I am not a gambling man. I don’t buy lottery tickets, and when I pass a casino I feel like standing out in front with a sandwich board sign that reads “Abandon hope, all ye who enter.” But . . . if I could scrape up $10,000 or so I would like to bet Harold Camping that Jesus will not return on May 21, 2011.
Camping runs a network of 150 Christian radio stations, and every day he holds forth for hours, expounding his views about biblical doctrine and prophecy. In his later years – he’s now 89 – he’s become convinced that he and he alone has discerned a complicated code of biblical prophecy that enables him to foretell the Second Coming of Christ. Using his system, he first predicted that the Lord would return in 1994. Needless to say, he was wrong.
Both then and now, responsible Christian leaders throughout the world have rightly rebuked Camping for claiming to know the unknowable. The issue can be settled in an instant. Near the end of his earthly life, the followers of Jesus asked him when he would set up his kingdom. Jesus declared, “No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.” The question came up again before Jesus ascended from earth. Again he warned them not to pry into that matter: “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority.” Ergo, Camping is wrong. He’s delving inappropriately into a mystery that is not his business.
On May 22, no doubt the gleeful secular critics of Christianity will enjoy mocking Camping. But they won’t stop there. As they scoff at his blunder, they will try to use him as a piñata that represents all Christian believers. They will mock the very idea of Christ’s return, treating it as a fairy tale that all sensible, educated people automatically reject as hogwash. How do I know?
Long ago, the apostle Peter wrote these prescient words: First of all, you must understand that in the last days scoffers will come, scoffing and following their own evil desires. They will say, “Where is this ‘coming’ he promised? Ever since our fathers died, everything goes on as it has since the beginning of creation.”
We see here a snapshot of the secular man. He assumes there is no supernatural realm.
The universe is a closed, self-contained, self-operating entity. Nothing exists outside it. There can be no interference from beyond. Everything goes on as it always has, according to the laws of nature. The idea of a supernatural realm is nonsense.
When Peter wrote that, 2,000 years ago, there were few actual secular materialists. Almost everybody believed in some divinity or in supernatural causes and effects. Not so today. The children of modernism and postmodernism embrace naturalistic evolution and claim that God is a childish superstition.
Harold Camping is certainly not one who resides in the culture of disbelief. He is pathetically deaf to the clear teaching of Christ, but, to his credit, he believes that someday Jesus will return. I say, “to his credit” because the New Testament refers to the eventual return of Christ about 300 times. It proclaims this as the culmination of the great divine redemption drama: God’s Son given as our Savior, sacrificed for our sin, risen to provide eternal life, ascended to God to intercede on our behalf and, finally, returning to claim his rightful place as the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. Without the final climax, the other preceding events dissolve in meaninglessness.
Jesus promised to return. He said that certain signs will indicate that the time is near (Matthew 24). He told us that when we see these signs we should “Look up, for your redemption is drawing nigh.” Jesus has a superb track record of keeping promises. Concerning this last one, we can bet on it.
Gary Hardaway, a regular contributor to the Amy Internet Syndicate, directs Summit School of Ministry in Bellingham, WA. “Real Answers™” furnished courtesy of The Amy Foundation Internet Syndicate. To contact the author or The Amy Foundation, write or E-mail to: P. O. Box 16091, Lansing, MI 48901-6091; firstname.lastname@example.org.