What lessons can we learn from the failed May 21, 2011 prediction that Jesus Christ would return that day?
1. Jesus Will Not Come When We Think
Jesus said in John 14:1-3 that He would come back. Acts 1:11 says that this same Jesus who was taken from the disciples into the clouds would come in like manner as they saw Him go. Jesus said in Matthew 25:13, “Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour.” Hebrews 9:28 tells us that Jesus is coming for those who are waiting for Him. 2 Timothy 4:8 says that believers will be rewarded as they loved His appearing.
I do want Jesus to come again. I do cry with Paul the Apostle in 1 Corinthians 16:22, “Maranatha.”
2. Jesus Will Not Share His Glory With Men
Harold Camping would have been hailed for his abilities to figure out when Jesus would return and he would have been celebrated by both believers and non-believers for his keen insights. But this was not the case. Camping proved (yet again) to be a false prophet. Remember he had previously said that 1994 would mark the year of Jesus’ return and then modified it every few years. I pray that Camping will cease to make date predictions but I fear that he will not.
Jesus will not share His glory. Paul said in 1 Corinthians 3:11 that we can build on no other foundation but Jesus Christ. Jesus is the chief cornerstone which the builders rejected (1 Peter 2:6-7). Jesus said to Peter in Matthew 16:19 that He would build His Church upon this rock. In the Greek text Matthew uses two different Greek words. One means a small rock (petros) while the other means a massive rock (petra). Jesus said that Peter’s confession that He was the Christ (Matthew 16:16-17) was the rock He would build His Church upon. Even on the day of Pentecost we find the small rock, Peter, preaching Jesus Christ (Acts 2:36). Peter didn’t exalt his flesh or another person. Peter exalted Jesus and that is why Jesus could build His Church through Peter and all the other Apostles.
3. Date Setting Is Wrong (But Will Continue)
In the 2000 year history of the Church, there have been numerous false dates given for Jesus’ second coming. Harold Camping’s 1994 and 2011 prophecies are just another failed date among countless others. The Jehovah’s Witness’ are a prime example of date setting. Their history comes from the false date setting of William Miller who predicted that October 22, 1844 would mark the second coming. Many others throughout the history of the Church have incorrectly said that Jesus would return in their lifetime. Even reformer Martin Luther believed that Jesus would return in his lifetime.
Now don’t get me wrong. I pray and hope that Jesus does return in my lifetime but I make no predictions that He will. Some go so far as to say that Jesus will come back in their lifetime. I have heard believers say, “I believe that Jesus will come back in my life.” Perhaps He will but I make no predictions like this. I pray that He does. I often pray asking God to send His Son but I also know 2 Peter 3:9 and that God is patient wanting people to come to faith in His Son. Now God is sovereign and He foreknows all those who are His own so we can rest assured that His elect will come into the kingdom but nonetheless, God is patient with humanity and He wants to save souls for His glory.
Sadly, date setters will still come. Cults and false teachers will still make wild predictions about the end of the world. Dispensationalists will still promote the secret rapture of the Church. Nothing is really going to change even with the false predictions of Harold Camping.
4. We Must Proclaim Jesus Christ Until He Comes!
Our duty according to Hebrews 9:28 is to be faithful to Jesus when He comes. The point of Hebrews 9:28 is not that we are to sit around naming dates and then watching the skies to see if Jesus returns but to be faithfully serving Him when He comes. That is what I want to be found doing when He comes, being faithful. I want to be a faithful disciple (John 8:31-32). I want to walk in obedience to His Word (1 John 2:3-6). I want to be able to point to my example and tell others to follow my example as I follow the example of Christ (1 Corinthians 4:16; 11:1; Philippians 3:17; 1 Thessalonians 1:6). I want to be holy as He is holy in all my conduct (1 Peter 1:15-16). I want to preach the gospel without shame or fear (Acts 4:29-31; Romans 1:16-17).
There are still countless souls who need the gospel. Millions of Muslims need Jesus. Millions of Buddhists need Jesus. Millions of Catholics and Jews still need Jesus. Millions of atheists and agnostics still need Jesus. Cults need Jesus. Our duty is to take God’s holy Law and proclaim Jesus (1 Timothy 1:8-11). The Law shuts up the mouths of all people, religious or not (Romans 3:19-20). The Law shows that we are sinners in need of a Savior (Galatians 3:23-24). Jesus is that wonderful Savior (Matthew 1:21; Galatians 3:13-14). Jesus came to save us sinners (Luke 19:10) of which we all are (Romans 3:23). How the Church needs to preach the risen Jesus Christ to a lost world (Matthew 28:19-20)!
5. Let Us Pray for Harold Camping
I am praying for Camping and his followers. Many of them are now facing the problems of their false belief that Jesus was coming on May 21, 2011. My prayer for them is to turn away from following men and look only to Jesus (Hebrews 12:1-2). While we can learn from godly teachers, they must never replace our passion for Jesus or His Word. I pray that they will not turn away from Jesus but will instead repent before God and others and will confess that Jesus is still Lord (Romans 10:9-10). I pray that they will continue to believe that Jesus is coming soon but will not make any predictions as to when. The Lord will come in His timing. I pray that Harold Camping will repent, renounce his false teachings, embrace Jesus as Lord of all, and that he would set an example for his followers of what it means to truly repent (Matthew 3:8). I believe it would show much courage and integrity for Camping to come out and repent openly and submit himself to solid Bible teachers who can correct his theology such as William Burke at The Arminian.
6. Next Time, Pour Money Into Missions!
Lastly, the next time Family Radio wants to do something about the coming judgment of God (which will come according to Acts 17:30-31), I pray that they will take the millions they spent on May 21st billboards and pour that money into missions. How many Bibles could have been sent out? How many souls could have been touched with the gospel of Jesus Christ by the millions they spent? How many Bible teachers and elders serving in nations in Africa or in southeast Asia could have used the money to print tracts, Bibles, or just providing food for people in general? How many souls in poor nations such as Haiti could have used the money just to survive? I know that the institutional church is guilty of wasting money as well but I pray that the Church will learn from Family Radio and not waste money on things that are not biblically accurate.
© 2011, Matt. All rights reserved.