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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. john

    ya...lets all go kiss this god guys ass for eternity.. yuk

    May 17, 2011 at 10:21 pm |
    • Moola Man

      Watch it. God is better than you think. Don't be swayed by the blind actions of misguided fanatics. read the bible yourself. Go to church. then decide.

      May 17, 2011 at 10:41 pm |
    • gozer

      Moola Man, re "read the bible yourself. Go to church. then decide.", uhh, most atheists in the western world have probably already done both of those things. And decided that your god stories are obviously bogus, as a result.

      May 17, 2011 at 11:06 pm |
  2. GAW

    OK so this Rapture guy is wrong and bases his beliefs on a book that cannot standup to critical scrutiny. Still many of the atheists posting here sound like schoolyard bullies. I wish atheists would would formulate their epistemology in terms of what they Do believe rather than what they DON'T believe. Like it or nor religion (organized and non – organized) is going to be around for a while. We are free to criticize and evaluate it but its going away anytime soon.

    May 17, 2011 at 10:20 pm |
    • PRISM 1234

      @GAW
      LOL! How true! I said the same many time!

      May 17, 2011 at 10:26 pm |
    • john

      actually evidence shows people are waking up to the fact GOD is a fairly tale ... so no pal ,. religion will not be around for much longer.

      May 17, 2011 at 10:26 pm |
    • PRISM 1234

      "Still many of the atheists posting here sound like schoolyard bullies. I wish atheists would would formulate their epistemology in terms of what they Do believe rather than what they DON'T believe. "

      LOL! How true! I said the same many times!

      May 17, 2011 at 10:28 pm |
  3. End Times Evangelist

    Allow me if I may, those who are strong in the Lord and feel the heartbeat of His coming, don't let this damper your witness and continuing to preach the Lord's coming in the Rapture even after this date. This reminds me of the Foolish virgins in Matt 25...we don't know the day or hour but the season we should know bec trumpets (read 1Thess 4 & 1Corn 15 Paul gave us a hint of the rapture) are only blown on Rosh Hashanah which is the next feast cycle for Jesus to fulfill (this is the 5th feast of the 7 and the previous 4 were fulfilled). He said we are to proclaim all feast in their seasons, Leviticus 23:4. Therefore wouldn't be like Satan to create this chaos through Mr Camping right before the real deal? The counterfiet always goes before the real thing and usually the real thing is right around the corner, get my drift? Be Blessed Saints!

    May 17, 2011 at 10:19 pm |
    • Bob

      So you are telling me if I get a chick pregnant on the 21st it really won't matter?

      May 17, 2011 at 10:22 pm |
  4. Andy M

    I'm with a network of volunteers around the world who try to make known some unique information. We're not religious nuts, nor do we preach anything ideological or dogmatic. We simply try to tell the public that the World Teacher, Maitreya, is now emerging into the open public arena and here to inspire humanity to rebuild our society based on justice, sharing and cooperation. Maitreya fulfills the coming of the teacher under various names, the Christ, the Messiah, Kalki Avatar....but he is an educator, not a religious person. A teacher who has come to remind us of our true nature – sons of the One Creator. His message, not unlike 2,000 yrs ago, is to share. Nations must share together to create peace and sustainability, to end hunger, war, and injustice forever.

    May 17, 2011 at 10:17 pm |
    • JOregon

      I used to believe in New Age religion too.
      If you pay attention they will always quote the bible.
      Everyone seems to want to connect to the bible. Believing there was a God, and knowing the truth could be found in the bible (remember all those quotes) I decided to by pass the middle man. Praying directly to God to show me the truth in the bible. Then I spent a lot of time reading it. NT in the Morn / Psalms or Proverbs at Noon / OT in the Evening. After some time I found that those New Age beliefs had no substance, too many contradictions.
      May your search bring you truth.

      May 18, 2011 at 1:42 am |
  5. Raised in Religion

    Religion is truly an interesting topic....I have been in the Mormon religion all my life. At one time in my life, I "KNEW" that the mormon faith was the "one and only true church" in the entire world. I even thought that Jesus was a mormon! Now I realize that all this is over something that cannot be seen, test, or even critically talked about! It all relies on FAITH. Everyone knows their church is the "one and only", Gods only church! Harold Camping KNOWS without a shadow of a doubt that Jesus is coming on Saturday, just like I know that the Mormon faith was the only true church.....well he will be wrong on saturday....will Mormons ever admit they are wrong even if Jesus never comes? I have realize that life is about living and not about religion....but that took many years to get there.

