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My Take: May 21st doomsday movement harms Christianity
Osvaldo Colon walks the streets of New York proselytizing with other believers that the world will end Saturday.
May 17th, 2011
03:27 PM ET

My Take: May 21st doomsday movement harms Christianity

Editor’s Note: Robert Jeffress is pastor of the 13,000-member First Baptist Church in Dallas, Texas and the author of 17 books, including the forthcoming "Forget Saving America!"

By Robert Jeffress, Special to CNN

In January 1961, a few days before John F. Kennedy was inaugurated as president, he invited Billy Graham to spend a day with him in Key Biscayne, Florida. After a round of golf, Kennedy and Graham were returning to their hotel when Kennedy stopped the white Lincoln convertible he was driving by the side of the road.

“Billy, do you believe that Jesus Christ is coming back to Earth one day?” Kennedy asked.

“Yes, Mr. President, I certainly do,” the evangelist responded.

“Then why do I hear so little about it?” Kennedy wondered.

Were Kennedy alive today, he probably wouldn't be asking the same question.

During Kennedy’s lifetime, few mainline Protestant churches discussed the second coming of Jesus Christ.

Fifty years later, however, televangelists, network television programs, movies and books like the "Left Behind" series — which has sold more than 60 million copies — have succeeded in placing the return of Jesus Christ in the public consciousness.

A 2004 Newsweek poll revealed that 55 percent of Americans believe in the Rapture, the snatching away of all Christians prior to the end of the world and the return of Jesus Christ.

As a pastor who preaches often about Bible prophecy, I am grateful for the general awareness people have of the promised return of Jesus Christ.

But our culture’s newfound interest in the end times has a downside. Bible prophecy inherently attracts fanatics. As a seminary professor of mine used to say to our class, “Remember, wherever there is light, there are bugs!”

One of those fanatics is Harold Camping, the founder of the Christian broadcasting ministry Family Radio in Oakland, California. Camping has predicted that the Rapture will occur at 6 p.m. on Saturday, May 21, followed by the end of the world five months later on October 21, 2011.

Family Radio has plastered billboards across the nation with the warning “Judgment Day, May 21, The Bible Guarantees It!”

Road trip to the end of the world

Readers should note that Camping first predicted the world’s end in 1994. He says he was wrong due to a mathematical miscalculation.

Now I am going to make my own prediction which I’m (almost) willing to stake my life on: May 21 will come and go without any Rapture.

How can I be so certain of my prophecy? The Bible itself says that no one can know the date of the end of the world.

Predicting the apocalypse

In discussing His return to Earth, Jesus told His disciples, “... of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone.” (Matthew 24:36).

If God has not even revealed to his own son the date the world will end, I doubt he has revealed it to Harold Camping.

My hunch is that the date God ultimately has chosen is one that will not be plastered on billboards around the country.

What harm is there in an 89-year-old preacher making prognostications about the end of the world?

First, such predictions give non-Christians one more reason to discount the Bible.

For example, many secularists have dismissed the Bible because they assume that it teaches the world is only 6,000 years old. In reality, the Bible never makes such a claim about the Earth’s age. Instead, some well-intentioned Christians have misused the genealogies in the Bible to attempt to ascertain the date of creation.

Similarly, when next Saturday passes without a Rapture, some will say, “See, the Bible was wrong again,” when, in fact, it will have been Harold Camping who was wrong — again.

Second, predictions about the end of the world always lead some people to make foolish decisions. When a self-professed prophet named Edgar Whisenant predicted that the Rapture would occur in 1988, a couple I know responded by charging their Visa card to the limit with a trip to Disney World, believing the bank would be left with the bill once they had left the Magic Kingdom for God’s kingdom.

Obviously, things did not go as planned.

A look at the ways the world could end

Just as every teacher knows how unproductive and unfocused students are the week before school lets out, God knows how tempted we would be to neglect the responsibilities he has entrusted to us if we knew the date we would be raptured into heaven. That is why God refuses to show us his calendar and instead instructs us to focus on our assignment.

