Friday, April 1, 2011

The Date of Christ’s Return?

End-time Messianic alerts are multiplying these days.

Chief among the morose and likely false predictions is the absolutely non-negotiable forecast of maverick religious broadcaster Harold Camping of Family Radio. He has set the date of May 21, 2011 as the day of Christ’s return and the beginning of the end heading toward Judgment Day. Using a self-invention of numbers, dates and mystical meanings, Camping is announcing his date on radio, on his website and through bus caravans. According to Camping, May 21 is absolutely, positively the day Christ returns and begins the somber judgment upon all the world.

I might be inclined to carefully examine Camping’s calculations were it not for the fact that he has gone through this back in 1992 when he also predicted the return of Christ and the end of the world. Only then, his book, 1994?, had an appropriate question mark in the title, and his follow-up volume, Are You Ready?, published in 1993 was subtitled, Much More Evidence that 1994 Could Be the End of the World (emphasis mine). His present doomsday has no allowance of a question mark.

If Harold Camping is not in Heaven or dead on May 21, his entire reputation and radio empire comes crashing down in despicable shambles leaving gullible souls to fumble along in the morass of false prophecy. The last time around, a North Jersey follower of Camping committed suicide when Jesus didn’t return as Camping had Him scheduled.

Mr. Camping is not alone in these strange ravings. In 1988, Edgar Whisenant published a book entitled, 88 Reasons Why Christ Will Come in 1988, and had it down to Sept. 11, 12, or 13 of that year. He also said that there would never be another two-term president and that Jimmy Carter was the last one in America. Reading these mathematically cluttered texts is enough to make an engineer’s head spin.

Not to be outdone, some Koreans published a small book asking, Are You Ready for the Rapture? October 28, 1992. This conviction came through “…visions, dreams, prophecies and voices a few years back.” That is the worst way to do it.

Camping’s absurd forecasts sound more like pagan Jewish Kabbalistic mysticism than any brand of careful biblical analysis. Indeed, the same Jewish folks who trumpeted the strange Bible Codes a few years ago show that they have four layers of interpretation with three below the normal, obvious meanings in the text. Camping is down about three of these as he rummages around somewhere below the textual surface.

I am not saying Christ could not come on May 21 or any other day. I hope Camping is wrong and Jesus comes today. But date-setting has a wretched history of error.

The misguided Adventists of New England in the 1800s and Jehovah’s witnesses of the early 1900s were constantly revising their dates and eating humble pie. A few years ago, some misguided folks waded out into Long Island Sound to meet Jesus and then had to slosh back out to face the reporters. Yet this spiritual sickness persists.

Think about it. The calendar is so messed up with variations and revisions that no one really knows what year it is. The slightest variation or miscalculation crumples these predictions like the proverbial house of cards. Also, the benchmarks many use all seem potentially flawed as to exact dates.

And another point: Which day east or west of the International Dateline is to be used? As I write this, another day has dawned on the other side of the globe. Jesus said, “Therefore be ye also ready: for in such an hour as ye think not the Son of man cometh” (Matt 24:44 – KJV). That would leave any date but May 21 according to Harold’s calculations if we all bought his reasoning.

In quoting the verse, I’ve used the old King James Version because “ye” means plural “you.” I suggest that Jesus was including all the disciples, and He was saying, “You’ll never have an accurate agreement.” Maybe that’s good so that we would always be on the watch which is the only proper way of waiting. “Watch therefore, for ye know neither the day nor the hour wherein the Son of man cometh” (Matt 25:13).

How can Camping know the day when this verse says you can’t? Prov. 27:1 says that we can’t know what another day may bring forth. That applies to May 21 as well as any other day.

What is the sensible approach? Christ can come anytime, and that is the meaning of the term “immanent.” Certain things are being accomplished which, when complete, will mean the return of Christ in the Rapture. Christ said He was going away to prepare heavenly dwelling places for His own. “In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also.” (John 14:2-3)

In this Church Age, God is calling out a people for His Name (Acts 14:15), and when the last person of the New Testament church is saved, the heavenly mansions will match the number of the redeemed occupants. This time is known only to God. Since believers are to be engaged in sharing the Gospel, which when believed, places one in the Church, we should be more interested in the task rather than the time. We should be ready always.

The story of the spiritual and waiting mother has always moved me. Each evening as she tucked her children in bed, she would go to the window and quietly breathe, “Perhaps tonight.” In the morning on waking them, she would again go to the window and quietly say, “Perhaps today.”

Date setting is absurd. Daily watching is the norm. Perhaps today?

Dave Virkler

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