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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. ImGoingToHell

    6pm Saturday? Sweet, I'll make dinner reservations for 5!

    May 17, 2011 at 4:31 pm |
    • Daniel

      Revelation 9:5 And to them it was given that they should not kill them, but that they should be tormented five months: and their torment was as the torment of a scorpion, when he striketh a man. May 21 2011 thru October 21 2011

      May 17, 2011 at 4:40 pm |
    • Martin-Gilles Lavoie

      What time zone?

      May 17, 2011 at 4:49 pm |
  2. The Dude

    I head a lot of these people who believe this gave away everything to their neighbors. Wish one of them had lived next door to me, lol.

    May 17, 2011 at 4:30 pm |
    • John Gault

      Probably don't want their stuff. Got crazy all over it, might rub off and you'll be holding a sign the next time Jesus is coming....

      May 17, 2011 at 8:21 pm |
  3. JANA

    @^....and if we don't know the time and date then why COULDN'T this be correct?

    May 17, 2011 at 4:29 pm |
    • The Dude

      Because the whole thing is a bunch of crap.

      May 17, 2011 at 4:31 pm |
  4. Scott

    Those who can't do, preach.

    May 17, 2011 at 4:29 pm |
  5. DM

    Observing adults make complete fools of themselves for all to see is such great entertainment!

    May 17, 2011 at 4:28 pm |
  6. brian

    i plan on drinking friday.. so no one better be judging me saturday.. especially "jesus"

    May 17, 2011 at 4:28 pm |
  7. Chas in Iowa

    And how many times have we been given this doomsday date? Anyone remember the airport moonies or the Jehova Witness's (later to be named the church of latter day saints)?
    Religon has caused more strife and suffering over the past millenia than any political system.
    Religon is for those that need a crutch to go on every day, that can't see the benefit of humanity without some mystical excuse.

    May 17, 2011 at 4:28 pm |
    • Dave

      I may be an atheist but even I know that the Latter Day Saints are the MOROMONS.
      The Jehovah Witnesses also call themselves The Watchtower Society.

      May 17, 2011 at 4:33 pm |
    • Aaron Watkins

      what are you talking about?? JW's have never changed their name to "Church of Ladder Day Saints". i hope i misread what you wrote. Otherwise what you are saying is complete bullocks.

      May 17, 2011 at 4:41 pm |
    • Aaron Watkins

      They only call themselves Jehovah's Witnesses. The "Watchtower Bible and Tract Society" is what is printed on the first page of each publication they have..like where and who in was published and printed by. They'll never say "we're of the Watchtower Society" when talking to people out in the preaching work.

      May 17, 2011 at 4:50 pm |
  8. Ocoee PD

    Hmm... Wonder which time zone will start first at 6 PM...lol ~~so much for "in the blink of an eye ! "

    May 17, 2011 at 4:26 pm |
    • Artist

      Time delayed blink

      May 17, 2011 at 4:28 pm |
    • IIO

      That's a really good point... is it 12:01 May 21 GMT? hmmmmm.

      May 17, 2011 at 4:28 pm |
    • Stevie7

      Have you seen Monty Python's Holy Grail? god obviously has a British accent and thus is likely working off GMT. Unless he does indeed honor daylight savings time, in which case its BST.

      May 17, 2011 at 4:39 pm |
  9. mac316

    I personally refuse to believe that humans are the supreme beings of the universe & if we are then is Hawkins the supreme supreme being because of his intelligence? And if so does that not make him a god? Perhaps that is his intention to become godlike and did the BIG BANG make a noise and doesnt light travel faster than sound? So where is the sound or where did ot go? could the sound shock wave been what killed the dinos? hhhmmmmmmmmm what a thought now I cant wait till they legalize this stuff I am smoking wow far out man toke toke gotta smoke but it dont affect me

    May 17, 2011 at 4:26 pm |
    • IIO

      ...legalize.... you and me both mac... you and me both. 🙂

      May 17, 2011 at 4:27 pm |
  10. IIO

    quit using my song name in vain.

    May 17, 2011 at 4:26 pm |
  11. Shin K

    May religion die out on May21st so that humanity can advance. Allen, is correct. Religion is pure Bull#h!t!

    May 17, 2011 at 4:25 pm |
    • Artist

      There is no different than this nutjob picking an actual date and people like HeavSent, CW and Adelina saying we are going to hell unless we believe. They all look like clowns jumping out of a midget car. lol

      May 17, 2011 at 4:27 pm |
  12. Dave

    Osvaldo Colon is absolutely correct because he knows that the Bible was orignally written in the ENGLISH language.
    The Bible also uses ENGLISH measurements, and ENGLISH idioms.

