Once again American Christianity has been hijacked by a false prophet. I say, �once again,� because this is not the first time this same individual, Harold Camping, has predicted the end of the world and been dead wrong. By claiming to be the only person in the world who understands Scripture and calling all (!) churches apostate, Mr. Camping very well fits Christ�s description of the false prophet in Matthew 24. Nor is this the first time some ignorant man has distorted the works of the Bible completely out of their real meaning and come up with a cock and bull story that he has now calculated the time of the end of the world, or some other great cataclysmic event in history.
In 1833, William Miller, a New York farmer who had also served as a deputy sheriff, published a book in which he claimed to have calculated that Christ would return in 1843. When this did not happen, Miller recalculated and came up with 1844. When he was again wrong, Miller gave up speculative theology and returned to farming in 1845. Smart man.
There are several major problems with making false claims supposedly based on the Bible. First of all, such stuff destroys the credibility of real Christianity and even worse, destroys the creditability of the Bible itself. If the Bible teaches this kind of baloney, it can safely be ignored.
Well, one of the accurate predictions of the Bible about the times in which we live is that, �false Christ�s and false prophets will arise and deceive many��(Mat. 24:24). By their nature, news media seek exciting things to report. Certainly predicting that Christians will be sucked right out of their clothing into heaven on May 21, 2011, is more exciting to most people than the real message of �trust God for the forgiveness of your sins through Christ, and spend your life learning to love God and your neighbor.�
Nevertheless this real message of Christianity is far more helpful for individuals, and in creating a decent society, than a hundred predictions that never come true. This is shown clearly by the first 200 years of American history, during which the message of forgiveness and moral life in thanksgiving to God for that forgiveness was the teaching of all of our churches, and the foundation of our public institutions.
A final point needs to be made in connection with the practice of predicting the end of the world, or even that we are coming close to the end. Jesus condemns this kind of prediction by declaring about the end of the world, �of that day, and that hour no one knows, no, not even the angels of heaven, but my Father only� (Mat. 24:36).
Only a fool would try to calculate this date and publicly prophesy the end. Indeed, it might be tomorrow, but it might also be a very long time. Furthermore, Jesus tells us that the things we see today, �wars and rumors of wars�famines, pestilences and earthquakes in various places,� are not signs of the end of the world, these things are the �beginnings of sorrows,� and �the end is not yet,� when they occur. This also shows the accuracy of Christ�s own predictions. These things have happened and are still happening today.
Certainly the Church needs to be serious and urgent in its message of forgiveness from God and for each other, but kooky predictions made in the name of Christianity or the Bible are just what they seem to be, kooky.