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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. AtheistSteve

    Just saw this Baptist minister speaking on CNN. His only real beef is that a date was set for the Rapture.
    So Harold Campings particular flavor of crazy is only offensive to non-Family Radio christians because he dares to set a date. Mostly all are still convinced that the gist of the crazy doomsday tale is still true. Sounds a lot to me like the pot calling the kettle black. I don't believe that a god exists. Thus this non-existent thing cannot be the impetus behind the bible which is itself the only source of information concerning their god. Circular nonsense. And forget the countless other gods that man has created....everyone knows those where just fabrications...right?
    So Sunday morning when I'm giggling my ass off at Campings idiocy I'll be reserving some laughs for all the "true" christians who will be puffing out their chests for identifying his error of claiming to "know" the time of the end while clinging to the equally idiotic idea that the end is still looming...sometime soon. Yeah right...lol

    May 20, 2011 at 4:21 pm |
  2. big bang > greatest story every told

    christians make up only a percentage of the earth's population. in comparison, the earth is a teeny-tiny particle within a vast universe. if god created the universe, did he send "a son" to every life-weilding planet in the universe to "spread the word"? i think that would be only fair don't you? why should some alien race on another planet, who probably never heard of jesus, christianity, etc., have to suffer a "doomsday" tailored to earthlings belief in god?

    May 20, 2011 at 3:41 pm |
  3. Anna

    First of all, I do not fault Mr. Camping for believing what he believes. If he truly believes rapture will occur tomorrow, than it is what he believes. Perhaps this is a method of "spreading the word" of Christ. He believes when he informs people of the upcoming rapture, people will want to love God and pray in order to assure themselves they have a place up in heaven with Him. It is just a way to spread Christianity. However, I personally find this so called "method" to be deceitful. To Mr. Camping, it may not come off as being deceitful, but to others it could be looked at as a lie. How could people want to be Christians with the thought they were lied to by another Christian? They could just feel the whole religion to be a lie. This religion is supposed to teach people to love one another. Unless the Bible itself said rapture were to happen May 21, 2011, there is no way anybody could possibly take this seriously. If God would not whisper the date to his own Son, why would God speak of it to this man? I do not believe God would do such a thing, but Mr. Camping believes God has told him. I love God, and I love everything He has done for me, and if rapture does occur tomorrow all we can do is trust in Him. Whatever he decides will be fair. It is about ourselves, and our own journeys to finding God. Everyone believes what they want to.

    May 20, 2011 at 1:40 pm |
  4. DangerousTalk.net

    This is the crackpot calling the crackpot, nuts.

    May 20, 2011 at 1:01 pm |
  5. Brad

    This "preacher" is no different than Harold Camping. He says, "some well-intentioned Christians have misused the genealogies in the Bible to attempt to ascertain the date of creation." Yes, Mr. Jeffress, like your Baptist church! Now since the human race is becoming more educated on science, churches like Jefress's are attempting to change their beliefs so that they can still make their "sheep" drink the koolaide and survive in this age of information. Indeed, preachers call their flock "sheep" for a reason ... sheep they are easily led. But, the more educated they become, the more they see through the color of the koolaide.

    May 20, 2011 at 12:17 pm |
  6. Jeff

    Approach the bible very, very humbly….These are perilous times.

    2Ti 3:1 This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come.
    2Ti 3:2 For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy,
    2Ti 3:3 Without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good,
    2Ti 3:4 Traitors, heady, highminded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God;
    2Ti 3:5 Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away.
    2Ti 3:6 For of this sort are they which creep into houses, and lead captive silly women laden with sins, led away with divers lusts,
    2Ti 3:7 Ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.

    May 20, 2011 at 11:48 am |
  7. chris

    If the world will end (actually it will one day when the human race is forgotten already), to what place will Jesus actually return?

    May 20, 2011 at 10:49 am |
  8. Tha Chikin

    FINALLY! Someone who makes sense!

    All these people running around getting rid of all their worldy possessions, doing silly things they would otherwise not do... because "THE WORLD IS GONNA END!" **gasp** Guess everyone has their beliefs... but they sure are going to feel stupid when they wake up Sunday morning May 22. Maybe they will learn not to pay attention to these crackpots. Here is a thought, read the bible... don't depend on someone else's interpretation.

