So there has been a lot of hype about the predictions by Harold Camping that 21 May 2011 will be the date of the Rapture. Media as usual had helped the spread of it, but what is this all about?
How do I let this affect me?
I wasn’t particularly interested in it when I first heard it, as I immediately remembered what Jesus had said about times and dates…
“No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.
He said to them: “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority.
I did think about the date “21 May” and thought about where I would be on that Saturday.
So today is 21 May – and I expect things to be completely different to what Harold’s predictions are.
This is not the first time he has predicted the Rapture using a specific date – previous was September 1994.
As a believer in Jesus Christ – I believe what he said:
No one knows about that day or hour
Apart from contradicting Jesus’ words, he also diverts from Christian Doctrine in a number of points, a few mentionable ones are:
- Teaching that all churches have become apostate and thus must be abandoned.
- He doesn’t believe in hell, but instead annihilationism. i.e. the belief that sinners are destroyed, rather than tormented forever in hell
What does the Bible say?
Like Harold, I encourage personal Bible studying, but unlike him, I don’t encourage abandoning the church. I recently wrote about this in “Conversations Over Coffee”
As we study the Bible and enter into eschatology (i.e. the study of the end of things), we are confronted by many new words, concepts and/or tensions. It can be overwhelming to reach a basic understanding in the vast quantity of information and opinions.
Here is a summary of the four major eschatological views within Christianity:
- A chronological and literal interpretation of Revelation, a sort of predictive prophecy of things to come in the last days.
- Historically, this is the youngest of the different views.
- This view was greatly popularized since the 70’s by the bestselling book “The Late, Great Planet Earth” co-authored by Hal Lindsey and Carole C. Carlson.
- Con: It doesn’t take the original readers into consideration.Nor does it take the type of literature into account. i.e. Apocalyptic literature.
- Revelation is interpreted as either all or a majority of events happened in the first century AD. Including Herod’s attempt to kill Jesus as a baby, Christianity’s struggle to survive the persecutions of Judaism and the Roman Empire, the fall of Jerusalem in 70 AD and the desecration of the temple, and the growth of Christianity from a sect within Judaism to an independent religion.
- Original readers are consoled in their suffering persecution, time references (e.g “time is soon” and “now”) make sense
- Con: There is a huge time gap until the second coming
- Takes a broader historical approach, seeking parallels between Revelation and the major people and events of history. A continuous walk throughout history you could say.
- Con: Not a lot of agreement amongst Historicists as they have different historical fulfillments for the same passage.
- Revelation interpreted as non-literal imagery representing larger themes and concepts, rather than actual people and events.
- This works well for the Original reader, taking into account the type of literature
- Con: Doesn’t deal with the time elements “now” and “soon”. Limited
So to answer the question “what does the bible say?”, we need take into consideration the different views – all of which have biblical references to support them. We need understand the original readers that John wrote this to, the seven churches in Asia minor.
Some would say that the seven churches are the not literal but figurative, representing the church throughout time. I however choose to believe that they were real churches with different strengths and weaknesses, and enough historical information to back it.
To understand how the original readers would possibly have had understood, by bringing them comfort in suffering and persecution, presenting the Gospel of Jesus Christ using imagery and symbols, as language that they were familiar with.
What can We learn from this?
The way one views the second coming determines how one lives.
Most times the second coming is associated with fear. Speculation fuels fear!
The second coming is closer than it has ever been – but that is all we can say.
No date! No time!
The book of Revelation needs to be studied with an understanding of the Bible – if we are not familiar with the rest of the Bible, we should not try and make sense of Revelation.