It has become extremely popular for groups to select a date as the alleged day of Christ’s return. For example, the Jehovah’s Witnesses picked 1914 as the year the world would end. When that didn’t happen, they chose 1925. Guess what? It didn’t happen.
William Miller predicted 1843 would see the return of Christ. When it didn’t occur, he picked 1844, which eventually came to be known as the Great Disappointment to his followers (many of Miller’s followers became members of adventist groups).
More recently, Edgar Whisenant published a book entitled Why the Rapture will Be in 1988. The book was quite popular until 1988 came and went without the Rapture.
Each of these groups had some things in common. They all used the Bible and some fanciful formulas in trying to predict the timing of Christ’s return, and they all failed. According to Deuteronomy 18:20–22, they are false prophets and their predictions should not be heeded. You would think people would learn from the past mistakes of others, but it looks as if history is going to repeat itself this weekend.
Harold Camping of Family Radio published a book entitled 1994?, in which he made the following claims:
Select any year other than 1994 and then try to find Biblical support for that year.
We must conclude that the return of Christ will not be 2011 A.D. [sic] but some years before this. [2011 was a year Camping had considered in his book 1994?]
Obviously, Camping’s predictions failed. Like William Miller and the Jehovah’s Witnesses mentioned above, Camping has selected a new date. Now according to this false prophet, Christ will come back on May 21, 2011 (only 5 days from the publication of this article). Yep, you read that correctly. He now predicts the Second Coming will be in 2011, which just happens to be the very year he said Christ would not return in his book 1994?.
Why would anyone listen to this guy? He has already shown himself to be a false prophet, and according to his own words in 1994? he is without authority and without wisdom. In that book, he wrote:
Each predicted date passed by and the world continues to exist right up to the present day. Thus the prophets who made the predictions have been shown to be without authority and without wisdom.
It would be far better for those who are tempted to make these types of predictions to listen to the words of Jesus. Speaking about His return, Jesus stated, “But of that day and hour, no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, but My Father only” (Matthew 24:36). If only God knows the timing of Christ’s return, then I’m pretty sure we can rule out that Harold Camping knows the day.
It is true that in the surrounding context, Jesus did mention some signs which would precede His return, and many of those seem to be occurring in our world today. (Read Matthew 24 and 25 for more details. Notice that His disciples asked in v. 3 about when the destruction of Jerusalem would be and what would be the sign of His coming and of the end of the age. Jesus’ response throughout Matthew 24 and 25 addresses those questions.)
We may very well be in the times Jesus spoke of, but I would certainly never pick a day for His return and mislead people. If I did, it would be a rejection of the clear words of Christ.
No matter how well-intentioned these folks may have been (and I have my doubts if all are well-intentioned), they end up looking foolish and many times make Christians look foolish. They also hurt a lot of people who have fallen for their false predictions. I hope and pray that those who think Camping is right will not look at May 21, 2011 as the Great Disappointment and blame God. Instead, I hope they will look to God and His Word for guidance rather than the false prophet(s) who misled them.
I’m going to go out on a Redwood-thick limb here and predict that Jesus will not return on May 21, 2011. If He does, I’ll be happy to be wrong because I am looking forward to that day. But based on what the Bible teaches, I should be more concerned with obeying Him than setting dates for His return that are based on poor hermeneutics and an outright rejection of His words.