    May 20, 2011 at 10:32 am |
  9. Denny M

    How is believing Jesus will come at some indeterminate time in the future any crazier than this guy claiming to have figured out the actual date from information in the Bible?

    (Rhetorical question.)

    May 20, 2011 at 10:00 am |
    • Monte

      First and foremost, what does this "pastor", read, salesman, know about Christianity? Baptist's, home of the KKK, guilty of treasonous activity in the civil war, in-sighting their racist church mobs to support the southern war effort. Plus, little if any of what is taught at this god store is from the Bible.

      May 20, 2011 at 10:15 am |
    • Monte

      Quote from above. "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.".

      Yet, this religion teaches that Jesus IS God, so the above statement is absolutely contradictory. One of many reasons that people have little use for religion anymore.

      May 20, 2011 at 10:21 am |
  10. Karen

    Okay. I wasn't planning to max out my credit cards and order flirty underwear anyway. I think being 89 may carry with it screams of one's own mortality and a tad of dementia with it. The world isn't going to end and I'm going to continue to try to be the best human being I can be.

    May 20, 2011 at 9:21 am |
    • Monte

      Amen

      May 20, 2011 at 10:16 am |
    • Alex

      Sooooo.... No to the flirty underwear??

      May 20, 2011 at 11:29 am |
  11. Sam

    All we can do is wait

    Lam 3:25 The LORD is good unto them that wait for him, to the soul that seeketh him.
    Lam 3:26 It is good that a man should both hope and quietly wait for the salvation of the LORD.

    May 20, 2011 at 9:19 am |
    • Monte

      Sam, there are things we should be doing while waiting.

      May 20, 2011 at 10:17 am |
    • Amused

      "Sam, there are things we should be doing while waiting" Yes, like losing these stupid ideas about some imaginary "son" of an imaginary "god" who is going to come down from his magical cloud and save all the good little self-righteous people from their own stupidity! Get real people – NO ONE is coming to SAVE us from OURSELVES! WE must solve our own problems and make this a better world, because there is NO ONE ELSE but US here that can do it !!!!!!!! STOP believing in fairies and magic invisible gods! Let's grow up and take responsibility for our own mistakes and problems! What are we waiting for?

      May 20, 2011 at 5:04 pm |
  12. Brian

    Yeah this is just stupid, many times before religious extremest say the world is going to end and WAIT WE ARE STILL ALIVE!

    May 20, 2011 at 12:49 am |
  13. Anonymous

    to me, it is utterly irritating that Camping claims that he is a follower and believer of the Bible, and knows that the world will end because the "Bible guarantees it," when the Bible itself says no one knows the time or day. makes no sense.

    May 20, 2011 at 12:48 am |
    • JOregon

      Robert Jeffress wasn't being very honest when he wrote this story.
      He should have pointed out Camping has addressed those verses you mention many times.
      In short:
      Jesus is fully God.
      Therefore Jesus had to know the time.
      The bible tells us to watch for certain signs that the end is near.
      Because there was no need for the early believers to look for the end they weren't to bother with that aspect.
      Their job was to build up the son (that is why even the son didn't know the time).
      Once we came close to the end the Father (remember he was the one that knows when) would reveal the time.

      May 20, 2011 at 2:18 am |
    • Blake

      That makes zero sense. Jesus cannot be fully God if he is God's son. He can be a MANIFEST of God's power, but not God himself.

