t that prove that anyone who pays attention to last days prophecies is a quack? The result of all of this is that the scoffers provide us with a neat little formula for the spiritual dullards and biblically inept of our world, that we buy into hook line and sinker.
Combing through the news and blogs I found very few preachers or theologians who did much more than condemn Harold Camping and very few who explained the error of predicting exact dates on the second coming of Christ. What exactly, was that error?
The first mistake Camping made is so fundamental that it is hard to believe that neither he nor his followers paid any attention to it. They disobeyed, directly defied and totally disregarded one of the clearest statements ever spoken by Christ. Here it is in all of its blaring simplicity.
“But of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only.” (Matthew 24: 36)
Whether it is by much learning, personal calculations, This is the day that the Lord has made biblical numerology, extra biblical revelation or just plain stupidity, no man will ever be given the exact date and time of the return of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Now that the damage is already done it may seem a bit late to bring up this point but in case anyone is still unaware of it, they now have been warned. But what damage has actually been done. Do we just joke about it and move on until the next kook comes along with a prediction?
Those who believed Camping and quit jobs, gave up homes and goods and left all behind are the first wave of those who will feel the effects of the error. It would be easy to say that they got what they paid for but that would be mean spirited. Perhaps it is the other scripture they ignored that says it best. For those who don’t take seriously even the slightest warning of the scripture it is this word that is the answer.
“Therefore we ought to give the more earnest heed to the things which we have heard, lest at any time we should let them slip. For if the word spoken by angels was stedfast, and every transgression and disobedience received a just recompense of reward. How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation; which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed unto us by them that heard him?” (Heb 2: 1-3)
If the recent debacle of naming a date has done any serious damage it is in the fact that a laughing world is less likely to take seriously the need to come to Christ for their salvation. This damage is inestimable.
The world at large cannot be expected to know that all prophecy buffs are not certifiable eschatologists and not all preachers, exegetes, theologians and evangelists are prophets. In fact among them all only a few can be considered prophets. Those who are granted special gifts and understanding in eschatological matters may already be working in some area of ministry but only a small handful of them would be considered as prophets.
How prophets are chosen is clearly outlined in the Bible but the church has found ways to disregard these teachings and resultantly even they often don’t know who the real prophets are. How can the rest of the world be expected to have a clue?
Suffice it to say that a number of signs are given in the scripture that indicate that there will be one generation in which all the signs begin to converge. It is in that generation the Lord will appear. There is not a true prophet alive today who doesn’t agree that this is that generation. How many of them now know the date or will be told the exact date of Christ’s return; not one.
The jocularity and general disdain leveled at Camping and his followers will no doubt go a long way to leaving people unprepared and disinterested in the return of the Lord. This is diametrically the opposite effect that Christ intended. The doctrines of the second coming are in place to warn but the desired effect is actually to prepare. Those caught off guard in that day will find absolutely nothing to laugh about.
The all important key phrase in all the second coming teaching of the Lord is contained in the following appendage. “Therefore be ye also ready: for in such an hour as ye think not the Son of man cometh.” (Mt 24: 44)
We get ready for our first day of school, our entrance to college, our marriages job and career changes and our own deaths but laugh at the idea of getting ready to meet our maker. Doesn’t that seem just a little irresponsible or perhaps outright foolish? You be the judge.
I would be remiss if I did not note that naming the date was not the only mistake made by Camping. The idea that the return of Christ is the end of the world or a final doomsday is a completely erroneous teaching and totally unsupported by scripture.
The second coming is a serious shift of power but it is not the end of the world. The governments of mankind will cease to be at the return of the Lord and he will be seated in Jerusalem as the supreme ruler of the entire earth. According to scripture the end of the world will not come until Christ has ruled for one thousand years.