By now, everyone has heard that Harold Camping, the President of Family Radio, and his followers predicted that the world would end on May 21, 2011. The media has ridiculed this group for their foolishness and the waste of millions of dollars in full page ads in USA Today and other major outlets, billboards and TV. As you may recall, this was Camping’s second prediction of the end of time. Previously, he insisted that the world would come to an end in September of 1994. However, Camping is just the last in a long line of such predictions. The most famous in American history is still William Miller and the “Millerites” who predicted that the world would come to an end in 1843.
How should we respond to these kinds of predictions? First, Christians need to regularly re-read Matthew 24:36 where Jesus says quite plainly, “No one knows the day or the hour.” The precise time of the Eschaton is simply not given to us to know. The Scriptures seem clear that the knowledge of the day has not been given to Harold Camping or William Miller or anyone else. Second, we do not need to feel reticent about stating with clarity that such predictions are an expression of a false prophet and do nothing but bring unnecessary harm and ridicule upon the church. Third, we must faithfully remind ourselves and our non-Christian friends, that although we don’t know the day or the hour, this does not change the fact that Jesus Christ is going to return. The kingdom will be consummated. The world will be judged. The earth as we know it will pass away and God will create new heavens and a new earth.
I think the best comment I heard about the Harold Camping prediction came from one of my friends in Scotland, Kevin Scott, who remarked, “despite this false prophecy and the unnecessary way it discredits the gospel, we do know that there will be one too many humanist parties.” Apparently, quite a few atheists and humanists held parties on May 21st to mock and ridicule Christians. OK, let them party for now. But, at some point in the future (we don’t know when) they will have one too many parties.