      May 20, 2011 at 12:09 pm |
  14. vancemcd@gmail.com

    No comment..but I am LMAO

    May 20, 2011 at 12:00 am |
  15. Lids

    Hey, so I noticed that a lot of people are talking about how this is why their not christian lalallalala. Basically, this man is saying the worlds ending and HE of all people knows the day. Obviously he hasn't read the bible welll enough where God says he will come like a thief in the night, and NO one will know the day or time. I believe the world will end and Jesus will come, because Christianity is my lifestyle and I live to make Jesus happy. But this man makes Christians look like hypocrites, so if your atheist don't just judge christians like that...AND the world will end and those who are left...will suffer the trials and beg for Jesus to save them. Here's a verse in the bible: Psa.27.5 For in the time of trouble he shall hide me in his pavilion: in the secret of his tabernacle shall he hide me; he shall set me up upon a rock.
    Psa.37.39 But the salvation of the righteous is of the LORD: he is their strength in the time of trouble.
    Matt.10.17 But beware of men: for they will deliver you up to the councils, and they will scourge you in their synagogues;
    Matt.10.18 And ye shall be brought before governors and kings for my sake, for a testimony against them and the Gentiles.
    Matt.10.19 But when they deliver you up, take no thought how or what ye shall speak: for it shall be given you in that same hour what ye shall speak.
    Matt.10.20 For it is not ye that speak, but the Spirit of your Father which speaketh in you.
    Matt.10.21 And the brother shall deliver up the brother to death, and the father the child: and the children shall rise up against their parents, and cause them to be put to death.
    Matt.10.22 And ye shall be hated of all men for my name's sake: but he that endureth to the end shall be saved.
    Matt 24:9-14 "Then shall they deliver you up to be afflicted, and shall kill you: and ye shall be hated of all nations for my name's sake. And then shall many be offended, and shall betray one another, and shall hate one another. And many false prophets shall rise, and shall deceive many. And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold. But he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved. And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come."
    Matt.24.22 And except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved: but for the elect's sake those days shall be shortened.
    Matt.24.23 Then if any man shall say unto you, Lo, here is Christ, or there; believe it not.
    Matt.24.24 For there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall show great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect.
    Matt.24.25 Behold, I have told you before.
    Matt.24.26 Wherefore if they shall say unto you, Behold, he is in the desert; go not forth: behold, he is in the secret chambers; believe it not.
    Matt.24.27 For as the lightning cometh out of the east, and shineth even unto the west; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be.
    Luke 21:28 When these things begin to come to pass, then look up, and lift up your heads; for your redemption draweth nigh..
    John.16.33 These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.
    Acts.14.22 Confirming the souls of the disciples, and exhorting them to continue in the faith, and that we must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God.
    2 Thes 2:9 "Even him, whose coming is after the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders,"
    Rev.1.7 Behold, he cometh with clouds; and every eye shall see him, and they also which pierced him: and all kindreds of the earth shall wail because of him. Even so, Amen
    Rev.7.14 And I said unto him, Sir, thou knowest. And he said to me, These are they which came out of great tribulation, and have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.

    May 19, 2011 at 11:06 pm |
    • really people?

      just shut up, please!
      go keep your phony baloney quotes or in church

      May 19, 2011 at 11:24 pm |
    • Jim

      @really people? Why shut up? Just because someone has a different belief as yours doesn't give you the right to tell them to shut up.

      May 20, 2011 at 1:06 am |
  16. JC

    See you guys may 22nd

    May 19, 2011 at 9:40 pm |
    • atomD21

      Sounds good! See you then!

      May 21, 2011 at 3:30 pm |
  17. Suigintouwaffles

    *Sigh* I think Harold Camping is officially insane.

    May 19, 2011 at 8:12 pm |
  18. UFOSHIZLE

    How can you harm something that isn't real...like religion. Rational thinking will never be a blessing to your children...they will always be stupid in God's eyes.

    May 19, 2011 at 7:43 pm |
  19. Luke Simmons (UK)

    Rob

    George Carlin remained an incredible human being throughout his life. It is very small minded to say he turned cynical and bitter just because his routines got stronger with real matters as themes. Why don't you read a little about someone, listen to people who knew him and then understand that he was the TRUTH! – (Carlin would have hated me saying that)

    May 19, 2011 at 6:03 pm |
  20. Another Larry

    How long does it take to catch a bank robber? If I rob a bank today do you think I'll get caught before the world ends on Saturday?

    May 19, 2011 at 4:56 pm |
    • JOregon

      The really stupid ones immediately. So ya, you would get caught.

      May 20, 2011 at 2:21 am |
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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.