    May 17, 2011 at 10:17 pm |
  6. Kit

    How about being good and leading a good life simply for the sake of being good?

    May 17, 2011 at 10:12 pm |
  7. clark

    Its called the Bible because thats what people who believe it do. They Buy Bull !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    May 17, 2011 at 10:11 pm |
  8. JWH

    Not a subject for printing. Jesus does not know the hour or day....he will come as a theif in the night.
    It will be as the times of Noah. we have weather and storms getting rather firece and the sissy boys are everywhere,
    so we are getting close.
    BTW, 2000 years is only 20 centenarians away from Christ.....

    May 17, 2011 at 10:09 pm |
  9. Pirate

    We should be looking at the brightest minds on our planet for direction – not some book written when people didn't know a hoot about how the earth really works! Stephen Hawking – one of my personal heroes!
    --- "Heaven is a 'fairy story'" – Stephen Hawking

    May 17, 2011 at 10:05 pm |
    • Thinker's Dam

      @Pirate "We should be looking at the brightest minds on our planet for direction – not some book written when people didn't know a hoot about how the earth really works! Stephen Hawking – one of my personal heroes!"

      Be careful of sheer brilliance. Michael Milken, Bernie Madoff, Lenin, and Mao were brilliant, but I doubt we should trust them for direction in our lives. You need someone who also understands human nature and has compassion. Someone with very high emotional intelligence. Hawking is indeed one of the brightest minds on the planet in mathematics, but i doubt he could even handle an advice column in a newspaper. And it has to be someone who understands religion, considering that something like 90% of Americans believe in something like God.

      May 17, 2011 at 10:49 pm |
  10. thegadfly

    I cannot believe grown men and women buy into all this nonsense at all. Not just the belief in God, mind you, but the whole world view in which there is some Grand Plan (note the caps) that makes any sense at all of human history, let alone any valid predictions of humanity's future. It'd be just laugh-out-loud funny to sit back here and listen to you knuckleheads debate which interpretation of Scripture is the proper one, were it not for the number of you who hold political power in this messed up US of A.

    Those of you who expect to be bound for the Lord on the 21st may leave all your worldly possessions to me, in care of CNN. (They know where I live! They know where YOU live!)

    May 17, 2011 at 10:02 pm |
    • GEZUS

      Hey I want a piece of that pie! I am the one they are fighting over! Please send all of your cash (you will not need it anyway on the 22nd) to P.O. Box 666, Guable Creek, VA 22666.

      May 17, 2011 at 10:20 pm |
    • Monty

      A long time I ago I came to the conclusion that there is more truth in the bible than those who say the bible is not true. Case in point, christian admit that they believe in something that they have never seen..God, but when it comes those who believe that the big bang is true.....they refuse to admit that they believe in something that they cannot see. Christians says faith is the evidence of things not seen but the die hard "the big bang is true" refuse to admit that all they have is evidence for the thing not seen thus making it a belief. Not only that but anyone with an ouce of a brain knows there is a big difference between what is hear..dark matter...and how it got hear?????? I always hear that Christians lack logic and reasoning yet it is those who put their trust in science that lack all logic and reasoning. Have we ever seen order come from chaos? No but we are to believe that it did. Have we ever seen something come from nothing? No but we are to believe that is possible. Those who put their trust in science ask us to suspend all disbelief and enter into a world where anything is possible which I cannot do.

      May 17, 2011 at 10:23 pm |
  11. asgardshill

    It is going to be so much fun asking Mr. Camping why we're all still here on the 22nd of this month.

    May 17, 2011 at 9:59 pm |
    • GEZUS

      Hopefully you are wrong and it will be like the Heavens Gate cult. Then we can get a discount on black track suits, black and white Nike shoes, and little purple cloths!! Then there will be more space on the planet.

      May 17, 2011 at 10:16 pm |
  12. Peter

    Nothing will happen on May 21, 2011 nor 6 months later in October 2011? Why? Because the National, Mandatory Sunday Law that is talked about in Revelation has not been passed yet in America and it is not yet being enforced by the United States worldwide...only after this happens... then the Time of Probation will close...and then beware everyone...stand by...

