Sunday, May 15, 2011

Where is the Promise of His Coming?

 The disciples came to Jesus and they asked Him:
"Tell us, when will these things be? And what will be the sign of Your coming?" (Matthew 24:3)

Good news, disciples! You asked for a SIGN (singular), but how about these SIGNS (plural):

I'm not kidding (I wish I were). These billboards, vehicle banners, and bus benches have been appearing all over the world during the past several months.  Different colors, different graphics, but all the same message: May 21st, 2011 is the date the Bible "guarantees" is the time of Jesus return.

There is even a caravan of motor homes that is making it's way across the country spreading the "good news/bad news" everywhere they go, with signs, tracts, and one-on-one encounters.

They are making their way into churches, newspapers, and even the cable news networks. These folks are eager to get on camera to share their "guarantee" and the skeptics are having a field-day with them, mocking them and mocking Christianity.

But where is all this coming from?

One thing is for sure, it's not coming from the Bible. This anti-biblical scheme is the brainchild of one Harold Camping. Camping has made a regular habit of setting dates for Jesus' return. Over a decade ago he created quite a stir when he authored and self-published a date-setting book called 1994?. Using a far-fetched and biblically-stretched-to-fit-how-you-need-it-to-fit formula, he calculated that the date of Jesus' return would be early September 1994.

Obviously that date came and went with no fanfare, no rapture, no return of Jesus. With hardly a tint of red to his should-be-ashamed-of-himself face, Camping went on to tell the devoted that he wasn't wrong, he had merely miscalculated a few small items in his equation. So he adjusted his date again, and again, and then, yet again. In fact, to date, he has predicted 5 different days for the return of Jesus. He supposedly gave up the whole date-setting game after his Mar 31, 1995 prediction failed miserably (again).

Bad Habits are Hard to Break

But, unfortunately, he is at it again...and with even more gusto. With control of and, and a radio "ministry" aimed at promoting his rapture numerology, Camping has amassed a few hundred diehard followers, and an untold number of other "believers". They have sunk some serious change into a billboard and bus bench campaign, and they have committed followers in major cities wearing signs such as pictured here to the right..

It's Nothing New

Camping's several 1994, 1995, and 2011 predictions are nothing new, in fact, this whole date-setting business has a long and unfortunate history. The turn of the first millennium (1000 AD) saw some serious doomsdayers, and the 19th century especially had it's fill of those sitting on the hilltops waiting for judgment day.  The Jehovah's Witnesses in particular have had a disastrous penchant for setting dates.  They have predicted the coming of Jesus in 1914, 1918, 1925, 1942, and even Armageddon as late as 1975.

With the failed passing of each "Day of Judgment" their Public Relations department goes into full swing, explaining away these errors by either: (1) claiming they didn't really say that it would happen, or (2) they assign it as a "spiritual" coming of Jesus, invisible and...un-disprovable.

The image at the left is an actual scan of a 1911 prediction printed in their Watchtower magazine. When 1914 came and went with no "glorification" of living Jehovah's Witnesses, they changed their story and made 1914 into an undetectable, spiritual return of Jesus. Brilliant recovery...

The Watchtower (the official designation of the Jehovah's Witnesses) also printed a magazine cover with the likenesses of 16 people with the caption

1914--The Generation That Will Not Pass Away
The only problem is that, uh, well, um...ALL of them have died already.

Oops. Maybe we just miscalculated (again), hand me that abacus.

When Will We Learn To Believe Jesus?

We could go and on about all of the unbiblical date-setters. I mean, who could forget the nationwide hysteria in the late 1980's when the booklet "88 Reasons why the Rapture is in 1988" came out.

You see, Jesus makes it very clear about this whole date-setting nonsense. In Matthew 24:36, He gives the final and definitive word on the subject of the date of His return:

"NO ONE knows the day or the hour, not even the angels in heaven..."

I'm sorry, but that one little verse in the Bible completely destroys thousands of pages of books of would-be prophets and so-called numerology experts. So, please, hear me clearly:

If you think that you cross-referenced Daniel chapter 9 with Revelation 6, and multiplied it by 7 and divided by 40 to get the date of Jesus' return---STOP...go back and read Matthew 24:36 again. Our Lord told us, we won't, we can't, we don't KNOW. Period. End of discussion (I wish!).

Some dates are important to set, like weddings, retirement parties, and vacations, but not the date of the return of Jesus. Ever. Jesus said that "NO ONE knows." I've never really understood why something so direct and so simple could be so abused.

So to clear it up, once and for all, let's do this simple little test:

1. Are you God?
--- if yes, then stop, YOU can know.
--- if no, continue to next question.

2. Are you an angel?
--- if yes, then stop, YOU CAN'T KNOW
--- if no, continue to next question

3. Are you a human?
--- if yes, then stop, YOU CAN'T KNOW
--- if no, then STOP, you are clearly confused.
     (and you still can't know)

You Should Be Prepared For---?

The return of Jesus? The end of the age?? The last days???
Well, actually, I was thinking of something else. You (and I) should be prepared for SCOFFING. You see, there is another very important verse about the return of Jesus in the Bible. It is not about date-setters, it's about return-scoffers.The Lord says this in II Peter 3:

"...knowing this first: that SCOFFERS will come in the last days...saying, “Where is the promise of His coming?"