But the most harmful consequence of Camping’s false prediction is that it discourages people from making the necessary preparation for the real event when it actually occurs.

Remember the boy who cried wolf once too often? The villagers were so hardened to the boy’s false alarms that they were unprepared when the wolf finally arrived.

When May 21 passes and Camping’s prophecy is added to the ash heap of discredited prophecies, some will be tempted to join the chorus of cynics whom the Bible predicts will mockingly say, “Where is the promise of Christ’s coming?” (2 Peter 3:3-4).

Make no mistake about it. As Billy Graham affirmed to President Kennedy, Jesus is coming back some day. Over 1,800 verses in the Old Testament and 300 verses in the New Testament prophesy of the lord’s return.

Don’t allow the Harold Campings of the world keep you from making the necessary preparation for the end — whenever it may be.

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Belief • End times • Heaven • Opinion

soundoff (1,945 Responses)
  1. Brad R

    I wonder if they bought ad/billboard space exceeding May 21st. "Hey, billboard sales guy, I'll go ahead and buy the space through the end of June. Thanks."

    May 17, 2011 at 8:26 pm |
  2. Barnacle Bill

    Sorry, Bob, but belief in mythical beings is what harms your religion. Face it: you're full of sh...feces, as are all of your followers.

    May 17, 2011 at 8:26 pm |
  3. mrgmorgan56

    Morons...

    May 17, 2011 at 8:26 pm |
  4. This Saturday

    There will be some nomadic guy living far out in the woods somewhere who did not get the memo. Ignorance is bliss : )

    May 17, 2011 at 8:25 pm |
    • mike

      ya right

      May 17, 2011 at 8:28 pm |
  5. Bnejamin

    So let's just not talk about the Ratpure, and Christianity will be better off? It's like saying "Let's not talk about how the psychopath is a psychopath and then less people will think he's a psychopath." But he's still a psychopath!

    May 17, 2011 at 8:24 pm |
    • mike

      yes right the idea is MIND YOUR OWN BUSINESS

      Just worry about yourself

      Only worry about the psychopath when he cross your path, and just get him Off your Path, thats all, dont worry your life over him/her/church

      May 17, 2011 at 8:28 pm |
  6. Sandra

    "The Rapture" was a fever dream of a 15 yr old girl, whose father parlayed it into a money making scheme to pedal to the gullible. In my living memory alone, there are been over 20 END OF THE WORLD predictions based on 'bible code' and othersuch nonsense.

    Yes, the world will come to an end, when our sun goes supernova, but life will be long gone on its way to becoming a red giant. That is the true end of the world, not some trumped up fairy tale about everyone floating away.

    May 17, 2011 at 8:23 pm |
    • mike

      ya but who says our way of life can not dramatically change?

      Have you ever tried to use your mind to actually do anything? How do you think humanity reaches levels of telepathy and a united society? God just keeps showing us the way? No ! There comes a point when we have to start doing things ourselves! When we have to clean up our own mess and be RESPONSIBLE.

      In order to start a new way of life and THINKING, we need to get rid of our old ones, this can only happen through massive destruction as the new way will never be able to blossom with the old still around.... Think about it... We NEED it, we need it NOW (soon)

      May 17, 2011 at 8:26 pm |
  7. noemi

    I belive in God,his son and the holy ghost.I wake every morning and thank God for every thing that he has put in my path.weather it be good or bad I thank him.Ido the best I can every day.I have a lot to account for in my life,but I make no excucess or blame someone else for my many short comings.I ask him (God ) to give me strengh so I can be a better person.doesn't always work he watches over my kids and grand kids,brothers,sister and there familys. I feel in my heart and soul that God and his son are real.But those are my belifes.live agood life and help others when you ,we can.and hope people well choose to do the same.I'm not perfect by any means I hate dislike mormons.will I go to hell I don't think so.

    May 17, 2011 at 8:21 pm |
    • mike

      other then doing what your told, WHY would you believe (and i mean other then emotional garbage that has been installed in you) what proof do you have?

