The End of the World and the Last Humanist Party by Timothy C. Tennent

Monday, May 23rd, 2011

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.


  • Jeff Lane says:

    I admit…I had 1 very small urge to pull out my wife’s old “Pat Terry” LP from it’s dusty home in the Peach Box under my stairwell. However, I took the approach of Dr. Robert Jeffress, pastor of the 13,000 member First Baptist Church of Dallas Texas. He said, “Remember the boy who cried wolf once too often? The villagers were so hardened to the boy’s false alarms that they were unprepared when the wolf finally arrived…..Don’t allow the Harold Campings of the world keep you from making the necessary preparation for the end — whenever it may be.”

  • […] You can find a related post at The End of the World. […]

  • Jd walt says:

    Dr. Tennent

    I think the equal opportunity error made on all sides was the one of claiming “certainty.”

    Camping was certain it would be May 21. The atheists were certain the whole issue of an eschaton was absurd. The religious authorities (myself included) were only certain that Camping was wrong.

    It doesn’t logically follow that because no one knows the day or hour every prediction will ultimately be wrong. I think Jesus claim intends to inspire ecclesial humility, prophetic restraint, pastoral wisdom and eschatological readiness.

    In the end there will be three groups. The ones who are prepared, the ones who are partying and the ones who are at Wal Mart shopping for more lamp oil. It’s that third category who strike me as the most dangerous people on the planet. And the degree of certainty of which I’m assured that I am not among them is the degree of likelihood that I probably am.

    I think what I am trying to say in the end here is that the opposite of certainty is not uncertainty but humility.

    Or am I completely missing the point?

    • Charles says:

      So well said. Someday, someone will be correct in a prediction, for even a broken clock is right twice a day. But humility does seem to be the answer. Mr. Camping, unfortunately, without the leadership and guidance of a church has little accountability. But, the apostle Paul keeps telling us to “Keep alert” and consistently spur us on to eschatological awareness. May God grant us a humble spirit with firm convictions to stand firm in the faith.

      Thank you for your post.

  • John says:

    “And there will be wars, and rumors of wars, and the end is not yet”… I am reminded that as one who runs the race for the high calling of Christ, I will need to develop a thick skin. One that can withstand the hurling of many sticks, and stones; and may yet even end in the amphitheatre of the capital city at some point in time.