    In the OT, there are absolutely no symbolic terms. All of the words came directly from the mouth of God to the writers' quills, and the posibility of mistranslations from a foreign language or languages is not an issue.

    In the NT, there aren't scads of writings attributed to an author who was not even an original disciple, but yet his words are taken as the literal teachings of JC.

    Of course we are all DOOOMED come May 21st.

    (sarcasm for anybody here too dense to realize it) 🙂

    May 17, 2011 at 4:25 pm |
  13. John

    Interesting since nowhere in the Bible does it mention the Rapture as the term is commonly bandied about in today's mainstream (or not so mainstream) Christian teachings.

    May 17, 2011 at 4:25 pm |
  14. sheppard

    “... of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone.” (Matthew 24:36). that does say it all..

    May 17, 2011 at 4:24 pm |
    • John Gault

      It says nothing, sorry.

      May 17, 2011 at 8:18 pm |
  15. Colin

    "Make no mistake about it. As Billy Graham affirmed to President Kennedy, Jesus is coming back some day." Only in a Texas megachurch would such Dark Ages drivel go unchallenged.

    May 17, 2011 at 4:24 pm |
  16. Spockky

    This pastor is as nuts as Camping is for believing that his beloved lord is returning someday.

    May 17, 2011 at 4:24 pm |
    • Dave

      The lord?

      You mean that dead guy from 2000 years ago?

      May 17, 2011 at 4:27 pm |
    • Colin

      Of course he is. The ONLY difference is they were näive enough to set a date and subject their claims to proff or disproof. The beuaty of claiming "Christ is returning, but we don't know when" is that you can't be wrong. You have the built in excuse, "he's not here yet".

      May 17, 2011 at 4:29 pm |
  17. Blaqb0x

    You don't have to be a fanatic to believe or spew out crap.

    May 17, 2011 at 4:24 pm |
  18. Mom in MA

    God please come get these nut jobs ... rapture? ... Bring it!

    May 17, 2011 at 4:24 pm |
  19. Jackal21

    this is so f'ing great... these idiots are just like all of the other evangelicals out there who think the magic sky fairy is going to 'rapture' them up to the 'heavens' and leave all the evildoers behind to gnash teeth with the devil... BULL F-ING SH**. not going to happen. We're all going to end up in the ground as worm food...nothing more nothing less. Why waste your life believing anything else is going to happen? I guess it doesn't matter when you're rotting 6 feet under eh?

    May 17, 2011 at 4:24 pm |
    • runnerfast

      Something to consider: If Christians are wrong, and the Bible is wrong, then you're right- we're just worm food and no harm done. But.....if YOU'RE wrong, the consequences will be disastrous (for you). So before dismissing dismissing God's word so casually, check the evidence. In detail. The consequences of being wrong are too great not to investigate the Bible's claims thoroughly.

      May 17, 2011 at 4:35 pm |
    • B.W.

      Runnerfast,

      Well, what if YOU'RE are wrong and "God" really is Allah or An or Aphrodite or Apollo or Artemis or ... ad nauseam? Then, the consequences will be disastrous (for you).

      Or, perhaps there is "your God" and "he" doesn't like pretensious windbags such as yourself? Then, the consequences will be disastrous (for you).

      May 17, 2011 at 4:52 pm |
    • Josh

      Runnerfast – Before all other GODS from your own God and their words so casually, check the evidence for each of these God's. In detail. Then, compare the facts to your own God. The consequences of being wrong are too great not to investigate the Koran's claims, the Torah's claims, The Diamond Sutra's claims, The Rigveda's claims, etc., etc., etc., thoroughly. Good luck!

      May 17, 2011 at 4:58 pm |
    • Josh

      P.S. You said, "If Christians are wrong, and the Bible is wrong, then you're right- we're just worm food and no harm done." Actually, there is a lot of HARM done if Christians are wrong ... what a waste living a fantasy life instead of a real life and not to mention all of religious wars!

      May 17, 2011 at 8:12 pm |
    • John Gault

      Check the "facts"? I am so confident all religion is man made I live in no fear of "hell". I just love my wife and kids, try to work hard and do the best I can. Heaven or hell never enters the equation. Heaven is life here on earth so don't blow it.

      May 17, 2011 at 8:17 pm |
  20. Krreagan

    The world is fool of kooks.

    May 17, 2011 at 4:24 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.