      If people like you are in charge of Laws and deciding on what is right and wrong, really, the world needs none of you

      May 17, 2011 at 8:23 pm |
  8. Rudi

    all in the new sensational book at www TheDimensionMachine DOT com

    May 17, 2011 at 8:21 pm |
  9. Colinj

    "Make no mistake about it. As Billy Graham affirmed to President Kennedy, Jesus is coming back some day. Over 1,800 verses in the Old Testament and 300 verses in the New Testament prophesy of the lord’s return."

    Robert, why did you write this article if you were only going to be the same mouth piece for deluded fanatical ideology that Harold Camping is? You are two peas from the same pod, you are the pot calling the kettle 'black.'

    May 17, 2011 at 8:21 pm |
  10. jayn

    I just wanna know what they gonna say on May 23rd.

    May 17, 2011 at 8:19 pm |
    • mike

      what about may 22nd?

      May 17, 2011 at 8:21 pm |
  11. clark1b

    God also told us that if a "prophet" makes a single mistake in God's name ... that prophet is a false prophet. Therefor, Harold Camping is a false prophet and should not be listened to.

    May 17, 2011 at 8:14 pm |
    • mike

      right, thats good we agree that Aleister Crowley is the Real Prophet of the New Aeon 😀 hahhahhahahaa

      people gotta start thinking, feeling, and using both together.

      May 17, 2011 at 8:17 pm |
  12. JC

    I know where I'm going!
    http://www.e-forwards.com/2011/05/judgment-day-may-21-2011/

    May 17, 2011 at 8:11 pm |
    • mike

      what if a human (one human) is able to do something on this day that no other human can do? like walk on water? or float?

      would these people not be making themselves acceptable to doing whatever that human then says ?

      are they not leaving the door open for possible manipuation, of which they can not even imagine?

      May 17, 2011 at 8:15 pm |
  13. Nancy

    Exactly. I hope they keep their signs on after it's all (not) over.

    May 17, 2011 at 8:10 pm |
  14. Bill

    Religion is pretty wacky.

    May 17, 2011 at 8:07 pm |
    • mike

      so is mass mentality

      May 17, 2011 at 8:10 pm |
    • clark1b

      Bill, that is exactly what Noah's contemporaries were saying until Noah and his family were safe inside the Arc and the waters were rising around their necks.

      May 17, 2011 at 8:15 pm |
    • Edwin

      clark1b,

      I somehow doubt Bill believes the story of Noah to be true, so your argument is unlikely to sway him.

      And honestly, do you really believe that it was possible to place exactly two of every species on one large boat (given that there are literally MILLIONS of land-based species in the world, some of which would have resided many thousands of miles away from Noah on a separate continent not mentioned in the Bible)? Biologists suggest that most species need at least 20 or so mated pairs in order to remain viable, which increases the number on the boat even more.

      Never mind the feeding issues...

      May 17, 2011 at 8:33 pm |
  15. mike

    Norman, the EARTH will last millons years longer yes, BUT WE NEED A PHYSICAL PUSH to FORCE US to USE OUR MINDS, only during a time of survival will humanity listen to themselves and concentrate inwardly enough to reach higher levels of consciousness and thought (like Telepathy)... Yes the earth will always be here.. but we COME AND GO... and soon, MANY WILL GO, we NEED the push.. Think about it ... just really stop and think about it.

    May 17, 2011 at 8:04 pm |
  16. JeLa

    The doomsday movement does not harm christianity.....christianity harms christianity. Perverts, rapists, embezzlers, double talkers, adulterers, thieves, masters of disillusion, gluttons, hypocrites, I could go on and on......organized religion is an oxymoron.

    May 17, 2011 at 8:03 pm |
  17. Burbank

    This nut needs to be held accountable when it doesn't happen this Saturday. That's how these scammers get away with it, and if and when he actually IS held accountable guess what he will do? Make an excuse, say it was held up for some reason and push the date back a bit, that way he can keep the scam/game going! That's what all these doom and gloom nuts do, mark my words and watch what he says when it doesn't happen!

