Recently I came across an article which stated that Harold Camping will no longer proclaim to know the date of the end of the world and the Return of Christ.
If you are unfamiliar with Mr. Camping, he has proclaimed the end of the world on several occasions. His evangelism of this idea was not limited to the United States. While in Swaziland, I saw countless billboards which touted May 21, 2011 as Judgment Day.
As we all know, this day came and went.
As a missionary, this message makes our job much more difficult. We lose respect and look like fanatics among those we attempt to make inroads with.
Camping finally acknowledged his error. In the article mentioned above, it reports that Camping, age 90, said he had "learned the very painful lesson that all of creation is in God's hands and he will end time in his time, not ours." He also said he "humbly recognizes that God may not tell his people the date of his return."
It took Mr. Camping 90 years to realize this. Humanity has wrestled with this lesson for thousands of years. In fact, every generation since Christ was crucified has believed they were the generation to see His return.
Paul was seasoned with this belief early in his ministry as he proclaimed that all should remain single as he was.(1 Cor. 7) This should not be used as a long term strategy for church growth! Later in his ministry, he backs away from this idea, presumably as he realized Christ's return might take longer than first anticipated.
Richard Abanes, in his work End-Time Visions: The Road to Armageddon, chronicles how this is a common line of thinking with each generation. He walks through a "Timeline of Doom" in order to demonstrate that each and every generation has thought they were the ones to usher in Christ's return.
So far, they were all wrong.
What makes us think we are the ones? I know, I know…..Signs of the Times. But really, don't you think all the other generations saw those as well?
So what do we do? Two things:
Hope as if we are the ones. Be expectant. Make the most of every day cause it may be your last.
Prepare as if we will be here for hundreds and thousands more years. Don't mortgage your future for a short term hope. Save money, plan for your kids, and leave a legacy in your business or ministry
It took Harold Camping 90 years to learn this lesson. He did a lot of damage to the church worldwide and individual's lives along the way. I am confident he was well intentioned. Having now repented, we as a church should forgive him. Yet the consequences of his actions remain. We need to learn from his mistakes.
Harold Camping was wrong.
He led others into this wrong belief.
Every generation in history has also been wrong.
Let's hope and prepare at the same time. Jesus WILL return one day and it WILL be amazing. Until then, let's make the most of each day we have on this Earth, making a difference in the lives of God's most precious creation - PEOPLE.
Photo Courtesy of Thomas Hawk on Flickr