I got my fair share of laughs from the Harold camping end of the world predictions, but for the most part, I felt annoyance and sadness about the whole thing. For those of you that missed it (and I doubt many of you did), 89 year old radio preacher Harold Camping predicted the end of the world at 6 p.m. on the 21st, put up billboards all across the nation, and generally made him-self, and to a certain degree Christians in general, look like dopes.
But here’s the thing. While everyone who takes scripture seriously knew this guy is just a false teacher and kook with no credibility, the church has fallen prey to this kind of false teaching before. William Miller and his Adventist followers is the
most classic example. Miller created a nationwide stir when he predicted that Jesus would return and the world would end before March 21, 1844. In the 1970s, several popular preachers and writers predicted that Christ would return on various dates. This month we had Harold Camping; again (he tried his hand at this before, predicting the end of the world in 1994). 6 pm on the 21st passed peacefully.
Given the public controversy and the amount of media attention that this end of the world prediction generated, how should we react to these kinds of claims as Christians who do believe that the day will come when Christ will return?
First, we should remember (and remind others), that Christ specifically cautions his disciples not to claim that we know when He’ll return. In Acts 1:7, Jesus said, "It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority". In Matthew 24:36 He said "But concerning that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only". IF Jesus didn’t know when he was coming back, everyone else should just shut up, lest you make a fool of yourself and slander the name of your Lord. The bible makes clear that we have no basis to claim to know the time and date of His return.
Second, we should understand that the Bible does not contain hidden codes that we’re supposed to find and decipher. It doesn’t have a locked secret knowledge that only a few can figure out. The Bible has been given to us so that we might know the truth, and that truth is clearly revealed . Yes, it has a depth that can keep the brightest scholars busy all their life, but there’s a simplicity to it that even a child can understand. The message is plain. Understanding it does not require mathematical computations that are, "more complex than Google".
Third, we should be looking forward to his return with eagerness. Hebrews 9:28 teaches that Christ, "having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him". We should not be arrogantly setting dates, but we should be looking forward to that great and glorious day when Christ returns to "judge the living and the dead".
Finally, we should wrestle with the question, how then shall we live? Today. Right now. It’s a serious question. The day is coming when Christ will return "like a thief in the night". He will come when we’re absolutely not expecting it. My answer, the historic answer of the church, the answer of scripture is, we should be living like he will return tomorrow. Someone wisely said, "we should live each day as if Christ is coming back tomorrow and live each day as if he's not coming back for a thousand years". That’s what the parable of the lamps is about in Matthew 25. We should be seeking to be found faithful. We should be about the fathers business. We should be sharing the gospel, seeking first God’s kingdom and his righteousness, using what he’s given us to further his kingdom purposes. Today, now, not tomorrow, not down the road; because we don’t know what tomorrow holds. We should not be predicting the end, we should not be sitting around waiting for Christ to return; we should be busy doing what Christ has commanded us to do today.