    May 17, 2011 at 9:58 pm |
  13. The name is Bond, H-Bond

    It is truly sad to see how one fanatic screws it up for all other fanatics, is it not? Some older and smarter Churches did fine, never making any numerical predictions and admitting what can no longer be denied. Like, say, evolution. Not these home-made varieties. I lived through at least a dozen of the ends-of-the-world, if one takes a note of some minor but vocal cults. So what? I remain an atheist, as some of the people who shared the experience remain christians. See? It doesn't matter – what is going on or what is being said. The brain's switch is usually stuck in one position, on or off, and nothing really changes it. Excepting maybe a bullet or a brick coming through. So no need of in-fighting, play nice, OK?

    May 17, 2011 at 9:56 pm |
  14. DADEVIL

    The human race is doomed-we dont need jesus to do it for us

    May 17, 2011 at 9:55 pm |
  15. Bobby

    Christianity doesnt harm humanity. Morons that call themselves Christians harm humanity. Political agenda based, bigoted, self serving peole that call themselves Christians don't represent the truth of little Christ. It is a process in humility and maturity. Don't hate what you don't understand. A weak mind is a mind that is so shut to truth and fear of self abandonment that there is not enough mental strength to even consider the authentic claims of Christianity. God did not create hell for people, He created as a place for immortal souls (angels primarily) that have no intent on living in an ordered eternity. If in fact, the anger and distain for God stays with a person when they die, where should a synical, selfish soul go when others are interested in a relationship with the creator FOR ETERNITY... Even secular writers recognize that there is good and evil. Accountability and containment. Jesus can come today or in the future some time, when all is said and done and the blogging, insults and opionions are done and you are left with yourself and the creator, what will your answer be. When no one is around and your computer and other distractions are turned off, listen to your heart (not your head) for awhile, you will be overwhelmed by what your heart is confirming – unless of course, your heart is turned off. Praying seed takes in your heart.

    May 17, 2011 at 9:55 pm |
    • Thinker's Dam

      @Bobby Great post. Thanks.

      May 17, 2011 at 10:52 pm |
  16. Brian McNally

    Anyone that believes any of this fluff about a second coming deserves to go to heaven, in some form, if there is a heaven. Why not try being good citizens and helping out instead of judging all of us that think you are all crazy. There is no heaven, maybe hell is where we are right now. My version of things is I am lucky to see the beauty in nature and just try to be a productive person, in whatever form it may present itself.

    May 17, 2011 at 9:54 pm |
    • Bobby

      There is not a Christian on the planet that can judge you or anyone. Maybe self righteous religious people that call themselves Christians. We all make judgements about things and people... If Christian is true and I believe in Christ, then He was judged for all of us. We are accepted right where we are. He wants to grow us up, mature us like a farmer does his crops for good, not for bad. Why not only enjoy nature, but give credit to its creator. There are awesome cars at NASCAR, although it is awesome to watch them go fast, it is amazing to watch the designer and hear what they intended for the car. The same as why an apple, peach or flowers were created. Next time, you enjoy nature, perhaps avoid the humanity of Christian claimers and just consider who made what you are enjoying. Who knows maybe you can say Thanks for what you enjoy. None of my business, just a suggestion. Hope all is great for you.

      May 17, 2011 at 10:03 pm |
  17. Thinker's Dam

    Actually, the Millerites had the correct calculations. Jesus arrived back in 1844 just like he described, with a new name, like a thief in the night. Started a religion and then was executed by the authorities. The apostles asked Jesus how they would know him since he would have a new name, and he said they would know him like the sheep recognize their master, by their master's voice.

    May 17, 2011 at 9:50 pm |
    • qmcs

      you are a loon – but you have lots of company

      May 17, 2011 at 9:59 pm |
    • Pixie

      "...they would know him like the sheep recognize their master, by their master's voice."

      And that shepherd leads them off to the slaughter house and to someone's dinner table, eh?

      May 17, 2011 at 10:06 pm |
    • Thinker's Dam

      LOL! I like both loons and company, thanks. But it sounds like you're telling me Jesus didn't already come. Both Miller and Jesus will be very disappointed.

      May 17, 2011 at 10:06 pm |
    • Thinker's Dam

      @Pixie Yeah, that happens with sheep, and other followers of wolves in sheep's clothing. Be careful who you follow, such as Jim Jones, Vladimir Lenin, Hitler, and others.

      On the other hand the image of a shepherd is usually taken to be a positive one, like the shepherd who leaves his hundred sheep to find the one that is lost and rejoices when he finds it.

