Stop ALL End-Of-World Predictions, Period!
May 23, 2011 by Craig Blomberg | 15 Comments
“[Jesus] said to them, ‘It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority” (Acts 1:7)
Harold Camping was wrong for the third time. Surprise, surprise, surprise! What actually is surprising is that anybody claiming to be a Christian followed him. Did they not know or care about his two failed prophecies in 1994 and 1995? Does it strike no one as blasphemous when he and his supporters read Mark 13:32 directly—“But about that day or hour no one knows, and even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father”—and then say,” even though almost all churches will tell you this means we can’t calculate a date, actually we can and here it is”? And he alone claims to be following the Bible? This is the height of arrogance and presumption.
Churches and Christians can get upset and blackball other churches and Christians because of the Bible translations they follow—ridiculous! They can insist publicly that the forms of baptism others practice are absolutely wrong--tactless. They can get downright nasty about issues like gay rights. But when something comes along about which they really should be righteously indignant, they sit back and do nothing.
There are legitimate issues at stake in Bible translation debates, though few people among those who get the most exercised really understand them. There are genuine exegetical issues at stake in debates about baptism, though many of them are little known. And the Bible does uniformly proscribe homosexual practice, though that is a separate issue from how we vote on various political debates related to civil rights.
BUT THERE IS ABSOLUTELY NO WAY A PERSON CAN CLAIM TO CALCULATE THE DATE OF THE END WITHOUT FLAGRANTLY VIOLATING JESUS’ TEACHING. In 1992, every car in the old seminary campus parking lot had a bright red booklet put between their windshield and wipers, produced by a Korean sect predicting the rapture between Sep. 21-23, 1992. As misguided as that was, at least the group knew enough not to pick a “day or hour”—so they narrowed things down to a three-day period! Camping hasn’t even ever had the decency to make that kind of precaution.
What kind of emotions should Christians have after this latest failed prophecy? Many poke fun at its followers. A few are understandably saddened. Many probably just ignore it and move on. I suggest a better reaction—it’s time for Christians to get mad, really angry, and en masse hold people like Camping and whoever emerges next trying to do the same thing accountable. Call them on the carpet big time for doing such things. The Bible labels it false prophecy and while, in the New Testament age, we aren’t called to stone false prophets as in the Old Testament, we are certainly not called to tolerate them!
Why make such a big deal out of this? Because false prophets like Camping regularly lead people astray, some of whom then reject any form of Christianity when it turns out the prophecy fails. Just as bad, those looking for one more reason to ridicule Christianity find another good one and all of us get tarred with the same brush, looking foolish in the process.
But while I’m upset let me push things a step further. The Acts passage reproduced above uses the two most general terms in the Greek language for periods of times—chronos and kairos—HCSB and NET translate “times or periods.” So any Christian who ever claims to know that we are living in the year, or decade, or century or millennium in which Christ is returning is contradicting the explicit teaching of Jesus and needs to be rebuked!
Many Christians cognitively know this, but still so wish that it were near the end that they say things like, “Well, I know we can’t know for sure, but it sure seems like we must be very close to Judgment Day,” and when you ask them what they mean by “close” they say things like “well probably in this generation or the next” or words to that effect. Technically they haven’t blasphemed, but they still fuel the fires of the sinking-ship mentality.
How about we just assume that we might have several millennia of world history left and get on about all the things Christ has called us to do to make the world a better place, from evangelism to social action to everything in between, and once and for all end this escapist mentality that obsesses over a pretribulational rapture and doomsday watches of all different kinds on top of that! To quote a line from that fun movie of a couple of decades ago, “Network,” “I’m mad as h--- and I’m not going to take this any more!”