    May 17, 2011 at 8:02 pm |
    • Edwin

      Accountable for what - his mental illness?

      May 17, 2011 at 8:27 pm |
  18. bukrose

    I have a question as long as we're on the topic: How do you determine which person (living or dead) to believe about what the THE REAL TRUTH is? I just can't figure it out. Maybe I should believe Camping, or maybe I should just go camping and enjoy my air breathing existence. The only truth i KNOW FOR SURE about my faith is that I don't know what's true.

    Somebody help me out here?

    May 17, 2011 at 8:02 pm |
    • mike

      Its called, YOU

      Listen to YOURSELF, Your higher self, you guiding inner voice

      Do not listen to ANYONE ELSE, come time, only your unconscious knows how to save your life... No one else.. Prophets like this are mixed up and have a crude understanding of their inner voice. They fool others. LISTEN TO YOURSELF, NO ONE ELSE! – Im sure christ said this? bible scholars please back that up

      May 17, 2011 at 8:09 pm |
    • eb

      Christ said "I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father but by me." He also said "He that comes unto me I will by no means cast out." Read the gospel of John and let it guide you. Jesus Christ is the only true answer. His love is what you are looking for.

      May 17, 2011 at 8:30 pm |
    • lolly

      Bukrose,
      Good question. But the best part about truth is that there is only one right truth. All things that are not truth are false. You can know truth by testing truth. When it proves itself to be false, then you can know that wasn't the truth. if you are genuinely asking the question, then I would propose that you simply put the "truth" you are being told to the test. If it is truth, then it will stand for the ages.

      For what it is worth, I have searched for truth for many many years and I always come back to the same place. 1. No one will ever be able to prove either way that there is definitively a god or that there is no god. No one. You would have to be in all places at all times to rule it out...and for whatever reason, if there is....God has chosen to not reveal Himself to us. 2. There comes a point that you eventually have to make a choice as to what to believe. Faith is a choice, but make no mistake.... To not choose is a choice 3. There is incredible evidence for order and an order maker in the universe. 4. If you choose to believe in God based on the evidence found all around you then naturally, the next step would be to question which god is the correct god. 6. There are really only two choices at that point. There are really only two faiths in the world. The first is that there is a God who accepts you as you are by grace. You don' t have to do anything to be accepted except to accept Him in return. The second faith covers all other gods and religions. Each of these faiths require you to "do something" in order to be accepted by God. The first faith is genuine Christianity as is found in the BIble. The second is every other religion which requires you to preform for God. This forum is sadly too short to say too much on each point, but the bottom line is that if you are looking for truth and not just giving lipservice to searching for it...then you will find it. Ask and it shall be given to you...knock and the door shall be opened. The real God gives wisdom to those who seek it.

      May 17, 2011 at 11:17 pm |
  19. Horace Alexander

    The only things separating Jeffress from Camping is their degrees of delusion.

    May 17, 2011 at 8:02 pm |
    • BGHOKIE

      "Amen"

      I find it amusing that Christians have qualms with Camping and his ilk. It truly is, as stated by some astute observers, a matter of degrees which separates Camping from other Christians...for if you are a Christian you believe in the rapture. Timing doesn't make one any more nuts than anyone else who believes it will happen "eventually" or "in the next 50 years" (more than 50% of Americans believe the rapture will be upon us in the next 50 years according to a Pew research poll, I believe).

      Either you believe it or you don't. You might not believe it will happen on Sunday...but 50 years from now is just as insane, is it not?

      May 17, 2011 at 8:18 pm |
  20. Squirrel-Juggling Jesus

    Great day on the Belief Blog: Christian get-rich-quick evangelist Franklin Graham gets bashed by another Christian, and a bunch of doomsday Christains get bashed by a get-rich-quick megachurch Christian. Even the Christians believe that there are a lot of crazy, deluded Christians out there.

    May 17, 2011 at 8:01 pm |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.