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Fasten your seatbelts for the return of Jesus…or not.

May 20, 2011 5 Comments

by Michael Keith

Jesus may return today or Sunday, May 22 or any day thereafter but I feel somewhat justified in saying He will not return on Saturday, May 21. The news media is buzzing because of another attempt by someone to name the day and hour of our Lord Jesus’ return. This isn’t the first time someone has ventured a guess and sadly, it likely won’t be the last.

Harold Camping, president of Family Radio, a religious broadcasting network in the U.S. Camping claims all churches are apostate and any Christian should abandon the churches and focus on personal study of the Bible. He made the audacious prediction that on Saturday, May 21 at 6 p.m. the Rapture will take place accompanied by an earthquake that will make the recent earthquake in Japan “look like nothing in comparison.” He then says the end of the world will take place on October 21, 2011 when those who were left behind in the Rapture will be destroyed along with the entire universe. It is interesting to note that Camping previously predicted the end of the world would be in September 1994.

Camping claims to know more than Jesus

Leaving aside the false teaching of the “Rapture” and focussing only on the prediction of our Lord’s return, let’s consider Camping’s approach. When many Christians hear such predictions they respond with slight annoyance, perhaps a yawn of disdain, quickly dismiss the prediction as foolishness, and go about their daily vocations. This is as it should be. Why? Because our Lord Himself said: “But concerning that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only” (Matthew 24:36).

Camping claims to know more than Jesus. That should be enough to steer any Christian away from someone who would teach in this way.

However, for some reason, the media can’t get enough of Harold Camping and his prediction. Furthermore, some Christians who are perhaps not as well anchored in the Word of God can be influenced by all this talk of Rapture and End Times. In addition, then the unbelieving world looks on as yet another Christian makes claims as to what the Bible teaches and makes “prophetic” predictions “based” upon the Bible that will turn out to be false.

It’s a dangerous business to read the Bible in isolation from the Church

Camping and those who would see in the Bible some secret code or calendar do a disservice and cause embarrassment to the Christian Church. They approach the Word of God as a riddle for solving rather than, as the Lutheran Confessions call it, “the pure and clear fountain of Israel” which reveals to us the Good News of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

More serious than Camping’s prediction being clearly contrary to our Lord’s words in Matthew 24 is his own removal from a church and any accountability with regard to his teachings. He encourages private interpretation of the Bible. However, this is also contrary to the Bible’s teaching. The Apostle Peter writes “And we have something more sure, the prophetic word, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts, knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation” 2 Peter 1:19-20.

It’s a dangerous business to read the Bible in isolation from the Church. We should think twice when we hear an interpretation of a Bible passage with a different understanding than what the Church has generally understood and taught for 2000 years. Camping is arrogant enough to say that all churches are wrong and he alone has the proper understanding of the Word of God. We can only pray that after he is shown he is wrong he repents in humility.

So don’t fret or fear. Our Lord’s return is not something Christians should worry about. It is a great joy!

Christians should always watch and pray and be prepared for our Lord’s return. He prepares us for His return through His Word and Sacraments in the Church making us ready by His grace and mercy. It’s not for us to wonder about the day or hour of His return, but to look forward in faith and trust knowing Jesus is with us now and will be in the future.

Speaking of the future—I don’t think it’s wise to make predictions in this changing and transitory world, but I suggest you would be safe planning a “We Are Still Here!” party after church on May 22.

Rev. Michael Keithis pastor of Our Saviour Lutheran Church in Fort Qu’Appelle, Saskatchewan.