      May 17, 2011 at 10:14 pm |
    • thehomgre

      Jesus, Hitler. same s.h.i.t, different bucket. get bent

      May 17, 2011 at 10:17 pm |
    • Thinker's Dam

      @thehomgre "Jesus, Hitler. same s.h.i.t, different bucket. get bent"

      Wow, that's a pretty strong reaction. The person who was executed for telling people to love each other, and is the very symbol of peace and brotherhood, is the same s.h.i.t as the one who is remembered as one of the most evil and bloodthirsty people of all time, who not only tried to exterminate all Jews but even told his own German people that if they couldn't fight against the invading armies to the last man woman and child then they didn't deserve to survive..

      You know, that reaction seems a little extreme. Maybe you should go have it looked at.

      May 17, 2011 at 10:26 pm |
  18. shannon

    The world will end, Jesus clarified it to his disciples. The world will end, but not one single person knows when that will happen. Things in the world will continue to get worse, earthquakes, famines, diseases, economic woes, etc. Men's hearts will fail them for the fear of things coming upon the earth, people who have been provoking on the day of the Lord, will seek to die, and death will flee from them in that day. Jesus said, unless those days are shortned, no flesh will be saved. Jesus said, all these things will come upon this generation. I believe Jesus was talking about the generation after the flood of Noah. God destroyed the ancient world in Noah's day, because of the wickedness of man. God will destroy the world again, but not with a great flood. A time of trouble will come upon the world, like there never has been. We can already see this unfolding. Jesus illustrated this like a woman in travail giving child birth. The woman goes through immense pain, until the child is born, but no longer remembers the pain for the joy of the child. The world will be in travail, desperate unto the return of Christ. When Christ returns all the troubles will be over with, and all the pain will be taken away. Satan has an end, and corruption, and wickedness, and sin. There is a ressurection, a real, and true ressurection, where believers in Jesus Christ will be raised to meet the Lord in Heaven, and see Jesus face to face literally. God is real, Jesus is real. Those who reject him, do so, at their own peril. There is no other God, or Saviour. Everyone doesn't make it to Heaven, Hell is real. Only Jesus Christ can save your soul. Be wise..

    May 17, 2011 at 9:48 pm |
    • qmcs

      you are a loon

      May 17, 2011 at 9:57 pm |
    • LOL

      The funny thing is Jesus was a Jew. Do you really think he's gonna be cool with you following a religion different from his? If I was him I would ignore everyone of you christians. But since he is no more the son of God then I am..looks like you wasted allot of sundays you could of been watched football. Something to think about...lol.

      May 17, 2011 at 10:12 pm |
  19. FrankinNJ

    Let's see for all you Christians complaining about this. Not one of you, (that I have read thus far) has a thought for all these people when they realize they have been following a deluded man. Want to help, then pray that they see they were following a preacher and not Jesus in this. Pray that they have the strength to endure the following weeks. We have all made mistakes, and if you are gloating over the mistake they made, you seriously need to take a look at your own relation with Jesus.

    May 17, 2011 at 9:47 pm |
    • Chan Write

      FrankinNJ I couldn't agree more! This is part of a cult that has spread and put more bad ideologies about the faith into impressionable hearts. It's too bad their energy couldn't go towards positively relaying messages of faith.

      May 17, 2011 at 10:06 pm |
  20. db

    In the Bible, Jesus said he was going to return "soon". I don't know of any standard where 2,000 years and counting is "soon".

    The Bible is a bunch of BS, folks.

    May 17, 2011 at 9:45 pm |
    • Areyousure

      The Lord is Eternal... eternal is Forever 2,000 years or 3,000 years or 4,000 years is i believe SOON in his Standard of thinking.. 85 years is short that is our life span... so yes in our eyes 2,000 years is for sure LONG but not if you are eternal... the Alpha and Omega.. Beginning and the end...

      May 17, 2011 at 9:57 pm |
    • qmcs

      areyousure is a loon as well...so many loons believing that have it all figured out

      May 17, 2011 at 10:02 pm |
    • bam

      this jesus didnt say anything.... someone wrote that a person named jesus said something

      May 17, 2011 at 10:05 pm |
    • Tom J

      The earth is 4.6 billion years old. 2000 years is an eyeblink.

      May 17, 2011 at 10:07 pm |
    • GEZUS

      Areyousure is one of my children. He is a follower and will believe what ever he is told. I have a great why of controlling the masses. The smart ones......those are the ones you have to watch out for since they have logic and an opinion.

      May 17, 2011 at 10:08 pm |
    • GEZUS

      meant to say "way" not "why"....it is the red wine that they give you in church talking.

      May 17, 2011 at 10:09 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.