As a matter of fact, much of the rest of this chapter in Peter, and big sections of Paul's letters to Timothy talk about the complete mockery that unbelievers will engage in during the last days. The date of the writing of this blog entry is May 15th, just about a week BEFORE the (already) failed prediction of Harold Camping about May 21st. As I scan the internet, I have found entire websites devoted to mocking the idea of the return of Jesus BECAUSE of people like Camping. There are even huge "Jesus didn't come back" parties planned in major cities across the country for May 22nd.

Not that it is any paragon of either virtue, movie making, or spirituality, but a scene from "The Master of Disguise" starring Dana Carvey, is worth mentioning.

The main character, Pistachio, has a nearly uncontrollable ability to imitate and "mock" people. Here is an exchange between him and his father:

Father: Pistachio, what did I tell you?

Pistachio: Yes, I know, Papa. I'm sorry. I couldn't help myseIf. The mocking's getting worse.

Sadly, the mocking is getting worse. And according to the Bible, it's about to get MUCH worse. Can't you just already hear and see it on the morning news:

Reporter on the Street: Sir, excuse me sir, what do you think about the failed prediction of Jesus' return?

Regular Guy: Well, uh, look, they've been saying that for years, I mean, it just ain't happening, so just where is the promise of His coming? I don't see no Jesus coming in the sky or nothing, give it a rest, live your life already!

Reporter on the Street: (turning to camera) So, as you can see, out here in main street America,  it looks like the only "return" people are looking for, is a "return" to normal. Back to you.

And, for most, that will be the end of the story. They will unknowingly fulfill prophecy thousands of years old by making fun of the Bible. It's ironic that their very rejection of the idea of Jesus' return will validate the prophetic nature of the Bible. And yet, here we are, some 2000 years later, and now people are beginning to mock the entire idea of a literal return of Jesus to the Earth. Why hasn't He come, Where is He at, When will He supposedly get here? The phrasing of the mockery could take a thousand forms, but they all have one goal---to cast doubt and skepticism upon an uncomfortable truth.

Don't be discouraged by such cold and condescending jabs as these. The Lord said that they will come. And I have no doubt that Satan is using the likes of Harold Camping and others to help stoke the fires of unbelief, skepticism, and mockery. The problem is, the world sees these Bible dis-believers as if they are Bible believers. Skeptics aren't aware (generally) that Jesus said that "no one knows the day or the hour." So they will take these folks at face value and just assume that the Bible really does say that Jesus will come on May 21st, or October ___, or December _____, or ___________ (fill in the blank).

Harold Camping said that judgment day would come on May 21st at 6pm.

Jesus said that "NO MAN knows the DAY or the HOUR..."

Camping said the DAY: May 21st, 2011

Camping said the HOUR: 6pm

According to Jesus, that is an epic fail.

Just WHEN Will It End?

Well, I'm not talking about the world, I'm asking about when will the needless and baseless date-setting end? The only guarantee is the guarantee of failure, and then of mockery, and even of ruined faith. You see, when people put their trust in other people, instead of the Word of the Lord, they are headed down a path to ship-wrecked faith. Once their expectation and anticipation is shown to be false, they take the illogical step and blame God, or worse yet, to deny God altogether (instead of realizing that they were rejecting Jesus' simple truth "No one knows the day of the hour...")

Protect yourself, encourage your friends and family, talk to your kids. Let them know that date-setting is anti-biblical, and that it is both dangerous to themselves and a cause of mockery for the world. In a way, I can't wait for May22nd to get here, to expose the "false prophet" of Harold Camping, but I also dread it's arrival, for it will, no doubt, be the date of the beginning of a new wave of "return-rejectors".

Jesus is coming, but remember, before He returns, the scoffers must come, and they will come in full force.

Are you ready?

*** UPDATE Friday May 20th ***

The scoffing (II Peter 3) is gearing up to go into full swing. On a report, they even use the word "Scoff" in the headline of their report (see pic left). The Bible never says that Jesus is coming on May 21st, 2011, but it does say that widespread scoffing (of the very idea of His return) will come. We are seeing that begin now. God's word is true.

In II Peter 3:9 we read:

"The Lord is not slow concerning His promise...but is patient toward us, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance."

More Time to Be Saved...

In other words, every day that the Lord delays His return, is to allow people more time to be saved. Think about a sinking ship---the faster it goes down, the less time people have to get off the ship and be rescued. But if it goes down slowly, more people can be saved because they have more time to do something about their dangerous situation.

The ship is going down, this world is headed for certain judgment, but the Lord is patient, He is giving people more time to be rescued, to be saved.

*** UPDATE Saturday May 21st evening ***

As we all know (and knew) the 6pm deadline came and went without so much as a global whimper. The judgment that concerns me now is the criticism from pockets of skepticism scattered across the globe. They will certainly make "hay" while the sun shines on this story. This is no surprise, the scriptures foretold this mocking attitude in the last days would come.

To put this entire (unfortunate) episode into a sports analogy, think about the return of Jesus like the Superbowl. (If we don't have a strike or lockout this season) The Superbowl, like the return of Christ, is coming, it's undeniable, but Harold Camping is so presumptuous as to say who the teams will be and the final score. Sad and baseless.

Jesus said: "NO MAN knows the day or the hour..." can't we just believe Him and not these self-deceived, media-glory seekers?

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