Friday, May 20, 2011

Date Setters

It has been hard the last couple of weeks to avoid all the hoopla surrounding May 21, the supposed date for the end of the world to take place according to Christian radio broadcaster Harold Camping. If you are not aware, Camping is the president of Family Radio, a California-based religious broadcasting network that spans more than 150 outlets in the United States as well as a website. Camping uses Bible-based numerology to predict dates for the end of the world. His current end times prediction is that the Rapture will be on May 21, 2011 and that God will completely destroy the Earth and the universe five months later on October 21. He had previously predicted that the Rapture would occur in September 1994.

I am not sure if Camping actually believes what he is propagating or if he is just looking for 15 minutes of fame but the Bible clearly states in Mark 13:32 that no man, not the angels, and not even the Lord Jesus Himself knows the return of God to Earth. Only the Father knows the date.

Of course date setting is nothing new. Many people over the course of history have predicted the Lord’s return to the earth and all of them have been wrong. This is not surprising in lieu of the fact that the Apostle Paul told the Thessalonians in 1 Thessalonians 5:2-3 that the Lord’s return would be sudden, “For you yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so comes as a thief in the night. For when they say, “Peace and safety!” then sudden destruction comes upon them, as labor pains upon a pregnant woman.” When I read this verse I often think of 9/11 and how that event happened on a random Tuesday morning with no one expecting it or ever thinking it would happen. I believe that is how the Lord’s return will take place.

But I think when people, or more importantly Christians, get caught up with date setting and begin spending hours trying to decipher Bible numerology, they miss the true message of Christianity. The Lord Jesus told us when He departed to preach the gospel to every creature. This is the great commission. The message of the cross has always been and will always be the most important message we ever proclaim. It is the cross that saves, it is the cross that forgives, and it is at the cross that we find mercy and grace.

One day the Lord will indeed judge the earth but right now He is in the business of saving the world. When the Lord does return we do not want to be like the Jews during the period of the great prophet Jeremiah and say, “The harvest is past, The summer is ended, And we are not saved!”

Jesus told us in the Gospel of John to not delay in bringing people to the knowledge of the gospel, “Do you not say, ‘There are still four months and then comes the harvest?’ Behold, I say to you, lift up your eyes and look at the fields, for they are already white for harvest!”

This is our mission. This is our only mission. As the Lord continues to tarry there is still time to share the gospel with others and affect eternal destinies. While I do long for the appearing of the Lord and look forward with hope toward that day when I will see Him face to face, I cannot let that thought distract me from my true purpose as His child.

In many ways, I hope Camping is right and the Lord does appear tomorrow and if He should that still leaves us with 24 hours to proclaim the gospel to others. Live today like the Lord will return tomorrow and share the gospel with others in love. Time is short and the Lord could return at any moment.

"If you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation." (Romans 10:9-10)

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